Monday, July 25, 2016

Water Collection

And trying to train the girls to use it.

best case water system
This is the idea. Using the natural rain water to provide for the chickens needs. The Coop is roughly 300 feet from the nearest hose bib and if you've ever tasted summer hose water, you'll know that it's not the tastiest around.  JoAnn and I wanted better for the chickens. We started the system by putting up standard gutters, the PVC material allows for some easily glued up modifications. 


Barrel before modifications
 I found and up-cycled a 20 gallon HDPE barrel. It was originally a worm tea composter. I cut off and plugged old fittings. Scraping and sanding took off the old paint. A new coat of paint and then my drilling started.  I wanted to be able to see at a glance how much water was in the barrel and from the corner of the coop. 
Coffee percolator type level indicator
I planned on making a set up similar to the glass tube on an old fashioned coffee urn. I have a scrap section of clear 3/4" PVC pipe left over from another project that fit 3/4" CPVC fittings very nicely. I drilled then added two CPVC 90 degree elbows one above the other into the side of the barrel. TO seal the inside of the 90, 

Water level indicator fittingI used slip / thread elbows and used a threaded end cap with the cap end cut off so the water would flow freely into the clear PVC. I then used a clear sealant to keep leakage down. While this was drying /setting up, I built the platform I was going to set it on out of 2 x 4 ends and a piece of plywood. 
Platfom for the water tank
You can see it in place at the far end- it has the hole cut out for the pipe and nipple assembly but without vertical support legs in this photo. I knew it would need to be stout since 20 gallons of water weighs just under 170 pounds! Two straight 2 x 4's screwed in should carry the weight. 


Water system pipe fittings
Connecting the gutters to the tank is a simple matter of the right connectors, keeping a slope towards the tank and getting the last 90 into the tank. I filled the tank with 3 5 gallon buckets of water I lugged up from the house to see if there were any leaks, and thankfully there weren't any. I then ran the pipe with the red automatic watering nipples under the coop and secured them in place. 

Training Chickens to drink
I have placed a bit of grain under the piping hoping that the red color will entice them to peck at it, starting the training process but as of today, I have not seen any of the 6 hens use it at all. Then again, I am not under the coop for any length of time. I will monitor the water levels and see how fast it falls, and I check every time we go out for eggs.

Update on egg production. Since getting bird 6 back, we have reliably been getting 4 and occasionally 5 eggs a day. Of course they are laid in a single nest box though there are 5 available to them. We are using cotton T-shirts for nesting material and strange as it seems, it is what they prefer. We tested with straw and cotton shirts, and even when we change the nest the shirts are in, they choose the shirts.  Go figure.

Next Post: Is there a Rooster in the future?  


 

 
  

Monday, July 11, 2016

Gravity Feed Station

DIY Gravity Feed Station

OR My lazy way to free feeding for the girls

Gravity Feed Bin
This is a quick drawing mock up of the feed bin I planned to build by recycling a water pressure tank that we had left over after changing out our whole house water system. It holds about 20 plus gallons of water, I am hoping at least 2 bags of feed. It has one opening at one end, and two mounting options, though it turns out I had to go with the hanging mount on the right but that will be explained later in the post.

Modifying a water tank for chicken feed
This collage shows the starting look of the tank with the pump fitting on top (pic upper left), with it removed, the standard floor toilet flange (new) and once mounted. (lower right) I did have to modify the bolt pattern a bit in the flange ring to get the standard 6 corner hex pattern. The flange comes with 6 bolt holes but they are not in a true hex shape to allow for toilet bolts. I also had to add an adapter to go from waste pipe sizing to thin wall water pipe. I used a 4" flange, there are 3" available, but with inner diameters, outer diameters and going from thick walled to thin wall pipes the 4" flange worked out for me. I am using 3" thin wall pipe to  get the feed from the tank to the chickens. 

Cleaning up the tank for chicken food
 To be able to fill the tank with the chickens favorite feed, I used a thin blade on an angle grinder to slice the top off. I then de-burred and filed the edges smooth. I then needed to remove the rust and debris out of it. I used the same angle grinder with a wire brush cup attachment. it burned through the rust like it was dusted on rather than etched in. I will remember this tool! Once cleaned, I wiped the surfaces down with acetone to be sure it was clean and applied three coats of a clear top coat to help inhibit the rust then two coats of white spray paint. After the top, I did the inside of the entire tank the same way. I know I will have to do this again in this humid environment, but I figured three coats of clear might give me a good 6 months protection. We'll see. 

