All posts by Josh

And that’s why we call her Durf

Further evidence that if Durf, our Buff Orpington were any dumber, we’d have to water her twice a week: she isn’t bright enough to come in out of the rain. I just went out to make sure the chickens were all locked up in their coop for the night, and found Durf on the perch in the uncovered run area, dripping wet, muttering unhappily. I tried poking her off the perch, and she just sidled away from me. So I lowered the perch to the ground, hoping she’d get the clue and go inside. Nope, she just stood there on the lowered perch, getting rained on. So I had to climb inside the run, pick her up, and put her in the enclosed coop. Where she proceeded to just stand there, occasionally pecking at the ground. I tried lighting a path for her from where she was to the area of the coop with the night-time perches, and she just blinked at me. So I had to get back into the coop and shepherd her into the fully-enclosed area. Eventually, she got the idea, and I heard her hop up onto one of the perches.

But, come on. Sitting in the rain and cold, when there’s a warm perch with the two other chickens not 10 feet away. I worry about Durf. On the one hand, she’s a bully to the other chickens. On the other hand, she’s about as smart as a cabbage. Maybe being a bully is all she has.

Chicken run, mark 2

The temporary chicken run didn’t work out so well–the wire sides folded over and the top netting sagged enough that Miss Thing managed to get herself tangled up in it and nearly strangled herself. So a more permanent solution was called for. Our more permanent (but still constructed in such a way as to allow for easy reconfiguration) solution involved a whole bunch of 4’x4′ frames made of 2×2 treated lumber and 1×2 welded wire fence, held in place with sturdy stakes and covered with chicken wire stapled to the top.

The chickens seem pretty happy with it:

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Good bye, driveway

We haven’t had a car (working or otherwise) in over two years, and we have no plans to get another. We do have plans for a lot more vegetable gardening, though, and the driveway was just taking up space we could be using for more raised beds. So last weekend we took out most of our driveway.

Using only a 6-foot pry bar, a 4-lb hand sledge and chisel, and some 4x4s (plus, later, a borrowed 10-lb sledge to break up the larger chunks once they’d already been lifted out), we got about 3/4 through before deciding to call it a day. We thought we might have to borrow a jackhammer, but it turned out that once we got the first chunk out, it was all possible with proper leverage and hand-chipping.

I think we’re looking at putting in another couple of large beds there, and maybe a wood-fired pizza/bread oven. We’ll see. For now, I still have to find the carbide blade for the sawzall to see if it will work on the last section, which isn’t already cracked at the point where we want to stop pulling it up.

Happy car-free anniversary!

Yesterday was the second anniversary of our somewhat unscheduled switch to a car-free lifestyle. Which is to say, we haven’t owned a working car in two years.

All things considered, I think we’ve done pretty well. We haven’t really used a car much at all since ZipCar and FlexCar merged. We’ve occasionally borrowed my folks’ car for some hardware store errands, but we’ve mostly stuck with the bike and bus of late. And I don’t think it’s been much of a hardship. We do have to plan things more carefully, in general, and it’s a pain when there’s a show out in West Seattle I’d like to go to, but not really enough to want to spring for a cab back. But overall, I’m not regretting not having a car at all.

We’ve chosen where we live well, which helps a lot. There are grocery stores and farmers’ markets within easy bike/bus distance, as well as shopping malls and restaurants and libraries and most other places we’d want to go. With any luck, I’ll get another job within a few miles, otherwise that might be hard. When we bought this house, I expected that I’d be working at the UW more or less forever. And I’m still hoping that’s the case; it’s just less certain.

So, go us! As gas prices rise, that decision is looking better and better.

Raccoons

I haven’t seen a raccoon in our back yard in at least a year, probably more. After we cut some branches out of the tree on the back property line, they seemed to be less interested in hanging out back there. I guess they were just waiting for a reason to come back.

We took the chickens out to the coop in the back yard today with the intent of leaving them overnight. Tonight’s the Great American Backyard Campout, so we figured we could set up a cot or something back there and spend the night by the coop in case anything happened. So we headed out back just now, with the light fading, to see how the chickens were doing. They were freaking out, but they’ve freaked out the last few days when the light starts to fade. They haven’t gotten used to not having an overhead heat lamp on 24/7 yet, I guess.

They were in the fenced run area of the coop, so Cam got in to herd them into the enclosed chicken house area. They flew up onto her head. It’s not as easy to get a small chicken off your head as you might imagine, at least if you don’t want to injure the chicken. They’re pointy, and I think one drew blood on its way up, so I got in to help her out. And that’s when Cam noticed a raccoon at least the size of a five gallon water bottle staring at us from the break in the corner of the fence, about four feet away. The chickens continued to freak out, and some ended up on my head. Taking one for the team, I wrangled the chickens off Cam’s head and onto my own, so she could get out of the coop and retrieve the pet carrier. The raccoon climbed the fence and disappeared, but I’m sure it didn’t go far. Not with those tasty chickens protected only by a layer of chicken wire.

We got the chickens back into the house and put them in their box. Tomorrow, I think we’ll reinforce the coop with a layer of half-inch hardware cloth, dug down a ways to prevent tunneling. We don’t want the chickens’ first night in their real coop to be their last. Stupid raccoons.

Chicken tractor

Yesterday after work (plus a bit today after I found the tin snips so I could cut the chicken wire) I built a small chicken tractor so we could introduce the chickens to the outside world. I probably should have put some more thought into the design—doors on both ends might be nice, for example—but it worked out ok, and it’ll be easy to take apart later if we decide we want something better. This isn’t going to be their permanent home, in any case; we’ve got a real coop with an enclosed yard for that. This is just so we can take them into the front yard if we want. And so we could take them out of their box in Cam’s office and into the outside world for the first time today.

They’re about five weeks old now, and they’ve got enough insulation that they shouldn’t be too bothered by a breeze. Plus, it was a gorgeous day. So I went up to the neighborhood vet and picked up a cardboard pet carrier to transport them out of the house and into the tractor, one at a time. They were freaked out by the change for a few minutes, but got used to it fairly quickly and started scratching around and eating the clover. Cam fed them some rose petals, which they had fun with, grabbing one and then running away so nobody else could take it from them while they figured out how to eat it.

Getting them back into the house could have been tricky. We don’t have a fishing net or anything to catch them with if they escape, and the tractor is long enough that we can’t just reach in and grab them if they don’t cooperate. Luckily, this time when we opened the door they came over and let us pick them up and put them back in the carrier. Cam had enlisted one of our neighbors to help if we couldn’t wrangle them back inside, but we ended up not needing to call him. This time.

As usual, there are some photos:

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Video test

As a test of video embedding, a time lapse animation of 24 hours in the chicken box:

[flashvideo filename=”http://www.houseofcranks.com/journal/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/20080525.flv” /]

Looks like (after switching to a better flvplayer plugin) it works. Hooray!