Thursday, March 29, 2012

Chicken Shak

Welcome back to The Shak.

I performed the last upgrade to the chickens food and water situation. The little buggers are not so little anymore. They seem to grow noticably day-to-day. The only problem with all this growing is their knocking over their feeders and waterers. Solution? Bigger stuff.
40# feeder on the left.
7 gallon waterer to the right.
I purchased a new seven gallon waterer and a new forty pound capacity feeder. These are both suspended from the ceiling. Not only will this keep the chickens from toppling their food and water, it will and has reduced my work load. There is not much left for me to do but clean the removable water tray. It snaps off and on without my having to take down the feeder. And with their large capacities, I rarely have to fill them. Suspending them keeps them at the right height (chicken back height); thereby, preventing the chickens from scratching the food out of the feeder and crapping in or spilling the water.
Chicks no more.
 I also bought egg layer crumble instead of chick feed. They grow up so fast.
Look at the size of the breasts on that chicken!

Thanks for stopping. Come again soon.


Welcome back to The Shak.

Today is cold and windy. I am tired. So, I will update you on my progress while wearing my pjs and relaxing with a cup of black chai tea with honey.
The new gate from the outside.
The tops of the sill blocks can be seen
 along the bottom of the gate.
The garden courtyard now has a gate. I built it from 1" x 4" x 8' pine boards cut to length. It is held together by mending plates. I hung it lower than the existing fence and built a sill to the outside using landscaping bricks. The bricks are held firm against the ground behind them by a piece of wood lath and a couple stakes. This gives the gate a good seal on the bottom with enough strength to roll the wheelbarrow over it without destroying the sill. It also keeps the vermin out.
The gate from the inside.
The sill is somewhat visible.
In order to make the gate lower than the surrounding fence, I had to remove much soil and create a navigable slope. You can see the landscape blocks I used as a retaining wall to the left and right of the gate. I have yet to remove the extra soil above the retaining wall on the right. That is pretty low-priority right now.
Another interior view of the gate.
The gate is held shut by two eyes and two eye hooks. One toward the top and the other toward the bottom of the gate. It all fits tight and will serve well as a barrier to the outside world.

I also dug a trench along the outside of the fence connecting the barn to the garage wall. Same as the other fence sections, I buried chicken wire. Here I planted two feet of chicken wire instead of just one foot. There was no gravel layer and the soil was easy to dig though heavier from rain and higher clay content.
Before repairs to the north fence.
I removed and replaced the boards which were both rotting and unlevel. It bothered me everytime I walked into the courtyard to see those unlevel boards with rotten lattice hanging all willy-nilly. I thought maybe someone would think I had hung them. Now they are new and level and I am happy to see them so.
After the repairs to the north fence.
I still have to replace the lattice.
I have not yet finished putting the fence together. I will be adding boards equidistant from the top and bottom boards and replacing the lattice soon. Because this section of fence is to the north, the lattice will not be in the way of the sun; however, it will do a wonderful job of blocking the wind.

You may also have noticed that all six raised beds have been rebuilt and are ready for planting.

Thanks for stopping. Come again soon.

Shak Rabbits

Welcome back to The Shak.

Yes, it has been a while. I've been busy doing the actual work about which I blog. Today, I will show you how I build rabbit cages. Rabbits grow quickly. I will be keeping two does and one buck from each of the two litters. This means six new breeding cages.

First, set up a sturdy work surface. Make it large and flat. I use a 4' x 8' x 3/4" sheet of underlayment laid over a couple old, garage caliber cabinets. Whatever you choose will be left scratched and gouged. Have a chair nearby. You will need it.
A large, sturdy work area is vital
You will need wire...lots of wire. My cages measure 36"W x 30"D x 16"H. Each floor is a 36" x 30" piece of 16ga, 1/2" x 1" wire mesh. This job requires two 10' rolls. Two 25' x 36" rolls of 14ga, 1" x 2" wire mesh will make up the tops, fronts, rears and sides.