Mounting the Chicken feeder tank to to coop
All parts ready to install! The original tank had 4 mounting feet that I intended to use to mount the unit to the wall. Well, they ended up being too wide for the space so I ground them off and went with plan B. This utilizes the small mounting platform for the motor used to pressurize the water system and it fit in the space like I meant to do it! I did have to modify the bolt pattern a bit to allow the bolt heads through the lower set of slots. I used lag bolts set in 2x4's placed behind the plywood at the hole positions, I didn't want the 150 pounds of feed tearing through the plywood and dumping onto the ground. The last pic shows the tank in place and ready to be plumbed for the feed run.  

Mounted up and ready to use
This photo shows plumbing installed and feeding! 
I used 45 degree bends in the down run instead of 90's to decrease the chances of feed hanging up in the acute bends. It also allowed me to schmooze the angles and runs of the pipe a little better to get the feeding 'trough' where I wanted it. 
I intentionally placed this trough under the coop so they'll have a dry place to get their chow. JoAnn feels any driving rain will get under the coop far enough to get the feed wet so I will place a sheet of acrylic in front the feeder to block and rain but keep the light filtering under. 

Trough detail
 The 'trough' is an elongated hole in the lower pipe section with a cap on the end. In the three inch pipe, I made the width of the opening about 2 1/2" so the hens can get their heads in without getting rubbed by the edges. I was afraid that the pressure of the feed above would push out ALL the feed, but so far, it seems to be just the right amount.

I started this project since we are not allowing the hens to free range on the property and I didn't want to have to get up as early as they were to feed them, the hens would have at will food throughout the day, and so I can save space and use the hopper as the bulk feed storage. I will make sure to post the number of days a full bin will last but I am thinking a month or more. 

Next Post: Rain collection and training the hens to use water nipples 


Photo Credits: 
All Photos in this post are copyrighted by Air Born Creations and all rights are reserved. 


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Okay, The Mealy Worm Condo Tour!

And Mini Rant- Grrr....

Worm Condos

As promised, this post is about the 'Condo' we made in anticipation of getting our long awaited meal worms! First, I had two orders of meal worms cancelled because it turns out neither of the "quality" meal worm breeders I ordered from ship to Hawaii! And of course, they didn't bother to say anything in their ad on Amazon, nor in their check out process, nor in their order confirmations. Each order I placed, went through monies exchanged and only after three days, plus or minus, I get a second email telling me the transaction didn't complete. No reason why, just that it didn't complete.

This being Hawaii, I guess not everyone wants to put our zip code on the package. I have to assume that those that won’t are jealous since all 10 of the major shippers- USPS, FedEX, UPS, DHL, YRC, TNT, Bolt Express, OnTrac, etc., - already deliver here or the dealers just don’t know it’s no more time or effort to get their products to us Islanders. We already expect to foot the difference in price and time- we know it takes an extra day to get here from Michigan.  Seriously, The BIG THREE SHIP HERE!

Lots of meal wormsOk, with my mini rant done, we ordered 10,000 live meal worms from a supplier in California that we found on Ebay.com. Decent price and they said fast shipping. We ordered on July 5, shipping was confirmed on my Ebay.com account on the 7th (two days slower than they advertised). As of Saturday the 9th, the shipments still says its in San Diego but in transit and we can expect it on Monday, July 11th. That is tomorrow! We’ll see how it goes. Either way, we are ready on this end.
The condo started out as a Sterilite brand 3 tray stackable organizer. This is made for holding scrapbooking paper at 12”x12” square and each drawer a full ream thick. Actual drawer dimensions are: 14 5/8" L x 14 1/2" W x 10 5/8"H

3 drawer wide stackable unit
Sterilite’s web site calls it their 2093 - Wide 3 Drawer Unit. It does stack well, but we opted for a side by side arrangement.

After checking the web for ideas, we know we needed a love nest for the grown beetles, a nursery for the eggs and babies, and a room of their own for the growing worms.



Screened Drawer for Meal worms
The three drawers will do fine for now. To make this happen without too much intervention from us, we are using gravity to help us pre-filter out the eggs and the ultra-new larvae. We put the adults in the top drawer and after their Lovey Dovey routine, they’ll lay eggs then those will hatch out as small larvae. We cut out the bottom of the first drawers to the same shape as the stacking unit reinforcement and added some aluminum screening as a floor. The screen on the bottom allows the adults and their food to stay in the upper tray, but let the eggs and babies fall through to the Nursery level. The cutout shape means they fall straight through to the next drawer and won't get caught on the drawer's frame.

Meally worm Condo
For the second and third drawers, we did not make any changes. The second level (drawer) is where most of the growing will happen. We will have eggs and new hatchlings up to 3/8” in here then we’ll manually filter out the bigger adolescents and transfer them to their own “room” below the Nursery (third drawer). In this drawer they’ll grow up, about double in size to ¾” to 1”, where they will either be allowed to morph into beetles and replenish the breeders level or be culled out as Chicken treats! No matter which stage we feed them to the chickens, we expect the chickens will LOVE this!

