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Posts Tagged ‘nesting boxes’

“Mommy!  Mommy! One of the chickens is dead!  The metal thing fell on it, Mommy!” came Brandon’s cry from the back porch as Tammi was putting the dishes away.  It had been a peaceful Tuesday morning up to that point.

Sure enough, upon inspection, the small ten-unit nesting box had come loose and fallen over.  Unfortunately, one of the lady leghorns was not quick enough to escape the sudden force from the metal contraption. It’s legs stuck out of the bottom like the similarly unfortunate Wicked Witch of the East in The Wizard of Oz.  Tammi lifted up the nesting box and put it in place. Brandon stooped down in front of the bird.

“It’s not moving, Mommy. It’s definitely dead,” proclaimed my stepson like a junior coroner at a murder scene.

“I know honey,” said Tammi. “It’s a shame.”

“Are you goin’ to tell Baron?” he asked.

“Let’s bury her first,” said Tammi.

The two solemnly carried the chicken down to the compost pile, dug a hole, and laid lady leghorn #25 to rest.  It probably looked like a scene out of the Sopranos, except that it was daytime rather than two in the morning. The call came to me at work a few minutes later.

“We lost a chicken this morning,” said my bride, solemnly.

“What?” said I, “Did something get in the coop?”  I was imaging a weasel wreaking havoc on our little ladies.

“No — it was crushed by the nesting box that tumbled over…,” she explained.

I was immediately struck by a complete sense of responsibility.  I had killed that chicken through my own ineptitude as a rookie farmer.  I had committed unintentional third-degree chicken-slaughter and was feeling every bit guilty.

“Damn!” said I, “Damn — it’s all my fault!”

Unfortunately, this little episode spooked our ladies again — that made three incidents in the last two weeks — the evil space robot chicken feeder, the township fireworks, and now the death of one of their own right before their eyes.  After catching the birds and returning them to the coop, we decided it was time to downsize.

“I am afraid we just have too many,” I said to my bride, convinced we needed to reduce our flock.

“Really?” said my lady in a tone only a wife can make when reminding her husband she had made a similar suggestion some time ago.

“Yep — put ’em on Craig’s List — $6 each or 2 for $10,” I ordered.

And so it was done — within a couple days 18 of the 24 remaining birds were sent packing for a cool return of $90 cash.  We decided to keep six — enough to provide for us and a little extra.

Tammi set about creating a fenced-in run outside the coop with a small paddock for the birds to “free-range.”  We also downsized the coop, pulling out the two nesting units and replacing them with a three-box wooden one from the barn.  We removed all of the old hay and replaced it.  We then caught the six birds in the barn and placed them in their transformed home.

“How many eggs have we gotten out of this?” I asked my bride as I was raking the chicken poop.

“Uh….none,” she said.

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There was enough old wood lying around the barn to build a small house.  We had also found a good amount of chicken wire in various places — all of the materials to finish off our chicken coop. Our little leghorn ladies had been living in the 8×8 enclosed room in the sty.  Now, the plan was to finish off the open section of the building, making it into a very comfortable 8×16 chicken coop for 25 egg laying machines!

Early Saturday morning, I began measuring and cutting the wood using the old Stanley circular saw I had purchased from the same man who sold me a used snowblower a few weeks back. Any time you get a chance to buy used tools on the cheap, it is usually worthwhile.  The old Stanley circular saw ran like a charm and I managed to keep all of my appendages.  The key was the two used folding saw horses that were in the yellow wagon with the cupholder — at the auction last week.  I hadn’t realized what they were – it was almost like they appeared before my eyes when I opened them up to discover their purpose!

After the coop was framed out sufficiently, I moved the nesting boxes inside. I then nailed up additional supporting boards at various points, anticipating the need to staple the chicken wire into something.  When I was ready for the wire, Tammi joined me and did the stapling. Within an hour, we had a completely enclosed chicken coop with 25 galvanized nesting boxes. We temporarily boarded up the side exit – previously used by the pigs who inhabited the place in years past to go outside.  We planned to open this up in a week when the hens were ready to experience the outside.

Finally, around 11 am, we were ready to transfer the birds from the holding pen into the coop.  Tammi spread hay on the floor and transferred the feeder and water bottle.  I came up with a chute, using a couple of boards to channel the birds into the coop. Tammi went into the pen, and I made sure none of the birds flew out of the chute.  Luckily, all but one waddled into their new residence.  One bird had to be different and went the wrong way, getting tangled in some extra wire and boards.  Tammi came over and gently picked her up and finished the job.

I suppose if I drank beer, this would have been a Budweiser moment — having transformed a bunch of old wood and wire into a chicken hotel extraordinaire.

It was about this time Brandon, Tammi’s 9-year-old son, finally awoke and stormed outside yelling  for his mother.  “Mommy!” he shrieked in his high-pitched adolescent whine, “I’m hungry — make me breakfast!”

“You need to teach that kid to cook!” I said, walking with her to the porch.

Brandon was disappointed he had missed the chance to help build the coop. He was looking for any way to make ten bucks so he could buy some more Legos.  I offered him the chance to do so by transferring one of the small wood piles to the barn using the yellow wagon.  We were anticipating the arrival of our wood stove, and wanted to start moving some more wood into a dry location.  Brandon enthusiastically accepted and began the job.

