Author Archives: cluckingmarvellous

How to make an automatic pig waterer

This is embarrassingly simple. I wasn’t even going to blog about it but thought that there might be someone, somewhere getting way too complicated, or still hauling buckets every day.

So, I bought a pig watering nipple from the co-op for $4.30. They sold another one for $20 but the girl said this one was better. Go figure eh? I bought a brass connector and used some ptfe tape to marry the two, drilling a hole in the wall and fixing it all through. I then pex-crimped into into my plumbing, sauntered around to where my sow was , pressed the nipple to get a jet of water and watched as she first tried chewing it then figured out that all she had to do was bite it and slurp.

Et voila, a happy pig.

How to make an automatic chicken waterer

You will need,

  • a 5-gallon bucket
  • a toilet cistern filler float thingy
  • a method of connecting this to your preferred plumbing system, in my case pex
  • and if you want to get fancy, some screen mesh, a length of guttering and a short piece of hose

I got fancy, substituting another bucket for the guttering but have since reverted as it was an added complication that wasn’t fulfilling it’s purpose.

Drill a hole in the bottom of your bucket. I did mine quite close to the side, which probably wasn’t necessary. Insert your toilet apparatus, bought for $15 from central supplies as I couldn’t find the one I had been tripping over for the whole year since we removed the old broken toilet from our house.

Next affix the overly complicated arrangement to connect your float valve thingy your plumbing, then attach it to your plumbing. You can do this is any way – I prefer pex because I’ve already invested in the tools and I’m gonna make sure I damn well use them.

Um, you could just leave it like this but I want to run the system the length of the coop, so the chicks get water too, plus I have ducks that like to drink mud or something so my plan was to drill a hole in the side of the main bucket, cover the main bucket in mesh to keep stuff out and dribble an overflow hose through the hole into the piece of gutter that runs along the length of the coop. I didn’t have the guttering though so just used another bucket.

Slightly sub-optimal  but it does the trick. You’ll have to tinker with the adjustable bits so it fills just right and doesn’t overflow but, well, there you go.



The cost of eggs…

So a recent conversation on face-ache made me sit down and work out exactly how much it costs us to keep hens for eggs. How much do you think a farmer should be paid? $15 per hour? $12? Surely you wouldn’t begrudge us minimum wage of $10 per hour? How about $10 a week? Or even $2.25, a WEEK? That is exactly what we’re paid if you buy our eggs for $4.75 per dozen.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Feed cost, $16 per bag.

Sawdust cost, $6 per bag.

99 layer hens, the maximum we are allowed to keep per civic address, eat 4 bags of feed a week and use one bag of sawdust a week to keep their coop clean, dry and disease free.

This adds up to $4056 per year.

We keep our hens all year, even though they don’t lay for us in the winter. A lot of people cull their birds at the end of the season then buy new point of lay hens the following spring. This makes sense financially but falls short on the ethics front.

We can expect 99 hens to lay 38 dozen eggs per week, or 988 dozen over the course of a laying year. Therefore, if as most people do we just take feed and sawdust into consideration if we sold our eggs for;

$4 per dozen we would be $2 in the hole each week.

$4.25 per dozen we would have $2.75 to spend each week.

$4.50 per dozen would net us a whole $7.50 each week.

$4.75 would get us a balmy $12.25 each week and if we were to get

$5 per dozen we would be rolling in it with a whopping $17 each week.

But then I added all of the other incidental costs that don’t immediately spring to mind:

cost of replacing 25% of your egg boxes @ 20c each: $50

cost of replacing 1/3rd of your flock through natural attrition: £320

cost of 1 bag of oyster shell and some poultry spice to keep the birds laying as long as possible: $25

cost of replacing the tote boxes to store the feed in: $30

cost of cool boxes and ice packs to transport the eggs: $70

1/3rd cost of the farm registration: $25

1/3rd cost of the market license: $14

Incidental costs, excluding the coop construction, electricity and fuel used to transport the feed, chickens and eggs comes to $534. Let’s say $10 per week then.

