Tag Archives: chickens

Animal care-husbandry & Permaculture

Recently it came to my attention that some people believe our animal care and farm practices are dirty and unkept. 1st before making assumptions you might want to get facts straight, learn what you are talking about before opening your mouth, and lastly ask us, we would be glad to tell you all about it.

We will educate the uneducated and ignorant. Grass should not be cut 1/4 inch above the dirt. It is very unhealthy, longer grass survives drought better, and longer grass will hold more water in both roots and green tissue. The ability to hold water has been important lately.

What one person views as weeds is actually medicinal plants we grow for FREE , do not require a prescription, doesn’t have nasty side effects. It is also food for our animals. This is why we do not spray any chemicals on our property.

We let grasses grow longer because it has more nutrients for animals, reducing our dependence on buying processed feed. Ask any rancher using grass fed techniques.

We clean our combined rabbitry and coop every 3 months. We use deep litter bedding inside to absorb and hold wastes. After 3 months it moves out to the compost pile where it is turned into soil for future gardens. Properly managed neither have an odor. I have the training and experience on both. Due to the excess rain and poor stormwater drainage in our area, some of this bedding became wet. we immediately changed and dried it out once we were able.

We house our rabbits and poultry together to harness heat in the winter, and the chickens reduce any worms or parasites, as well as till the litter naturally and help it all break down faster.

We even installed fans this summer to keep both rabbits and poultry cool, and help keep air moving in the coop.

All of our animals have names. When the chicken went past their prime for laying, they remained and are still productive, just not as many eggs a week. We did not butcher them. They still eat bugs, they still turn the compost, they still have a name, and they still process food waste from our kitchen. When old age finally takes them, we will look at replacing them.

For more on chickens read my post on In defense of the back yard flock

We used to give tours, and will do it again soon. We are still working on many things, since moving in March, and because of Avian flu we do not want additional traffic if we can help it. We had to start a great many plants and systems all over, so we would like to showcase more than just concepts, but actual practice.

To make sure our rabbits had access to water all winter long we made a rabbit watering system that does not freeze. Our rabbits (4) have  access to 275 gallons of water 24/7. This is our system from Indy but we rebuilt here in Wingate

We have had Animal control on our property (for a neighbors issue, not ours) and were commended on how well we took care of our animals. We have had a vegans, and staff of animal control and also tell us how well we take care of our animals.

What one person sees as “unsightly” another sees it as a 40% reduction in a grocery bill of all natural all organic food. Some people see it as beautiful and natural. Being ignorant and failing to educate yourself is ignorant in itself. Singling one person or a group of people out because you dislike something is called discrimination. Using position of power to go after that group is called harassment. Both of which can land someone in court. Since some people are ignorant of what I mentioned above I just thought they may also need some education on the latter as well.

Indy Rezone hurriedly moves forward

Recently I got this e-mail from Sherri Atwell asking for help in the Marion Co Rezoning effort. While I am no longer in Marion Co. I still think it is important to curb some of the changes that affect many homesteaders and will do all that I can. As I am no longer a resident, my opinion and voice doesn’t’ carry as much weight as it once did. That doesn’t mean I WON’T voice my opinion. I am passing along her letter to you all as I couldn’t have said it any better.  Please share it around and get more momentum.

Did you know that Indy Rezone is being presented to City Council July 13th?

I am writing to you because last summer an e-mail went out to you after the public meetings regarding Urban Agriculture. I just replied all to that e-mail, so my apologies if you do not want this info, I am hoping you do! I came away from these meetings feeling like the overall response to the Indy Rezone draft was not positive.  Most people were very concerned about the new restrictions.

This past year the public info about Indy Rezone has been largely non-existent until the end of May when the news reported that they hoped it would go to City Council in June. Finally the document was posted to the Indy.gov website June 1. This document passed the Metropolitan Development Commission June 17 and will be presented to city council July 13 at 7 PM.

It can be seen here:

http://www.indy.gov/egov/city/dmd/planning/services/current/Pages/ordinance.aspx

There are over 700 pages so here is what may interest you most:

  1. Agricultural uses, Farmers Market, Garden as Primary use (Pg. 483-486)
  2. Personal Garden, Personal Livestock (pgs. 526-528)
  3. Personal Livestock License Draft:  http://www.indy.gov/eGov/City/DMD/Planning/Zoning/ordinances/Indy%20Rezone%20Docs/Personal%20Livestock%20License%20061715.pdf
  4. The only thing that would be considered “Grandfathering in” what you currently have/are doing- Applications and Nonconformities begins pg. 118.

