Tuesday, April 26, 2011

One coop down, one more to go...

We finished my mom's chicken coop this morning in the rain. And when I say we, I mean my husband. What we expected to be a long two day project turned into more of a really long 5 day project, but damn it looks good.

To start we purchased and printed out The Garden Coop building plans. If you're a first time coop builder it's nice to have at least an idea of how someone else has done it before you go designing your own - and for the $20 the plans cost, it was well worth it.
Exterior hen boxes on The Garden Coop

Some fine lookin' hen boxes
I wanted just a little more room for the chicks, so instead of building nest boxes on the inside, we modified the plan so they would be external, which also looks super cute. Because we are in a cold climate, we also modified the plans so the 'pop door' would be on the side of the coop instead of the floor. This design modification will limit updrafts in the coop keeping my chicks just a little warmer. Keep in mind I have no actual idea what I am doing, I am regurgitating all of this information from other blogs and opinions on the internet. In theory it sounds legit though.

1 foot trench dug to bury the hardware
cloth around the coop

Get an idea of the open air top of the coop before
placing the metal roof sheets on the roof supports
Access door wide open with a view inside the coop.
The wall for the hen boxes is not quite complete and
the 8 inch drop door is currently up. You can also see the set in
2 x 4 we painted red in between the access door
and the drop door to control drafts.
We're trying out the 'deep litter' method in this coop. Basically this means we will have about 6 inches of pine shavings on the bottom of the coop and using a rake we will continually turn the chicken poop under, adding more shavings as it breaks down and begins to compost. This makes it so we will only actually clean the coop out twice a year - once in the spring and once in the fall. The shavings on the bottom of the coop will keep the chickens warmer through the winter and with proper ventilation will theoretically keep the coop dry and free of any ammonia from the poop (I am tempted to see how many times I can use the word 'poop' legitimately in this post). We can use these shavings to put right into the garden which makes an excellent compost. You would think I've been chicken farming for years with all of this knowledge I'm throwing at you; google is limitless in it's wisdom.

Because we are using this deep litter method, I added to the modifications an 8 inch drop door under the main large access door. The access door is the full width of the back of the coop allowing you to easily open it and reach in and fill waterers or feeders. When it is actually time to fully clean the coop we can simply open the access door and then use the lock to drop down the 8 inch drop door making it easy to rake out all of the bedding. The downside to this large of a door is that this is the only side of the coop that is not double walled. The doors are only made of particle board with a 2 x 4 set in between as somewhat of a door stop to block any drafts. The other problem is that this access door is on the north side of the coop which generally is the direction most cold strong winds come in. In the future we may have to consider insulating the access door and the drop door for a little more protection from the elements. Any spaces left in between boards and around the hen boxes we have filled with some type of outdoor caulk. The overall goal is to control where air is coming in and where it is leaving to have controlled ventilation and not just open drafts. Time will tell how well we have done in the execution of this.

handy man
The Garden Coop offers a really unique design - some people seem pleased with it, some think it's a terrible idea. Essentially the top of the coop is open air - between the roof and the top of the coop is a layer of hardware cloth (1/2 inch metal fencing). This allows for a maximum amount of ventilation in the coop. Of course this could be a problem in the winter - to be honest, I'm not sure if I will have to add some type of covering to the top to keep extra heat in or not. I assume we will have to make modifications as we go to retrofit for what works best for us in our area with our specific flock of hens.

Finished coop


The angle of the ramp for them to come out into the run
was a little steep so my brother added a platform halfway down


I guess the benefit of finishing my mom's coop first is we can learn from any initial mistakes. My coop is currently in the garage half done. The weather just has not been cooperative. My chicks are getting impatient and the backroom of my house is covered in a thick layer of chicken dust. What chicken dust is actually made of I have no idea, and frankly I don't want to know.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Selective vegetarianism and chorizo sausage

