Notes from Windward: #67
adding on to the chicken run
Our batch of fifty Rhode Island Red chicks are due in next week, and will be needing a place to roost in about a month, so it's a good time to get started on the addition to Vermadise that will the boxes they'll lay their eggs in, along with the ladder roost that they'll settle on at night.
the northeast corner of Vermadise
The breed we're working with is a tradition bird originally developed in Rhode Island as a dual purpose bird. There are hybrid crosses of all sorts that can out-perform them either in weight gains or in egg laying, but that's not what we're going for. Rather, we're looking for a line that has a long established record of being able to deliver in both categories.
Rhode Island Red
cock and hen
We're purchasing our stock from The Murray McMurray Hatchery and here's how they describe the breed.
This is one of the most famous and all time popular breeds of truly American chickens. Developed in the early part of the last century in the state of the same name, they have maintained their reputation as a dual purpose fowl through the years. Outstanding for production qualities, they have led the contests for brown egg layers time after time. No other heavy breed lays more or better eggs than the Rhode Island Reds. Our "production" strain is keeping up the fine reputation of this old favorite. Baby chicks are a rusty red color and the mature birds are a variety of mahogany red.
To read the wiki entry on Rhode Island Reds, Click Here.
Our intent is use these birds as the basis of a breeder flock from which we can incubate and hatch chicks on an on-going basis--which is the only way to develop what's called a "land race;" i.e. a strain of a breed that's ideally suited to a specific set of conditions. It's also one of the best ways to keep a breeding population free from diesease since not bringing in more birds is one of the best ways to insure that you don't bring in pathogens as well.
Work on the laying/rousting shed got held up as we waited for the arrival of our new laying nests. The nest complex is laid out in a three wide, two tall grid that will give us enough laying room for a dozen hens. The nests feature bottoms which are designed to roll the eggs to the back (less chance of them getting broken by the next hen to use the nest) and utilize plastic floors which can be easily removed for cleaning.
Becca and Alison with their newly assembled nesting array
Now that we have the nest array to size to, we can lay out the 4x4's for the roosting shed. A few holes dug, some bracing screwed in place, and it was time for the 'terns to mix their first batch of concrete.
Once the concrete had set, the next step was to install the nesting array since it's the center piece of this particular bit of construction. The goal is to create a safe and efficient place for the hens to lay their eggs, and for us to be able to collect them without having to enter the laying room.
Next, the roof joists were cut and installed followed by the 2x4's that will support the roost's metal roof.
Our stock of metal roofing was sufficient to cover the roosting shed, but the pieces needed to be trimmed a bit before installation. It's not easy material to cut, but Nikki picked up the technique right away.
The next task as to skin the shed with 1/2" plywood leaving an access panel so that eggs can be collected without having to enter the roost. A key part of keeping a laying flock healthy is to insure that they're isolated since many a bird has been sickend by an organism that someone tracked in on their shoes. This way, visitors can have the fun of collecting eggs without us having to worry about what's on their shoes.
While Alison floored the roosting shed with a six inch deep layer of wood chips, I build and attached an access door on the north side.
In order to keep laying hens laying into the fall, you need to maintain their "day length" with artificial lighting. In keeping with our desire to keep Vermadise as "off grid" as we can, we installed a modest solar panel on the roof of the roosting shed.
The solar panel will charge an internal battery which will power a light inside the roosting shed. It's another fun example of the principle of time-shifting in that energy from the sun is stored away and used to provide light for the hens after the sun goes down.
Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 67