Monthly Archives: December 2012

How to make a plastic Chicken House for under £100.

Make a plastic chicken house for under £100.

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Background: We have been keeping chickens for three years. In this time we have discovered that plastic accommodation is the easiest to keep clean, and mite free. Mites are a big deal when you have chickens, and wood is mite heaven. Aside from the regular daily poo pick, and weekly clean, plastic houses can be hosed down and cleaned really well once a month or so.  We clean and then mite powder ours regularly. We have also found that it is advantageous to have all components free standing, that way you can take the whole thing apart and clean it really well. We do have wooden perches, but we regularly hose these, and then go over them with a blow torch to kill any nasties. Cheap wooden homemade perches can be replaced every two years, which I think it better for hygiene. You can search designs on line, but make sure the perches are rounded off and also are thick enough. I would work on a rough estimate of 30 mm radius for a perch. This is important and is a matter of welfare for the birds.

It is also very helpful to have a house you can move around. I would advise at least a 2 fold system, so you can rest an area for 6 months, and then move the house and run onto it.

The design below does not have a bottom, this is because we use an electric fence to prevent foxes, we collect the poo in trays which we empty daily, and then move the house every few months.  We have lots of space, but I would still recommend this system for a garden set up. The initial fence kit is expensive, but it will last for years and has a good second hand value. We have never lost a chicken to a fox, from within the fence.

If you do not have an electric fence, you could add a bottom to this house, using another plastics sheet, 10mm correx is pretty strong, but as I say I have never fox-tested this design.

This chicken house is made out of 10mm correx (corregated plastic sheets). Correx is usually sold in sheets of 1.5 m x 3m and is about £40 a sheet. You will need roughly two sheets this size to create 6 pieces.  

To make this chicken house you will need

  • 4 rectangular pieces, lets call them A x B.

A is the length of the house, and B is the height

  • 2 Square pieces B x C. B is still the height, and C is the width.

You can play around with the sizes depending on how many birds you have.  Our measurements are about A = 180cm, B= 100cm C= 100cm.

You shouldn’t reduce B too much, as the birds need head room and room for the air to circulate, but you can make it shorter (reduce A)  if you just wanted something for 3 birds, or 4 bantams.

You will also need

  • Some cable ties (20)
  • Some scrap timber for making perches  (depending on your design)
  • 2 large plastic seed trays ( to catch poo under the perches)

How to make

 1) On your two end panels (square) mark apex roof. Cut with a Jig Saw.

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2) Measure the new side height B.

sloping roof

 

 

 

 

 

 

3) Cut your long panels down so that they equal the new height (B).

4) Now cut two slots 10mm thick in your two end panels like below. Cut up half of B

End with slots

 

 

 

 

 

 

5)Do the same with your two side panels.

side slots

 

 

 

 

 

 

6)Now slot the two together like this.

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7) Disassemble into flat pieces again and mark and cut the following

8) Cut a little doorway into the end panel, and drill some ventilation holes.

9) Cut a large side flap to allow for egg collection and poo tray emptying. 

10) Cut your two roof panels to fit the roof, with a large over hang

11) Using a cordless drill, drill holes to fix these two together with cable ties. Keep the cable ties loose to allow them to hinge

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12) Find a couple of places to attach the roof flaps, only on one side. It is important to allow one half of the roof to remain flapable, this allows easy access to collect eggs, check birds, and clean.

13) Attach the back flap, using drill holes and cable ties, keep the cable ties loose to allow them to hinge. Ours flaps upwards and can be propped open to allow for poo tray emptying. 

 

 

 

14) Build perches. Any google search will throw up many plans, but ours is a square design with a slot for trays. e.g

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Or

perches

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Place the poo trays under the perches to enable quick  and easy emptying. In terms of a nest box, the space beside my perches seems to be agreeable to my birds, but you may wish to cut some plastic and make a mini frame using the slot methods, which will provide some privacy for laying.

As you can see in the first picture, we use a guy line to stop it blowing away as it is very light. being light has advantages though, as you can pick the whole thing up to rake straw, or clean.

Happy doozering…hope you enjoying making this as much as I did.


Gluten Free Drop Pancakes/ Breakfast Pancakes

One of the sence meadow team has recently been experimenting with a gluten free diet for health reasons, so some of the recipes will now appear as gluten free versions. This morning I really fancied some drop pancakes for breakfast, so I experimented with this gluten free version and it came out pretty well.

Gram flour has a good color, but a very savory chick pea taste, so the vanilla essence and sugar  is essential to balance this. Gluten free flour tends to have a chalky taste ( IMHO), but blending it with the gram flour helps to balance that.

Makes 6 – 8 pancakes. We usually have 3 each.

Ingredients

  • 50g of Gram Flour ( Chick pea flour)
  • 50g of White S/R Gluten free Flour or Plain Rice Flour and a tsp of GF Baking powder.
  • 50g of caster sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 4 tblsp of milk ( 4 x 15ml)
  • 1 tsp Vanila Essence
  • A big handful of fresh blueberries or raspberries

Method

Mix the flours and sugar. Make a well in the center, add the egg, milk and vanilla essence and beat in the well. Mix in the flour and sugar until you have a soft gloopy mixture. The mixture should drop off of a spoon, but not be a full-on pouring consistency. At this point, I slightly crush the berries in my fingers, and stir them into the mixture.

