Saturday, 29 September 2012

Keeping a hay or straw bale dry in the great outdoors...

I have just noticed that the last few posts have been chicken related - I guess that's because with new baby chicks in the pen, I am spending a bit more time than usual with them.

Getting bigger! Man, they eat a lot!

I needed some more bedding straw - which I use in their nests only, its too expensive at $14 a bale for them to scratch around in - and although you can buy a plastic bagful, it works out to be much more expensive. So, I bought the bale and took it home.

I lugged it into the pen and broke off what I needed for the various nesting boxes and that left me with a, well, almost full bale of straw to store. If you have chooks, you are gonna have rats and/or mice. Its all part of the game. Our neighbours have chooks that back onto our chooks - so there is no way that we will be rat or mouse free (where are those carpet snakes when you need 'em??) So I'm not allowed to put the bale in the garage and move any potential rats/mice condominiums into the house.


If I leave it outside, even though we are having a mini drought, its definitely going to rain on my expensive bale of straw - Murphy's Law is strong in my world. I didn't have a spare tarp to put over it, and then I spotted the perfect item in our "to be thrown out" pile...

Here's what I did...

Yup! - I popped an old umbrella with a broken handle over the top!
The air is able to circulate underneath so hopefully the mould wont grow so quickly in the sticky Queensland summers...


The water should just run off the brolly and stay off the straw bale.


With the break below the catch, its never going to open and be used the way it was intended. As an aside, I turned the last dead umbrella skin into pennants to hang in the garden for parties and BBQ's. Very colourful and last a long time as they are nylon - also the are already a triangle shape. My mathematically minded husband worked out a way for me to get a whole bunch of triangles out of each panel... maybe I should have blogged that...

I put the bale up against the fence where there is some overhanging branches to give it all the protection that I could muster and then poked the broken handle into the bale. Its not going to stand up to a really big storm but should protect the bale for a lot longer than if it was just left outside all the time. The chickens still have a bit of a peck at the edges of it - but over all, don't seem to like the colours or texture of the brolly or something and so leave it alone.

I don't use sugar cane mulch in my pens at all. I find it harbours or encourages leg mites which look terrible and must really hurt the chickens. I was for ever treating my chickens (tea tree oil applied with a small paintbrush to the legs) until I read somewhere that sugarcane, although cheap, was probably where my leg mites were coming from. Since I swapped to leaves of any description, grass clippings and roof sweepings (We sweep the leaves and stuff off the roof into the chook pen) they have had no leg mite at all!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for not using something new.
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for not spending a cent and reusing an item that was going to the dump!
Time cost: Ohhh about 15 seconds! (10 minutes of looking for something to do the trick doesn't count does it?)
Skill level: I'm not sure there is one!
Fun -ness: Looks really funky in the chook pen!!!

5 comments:

livingsimplyfree said...

I have been seeing a lot of ideas for old umbrellas, but this is a good one. Hope it works the way you hope.

Kathryn Ray said...

Whoa, that's some expensive straw... about the same as we paid for 75-lb bales of hay this year.

I generally don't buy straw, but just use the hay the alpacas don't eat... last time I looked at the price it was only $2-3 per 90-lb bale at the farm supply store... which is usually more expensive than the feed store.

Practical Frog said...

Wow! You wanna send me one over??? I think you must live near a grain growing area where it is a waste product that they can sell. I can get sugar cane bales (waste from the sugar crush) for around $8 - thats the cheapest as Queensland has plenty due to the sugarcane industry. If I get a huge bale, its not much more in cost. Its mainly a transport cost issue I think here in Australia. Everything is soooooo far away. And Im buying barley straw and its from the suburbian produce place as well - hence I want to keep it dry. I came home at 12.30am last night (from work!) and my hay bale was dry but my bubby chickies were a bit damp as the husband was well and truly asleep and didnt know it was lightly raining and to cover their pen with the tarp - and I'd rather replace hay than chickens! - Kara xx

Kathryn Ray said...

There is a lot of hay, alfalfa and wheat grown around here... so I think you're right about the waste. Transportation is certainly the biggest cost.

Hope your chookies are dried out. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I found straw bales before Halloween. At the local Meijer's they were $4.98. Being a new farmer I made the mistake of letting a couple of the bales get wet. Now I need to know how to get them dry.

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