After Reviewing this info, do you believe these restrictions are truly making Indy more sustainable or putting us in a box of additional restrictions? I also urge you to look up any other issues that may be of concern to you.  This link takes you to a searchable Word document you can download, so you can look up key words if you are having trouble finding what you are looking for: https://copy.com/pAwC1I46qpOItu1F

Something that caught my eye is that all the livestock info says “For Personal Use Only” – the implication there is not being able to sell eggs, chicks, baby animals. Also, some livestock is not listed as permitted, do you or your friends have Turkeys, Guineas, peafowl?  Do you have un-neutered male goats?

The City Council represents us- the constituents.  They need to know how each of you, your friends, neighbors and customers feel about Agriculture and other issues in Indy Rezone.

I hope you can take the time to make your voice heard.  Please do not assume you can fly under the radar because there is no way this can be enforced. Not everyone has that luxury. Many of us have a persistent complainer in our neighborhoods that makes it impossible to fly under the radar.  If anyone complains, code enforcement will be at your door! 

You may have good neighbors now, but will you next year or the year after that?

You can make yourself heard in more than one way:

  1. Contact Indy Rezone – These two people are on staff with Indy Rezone:

Tammara Tracy 327-7834  ttracy@indy.gov

John Neal 327-5265 jneal@indy.gov

  1. Contact your Councilor -put in your address and check “elected officials here http://maps.indy.gov/GovProfile/ If that does not work call the Council Office at 327-4242
  1. Also Contact the At-Large Councilors.
  1. Go to the City Council Meeting July 17 and the committee meeting thereafter. The leadership of the City-County Council will decide what Committee is assigned the ordinance. The schedule of meetings can be seen here: http://www.indy.gov/eGov/Council/Meetings/Documents/Calendar15.pdf
  1. Contact as many people as you can and pass this information on to them.
  1. Post info on social media. Help get people informed and to the City Council meetings.

It would be great if someone would step forward and begin a petition drive to recommend this does not pass, or at the very least, gets delayed so that people can review it an fix the glaring issues. If anyone is interested in organizing or participating in a petition drive, please contact me or my husband Barry. His email address is barryatwell@gmail.com.

Thanks,

Sherri Atwell

In the defense of the back yard flock…

In our little RURAL town of Wingate, Indiana, population 267, surrounded by farms and farm land on all sides for 10 miles in any direction, of all things chickens are not allowed. We can have goats, pigs, horses, cows, llamas, alpaca, sheep, alligators, opossums, camels, and any number of other animals without limit, but not “poultry, weasels, chinchillas, ermine, mink, raccoons, muskrats or foxes”. Seems a bit odd grouping, but upon getting notice we were not allowed to have them, we went to the next town council to investigate why, and offered to help change the ordinances, as we had been part of the Marion Co ordinance revisions. The ordinances have been in place as long as anyone can remember. It took over 60 days, involvement of outside legal bodies just to get a copy of the section, of the ordinances, and still do not have a full copy with approvals and effective dates of the ordinances (originally requested in March).

So, due to our “discussions” with our local town council and the town ordinance stating we cannot have chickens, we have found it necessary to address the issues of keeping back yard chickens. Some of the points have been brought up, and we have already addressed them. As of now, the only argument that hasn’t been addressed is “We just don’t like to look at them”, to which we aren’t quite sure how to address. We are NOT a CAFO (confined animal feed operation) and have around 16 birds on 0.3 acres which is fenced in to keep birds in and larger predators out.  The birds have a coop which they stay in at night and are closed up until released in the morning. The birds free range most of the day. The birds are here to  help our organic orchard and vegetable garden stay pest free, reduce our kitchen waste, produce eggs, and are family pets.  If you are facing similar push back from friends, neighbors, relative, or government bodies, hopefully some of this information may help.

