self-closing doors for chicken coops? I'll try again, the other one is incomplete.

Elfpermacl at aol.com Elfpermacl at aol.com
Sat Oct 17 16:36:00 EDT 1998


In a message dated 10/16/98 8:07:18 PM, haroldw at alternatives.com wrote:

<<
Thanks Dan!

I really appreciate your contributions and the humour!

I've been thinking how to introduce chickens to retired professionals who
want  their land to produce value - not to sink hard earned cash or endless
labour into their land year after year.

I been thinking that you're sensible that it is best to have a human put
the chickens away if you have only one chicken coop nearby. Too many
complex issues to leave chickens in the "care" of devices furthermore one
must see the chickens often and their situation to take care of them.

I've also seen on that good video "Permaculture in Practice" from England a
very ricketty ladder to the coop door high up that was designed to collapse
if anything the weight of a predator got on it.

What if you had an extensive orchard/agroforestry system and many coops?  I
have heard of dogs herding and caring for chickens.  Could they not be
trained to put the chickens in on command then press a lever and close the
door?

Automatic door opening device is much more realistic and useful in my mind.
If you have layers then you don't want to let them out too early - so I've
read.  Hey - I've almost never touched a live chicken in my life - the game
is to let them out late morning 11am so they don't lay eggs out in the pen.
That would safely save one trip a day out to the chickens that is in the
middle of a work day - and it is not too technically advanced.

Really, I want to have designed and built for my clients a egg mobile that
a person could pull because it had big wheels, is warm in the winter and
has a green house gas-type window opener for hot days.  It also must link
up with a movable fence system for orchard areas and connections to Andy
Lee style tractors that will work vegetable beds. Suitab: either the manure
falls to the ground or is collected.
Not too high - must fit in a garage if really cold period comes. Water roof
catchment,tank and easy to clean water for the chickens to drink.  Feed.
Roosting and laying situations. Easy access for cleaning.  Auto open door.
Solar powered lighting to keep them laying - if cost is worth it.

 Well, that is some of the specs.  I know how to get the info on Eggmobile
designs  but I wanted to modify it for permaculture uses.

To get the job done I am going to have to find other people to help
complete that project with me.  Chicken tractors - egg mobiles are not well
known around here.


Harold Waldock
haroldw at alternatives.com
Vancouver, B.C.
Canad>>


In a message dated 10/16/98 8:07:18 PM, you wrote:

<<
Thanks Dan!

I really appreciate your contributions and the humour!

I've been thinking how to introduce chickens to retired professionals who
want  their land to produce value - not to sink hard earned cash or endless
labour into their land year after year.

I been thinking that you're sensible that it is best to have a human put
the chickens away if you have only one chicken coop nearby. Too many
complex issues to leave chickens in the "care" of devices furthermore one
must see the chickens often and their situation to take care of them.

I've also seen on that good video "Permaculture in Practice" from England a
very ricketty ladder to the coop door high up that was designed to collapse
if anything the weight of a predator got on it.

What if you had an extensive orchard/agroforestry system and many coops?  I
have heard of dogs herding and caring for chickens.  Could they not be
trained to put the chickens in on command then press a lever and close the
door?

Automatic door opening device is much more realistic and useful in my mind.
If you have layers then you don't want to let them out too early - so I've
read.  Hey - I've almost never touched a live chicken in my life - the game
is to let them out late morning 11am so they don't lay eggs out in the pen.
That would safely save one trip a day out to the chickens that is in the
middle of a work day - and it is not too technically advanced.

Really, I want to have designed and built for my clients a egg mobile that
a person could pull because it had big wheels, is warm in the winter and
has a green house gas-type window opener for hot days.  It also must link
up with a movable fence system for orchard areas and connections to Andy
Lee style tractors that will work vegetable beds. Suitable size for the
chickens - I understand that a  "happy" flock size is 12-17 adult chickens.
An adjustable floor: either the manure falls to the ground or is collected.
Not too high - must fit in a garage if really cold period comes. Water roof
catchment,tank and easy to clean water for the chickens to drink.  Feed.
Roosting and laying situations. Easy access for cleaning.  Auto open door.
Solar powered lighting to keep them laying - if cost is worth it.

 Well, that is some of the specs.  I know how to get the info on Eggmobile
designs  but I wanted to modify it for permaculture uses.

To get the job done I am going to have to find other people to help
complete that project with me.  Chicken tractors - egg mobiles are not well
known around here.


Harold Waldock
haroldw at alternatives.com
Vancouver, B.C.
Canad>>

Hey Harold:

Sounds like a kindred spirit there, diagonally across the continent from me.