Octopus on Capitol Hill in Washington DC
A lot of my friends know me as a vegetarian, but to a true vegetarian I'm an embarrassment to the title. I prefer to refer to myself as a selective vegetarian or lazy and easily persuaded if you want to simplify it. I very rarely cook with meat (maybe twice a year), but if someone else happens to present a very tasty looking pasta dish or soup with meat in it I will go as far as picking around any large meat pieces and hope that the smaller cooked down flesh doesn't make it onto my plate. Why? Cause I'm likely starving and it looks good and my self control is actually very limited. I also have other 'clauses' in my personal vegetarian contract: First, seafood doesn't apply. I do try to go out of my way to get sustainable seafood if possible and actually consume very little overall within a year. And everyone knows fish don't have feelings anyway (waiting for PETA out-lash on this one). Realistically I just love Sushi and attempt to rationalize. Second, I can/will consume meat if I am out of country. This is rationalized by the fact that as an American tourist I should always attempt to take part in the local culture and experience traditions while abroad. Somehow this seems to also create a loophole for states that are far from my home state of Michigan. Clearly if I'm in California or Maryland it is so different from Michigan that it could appear as if I were somewhere abroad and therefore selective vegetarianism applies. Example: One block from a hotel I stayed at while attending a conference for work in San Francisco was Farmer Browns. After the days schedule I stopped in to get an order to go. The top 3 choices were:
  • winter vegetable ragout over falls mills organic grits roasted squash, baby carrots, greens, tattagon pesto, toasted pinenuts & parmesan
  • crispy corn meal catfish w/hush puppies, candied yams, pickled onions, sauteed greens & tartar sauce
  • southern fried chicken light & dark meat w/hamhock greens, macaroni & tillamook cheddar cheese 
Farmer Browns fried chicken
with mac and cheese
Farmer Browns  is about supporting local and african-american farmers. So I assumed the winter vegetable ragout or even the catfish w/hush puppies would have been fine choices that also support local farmers in the area; I opened my mouth to order one of these and must have blacked out because I walked out of there with southern fried chicken. Did I forget to tell you I'm currently 6 months pregnant? Feeling guilty I actually took a picture of it and sent it to my husband, blushing while admitting this was my dinner choice for the night. The BEST fried chicken EVER. I ate all of it. The mac and cheese was also incredible. I highly recommend this restaurant if you're in the area.

Mary's chicken with our own Brussels Sprouts
and potatoes from the garden
So what does this have to do with Chorizo? Apparently a new 'clause' is making it's way into my vegetarian contract. As my inner urban farmer is coming out I feel the need to experiment time to time with locally grown, organic fed, humanely treated pork, lamb and chicken. (I'm really just not a fan of beef overall and tend to avoid it completely). No one treats her pets livestock better than my cousin Mary. Each year she raises 4-6 Berkshire/Hampshire cross pigs to butcher. On kill day it's basically a carnival for them - there's donuts, cider, apples, cookies and a .22 pistol (ok, most carnivals don't have a .22 pistol). She swears she even lets them watch Oprah all afternoon before they meet their fate. The point is, the pigs have no idea it's coming. They have lived a healthy, active, privileged life prior to 'carnival day' as each animal raised by humans should be treated. Last year I started considering raising a few pigs on my own for profit and food (as most good vegetarians would). So Mary set me up with a 'care package' to see if I liked the product enough to raise my own. She gave me a whole chicken, 2 dozen eggs, 4 thick pork chops, bacon, homemade maple syrup, ham cured in her homemade maple syrup, breakfast sausage and one package of chorizo (a Mexican spiced sausage). For about 2 weeks last year I was a regular 'ole American eating a sizable portion of meat each and every dinner. To be honest, the guilt was too much and the taste was not enough to overcome it. And then I cooked the chorizo. I swear to you I plan on raising 6 pigs just to turn them all into this amazing sausage I have deemed as 'crack.' The first hit from Mary was free, but now I want more! I split the bag in half and for breakfast I cooked thin sliced potatoes right in the chorizo sausage. There was very little grease, just enough to keep everything from sticking - that is one of the beautiful things of homemade sausage. I fried some of Mary's eggs to go with this and was in heaven for a few brief moments here on earth. The next day I used the rest of the chorizo sausage and and cooked onions, banana peppers and green peppers right in it. I added a little milk and then tossed in el dente angle hair pasta and let the noodles soak up some of this sauce. The skies parted and heaven opened again for a few brief moments.

I just felt like this sign says it all.
Wanting to stay somewhat true to my vegetarianism that was my last encounter with a scalable amount of meat for any meal (uh, well except for that fried chicken dinner a few weeks back). It was delicious, but my only source for this 'crack' was my cousin Mary and I figured I needed to kick the habit right away because her supply was near the end and 'carnival day' would not happen for another 10 months or so.