Noise

Typically the first complaint about chickens is the noise, and usually the rooster. You do not need to have a rooster to have a back yard flock. We do not have a rooster and haven’t had one for many years. I actually like the sound of a rooster, as it seems to belong on a farm, and a farm without a rooster is somewhat missing. Chickens (hens) will lay eggs without a rooster, but do gain a level of protection if a rooster is present. Roosters crow between 70 and 90 decibel. This is the range of a dog barking, baby crying, a diesel truck, driving in a car at 65mph, alarm clock, or the level what most people listen to music. The level is also dependant on humidity, proximity, and materials between the rooster and the listener. Example a privacy fence would significantly reduce the sound level compared to open area across pavement. As a comparison, human conversation is 60-70 decibel.

Laying hens do “talk” or cluck, and typically are loudest just after they lay an egg. The typical hen is only 65 decibel which is right in the middle of human conversation.  Most back yard flock owners have the nesting boxes, where the hens lay eggs, inside the coop. This is an additional level of sound barrier. Again, the sound will decrease with barriers, humidity, type of terrain (grass vs. concrete) and distance. The laying announcement lasts less than one minute and is only once per day, per chicken.

In our area, dogs  trucks, diesel semi trucks, farm machinery, J brakes on trucks, sirens from emergency vehicles, lawn mowers, grain elevators and dryers, alarms and notifications from grain elevators, motorcycles, school band instruments, and tractors are ALL noisier than our hens just to name a few for comparison.

decibel-frequency-chart
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common_noise_levels_b29_sm
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Disease

When opponents of back yard flock state the reasons, often it is disease. The two most often cited are bird flu or avian flu, and salmonella. Bird flu has recently been brought back up in the news as a series of cases that have been found. Typically around 90% of all avian flu cases have been documented in CAFO operations and not the back yard flocks. The CAFO operations typically have lower immunities to the disease, are stressed, have poor diets, and are extremely densely stocked. Back yard flocks, especially free range operations have the benefit of wide and varied diets. The birds get fresh air, are allowed to develop natural immunities, are less densely stocked and have the benefit of less stress. Stress in both humans and animals have been linked to an increase in illnesses and diseases. The cases that have come up in back yard flocks, is a result of someone recently traveled from a CAFO or farm and bringing the illness with them on shoes or clothing.

Salmonella is more a food handling issue vs. a bird issue. Humans cannot contract salmonella from chickens by contact, it is a food borne illness.  The birds may have and carry salmonella but it is only by improper food handling or hand washing that humans contract the illness. The birds are not affected by it. So if someone is getting salmonella from being around chickens, eating the eggs, it is typically the humans fault. More and more cases of drug resistant strains are being found in CAFO operations due to the overuse of antibiotics when they are not necessary. In the 6 years we have been keeping hens, no-one in our family, or anyone receiving eggs from us, has gotten ill from salmonella. This is including children who as early as two years old are handling birds, eggs, and are in the area where the chickens live regularly.

To put things in perspective here are just a few of the diseases that are spread by human to human contact; influenza, common cold, HIV, AIDS, Meningitis, chickenpox (NOT CAUSED BY CHICKENS), mumps, measles, strep, tuberculosis, rubella, whooping cough, SARS, Cholera, Hepatitis, Polio, Rotavirus, Salmonella, Parasites, Chlamydia, Genital  warts, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, trichomoniasis, cytomegalovirus, mononucleosis, athletes foot, impetigo, warts, conjunctivitis, and MRSA. So to call a chicken a dirty animal spreading diseases well, it is the humans who are spreading diseases.

Pests

Recently we were told that chickens carry lice. This is not the case. Chickens can contract mites which are parasitic bugs that can live on the birds. Birds will typically rid the mites by giving themselves dust baths. We go an additional step and give them wood ash containers for their baths, and add diatomaceous earth. The wood ash is caustic and in the even the birds pick up mites, the caustic nature of the ash helps eliminate and keep the mites from returning. We add additional diatomaceous earth as an added plus. Typically birds that have an infestation of mites will lose feathers and can eventually cause death in the birds. The mites themselves do not cause the death but stress the birds to the point they become more susceptible to other diseases such as pneumonia. Humans typically carry TWO different types of mites typically living on eyelashes. Domesticated dogs also carry mites. Humans are the species that typically have lice, both body and head lice are common.

