Tag Archives: farm

Farm Dog

Being a farm dog is the diplomatic posting of the canine career spectrum. They have to be friend, greeter and protector. They have to be independent but know their place, both geographically and in the social hierarchy. It’s a tough job.

farm dog doing stable roundsThey are not fenced in. They have free rein over their property but must stay within its boundaries. No chasing squirrels across the road just for fun. No chasing other farm animals – cats, chickens, cattle or horses (unless specifically told to round up livestock). Farm dogs learn how to manoeuvre safely around large animals, and be gentle with small ones.

They must protect farm animals, people and property from all predators, four- and two-legged. They must be able to read people and other animals, who is friend and who is foe. A good deep bark and growl is an asset. But they cannot be too intimidating. They are ambassadors for their farm.

When a farm relies on visitors, the farm dog is part of the public face of the business. At a horse boarding stable, for example, a lot of people are coming and going all through the day. First-time visitors drop in to to ask about boarding or lessons. Horse owners, riding students, veterinarians, farriers, other horse people are there on a regular basis. The dog must assess the person quickly, and make the suitable greeting.

Often visitors bring their own dogs with them. The resident dog must be accepting of these other dogs on his or her turf. The visiting dogs may or may not be farm dogs themselves, so they may know how to act in a barn and with another farm dog, or not. Either way, the resident farm dog must be tolerant and gracious.

Stable dogs must know when to stay out of the picture – like when people are there for serious riding or training or horse business. They must also know when it’s time to be the centre of attention – like farm dog portraitwhen kids want to hug them, dress them up or play games with them. They need to be quietly friendly (read non-threatening) with people who fear dogs. In those cases, they are not only ambassadors for their farm but also their species and, sometimes, for their breeds. I overheard someone say about a farm dog, “I was scared of German Shepherds, but then I met her.”

It takes a special dog to be a successful farm dog, and they live in memory for generations of their family and their friends.

Hens movin’ on up

Hens movin’ again.  That’s what happens when you’ve got wheels on your coop, you get itchy claws.

hens movin and coop pulled into garageThere has been some awfully cold days and nights the past couple weeks.  The girls are hardy, but I’ve worried about them at night despite the insulation in their coop.  They still like to go out in their run during the day.  But the wind whips around our windblocks.  And the ground gets sodden.

One freezing night when Sadie, the outdoor-by-choice cat, came in out of the gale and sleet, I said to her “I wish the chickens could be in with us too.”  Then I thought hmm, there’s a great big garage right beside them, wonder if they’d like to be inside it.  Nah, I’d get laughed out of town if I suggested putting them, coop and all, in the garage.

positioning coop in garageA day or two later, my brother said, “It’s probably too crazy, but I was thinking…”  Yes indeed, he too had thought about moving the chickens indoors for the winter.

So last weekend, the girls were packed up inside the coop, the lawn tractor hooked on to it, and the whole works moved into the garage.  Boards were put down under the run to protect the concrete floor and give the girls a less cold ‘ground’, a bale of straw spread out for them to peck in.

MINI parked by coopAfter they got in position, the MINI was put in beside them.  There was one night of snow last week, not a lot but enough to let you know it was on its way.  So time for MINI to go to sleep for the winter, for the very first time right beside some chickens for company.

Checking on them after their first night inside, I see an empty run.  Where are they?  Had they got out and were roosting in the hens inside cooprafters?  Had the Chicken Rapture happened?  No, inside the coop, looking at me like ‘oh thank goodness, you’re still here.  We’re scared!’  All crowded together, they even let me pet them as I gave them potato peelings.  One peel flicked out onto the run ramp, and one was brave enough to go after it.  The others looked at her, then me, then screwed up their courage and went out too.

garage at night photo Dorothy StewartSoon they were scratching in the straw and kicking it in the air, pecking and clucking and cooing.  Happy girls again.  Of course the weather has become nice again so neither chickens nor car need the protection of a garage, but in mid-November it can change any time.

The Cluck Sisters

The girls are moved in!  Sunday evening they were put in their new hens in cage in truck bedcoop.  They’d waited in the back of a truck and, by that time, were clucking and pretty much pointing with their little beaks at their little chicken wrists as if to say “don’t you know it’s bedtime?”  It didn’t take long, after they’d explored and scratched and ate their welcome wagon treats.  They flew up to their perch and bedded down.

cat and dog watch chickens in runThe dogs are fascinated.  First thing they do when they go out is check their chickens.  I doubt it’s concern for their welfare so they haven’t met without mesh between them.  Cats too, look at them like, wow, big sparrows!

Tire off wheel on chicken coopThe last remaining big job is replacing the wheels and axle.  The small wheels just couldn’t take the weight.  So a bigger set will go on.  Then we should be able to haul that coop just about anywhere.

trough style feeder and plastic chick watererWe’ve been fine-tuning the interior since they moved in, putting in a small plastic chick waterer and trough style metal feeder raised on 2x4s and making nest boxes.  We’d put a ladder in so they could climb up to their shelf.  But they quickly showed they didn’t need it by flying up.  So it’s gone.  Less is more is the best design philosophy for a henhouse.

They need a small enough space to keep warm in the Coop being pulled with lawn tractorwinter but enough let them freely and easily move around when they are cooped up. Between 2 to 4 square feet coop space and up to 10 square feet run space per bird (depending on whether bantam or full size), according to Backyard Chickens.  So, with a 4 x 4 x 8 foot coop and 8 foot long run, their space is what real estate agents call “cozy”, but it’s ok.  They’ll get more outdoor space next year, in Phase II of the development.

inside coop with wall insulation and panelboardBut in winter, they’re not likely to be outside much.  So you want to balance their need for movement with the amount of space that they can keep warm.  We insulated with Styrofoam sheets.  You can use fiberglass batts too but make sure they can’t peck at it.

