City Chick goes Country

Homesteading on a 0.18 acre suburban lot in rural Arkansas

Category: Uncategorized

Fly Control on the Homestead

How to control flies on my little homestead? I would love to breed chickens, ducks, and turkeys, but not flies. Before we moved in, there were flies on the property. The neighbors have dogs, we have dogs and chickens, and everyone has flies. It is part of life in a mostly rural town. I won’t use pesticides. After a bought with breast cancer, I avoid as many toxic substances as possible. Turning to traps and predatory insects seems to be my only options.

 

Manure

The Doggie Dooley 3000 Septic-Tank-Style Pet-Waste Disposal System I purchased a year ago does not keep up with the amount of manure my dogs generate. I still use it, but I only dump a small amount in each week. The rest is shoveled up daily and put in the trash.

Chickens are a different story. I don’t have a chicken coop—just a run. The bottom of the run is deep litter. I use pine shavings. It is expensive but I do not have access to free material. I add three to four large bags of shavings to the run every month. The idea is to keep it at about 10 to 12 inches deep. Before I add new shavings, I put down a layer of food grade diatomaceous earth (DE). I will not see any flies in the run for about a week after I add the DE and new shavings.

The deep litter system keeps the run pretty clean. I do not have to shovel chicken poop because the hens scratch through it and the whole system works like a slow burning compost pile. As long as there is enough dry material to absorb the chicken mess, there is no smell. Yes, there are some flies in the run. Anytime you have water, food, and poop, there will be flies.

Compost Piles and Other Trouble Spots

The compost pile seems to attract a lot of flies. I may have to break it down and start again. The areas near my garden faucets seem to attract flies as well. If I could dry out these areas, the flies would leave. The problem is that the hoses leak when turned on and the areas against the house get very little sun, so they stay damp. Perfect for fly breeding.

Fly Trap. Copyrighted image.

A full fly trap. Copyright 2014, Lynda Altman and City Chick goes Country. All rights reserved.

Solutions

Without using pesticides, keeping the flies in check is a challenge. I set out four Farnam Home and Garden 14680 Starbar Captivator Fly Traps.
They cost the same as the disposable ones. The difference is that I can purchase refills for the attractant cheaper than purchasing a new disposable trap. The  trap is a plastic  jar that comes with a tube of fly attractant.  It is filled halfway with water and a tube of attractant is added. A two-part lid allows flies to enter. Flies are trapped and eventually drown. The traps are gross and smell awful. However, they work extremely well.

 

A two-pack of attractant costs $5 at Tractor Supply. I change out two of the traps every three days. The other two traps I change out once every week or two. This is starting to get expensive and I still have flies.

 

When I first started using the traps, I had it wrong. Mistakenly, I placed them in the chicken run. All that accomplished was to attract more flies into the run. Once I moved the traps out of the run, the number of flies decreased.

 

Fly Predator.

Fly Predator bag with instructions.

I came across a product called Fly Predators by Spalding Labs. These are predatory insects that lay their eggs in the fly cocoon. The predators feed on the pupae inside the chrysalis and kill it. Then the predators emerge to repeat the process. I placed 10,000 Fly Predators around the property and hung the remaining few in the chicken run. It takes up to 30 days for the fly predators to work. I have a second shipment due in at the end of the month. We will see how things go.

 

 

I will keep you posted on what is working for fly control. Let me know if you have a pesticide free, animal safe method of controlling flies on your homestead.

Chicken Run is Finished

I am so far behind with posting about my chicken run. So here is the update, complete with pictures. As for the chooks, we have four broiler hens that will be processed this weekend. I will cry and be sad to see them go, but it really should not be easy, should it? I like them. They are mellow and easy going. The ladies treat my Romeo well.

The Chicken Run Location
We decided to put the run in the far corner of the yard. This is actually the ideal place for it. We can see the run from our bedroom and the living room. Although it is in a low lying area of the yard, it is also very shady—thanks to our neighbor’s trees. It is not possible to use this space for vegetable gardening and with the roof over the run, it stays pretty dry. Another reason we chose this location is the privacy fence. We can use the fencing for two walls of the run.