Chickens bring flies. Well chickens to not, bring the flies, the flies are a natural part of the waste cycle breaking down manure. Any animal that defecates in open area without burying it will attract flies. Dogs, horses, cats, rodents, even humans that have open fecal piles will attract flies. Good housekeeping or coop keeping will reduce the amount of flies present. Having deep litter in the coops, having the birds free range, and composting the deep litter regularly will not only keep the smell down but reduce the fly issues. There are also fly traps that can lower or eliminate any fly issues.

Chickens will attract predators, pests, and rodents. This again goes to good animal husbandry. We have a family dog who doesn’t bother the chickens and deters many predators from the property. Locking the chickens up at night in a predator proof coop also helps. In urban areas there are not as many predators as there are in the country just because of the amount of activity and people around. Most predators hunt at dusk or at night, and having a secure coop eliminates many of the issues.  As far as rodents chickens will kill and eat mice, snakes, and generally anything they can catch and take down. In addition they will eat ticks, fleas, grubs, grasshoppers, mosquitoes, sting bugs, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, and ants. Proper animal husbandry will further reduce any pest issues such as keeping feed secured in sealed containers, not having excess feed on the ground, and regular cleaning and maintenance of the coop.

Smell, Dirty

This goes back to animal husbandry. If you are keeping a clean coop then there should be no smell from birds. A 40 lb dog generates more manure (about ¾ pound) than ten chickens (two-thirds pounds of manure). Both are smelly, but the key is to keep the chicken manure from accumulating by composting. Composted chicken manure is valuable as a high-nitrogen fertilizer. Dog manure cannot be composted, and must be collected and sent to the landfill. So, 10 chickens produce manure that can be composted, returned to the soil for better plant health, while one 40 lb dog, the manure collected, and sent to a landfill. Which is the better situation?

Chickens are excellent garbage disposals. They will eat 95% of wastes generated from the family kitchen. Typically you are not to put meat, dairy, or fats into compost piles because they are slow to break down, smell as they decompose, and attract scavengers from bugs to animals. Chickens on the other hand will devour these materials like candy and in return give you eggs, meat, and fertilizer. We can reduce almost a whole bag of trash each month by allowing the chickens to have kitchen scraps and waste. This is a benefit to the landfill, and our trash doesn’t typically smell. To date, we have found 2 things our chickens won’t eat, olives and pickles, and this is over a 6 year period and a family of 6.

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Property values will decrease

Three is no assessor or realtor evidence to support this statement. In fact 7 out of 10 most desirable cities to live in allow back yard chickens. More and more communities are allowing chickens and as such is an attractant to new home buyers vs. a deterrent. Restrictive communities will lower property values more so than accepting ones. More and more people either want more control over the food they eat, are unhappy with the food in stores, want to reduce the grocery bill, or just want to be more self sufficient. The trend is on the rise and the communities who limit the freedoms of the people are turning more and more potential buyers away.

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Hopefully this answered some questions and alleviated some issues. Perhaps it will help you on your crusade to get back yard chickens into your area. The data in this article has been gathered from various sources from online, written publications, and personal experience.

002 Chickens vs Rabbits for meat source on homestead

1st podcast in a long time and today we are talking about chickens vs rabbits for meat source on homestead.

One thing after listening to the show I never mentioned about what to do with animals in heat of summer and cold of winter. The rabbits have been fine over winter down to -10 here in Indiana, and they are under cover, and only covered with tarps over the whole cage area. No issues. The Chickens are in an enclosed coop and only a heat lamp, this is ONLY to keep egg production up. If we wanted to not get eggs over winter this wouldn’t be necessary. Summer, we add frozen 2L bottles of water to the rabbit cages only on really hot days. The chicken coop we take a pannel off and only have chicken wire to allow more air to circulate. So no real big issues.

 

Side note, ADD makes me all over the place, so be warned. I try to go by an outline and notes…ADD usually takes over. I will get better, I hope.

 

Links mentioned in the show

2 Midwest Guys

Rabbit waterer

How to build a community through gardening Feb 28th

Details here $20 and lunch is included

Indiana Small Farm Conference March 5th-7th

Details here. $ to enter but varies depending on day(s) and age/situation (adult, student, under 12 etc)

Tree Grafting Workshop March 21

Brambleberry Farms is teaching how to graft. $90 for 4 hrs of instruction all materials provided, and you take home 4 custom grafted trees.

Register and details here only 5 spots left.

