Maintaining chickens at Sol Feliz

20140703-082042-30042980.jpgThis is the “after” picture of today’s activity.  The picture above shows our chicken house that has been cleaned of all the old manure that had been mixed with sawdust from the last time we cleaned out the coop.  We then used a high pressure stream from the garden hose to clean off the walls, windows, and laying boxes.  Then we put about 8 wheelbarrows full of fresh sawdust in the coop and the yard.  Finally, we dusted our chickens with diatomaceous earth (DE) to control lice.  We had some extra DE and just threw it into some crevices and corners of the coop where lice might be present.

We found lice on our chickens a few months back and this was our chance to treat the problem.  We also heard that a pile of ashes in the coop or burning some sage can also control lice populations in the coop.  I think lice might create problems with sores on the chickens, loss of feathers, and they are probably not as comfortable if lice are present.  There can also be a problem with lice getting on people or other livestock.  A little bit of management can help create balance in the system and hopefully improve the health of the animals.  It is not too difficult a job, but it is dusty and dirty so we use a garden hose mister to control the dust while wearing a dust mask along with long sleeves, pants, and closed boots or shoes.

20140703-082116-30076427.jpgWe clean out the coop once or twice a year and by the time we get to emptying out the coop of manure and sawdust, we have about 10 wheelbarrows full of material that we pile next to the compost operation as seen in the foreground of the picture above.  The beginnings of the compost pile is the pile of weeds in the background and is from the compost activity we talked about in our last post.  One time we just watered the chicken manure/sawdust pile without adding it to anything and the temperature went up to over 165 degrees Fahrenheit in just a couple of days indicating the high nitrogen content of the manure in the sawdust.  We now inter-space layers of manure/sawdust with the layers of biomass from the field as explained in the last post and moisten each layer that is applied to have a less intense composting process.  We apply ample water to wet the layers of the pile thinking of a moisture content level that would be consistent with a wrung-out sponge.

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A clean chicken coop is a joy for everyone involved.  The chickens seem relieved to have their house cleaned and upon entering the coop we are greeted by a fresh smell of earth and sawdust.  The chickens will continue to create manure as part of their life-process and we will be cleaning the coop again within the coming year to make benefit of the chickens’ waste products and the expense we incur toward chicken feed.  One of the best parts of having chickens, besides getting eggs, is that nothing goes to waste…

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About Miguel

Miguel Santistevan is a researcher, educator, and advocate for traditional agriculture crops and systems.
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