That means our new figures look like this:

$4 per dozen we would see us dive $12 in the hole each week.

$4.25 per dozen we would have us at $7.25 negative each week.

$4.50 per dozen we would down $2.50 each week.

$4.75 would net us a balmy $2.25 each week and if we were to get

$5 per dozen we would be paid $7 a week to get your free range eggs to you.

And we have friends who have to sell their eggs for $3 a dozen. This doesn’t reflect the true or the fair cost of the eggs.

Farmers provide you with good food for your table and paying a reasonable price for this food will ensure that we can keep doing it. There are alternatives, but they’re not pretty.

Pigging pigs.

So I was up at 6am today, half an hour later than normal as I wanted to swing by the co-op in Sydney to buy some product bags just as it opened. I had asked Laura to feed the chickens and the pig when she got up but the temperature had plummeted so being the good husband/father I decided to light the fire.

I did so then poured some sow chow in a bucket and hooked up the nearly finished bag of chicken feed. As I rounded the side of the coop I was surprised that a chicken was out, then I noticed that all the chickens were out. I was sure I had tucked them in last night but maybe I hadn’t. As the hens flocked around me, eagerly pecking up pellets of food as I poured it in a line onto the frozen earth I looked up and saw that the back wall was off the pig ark I built last week. Not only was it off but it was across the two rows of polywire that conveniently stops our pig wandering around the farm, the neighbours garden, the highway…

I caught my breath and vainly marched round to the corral area where we feed her and where she sometimes just chills out. She wasn’t there. I headed back to the ark and rooted around in the mountain of hay, just on the off-chance that she had shrunk.

Then, after slowly rejecting the idea of jumping in the car, heading to Sydney and denying all knowledge I went back in the house, put on a jacket and got the flashlight.

Luckily she hadn’t gone far from home and I stumbled upon her snoozing contentedly on Doug’s doorstep. I couldn’t persuade her to go back to her house though, and spent an hour and a half following her around the field, trying to head her off or at least herd her away from anywhere she could do too much damage.

Eventually I arranged for Laura to take the bread to Sydney market and I went in the house to help her get ready. When I came out she was nowhere to be seen. I walked the perimeter then found her turning sod over on the banks of the brook. There’s no reasoning with a pig so I strung a short length of poywire across the downed fence between the brook and the road and headed back up the house to have a coffee.

Half an hour later I went back with Dusty to check on her. We found her snoozing in a thicket thirty or so feet up from where she was. I gave her an apple, let Dusty get acquainted by sniffing her privates (why do dogs do that?) then headed back up to the house. Surprisingly she followed. All the way back up to the house. But not to her roped off area, even though I had unwound the electric fence and hooked it away out of sight. Instead she headed back up to Doug’s and settled back on his porch. I went back in for a coffee.

Coffee does amazing things – it switches on all of your receptors at once. Most people find that they’re unable to focus and get all scatty – I get ideas, and this one was genius. While she slept  I slung her fence up again, but this time around the porch, giving her just one place to go – down the path, into her corral and back into her designated piggy area.

When she woke up I watch, and waited. She assessed her situation, sniffed at the apples in her corral area, then went back to Doug’s and went to sleep.

I’m still waiting. And still drinking coffee.

Meet Dewy…

…the latest addition to Kingsville Farm.

She’s a registered Berkshire sow, and yes, she is a little thin for a pig. I bought her off a friend who had three Berkshires who all got ill. Her sister sow died right away, this one pulled through but lost a lot of weight and the boar got ill the week before I made it over to pick them up.

She is a little thin, trim I’d say, but she’s putting on weight and seems pretty happy here with her new condo and prime stream-side real estate.

We were hoping she was in-pig but the pregnancy indicator that every sow has is pointing down instead of up which means she’s open, or not pregnant. I’ll be keeping a mood diary for her for the next few weeks to figure out when she’s in heat, then I’ll take her down the road to a cuddle up to a friends boar and hopefully get some piglets for the fall.

