September 4, 2019

Chicken Yard Project: New Compost Bins

The chicken yard was Dan's August project, but it was delayed because...

... we had car trouble. It clanked terribly every time we started it or turned it off, sounding like something was fixin' to fall off. After checking all the connecting rod bearings, Dan finally figured out that the bolts on the flywheel were loose. He tightened them up and the clanking stopped. (Whew.)

The chicken yard project list had three subgoals:
  • compost bins
  • grazing beds
  • a duck house
Materials is always a first step, and Dan wanted to use what we had available. That meant cutting his lumber from an old pine tree he cut down last spring.

Last spring's felled pine tree cut into 8-foot sections and ready to mill.

Those logs became 4x4s, 2x4s, and boards.

He treats lumber for projects like this with old motor oil. He saves it whenever he changes the oil in a vehicle. He thins it with a little gasoline and either soaks the ends of posts or paints boards with it. The gasoline evaporates and the soaked in oil preserves the wood.

Posts soaking in spent motor oil.

I missed getting photos of building the compost bin, because I was tied to a kitchen filled with pears, apples, figs, elderberries, cowpeas, tomatoes and milk for cheesemaking. But I can show you the results.

All home-milled lumber.

We've always had a three bin system, but never managed to use all three bins, so we opted to try two bins. The boards for the shorter front wall are removable, making it easy to get a wheelbarrow in there for dumping or filling.

The back of the compost bin.

We moved the location too. The new bin backs up to the tractor path between the chicken yard and the workshop. The poultry yard has both a front and back gate, so this is a more convenient.

What did the chickens think?

"No way we're going in there."

They weren't convinced, even after Dan moved the compost from the old bins to the new. When I brought them the canning scraps they recognized the compost bucket and came running. I made a great show of dumping it into the new bin, but when I stepped back they just stood there looking at me. Not one chicken ran to gobble down my offerings. Thinking I was standing too close, I moved away. But instead of jumping into the new bin, they ran to the old and started scratching around in it. They knew I'd brought goodies and ran to where the goodies were supposed to be! I had toss several handfuls of scratch into the new bins before they caught on.

"Oh yeah! Food!"

The second item on the project list was to make more grazing beds. I'll show you those next time.


Living Alone in Your 60's said...

What a clever hubby you have. The chicks look quite at home.

Mama Pea said...

Good to see your chickens stopped being chicken (haha) and caught on. Ours do a wonderful job of scratching, digging and turning over our compost bins . . . even ones that are currently so high they have to take a running leap (well, they fly up, actually) to access them.

Cockeyed Jo said...

We never manage to us our three bin system either. We opted for several two bin systems. One for the chicken coop, one by the garden area, and the last one down in the orchard. Since our chickens are free range during most of the year, they have no problem getting the goodies out of each one.

I wish we had a way to mill our wood. First we need a wood splitter.

Ed said...

Two words, bird brains!

Goatldi said...

Bawahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh good one Mama Pea!

Goatldi said...


What a timely post for me! I am figuring out those items you are dealing with. Except for the flywheel bolts 🙏 So I will be comparing solutions. My problem is I want to do it all NOW.

Leigh said...

Frugal, now that they know where they compost is, the chickens are happy indeed! lol

Mama Pea, chickens do love compost, don't they? Ours have pretty much turned their beaks up at layer pellets and only pick out the bits they like from the scratch. I'd love to see a video of yours doing the flying leap!

Jo, several bins in different locations is a good idea.

You will love having a log splitter! It's made such a difference in the workload. So much faster than splitting by hand!

Ed, LOL, good one.

Goatldi, well, with a wonderful new place like yours, I can see how you'd be pulled in so many different directions! I hope you find the right solution. Dan usually finds answers on YouTube. :)

Rain said...

Smart chickens lol! That's a great compost bin Leigh! And how nice that Dan can figure out a rattling in the gosh I wish I had that knowledge!

Lady Locust said...

Your compost bin(s) looks great. Also, glad the pickup was an inexpensive fix! I don't like auto problems.

Quinn said...

Are you soaking just the butts of lumber that will be buried, like the ends of corner posts or fence posts? I'm trying to decide what to use to build my next Very Raised Bed this year. I'm already picking through the pile of odds and ends from the big construction project - was it only a year ago?? - to make some shelter for the new hens and Captain Hastings, since I'd rather not have them in the rafters of the goat barn every night, doing what birds do. My barn fan is currently covered in clumps of dried rooster poop, because he sleeps right above it when it's not turned on. Yuck! I can't clean it til I take it down before winter - right now I still need it on muggy days.

Leigh said...

Thanks Rain! I would have no idea about the car either. Actually, it stumped Dan as well, but he found the answer on YouTube :)

Lady Locust, yes, it was a relief that the car fix was so simple (after all the trouble shooting!)

