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Are Chickens a Good Idea?

 
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I had a question about the feasibility of raising chickens for 1. eggs and 2. meat long term on my property (here is my project thread https://permies.com/t/131778/permaculture-projects/Property-Project#1354425). I've considered chickens several times in the past but have always disqualified them due to the nature of the environment I'm in and some of the limitations I have.

1. My property is 90% steep hillside. I have open grass along the bank of the lake in the summer months but only about 4-6, the rest of the time the water level is up to the vegetation line. My property is on the coast and has really thick vegetation, woods, trees, etc. I can't imagine this would be a good place to raise chickens, though I really don't know a whole lot about them to start with.  

2. I have several predators: raccoons, big rats, weasels, coyotes, bob cats, cougars, hawks, osprey, bald eagles, and owls. Is there a way to raise chickens securely (on a budget) that protects them from these creatures?  I know having a large dog can help with keeping predators away, but my lifestyle is just not conducive to pets. I'm especially concerned about cougars in my area. I know they are here on my property. I've caught them on trail cams as close as my deck. I've heard them at night while I'm laying in bed as they kill something down by the shoreline (a little unnerving and quite fascinating to listen to). But will having a chicken coop on the property be a draw for cougars? Will it make the raccoons a nuisance? I also have many owls here and they spend most of the night serenading me to sleep as they talk to each other. Will they be a big problem, even if the coop and run area the chickens have is fenced all around with a ceiling?

3. How would one keep a chicken coop warm in the winter without electricity (surely there is a way since they did it before the modern era). My dad had chickens when I was a kid and he heated it with lights, but I don't have that option. One thought would be to build a chicken coop right above my dugout shelter and connect a vent pipe from the  shelter (top back wall) to the floor of the coop. This way when I have a fire in the wood stove in my shelter that same heat would be funneled into the chicken coop as well. Can they get too hot? I like it around 70 degrees, but I don't know yet if the wood stove will burn hot (80 or 90+ degrees). I could easily attach a vent with an on/off mechanism so I can shut the heat off when it's warm enough in the coop.  

4. I could see having a few chickens for eggs and then the rest would be meat chickens. Mostly to supplement my fishing and gardening which I would do in the warmer months. I think I will be able to grow salad greens through winter (but not 100% sure). Fish don't usually bite in the winter. The lake has large mouth bass, trout, catfish, and there used to be bluegill but those have been replaced by crappy (not sure why - I've never ate one of these, I assume they are edible). I'm wondering if it would be more cost effective and productive to learn to catch fish in the winter than it would be to raise chickens (I can fish from my dock or property free or anywhere on the lake for a small license)? Back in the good old days of pre 2019 I concluded that it was more cost effective to just supplement my warm season with store-bought. But soaring prices has me reconsidering this.  

5. One big issue I can see at this point is I have no refrigeration and I'm not really certain I will be getting any in the future. My property is a north facing slope so I can't use solar in the winter and I'm not hooked to the grid. I have/had a small generator but I don't really want to try to keep a fridge or freezer running off grid without solar. One thought I had was keeping the number of meat chickens I had smaller, maybe four or five in the coop at any one time. Killing one chicken for a week's worth of meals (would keep cooked and uncooked chicken in an ice chest which is how I keep perishables now and it seems to work surprisingly well). Once I get down to 2 meat chickens I would get five more. I plan to do the same thing with salad greens and other vegetables - stagger production so a little is ready all the time. I'm not at all interested in growing or producing food to sell. I'm interested in subsistence farming/gardening/homesteading.  

6. Since I cannot free range my chickens due to predators (the hawks and osprey and eagles are constantly overhead throughout the day), I thought about doing a coop with a chicken run or chicken tunnel. a small fencing tube that is covered on all three sides (2 walls with a ceiling). I've seen these tunnels placed around the perimeter of a vegetable garden to keep the bugs down. Is something like this dangerous with the predators I have? There is a small flat area (a shelf) just above the site for my shelter. I could put a garden inside the perimeter of the chicken tunnel. Wondering if its worth it or if I should just keep the chickens in a small rectangular run with a coop at one end?

I really don't like chickens, if I'm honest. I'm also not a really big fan of eggs, either. Plus I'm not certain its cost effective or even feasible since I can't free range. Are there alternatives to store bought chicken food? I really don't produce enough kitchen scraps myself. I could grow food for them, but not really during winter.  

Just wondering if chickens are worth the effort.

IH
 
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the summer months but only about 4-6

what does this mean?
Interesting situation you have.
Some ideas;
- people do catch fish in the winter
- would you have enough spare food to give to the chooks? That can be researched.
- How big is the 10% not steep hillside?
- Could chickens be penned there?
- Can you build a strong chook run?
- What other protein can you grow, worms, snails, bugs etc?