I’m also looking out for a couple of porcine playmates for her, preferably tamworths if you happen to have one or two knocking about spare.

Building a rack and sides for a pickup -UPDATE-

Pictures for you in the cold light of day, and it didn’t fall off on my first outing to the Big PH today so there’s a positive there.

As you can see in the following pictures I’ve lashed together a rear gate out of sturdy 2×4’s, held together with screws, carriage bolts and angle brackets, that lifts out of and slots into the same type of 2×4 joist hangers that I used on the front cross member.

Building a rack and sides for a pickup

Alternative title: How to turn a pickup into a farm truck.

Now I don’t know this for certain but I should imagine, or at least it would make a lot of sense if all pickups had the same sized apertures in the box so the topper or cap manufacturers could standardise their doohickeys. Anyways the ones on my Ford Ranger are about 2″ x just under 1.5″. This meant that I had to plane of a smidgen, about 1/16th of an inch from the 2×2 that I planned to use as an upright, as everyone knows that for reasons known only to the folks at the wood mill a 2×4 comes out as a 1 3/4 x 3 something and a 2×2 comes out as a 1.5×1.5.

Anyhoo, once planed and forced to fit I could then attach the three 1″ x 4″ pressure treated lengths, each cut to 84″ long, held in place with a single screw…

…before I drilled through the central juncture of each 1×4 and 2×2, securing them together with a 5/16th carriage bolt, washer, locking washer and nut arrangement as below.

Having repeated the procedure for the opposite side of the truck I could then frame out the header piece that goes across behind the cab and joins the two side sections together. As this bit may be carrying the weight of a load I decided I’d do it out of 2×4.

At this point the dinner bell rang and I went inside to eat some pork-fried rice, and it wasn’t lost on me that I’ve spent the last two days working on stuff to house, contain and transport some pigs and there I was chowing down on the last roast from last years pigs. I honestly don’t know what I’m going to eat over the summer. Chicken maybe, or looking out my window duck springs to mind.

Anyways it was getting dark when I got back to work so the following photos aren’t the best but after screwing the 2×4 uprights to the side doodahs I attached the 2×4 cross members to the uprights with some handy 2×4 hangers that I had lying around from a market stall build that never quite happened. I then used some heavy duty staples to fix some 1/2″ hardware cloth to the cross member as below.

This they call the Window Saver and, having nearly put a fencepost through the back window the day I bought the truck I know that it does work.

I had a few more bits and bobs to do but only managed to put some nifty tool hangers on before bad light stopped play. No, I don’t know quite what I’ll use them for but they look like they’ll be useful, if not just to hook the boys onto as we go hooning around the farm.

So still on the list is to fashion a gate onto the back to stop any animals falling out when I press the go pedal and to frame up and attach a ‘Kingsville Farm’ sign on the sides, just because it wouldn’t be a farm truck without some free farm advertising. Here are a couple of pics that kinds of don’t show it all finished in all of it’s glory;

And I still have yet to decide whether it needs any diagonal bracing… I guess I’ll let the first few drives on our rugged Nova Scotian roads be my guide on that one.

How to build a Pig Ark

This is a fairly run of the mill pig ark – a sturdy, all year round structure for those of us not lucky enough to have access to the half round arcs of galvanised steel or tin.

Last year I made a house for our weaners out of hay bales, some stakes, a couple of pallets and some old tin roofing. This year I’m using nine 8′ lengths of 2×4, three sheets of 8×4 OSB )chipboard to those in the UK), a piece of metal roof apex, although tar roof tiles would do just as well and… some nails, screws and some paint to dress it up a bit. Total cost C$70… about £45.

The first thing I did was to cut two of the 2×4’s down to 3’8″ lengths then made a base frame out of them and another two uncut 2×4’s. Then I screwed a sheet of OSB down, shiny side up, onto it. Base done.