And here we are almost a year later and I relapsed over the weekend. It was my brothers birthday and he requested I make him homemade pizza. My brother is a "man's man" and enjoys things like aqua velva after shave and a straight razor, his idol is Clint Eastwood and he can build a fire with no matches on a windy day with just a pair of glasses and 2 green leaves (ok, that last one might have been a stretch, but you get the point) there was no way he wanted a nice spinach and goat cheese pizza. Perfect excuse for me to call Mary. Just one more time I say. Just one more package of chorizo and I'll get it out of my system. **Hands shakey mouth powered white skin all itchy** I call. She has 2 baggies. I say Ill be there in 10. What I made from this package of chorizo will be worth the years of rehab I will have to endure. Again with the thin sliced potatoes cooked right in with the sausage, but this time I lay them on top of a homemade pizza. The sauce boasts a little touch of sugar, anise seed, pepper and basil. I top it off with locally produced goat cheese from The Cheese Lady and bake it to perfection. Of course I save a little in the bag and in the morning made plain baking powder biscuits and chorizo gravy with some more of Mary's fresh eggs. Falling off the wagon feels really good. I think I might have to start that urban pig farm after all.

I will never condone eating meat at every meal or even a majority of meals. The carbon footprint is often too high and the health benefits are not there for me. However, everyone has their weaknesses and apparently pork (usually in the form of chorizo sausage) and sometimes fried chicken are mine. I break down a few times a year and indulge in these delicacies, but I treat them exactly as that; something to be savored, enjoyed and appreciated. Not just mindlessly eaten without acknowledging exactly how it came to my plate.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

How to make your own soap

It started when I heard about a caffeine soap bar; with your morning shower, as you lather you get a nice little caffeine buzz while your skin absorbs the chemical in. First reaction: ohhhhh, I need this! Second thought: WTF?! what am I already absorbing from my soap now? If I seriously absorb enough caffeine from a soap bar to get a 'shower shock' then I must be absorbing something from my current body wash. But wait, I don't even know whats in my body wash or how to pronounce half of this crap... At this point I'm experiencing a slight panic attack; birth control, nicotine patches, medicated rub, my skin just soaks this stuff up! In my usual style I ran to the nearest laptop and started googling what exactly those scientific ingredients in my body wash were, and the results were not looking good.
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate - proven to irritate skin and can cause ulcers when in toothpaste
  • Propylene Glycol - "Implicated in contact dermatitis, kidney damage and liver abnormalities; can inhibit cell growth in human tests and can damage membranes causing rashes, dry skin and surface damage" .-From Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)
  • Phthalates - In high doses this easily leached chemical is known to change hormone levels and cause birth defects
  • Diethanolamine (DEA) - another skin irritant, possible carcinogen and known to cause nerve damage

And this is just to name a few ingredients listed on the back of a typical shampoo, body wash or commercial bar soap ingredients listing.
So what's a girl to do? I know soap has been made around the world for thousands of years. I tend to have this 'how hard can it be?' mantra to life - so, back to google to dig around for handmade soap recipes.

The process for handmade soap seemed a bit daunting. Strong recommendations of goggles, long pants and gloves made the beauty of handmade soap seem less appealing. I pushed the idea to the back of my brain hoping maybe I would forget about the dangers of my seemingly harmless body wash. But everytime I stepped in the shower I could no longer enjoy the creamy fruit scented lather that my body wash provided - I was overtaken by images of chemicals seeping into my poor permeable defenseless layer of skin and penetrating my blood stream. Damn the mind that has been made aware. 

Back to google. I finally settled on what was described as an easy homemade soap, similar to one that is now listed on TreeHugger. The ingredients are all basic ingredients and can be found at your local grocery and hardware stores. I have confidence each and every one of you can make your own soap - it's not as scary as it sounds.

Ingredients include:
  • 72 ounces of Olive Oil 
  • 32 ounces of Coconut Oil
  • 32 ounces of Palm Oil
  • 9.5 ounces of lye - this can be purchased as 'drain cleaner' at any local hardware store. Read the ingredients list, it must say 100% lye, 100% sodium hydroxide (NaOH) or 100% caustic soda
  • 700ml of purified water
     
  • Thermometer
  • At least 1 stainless steel pot and a bucket or glass bowl
  • stick blender, or spatula
  • Wax paper lined container - shoe box, plastic food continer, wooden box, pvc pipe (unlined) all work well

Instructions:

You really do want to wear goggles, rubber gloves and be in a well ventilated area. Lye is not to be taken lightly, it will burn right through your skin (fight club anyone?).
In a glass bowl, heavy duty plastic bucket or stainless steel pot, mix together the measured water and lye. This will heat up really fast - keep away from kids, dogs, pets, drunks, and druggies. If it touches your skin it burns like hell (scared yet?).

