Saturday, September 24, 2011

Turkey Coop 9

I spent some time extending the roost for the turkeys today. I went up one evening to check on them and the hen was sleeping on the ground. There just wasn't enough room for all four up there. I framed out what will be the front of the coop and added a 6' long roost. I'm hoping that will be enough.

This is what it should look like eventually. There will be a 2'x4' section on the left for storage and possibly nest boxes and the rest of the space will be for roosting.

I was planning on adding a door to close it all in with an opening for them to get out but I don't know if they care. Maybe it would just make me feel more at ease if they had an enclosed place to sleep.

Once I saw them moving around under it I started to wonder if they would have enough room to jump/fly up to the roost if I closed it all in. They have sort of a giant wing span at this point. I would also like to have the roost up as high as possible to keep them out of reach of critters that might get in. Maybe I should leave it all open so they can fly up. Ugh, decisions.

They do seem to like it though and would probably like it more if it was higher. I've heard of free-range turkeys sleeping high in trees or on top of houses. If I left it open I could provide them with some stair stepped roosts to make it easier to get up.

The two biggest toms were showing off for my friend Drew yesterday. I guess they never do this for me because they are used to me. It was kind of cute the way the puffed up. Their heads and necks changed color too and got more red and blue.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Agave Bloom

The plant that I'm calling Agave potatorum is blooming.

The bloom spike has grown about 7 feet in the last few weeks.

It's kind of hard to see so I moved it to the porch so I could watch the show. I'm not sure what the plant is so I'm hoping the color of the blooms will help me narrow it down. I have a bunch of pups from this plant so it would be nice to know what it is.

Turkey Update

Luckily the turkeys were unscathed in the dog attack. They must have been pretty freaked out when it was happening but they seemed fine by the time I got up there. I think I even saw one drink out of the new waterer, but maybe she was just pecking at it.

There are few things I still need to finish on the coop. One is enclosing the coop so it has four walls and a longer roost. The turkeys are so big now that the existing roost looks a little small for them.

I'm not sure if they even sleep up there or just use it as a jungle gym.

The Animal Control Officer that came to take the dog identified the turkey breeds immediately. It turns out that he lives in Antelope Valley where I got the turkeys and raises a bunch of animals himself. He also mentioned that it's nice that I've adhered to the set back requirements and have the coops far enough away from the neighbors' houses. I wonder what he would have done if the the coops were too close.

Mistakes Were Made

I've posted before about my pruning project. This has been my attempt to make the bushes in the front of the yard at the top of the cliff grow in short and bushy. Although I've managed to bring the height down a little and the top story is nicely filled in there is a lower level about 2 feet high that was bare so you could see down to the street.

I had a brilliant idea to plant something under there that would fill in and screen out the street. My choice, since I don't like to pay for things I don't have to, was cuttings from a couple of giant Euphorbia tirucalli trees that grow in my neighborhood. By giant, I mean about 30 feet high and 40 feet wide. They've grown so big that they are encroaching on the road and sometimes larger vehicles knock branches down. I figured I would be doing the neighborhood a service by thinning them out a little bit.

I blithely drove my truck underneath them and cut a few 2' pieces to plant under shrubs. They bled a bunch of sap that was a little sticky and annoying but I figured it was a small price to pay for some free plants.

Some of you may know where this story is going. It turns out Euphorbia tirucalli sap is poisonous. If you get it on your skin it itches and burns and causes a rash like poison ivy. I can now verify this from experience. If you get it it your eyes it can cause blindness. Blindness! I got some sap in my eyes when I was taking a shower later that night, maybe some got in my hair or something, and although I didn't go blind, it did burn like fire. Now I know.

So a year has passed and aside from its toxic vengeance E. tirucalli has been wildly successful. It had totally filled in the space below the bushes and is now spilling out over the other plants.

It's also now growing taller than the bushes. You can see one poking it's head up above the leaves of the shrub.

This is the same shot about a month later. I swear it has grown about 4 inches.

I admire its tenacity and think it's beautiful it just seems too problematic to have in the front yard where I'm going to have to be working around it. I need to step into that bed to prune the bushes and now I'm afraid that I'll break a stem and get showered with sap.

In my defense, I did have some experience with E. tirucalli in the past. I've had this plant for about 8 years:

I think Samantha brought it home from a job site and left it when she moved. It has stayed the same size and the same basic shape for 8 years. Maybe it's because it's in a pot or maybe I've neglected it, but it never gave me any indication that if I put it in the ground it would devote itself to my destruction through fiery itchiness.