Here is some other information;
Meeting your protein needs is easily achieved from eating a variety of foods. Protein from food comes from plant and animal sources such as:
- meat and fish
- eggs
- dairy products
- seeds and nuts
- legumes like beans and lentils.

Alternatives;
- can you grow oysters in the lake or stock it with something
 
master steward
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Isaac said, "I really don't like chickens, if I'm honest. I'm also not a really big fan of eggs, either. Plus I'm not certain its cost effective or even feasible since I can't free range. Are there alternatives to store bought chicken food? I really don't produce enough kitchen scraps myself. I could grow food for them, but not really during winter.



Isaac said, "but my lifestyle is just not conducive to pets.


 
These are all valid reasons so I feel you have answered your own question. Do I need to say more?

I see no reason to raise something that you do not like to eat.

If your lifestyle is not conducive to pets, how can you take care of chickens?

Learn to do the things that you like to do.

Ice fishing is really a big hobby in some states.

Learn to grow things that you like to eat.

I am looking forward to reading the other comments.
 
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Anne commented on exactly the things that stuck out to me. Why raise something you don't like, and don't like what they produce? If your lifestyle isn't suited to pets, I can't believe it's suited to any other animals.

I love chickens, and I like fresh eggs, so I raise them. There was another thread about this, so I won't rehash all my reasons for raising them, but I can tell you, it's not a good financial decision. Consider the cost of building a good secure coop. Mine will be in excess of $800 when it's finished, and I'm building it with quite a bit of free scavenged material. I can buy eggs here from local people for $2 a dozen. You can imagine how long it takes two people to eat 400 dozen eggs, and that doesn't count the cost of the chickens, the feed, the replacements for losses. Based on your post, I would say for you, no, chickens are not a good idea. They are probably a terrible one.
 
Isaac Hunter
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Trace Oswald wrote:Why raise something you don't like, and don't like what they produce? If your lifestyle isn't suited to pets, I can't believe it's suited to any other animals.



It is purely a financial decision. If we were pre 2019 inflation/prices I would not think twice and would just buy chicken from the local store. Rising prices in the last year have forced me to shop at Walmart (which I do not like) but I do it out of financial necessity. Chickens can be left for a time with food and water. Dogs really cannot. My neighbor a mile down the lake leaves his dogs and within half a day they are wandering around my property having escaped their kennel (if he even bothers to kennel them). When I'm at work I'm gone all day long. Dogs do not really like that. Chickens could care less.

Trace Oswald wrote:
I love chickens, and I like fresh eggs, so I raise them.....but I can tell you, it's not a good financial decision. Consider the cost of building a good secure coop. Mine will be in excess of $800 when it's finished,...Based on your post, I would say for you, no, chickens are not a good idea. They are probably a terrible one.



This is why I decided to post the question/situation. To be honest, if I can cut my annual grocery bill even in half I would be doing really well. I think I can do that by fishing and growing vegetables for half to 3/4ths of the year. If I get really ambitious I could guerilla a cold frame plot for winter growing in the field (on private timber/state land - sort of). Plus, if I figure out how to catch fish in the winter consistently I might be able to save even more.  

I've seen figures that meat chickens come out to about $3.50 a lbs. That's about what I pay at the store for meat (chicken, hamburger). Eggs are ridiculously cheap. But, if inflation continues or shortages keep occurring, that will have to be factored in. I, personally, don't think raising my own chickens is a good idea.  

Thanks for the info.

IH
 
Isaac Hunter
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Anne Miller wrote:

Isaac said, "I really don't like chickens, if I'm honest. I'm also not a really big fan of eggs, either. Plus I'm not certain its cost effective or even feasible since I can't free range. Are there alternatives to store bought chicken food? I really don't produce enough kitchen scraps myself. I could grow food for them, but not really during winter.



Isaac said, "but my lifestyle is just not conducive to pets.


 
These are all valid reasons so I feel you have answered your own question. Do I need to say more?

I see no reason to raise something that you do not like to eat.

If your lifestyle is not conducive to pets, how can you take care of chickens?

Learn to do the things that you like to do.

Ice fishing is really a big hobby in some states.

Learn to grow things that you like to eat.

I am looking forward to reading the other comments.



No ice on the lake in winter. The temps get just low enough to be uncomfortable and to send the fish to the bottom and make them less active. Plus the water level in the lake comes up each year about 20ft or more.  

Growing things I like to eat is impossible! You can't grow pizza!

IH
 
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John C Daley wrote:

the summer months but only about 4-6

what does this mean?



