Finally!  A Sunday Farm Update with some activity to report at the farm! The temperatures, although not “warm” – have at least begun to reach the 40’s and 50’s – so things are getting in full swing.

The chicks love the space of their new holding pen in the garage...and Jazzy still loves to watch them
The chicks love the space of their new holding pen in the garage…and Jazzy still loves to watch them
The new coop rises at the farm.
The new coop rises at the farm.
We used bolts embedded in the concrete filled block to secure the coop to the foundation
We used bolts embedded in the concrete filled block to secure the coop to the foundation
The new Chicken Coop emerges behind the old one. The original coop will have new life with my sister and brother in law once our is complete - as they raise a few chicks of their own.
The new Chicken Coop emerges behind the old one. The original coop will have new life with my sister and brother in law once our is complete – as they raise a few chicks of their own.

Our 18 baby hens have outgrown the comfy surroundings of their brooder in the basement.  Mary’s vehicle once again is the loser in the deal – as the garage space now serves as a home for the chicks.  We made a 4 x 8′ makeshift chick pen out of some left over 2 x 4’s and chicken wire – and they seem to love the added room as they feather out.  They turn 6 weeks old on Tuesday, which means they are just two weeks away from heading to the farm.

What does that means for us? It means we need to get the new coop complete!  So this past week – it took center stage.  We have taken some time in designing and constructing this one – building in some careful details we have learned from experience.

We finished up the foundation with a few hours of work here and there on nights throughout the week.  It is made up of 5 inches of packed limestone dust, with 8″ of concrete filled cement block on top for the main foundation.  We set anchor bolts in the concrete within the block to make sure the coop stays secure for years to come.

On Saturday – we were finally able to get building!  We had pre-built the front and back walls way back in January – so they went up fast – as did the sides and rafters. By the end of a long day, the coop started to rise from the ground.  To match the barn, we will use reclaimed windows and metal siding, along with a board and batten finish on the exterior. Weather permitting – we hope to have most of that completed by tonight.  That leaves us about two weeks to finish the attached 10 x 12 covered run, and get things painted and stained.

With the recent issues of unwanted guests to our old coop – we have added a lot of extra security to the new coop design to hopefully eliminate any predators.  We will be burying two staggered rolls of heavy-duty, close-knit welded wire fencing 12″ down in the ground and pouring in concrete to prevent digging in.  The coop will also have mesh installed under the floor, and all of the walls will have a layer of sheathing behind the metal and board and batten exterior to prevent entry.

The bee hive after getting a second of 3 coats of stain.
The bee hive after getting a second of 3 coats of stain.
The seedlings are up and growing strong - hopefully ready to put outside in a month or so.
The seedlings are up and growing strong – hopefully ready to put outside in a month or so.

The honey bee hive received a few coats of stain and is now complete and ready for the bees! Our official delivery date is April 19th – we can’t wait for the hive to become full of activity and hopefully this fall – honey!

The seedlings we started indoors are really starting to take off.  We keep our shop lights about 1 and 1/2 inches from the top of the plants to keep their growth strong and prevent them from getting spindly or leggy.  It really works well with the ordinary shop lights, keeping the growth low and slow, and developing strong seedlings. They continue to get about 10 to 12 hours of artificial light each day.

With the temperatures expected to finally start climbing into the mid 60’s this week – we are hoping to move them to the back porch soon to get them acclimated to natural daylight and daily temperature fluctuations. It’s a great idea to get your plants used to the outside conditions a few weeks before planting time in the garden, a process called “hardening off”.  We usually will keep ours on the porch for the final two to three weeks – only covering them or bringing them in at night if there a threat of frost.

Spring is always one of the most exciting and yet challenging times of the year for us.  With one off to college and 3 others all playing high school and junior high baseball, it makes for some long and creative days attending games and getting in work at the farm.  But as with all of them, you find time to do the things you love – and we wouldn’t trade the madness for anything in the world! 🙂

Happy Gardening!

Jim and Mary

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