Chickens & the Garden

For years I have planned on moving to a location more amenable to gardening and with enough space for some critters.   This year (2012), changes with employment have made me realize that I’ll be here for some years to come.  That said, I’ve decided to move forward with a couple of projects I have wanted to do for years, an aquaponics garden and raising a few chickens.  If I only had a little more land, I would add a few goats to the zoo.  I’ll have to save that one for where ever we move to.

My wife is sure I have lost it…I’m not so sure she isn’t right…








Links to the photo galleries:
Coop Gallery

Chick Gallery

New Barred Rock Chicks For the Flock

Well, we have had our little flock of chickens for two years now and it has been really a great experience.  We love the fresh eggs, but most of all really enjoy the chickens and their crazy personalities.   My wife loves to give them snacks.   Just walking to the door of the house gets them excited and they come running to see what treat she will have for them.   She has even taken to cooking for them.

We have really been amazed how easy it is to keep chickens.  The maintenance is next to nothing; in fact it is really far less than caring for our dog.  With that said, I decided to add a few chicks to the flock.   I had hopped to add a little variety by getting some Rhode Island Reds or Red or Black Sex Links, but the large feed stores have not received anything yet.  I stopped by an old local Tack store which had some Barred Rock chicks.  I decided since ours have been so good, I would go ahead and get three more.  The main reason I wanted some variety was so I could tell them apart.  Two of our existing girls look so much alike we can’t tell them apart.  Maybe we will get some bands to help identify them.

The new chicks were about 2 weeks old when I picked them up Friday, April 18, 2014 so they were hatched about the first week of April.   I’ve got them outside in the coop in a section I screened off so the other chickens can see them but not harass them.   The first night, they really didn’t know what to make of the little chicks and were quite chatty for a few hours after roosting for the night.  After that first night, they haven’t really seemed to pay any attention to the new chicks.

Here are some pictures of the new ones:




It already feels like Spring

Work has been all consuming, leaving me little to no time to do anything around the house and yard.  I have taken advantage of the longer days and warmth recently to clean up the yard and get the garden going again.

With the nice weather here, our chickens have started laying again this week which we are really excited about.  The fresh eggs are so much better than even the expensive organic ones from WholeFoods.

I took a minute today when the sun was partially out and snapped a few pictures of the garden.   This is about a week after planting.

I planted a bunch of purple and white onions this year.



Lettuce on the right, strawberry center and heirloom tomato left

Chinese cabbage

This Swiss Chard is from last year — still going strong

Yellow Corn

Broccoli & Kale

Sugar Snap Peas


Here are a couple of the girls in their favorite dust-bath spot.  The other is in the nesting box ready to lay an egg.

New Pictures

There are lots of tomatoes on the vines, but something is eating them before they ripen.   I haven’t found a worm yet, but something is out there.   The vines were everywhere, so yesterday I hung some fencing as a trellis and tied the tomato plants and cucumbers to them.   I found a large cucumber already which was totally hidden before I began moving everything around.

This past week when it was 115°+ for two days, was too much for one of my poor chickens.   The other 3 seem to be doing quite well though.   The fish in the aquaponics pond are really growing.  Some are close to 3″ now, nearly 3x the size of what they were when I first got them.

My neighbor gave me this great old lantern and ironworks which I hung in my yard.


The hidden cucumber

The pepper plants are taking off too now!

Swiss Chard



Aquaponics Garden Growing Wild

Just a quick post showing the growth in the aquaponics garden since the fish were added.  Things took off quickly once the water cycled and the fish began to grow.
The fingerlings are now a little over 2″ in size, roughly double what they were when I first received them.

Have a look at the plants — the tomatoes, squash, and cucumber plants are running everywhere.  In the back you can see my lettuce has gotten so big, it is going to seed.  In the middle of the growth is a cilantro plant which also has gone to seed.   I’m interested to see if anything will sprout on its own.

Heirloom Tomatoes



Cherry Tomatoes







Swiss Chard



Lettuce Going to Seed





Vines Going Everywhere






So far, I’ve only eaten lettuce and strawberries from the garden.  Soon, I expect we will have lots of tomatoes, squash and cucumbers though.  I’m looking forward to the summer harvest.


Its done! 1 Year later

It was one year ago when I began a new project. I was going to build a chicken coop and start a little back yard flock. The endeavor quickly grew to much more than just a coop, adding an aquaponics garden and ultimately, re-landscaping the entire back yard.  I really got sucked in by those backyard chickens.

I was lucky to have  a friend who helped with the landscape design and more so, the labor!



This is what it looks like now that it is all done






The fish have been in the tank for 2 days now.

Adding Fish to the Aquaponics System

Our system has been cycling with seaweed extract for the past few weeks.   Over that time, the pH has come down to 7 which is good.  Today the fish arrived.  I was surprised to find the pH for the bag water at 7.8.   Over the day, I gradually added tank water to the bag, slowly matching the pH.

I’ve been cycling my system for 10 days more than what is on the chart below.  I’ve been surprised that it never really cycled — no real rise in Nitrite and Nitrate never increased at all.


Here is what it looked like when I opened the shipping box.


It’s hard to tell, but there are 50 or more in that bag.  They are about 1″ long right now.

Here is a clearer shot once I removed the outer bag.




Floating the bag in the aquaponics tank

Have a look at how the heirloom tomatoes and lettuce are doing.


Tending to the Garden

It has been a wonderful year weather wise here in the Vegas valley.   Temperatures are still moderate, making it nice when working out in the yard.
I got up early to get chores done today; and while I was out I picked up some trellises for my plants which are in the back corner of the yard.




Have a look at how the aquaponics garden is doing 3 weeks after I had to remove all the plants and empty it.   All but 2 Armenian cucumber plants made it, and those two were always in trouble.   I picked up another cucumber plant this morning which I hope will do much better.



Fish are on order.  I expect they will arrive next Thursday.  I can’t wait to see how things change once the fish are in the system.
All that is left is to add the rock which will give a finished look to the ground.   I plan on putting in a redish/brown crushed granite.


Couldn’t pass a shot of the girls waiting by the door of the run.


Washing Rock

Since I had to empty out the garden bed, I took advantage of the opportunity and washed all the rock.   Washing rock one or two buckets at a time was a terribly long process.  I cleaned two and a half tons of rock on my patio table like this.  Each table load was about one and a half buckets of rock.



You can see how dirty the rock was.




I spent several days washing rock like this.


I finally got all the rock done and back in the planter.  Once I got the cycling working, the plants were moved back in.  I hope they do ok.  They were definitely stressed.  Most of the plants were wilted.   I also got a different liquid seaweed.  This one seemed much better.  It really smells like the ocean and seaweed.