Next I spent ages framing, notching and bracing a simple A structure like so;

Then the wind changed direction and it collapsed. My original plan had been to build another two 8×4 rectangular sections, screw the OSB to them then lash them together to make the A-frame roof. This would have been strong, sturdy and quick, and anyone who knows pigs knows that strength is key to successful housing. So what happened? I went to a friends wedding the night before and was trying to do this through the fog of an incredible hangover. Once it collapsed I remembered what I should have done and set about doing it, which resulted in the following impressive structure:

I whacked the apex on then tore some plywood off the old barn and cut it to size to make the front and back walls before going around and screwing, nailing and gluing everything down, as well as using scrap pieces of wood to seal off any draughty gaps. The one place you do want a draught though is up top, where the roof apex is – this is called ventilation and one thing that is drummed into animal shelter bodgers like me is that ‘draughts kill, ventilation saves’. It gets really hot here in the summer and the pigs like to alternate between the mud wallow and the shade of the pig house. If it was an airtight box we would have pork roasts earlier than we desired.

Finally I strung the old two strands of polywire up, hooked it up to the fence charger and made ‘er go.

Now I may be finished the pig ark, all but painting it that is as it sits out in full view of the road, but I still have to do a little work to the old duck pen, which I’m converting into a mini loader/corral. This way I can just back the pickup up to the door, drop the tailgate and let the pigs into their new pasture. It sounds so easy… I’ll blog about that when it happens and let you all know how it went!

Oh, and yes, it is a little close to our house but this is only their temporary residence – I plan to build some pigloos out back behind the barn shards before high summer comes along, although pigshit tends to stink just as bad a year later as it did when it was fresh and steamy. Oh well, we can always move if it gets too bad…

Tapping into Spring

I may be speaking too soon but, with the official start to spring just a few weeks away and the recent spell of mild weather, including plus four temperatures today, I think that Spring may be on it’s way. Oh, we’re expecting another 10cm of snow tonight but 10cm is nothing when it falls onto the bare yellow grass that surrounds our house at the moment. And that may be where we went wrong on our first foray today – assuming that as there was no snow around our house the going would be easy when we went down the woods to tap into some maple trees.

Our other error was assuming that we would find some maple once we got down there, which we may well have done if we were wearing snowshoes but when you sink down to your knees with each step the going is tortuously slow and physically draining.

So once we had, well, not exactly admitted defeat but maybe admitted temporary setback, we turned around, headed back home and got in the car to tackle the woods from the other side. This also allowed us to stock up on cups of milk and a flask of hot, sweet tea.
Once up on the top road, appropriately named Maple Brook Road, we found three good sized trees that my field guide indicated may be maples. I checked that they had the fissured grey bark on the trunks, reddish-brown newgrowth and that the buds formed opposite each other. Then I selected a spot about five foot above a nice thick root, drilled a hole with a #14 woodbit and tasted the sap – sweet, which is good enough for me.
I’ll let the photos explain the rest of the story.

Makin’ Bacon, part 3

Okay so I didn’t mean to do a part three but there was always going to be one – the tasting.

For starters let me clarify that we didn’t want to eat this today – the plan was to smoke it for a steady three days to get a feel for that particular black art, but our daughter Rose was born this morning and we needed a celebration meal when we got back home.

My initial observations are that despite only being smoked for about 18 hours there was LOADS of smokey flavour, probably just about bang on for my tastes, but there was a little too much salt for everyday eating. The bacon was real bacony… I mean real PROPER bacony, which was ace, but I think I’ll soak the remaining flitches in water for three hours prior to drying and smoking them just to try and keep my blood pressure about the simmering level.

To sum up an experience that was not unsuccessful, in that I will learn from it and become a better purveyor of porky goodness hence in rounding a success. Add punctuation to make that make sense. At the end of the day I ate bacon we made ourselves, along with my own bread fried in the bacon juice, our own sausages and eggs from our free range chickens. I may have a heart attack in forty-five minutes time but damn, I’ll die happy.