Separately over a low burner in a stainless steel pot mix your measured oils together until they reach around 100 degrees F.

Once the temperature of your oils and your lye are the same - around 100 degrees F - it's go time. Always poor lye into oil, not the other way around. There is less chance of  'volcano-ing' the lye into your face. Pour all of the lye into the stainless steel pot with the oil in it. Using your stick blender or spatula stir the mixture rapidly. The is the part of the process called 'saponification' which literally translates into 'soap making.' If you are not using a stick blender this process may take a little longer. What you will be looking for is the point when your soap reaches 'trace.' Translated fairly literally, this is when you can see a trace of soap left on the top of the mixture before it sinks back in, kind of like homemade pudding. About.com has a good example of how you can check for trace in your soap.

This is the point where you would add in essential oils, natural color, or a little bit of butter such as cocoa butter or shea butter. Mix in these additional ingredients and then you are done. Pour your soap into the lined container of your choice. We use wooden boxes lined with wax paper. Plastic food containers also work well. Store your poured soap in a warm area (at least 70 degrees F) for 24 hours. After the 24 hour period your soap is ready to be removed from the container you poured it in and cut if you want to cut it. Now is the agonizing part - your soap won't be fully cured and ready to use for 3 - 5 weeks. Using it early will not hurt you, technically it is already soap, however at this point it is very soft and somewhat difficult to work with.

I have personally found handmade soap to make a big difference in my overall skin quality. Its worth every minute put into making it. It is soft and smooth on your skin and does not leave it overly dry when the proper combination of lye and oils are used in the recipe. I've actually noticed my soaps to leave my skin feeling moisturized which I could never say for commercial soaps by the end of the day.

Not everyone has that 'how hard can it be' mantra. If you're interested in trying handmade soap - you should, at least once, it really does make a difference especially if you have problematic skin, acne, or in general care about your skin quality and what your body is absorbing. My husband and I make our own line of soaps available at several different health food stores across Michigan and also available online. We personally guarantee that if you don't like it, send it back and we will either exchange it for another kind or refund your purchase.

Visit our store online at www.greenturtlesoap.com

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    Eco-conscious? Or just cheap and frankly a little gross?

         The man I'm married to is not the same man I fell in love with 7 years ago. The man I fell in love with had frosted tips, a silver chain and was (In my opinion) a little too tan and well groomed for a guy. At one point I was even a little worried that he shaved his arms they were so smooth and clean; apparently he just doesn't grow arm hair very well, or much facial hair for that matter, which was a relief that at least he's not in a practice of shaving his arms. Anyway, his body hair has nothing to do with this story...

    The man I'm married to now wears tie-dye and has a favorite pair of hemp pants. Our conversations have turned from party's with friends to our garden plans for the summer. He fishes, hikes and prefers not to shower daily. I actually love this version of him much more. There is one personality trait however, that I have to keep in check; he will bring just about any piece of free junk home that anyone leaves at the curb.

    What do a silver spray painted dresser and 'matching' night stand, a child's toy piano, a garden hose reel, a smoker/grill and a child's kitchen set all have in common? At one point they were left on the curb by a family who felt their time was over and my husband excitedly scooped them up one by one and gave them a new home with us. There was also a pair of cowboy boots, a love seat with a pullout bed (yuck), a garden swing, stroller, a portable grill and several other odds and ends that only stayed with us for a short while until I kicked them back to curb.
      
    A few years ago we lived in a 5 unit apartment building and word had spread that my husband wanted your old junk. So at least once a week something would be set aside from the regular trash in case he wanted to claim it. Some things I would allow in, others I'd send right back out. It was a hot sunny afternoon when he trotted down the stairs to our apartment with a grin ear to ear holding the 'new' cooler he had just acquired from the curb. It was medium sized, red, dirty, standard Igloo cooler with some duct tape holding one of the busted corners together. My response, which is pretty typical, "we have enough shit, go put that back on the curb." He insisted we needed it, set it down and immediately started using it as a side table. It was 30 minutes later that the neighbor came down wondering if anyone had seen his cooler, he had set it down for a just a minute to run inside and grab something and when he came out it was gone! Thank God, cause that was one ugly ass cooler. I wish he would have done the same for the cowboy boots that were brought home the week before...

