Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Barn Addition Is Complete

Back in September Larry and I made the decision to build on to the barn that he had constructed on his own back in 2012.  It was a 20x24 barn (not counting the over hangs).  With the addition it is now a 20x64.  When breeding poultry it takes an unimaginable amount of space to do it correctly.

Just as he got the roof on the addition,  we stood back and looked at it and said let's go bigger, the photo on the left is at the point when we decided to go bigger.
We aren't getting any younger, might as well do it now while we can.
Larry was able to put all the trusses up by himself with a homemade crane and a come-along.

Our nephew Kyle came down from Alaska for a few days and was a tremendous help to Larry.  They were able to get all the electrical and lights fixtures hung and all the wood siding hung so that the barn was completely enclosed.

Larry now has all the pens on the inside up and ready for poultry, he's cutting doors so that each breed has access to the outdoors.  Once he's finished constructing doors they will be automated to open and shut at dawn and dusk.

Here's a peek inside the barn, this is the Coronation Sussex pen.  Bigger breeds are allowed bigger space.  As you can see the Coronation love to eat.

Larry is making a mechanism that opens and closes all the doors.
In this photo he is connecting a short round shaft inside of square metal tubing.  This round shaft will ride on a bracket that holds up the length of the entire drive shaft.  There is a round shaft inserted between two square tubing's every eight foot.   The J shaped brackets support the drive shaft at the round bar connections of the entire mechanism.

A little grinding here and there and everything fits together smoothly.  This is from a woman's point of view :)

That shaft runs 64 ft and opens 11 doors on this side of the barn.
I'm also suppose to tell you what a miracle this contraption is, that not just any ole Joe could design and craft this automatic system.  Well done Larry, well done!  He was needing a pat on the back.

This is the gear motor that opens the doors.  It hangs at the back of the barn under the eves so that its out of the weather.  This motor runs cables that pull on arms that move the shafts on both sides of the barns, opening and closing all doors at the same time.  The use of a gear motor allows for slow, smooth opening and closing of the doors.

The cables from the gear motor are kept snug by pulleys.  These pulleys also allow for pulling on the drive shaft arms at the correct angle.  Larry has found that using garage door spring pulleys work best.  They have a deep grove that keep the cable from falling off the pulleys.

This is the brain of the operation.  Larry had to implant part of himself inside of this small computer.  This box contains a PLC (programmable Logic Controller).  This device controls the lights and the automatic door operation.   The PLC is programmed to open and close the doors at a specific time after daylight and after dusk.  This time changes automatically everyday keeping our birds safe from night time predators.  It also allows us to control the hours of light the chickens get each day.

Now that the doors are operating, the pens are up and the vents are open its time to cover the pens in netting.  We cover all pens so that no chicken has the opportunity to jump over and get into the wrong pen and it also keeps them safe from hawks.

That's a lot of netting!  We hope you enjoyed this blog about our expansion of the barn.  It's been a big project and Larry has done a great job!  
We're still taking day old chick and started young pullet orders.  If you would like to check out all the different breeds that we offer just head over to the website http://chickenscratchpoultry.com/
If you think you might be interested in advertising your business on our blog just clink the advertise button on the left side of the page for more information.
Hope you have a great day!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Bee Hive Spring Preparation

Here at Chicken Scratch Poultry we're fairly new to the world of bees and all they have to offer.  I will never claim to know what I'm doing when it comes to bees because I'm learning as I go along.  I welcome any and all information for you more experienced bee keepers at anytime.
We are quickly coming up on our third spring with our hives.  If you have been fallowing along on the blog you might remember last spring I had two hives and they both swarmed, I was able to catch both swarms and now have four hives.  My goal this spring is to keep my four hives from swarming.  In preparation for that we are opening our boxes early to take a look around and make sure the bees have plenty of room for expansion.  I recently talked with a very knowledgeable bee keeper
named Mary Celley, she has a business called the Bee Charmer, she gave me some very good advice on keeping the bees from swarming.  What we're doing today in all reality probably needed to be done last fall.  
We are experiencing a warmer than usual February in our area.  Last week we had temps in the 60's and knew that it was a good time to open the boxes and take a look around.  It needs to be at least 40 degrees to open your boxes.
What we immediately seen in our bottom brood box is that the bees had about four empty frames that they have never used.  There was no comb on any of those four frames.  So we took those empty frames and moved those up into the next super and moved some full honey frames down. We staggered the brood frames with honey
frames and just mixed them up a bit.
All four hives looked the same in the brood box with about three to four frames never being touched.  In the box to your left we moved the untouched frames to the middle and brood frames to the outside.
Since we've had such a mild winter the bees have used very little of their food storage but we still have  February to make it through also.  They look in good shape.

The next really important move that we made was to take the bottom brood box off of the stand, put the full honey super box on the stand as the bottom box and stacked the bottom brood box on top.  So we swapped the boxes around.  Hope that makes since.  It's important to never keep a full box of honey on top of your bees.  It tells them they are out of space.  This has finally made since to me this year and I'll try to explain what I'm talking about.  This has been very confusing to me all along and I think I've finally got it!

I was always of the assumption that once the bees filled a box with honey you would just stack another box on top of that and they would move on up, past the full box into the empty one and fill it up.  WRONG!  Once the box is full of honey the bees say we are out of space lets move and so they swarm.
So, once the bees have a box full of honey capped, take that box, put another empty box on, if you aren't ready to process that honey you can stack it on top of the empty box.  It's a good idea to go ahead and take off the full box, you can even freeze it at that time if your not ready to work it.
Thank you Mary for your good advise, I sure wish I would have known this last fall so I could have made the box swap at that time.  Hopefully I've done them some good.  There is a good chance that since they had the full box of honey on top of them last fall and all winter, they might have all ready made the decision to swarm and nothing at this point can change their little minds.
Well That's the Buzzzz on Bees.
Hope this is helpful!