There is a downside to this location. My neighbors have dogs. This means the coop will be surrounded on all sides by dogs. Our dogs, with the exception of Romeo are a threat, one neighbor has two dogs, the other has one. The dogs have turned out to be a problem, but more on that in another post.

Building the Run
First, a two by four frame went up so that we could attach cedar fencing to it. This is in addition to the existing fence. We wanted to be sure that no dogs could get through—We were wrong, but that is another post.

City Chicks Chicken Run

The chicken run takes shape

After the two by four frame went up, part of the front was assembled. This consisted of 2, four by four posts. Three, 2 x 4s were attached to this.

A space for the door was left open. Then the rest of the front was assembled with 2, four by four posts, and three, 2 x 4s. The last side along our garden fence was completed.

 

 

 

 

City Chick Goes Country Chicken Run. Copyrighted Image

Fitting the door

A frame for the roof was assembled. We used sheets of corrugated plastic for the roof. It slants away from the neighbors. The roof extends past the frame to make sure the chooks stay dry.

Chicken wire with one inch openings was used to enclose the frame. We stapled the chicken wire to the frame and made sure that there were no openings near the roof where small birds could get in. Wild birds steal the feed and it gets very expensive.

Finally, we purchased an inexpensive screen door and cut it down to fit the opening. We attached it with hinges and added a handle on both sides. A hook and eye type latch keeps the door secure.

 

 

City Chick's Chicken Run. Copyright Lynda Altman

Completed chicken run

About Security
This set up will not work if you have opossum, raccoons, coyotes, feral cats or other at large predators. Our coop is built knowing that our dogs are under control and will not cross into the chicken area. Hawks and other flying predators are kept at bay with the chicken wire and solid roof. My chickens cannot be seen from the air. Small, four-legged critters like opossum, raccoons and such are non-existent in my yard. This includes rats and mice. Our dogs: a Chinese Shar-pei, a Treeing Walker Coonhound, and a Bedlington Terrier, keep everything out of the yard. Privacy fence completely encloses the yard. Trespassers will not enter the yard—the dogs are not stranger friendly. The neighbor’s dogs do their job of keeping vermin at bay.

If you are in a more rural setting and have predators roaming the woods or pastures near your chicken run, then you would need to replace the chicken wire with welded ¼” galvanized wire. The screen door could be replaced with a storm door or you could reinforce the screen with welded wire. Surrounding the run with

electric wire, like Harvey Ussery describes in his book, The Small-Scale Poultry Flock, would be a good idea.

Romeo, chickens and the evolution of a backyard turned urban homestead

Copyright City Chick goes Country 2014.. All rights reserved.

Romeo keeping the chickens safe from harm

Romeo never ceases to amaze me. He started out by keeping our Cornish Cross chicks safe from harm. When they moved outdoors he followed them. Now that I allow the chickens to free range with supervision for part of the day, he helps to herd them in and out of the greenhouse. As the chickens forage around the lawn surrounding the greenhouse, Romeo watches and interacts with them. I am not sure if he is being a good farm dog or if he thinks he is a chicken.

 

Chicks round two

We decided that keeping chickens is not particularly difficult. So, the commitment to bring in hen for eggs was made. We searched through many chicken magazines and Storey’s Ilustrated Guide to Poultry Breeds to decide on which chickens would suit our needs.

 

The original plan was to bring in 10 pullets—ideally Black Australorp and Speckled Sussex for eggs and a straight run of New Hampshire reds for meat. Then we saw that Tractor Supply had Black Australorps, Barred Rocks, and Ameraucaunas. All are decent layers. They are supposed to be all pullets.

 

We decided to purchase 24 chicks—eight of each. This was to save on money, it was way cheaper to purchase the chicks here than it was to order from a hatchery. Eventually we would cull out 15 pullets for meat. It would take a while for them to mature. We will call this plan B.