Quinn, yes, although the compost bin is free standing. I agree about chickens in the barn! Ours used to frequent it when they were pastured, but I always caught them and put them back in the coop at night. Hopefully, you can scavenge enough lumber for a nice little chicken coop.

Retired Knitter said...

hysterical!!!! Your chickens lightened my day!!!

Leigh said...

RT, chickens are a hoot! They have given us hours of entertainment. It's funny how they learn things. A routine really helps manage them, until it's time to change the routine!

Cozy Thyme Cottage said...

Hi Leigh, Glad your chickens caught on! Love the compost bin. I don't have one in my little courtyard but get free from the city compost so lucky there. Glad hubby could fix your car! Nancy

wyomingheart said...

Hello Leigh! I love utube !!! They can always help me fix what’s broke or learn something new! We have been scrambling here on the ridge, but I got a second to catch up, and really happy to see those compost bins! Have an awesome rest of your week!

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

I will be interested to hear how the two bin system works. I have a single bin system, which I am not overly fond of at the moment.

Leigh said...

Nancy, how wonderful that you can get compost from the city! Makes it nice if you can't make it on your own.

Wyomingheart! So glad to hear from you! I know how it is when life is busy. Yes, youtube is a fantastic resource, isn't it?

TB, we've tried the one bin method too, but I like this better. One for adding to and one for taking from. The third one used to be in between for working, but we never managed to keep all three bins full after I stopped using used barn straw in them. The chickens really help. It decomposes much more quickly with their input. :)

Goatldi said...

Ahh YouTube my new best friend since I have been widowed.

Leigh said...

Goatldi, I relied on it a lot when Dan was over the road. Learn lots of interesting things while doing handwork. So much better than mindless TV.

The Wykeham Observer said...

I need to organize my compost. I have multiple huge compost heaps, but they aren't well-organized. I just poke my way through them finding the oldest product, and so-far-so-good, but it would be nice to have a system that I can rely on that isn't so helter-skelter. It's almost barbaric!

Leigh said...

Phil, we've tried almost every method of compost that exists and have to say that a few bins and chickens has been the best so far! There never seems to be enough, though. I'd like to cover our entire five acres in about six inches of it at least once a year.

Susan said...

That is such a brilliant idea! I wish I would have thought of it when I built my compost bins - chickens are so helpful. Isn't it funny how anything new in the chicken yard could mean the end of the world?

Renee Nefe said...

I have to agree that Youtube can be really can be unhelpful as well though. lol. Recently I saw on Nextdoor that a "neighbor" was looking for an experienced seamstress to hem 3 curtain panels and turn the 4th into a bed skirt for a crib. I had never made a bed skirt, so I looked it up...turns out it was just as easy I supposed. I told her that I could do the job...but of course she hasn't responded. Apparently I was only supposed to recommend someone else. :p ah well...her loss. She will probably pay out the nose for someone one "experienced" when she could have had me. And now I know how to make a bed skirt. win win.
When I was a kid our neighbors had chickens and they did a great job of turning all the scraps into fertilizer. I don't know that my neighbors ever took advantage of it though as they weren't the gardening sort. I bet my mother would have loved it for our garden, but we weren't on the best of terms with them as they didn't like that our Shetland Sheep dogs kept trying to round up their chickens...they swore that our dogs were trying to eat their chickens...even when some flew over the fence and the dogs rounded them up.

Chris said...

Between my husband and I, we've never been good with fixing cars, lol. But then Dan had a career involving trucks, so would know his way around vehicles. Glad it was a small fix, instead of a costly repair. Replacing parts, can get expensive.

It was funny, reading about the chickens reaction to the new bins. Then seeing them inside it. Gotta love those feathery vultures, that will eat almost anything, lol. I hope it all works out, as you plan.

Leigh said...

Susan, considering how many versions of compost bins we've been through, I'm hoping this one is it!

Renee, I didn't know you could do that on YouTube! I just learned something. I agree, her loss! Interesting about the Shetland sheep dogs. Maybe that's what I need. Not for my chickens but for my goats!

Chris, cars have changed so much that it's getting harder and harder to troubleshoot and fix them. Manufacturers' fascination with electronics truly hasn't helped. Even professional mechanics often turn up clueless. Thank goodness for youtube.

Powell River Books said...

Creatures of habit. My new composting in a barrel project us working very well. since I don't have a garden this summer my garden waste is minimal, almost too minimal for a good composting mix. But my chopped up kitchen waste (I do it really fine) with some compost accelerator is breaking it down in weeks. Each time I add a layer I stir up what's below. I still have lots of room in my half 55-gallon barrel to go. I'm sure winter will be more of a holding tank, but that's okay. I have two more half barrels I can use. - Margy