I decided that I needed to take all of the plants out before they got too big. I put on gloves, pants, long sleeves and safety glasses.

They put up a fight but I managed to pry them out with a shovel.
It looks like their roots grew straight out of the cut end. I would have expected roots to grow from a node.

Ahhhh! Sap!

The branches are soft and easy to break so I tried to handle them as gently as possible. The first one was about 4' tall and very bushy.

It makes nice potted plant...if you don't come too close.

So now I have a forest of these in pots. The tallest one is over 6 feet but it's very wobbly because the bush was holding it up. I have it loosely staked but hopefully it will stiffen up now that it's on its own.

I'm not sure what to do with them. I thought about planting them in the empty lot next door but what if the guys that clear the hill get too close with their weed wackers? They could create a poison sap cloud. Yikes.

I could plant them somewhere in my yard but, as I mentioned, these get big and I'm not sure I want 5 giant poisonous trees taking over the hill.

For now they can sit outside my window and think about what they've done.

The front yard is looking a little sparse again. The euphorbias really did do a good job of filling in that empty space.

I have some plans for what I can do to fix it but I'm going to try to be a little more thoughtful this time and plan for the long run.

The Face of Terrier

Look at this little guy. Isn't he cute?

He managed to break into the chicken coop and kill all the chickens. I'm still a little stunned that the flock I've been working with for almost 4 years is just gone.

I feel bad for the dog too. He actually seems pretty upset about the whole thing. He did his best to bury all the bodies but there were just too many to hide. I didn't know until today, but I had 27 chickens.

Animal Control came and took the dog away. After all the chickens died I hate to think about him being put down too but I wasn't sure what else to do. The officer said that unless he attacked a person or another dog he wouldn't have a black mark on his record and if his owners don't pick him up he will likely be adopted quickly because he's so cute and not a pit bull.

I'm hoping that his owners claim him so I have a chance of getting reimbursed for the damage he did.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Automatic Bucket Waterer

I've had an automatic waterer in the chickens' coop for a few years but haven't been thrilled with it. It's nice that the chickens always have access to water but it is an open bowl that gets pretty dirty with all the scratching that the chickens do. The little roof that I built to keep the chicken droppings out does nothing to keep the dust out.

I thought I would try to build my own waterer that would keep the water clean. I started with a 5 gallon bucket I got from the doughnut shop. It used to hold hot cocoa mix and smelled great.

I ordered some "360 Super Flow Nipples" from Farmtek. These are more commonly used in big chicken operations but they should work for my little bucket waterer too. The chickens push on the little nipple and that allows water to flow out.

I needed some sort of float valve to stop the water once the bucket was filled up. Most of the valves I found online were more expensive than I wanted to pay so I opted for a vertical toilet float valve. It was only $6 and would fit in the bucket.

I cut the holes for the valve and the nipples in the bottom of the bucket.

The nipples have threads that screw into the hole and seal the opening.

An adapter and toilet connector allowed me to attach the valve to a garden hose.

Here's a video of me trying it out for the first time.

Who knew that water shoots out so hard inside a toilet? Not me. I got a little wet on that one, but the valve worked great and shut off just as expected. I added the blue hose to the outlet which should direct the water down rather than straight at the bucket wall. I guess it won't matter once the lid is on.

And a video of the nipples in action. I guess the chickens are going to have work a little to get enough water.

The chickens will have to learn how to use these before I can take the other waterer out but once one learns the others should pick it up pretty quickly. I'm not quite sure how to teach them how to use it though. Hmm

Update 9/10/11:
I decided to put it in the turkey coop since the chickens already have the automatic dog bowl. I have all the pieces for 3 waterers but I need two more buckets.

I just bought one hose and cut it into peices.

I added new ends and then connected them to a new four spout manifold. I would like to have one water in the chicken coop, one in the run, and one in the turkey coop, so that will leave one spout for another hose.

I hung it up next to the existing waterer hoping that they will be curious about it and peck at the nipples.

It looks high but the turkeys are so tall now they won't even have to stretch to reach the bottom of the bucket.


I decided to move some of my potted plants up to the next size. Since I'm not ready to put them in the ground I figured they should be comfortable in the meantime. I got a bunch of one gallon pots at Home Depot.

The first to get bumped up was the sad little agave that I took back from my neighbor with the black thumb. With a little watering it has plumped up and turned green. Someday this little plant will be a beautiful giant.

Adding a little more dirt will help to send it on it's way.

A few of the agaves had offsets jammed in the bottom waiting to get out.

The Agave potatorum Cream Spike had 7 or 8 spiraled around the inside of the pot.

They look much more comfortable now.