Sorry about that. I get about 4-6 months of "summer" weather each year. Typically 70 degrees during the day, 50 degrees at night. Occasional rain depending on the year. The last few years summer started at the end of April. This year it's the end of May and it's still really cold outside and the rain has been coming down nearly nonstop. I'm not sure we'll have a summer at all.  

John C Daley wrote:
Interesting situation you have.
Some ideas;
- people do catch fish in the winter
- would you have enough spare food to give to the chooks? That can be researched.
- How big is the 10% not steep hillside?
- Could chickens be penned there?
- Can you build a strong chook run?
- What other protein can you grow, worms, snails, bugs etc?



I'm not certain how consistent the fishing would be in the winter. But, then again, when is fishing ever consistent? When I was a kid we used to put bare hooks in the water and catch bluegill all day long down on the dock. I'm not certain that can be done anymore.  

As far as spare food to give to the "chooks" (chickens?) - I don't have spare food. My goal is to grow what I need. So if there was some sort of crop I could grow to feed the chickens with instead of buying food that would be optimal and I could grow it in the summer months and store it for winter use as well. I actually have a lot of land I can use (1 acre or more) but only for part of the season.

Worms, snails, bugs are abundant on my property. Not sure if I could get accustomed to eating them.

IH
 
Anne Miller
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Isaac Hunter wrote:No ice on the lake in winter. The temps get just low enough to be uncomfortable and to send the fish to the bottom and make them less active. Plus the water level in the lake comes up each year about 20ft or more.  

Growing things I like to eat is impossible! You can't grow pizza!



Valid point and an example of why it is good to give an approximate general location when asking questions.

Can't grow pizza?  Though you could grow tomatoes for the sauce and a grain for the crust. Most people who grow those for pizza still have to buy cheese unless they are growing cows or goats.
 
Isaac Hunter
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Anne Miller wrote:

Isaac Hunter wrote:No ice on the lake in winter. The temps get just low enough to be uncomfortable and to send the fish to the bottom and make them less active. Plus the water level in the lake comes up each year about 20ft or more.  

Growing things I like to eat is impossible! You can't grow pizza!



Valid point and an example of why it is good to give an approximate general location when asking questions.

Can't grow pizza?  Though you could grow tomatoes for the sauce and a grain for the crust. Most people who grow those for pizza still have to buy cheese unless they are growing cows or goats.



And I would have to argue that homemade does not taste nearly as good as my local heart attack pizza parlor......
 
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Honestly I loved having ducks so much that if I had the option they'd be my poultry of choice.  But I lived on sandy soil with great drainage the "mess" that ducks are known for wasn't an issue at all.  If I lived on clay maybe I'd want drier birds.  

I don't know where you live:  I was in zone 5b and my ducks did not have heat in the winter of fans in the summer or any of that.   They didn't jump fences.   Big delicious eggs every day from Feb. to October.   No electric lights or anything.   Locked them up at night and let them out into a fenced pen in the morning with food and water.   I didn't give them water overnight.  

They also raised their own young easily.   So self-perpetuating stock.  

I can't speak to predator proofing.  I had birds of prey and fox around, but they never bothered with my ducks.   I lost one to an eagle once, when they found a hole in the fence and ran away to the river and didn't come home for a week.  Bear and coyote around, but I think I was too much work to get that close, and I do have dogs,  although they aren't out when I'm at work or overnight.  

Solar electric fencing?  
 
Trace Oswald
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Isaac Hunter wrote:
It is purely a financial decision. If we were pre 2019 inflation/prices I would not think twice and would just buy chicken from the local store. Rising prices in the last year have forced me to shop at Walmart (which I do not like) but I do it out of financial necessity. Chickens can be left for a time with food and water. Dogs really cannot. My neighbor a mile down the lake leaves his dogs and within half a day they are wandering around my property having escaped their kennel (if he even bothers to kennel them). When I'm at work I'm gone all day long. Dogs do not really like that. Chickens could care less.
IH



I would say you just have a bad neighbor.  For chickens to be safe, they need to be shut up in their coop every night and let out every morning.  Every morning, I put my dogs in their kennels with food and water, and that is where they stay until I get home in the evening.  The weekends are different of course, they are mostly out with me the entire day unless I have to go somewhere, and then one or two of them go with me as often as not.  If your neighbors dogs escape in half a day, it means he doesn't secure them as well as he should.  Most people that own dogs have to leave them while they go to work.  Do they like it?  Not as much as they would like being with me.  Do I like it?  Not as much as I would like being home with them.  Such is life :)

As far as cold weather that you mentioned, chickens aren't bothered by cold weather as long as you meet two requirements.  They need to stay dry, and they need good ventilation, but without drafts. Your weather is certainly not cold enough to bother chickens.  We get weather that is -20F every winter, -30F occasionally, and a couple winters ago, we had -40F for two nights.  That is without wind chill.  My chickens were fine.
 