We have an old camper-trailer (called carvan in most English-speaking
countries) that was abandoned here.  I'm going to gut it, put the propane
stove and ice box to use in a summer (outdoor) kitchen, work very hard with
sheet metal and body plastic to plug the holes where rats and snakes get in
(we have huge poisonous snakes), and use it as a chicken mobile.  I'll pull it
with my truck for now, though I'd like to get a water buffalo.  A conventional
ox would be more appropriate in BC.  

Dogs are good predator control except that it is not possible to let them run
free any more most places in the US due to "leash laws," which on the whole
are as necessary as laws get.  (I'm an anarchist.)  We've lost more chickens
to other people's dogs than all other predators combined.

We also have an old boat trailer with oversized wheels that we will use to
make a mobile chicken coop.  Personally, I think that the moving about is too
upsetting to the hens and I'm leaving my egg birds in the regular coop.  The
moving coops can be for cockerels being raised for meat, replacement pullets,
and retired hens waiting for me to slaughter them.  Might as well get them off
the rich egg-laying rations and let them scratch for a living if they aren't
laying.

In Europe, Asia, Africa and the Pacific, they do not have racoons.  Defending
chickens is relatively easy.  Snakes in places, here and elsewhere, can be a
problem for chicks and eggs, though our 8-foot rat snake doesn't bother the
eggs so far as I can tell, but stays coiled up in the wire on the chicken door
looking for livlier food.  I suspect it would not be so benign for chicks.  

In my opinion, a good arrantgement is to have a special chicken nursery for
broody hens and chicks that you buy in through the mail or from feed stores,
etc.  This is very tight, zone 1 to the chicken keeper, and well monitored.

There is a knack training your own dog to control predators of various sorts
but to leave chickens, in particular, alone.  The frantic energy of disturbed
chickens pushes all the kill-lust buttons of the sweetest "PET".  So you end
up having to shoot half or more of the dogs you try to train with
chickens--I've only known one case where a dog that killed chickens could be
trained out of it afterward.  It is immoral to permit a dog to live that
attacks livestock.  this is a basic rural ethic.  The same dog will be gentle
with your lambs, help you catch escaped pigs with narry a nip, patiently watch
you scald a hog waiting for the stray bit of pancreas or whatever you toss
his/her way,  etc.  Yet if it has killed chickens it cannot be trusted not to
do so again.  Same as running deer.

Mostly what I design for people is a simpler system than dragging the whole
chicken coop all over the place.  I like little forages of maybe 1/4 acre or
more radiating out from the chicken coop and I run it like a water system,
only with chickens.  Little gates are valves and we open a valve here and
close a valve there and the chicken energy fills the area we want for as long
as we want (with minimum increments of 1 day).  All the other areas are
growing chicken feed, human food, and combintions thereof.  You can let
chickens into a little forest garden for a few days to control an insect and
shunt them to another forage before they do much damage to annual understory.
(Experimenting with crops you can't afford to loose is always an error of
scale, however.)  

So you trundle over in the morning, take 45 seconds to adjust your gates for
the day, let the chickens out, and go back inside.  If you perk your coffee,
it isn't nearly ready yet if you put it on when you went out.  

It seems to me that we are struggling in this thread about the NATURE OF
PERMACULTURE.  Permaculture is about involvement, not laborious, back
breaking, tedious involvement, but informed, deliberate, designed intelligent
and very active involvement.  We put things in zone 1 because we need to
maximize our involvement with them.  chickens go in about zone 2 or, in the
case of broilers, at the boundary between 2 and 3.  We are their shelter,
their cover.  No predator has ever come after a chicken when I was present.
The birds disperse material with vigor and almost any "automatic" device is
likely to get fouled.  Moreover, there will be things we shold notice that we
didn't.  The real pain in the ass, of course, is when I want to go to a movie
in June with Cynthia, the birds are spread out over 2 acres and have no
intention whatsoever giving up the fun they are having to go into protective
cover for predators they can't see.  But the predators are there, hidden eyes
from every corner, and as soon as the pickup gets to the main road (all sand
instead of two sand ruts in the grass) they are in action.  I know that this
will happen.   There are maybe 3 or 4 chickens that we will leave out if we
are going into town because they are "street wise," and never get caught.  A
very, very fast Aracuana hen, one I could never catch sans 22, wouldn't go in
a few weeks ago.  We found the residue of feathers just this afternoon.  A
recalcitrant chicken can be a dead chicken.  Electric fence helps a lot and
can be the answer to mostly effective predator protection if you go off
somewhere else to work during the day.  I've lost birds here while i was at
home talking on the phone--to dogs.  Never heard the commotion inside my
permaculturally appropriate well insulated house.  Dogs will hit anytime.  