Once we finished the modifications on the plastic drawer units, I set them side by side into the storage space above the nesting boxes. This does two things, keeps the chicken stuff centralized, and any escapees will drop into the nest boxes!  We added trim to match and doors to keep things neat.


Ready and waiting! 





Photo Credits:
Meal Worms: Modified from a photo from: A screen shot from Amazon.com Sterilite model 2093 from: Sterilite.com
All other photos are taken by us and are copyrighted all rights reserved by AirBornCreations.com




Next Post: Gravity Food Station.


Okay, The Mealy Worm Condo Tour!

And Mini Rant- Grrr....

Worm Condos

As promised, this post is about the 'Condo' we made in anticipation of getting our long awaited meal worms! First, I had two orders of meal worms cancelled because it turns out neither of the "quality" meal worm breeders I ordered from ship to Hawaii! And of course, they didn't bother to say anything in their ad on Amazon, nor in their check out process, nor in their order confirmations. Each order I placed, went through monies exchanged and only after three days, plus or minus, I get a second email telling me the transaction didn't complete. No reason why, just that it didn't complete.

This being Hawaii, I guess not everyone wants to put our zip code on the package. I have to assume that those that won’t are jealous since all 10 of the major shippers- USPS, FedEX, UPS, DHL, YRC, TNT, Bolt Express, OnTrac, etc., - already deliver here or the dealers just don’t know it’s no more time or effort to get their products to us Islanders. We already expect to foot the difference in price and time- we know it takes an extra day to get here from Michigan.  Seriously, The BIG THREE SHIP HERE!

Lots of meal wormsOk, with my mini rant done, we ordered 10,000 live meal worms from a supplier in California that we found on Ebay.com. Decent price and they said fast shipping. We ordered on July 5, shipping was confirmed on my Ebay.com account on the 7th (two days slower than they advertised). As of Saturday the 9th, the shipments still says its in San Diego but in transit and we can expect it on Monday, July 11th. That is tomorrow! We’ll see how it goes. Either way, we are ready on this end.
The condo started out as a Sterilite brand 3 tray stackable organizer. This is made for holding scrapbooking paper at 12”x12” square and each drawer a full ream thick. Actual drawer dimensions are: 14 5/8" L x 14 1/2" W x 10 5/8"H

3 drawer wide stackable unit
Sterilite’s web site calls it their 2093 - Wide 3 Drawer Unit. It does stack well, but we opted for a side by side arrangement.

After checking the web for ideas, we know we needed a love nest for the grown beetles, a nursey for the eggs and babies, and a room of their own for the growing worms.



Screened Drawer for Meal worms
The three drawers will do fine for now. To make this happen without too much intervention from us, we are using gravity to help us pre-filter out the eggs and the ultra-new larvae. We put the adults in the top drawer and after their Lovey Dovey routine, they’ll lay eggs then those will hatch out as small larvae. We cut out the bottom of the first drawers to the same shape as the stacking unit reinforcement and added some aluminum screening as a floor. The screen on the bottom allows the adults and their food to stay in the upper tray, but let the eggs and babies fall through to the Nursery level. The cutout shape means they fall straight through to the next drawer and won't get caught on the drawer's frame.

Meally worm Condo
For the second and third drawers, we did not make any changes. The second level (drawer) is where most of the growing will happen. We will have eggs and new hatchlings up to 3/8” in here then we’ll manually filter out the bigger adolescents and transfer them to their own “room” below the Nursery (third drawer). In this drawer they’ll grow up, about double in size to ¾” to 1”, where they will either be allowed to morph into beetles and replenish the breeders level or be culled out as Chicken treats! No matter which stage we feed them to the chickens, we expect the chickens will LOVE this!

Once we finished the modifications on the plastic drawer units, I set them side by side into the storage space above the nesting boxes. This does two things, keeps the chicken stuff centralized, and any escapees will drop into the nest boxes!  We added trim to match and doors to keep things neat.


Ready and waiting! 





Photo Credits:
Meal Worms: Modified from a photo from: A screen shot from Amazon.com Sterilite model 2093 from: Sterilite.com
All other photos are taken by us and are copyrighted all rights reserved by AirBornCreations.com




Next Post: Gravity Food Station.


Sunday, July 3, 2016

More Eggs and the Escapee is Caught!

The Prodigal Chicken returns!

I know this was supposed to be a tour of our WORM Condo... 

Okay, one item at a time- Egg News
We went and picked up our hens 14 days ago and though we were told they were in molt and the stress of the move, and, and ... we expected to wait much longer before the first egg. Well, it came on day 11 and we've had at least one a day since. I say that because today was our first multi egg day! We got two. They are slightly different color egg shells so we know at least two hens are laying. 
We are also hearing a lot more of the egg clucking noises from the coop! It really is eggciting. The photo shows our egg on the left and the commercial egg on the right.