John C Daley
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Issac, you have made some interesting choices in your life.
Can I ask some questions?
- Your land choice
- Your decision to grow your own food in a hostile environment
- could you fish with a contraption that works in winter
- Is a glass house possible
From https://harvesttotable.com/snow-tolerant-vegetables/
Snow on the winter vegetable garden does not mean the end of harvest. Snow will insulate winter crops from freezing temperatures and protect them until harvest. A killing frost or freeze will do more damage to winter vegetables than snow.
Carrots, turnips, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage, chard, and head lettuce can be harvested from under a blanket of snow.
Scallions and fall leeks to the size of scallions can be harvested from under snow.
Onions can remain in the garden under snow if a protective layer of mulch lies in between.
Parsnips and Brussels sprouts will taste sweeter after being covered by snow.

If plant cell damaging freezing temperatures accompany snow, protect crops with mulch, plastic tunnels, or cold frames.
Loose straw or fallen leaves can insulate plants from freezing temperatures as well.
 
Isaac Hunter
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John C Daley wrote:Issac, you have made some interesting choices in your life.
Can I ask some questions?
- Your land choice
- Your decision to grow your own food in a hostile environment
- could you fish with a contraption that works in winter
- Is a glass house possible



I chose the land for several reasons. 1. I have a spiritual connection to the particular ridge and the particular lake. I spent my childhood summers on this lake and most of that time on my own (or with my dog tagging along) wandering in the woods, all over the ridge(s). My parent's cabin was destroyed by a tree when I was in my 20's and I never thought I would be able to find land on the lake again (property values have skyrocketed here). But, one night I came across a listing on Craigslist and I jumped on it. The owner was willing to carry and it was a tiny sliver that a conventional home cannot be built on. It was also cheap (compared to other places on the lake) and I was able to pay it off in just a few years. 2. Second reason is it was a price I could afford and the owner would carry. I had a small down payment saved but most properties here for sale they want cash. I had one seller tell me I would never be able to get back on the lake for less than $100,000. I guess I showed him. I'm on the lake now (more than most everyone else) and for a fraction of that $100k (of course, most people would not want my property, so there are compromises). But, I own a quarter of an acre of lakefront property that is actually well over an acre or 2 of usable land, it borders on state and private timber that gives me access to over a square mile of wilderness that same wilderness I explored when I was a kid.

Decision to grow my food in a hostile environment. That's an interesting way of describing the property, but it rings true. I think I enjoy the challenge. My extended family think I'm crazy for being a hermit and wanting to live out like I do, sleeping in a hammock, etc. But I enjoy it, and I'm pretty comfortable living simply. Growing my own food is a health choice and a financial choice. I want to hedge against inflation and I can only do that by learning new skills that are not part of the monetary system. I choose not to invest monetarily. I don't even want to farm for money. I want to farm for subsistence. Cut my grocery bill in half or really by 80% would be great.

Fishing with mechanical implements is against the law in my area. I can't even put out a trout line and leave it. It has to be a pole and I would wager I have to be at least close by. Then again, I have not seen a local Sheriff deputy out on my stretch o the lake in probably 10+ years. But if I tried something like this it would be the weekend tournament fishermen that would turn me in. Time to fish is not a problem. I only work part time and live on half of what I make. Once I move out full time (and sell my house in town) I will be living comfortably on a quarter of my take home pay. If I reduce my grocery bill (which is the biggest expense in my budget) I would be saving probably 80% of my income with about 80% of my week free to fish, hike, cut firewood, (or hang in my hammock and read), etc.  

A glass house is not possible on the property I'm currently developing. It is in a bowl and there is a lot of tree fall. Not every year. In fact, I can sometimes go several years. But when a tree does fall (and one always ends up falling) it makes a real mess. This is the primary reason I'm building a dugout shelter. My current temporary shelter is above ground and works fine for living in, but it is a real target for a tree that is not if but when.

That being said, my property is actually split into two lots. I have an undeveloped lot on the other side of the lake. But, it is behind the railroad tracks so it has no legal right of way. It is almost an acre, is southern facing, and has a natural pond at the bottom and neighbors private timber on the other side. I spent some time on that lot a few years ago and found about half way up the hill a perfect spot to build a small cabin/tiny house, etc. It has a fantastic view overlooking the lake and the southern horizon and gets sun all year long. I would develop it in a heart beat but it would cost to get right of way from the railroad, additional money to put in a dock, annual rental fees from the railroad and from the state for the dock lease, and then the cost of building the cabin. It would not be fully glass, but the front wall would be completely glass for the view.

