Archive | October, 2016

All About Eggs, Part 4: Predator Problems and Solutions

31 Oct

Raising hens on pasture has unique problems. Predators being a major one. In our area, these can include foxes, raccoons, coyotes, domestic dogs, hawks, and eagles. Most pastured eggs producers use mobile electric netted fence to keep their hens safe. It works well for predators approaching by land, but most of our problems have been from predators in the sky. A mobile fencing system will not work for air predators unless you are able to cover the top of your enclosure. Nearly impossible. Additionally, our farm has very few level spots which make mobile fencing challenging.

Last year we had major losses to our flock from hawks and bald eagles; and there is not much we could do to protect them.

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This is what was left after a bald eagle attack last year, basically feathers and feet!

Enter livestock guard dogs, Anna and Elsa.

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Adorable, huh? But not too ferocious in this picture.

We got Anna and Elsa in September 2015. They were promptly named by a certain “Frozen” crazed 3 year old.

Anna and Elsa are Great Pyrenees, a breed known for being well suited to guarding livestock. They have been a wonderful addition to our farm. The breed is slow to mature and they still have training to do, but we love their gentle nature and protectiveness.

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Elsa, on the left. Anna on the right, sleeping on the job.

Our first challenge was to discipline ourselves into treating them like working dogs, not pets. We are dog people and this was hard. Livestock guard dogs must be trained that the chickens are their “tribe”, so ours live with the chickens 24/7. Even in winter, they stay with the chickens in the coop. It is quite a symbiotic relationship.  I have witnessed the chickens “grooming” the dogs by pecking burrs from their coats.

The best part? We have had no losses due to flying predators this year. 
Thanks Anna and Elsa!

 

 

Chicken Cafeteria v1.0

3 Oct

Features:

60# feed capacity (two 5-gallon buckets) accommodates 125 pastured layers.

Weatherproof and resistant to other species of livestock.

Dual tow-points for easy moving by hand, ATV, truck, tractor or unicycle.

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Materials list:

1x    2″x6″x 12′ pressure treated board

1x    12′ pro-rib panel (steel roof panel)

1x    24″x 10′ section of 2″x 4″ horse fence

2x    2″x4″x 12′ pressure treated board

2x    5″x 10′ steel K-gutter

4x    2-hole 3/4″ EMT conduit straps

4x    5″ K-gutter end caps (two left, two right)

6x    3/4″x 10′ EMT conduit

6x    1/4″x 4″ carriage bolts

8x    1/4″x 3″ carriage bolts

12x    Gutter hangers

 

All that ought to run you just about $115 nowadays.

So now that we’ve got all the stuff we need, lets build one, shall we?

 

Step one:  lay out 4 sticks of conduit along side your trusty tape measure and mark them at the following points  6″ 20″ 22″ 24″ 36″ 48″ 72″ 106″ 114″

Step two: fetch your 3/4″ EMT conduit bender and get bending as follows

1 – @6″ bend 90º+

2 – @7″ increase bend to 110º-115º

3 – @24″ bend 90º

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4 – @36″ bend 75º  (you’ll need to get the piece up on a workbench to make this bend, so be careful up there)

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5 – @48″ rotate conduit 90º and bend 90º  (bend two of them one direction, and two of them the opposite direction, you’ll see why in step 5)

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6 – @72″ bend 45º

7 – @106″ bend 30º from opposite direction

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Step three: fetch your 5/16″ drill and drill holes at 20″ & 22″

Step four: mark out and drill holes in each end of your 2×6 as follows

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Step five: bolt your noodly-looking conduit to your 2×6 with the 4″ carriage bolts

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Step six: drill holes in the conduit at 36″ and drill corresponding holes in your 2×4’s and bolt them all together with a few 3″ carriage bolts while you’re at it

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Step seven: drill holes in the big fat middle of the foot rail (should roughly correspond to the 114″ mark on the conduit) and bolt it together with a 4″ carriage bolts.

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Step seven and a half: Make a little brace to help hold up the middle of the foot rail.  Just a 24″(ish) bit of conduit bent at about 90º in the middle ought to do it.  Hammer the ends flat, drill some 5/16″ holes and attach the middle of the brace to the 2×6 with a conduit strap.

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Step eight: attach gutters flush to the top of the 2×6 with all those lovely gutter hanger screws, don’t forget to wedge that bit of 2×4 wire fence in there too.

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Step nine: Slip a 1.5″ length of 1/2″ EMT conduit into the 3/4″ hole in each end of the 2×6 and loop some #9 wire through there.

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Step ten: Make the roof.  Bend three (approximately) 24″ pieces of 3/4 conduit in the middle so that they roughly match the angle of the feeder base.  Attach the bend bits to a full length stick of conduit with conduit straps.  Attach this conduit “skeleton” to the sheet of steel roofing and you’ve got yourself a feeder roof.

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Step eleven: Attach the roof.  Two bolts for hinges, two bolts for “stops” and a bit of chain to keep it all from flopping about.  You get the idea.

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And now you’ve got yourself a genuine Chicken Cafeteria v1.0

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Earlier this summer as I was in the midst of refining this design I happened across a mention of a similar feeder in Lucie Amundson’s book.  She talked, in passing, about a chicken feeder made out of rain gutters that they’d learned how to make from a farmer in Delaware(?).  That immediately sent me looking about on the internet for more information, which was a frustratingly fruitless endeavor.

This brings me to a quote from another recent read: The Secret of Our Success: how culture is driving human evolution, domesticating our species and making us smarter by Joseph Henrich.

“With the spread of the internet, our collective brains have the potential to expand dramatically, although differences in languages will still prevent a truly global collective brain.  The other challenge to expanding our collective brains on the internet is the same one that we’ve always faced: the cooperative dilemma of sharing information.  Without social norms or some sort of institutions, self-interest will favor individuals who cream off all the good ideas and insights from the web without posting their own good ideas and novel recombinations for others to use. Right now, there seem to be sufficient incentives, often based on acquiring prestige, but that may change as new strategies spread that allow people to get the informational benefits without paying the costs. A key issue will be the degree to which prosocial norms for information sharing can be sustained on the internet over the long run.”

 

So go share some information on the internet or sumthin’