When cooking them up, ours again on the left and commercial store bought on the right. Just as all the Tree hugging naturalist, organic spewing believers say, it is both fresher looking and way better tasting. The store bought one tastes like the eggs I grew up on, but the home grown egg tastes a touch "eggier". It is also has a brighter color on the yolk. 

Okay, item #2. Our escapee has been recovered. I gave up on getting this one back some time ago, but JoAnn has been saying she's been seeing it pretty often lately. So to humor her I set to making a guillotine trap today to try to get the phantom chicken. I took the old travel pen I made to pick up the chickens and cut the original door off. I then made some slide rails for the flat plywood 'guillotine' door. I then made a trigger plate whose fulcrum was off center so when the plate was stepped on, the high end moving down would pull the trigger out from under the trap door and gravity would close the trap keeping the chicken inside. Well, I built it, tested it and set it all in about 2 hours, we had lunch and I thought it might take a week or so to finally catch the hen if it ever came around again. 

It took 15 minutes.

That knocked my socks off. We barely finished with lunch when we heard a bang and the chickens were clucking like crazy. We headed out to the coop and the photos show what we had! The thing worked first time! We then quickly moved the entire trap into the pen and made sure the exit door was securely closed this time and opened the slide door. She ran out and tried the corners of the pen, but we were ready this time. I figure it will take a few days for her to settle in, but who knows!?! I just know JoAnn is relieved to have them all back together again. 



Next Post will be the Worm Condo Tour, I promise. 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Meal Worm Farm

Or, How to build a suitable place to raise Chicken Candy


Yummy for Chickens
Our hens go nuts over a handful of the shells and dead  dry moltings of meal worms. We buy them from Del's Tractor Supply in Hilo in a tetrapac package for, well, too much for dead chicken treats. Still, the girls love them so JoAnn buys them. The package says, among other nutrients, they contain 50% protein. I then looked up live meal worms and they say they have 50% protein. Hmmm... When I looked them up on line, this line of treats actually says the dead ones have more protein than live Meal worms! Hmmm again. I didn't have time to get into that search, but I will concede that they have a lot of protein. Buying them like this is pricey since they love them so much, so I started looking for a way to bring this cost down to a more reasonable number. 

I found some live ones on Ebay and Amazon and chose the ones on Amazon. Bought them (or I thought I did) and told JoAnn I wanted to raise them. She said, "No Problem, I was going to suggest the same thing". The info that's missing here is that JoAnn is morbidly afraid of  crawly things! Spiders, centipedes, crickets, if it moves and isn't human or animal its pretty much on her panic list. Turns out that the delight from watching the chickens overrides the panic she has for the bugs. I started looking for housing for them.

You can find hundreds of You tube sites on building meal worm homes, from dumping them into an oatmeal carton to a full scale McMansion, I chose the utility design for ease of maintenance. A three drawer Sterilite storage unit was the ticket. I bought two. I though that I would need to divide the 5000 worms into two Condo units of 2500 each. I did the necessary conversion of cutting out the bottom, adding metal window screen on two of the six drawers then placing these in the upper most slide of each unit is to allow the eggs and newly hatched larvae fall through into the grow up drawer (#2).

So they are: 
Meal worm house
Drawer one- Adult beetles are stored and grown here allowed free access to food and water so they can breed like, well, beetles. The females average about 500 eggs during her lifetime that can last up to three months or so after reaching beetle stage. The mesh in the upper first drawer allow the eggs and newly hatched larvae to be sifted through and fall into the lower second drawer where they can eat and grow to about 1/2" in size. The drawer doesn't have mesh so the small ones don't drop into the third drawer and become food for the growing larvae there. The Third Drawer is the Fattening drawer. Lots of food and water sources in this one for fast growth and low dead loss. About 10% of these will be kept back for breeding, the remaining 90% will be processed for our girl's "chicken candy". 

In the design process JoAnn asked me where I was going to store the 'condo'
while the bugs grew, and I said, stupidly, "the Carport". The icy stare got me to think fast and say, "by the chickens?" which got me a, "Better".
I will be modifying the Hens nest box area to include enlarging the horizontal shelf above their nests into one wide and deep enough to hold both the condos side by side. I am not sure, but I think I can modify the area without changing too much since the measurements are close. 

Next post- Meal Worm Condos, the tour.

Photo Credits: 

Happy Hen Treats: https://www.chewy.com/happy-hen-treats-mealworm-frenzy/dp/122435
Screen shot of Amazon.com 
All photos not credited are taken by us and are copyrighted by Air Born Creations