The north facing property already has a dock, pilings, breaker logs, a deck, a flat area with retaining wall, a small shelter (which is really just a covered deck), and a hole mostly dug to put the dugout in and most of the lumber. Plus, I savor my anonymity and only a few people know I'm on that property for any length of time (just a few select neighbors). If I put a dock in on the other side and built a tiny house up on the hill, everyone and his cousin would know I was there. Plus a dock with a railroad pedestrian crossing is just begging for trespassers. I have a hard enough time keeping the fisherman and locals off my dock and property as it is. So, unless I end up getting married again down the road, I don't see me developing that other lot. The only caveat would be is if I run out of money from selling the house in town. I could put the north facing lot on a separate deed and sell it while keeping the south facing lot for myself. I could also keep both but lease the north facing lot to someone who wants to use it in the summer time for camping. My hope is I can just settle in, enjoy a north facing lifestyle, and not have to hassle with any of the rest of it. I have too many books on my reading list for all that drama.

John C Daley wrote:  
Snow on the winter vegetable garden does not mean the end of harvest. Snow will insulate winter crops from freezing temperatures and protect them until harvest. A killing frost or freeze will do more damage to winter vegetables than snow.
Carrots, turnips, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage, chard, and head lettuce can be harvested from under a blanket of snow.
Scallions and fall leeks to the size of scallions can be harvested from under snow.
Onions can remain in the garden under snow if a protective layer of mulch lies in between.
Parsnips and Brussels sprouts will taste sweeter after being covered by snow.
If plant cell damaging freezing temperatures accompany snow, protect crops with mulch, plastic tunnels, or cold frames.
Loose straw or fallen leaves can insulate plants from freezing temperatures as well.



We don't get snow here. Let me rephrase. We don't typically get snow here. When we do it's a freak occurrence and it lasts about half a day if it sticks at all. There are also a ton of micro climates so the weather 15-20 miles in all directions can be severely different at any given time. My property is located about a mile from the ocean, but is protected by a large ridge to the west, and sits in a bowl that opens to the north. The treefall issues are really not from trees being blown down as much as the large amounts of rain saturating the soil and the trees just toppling over. Plus the farther up the hillside you go the steeper it gets, near vertical in some places. And there is about a foot of topsoil that sits on sold shale rock so there is really nothing for the trees to grab hold of. Also, about 95% of the trees can reach me but I cannot cut them down since they are not on my property. The real dangerous trees on the east ridge (they are douglas fir and about 100 ft tall and I can't touch my fingers together if I try to hug a trunk) and this is owned by a private timber company. This section of their property is too close to the lake so they are not allowed to harvest, so the trees just keep growing and growing and each one will eventually fall over.  

The biggest challenge on my property for growing (well for most things) is the rain in the winter but also the lack of sun. That southern ridge is just too tall. The sun barely pokes up above the ridge line in winter, is blocked by trees and vegetation, and renders my property a virtual icebox. When it is 50 degrees out on the lake it is 40 degrees on my property. This is great in the summer when it's 80 (rarely) out in the sun but on my property it is a cool 70. During that time of the year I have not only the large flat area to garden but all of the shoreline (which is triple the size of the flat area) that is no longer under water. But it's out of water only 6 months a year. The other 6 months it has about 20 ft of water sitting on it.  

There are options. I can put in a winter garden at the top of the southern ridge. I can put one over in the field to the east (these are on private timber land). I could also put a winter garden in on my southern facing lot across the lake. I could clear a few spots up on the hill where it gets full sun (when it's not overcast in the winter), put in cold frames and probably grow more salad greens and other cool crops than I could eat. Will have to wait and see. In the winter there is virtually no one out on the lake so crossing the tracks without right of way is not a problem. I would have to do rain collectors or pack water from the pond or the creek (both uphill). It does not take much to collect water in a 55 gallon drum so I would most likely do this. But, if I can avoid this I will. It's all a grand experiment in madness so it's anyone's guess how it will all shake out.

I'm tempted to sell everything and move to Hawaii. The weather is certainly nicer.

IH
 
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Trace Oswald wrote:I would say you just have a bad neighbor.



Yes. I agree. He is a very wealthy fella who came in and bought up one whole ridge about a mile from my property. He built a McMansion and clear cut all the trees on his property to put a giant barn at the top of the ridge and turned the rest into pasture for I don't know what. He has about 5-10 boats at his place and a huge float house to store them all in. I've spoken to him once when he spotted me one day on my property. He thought I was a hunter trespassing. He came to shore and we talked for about 10 minutes. That was about it. When I encountered his dogs (and I finally found out where they came from) I got an ear full about him from one of my other neighbors (about a 1/2 mile away). They have gone around and around with this guy about the dogs getting out but he refuses to do anything about it. The dogs have only made it to my place once that I know of. Maybe he finally built a kennel for them.  I've caught other dogs on my property in the past with trail cameras. I just assumed they were from boats and people let them ashore to use the facilities.  

