Chicken Care 101- Spring Cleaning

Here at Gillis Gardens, we are big believers in preventative measures for maintaining good flock health. Part of that is a bi-annual coop cleaning.

As I have mentioned before in my Winterize Your Chickens Blog, we use the deep litter method to help keep our girls home warm in the coldest of Northern Maine winter. This means, come spring, the coop has about 10 inches of compacted, broken down, composted litter that needs to be removed, and replaced with nice new clean  pine shavings.

I used a shovel, a pitch fork and a wheelbarrow.

I had about 5 loads of great “brown” compost for our pile, and made the chickens very happy, I’m sure.

Izzy helped by giving them rocks.

Well, that concludes that. I know, its a short one, but trust me, it’s important to clean your coop. If you can smell something, your flock is breathing that in all night while they sleep. Preventative maintenance is worth every moment.

Otherwise, on the homestead, we are building a few things, so I’m going to call it on this one and move on to the next.

Until next time, have a wicked good day.

Our Venture into Vermiculture – Two Weeks In

(click these links for part one and part two)

Well. We are into our first week of worm farmin’ and so far, it’s been both easy and interesting. Worms, just want to dig, eat and poop, it turns out. They make great pets.

So far, we’ve had one escapee. I found the little digger on the bathroom carpet the second morning of having them. Mrgillis thinks we may have had more, just they became cat treats.

We have fed them three times and sprayed the newspaper daily – I swear, there is no real smell unless you stick your face right down in the worm restaurant portion of the hut.

Really, there isn’t much else to report on the worm front. We’ve just been spending some time learning about our new little buddies. So here are some fun facts about worms to make up for the short update.

  1. Worm capsules are like beet seeds. One capsule holds anywhere from 4-8 or more baby worms. Populations usually doubled every 90 days.
  2. If you split a worm in half, it will most likely NOT grow two worms. Only certain types of earth worms can do this.. and you shouldn’t mess around with this because worms have feelings too.
  3. 1 pound of worms can eat up to 1/2 pound of food a day. That means that a single worm can work thru up to 10 pounds of food per year.
  4. Worms are not bugs- they are actually annelids. And they can move because each segment of their little bodies have bristles called setae that help them burrow thru the dirt.
  5. Worms, have no lungs, and breathe thru their skin. That’s why you find so many on the ground after a rain storm. If they don’t surface, they will suffocate and die.
  6. They also have no eyes, but they can sense the light, especially with their front end.
  7. Worms can dig down to TWO MILES below the earths surface.
  8. Depending on soil quality, one acre of land can have up to ONE MILLION worms living and processing in it. (our land has like 0- we have very poor soil quality)
  9. There are over 2,500 different worms in our world.
  10. Worms are integral to the food supply, either as a soil improver or a food chain participant- without them, we’d probably be nothing and nowhere. Much like a lot of other insects and arachnids and such that we take for granted every day.

So, that’s about that.

Until next time, have a wicked good day.




A Venture into Vermiculture – setting up and getting started

Our Venture into Vermiculture, started out very quickly. It was literally, a flirtation with an idea and then, 3 days later our WormFactory 360 was delivered. We had already started a worm friendly compost bin and had been shredding our paper products and washing our eggshells to give our little dudes when they arrived (fun fact, worms are both male and female).

So the morning we found out our worms were on their way to being delivered, we got to work setting up their new home. This is not a simple task in itself.

Opening your kit – our worm factory 360 came complete with a base, with tea spigot, a worm ladder, 4 trays, a cover, a sprinkler tray, shredded newspaper, a moisture meter, ground pumice, coconut fiber called Coir, a Thermometer, and a bag of powdered minerals.

First, they recommend you test the base for leaks around the spigot. This is super easy, as you just put enough water in the base to cover the spigot hole. If it holds, then you’re good to start setting up. If it doesn’t, then please visit Nature’s Footpath for further troubleshooting.

Second, its time to build your worm home – for this you’re going to need some additional supplies- in particular a bunch of sheets of newspaper, a couple cups of dirt and kitchen scraps. We were able to find all of these things relatively easy, even tho we had to sacrifice an aloe plant to get the dirt (its ok, we have dozens).