The lad really struggled to pull the wagon up the hill — and then had difficulty controlling it as he went back down with the cart full of wood.  As he was stacking his second load, I was inside resting on the sofa, still enjoying the pleasant thoughts of my morning accomplishments.

“Mommy!  There’s a snake!” yelled my stepson from the woodpile. I jumped up from the sofa, and pulled on my boots. I then grabbed my walking stick and the fireplace shovel and headed out expecting to see my stepson wrapped in the coil of a massive anaconda or dancing left and right in front of a darting king cobra.  Instead, I found a copper and yellow patterned viper laying on a log — the boy just a few feet away.

“Step back,” I said.

“What are you going to do Baron?” said Brandon calling me by my nickname. “Are you going to kill it?”

“Yes,” I said, holding the snake down with the walking stick held in my left hand. The shovel soon followed, coming from the right, like a scene out of the French Revolution — the edge of the tool acting as a guillotine. Our 24 to 36 inch copper head has now in two parts. I tossed them into the pasture using the walking stick.

“Why did you kill it?” asked Brandon, somewhat upset.

“It was a poisonous snake,” said Tammi. He had to.

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Not enough credit has been given to our good friend Gary (and wife Kim) who have imparted much knowledge about the rural life to us newbie farmers.  In fact, it was Gary who suggested I attend the Carlisle Farm Equipment Auction also known as the Wickard Brothers Annual Consignment Sale held every spring at  1690 Waggoners Gap Road in Carlisle.

“You’ll be sure to get some nesting boxes,” said Gary, suggesting it would be a necessary investment for our 25 lady leghorns.

I showed up early and got a number.  I had been to many auctions in my life, but mostly indoors, and mostly for coins or antiques or estates.  This affair was sprawled out over several acres in a farmer’s field.  There was everything you could imagine from chain saws to tools to wheelbarrows and rakes to horse trailers and combines and tractors….and exactly two sets of galvanized nesting boxes — one a unit of 10 and the other 15 — exactly 25 nesting boxes in all.  Of course, according to Storey’s, I would not need quite this many, but I thought I would err on the side of caution.

While waiting to bid on the 15-unit of nesting boxes, I bid on a push mower and a small wagon containing a chainsaw and several empty plastic gasoline containers.  After winning that lot for $85, an older gentleman with some chew in his jaw inquired about my purchase.

“What’d you pay for that there wagon?” he asked.

“$85,” I proudly replied.  The contents had been acquired for an additional $15.

“Well, well,” he said proudly, “I paid $65 for mine — the blue one — just a while ago.”

“Yes,” I said, pointing to an appendage hanging from my yellow wagon full of junk, “but mine has a cupholder!”

“Indeed it does!” he said, nearly choking on his chew, “You definitely got me there!'”

The previous owner of my little yellow wagon had affixed a cupholder using plastic ties.  Somehow I could imagine him setting his can of Bud in the cupholder while filling his chainsaw with fuel…

Onto the nesting boxes!

The 15-unit sold first.  It was like-new.  A crowd of people were gathered around it.  I decided to take the “shut out” strategy – starting with a high bid no one else would top.  So, there I was, college boy in my Penn State sweatshirt and athletic shoes amid an anxious crowd of farmers in their overalls and flannels and boots with their John Deere and NASCAR hats.

“Got a nice set of nesting boxes heah,” began the auctioneer, “like new!  Do I have 100?  How about 100 to start!”

I immediately jumped in, much to the dismay of everyone present.  No one was willing to top $100 for a unit of nesting boxes that sells for over $250 plus delivery on the Internet.

The 10-unit was not so easy!  Thinking it was just a few items away, I was dismayed to find the auctioneer changing direction and going all the way back to the other end of the row, rather than just snaking through the field.  It would be three hours until he finally came back around.  In the meantime, I enjoyed a sausage sandwich and some pie — and even spent a little time in the truck.

By the time the auctioneer was approaching the nesting boxes, I realized they would be the last item sold that day — and it had started to rain.  I drove onto the field and loaded my items.  Wisely, I pulled up near the last nesting boxes and waited for the auctioneer to approach in the downpour.  As he was about to begin the item, I stepped out of the truck and into the rain. There were only a handful of people around me.  The auctioneer looked surprised to see me in his face again.

“Alright — last item of the day — a nice unit of nesting boxes,” he called out, “Do I have 100 to start? 100 dollars?”

No one bid.  I had decided to let this one drop. It went to 20 and then up to 70.  I jumped in at that point and got it for $85.  Thus, 25 nesting boxes — galvanized — were had for $185.

In the downpour, one of the farmers helped me lift it up onto the back of the truck.

“Now you need some chickens,” he cackled revealing some missing teeth, John Deere cap cocked back at an angle like some inner-city rapper in a Chicago Bulls hat.

“Oh don’t you worry about that,” I said, “We’ve got a coop full of chicks at home just waiting for these things…”

I drove home with a truck full of stuff purchased at bargain prices.  I was feeling pretty good!

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