Tag Archives: chicken manure

Expanding the Garden, Fall Planting, and Chicken Death

August 27, 2013

We have been busy, as usual, this week.

  • Expanding the garden
  • Fall planting
  • Cleaning out the coop
  • Expanding the run
  • Dealing with chicken death

Expanding the Garden

Our church meets in an elementary school. Right before school starts, the cafeteria is getting food in, the teachers are unpacking boxes…there is a ton of cardboard to be had. So we load up all the cardboard we can and expand the garden every fall.

Before:10484629_791900920860759_4757761746985017869_oAfter:10533883_791900957527422_3687780063672357214_oSometime this fall, winter, or spring…whenever I get around to it…I’ll go to the local horse stables and cover this whole area with horse manure. Depending on when I am able to get the manure down, I may plant in it spring 2015.

Fall Planting

I planted some more broccoli, cabbage, and lettuce this week. It is supposedly too late to plant but I am continuing to plant just to see… I am using old seed so it is only costing me time and labor at this point. Nieto Family - August 22 14 - 0126This used to be the spaghetti squash patch. We moved the chicken tractor over it and I planted cabbage on the outsides and broccoli in the two middle rows.

  • The tractor can be covered to protect the brassicas from cabbage moths/butterflies
  • It can be covered in plastic to extend the season
  • Hopefully, I can use this area to get a jump start on spring/summer crops

Cleaning Out the Coop

We are in the process of collecting wood shavings from a local mill so we can clean out the coop completely and cover as much of the garden as possible with that wonderful compost.Nieto Family - August 22 14 - 0105

Expanding the Run

We got rid of the chicken tunnels for the time being. They are impossible to mow around and I was tired of stepping over them 😛 We instead expanded the run. It now goes from the coop to the house (our entire side yard).

Dealing with Chicken Death

We think two of our pullets got into something (but don’t know what) when we expanded the run because they both died. These are both chicks that were hatched at the homestead. One was 12 weeks oldDSC_5149 and the other was just about egg-laying age. DSC_5145She was gorgeous. It was saddest to lose her. Also, because she was so big, it took her longer to die. After a couple of days of no eating, drinking, or getting up, my husband had to just break her neck 😦

Of course, we have no clue what exactly happened to them. They both had droopy wings and were tripping over themselves. Towards the end, they would have seizures. After they died, my husband went around picking up many of the chickens, inspecting them, so we could tell if any of the rest of them were losing weight or looking ill. Everyone looks fine (as fine as moulting birds can look) so far.

One curious thing happened though. When the chickens started moulting, our rooster stopped crowing…Is that normal? He is not even a year old so he is not moulting…any thoughts?

I am linking up with Green Thumb Thursdays to see how others are prepping their fall/winter gardens and to see if others have insight on my chicken deaths.


Mid-February Update

February 24, 2014

All of you bloggers who diligently post each week, come lovely or not so lovely weather, one day I will join you. Until then, when it snows and I cannot do anything in the garden, I am less likely to post, hence my silence last week.

Nieto Family - February 13 14 - 0422 Nieto Family - February 13 14 - 0426(up close of the milk jug greenhouses)

This past week, however, we were in the 60s many days! Such is life in North Carolina, snow one week, spring weather the next.

Some things accomplished this week:

  • We were able to cover the rest of the garden and blueberry patch with mulch (where chickens had made holes or rain had washed it away).
  • Planted the rest of my warm-weather seeds in greenhouses.
  • Planted some carrots, lettuce, and kale in the ground (I read they sprout in weather as low as 32 degrees (our lows this week) so we will see)
  • Put out some tunnels and the tractor so the chickens could graze on some grass, since it is starting to grow again.
  • Picked up a load of horse manure and spread it (a dusting) around the garden.

Katys Blog(1)Potato patch and tomato/pepper patch on far left, not in the picture. Blueberry bushes lined in back.

*All sections that are lighter are those with horse manure. It also helps distinguish planting areas from pathways.

Back row (L to R): sweet potato patch, raised beds will have a variety of crops (broccoli, cabbage, snaps, celery, onions, beets, sunflowers, and melons, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, beans), strawberry patch

Front (L to R): 3 sister’s garden (corn, cucs/spaghetti squash, beans), next long bed will have peas and then snaps & celery, final section around 2 apple trees will have a variety of crops

Section around apple trees: We put cardboard down last summer and LOTS of mulch to suppress the weeds. I noticed this winter as I was digging out some weeds around the tree base that the soil under the mulch is fluffy so I decided to attempt to make this new garden area this year.

The plan is to plant crops that like partial shade on the North side of the apple tree and heat loving crops on the South and West side of the tree. I am planning on planting things such as melons, cucumbers (lots of room to ‘roam’), onions on the border, lettuce, kale, carrots, broccoli, and carrots.

