This is yesterday’s blogs. Just before dark, I wrapped up most of my plans for the The Little Shed that Could…be a Seedery, Hatchery, Broodery, Wormery, Mushroomery, and Fermentarium and planned to share the details. But some friends dropped by and before I knew it, it was time for bed.
I made a few modifications from my original sketch-up for my multi-purpose shed after realizing the existing had a nice slope (from settling) that I could use as my worm bed drain. In my last post on the progress, How to Make a Mess into a Miracle, I wrote about putting down a plywood subfloor where the worm bed/broodery is. The existing outer walls of the shed, insulated with feed bags and old blankets provide three sides of the brooder. For the fourth side of the brooder, I used a couple of stud 2 x 4’s to make a frame on the down-slope side. I left about a inch gap between the plywood and the 2 x 4’s to create a natural channel for the worm casting juices to flow into.
Then I attached whatever scrap wood we had, cut to 23″, to make a kind of artful side wall to enclose the brooder. For bigger projects we seem to make a lot of cuts to 6′ in size, which leaves me a lot of 2′ ends. So I make a habit using those kind of like fence slats whenever I can to avoid buying extra materials. I also love the way it looks. Even plywood becomes interesting when mixed and matched with thicker boards and different patinas.
I covered the channel with empty wax-laminated (fancy) feed bags to increase the flow speed. Then, I used a 1.5″ paddle bit to drill a drain at the lowest point in the channel. I had bought an $8 drain kit to use, but when I realized how snugly my 1.5″ elbow pipe fit in the hole, I decided not to use it. Instead I just covered the drain hole with wire mess. (I had the mesh from other projects and the elbow pipe from an old sink, so this solution was free.)
The wax-laminated feed bags made fluid flow so smoothly that I decided to put a layer all around the worm zone, over the more breathable bags I had installed a couple days before. I still have plenty of ventilation, so I don’t think this will create any issues.
Then it was time to prepare the worm bed. I laid down about 6″ of straw, covered that with several buckets of saved kitchen scraps, and topped that off with half-decomposed straw and goat manure. I got about three pounds of red wriggler worms from my main worm bed in the garden, and spread them over the new bed. I covered the worms with a few more inches of straw. I watered the entire bed and ran outside the shed to watch with glee as my makeshift drain dribbled out the excess water exactly how I hoped it would.
Next up, I added a couple 2 x 4’s to close up some gaps in the existing shelving. Then I stapled chicken wire to one of the 2 x 4 to keep the chicks and ducklings in. I originally planned to make a more elaborate hinged door to the brooder. But it hit me that since the shed is already predator proof, all I needed to do was keep chicks and ducklings in. So instead, I just put in a couple screw hooks to hold the wire down when closed and propped up when open for cleaning, feeding, handling, etc. I also lined the inside front of my new knee wall with silver insulation that I had from left over from other projects. This reflects back some more heat from the heat lamp into the brooder.
My dear friend Anita from Root Hog Farm came by to see my modified shed and suggested I use smaller mesh to enclose the chicks since we do have field mice around and even though we’ve never seen a rat around here, if one showed up, it might be able to squeeze through small openings in the shed. Since more pest and predator protection is always a great idea when raising chicks and ducklings, I am going to take her advice before my first hatchlings are ready 28-35 days from now. (Pekins have a 28 day incubation and Muscovy have 35 days, so since I am hatching Muscovy/Pekin crosses for the first time – I’m not quite sure how long it will take to hatch this round.)
I had also originally imagined some complicated rigging to make my grow light swing out of the way on a hinged arm. However, after researching grow lights I found out that basic fixtures were just a few dollars cheaper than grow lights on adjustable stands. So I bought a light with an adjustable pulley system on a stand. Instead of using the legs of the stand, I used a couple blocks of scrap wood and screws and affixed the light to my built in shelving unit. If I need to move the lamp, I can use the pulley to raise it out of my way. However, I shouldn’t need to move it much since the lamp is only blocking pet carriers that we only use once in a great while.
I set-up my two incubators on the top shelf just above both the grow light and the heat lamp, so that area stays pretty warm even on cold, windy nights. The cords look messy in the photo, but they are actually neatly folded and held in place with a clamp so they are out of the way. This whole operation takes six cords – one for each incubator and each egg turner, one for the grow light, and one for the heat lamp.
So all in, how much was I able to fit in my 8′ x 8′ shed? I managed to get almost everything that came out of the shed in the first place to fit back inside. Only the five gallon buckets went elsewhere. I even ended up with room for over a thousand pounds of animal feed if I need to store it there. My brooder is 4′ x 8′ which is big enough for up to 50 ducklings at a time. I have to stand on top of the brooder to reach my incubators, but I only need to do that once every two days to add water to the humidity trays and it’s quite easy to do. In my grow area, I can fit either 3 plug trays (a total of 1200 seedlings at a time) or eight fodder trays. When I water the seed trays it filters down through the chicken wire to the straw below. With fresh straw, the water dries in about twenty minutes thanks to the lamps, so it won’t be a wet mess when I am hatching chickens. And ducklings will have a party every time I water when they are in the brooder.
As for the fermentarium, we currently have an old, converted refrigerated in use in our shipping container to ferment our salamis and stuff. I realized it can double as a fermentation chamber for other stuff too. I am going to ask an electrician friend to make sure the outlet in the shed can support everything I have running on in there and plus a refrigerator. If he says yes, then I’ll move that into this space so we can use our shipping container for other things. Also, once I start mushrooms again, I’ll use some spare parts from an old bunk bed set to make rafters for hanging the grow bags. So, I am just getting back to it now while I have lunch.
Finally, one of our overriding goals around the homestead is to make things charming and help integrate them into our edible focused landscape. So, I repainted the door. And I used some scrap wood and a wheelbarrow of compost to make a raised bed just in front of the shed. I used ladders from that old bunk bed I mentioned to make a trellis so I can plant some scarlet runner beans up that wall in spring.
This project took about 12 hours total including starting my inaugural round of ducklings and seeds. I spent about $11 on lumber and $66 on a grow light.