Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bedding the animals

 I still can't get over the fact that it is mid February and it feels like spring! Although we do have snow this morning, with 40's in the forecast it is unlikely to stay around too long. The chickens sure have been happy, they hate walking in snow- in fact if there is snow on the ground they wont leave the coop! But who can blame them, I don't care to walk out in the snow barefoot either.

Every week I bed the animals. This means I add straw, or hay in the case of the chickens, to their sleeping quarters. There are two ways farmers bed- they either clean out old bedding and add fresh or they do what we do and add fresh on top of the old. This is known as the deep bedding method. There are lots of opinions out there as to which is better and why. We started this when we had the big farm, and before Chuck would add new bedding he tossed corn on the old. In the spring we put the piglet in and they turned up the bedding looking for the fermenting corn.

With only 4 goats there is not as much of a "mess" as there was with cows, but I still like them to have a fresh spot to lay down. The theory behind the deep bedding it that as the manure breaks down, or composts, it releases heat which in the winter time is what you are trying to provide. Here you can see that part of the lean-to is partially enclosed and it is insulated. This way the goats have a protected place to go on those cold, cold nights. And if we need to we can lock them in. The lean-to faces south that way the goats get the nice warm sun during the day- and boy do they love that!

In the protected part of the lean-to before I started putting bedding
down I put a pallet topped with a board down. This elevated them off the cold ground, then I loaded the area up with straw. I would say at this point the goats are probably a couple feet off the ground.

Goats are notorious hay wasters, they grab a mouthful of hay then they look around dropping hay here and there. Kind of like my kids do when they eat at the dinner table. The dogs love the kids, but since the dogs don't like hay I had to figure something else out. I decided to take the hay the goats didn't eat and put it in the coop for chicken bedding. The chickens love going through the hay looking for seed heads or whatever else they can find. The hay heats up nicely in our unheated coop, in the mornings when I open it up I can smell warm hay- love that smell!

I used the same deep bedding method with the coop. Then once or twice a year I clean it out and add it to the compost pile. It is a win-win all around. I don't spend every weekend cleaning and bedding, the composting manure adds heat to the sleeping areas for my livestock, and I get great compost to use on my garden. Could not be easier!

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