It’s the sort of thing that anyone who owns chickens dreads—coming out and finding a bunch of feathers in the yard. I started walking the paths and discovered other patches of feathers, no birds except two: Patty and Third. Patty survived our first dog attack almost six years ago. Third was one of three of our youngest hens.
Up over the hill, I found more feathers. Then a portion of one chicken. Not much left except wings, a bit of a backbone, and a foot. Nearby I found Minion, badly mauled and near death. She couldn’t be saved.
A bit farther on I found the place where dogs or coyotes had dug under our fence to get into the yard. Also feathers from Flighty, a tough survivor from our second group of hens.
Further searching showed scattered patches of feathers but no other remains. No sign of the attacker or attackers, who must have gone back under the fence.
I piled stones and wood along the base of the fence to block off the spot where they dug under. Maybe it will keep them out.
I buried Minion and the remains of the other chicken, either Floppy or Paltry, no way to tell which. Along with Baldy and Flighty, they were gone.
I walked the property with Xander and Kate without discovering anything more.
I moved our dome coop closer to the house—though from feathers outside, whatever attacked had come right up behind the house. Patty and Third went inside, so I locked them safely away for now.
It’s sad. I’m sad. I haven’t been eating eggs since switching to a whole foods, plant-based diet, but I enjoy seeing the chickens. I feel bad that they died being chased, mauled, and devoured by a predator. Eventually, I want a better fence system around the property, both for privacy and security.
This afternoon I finished the project I’d wanted to finish last week – the geodesic chicken coop from Zip Tie Domes is finished!
After working on the dome the last time, I still needed to finish covering it. That meant getting the dome covered in chicken wire, adding a tarp, perches, hanging the food and water, and including the nest boxes.
It takes a while to add the chicken wire. The folks at Zip Tie Domes estimated something like three hours and recommended having help. That would have made it easier.
We opted to use a 2″ wire for the upper parts and 1″ for the lower. I worked on it a couple times and had the lower level done and part of the upper level covered. Today I spent a couple more hours covering the rest and using zip-ties to fasten everything in place.
Next up was adding the perches, food, water, and nest boxes.
I have a few other details still to add. Anchors, to make sure it doesn’t blow over, and handles so that it’s easier to move. The tarp I bought was larger and covers more of the dome so it’ll have to be unhooked along the bottom to reveal handles once they’re added.
After a few days to get used to the new coop we’ll start letting the chickens roam again. The coop will move around the property a few feet at a time. Maybe weekly, we’ll see. The main thing is just not leaving it in one place for too long.
The old shack/coop will eventually come down and be removed, but that’s a project for another time!
Our current chicken coop is an old shed that has fallen to disrepair over the years. It was old when we moved in, and we fixed it up enough to house the chickens, but it really wasn’t the best solution.
One of our goals for this year was to get the chickens into new housing. For quite a while we looked at coop houses made out of livestock panels, and those had several features that we liked.
They can be moved. That’s important, even though we generally let the chickens roam most of the time, it would be nice not to have the coop always in one place. A light-weight coop that can be moved is a plus.
Inexpensive. The panel coops are relatively inexpensive to build, which is always nice feature, and one of the biggest issues with homesteading as the initial setup costs.
Roomy. We wanted a coop that could house more chickens, and something that we could stand up in.
Sanitary. We also wanted it to be easier to clean. Being able to move the coop helps with that, but wood also rots over time. THe panel coops typically use wood, but not much and it can be replaced.
The problem we ran into with the livestock panel approach was actually the livestock panels themselves. At 16 feet long and 50 inches wide, they don’t really fit in the VW beetle. Even my dad’s pickup truck, with an extended bed, isn’t big enough to haul livestock panels that will stick out at least 6 feet or more from the back of the truck. I had asked at the feed store how people transported panels, and they said with a long trailer, which makes perfect sense. We don’t have access right now to a truck and a long trailer. And it’d be a little overkill for a couple panels for one small coop anyway.
When the hoop house idea didn’t pan out, I started thinking about other sorts of materials. What about a hoop house made out of some sort of PVC pipe? I’d seen greenhouses done that way. Although most of the green houses weren’t designed to be portable in the sense that you could drag it to a new location. It might be portable since you can take them down on and rebuild them somewhere else, but that wasn’t really what I was looking for. Then I started thinking about geodesic structures, which have always fascinated me, but how would I do the hubs on the geodesic structure?
It raised the obvious question: had anyone else already solved all of those problems and built a geodesic chicken coop? A quick search online turned up the folks at Zip Tie Domes. Created by the Hurt family, Zip Tie Domes produces a variety of domes for livestock housing, including chickens, and designed to be used as greenhouses.
