These days the gardens, back porches, side steps, railings and cellar ways are filling up with oversized squashes, odd baskets of cucumbers or buckets of green beans, stalks of garlic and ripening tomatoes.
Here, too, the yards, coops, barns, garage and assorted sheds on the homestead are filled with various sizes of poultry! There is a setting hen in the feed shed, half grown chicks in the garage, slightly larger pullets in the dog pen in the large coop-nearly ready to join the laying flock. There are tiny turkeys in a stock tank, month old meat birds in a cardboard enclosure in the front of the turkey pen, and young toms strutting and bumping chests in the covered turkey yard.
It’s hard to find places to keep this abundance, isn’t it?
If you’ve been gardening or farming for long, though, I think you probably have the answer to the dilemma. You make do with odds and ends of things. You save boxes, scraps of boards, and every time you go past the dumpster behind the local hardware/lumber company, you take a look to see what’s been tossed out that you might be able to use. Boxes become nests, scraps become fences, cardboard becomes a brooder.
For some time, we were justifying the frequent purchase of a tub of ice cream—the kind that comes in the plastic bucket with the handle-by remarking on how useful the buckets would be. And they are—for berry, pea and bean picking, for freshly dug potatoes, for carrying scraps to the hens. A friend at the local dairy one time brought us a load of 5 gallon pails with covers, and those have been used for stools, apple picking, water hauling, feed storage, compost and gardening.
Odd pieces of plywood and fiberboard come in handy in the coops for dividers, covers for feed bins, and ramps for small birds. Broom and shovel handles have become roosts, and so has a small step stool I found at the dump. I nailed two scraps of 2×8 together and used that to raise a water jug just high enough for little birds to reach to drink, without kicking the trough full of shavings. Later on, I weighted a coffee can with a rock and used that for a water jug pedestal.
Coffee cans! How do you use them?
Feed scoop, water jug pedestal, berry bucket, first aid kit, nails and bolts receptacle, counter compost container?
Because I didn’t follow my own instincts and have the chicken coop built twice as large as I thought it ought to be, I have to find room for brooding mothers and small chicks. I don’t have a barn (yet), and we’re too close to the road for extended free ranging, so I must use my imagination. The small feed shed behind the coop holds bales of straw, too. When these bales are arranged around a setting hen, she is protected, out of the way and easy to check on. I repurpose the weighted coffee can as a doorstop and slide a piece of plywood across the doorway. When the hens are shut into the coop at night, mama hen is shut in her laboratory, too.
Our attached garage is often used as a spillover nursery. This year, we had two groups of little birds needing housing at the same time. We had one cardboard enclosure, which had previously been a large appliance carton. Cut into long pieces, zip-tied together, the strips make a perfect expandable circle for new poults or chicks.
For the other enclosure, my husband used pieces of screening and attached them to salvaged plastic tubing from a long ago plumbing job. Using plastic metal hangar strips on top of the screen, he screwed the material right to the tubing. Some ends of 2×4 steady the screen, and give another spot to attach the material. When the little birds began to try to roost on the edges and venture over the top, another plastic tubing frame with chicken wire bent over the edges and zip-tied on, made a great removable, see-through top. We buy zip-ties in bulk-but the rest of the materials were found, re-purposed, salvaged, or recycled.
I keep a large dog cage in the back of the chicken coop. This is our hospital wing, as well as the crate I use to introduce new members of the flock. I put teenaged birds and their mother (if they have one) in the chicken tractor right next to the hen yard for a few days, and bring them into the crate in the coop at night.
The birds can see each other, eat next to each other, sleep in the same building, but have no physical contact. One evening, I leave the door to the crate open and cross my fingers. So far, this method has worked.
The turkeys start out in a stock tank, and then
move to a cardboard enclosure with a screened top – this one with furring strips along the sides.
We make do with what we have. I’ve used parts of old ladders and baby gates as trellises for plants, and recycled feed sacks into market bags or sacks to carry kindling gleaned from the yard and side hill for an evening campfire.
Even those oversized squashes that are stacked on the back porch—sliced in half and tossed into the hen yard are a healthy treat that will make a flock happy and busy for an entire late summer afternoon.
What have you reused to make more room on your homestead?