Hands down, even with all the trouble on my property from tree falls, bears and cougars (they're not really trouble), no sun, too cold, etc the most trouble I have is from other people. People thinking I put my dock in for them to use. People thinking that property owners on the lake have public bathrooms for them to use. Kids coming in during the summer months looking for guns and alcohol and wanting to just tear stuff up because it's fun and why not. I would take 50 cougars killing things on the shoreline to another fisherman who assumes my dock is his bathroom.

IH

 
Isaac Hunter
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Heather Staas wrote:I don't know where you live:  I was in zone 5b and my ducks did not have heat in the winter of fans in the summer or any of that.



I'm in zone 9a. It does not really get cold cold here. It usually sits around 40 degrees in the winter. Occasionally it will get down to freezing, but just barely. Occasional snow. We do get several storms in off the Pacific. Strong winds, lots and lots and lots of rain.  

Ducks are interesting. We have wild ducks on the lake and even more geese. I could hunt them but I don't really prefer either. I do like the taste of chicken, which is why I even considered raising them. Then again, I'm looking for long-term sustainability and dependability. There are not enough geese or duck on the lake to sustain even me for any length of time.  

IH
 
John C Daley
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Issac, thanks for the details.
As you say the humans are the issue, the bears, cougars and sheriffs are easy by comparison.
Do you need permits to build?
Would playing classical music on your deck when are not there drive away the fisher folk?
A 20ft rise and fall in a lake is amazing, is it a man made water reservoir?
Could you grow food on the isolated land above the ground, in tanks etc?
Would a small solar powered pump be ok at that same place?
Would it get stolen?
With the high rainfall, is a dugout a good idea?
What about a stone or structural steel house that could take a tree drop?


 
John C Daley
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OK here are two ideas that would work;
The first would have the tree fall against or past it, rather than on it
The second, which I think is made from steel but may be concrete would withstand a tree dropping near it.
When you speak of potential tree damage, how far away are the potential trees and how high might they be?
download-12.jpg
First
Second
download-13.jpg
Second
First
 
Isaac Hunter
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John C Daley wrote:OK here are two ideas that would work;
The first would have the tree fall against or past it, rather than on it
The second, which I think is made from steel but may be concrete would withstand a tree dropping near it.
When you speak of potential tree damage, how far away are the potential trees and how high might they be?



I've looked at different options the last few years. As I previously said, the douglas fir are about 100 ft tall (estimate). They are big. They probably were not hold overs from the clear cut on the lake at the turn of the century (1900) but they certainly missed the cut that occurred when I was about 14. They are also about 20-30 feet up on the ridge from where my shelter is/will be. There is one about 3-4 yards uphill that fell into the bowl from the ridge before I bought the property. It crossed the bowl without breaking a sweat. It's now propped up at an angle about 2-5 ft off the ground in places. There was another one that fell uphill on the ridge that did the same thing. I now go under it on a trail I put in that goes around that spur. I've seen big trees like this before fall on concrete structures and they demolish them into rubble. They will most likely be going slow when they fall (I've heard one on the other side of the lake fall one morning but none on my property) but not slow enough to spare any above ground structure, no matter what it's made of. A maple tree took out my parent's cabin. It was really old and people warned my dad for years to cut it back, but he never bothered. When it fell it twisted up the cabin into a pretzel. Two lots down there was a small cabin that was hit by a big tree when I was a kid. I remember seeing it for the first time that season. It was like a war zone had plowed through the lot. When the tree hit the tiny cabin just exploded. Yet another cabin down the way was hit by a tree, but this one acted like a knife and just cut the cabin in half. They went in after and cut the tree out, then just patched up the cut and it was like it never happened.  

