“Ten Acres Enough” Released!

I have just released a new book. Well, an old book, really, first published in 1864 — Ten Acres Enough by Edmund Morris.

This is a classic back-to-the-land book. Morris sold his newspaper in Philadelphia and bought a small farm in New Jersey, where he grew berries and peaches, made a good living, and was grateful to leave the rat race behind. It’s a good read and has plenty of thought-provoking material in it, and should be fun for anyone interested in reading about self-sufficient farm living as it was practiced by refugees from city life 150 years ago. read more...

You Need a Leatherman Multitool

I don’t feel fully dressed unless I have a pocket knife on me. I started carrying a Swiss Army Knife around with me when I was eleven. (Even to school. My teachers knew I had it and were always borrowing it. Those were the days!)

But Karen one-upped me, as she so often does. The other day, I noticed that one of the waterers wasn’t working and needed to have the crud flushed out, a task that requires a pair of pliers. So I resolved to come back and do this, and promptly forgot all about it. read more...

You Want to Try Fall Brooding

Fall brooding is one of the best things you can do to improve your poultrykeeping experience. It works at least as well as spring brooding, maybe better. The weather is generally favorable for shipping chicks by mail, being not to hot, not too cold, and no more changeable than in the springtime. The weather is drier, so dampness-related problems like coccidiosis aren’t so bad. And most of us are far too busy in the spring — planting a garden, doing livestock projects, and generally ramping up for the season. Fall is less busy for most of us. read more...

Reducing Feed Waste

Feed is way too expensive to waste these days, but try telling that to the chickens! How can we keep our chickens from wasting feed?

The biggest culprit is feeders that are too shallow. One of the old rules of thumb was to never fill a trough or feed pan more than one-third full. This is harder than it looks, because most of the readily available poultry equipment consists of glorified chick feeders — way too small for grown (or even half-grown) chickens.

Here are some tips:

  • If you build feed troughs out of boards, use 1×6 or even 1×8 boards for the sides. That oughta do it.
  • Buy the big tube feeders with the deep feed pans. The little tube feeders are basically chick feeders.
  • Tube feeders often have adjustments that let you vary the distance between the tube and the pan. Set these to the narrowest gap they will allow. Open up only if the feed doesn’t flow.
  • You can start using bigger equipment earlier if the trough or pan is mostly full, but let the level fall as the chicks get bigger
  • Feeders that are low to the ground encourage waste. The pan or trough should be roughly level with the chickens’ backs.
  • Never use a feeder that’s so low that broilers can eat from it while sitting down. It’s disgusting.
  • If you scatter scratch feed outdoors or in the litter, use whole grains. The hens won’t miss these, but finer particles will be lost.
  • Really low-grade feeds, moldy feeds, and other stuff that has inedible or unpalatable ingredients will force the hens to rummage around looking for the edible portion. Don’t bother with such feeds unless they’re nearly free. Even then, have a separate feeder of good feed, so you don’t accidentally poison or starve your chickens.

You might also want to look at my Feeding FAQ. read more...

Gasoline Leak!

Don’t you just hate it when your tractor dies in the middle of a field of dry grass, and when you go to investigate, gasoline is gushing over the hot engine? I know I do!

Gas was pouring out of the air cleaner side of the carburetor and out of the the fitting of the bottom of the gas tank as well. Not good!

I took off the gas cap to see what the deal was, and there an enormous “whoosh” and the cap shot up ten feet into the air.

After finding the cap again, I verified that it said “Vented” on it. You couldn’t prove it by me. What the heck? read more...