Hens are Supposed to be Quiet, Right?

Our hens are pretty quiet overall, but our leghorn makes a tremendous amount of noise after laying an egg. It’s loud enough that we can hear it from inside the house. I’m not sure if this is a breed or individual characteristic. Are any of your hens noisier than others?

I finally managed to capture her on video. So here’s Boo, singing loudly after laying.  Switch to 720p HD for best quality.

Free Kindle Book on Amazon Today – Backyard Chickens for Beginners

Amazon is offering a free e-booklet on backyard chickens today. If you don’t have  a Kindle you can read it via the Kindle Cloud Reader.

Backyard Chickens for Beginners: Getting the Best Chickens, Choosing Coops, Feeding and Care, and Beating City Chicken Laws (36-page Booklet) by R. J. Ruppenthal

Backyard Chickens for Beginners: Getting the Best Chickens, Choosing Coops, Feeding and Care, and Beating City Chicken Laws (36-page Booklet)

Backyard Chickens for Beginners: Getting the Best Chickens, Choosing Coops, Feeding and Care, and Beating City Chicken Laws (36-page Booklet)

Let There be (Energy Efficient) Light!

Dude here. While Christie posts about fun things like canning and chickens, I’m here to talk about home lighting. Snooze…  But wait! It’s fancy LED lighting. Fu.ture.istic.

Our electric utility, Indianapolis Power and Light, just came out with a new tool that  allows you to compare your energy usage to similar households within a 1/2 mile. Being a data nerd I immediately checked it out and found this lovely chart.

Electrical Usage

I was aghast to see that we had been using more electricity than similar households near us. We think of ourselves as energy conscious. We do the usual things to conserve: turn off lights not in use, use a programmable thermostat, close shades in the summer. You get the idea. And then I noticed the dip in May. What changed?

In April I upgraded six recessed lights in the kitchen to LEDs.

I was motivated to upgrade these lights for multiple reasons.

  • The kitchen felt much warmer than the rest of the house during the summer.
  • Being located in the kitchen and the center of the house meant that these lights were almost always on.
  • Recessed lights are notoriously bad for leaking energy. I doubted that our fixtures were the efficient, airtight style. If you’re shopping for new fixtures, look for the insulation contact (IC) rating. These are airtight and can be covered with insulation for greater energy efficiency.
  • While changing bulbs in a couple of the fixtures I noticed that they were not installed correctly. They were just resting on the ceiling and were not attached to the ceiling joists. Great.

Notorious Energy Wasters

Recessed lighting can waste a tremendous amount of energy if it is old or not installed correctly. The basic premise involves cutting a large hole in the ceiling and putting a hot bulb in it – creating a chimney effect. And nobody installs just one recessed light. There are usually several.

Infrared Image of Leaky Recessed Lights

An infrared image shows these recessed lights to be roughly 13 degrees colder than the surrounding ceiling in the winter. Image via Piping Plover Home Energy Solutions

Upgrading the Recessed Lights

Unfortunately, whoever installed the recessed lights in our kitchen to begin with either didn’t know what they were doing or, to use the parlance of our time, were a lazy-ass. The wiring was a mess and they didn’t install the fixtures correctly. They were not attached to the ceiling joists and were just sitting loose on the drywall. Many were missing pieces and couldn’t be fixed. I decided to replace them all. I hope you don’t have to do this part. It involves working in the attic, and it really sucks. If you already have IC-rated fixtures, you don’t have to replace them. Standard LED lights are made to work with existing fixtures.

Recessed Lighting Fixtures

Bean stands guard over a case of shiny new IC-rated recessed light fixtures. Notice that the cans are completely enclosed and also feature a foam seal where the fixture meets the drywall.

CREE Eco Smart LED Recessed Light

I used Home Depot’s EcoSmart LED lights made by CREE. They work in standard recessed light fixtures and are very easy to install. At present they are roughly $30 each.

Incandescent and LED Recessed Lighting

Incandescent and LED recessed lights side by side. Notice that the LED light forms a seal at the ceiling, preventing air from leaking around it. Also, we need to repaint our ceiling.