 

Several issues immediately became clear to us. The chicks were in a combined bin which contained Australorps, Barred Rocks, Ameraucauna, and Golden Phoenix. We were not interested in Golden Phoenix because they are an ornamental/show bird. The staff could not tell the chicks apart. We knew that the black chicks had to be either the Barred Rocks or the Black Australorps. The other two looked way to similar to each other and two different employees gave two different opinions as to which ones were which.

 

Now that the new set of chicks have been with us for almost a month, two things are becoming very clear. There are at least two cockerels in the bunch—maybe more. All cockerels will be processed as meat birds as soon as they start to make crowing noises. We are not allowed to keep roosters. The other issue is that the eight supposed Ameraucaunas are looking more and more like Golden Phoenix.

 

So we have come up with plan C. We will cull out any and all cockerels as soon as they reach fryer size—sooner if they start to crow. Golden Phoenix will be next on the list. Hopefully they can get to broiler size, if not, then fryer size it is. The nice thing about chickens is if the meat is tough, it can be stewed or used in pot pies. The carcass and wings make really good stock.

 

Chicks to broilers

Back to the Cornish Cross chickens. I am not sure how Romeo will handle the day when we process the chickens. These are his friends. He will have to be kept indoors while the event takes place. A good farm dog has to learn that livestock comes and goes. I think that Romeo will miss his little white chicken friends. They should be ready to process in about two weeks.

 

He will have another flock to look after. This time around, some of his friends will stay and hopefully provide us with a wonderful supply of fresh eggs. It will be interesting to see how he handles it all. For sure, he is a good dog around the chickens. I never would have thought a Bedlington Terrier would be the dog guarding my chickens.

 

—Lynda

A City Chick gone Country (or crazy depending on who you talk to)

Chicks and the Greenhouse

Copyrighted image

The chicken greenhouse and yard. Copyright City Chick goes Country

The Cornish Cross chicks are full grown chickens now. We have moved them into a portable greenhouse and let have supervised outdoor time. The greenhouse makes for a decent temporary chicken coop, but there are some drawbacks to it which I will elaborate on later. This will be the last time we purchase Cornish Crosses.

 

Why a greenhouse

Part of homesteading is using what you have on hand. The chicks quickly got too big for that little 40 gallon tub. To the great pleasure of my son, we moved them outdoors. The greenhouse made sense. It would keep the chicks warm and secure. Doors could be opened completely to give plenty of air and sunshine until we could build secure fencing for them.

 

The greenhouse is a Flower House Pop-up types that easily fold into a storage bag when not in use. It has a few poles, stakes, and cord to tie it down. I added more stakes and ropes. We live in tornado country and there are days on end where the wind blows at 20-30 miles an hour for the better part of the day.

 

 

Inside the greenhouse we put up a chicken wire pen. We added a cardboard box for the chooks to feel secure in at night. Food, water, grit and dried mealworms are put up on cinderblocks. The floor is a thick layer of pine shavings. This gave the 9 chicks a 6 x 5 foot enclosure. Every couple of days, I turn over the shavings, remove any that are really wet, and then add another bag of shavings if necessary.

 

Why I like this greenhouse:

  • It protects the chickens from the weather. Rain cannot get in unless the doors are open. The chickens are also out of the wind.
  • There is no floor so I can use a deep litter method of keeping the chickens.
  • Hawks and other birds of prey cannot get to the chickens.
  • I can easily control the temperature by adjusting the doors and the two small openings for cords and hoses.
  • I already had this so it made for a quick and easy chicken house.
  • When the chicks were smaller, the greenhouse was able to keep them safe and warm.
  • In my particular situation, the greenhouse is predator proof.

 

Downside to the greenhouse:

  • It can get very warm quickly. If the doors are not open and the greenhouse is in direct sun, chickens can overheat. I found this out first-hand when I lost 3 of my Cornish Cross chickens to heat stroke.
  • If you have a large number of chickens, this particular setup is too small.
  • The greenhouse holds moisture, so if water spills you have to ventilate it well.
  • Purchasing one can be expensive.

 

 

We have 4 hens and one rooster remaining. They will be ready for processing in about two weeks. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

 

Hope you enjoyed this

 

—Lynda

A city chick gone country.