March 23 7-9pm Rush Co Fairgrounds

Free class on Aquaponics, Hydroponics, organic Gardening

details will be here

 

Not only do we put out content on our blog, but we also share, post, and write information on our social media sites.

Facebook – Wolf-Beach Farms

Twitter  @WolfBeachFarms

YouTube – Content is thin at the moment, but we hope to change that this year.

For classes in and around Indianapolis we share them on our Meetup site.

New podcasts will be coming soon as well.

Rick also has a LinkedIn Profile.

July 26th General “Farm” tour

People have asked to have another general farm tour. We are having another on July 26th 9am. It will again be $20/person.

If weekend tours do not work for you schedule, please contact us and we can try to arrange one that better fits into your schedule.

Signup and register here.

Come out see, ask questions, see what is going on. It is estimated 3 hrs but I like to talk, and if there are more questions we are not on a time constraint. Some areas may have more questions or information if people are interested.

Suburban “farm” tour. Come out and see what is possible on 0.2 acres of suburbia. We have ducks, chickens, 5000 gal outdoor aquaponics, 4000 gal frog pond, a new 50 gallon indoor aquaponic system, fruit trees, berry patches, edible landscaping, rabbits, grapes composting, vermicomposting, vertical gardening, rain harvesting, and medicinal herbs. The goats may be on property, if not we will discuss different aspect of back yard goats as well.

In addition to covering all of the above and lessons learned through “failing”

We will cover how to use an A-Frame level for finding contours on your property as well as how to make an A-frame level.

Anti-chicken tractors

Where to find materials for cheap or free

We will talk and show different aspects of permaculture we are practicing.

Talk about the many ways to use a aquarium air pump to benefit your property.

Making and using compost tea

Possibly have a plant exchange as well (please if attending put what you will bring in the comments so others may benefit/trade)

Seem like a lot? We are only using about 40% of our 0.2 acres.

This is our home, and please respect we do not let the public in our home, so no public restrooms are available. You may also park in the drive as we will have moved our vehicles to accommodate you.

We can/do accept PayPal/credit debit cards. However cannot do both cash and electronic payments on the Meet-up space. Our PayPal ID is wolfbeachfarms@gmail.com and we use both Square and Paypal Credit/debit payments. Space is limited.

Start time is 9am. If you need to make payments or otherwise, please show up a few minutes early.

 

Chicken Podcast on 2 Midwest Guys

The 2 Midwest Guys latest podcast is up. In this episode we talk about back yard chickens. From suburban chickens to rural chickens. SOme lessons we learned along the way and some things to consider. Come on over and give it a listen at 2 Midwwest Guys.

 

Just a reminder the tour of Brambleberry Farm is June 7th. Darren and Espri are offering discounts on plants for the tour. Check it out here.

The Anti-Chicken Tractor

Most people who raise chickens are familiar with the chicken tractor. If you are not it is a mobile coop that allows the chickens to get fresh grass and other greens, exposure to other parts of your property, while remaining safe from predators and remaining contained. We have a six foot privacy fence and pretty much let the birds roam free. That is until they destroyed our gardens. So we put up a small poultry netting fence around our gardens. That worked for a while until the birds started eating the grass in the yard. So we seeded with clover, alfalfa, and grasses. But noting ever came up. We seeded again. Same thing, nothing. It wasn’t until I noticed one day the chickens were eating both seeds and new sprouts. So I came up with the Anti-chicken tractor. At the time we didn’t have money for paddock shift fencing to allow one area to be seeded. I did have some leftover chicken wire, and some misc. boards. It is basically a box with chicken wire around it. This is version 2.0. Version 1.0 was just wire with no sides. The Chickens discovered they could land on the top and push it down far though to get to the good stuff. Boom! Now I can seed a small area and allow the plants to take root and establish before the ravenous hoard get to them. It is amusing that there is no foliage around the inner edge where they can get their heads and beaks into it. The anti-chicken tractor also serves as a mobile rabbit tractor. When the rabbits need to be out for one reason or another we can put them on the lawn and mow it down. We USED to be able to put them in the front yard until our neighbors started spraying and the drift went into our space as well.

another anti-chicken tractor
another anti-chicken tractor
Anti-chicken tractor
Anti-chicken tractor
2 weeks using anti-chicken tractor
2 weeks using anti-chicken tractor