Chickens in the hoop house, finally!

Keeping chickens warm and safe during a Bruce Peninsula winter is challenging. This is only our third year, but each year we learn a little more.  It helps that our birds are pretty hardy; especially after surviving last winter’s frigid temperatures.

 

Chickens and their mobile coop during early winter
The chickens stay outside as long as possible in the fall. Rocky (front girl) gives me the stink eye – like this weather is my fault.

 

We like to keep our birds outdoors as long as possible into the fall. They are fine in the colder temperatures as long as they can get out of the wind and don’t get wet. We provide a covered area they can hang out in as well as their mobile coop. Yes, it’s an old truck cap. It works.

Things get tricky when the fence battery gets cold and has to be switched out with a warmer, charged one every morning. Man, that thing is heavy. Being off-grid, we are loathe to add any extra power draws during the dark time of the year. Charging a fence battery can use a lot of power we’d rather use elsewhere, like for lights and running water.

Traditionally, we move the chickens into the garage just before Christmas. This allows us the chance to get away for the holidays and have a chicken sitter. We know the birds are secure, and the sitter can easily tend to their needs and collect eggs. Win-win. Mostly. Continue reading “Chickens in the hoop house, finally!”

Preparing the ground

 

We ordered a load of topsoil for the hoop house in spring. We used part of it right away inside the new structure. The rest of it went to the future site of the hoop house – where we will move the hoop house when the time comes. Don’t ask when that will be. But we will be ready.

Spring was rainy. It didn’t take long for that beautiful top soil to green up with wild mustard, shepherd’s purse and a few other characters I’d rather not have in my prime growing areas. It’s not that I am anti-weeds across the board. The only things I remove immediately are bindweed and ragweed. All plants have their roles to fill in the ecosystem. I’d just rather not be spending time and energy removing their progeny in the years to come.

Enter the chickens.

 

Chickens eat the weeds in our topsoil delivery mobile coop
These chickens really went to town on the greens that were imported in our topsoil delivery. Within two weeks, the ground was bare and their bellies were full!

With their scratching, pecking and dust-bathing the chickens reduced the green forest to bare soil in short order. They really seemed to have fun doing it too. At first it was like a big game of hide and seek as the plants were as tall or taller than the birds. As things thinned out, some plants continued to grow taller but had no lower leaves; almost looking like palm trees. The only plants left at the end of their session were goldenrod and chicory; perennial plants that were there before the topsoil delivery.

 

A partridge chanticleer chicken clears weeds near the hoop house.
This partridge chanticleer and her flock cleared the ground for the future site of the hoop house by the end of June.

Then it was time to move the chickens to new pasture. To keep the bare soil from growing more of what we didn’t want, we laid a tarp over the area. A BIG tarp. That was a family bonding experience that was not so fun. Dusk, everyone tired from a long day, bugs… But we managed.

Continue reading “Preparing the ground”

Thankfulness

So here we are on the verge of Thanksgiving. We have so many things to be thankful for, even though we can get caught up in the day-to-day whirlwind of life: school, chickens, garden work, cleaning up to host family for the holiday.

I’ve slowed down enough for a quick reflection here, just before I dash to meet the bus. If a picture is worth a thousand words, here are a few thousand words of gratitude from our homestead to yours.

Peter and Talia Allemang
Daddy and daughter celebrate another season of dance completed. My Hearts.

 

Black German Shephard
The dog I always dreamed of…even though she can be a dork at times. She’s a great companion to my new work.

 

Broody chicken on nest box
Chickens give us healthy eggs and meat while they improve our soil. They are also very entertaining. Henny Penny, pictured above, finally got to brood a clutch of eggs and be a momma to an Icelandic chick.

 

Hoop house at Polka Dot Hen Produce Bruce Peninsula
The hoop house. Building it was a huge undertaking, but the benefits of this protected growing environment are phenomenal. We have just scratched the surface. I’m already planning for next season.

 

Vegetable cooler at DeJong Acres farm store Polka Dot Hen Produce
Nothing can compare to doing work that you truly believe in. This was a great season of learning for me. Thank you to everyone who bought our veggies this year at DeJong Acres. I’d love to hear from you!

Wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving this weekend…or in November…or both!