City Chick goes Country

Homesteading on a 0.18 acre suburban lot in rural Arkansas

Month: July 2014

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.

Ten things I wish someone told me about chickens

Experience is what we get when things don’t go as planned. I was raised in one of the largest cities in New York. Growing up, I had a dog and a parakeet for pets. Even cats were foreign to me. This city chick is learning the hard way that raising chickens is not as easy as most backyard chicken blogs make it out to be. Here are ten things that I wish I knew before I bought my first chick.

1) I will never process chickens during the summer again—not ever. The heat and flies were unbearable. Processing chickens will take place in the fall through late spring. I’ll have to plan my egg purchases accordingly.

 

2) Broiler chickens have no tolerance for heat. Temps above 80 really start to stress out the adults. Arkansas heat is too much for them. I will have to make sure that the last broiler adults are processed in late spring and the next set of chicks will have to be ready in early fall.

 

3) Ear color is not an accurate way to determine what color eggs a hen will lay. Both of my white-eared hens lay colored eggs. Chicken books say that white-eared hens usually lay white eggs.

 

4) Australorp and Barred-rock pullets and cockerels can fly. It is not until they reach adulthood does the ability to fly diminish.

 

5) Hens from Easter-egger and other breeds that lay different colored eggs will only lay one color. If you want a basket full of different colored eggs, you need multiple hens.

 

6) Hens will never lay eggs where you want them to. They lay eggs where they want to.

 

7) Never trust an employee from a farm-supply store about the gender of chickens. I purchased 23 pullets. Twelve of them turned out to be cockerels. Next time I will hatch my own eggs. It is cheaper and I’ll get the same gender breakdown.

 

8) If you purchase chicks instead of adult chickens, expect to get some cockerels (young roosters.) If zoning in your area does not allow roosters, this is a problem. Most breeds will start to crow at about 8-10 weeks. You cannot sell roosters, many times you cannot give them away. No one wants roosters. Keep this in mind if you plan to order straight run or hatch eggs.

 

9) Chickens love shiny objects—this includes shiny nail polish. If you love long nails with metallic polish, expect your chickens to come after your fingers.

 

10) Chickens LOVE mealworms. If you ever need to divert your chickens’ attention away from something, mealworms will always work.

Meat and eggs on 1/5 of an acre

Part of homesteading should include producing meat and eggs (unless you are a vegetarian—I’m not.) Attempting to do this on a meager 1/5 acre in a subdivision is not easy. Zoning regulations aside, there is space—or lack thereof—to consider. My family is now eating fresh eggs and semi-free range chicken, courtesy of our little homestead.

 

Eggs

Copyrighted Image.

My new hens are laying beautiful colored eggs. Copyright Lynda Altman 2014. All rights reserved.

My initial goal was to purchase chicks and raise them, with egg production starting toward the end of summer. An opportunity came up for me to buy seven adult hens with unknown egg production. I figured this would fill in the gap between now and when the pullets would start laying. After a quarantine period, we merged the adult hens with the pullets. Egg production started out okay—averaging two eggs per day. My family uses more eggs than that, but it is a start.

 

I was trying to figure out which hens were laying. Three were identified, but I was pretty sure there was a fourth, based on egg color and the time when I found the eggs. On Monday, my hens proved that there are indeed at least four laying hens. It was the first ever four-egg day! My ladies gifted me with eggs in shades of pink, tans, and green. Today was a repeat performance.

 

Egg count from 6/14 to 7/1:   29

Meat

Meat production is something that most chicken blogs do not discuss. Well, this former City Chick raises both laying hens and chickens for meat. Is this cruel? No, my chickens live a good life with access to fresh air, sunshine, supervised free-range time, and healthy food. For years I have been very vocal about how large-scale confined chicken farming is inhumane. I own my home, so it is possible for me to raise chickens for meat.

 

Broilers and dual purpose chickens

Copyrighted image. All rights reserved.

One of our broiler chickens. Copyright 2014 Lynda Altman and City Chick goes Country

 

I started my venture into chicken raising Cornish-cross chicks. This would be the acid test to see if raising chickens was something I wanted to do. After 12 weeks, the birds would be processed and I would know if my venture into chickendom was successful.

 

Turns out, chickens are not that difficult to care for. We built a large chicken run which housed both the broilers and the pullets. Turns out, some of the pullets were cockerels–that’s a problem.

 

After 15 weeks, we processed four, very large broilers. They dressed out between 8.5 and 9 pounds. It is hard to say how much money this saved us. You cannot find chickens that large in the grocery store—especially ones that are semi-free range and free from added hormones and antibiotics.

 

Meat production so far

We have harvested 26 ½ pounds of chicken:

One 9 pound roast chicken.

7 ½ pounds of boneless skinless chicken breast.

6 pounds of chicken leg quarters.

4 pounds of backs and wings for chicken stock.

 

So far I am pleased with the returns I am getting from my little homestead. My new adult layers are starting to produce better than expected and we are enjoying fresh peas from the garden to eat with our chicken. Soon, there will be squash, sweet potatoes, plenty of tomatoes, and fresh herbs.