This looked like the exact sort of thing I had been thinking about. Lightweight, easy to move, and still somewhat within the price range that I had in mind for the project. After talking it over we decided to go ahead and order their small 10 foot dome chicken coop kit.
Assembly part one
The dome kit (poultry edition), came in two large boxes weighing 51 pounds and 41 pounds. Inside were the materials to construct the dome itself. That’s all the PVC struts, the patented hubs, handles, door struts, and of course, zip ties. They also provided a copy of the manuals that are also available on the website.
After unpacking boxes and removing the wire that bound all the struts together in a role, I started to work on building the dome. The process of building the dome is pretty simple. It really doesn’t require much in the way of building skill. Anyone who can follow simple directions shouldn’t have any problem. The basic construction method used is to insert the PVC struts into the hub and attach it to the center ring with zip ties. That gets repeated over and over again.
It took maybe about two hours to put the dome together. About the time that they had estimated on their website. With a larger dome I would’ve needed a ladder to reach the upper levels, but in the 10 foot dome the top is easily within reach. High enough to stand up at the center. The dome kit comes with two struts to form a diamond-shaped door on one side (by removing one strut from the top of the first tier). With the dome complete the next step will be finishing it off.
After building the dome it will get covered with chicken wire, a large tarp, and I will add the door. The kit also comes with a number of PVC handles to attach to the framework, to make it easier to move the coop. It also needs to be anchored against wind which could potentially blow the coop over. The folks at Zip Tie Domes use bungee cords and cinder blocks that anchor the dome. I picked up a swingset anchor kit, which has four screw into the ground anchors that attach to a chain which is bolted to a metal band that can be fastened around the struts. The ground anchors may provide a more secure mounting, but might not be as easy to move as the concrete blocks. Depending on how much we move it, we may find that the anchors don’t exactly work as we want. We’ll see. Along with the new digs and I picked up a couple I high-sided litter boxes to use as nest boxes, and a new water bucket with nipples to provide clean water. It’ll be suspended from the dome structure, as will their food and roosts.
I’ll post again when we get the next phase of the project done and get the chickens moved into their new home.
The septic has been covered again with screened topsoil this time so it won’t be full of rocks the next time it has to be dug up. The rocky soil removed will get used elsewhere to fill in holes and level off areas where it won’t matter. Today we also took a truck-load of trash from the pile off to the dump. Until my folks moved nearby we hadn’t had access to a truck to help get rid of all of the trash we’ve gathered here on the property. There’s still more to be removed, but we’ve made a start at cleaning it up at least.
We’re also working on figuring new coop plans for the chickens.
It’s been quite a while since the last post, but life continues here at Woolly Dragon Farm. Our chicken flock continues to do pretty well. Six of the chickens are in this photo, including Patty and Ren from the first flock. One of the black hens, however, has been the target of bullying by the other chickens. She’s been showing signs of stress, lost feathers, weight and just going off by herself. Today, after chasing off one of the others attacking her, I isolated her in a temporary pen.
Safe and dry from the other chickens. She looks pretty pathetic, but hopefully will perk up. I think they’ve been keeping her from eating. Kate’s been feeding her, but she’s always by herself. In the coop the others won’t let her on the roosts either. The temporary pen is sheltered by the old truck canopy left by the previous owners so she has protection from the elements. Hopefully she’ll get better.
I’ve been looking at plans for chicken coops, and hope to tackle building a new coop for the chickens, and a new shed for the tools and bikes this year. Then we’ll take down the old decaying shed/coop. Moving onto the property, and our house, has presented a lot of challenges but I want to start making more progress on working on improving things around the homestead.
Unfortunately, she didn’t survive. I’m not sure if she was sick, or what, but she didn’t eat much and her conditioned got worse. She went to sleep and passed away.
I haven’t felt good in quite a while. Achy, fatigued, moody, just not all that great. I’ve also been putting on weight, getting up to the heaviest that I’ve ever weighed at 174lbs. I’ve been a fan of going barefoot — made a huge difference for my plantar fasciitis — but I haven’t really been exercising much. After a recent photo, just seeing how much weight I’d gained in my face and body, I decided to look more into some things I’d heard about including more nature-based exercises, and a diet of healthier eating. That all led me to look into folks like Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson, both of who advocate for eating based on what our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have eaten before agriculture developed. Plants and animals, but not grains and sugar. After reading some of the content online we ended up starting with Mr. Sisson’s The Primal Solution. We took the plunge with our shopping and spent most of our money on food from the vegetable/fruit and meat sections of the store. Still lots to learn, but the results in others like the Unconquerable Dave are encouraging.