For really complete instructions that come direct from the manufacturer, I urge you to please go here. This is our experience and I’m going to base this blog soley off of that.

First thing that morning, we got to work by placing the “Worm Ladder”(this is a special piece of plastic designed to help escaping worms find their way back home) in the fitted slots in the base and starting our first bin. We put the bin on the base, folded 5 peices of DRY newspaper to fit the bottom. Then Mrgillis got to preparing the base of our worm bin – the dirt from our aloe plant, the shredded newspaper, the wet coir, (this is a coconut fiber block that we partially soaked with 2 cups of water – you only use about a third of the block), half the pumice, a tablespoon of the powdered minerals, all componants of their new home, that will help keep moisture and air levels optimal for worm health. But we still had no worms…


So, we were working at our office, and around 10 am, we got phone call from post office that our worms were there, and ready to go home. Mrgillis went, picked them up, came home, and setup up our worm’s home with the mixture from above… he then added at least a cup of water to get right moisture level, which they give you a meter to help tell.

When at last, everything was set up according to the directions provided on natures footprint, he opened up the worms and let them explore their new home

After, he put a couple cups of compost in one corner so as to watch for them to return to their routine of eating and not being super stressed and trying to dig down. After we’ve established that they are eating again, we dont have to seperate the food like that anymore.

Finally, he sprayed the worms lightly with water, then covered them with damp, not soaked, newspaper, 5 to 7 sheets thick, and put the cover back on top of the farm.

We placed the worm factory 360 in our bathroom, for two reasons. We have to leave a light on for them for 24 hours to discourage them from escaping. Because stress, apparently. Bugs are pretty complex creatures. And space being the other one reason, as we don’t have a lot of it. Especially with a curious toddler.

img_1792On a final note, we recommend a spray bottle for keeping your newspaper damp… and it seems like everything else we needed to start our kit was included with the factory other then dirt and “food”. We were lucky to have one on hand already, as Casper, our treefrog, requires spraying daily.

Well, it appears I’ve said about all I have to say about setting up a worm farm. We’re still waiting to make sure they acclimate to their new home, and stop trying to escape. Then we can move the whole kit and caboodle out to the plant nursery.

Now it’s full steam ahead to get ready for our newest additions, CHICKS! They should be arriving sometime in the next week. I am just beside myself with excitement.

So until next time, have a wicked good day!

A Venture into Vermiculture

When our tax return came in this last month, I looked at mrgillis and said “How about we each take a bit and invest it into something- I’d like to do meat birds.”

He agreed, and we’re looking into ordering those and getting housing for them, sometime in June, after our 10(!!) year anniversary. But that’s an entirely different blog- Back to the subject at hand, which is, what did mrgillis decide to invest in this year?

When I said this to him, I thought he would go for stocks, really, because he’d been talking to his uncle a lot about this whole sirius/pandora thing going/not going on.

But instead, a few days later, after a shopping trip outta town, he turns to me and says, “so a thousand baby red worms are only 38 bucks with shipping…. and a four bin vermiculture setup goes for about a hundred….”

We have talked recently about adding a worm bin to our composting routine, because you can put stuff in there that the chickens wont eat, and you get WORM CASTINGS.

But a whole setup that you don’t have to build yourself can get a bit steep. Like $100 or more steep. We don’t have time to build everything ourselves, and buying a premade bin will save us time and possible mistakes….. pretty valuable when we still have the whole mess in the shed to deal with still, and chicks on the way(just our egg layers) in fewer then 14 days…

And Worm castings are something that are fairly expensive (anywhere from $1 to $3 per pound depending on brand) when bought in retail store and are amazing fertilizer for your plants. If we start producing our own, we will use more.

But in reality, that is still looking at 35 pounds of finished worm castings, at MINIMUM, that we have to produce, before we start to see a return on our investment.

But then there’s the fact that they will eat a ton of our food and paper waste, which makes them valuable in a different way. We have a goal to get as close to zero waste as possible.

So, we are now in the midst of ordering a Worm Factory 360 and our first 1000 red wrigglers.

And also going face first into a vermiculture crash course so we don’t kill these little guys.

Until next time, have a wicked good evening!

Part Two of our Venture Into Vermiculture