I figure a dugout that has a roof line in parallel with the terrain has the best chance. It's not a 100% solution. If/when a tree falls, one of the branches could plunge through the roof and if I'm unlucky enough, hit me in my hammock. Same for chunks of wood. Sometimes if one of the trees falls and hits another the second one explodes on impact sending 4ft size shrapnel in every direction. The roof might withstand something like that but a direct hit is unlikely. My goal is to get myself as small as possible and underground so as to reduce the risk as much as possible and then let persistent prayer take care of the rest. Because of the shape of the bowl (there's a noticeable V to it, my hope is anything that falls will either miss me entirely (out of the 50 some trees on the ridge and uphill in the bowl there are only about 5 that are an actual threat to me) my hope is if anything falls over my direct location it will hang up in the angles of the terrain like the others did and leave a void underneath (not actually make direct impact on the ground or on my shelter. But, if it does, it does. I'm surprisingly pretty calm about it when I'm laying in my hammock at night. Even in my above ground shelter. I read a report a few years ago about a 10 year old girl living in the subburbs who was killed by a tree that fell into her house from the neighbor's yard and killed her while she slept in her bed. No one's really safe. It's all about odds. Statistically, it's much riskier driving my 40 minute commute to work each morning. Last week there was a wreak on the road each day. It's a risk, but being serenaded by what must be a million frogs at night makes up it. That and the other million and a half things I love about that place.  

IH


 
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John C Daley wrote:Issac, thanks for the details.
As you say the humans are the issue, the bears, cougars and sheriffs are easy by comparison.
Do you need permits to build?
Would playing classical music on your deck when are not there drive away the fisher folk?
A 20ft rise and fall in a lake is amazing, is it a man made water reservoir?
Could you grow food on the isolated land above the ground, in tanks etc?
Would a small solar powered pump be ok at that same place?
Would it get stolen?
With the high rainfall, is a dugout a good idea?
What about a stone or structural steel house that could take a tree drop?



Yes on the permits. Sort of. If I wanted to build a conventional house (with plumbing, etc) I would have to have a septic and my north facing lot is too small. I new this going in as I had no intention of building anything with plumbing when I bought it. I can put in a "shed" that is less than 200 square feet. It cannot have running water in it (which is fine). My dugout will fit into this "loop hole" nicely since it really will be a glorified covered deck, just sunk into the ground 6ft. I may add water with a diy water heater in an insulated box outside of the shelter, hooked to the wood stove, but I have not decided yet. This kind of shelter (the 200 sqft shed) does not need a permit.  

As for the trespassers. I wish there was a way to keep them at bay. For the most part the lake people are pretty good. But it's always a few bad apples that spoil the bunch. One thing going for me is my place does not look like it has anything of value (it really doesn't) so most people skip it and head for the cabins. I used to put out trail cameras but I got tired of fighting with batteries. I'm there about 80% of the time in the summer and once the permanent shelter is built and the wood stove installed, I will be tackling a winter. I don't need to stay warm at night (my hammock system does this for me using my body heat) but I need a place during the day in winter where I can sit, relax during my down time. 30-40 degree temps are fine, but being out in them long-term gets old pretty quick. I also need a way to get out of the wind and rain when the storms come in. Even just a little windchill after I'm wet and I'm miserable.  

As for growing food in tanks. I've considered putting a green house on a dock section and I still might do it. Though, I'm not really sure it would be worth it. If I get any direct sunlight at all in the winter it is only for an hour or two tops. That southern ridge blocks it out almost completely. I think I can grow salad greens even without direct sunlight (haven't tested it yet). So we'll see.  

Solar is not really feasible in the winter. Summer it would work fine. I have a small generator (1000 watts) that I use to power my laptop and other devices.  

As for the rainfall and the dugout drainage concerns. When I first bought the property I had a general idea of what i wanted to do with it. That first year I dug a 4 ft hole and watched it for a year. I checked it every time I went over, especially in winter to see what the drainage was like. Never collected any water at all. The structure of the soil is like this 1. ridiculously fertile soil first 6-12 inches. It is literally nature's mulch. 2. then there is another 1-7 ft of rich, loamy soil underneath. The higher up in elevation you go the less there is of this layer. 3. Underneath is solid shale substrate.

So, whenever it rains the ground acts like a sponge and soaks in everything. There is little to no standing water anywhere. And, of course, with the steep terrain, the water wants to quickly move down to the lake. Little to no water retention anywhere. There are a few natural springs here and there but none on my property. I have a few places near the shore that stay spungie even through the summer, but in the winter those are underwater.  

In the location where I plan to put a permanent shelter I built a smaller one the second or third year I was on the property. I built it before I started sleeping in a hammock so it turned out to be too small (6ft x 4ft). But it was in the ground for two years without any heat source at all. When I pulled it out and checked all the lumber there was no trace of mold or dampness anywhere. The lumber was pine for the framing and 6ft cedar fence stock for the siding of everything - floors, roof, walls, etc. When I built it it was wrapped completely in plastic and that did the trick. I learned a lot on that first structure. So, despite what might be a disaster, on this particular site an underground structure will works out quite well.  

The only other alternative would be to put a yurk down on the dock, but I tried that one summer with a tent and I hated the lookie loos that would come right up to the dock and look to see if anyone was home.  