In other news, one of our yellow chickens “Mango” has gone missing. We thought she might have made a nest in the woods and was sitting on eggs, but after lots of tromping around through the woods we haven’t come across any sign of her in the last few days. If she’s out there she’s really hiding and being quiet. It may have started that way and something with a taste for chickens came across her, or she may have foolishly jumped the fence into the neighbor’s yard with the dogs. It’s too bad.
Our chickens roam around our 1.24 acre property and seem content to remain on our side of the fence. One time a chicken jumped the fence into the neighbor’s yard. He chased her with a big fishing net but couldn’t catch her — when I picked her up and brought her back to our yard I think she was happy!
Anyway, whenever we go outside the chickens tend to come running. Most of the time they aren’t far from the house, often they’ll go around the side yard and in the woods, but not so far that they can’t hear or see us.
This is Ren the Hen, coming out of the woods to see what I was doing (throwing chicken litter onto the compost pile). Later I took a stroll up the hill to go check on one of their nesting sites in the woods, hidden away in the top of an old stump, and they all came running up the hill after me. They’ll follow us all around.
Patti (the leader and the smartest hen) with Mariah (arguably the slowest of the hens), wondering what I’m going to do next.
Leaves are changing. I’m seeing Fall colors appearing on trees and the nights are getting cooler. This morning a light rain is falling. August has been a dry month with only 0.13 in of rain this month. Average rainfall is just over an inch so things are pretty dry.
We’ve been on our homestead for over a year now! Hard to believe.
Our chickens are doing well. They’re giving us four eggs per day now, so about half of the chickens are laying. They get to spend most of the day roaming around the property. When we go out they come running over.
The garden ended up being a mixed bag. The lettuce did well, as did the carrots. The potatoes look like they grew well, but we haven’t dug them up yet so we’ll see. I harvested garlic and the bulbs were on the small side. Slugs ate the tomatoes before they could grow at all. The ground needs a lot of work. I’m going to work on building actual garden beds for the future. We still have carrots to harvest, lettuce going to seed and some broccoli that has produced a few small heads. Our strawberries gave us a few strawberries but I want to get more plants growing.
There’s always a lot of work to be done. The property got a bit out of hand this year. Lately I’ve been working on clearing pathways across the property and still have more of that to do. The other day I was clearing up around one of our hazelnut trees and disturbed a nest of yellow jackets! Three stings, the worst being on my right hand. My whole hand swelled up, turned red, itched and hurt. It’s getting better now.
We also need to get some firewood and prepare for winter. Time and money are always the biggest constraints. Still, we’re having fun. Last night we went up on the hill and sat up there while the sun set. Alexander played in the dirt. Nice time.
We are so bad about posting! We’ve had a lot of sunshine the last two weeks. Too much! It got to be way too hot for a couple of days. Thankfully it has cooled down somewhat so today we were able to get things done outside. By we I mean Ryan, lol, I just took photos. First Ryan weed whacked some of the tall grass in the back yard. So that there would be a clear space to set up a pool. I know, last year we spent all that time taking down the pool and now we’re setting one up. This is just a little wading pool for Xander. Right now we aren’t even filling it halfway, just enough water for him to splash in.
It was pretty warm out this afternoon. Since Poppy Seed and McCoy weren’t allowed in the pool they cooled off in the shade. This part of the yard hasn’t gotten weed whacked yet!
The garden is doing pretty good, at least some plants. The spinach bolted and bugs, slugs, or something killed off the tomato plants. But we’ve still got a lot of lettuce, carrots, beets, potatoes, and other yummies.
The chickens are full grown now. We have started letting them run around the yard (when the dogs are inside). They love running free. They also love strawberries so we had to put some fencing around the planters. Unfortunately we didn’t realize their love of blueberries right away and by the time we did the chickens had harvested them all!
The garden is coming along nicely. There’s a bunch of lettuce, carrots, radishes, broccoli, potatoes, and onions growing. The kale got ate by slugs and the spinach is bolting already. The garlic seems to be doing well. There’s lots of strawberries on the strawberries in the Earthboxes.
Today I planted corn. First I dug a bed which meant digging out lots of rocks. There was a huge boulder not too far down that I left. No way I was pulling that out! I also planted three types of tomatoes, pumpkins and a couple type of zucchini. Plus some more onions. It seems like it’s late in the year to be planting those, so we’ll see how they do. I also planted a couple rose bushes that had been given to us as gifts.
While I was working on all of that I had corn bread cooking in the sun oven. Kate took pictures with her camera of the finished product, so maybe she’ll post those. It came out real good. Took longer than in the oven, of course, but no electricity needed and no worries about burning it. I just took it out when I was finished with everything else.
Sometimes I may want to get more done, but it feels good to have our own place. It wasn’t that long ago when we didn’t believe we could end up in our own place and we dreamed about planting gardens and having animals. Speaking of which, the chickens are doing well.