Heat a non stick pan, greese lightly with a spray oil/ butter  or sunflower oil. Wait till the fat beads and the pan is nice and hot. Using a table spoon spoon in dollops of mixture, I can fit 4 in my pan at once. The mixture will spread out slight, wait till it looks firmish, and then flip with a fish slice. Watch the heat carefully, and tun down if they are getting too brown. They should rise slightly as you fry them off.

If you are doubling the recipe for a larger family, you may want to have some tin foil and keep them warm in the oven whilst you cook them all up.

We serve them with natural yogurt, chopped fresh fruit and honey. But they are lovely just with a trickle of honey.

 


Simple Leek and Potato Soup Recipe

The leeks are ready on the plot. They make a fantastic winter vegetable as they can be used as an onion substitute in lots of recipes, or as a green veg in their own right. Today i made a leek and potato soup. It is very thrifty and must cost less than 20 pence to make.

Leek and Potato Soup: Gluten free, vegetarian (leave out the milk for a dairy free/vegan version)

Ingredients ( makes 2 bowls)

  • 2- 3 smallish potatoes (somewhere between a roasting potato and a jacket)
  • 2- 3 medium leeks
  • a couple of tablespoons of milk
  • dried tarragon ( 1tsp)
  • a vegetable stock cube.

Method

Cube or slice your potatoes and boil then simmer in just enough water to cover them. After 10 mins, add the stock cube and continue simmering until the potatoes are cooked.

At the same time, slice your leeks ( and a small onion if you like), and gentle soften them in a little butter or olive oil. Add some salt and pepper and the tarragon. Do not brown the leeks.

Add milk to the potatoes, or a little more water if you are diary free. Then add the soften leeks, to the potato and milk mixture. Simmer together for a few minutes.

Pour into a liquidizers, and blend until smooth.

Add water or milk to get to a thick but pouring consistency (suit yourself here).

Pour back into your original potato pan and warm through.

Pour into warm bowls and serve as is, or with bread if you like.

We eat this ( without bread) on winter weekends for lunch, and it is fantastic and filling.  I can knock it together in about 15 minutes and use only two pans. For a week night supper, I would serve it with some nice bread and a cheese board and maybe a bunch of grapes.


Happy Goose-mas

Today was D day for our two Christmas Geese. These are our two Blatts Farm Geese, an unexpected gift.

Slaughtering, plucking and processing geese takes a long time but is totally worth it. This year we were aiming to make 3 things from each goose. A stuffed neck, a lovely roasting bird and black pudding.

The slaughter was very quick and quiet, 50 meters from where they were raised. The plucking took me about 1 hour 30, and Becky 3 hours. Her bird was a lot neater than mine.20121222-221959.jpg

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It’s all looking good so far. More updates tomorrow on tastes!

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Sheds of grey

We have had another big flood. That is the fifth in 2012. It’s getting boring. Each time it totally flood our shed, and we have to move our chickens to a make shift home. So today we decided to permanently move our chicken shed, and be done with it.

We like to rotate our stock, so we started looking into smallish plastic arcs. We won’t be keeping chickens once this crew pass on to the big dust bath in the sky, so we wanted something flexible. We spent an hour or two this morning looking into a few options. Nothing was working out any cheaper than £200, which seemed a bit step for 5 chickens.

So in true doozer fashion I said ” I think I can make one”. Becs and I drew little pictured and scratched our heads and in the end decided that if we took the current shed apart, we would have enough decent material to make a smaller more portable version. See the pictures below for the results.

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How many years do chickens lay eggs?

This is a good question, even if I do say so myself. This is certainly a topic that chicken-as-a-lifestyle businesses don’t want you to think about too much.

The reason I am musing this is because, today, for the first time in three years, I think I am going to buy a box of eggs! Of my original 6 girls, I have 3 left Bet, Tina, and Jenny. E also have Jenny Jnr, Marina, and most recently Sage. The original girls are over three years old and have stopped laying. The others lay occasionally with the accepting of Sage who usually lays every couple of days. So we are basically running a retirement home now.

This seems fair enough, the girls have given us lots of produce over the years and now we need to let them live out their days inpeace. Most people buy chickens and don’t sort out proper fox protection, so within a couple of years the fox has eaten them all. One way round it, but basically bad husbandry in the most part.

We will keep this lot, but after that I going to specialise in ducks. We will have the same issue with them inthe long term, but they are just easier to look after and don’t get so many mite related problems.


Christmas truffles part 2

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So we decided to adapt the recipe below. We swapped the trifle sponge for madira cake and  tripled it, and made it in three separate batches. We added three different types of booze to give three different flavors.

The three batches made 75 truffles, which we divided into 6 gift bags and a few boxes. We recon each bag has cost us around £1 to make. The first batch of feedback was that they taste great!

Ingredients

125g plain chocolate

50g unsalted butter

125g trifle sponge cakes, crumbled

50g icing sugar

25ml dark rum, brandy, or liqueur of your choice, – go to chocolate martini recipe page for some more chocolate liqueur combination ideas.

50g cocoa powder, icing sugar or chocolate vermicelli – for your choice of chocolate truffle covering.

Melt the chocolate with the butter. Stir in the cake crumbs, icing sugar and spirit or liqueur of your choice.

Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes or until the mixture is firm enough to handle.

Dust your fingers with icing sugar and roll the truffle mixture into 24 small balls, then roll each one in the cocoa powder, icing sugar or chocolate vermicelli to coat completely.

Arrange the truffles in petit four cases, and then chill in the refrigerator until required.

Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before serving