I could do a steel structure, but this is way outside of my abilities. Stone would be too difficult to transport over. By the way, not sure if I mentioned, the property is boat access only. There are no roads to the property. The closest one is at the top of the main ridge which is a good mile away. Then that road goes north for 2-3 miles before it hits a locked gate. Then it's 15 more miles to the nearest town. By water it's a 5 minute ride in a motored boat. But I go back and forth in my kayak.

It's possible I could just throw up a small cabin and hope for the best. But the shed that was there when I bought it was taken out by a tree last year. And from the looks of it, not even the dock is safe. It appears one tree came down from the hillside and managed to reach out to the dock. The previous owner cut it off at the brush and then again at the low water line, left the rest of the tree submerged in the water. The rest must have went to firewood. I can see the butt end of the submerged portion when the water is really low in summer. Going west from my property I tried to put a trail in a few years ago along the bank. Once I got into the treeline it was impossible. It was just tree after tree after tree that had fallen over the years. I'm working with a hand saw so once I realized what I was up against, I gave up and went back to my hammock.  

IH
 
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It really seems like you don’t want chickens, which is just fine!
 
John C Daley
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For such tough country there are all of people around.
Steel can be assembled with bolts and screws.
200 sq ft will make a cosy cabin, would making it from logs work?
With a skillion roof and some power tools.
 
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John C Daley wrote:For such tough country there are all of people around.
Steel can be assembled with bolts and screws.
200 sq ft will make a cosy cabin, would making it from logs work?
With a skillion roof and some power tools.



It is difficult country but there are easy ways in and out. Fisherman have boats. Wealthy people put in roads to their cabins. My choices were limited due to funding constraints. My choice to not use a powerboat is a personal choice for health reasons and I don't really like gas powered engines (unreliable, expensive upkeep, gas is expensive, etc). Yet, at the same time there are a lot of people "around" there are places that I tend to spend my time in and around my property that people simply don't go. The woods for example adjacent to my property have no easy access to from any road. There is a road at the top of the ridge (dirt road), but it is behind a locked gate and several miles from the nearest blacktop, plus the underbrush keeps off road vehicles away. There is also no real draw for people to go there. I would wager there has not been a person in that valley in 20 years or more. Maybe hunters but I seriously doubt they are walking down into that valley when they can just as easily stay on top of the ridge and wait in a clearing. All the years I've spend wandering around in those woods, the only time I've come across another person was on the dirt road and they were on an ATV. At that time (it was years ago) the gate was open and I spotted them just this side of the gate. They came in, drove down the road, turned around, went right back out.  

The area is very close to people but this area is not well suited to the tourists because it is not easy to access. Makes it perfect for me.

As for steel construction. Yes, I could see this could be used. But it is not typically used for construction in this area so not as widely available as conventional lumber. Plus if I were to get a direct hit on a cabin built out of bolted steel I don't think it would survive any more than a wood one would. A tree falling from that height, by the time it gets down to my level it's going to be traveling pretty fast and that tree is ridiculously heavy. I think it would make a pancake out of just about anything above ground.  

I've briefly considered logs for construction material but dismissed it simply because I do not have access to trees on my land. The trees I have currently growing are half rotted ash (or something like it). There are not nearly enough of them, they are are terrible building material (rot way too quickly) and would not really provide the kind of protection I'm looking for. Conventional lumber is relatively cheap. For the square footage, I've added the materials up and it will cost me about $1000 (not counting an upgraded wood stove or if I decide to add insulation to the ceiling or walls in the future). That is with the high prices we currently have on lumber.

A skillion roof (if I understand this term) is the type of roof I am planning to use. It will be at the same pitch as the terrain. I"m still debating if I'm going to have windows in the front or just a large window on the side that looks into a dug in landscape and then a door on the opposite side. The windows in the front wall would be narrow (2ft) and run the length of the front wall. But I think it might be just as well to keep the roof with the terrain all the way to the front and bury that front wall completely. But, like I said, I haven't completely decided yet. The previous shelter at that location had the same kind of openings in the front. It worked fine, plexiglass panes for windows that slid open and closed on a wooden track. It certainly opens the inside up and provides more natural light. But it's looking out at thick vegetation. No real views to speak of. Also will not be able to see out those narrow windows from the hammock.  

I also try to limit myself on the power tools. Just personal preference. Gas power tends to be unreliable and I'm limited on my electric. I use a 3ft handsaw for cutting firewood and a 2ft(?) hand saw for cutting lumber. I did buy a rechargeable grinder to cut the metal straps that hold the large dock to a big log. Not sure if it was worth it. It only keeps enough power to get through 1 strap at a time. There are 10 straps. We'll see how far I get this summer.  

IH
 
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How is progress at the idealic spot?
 
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