the other predator people haven't mentioned is owls.  Most of our owls here
are nice little rat-catchers about the size of a football.  We have a slew of
owls and of many different species, judging from the calls.  I've lost fowl as
big as Embden geese to a Great Horned Owl.  I hated to loose the geese, but I
wasn't about to bother that owl, rare bird, on any account.  Hawks are never a
problem, though I keep an eye on chicks and goslings if i put them othdoors.
I plunk a chair beside them and read a book.  On time a hawk came  for some
goslings and I reacted instinctivly and lunged for the hawk.  Luckily it
pulled out of the dive a few inches before my fingers reached the tallons--an
experience we would both have rued.  We have BIG (as in inconceiveably huge)
bald eagles and they don't seem to even notice the chickens.  Lots of fish
around for them.  Our red-shouldered hawk doesn't even worry the chickens any
more--they will be 20 feet from where it is eating something on the ground.
I've seen no sign that gators bother the chickens either--not a big problem in
BC I know--though it would be admittedly hard to tell.  Like the owl, it is
welcome to one now and again.  (Since a gator can catch a dog way easier than
a dog can catch a chicken, which is no trouble at all, I guess they will eat
all they want.)  Owls, however, are murder on chickens if they get started.
The rickety ladder trick wouldn't do much good.  Normally just waiting until
full light to let the chickens out and putting them in before dusk will do the
trick.  But a lot of things we've discussed on this thread would be swooped
right over by an owl.  I knew a kid in Massachusetts who lost dozens of
chickens to an owl before the owl got careless and tangled in a mess of
poultry netting.  Owls are shy of people, too.  It looks like people are the
best companion crop to lots of things.  

Permaculture isn't about thermostats, automatic this, and not having to think
about that.  Big brother provides enough stuff of that ilk already.  It is
about being thoroughly alive by being thoroughly involved in our lives,
designing the setting, using intelligence to adapt it to our needs the way an
ant or a woodchuck uses instinct to the same end.  Intelligence hasn't proven
near so reliable as instinct, but it is way more powerful if we engage it.
Intellinence starts are your toenails and goes up to the ends of your scalp
hairs.  Then in continues around you so that it shapes your environment, if
used.  It is such use that permaculture addresses.  It is not about being an
organic couch potato.  we get out  there and mix it up with our cabbages and
chickens and bananas and walnuts and alligators and armadillos.  We do it as
fun.  chickens are hillarious, edible companions that produce eggs.  We get
enormous enjoyment out of our steer and in the process he gets a very
luxurious life compared to that of typical beef.  I know most of my plants
individually.  it is easier to do this if you are not always looking through
the sweat of pointless difficult work.  We don't have a TV, but our chickens,
the barking frogs that come to our windows for moths at night, the egrets that
glint sliver against the gold of sunset and the pearl of lilly covered waters,
the herons that glide like wings spirits experimenting with form through the
mists at dawn, the chickens in their absurd clownish antics, the thousands of
flowers on herb and bush and tree and across the waters, and on and on.  these
are a bit more enlivening as entertainment.  But, excepting the barking frogs
on the window, they don't come to us.  We get out there and engage with our
environment and in so doing become perfused with its beauty, humor,,
intelligence and wisdom. And, as it turns out, we are made to live on earth.
When we are present, snipping here, tossing a catipillar to a chicken there,
scratching the steer behind the cranial ridge, casting a shadow toward
anything that might worry that nest of wild mud hens, we make things more
abundant, more diverse, and more beautiful.  An automatic dingus may have some
merit as a minor amenity in permaculture, but with our addiction in this
society to automation, we need take the same care as the alcoholic offered
"just one little drink".  And some of us are so addicted to being "smart," to
never failing to solve a "problem" that we may get deeper and deeper into the
methods and resources we are, in permaculture, trying to make unnecessary,
once again, to the human species.  Be careful what you flirt with.  It may not
take "no" for an answer.

We still have room in our online course that starts in Nov.

For Mother Earth, Dan Hemenway, Yankee Permaculture Publications (since 1982),
Elfin Permaculture workshops, lectures, Permaculture Design Courses,
consulting and permaculture designs (since 1981), and annual correspondence
courses via email.  Copyright, 1998, Dan & Cynthia Hemenway, P.O. Box 52,
Sparr FL 32192 USA  Internships. YankeePerm at aol.com  

We don't have time to rush.

A list by topic of all Yankee Permaculture titles may be found at
http://csf.colorado.edu/perma/ypc_catalog.html
Elfin Permaculture programs are listed at the Eastern Permaculture Teachers
assn home page: http://home.ptd.net/~artrod/epta/eptahmp.html



More information about the permaculture mailing list