You can see a row has already been made and we planted lettuce, carrots and kale. The issue right away with this spot is how much mulch needs to be moved out of the way before we plant. We added MANY inches in order to suppress weeds. I am cautiously excited about being able to grow crops in that area 🙂

Nieto Family - February 19 14 - 0333I would have preferred to spread the manure in the fall so it had all winter to break down but it just did not work out that way. Now, all of the garden patches/boxes/areas are covered in mulch and manure!

The next dilemma was: what to do with the poop and wood shavings when I clean out the coop? I watched the Back to Eden Film again this week (I like to do that every once in a while for fun and because I tend to learn something new each time) and got the idea to put the coop cleanings in the chicken run so it could break down some more. The goal is — the next time I put manure on the garden (next fall), I will just use what is in the run and it will be fine, beautiful compost, as Paul’s is (shown in the film).

Even though I have plenty of greenhouses, people keep giving me milk jugs (I am NOT complaining!) so I think I will go ahead and plant some spring seeds in the last batch of greenhouses so they will get a little jump start and we will get to eat greens SOONER! Lettuce, spinach, kale, broccoli, cabbage, mmmmm 🙂

We finally finished all of our winter chores by mid-February! Not to shabby 🙂 Now, the only thing that needs to be done in the garden is planting seeds! And, of course harvesting 🙂 That will come soon enough. Right now, we are still getting 3-6 eggs/day. I am hoping the chickens will start ramping up production soon!

The only other thing we want to work on the next time we have energy (this week wore us out!) is expanding the mulched area out to our other fruit trees. The bermuda grass is relentless so even a large circle around each tree with mulch does basically nothing. The only thing that even pretends to keep the bermuda grass away is to cover EVERYTHING with newspaper, cardboard, or plastic tarps and then mulch (and even then some bermuda grass finds its way in — craziness!)

We are collecting a lot of cardboard right now so whenever the mood hits, we can work on expanding. Pictures to come!

Are you harvesting anything or are you still under a couple feet of snow? Check out what everyone else is doing at Daphne’s Dandelions 🙂

Harvest Monday and Egg Dilemma

December 16, 2013

The only things left to harvest until we start the greenhouses are carrots. I wanted to cover the main garden with chicken manure so it could break down all winter & be ready for spring planting. The only thing left in the main garden were carrots. Though they were not completely ready, I went ahead and pulled the row & had the girls clean them while I scooped poop 🙂

December 04 13 - 0226 December 04 13 - 0241 December 04 13 - 0304December 04 13 - 0362(Wood shavings & poop. Looks more like wood shavings but I promise, there was PLENTY of poop in there! Most of that is from the the table under their roost, which catches most of the poop in the coop.)


At Thanksgiving, we had so many eggs, I had to set some aside to ‘age’ so I could make deviled eggs. Now, less than a month later, I am having to go to the grocery store and BUY eggs! I am so frustrated and perplexed! Out of my 20 chickens, we didn’t get out first eggs until they were 27.5 weeks old! They never (as a whole) laid more than 10 or so a day and a week & a half ago, they started laying only 3/day. I realize daylight hours are less but I thought the first year they were supposed to lay throughout the winter!

As soon as it became Fall, the chickens started getting out of their tunnel. Egg production dropped because we could not find them. After a month or so, we decided to make them stay in the run, which has plenty of room but no grass (lots of room to forage though). It is partially in the woods. Some were still flying out when egg production dropped from 10 to 3 eggs/day so we clipped some wings. Now, no chickens are getting out, they are getting plenty of feed, plenty of water, plenty of exercise…and still 3 eggs/day.

December 04 13 - 0137 December 04 13 - 0152My reaction: NOT impressed with these breeds. However, I have heard nothing but wonderful things about these breeds which makes me think it must be something we’re doing…I just can’t figure out what! They look healthy & happy…idk what to do!

October 27 13 - 0044 December 04 13 - 0252 November 2406 13 - 0033We got the Orpingtons & Australorps because they are docile (we have lots of kids so that was important) and they are (supposed to be) good layers. I am thinking of maybe not worrying so much about the docility next time and just going with ‘good layers’. Am I being naive? What do you think?

Go check out what others are harvesting from their winter gardens at Daphne’s Dandelions and please comment if you have any chicken experience/insight! 🙂

Free Resources for the Garden

September 12, 2013

I am planning on adding two new crops to the garden next year. Strawberries and sweet potatoes. I prepared the beds by covering them with manure when I cleaned out the chicken coop this summer.

I am planting in the sweet potato bed right now for lack of room but I was able to find a free source of horse manure recently and went ahead and covered the strawberry patch and the newly prepared potato patch.

