Category Archives: Animals

Our adventures with small farm animals.

A Rattlesnake in the Garage

I went out to the garage the other day to look for a tool I had thrown on the pile that has been building since we moved in.  As I lifted an old blanket I saw a small snake coiled up just below my hand.  As afraid of snakes as I am, I surprised myself by not jumping, starting, or even elevating my heart-rate.  Looking at it, it wasn’t totally clear what kind of snake it was, but I decided to pick up a shovel and take care of it either way.

The funny thing about snakes is that when they’re balled up in a tight coil, it’s hard to get to the neck.  When I stabbed it with the blade of the shovel, I missed the neck and caught it right in the middle.  It didn’t like that at all!  It’s reaction left me with little doubt as to what kind of snake it was.  It’s tail (with two small buttons for a rattle) started vibrating furiously, and it’s head started striking repeatedly at the shovel.  Looking at it after I managed to cut the head off, it was obviously a diamond back rattlesnake hatched this spring.

Without thinking about it, I chucked the dead snake over the fence into the chicken yard, and they promptly demolished the carcass, so I don’t have any pictures, but if you grew up where I did, you can use your memory and a little imagination to visualize what it must have looked like.

If you are wondering why on earth a rattlesnake would take up residence in my garage, it might help to know that we had a serious problem with mice in the garage this winter.  It would seem the snake decided to come in to help us thin the herd.  The day after this encounter, we started our adventures looking for a barn cat to keep the mice at bay.  I don’t really like cats, but if it comes down to snakes or cats I’ll take a cat any day, but that doesn’t really say much.

The only other aspect of this tale that is somewhat worrying is Michael’s love for Uncle Mike’s corn snake.  Michael loves to hold and pet Slinkey every time we go over to Uncle Mike’s, and as a result doesn’t seem to have any natural fear of snakes.  We’ve had to reinforce that Uncle Mike’s pet snake is the only good snake, and that he shouldn’t mess with any he finds closer to home.  I hope he understands.  It’d suck to have him learn the hard way that not all snakes like people.  There is more than one breed of poisonous serpent in the area, and I don’t want him to molest any of them.

The Chicken Coop

 

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I had thought I had taken pictures of the chicken coop while I was building it.  True to form, I got busy and forgot.  So… I guess you get to settle with a picture of Michael doin’ what he spends a lot of time doing: Playing with chickens.

Liz decided she wanted a lot of fresh eggs, which translated into an order of 40 chicks (straight run, so about half would end up in the stew pot as young roosters).  The only problem is that you can’t use a standard back-yard chicken coop for those kinds of numbers.  To make things worse, Liz and the kids have grand plans to get even more chicks and sell eggs since babysitting gigs are hard to come by when there aren’t many neighbors.   I settled on a 8X12 shed framed on 24″ centers with a simple corrugated steel roof.  My thought at the time was that if the chickens didn’t work out, I’d still have a usable shed.

Liz originally had grand plans of moving the chicken coop around the yard to spread the manure and lighten the wear and tear on the “lawn,”  so I built it on “skids” with the hope I could drag it around with the tractor.  The only problem I had with that plan, is that the completed coop weighed so much it acted like a road-grater as I pulled it to it’s final resting spot.  In the end I decided we would just have a “chicken yard” for the birds, and leave the coop where it was.

I made the roosts by cutting the corners off of 5 2×2 firring strips with the table saw blade set for 45 degree angle and setting them into 2 2x4x8s notched about every 18 inches, essentially making an 8 foot wide ladder and leaning it up against the wall at about a 45 degree angle.

In one corner of the coop I built a 2’x6′ “isolation room” that we could use as a brooder, and in another I built a bank of 12 1 cubic-foot nest boxes.  Given the way the birds willingly cram onto the roosts, and the internet-derived recommendations for nest boxes and roosts, we should be able to support up to about 45 layers.

The last thing we did was run power out to the coop so we could plug heat-lamps in when it got cold or when we had chicks in the brooder.  That turned out to be almost as expensive as building the coop, but well worth it in the end.

One thing I learned a long time ago is that if you are going to dig a trench and put in conduit, cram as much into the trench as you can afford so you don’t have to dig it again.  Since I had to run pipe as it was, I decided to run 2-20A circuits (one for the coop, and one for a future small barn/animal shed) and pull water out to the corner of the chicken yard so we wouldn’t have to drag buckets from the house when it was below freezing outside.  IMG_7681It’s turned out to be a real blessing to have the freeze-proof hydrant in the chicken yard, and we’ve already used the heat-lamps since Liz and a friend decided to split an order of cornish-rock meat chickens and we had to have a place to put them.   The water and electricity will come in handy when we get the barn built too.