January 16, 2012

Surveying Our Land

On our journey to self sufficiency we will need to be able to provide food for our family. We already have a garden in place that will provide us with fruits and vegetables but a healthy diet also requires protein. By acquiring the goat and chickens we may enjoy the bounties of their produce such as fresh eggs, poultry meat, fresh goat milk, and if needed, goat meat. Before we start, we will go over what essentials need to be in place.

First, we will need to consider how much space will be needed. We are currently sitting on an acre lot. That is plenty for the chickens, but what about a goat? In a lot of material I have read the more land you have to offer the better.  Goats can do just fine in small spaces but when you offer a larger space to graze not only does it help the pocket book but it helps keep your animals healthier. Goats are very susceptible to internal parasites, particularly to the stomach worm (barber pole worm) that causes anemia and death. Goats will eat many types of nutritious plant materials, including grasses. They always find and eat the newest and most tender growth which is typically where the worms are, closest to the ground. The best way to overcome that obstacle is to A: create a rotational pasture, B: provide enough substitute (i.e. hay) so that the single pasture is not over grazed, or C: provide a single pasture and take to goat for walks? Because we do not have enough land for a rotational pasture we more than likely will offer a little of both B and C.  During the winter when there is less tender plant choice we will be offering more hay. Then during the spring, summer, and fall we will take the goat for walks around the rest of the back yard. The walks not only help with overgrazing but it also allows the goat to become more familiar with its handlers which in hand will help smooth the milking process.  
Next, we will now focus on their housing. There are many different styles of chicken coops.  If you live inside a city and are limited on space, one of the simplest and smallest coops to build is an A-frame coop. The A-frame coop consists of a few 2x4s and some chicken wire and could be built within a day. This type of housing is meant for a small number of birds, so please do not try to cram 20 birds into one of these. Two or three is plenty.
There are many sites online you can visit to get a few more ideas, however, they can cost something to download the blueprints. If you are like me, you could just head over to your local library and check out a few books for free. 
When putting together a chicken coop there are a few basic things that it needs to have. There needs to be a perch, nesting box, and at least 2 square feet of floor space per bird. It doesn’t need to be pretty, just functional. Because we are looking at getting around a dozen birds we will need around a 24 square foot coop. You can add a run to the list but it is not entirely necessary. I say that because if you allow the birds to have free range when you are home, it is serving the same purpose.
To build our coop, Lenny had found a gentleman who was getting rid of old decking. Free treated wood!!! I believe the pile he picked up consisted primarily of 2x4s and 2x6s, so will end up needing to invest in a few 4x4s. We have also been fortunate to have an ink company down the road that likes to sit out free wood pallets (skids) once a week for the taking. You just have to be the first one to pick them up.
Attached to the coop we will have the goat house. Again it doesn’t have to be pretty just functional.  With the materials we have, I found at http://www.ehow.com/how_4841991_build-goat-house-wood-pallets.html  how to make the house out of pallets.  Our goat house will be a little larger because it will offer enough room for milking equipment as well as housing for the goat. More information and step by step process will be provided in the spring. The information above just gives you the basic idea of what we are planning.
For more information or any suggestions feel free to e-mail me at thehomestaedjones@yahoo.com .
Photo Provided by: www.chickencoopsource.com

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