Panelboard is nailed over the insulation.  There is no vapour barrier, despite the advice of one chicken man.  Without an inside heat source, if moisture builds up because the building materials cannot breathe, that may cause greater problems than passage of air.

hens on coop perch and shelfTheir waterer has no heater.  My advisor said the coop should be warm in winter so the chickens don’t have to expend all their energy generating heat.  So we hope that the insulation will hold in the body heat they generate in their small space.

You want to keep them from sitting in their food dish and want to keep dirt and faeces out of their food and water.  Also it’s easier for them to digest food and water when their dishes are at neck height.  They put their heads up in order to swallow properly so raised containers make that easier to do.

hens settled into run“High, dry and warm” is the key to healthy chickens, according to a lifelong chicken farmer.  His words were passed on to me by the people at J & P Farm Services.  They and the people at Shur-Gain Feeds and the Co-op in Sussex have been wonderful, helping to outfit the girls in style.

Have Chicken – Will Travel

Some hens need a home, so the first construction project at the chicken coop plan by Allan Anger
house?   A chicken coop.  It’s just big enough for five or six chickens and their furnishings and for us to go in to tend to them.  They need one or two roosts to sleep on, nest boxes to lay their eggs in and a feeder and waterer.  Bins to store their food, and that’s pretty much it.

And it’s mobile.  A problem with an outdoor pen attached to your coop is that the chickens peck the grass right down and soon they’re base with coop frame on topscratching and pecking in just dirt.  They like dirt.  There’s still stuff to peck at and they like having dust baths.  But when rain turns it to mud, they end up a mess.  That’s if they’ll go out in it at all, they’re not fond of mud.

So, with wheels and a tongue for towing, this coop and run can be moved around to different patches of grass.  I’ve never had one like that before, never even thought about a mobile chicken coop if truth be told.

Googling chicken coop design and my brother’s fertile mind produced our one-of-a-kind chicken RV.  He salvaged wood and a rod for an axle from behind the garage.  He had wheels that our father had given wheels at end of coophim, saying “you don’t know when you might need a set of wheels.”  True enough, years later, they turned out to be perfect for a hen house.  Then he and a carpenter friend began construction.  It’s a well-built hen house.

The chickens won’t be limited to just this attached 8-foot run.  The pen can open into a larger fenced area or just the great outdoors.  But this small run, enclosed with stury hardware cloth, provides both indoor and outdoor space where you can be sure they’re safe.  And, in case you have an emergency that requires traveling with your chickens, well, with this you can do it with ease.

coop with plywood sidingThe hens plan to move in next week.  Their new home will be ready for them by them.  I looked at coop equipment today.  Some feeder designs and ready-made nest boxes that I hadn’t seen before.  I haven’t bought anything yet.  I need to talk to chicken people about what works best and see the final interior layout to see what best fits.

I hadn’t planned to get chickens so soon but these are Phoenix hens and, well, I did say I liked them. It’s exciting.  I’m looking forward to the girls seeing their new quarters.

House Deconstruction

Three weeks in our new house and slowly it’s coming together.  A new house is like a clothes on line and fieldRubik’s Cube:  frustratingly impossible to figure out the parts but hit the right one and somehow the rest fall in place.

I haven’t moved in over a decade.  That’s too long, I’ve decided.  Move every five years so you don’t have time to accumulate too much, or never so that someone else will have to deal with your lifetime’s worth of stuff.

We moved to a smaller house.  So even after fairly extensive pruning, a lot more came in the door than could be accommodated.  Furniture was arranged several times before a workable solution was found.  You start with a preconceived idea, based both on your perceptions china cabinet with cat in houseof the space and the way you had things before.  Then you see it doesn’t work or feel right, there’s too many pieces left over, or what you need doesn’t fit and what fits you don’t need.

Throw it all out and start over’ was followed by ‘We paid to move this stuff halfway across the country so it’s all going to fit come hell or high water’.  Then a midpoint of sanity:  you have to see something in the space to know if it’s needed and rejigging can make things fit.  And if something really doesn’t work, replace it.  Life is indeed too short to settee and table on house porch photo D Stewartlive around your furniture, accommodating it instead of it accommodating you.

So a settee and coffee table sit on the porch, no place inside for them.  Kind of looks like the Clampetts moved in.  They probably will go to the attic or garage, or I might leave them there until winter.  They just beg you to ‘set a spell’.

The countryside around here is beautiful:  farmland with hay baled or cows grazing, woods.  I’m enjoying just looking at my own flower bed and grape arbourland – rosebushes, tiger lilies, grapevine-covered arbour, field with the potential of being pasture, woods.  A deer out in the field late one afternoon, turned her head when she heard a voice and meandered on.

An old farmhouse, it’s very different than our previous new-ish suburban house.  But this house, with old softwood floors and a renovation job of pine cabinetry, tile and soft sea colours, is of the lineage of houses I have lived in and loved the most.  I could line up photos of rooms from this and three inside houseother ones and they could all be the same house.  That’s not to say I haven’t missed my St. Thomas house.  I liked its space and convenience and straight walls and floors, and I enjoyed just looking at the rooms.  But my soul is back at home in this house.