    Whenever I mention that I need something, my husband always scans the curbs before he will allow me to buy it. I know in my general circle of friends this is viewed as frankly a little gross. And can be frowned upon when my daughters latest toy had to be power-washed and bleached because it was a little covered in green algae the day my husband brought it home. But at one years old, my daughter couldn't have been happier to get a new toy and its obvious she has no idea what 'dumpster diving' is (for now). The latest was the kitchen set, we literally saw the same exact one at the Jackson Toy House for over $200 just a week ago, and the fact that it is completely plastic makes me happy that we were able to acquire a used one instead of contributing to the generation of a completely new hunk of plastic onto this earth that will never break down and continue to pollute for years to come.

    It took me a while to come to terms with my husband being 'that guy' that brings random things home people have left on the curb, but we have saved so much money and we're able to give completely usable items a few more years of life while having the satisfaction of re-using instead of purchasing new. And really, a power-washer and a little vinegar and baking soda, or bleach if its particularly sketchy, pretty much fixes anything. So go ahead, dive in - I won't judge you.

    Monday, April 11, 2011

    Friend or Food? Encouraging your dogs not to eat your chickens.

    I had no idea the chickens would grow so fast so soon and yes I am aware of the ignorance of that statement. Within just one week of purchasing them it was clear they had already outgrown the 36" plastic bin we had purchased as their brooder. After googling "homemade chicken brooders" I saw an excellent idea from a dog kennel and tasked my husband to modify ours into the new brooder. Those were some happy chicks on moving day. He was even creative enough to put some sticks across so they had a roosting area which they took to immediately. This also seemed like a better way to get the dogs acquainted with their new 'friends'  - the plastic bin had to sit up on a table since we did not fabricate a lid, so all they saw were chicken shadows dancing on the plastic walls. The new brooder gave the dogs a direct viewing area of all chicken action. Our 'pound-hound' Norris is already over them. He could care less what the chickens are doing on a minute by minute basis. The little Boston Terrier, Cheech, is however, very concerned what they chickens are doing on a minute by minute basis. He stands in front of the brooder and just stares. Forgetting to blink, forgetting to swallow, just staring and shaking, watching their every move and planning their quick little deaths. This, of course, is a problem. 

    Norris is a mellow 4 year old that aims to please, and will do anything to hear the sacred words 'good boy.' He is the guard dog of all guard dogs and still lets our 1 year old pull his ears, hug and kiss him regularly and use him as a pillow once nap time is approaching. So training him not to eat chickens was very easy, it's the little guy that we're still working on. 