Recap and Some Numbers

  • You don’t have to replace the fixtures in the attic to use LEDs. I replaced ours because they were installed incorrectly and I wasn’t sure if they were IC-rated.
  • If you do replace or install recessed lighting, make sure you buy fixtures rated for insulation contact. Look for IC-rated at the store. IC-rated means you can cover them with insulation in the attic.
  • The LED lights use 10.5 watts each, so in our case all six of them use less energy than one of the old incandescent bulbs (65 watts each)!
  • They are dimmable, but make sure you get a dimmer switch that works with LEDs. The instructions will refer you to a website that lists compatible dimmers.
  • The current price for these LED lights is about $30 each. Sounds expensive, but their life expectancy is 32 years based on 3 hours/day.
  • Energy savings come not only from lower energy usage, but also the fact that the LEDs form a seal at the ceiling, preventing air from leaking past it.
  • Visit CREE’s product page for more details and installation instructions. CREE CR6 – Six-Inch LED Downlight

Blocked in China

A good friend of ours is touring China right now, and has informed us that our blog is blocked by the Chinese censorship system – AKA the Great Firewall. While I’d like to think that our blog was singled out for our controversial writings on Americanism and beets, it turns out that the entire WordPress.com domain is blocked. Now excuse me while I get nerdy for a second.

Since we’re a modest little blog, the shared (and free) hosting at WordPress.com works fine for us. Shared hosting in this case means that we are a subdomain of WordPress.com. In non geek-speak, this website is part of a larger website. Since WordPress.com is blocked, every blog that is hosted freely as a subdomain is also blocked. China has likely blocked the entire WordPress.com domain because it is easier than filtering through the millions of blogs individually.

So how do I keep up with the Space-Farm Continuum in China, you ask? Follow via email. Our friend in China has reported that while https://spacefarms.wordpress.com is blocked, she is still able to read posts via the email subscription service (See the “Follow via email” section at the top of the right column). Pictures are blocked in the email updates, but the text makes it through. Most of our photos are hosted on Flickr, which I believe is also blocked in China. If our pictures were hosted on a non-blocked site, they might come through as well.

What if I’m a WordPress.com blogger and want my blog to be accessible in China? There are no guarantees, but getting your own domain is likely the first step. This way you’ll be judged alone instead of being grouped with millions of other bloggers under one umbrella site. I’m not sure if hosting a domain with WordPress.com would work. You might have to use a different hosting provider.

* WordPress.com is blocked in China, so all freely hosted blogs (_________.wordpress.com) there are also blocked.
* Subscribing via email is one way to circumvent the censorship.
* If you want your blog to be accessible in China, buy your own domain or use a different hosting provider.

Tour de Coop – Space-Farm

We have not shared many pictures of the coop yet, so here goes. And because it’s a lazy Sunday morning, I’ll keep the words to a minimum.

Basic info:

  • We purchased the coop from Mark Mann of Mann Made Products (mannmadeproducts@hotmail.com). This same model is being used for the Project Poultry initiative of Nap Town Chickens.
  • The coop will house four chickens.
  • The attached run allows for easier chicken keeping. We plan to let the chickens roam the yard as often as possible, but they’d also be fine in the run.
  • The bottom of the run is fenced to thwart digging predators.
  • The wheels allow the coop to be moved around the yard, hopefully sparing total turf annihilation. I can move it myself, but not easily. Two people recommended.
Chicken Coop

The coop has an attached run for the chickens and wheels for mobility. The coop is fairly heavy, so moving it is not trivial…even with the wheels.

Chicken Coop

Here you can see the chicken’s access door to the run.

Chicken Coop

I added a window to the side opposite the human door.

Chicken Coop

This side contains the nest boxes. The roof is hinged and lifts for easy egg collection.

Chicken Coop

Close up of the coop window.

Chicken Coop

Two roosting bars inside the coop.

Chicken Coop

Chicken cam

Chicken Coop

The hopefully raccoon-proof coop latch.

Chicken Coop

Another view of the latch.

The chicks will be three weeks old tomorrow, which means they should be moving into their new digs in another two to three weeks. We’re in the home stretch!