DSC_2926(strawberry patch covered in chicken and horse manure)

DSC_2923(potato patch covered in horse & chicken manure)

I am always watching L2Survive’s YouTube videos where he goes and talks to Paul Gautcshi. I love learning from him! One thing I learned recently is that he uses wood shavings (about 6 inches) in his coop. It soaks up the ammonia smell and makes a fine, very rich compost. He says to spread it very finely over the garden. Truthfully, I’m just looking forward to the lack of smell 🙂 Our coop doesn’t smell horribly but I love the smell of the wood shavings! I’ll post a pic when I get it all spread out 🙂

I saw an Asplundh truck the other day & they said they would be more than happy to bring by some mulch. They never showed up 😦 I guess they were not able to find our house. We don’t need any more mulch but I was excited anyway.

It hurts me to spend money in general so buying things for the garden tends to be put on the back burner. Especially since I’m saving up for expensive crops like strawberry sets and sweet potatoes! Are you getting any free things for your garden?

I am linking up to Simple Lives Thursday. Check out what other people are doing to save money (among other things)!

Fall Crops

August 31, 2013

I’m still waiting on a flush of peas. We are getting a trickle. Does anyone else get a good pea harvest in the winter or is it just best to wait until spring?

A chicken got out one day and scratched up and ate most of my spinach seeds and half of my carrot seeds. What survived looks good. I can’t wait until we start getting carrots again. I am trying to plant A LOT of carrots and lettuce so we won’t run out again! Speaking of lettuce, we’re having little salads again! LOVE IT!

August 28 13 - 0002It was also the plan to plant a ton of kale because we love it but animals or bugs (something) like kale sprouts. As soon as they start looking good, they’re gone! 😦 I need to cover them but I haven’t figured out how to work that out yet.

Remember my broccoli plant that was eaten by cabbage worms?

young broccolicabbage wormsrecovering broccoliIt, thankfully, has rebounded beautifully. However, two other broccoli plants have been eaten down as well. They seem to be putting on a bit of growth so there’s hope!

August 28 13 - 0004A couple of weeks ago, I planted some kale, cabbage, and broccoli and covered them to keep the cabbage moths away. However, I am running out of garden space so part of the cloth was covering spinach seeds…as in, the cloth was on the ground, not allowing the seeds to sprout and grow. I took the cloth off so the spinach seeds could grow (though most did not) so now all of my newest cabbage family plants are uncovered :\

Maybe one day I’ll have my garden planned out better. Right now, I seem to always be running out of space!

Speaking of running out of space, I prepped a sweet potato patch a number of months ago and was going to leave it alone until Spring, when I plant slips…then I ran out of room. So, I planted a small area with carrots and lettuce (see first pic in post). Then I ran out of MORE room 😛 Yesterday, I planted up the rest of the sweet potato patch with cabbage, broccoli (think I finally covered them correctly), kale, spinach, and carrots. I also gave my daughter some room to grow lettuce, carrots, and peas.

August 30 13 - 0020(Just for point of reference, blueberries are to the left, main BTE garden to the right, corn patches in top of photo)

Under the row cover is cabbage and broccoli.

Everything will be out of the patch by the time I need to plant the slips but I will likely need to haul a lot of compost onto the area to prep it for the sweet potatoes.

Even thought the chickens are STILL not laying any eggs, are doing a wonderful job prepping more planting spaces!

August 29 13 - 0015The chickens ate down the grass in the tractor. We moved it (you can see the tractor on the left), covered the area with newspaper and mulch. It will be ready to be planted in about a month. Normally, I would say you need to wait longer but I only waited one month with the last chicken-prepped area and everything is doing really well so…

August 29 13 - 0014(This is the first chicken tractor-prepped area. From bottom of photo to top: peas, carrots, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, kale, broccoli, more peas, more lettuce & carrots, fall cucumber and one more feeble attempt at zucchini. Each section was planted at a different date (little people kept waking up from naps 😉 )

I hope to move the tractor over the main garden during the winter so the chickens can eat all the bugs that are left and can fertilize the area, prepping it for spring planting. I would also like to move them onto the strawberry patch and potato patch – it’s a lot easier and more effective to move the tractor every month instead of hauling chicken poo all over the place! AND it takes care of all of the baby bugs and hibernating eggs over winter – I know you love my scientific terms but…you know what I mean 😉

By the way, I am finding a lot of rabbit poo in the chicken run so I have been scooping up run compost into a bucket & using it as a planting medium since rabbit manure can be used right away (won’t burn seeds as other fresh manures do). I’ll be needing to collect a lot more soon because come December(ish), I plan on making A LOT of greenhouses and I’ll need a lot of potting soil. Might as well make my own and save my gardening money for something else (like a riding lawn mower or more chickens 🙂 )

How is your fall garden growing? Are you tired of gardening since it’s the end of the summer? Take a look at the Back to Eden method of gardening. When you don’t have to water and barely need to weed, gardening becomes that much more enjoyable!