    I've read all sorts of odd 'teaching methods' for training a dog not to chase or eat chickens and here is a list if things I DO NOT advise:
    • Tying a dead chicken around the dogs neck and making him wear it for days
    • beating the dog to a point of 'realization'
    • shock collar training
     Here is a list of steps that I DO advise trying (sorry, not my problem if your dog is hell-bound and kills your chickens using this method, it's simply an amateurs suggestion):
    1. As always, it's best to start this chicken training after the dog has been fed, well exercised and is in a calm state.
    2. Slowly introduce the chickens to your pet - with your dog in a 'sit/stay' command and holding the baby chick securely in your hand approach the dog very calmly using a low authoritative voice. Introduce the chicken and say some command like 'easy', 'leave it' or even just 'no.'
    3. Of course the chickens will not always be secure in your hand; after the chicks have been introduced several times and the dog is more at ease around them, in a 'sit/stay' command allow the chicks to walk in front of the dog, at a safe distance. Again using the 'easy' or 'leave it' command.
    4. Soon you will take the real test of letting the dog approach the baby chicks, remain calm and in control and allow the pet to approach the chicks continuing to say 'easy' or 'leave it.' If the dog seems to become too 'intense' about the situation make him move back away from the chickens. Make sure to break his intensity by distracting him with a command. 
    5. Slowly but surely you should be able to gain the dogs trust that he knows to leave the chickens and that they are not toys. Try to always remain calm in the situation, use a low voice and do not get the dog too excited. If at any time you're not in control of the situation, remove the dog until he calms down and try again. Its a slow process, but dogs aim to please and will eventually catch on.
    "I don't want to eat them, but they sure are asking for it!"
    This process was a piece of cake for Norris. He caught on immediately and is now friends with the chickens. Cheech on the other hand still has friend and food in the same category. He passed all of the tests while we were in the house. We could approach him, he could approach them, everything was calm and collective. It was such a beautiful day in Michigan Saturday and Sunday that I brought the chicks outside to enjoy some free range. Using the same approach as I did inside the house I sat Cheech in a 'sit/stay' position and let the chicks out. Everything was peachy. I then let Cheech approach the chicks, still doing well at this point. It was about 5 minutes later that I saw the crazy in his eyes. The crazy that makes us describe this dog to friends as the type to drink too much tequila at the bar and pick fights with dudes twice his size. One of the chicks was mid hop when Cheech lunged - I saw this all panning out and was there right in time with a sharp 'LEAVE IT' just as his mouth was opening wide enough to see his snaggle teeth ready to make contact. Just like Jekyll and Hyde I saw the crazed tequila drinker leave his eyes, he stopped mid action and slowly slinked away toward the house. For good measure, like a crazy woman, I Cesar Milan style rolled him into a submissive position proclaiming 'Bad Dog!' and sent him inside for a time out. Things have been very quiet and controlled on the farm since this incident, and as you can see he is slowly realizing that 'friends' are not 'food.'


    Tuesday, April 5, 2011

    Chickens - day five. Cost, care and cuddling.

    1 week old chicks
        As with anything I do in life I googled the hell out of the topic before making any decisions. What kind of chickens should I get? Are they easy to take care of? Am I going to regret this? Will a coop in my backyard make me look like an old'timey farmer or the new age sexy urban kind? After weeks of information gathering via my work desk computer, I dove in; last week Friday I bought 13 chickens with plans of giving 6 to my mom after they feather out.
        I chose 4 Barred Rocks, 4 Aracuanas "Easter Eggers," 3 ISA Browns, and 2 Buff Orpingtons. I wanted friendly, hardy birds for my backyard flock that not only look pretty but would also produce a reasonable amount of eggs and were fat enough to eat should I decide chickens in my backyard are annoying. The ISA Browns don't exactly fit this description; apparently they are skinny little egg laying machines and aren't quite as cute and cuddly as the rest of my choices, but hopefully their laying abilities will make up for it.
        I chose to purchase the chicks from my local feed store as apposed to Tractor Supply. The owner knew exactly where the chicks came from, the day they hatched, what they had been fed up to that day and I felt better about supporting the local store than the giant farm supply chain.

    Total initial costs:
    • $19 for a 3' x 2' plastic bin (I should have gone with a more sustainable metal feed trough) 
    • $10 for a giant bag of wood shavings
    • $12 for chick starter feed
    • $8 for a thermometer to monitor the brooder temp (Is it ironic that I have a meat thermometer in there with them?)
    • $20 for a heat lamp and bulb
    • $26 for 13 baby chicks 
    • $0 free feeder and waterer from our neighbor
    • $20 for sexy rubber boots
    • Grand start-up cost of around $107.00
        I have 2 dogs and a 1 year old daughter otherwise I would have went with the free cardboard box option - not only is it a more sustainable option, its free. After I left the feed store I also felt that I should have gone with the un-medicated organic chick starter, but I saw flashes in my head of me laying on a psychiatrists couch after killing all 13 chicks from some unknown disease and opted for standard medicated feed my first time around with plans of switching to organic or at least locally produced feed before they start laying.
        My daughter is by far the most feared predator at this time and I keep the brooder on a table high above her curious outstretched arms. When presented with the fluffy bundle of joy she lightly touches it with one finger, she then lightly strokes its head and laughs and without warning goes in to grab its head and 'cuddle' it. The dogs look easy to train comparatively. 
        This week starts coop building. We bought the plans from The Garden Coop website with intentions of making mods to fit our needs since we will be using the deep litter method which appears to be the most maintenance free way of keeping chickens.
        Of course keeping chickens will add additional chores to the daily life, but its hard to put a price on fresh eggs, organic bug control and free fertilizer. Google tells me it will be between 4-6 months before these little gals start laying, oh the anticipation!