Get yourself a good diagonal wire cutters. A thin nose is good as it allows you space when cutting close wire. Do not use a needle nose pliers. If you need a reason...try it, you will find one when you begin to cut the first floor piece from the roll. I cannot stress enough the importance of the wire cutter. Having built other cages with a sub-standard (made in China) cutter, I gladly bought an American made, American steel, cutter with a comfortable handle. It is necessary that the cutter be made of harder metal than that which you are attempting to cut. DO NOT PURCHASE CHEAP TOOLS! You will pay in other ways. BUY AMERICAN. BUY LOCAL.
The requisite tools and fasteners
You will be working with wire. Get a well-fitting but not too thick pair of leather gloves. If your gloves are too loose, you will constantly be snagging them. This is as annoying as it is easily avoided. If your gloves are too thick, you will not be able to feel what you are doing or properly manipulate the wire. More important than getting the gloves is wearing them. Wire punctures and scratches hurt in a special way. Like dog bites do. So, when cutting wire, always wear both gloves.

I have no photos of cutting wire. Suffice to say, I cut six of each tops and bottoms (36" x 30"), fronts and backs (36" x 16") and twelve side (30" x 16") pieces. A door hole distinguishes the fronts from the backs. The type of wire used indicates top or bottom. All twelve sides are the same.

Eight or so hours have all the pieces cut. It is time to put it all together.
There is going to be a lot of this
Now you will be using a j-clip pliers and j-clips to put all the parts together. I generally begin by fastening the floor and the front wall. Lay the wall (with the side you want facing out up) on the floor with the edges to be fastened atop one another. Fix a clip every 2".
Lay the front over the floor
and clip them them together
I like turning the cage while I build it rather than moving around it. Turn the cage so you are on one of the two sides. Pivot the front out of the way. So it is not laying on the floor. Lay the side piece in place and clip.
Floor with front and one side fastened.
I find it easier to clip the front and side together at this point. This creates the first corner of the cage and gets the pieces already attached out of the way of those to follow.
Floor with front, one side and a corner.
Turning the cage, clip the back to the floor. With a clip create the second corner. With three sides and two corners standing, turn the cage and fasten the remaining side.
Front, one side and the back with two corners.
Go back and add clips to strengthen the corners.
All four sides in place.
Next add the door. You will need a 14" x 13" piece of mesh for each cage. The four rolls of wire do not provide enough mesh to cut doors. I had just enough 16ga 1/2" x 1" wire left over from building nest boxes to cut six doors. It is important that the door be mounted to open in and not out. You can see the door is j-clipped into place. It will swing freely in but cannot open out. A short piece of wire and a twist will hold the door shut.
Put the door in before installing the top.
It is just plain easier.
Put the top on. I find it easiest to first clip each corner. Then clipping every 4", secure the top.
One finished cage.
There you have it...a rabbit cage.

Depending upon what kind of feeder and waterer you use, further cuts may be required during installation.
5" in the world of wire,
is not equal to 5" in the world of feeders.
Wire bends to fit.

5" rabbit feeder in place.
You may have noticed I never mentioned actually measuring anything. Wire is an inexact and forgiving medium. Count the spaces between wires. If the space is an inch.... if it is half inch... You get the picture. Often using a measuring tape would have you cutting between parallel wires. Because this makes no sense and you are working with measured wire, just count the correct number of spaces. Everthing will fit.

Also, if you make a bad cut, do not freak out. Wire bends. You will be able to adjust. A perfect cage keeps in what one wants in and out what one wants out. Imperfect corners or a ripple here and there will work themselves out once the weight of the rabbit is on the floor.

I made hay racks from the wire pieces I cut out of the front for the door opening. These too I fixed with clips to the exterior of the cage.
On the right is the wire removed to make the door hole. One the left, that same wire in a useful shape. When bending wire, use a needle-nose pliers.

The hay rack fixed to the cage.
As for the rabbits themselves, the litter of nine is hopping out of the nest box like so much Jiffy-pop. They are munching on hay and mom's pellets and appear to be trying to figure out what the waterer is for. Weening should be no problem.
One of the original nine kits.
The litter of fourteen is eyes open. I saw the first trail-blazing bunny stumbling around the mother's cage today. I put it back in the nest with no complaint from mother rabbit. All are still alive.
The second litter trail-blazer bumbling about.
Thanks for stopping. Come again soon.