Chicken Coop with Living Roof

I had toyed with the idea of raising chickens for several years but, with no existing chicken house on the property and no idea where I would put one, I pushed the idea aside.


But never the dream.

The chicken house I had in mind would be a combination of garden shed and chicken coop.  I had envisioned a roof on one side that could be planted with a variety of sedums and, you guessed it, hen and chicks.  These roofs are called green roofs or living roofs.

I decided on a spot between the garden and the barn.  The garden shed is on the side with the door and inside, on the left, the chicken coop can be accessed.

Beginning construction of the chicken coop with a living  roof

January 2013

The living roof planting area is only 8 inches deep with a French drain-type pipe in the front to keep water from rushing over the side. The drainage hole faces the chicken run area (not shown)

May 2013--Filling the living roof with a combination of topsoil, perlite, and compost

Filling the roof with a combination of compost, perlite, and topsoil

To get the soil to the roof required a front-end loader.  After the soil was scooped up, I grabbed my shovel and hopped in the loader for the ride up.

Filling the roof with topsoil, perlite, and compost

After the soil was shoveled on, I placed a layer of chicken wire over the entire roof to hold everything in place.  I had ordered plugs (which are very tiny plants) early in the year from a friend in the nursery business.  A few weeks in the greenhouse and they were ready for the roof.

sedums rooting for the living roof sedums rooting for the living roof

I used wire cutters to open a space in the chicken wire for the plant.

chicken wire was placed on top of potting soil mixture to keep it on the roof

After planting, I folded the wires back over the plant and secured it with a garden staple. Then I mulched with a layer of Spanish moss. Tedious, I know, but I sure didn’t want everything to be washed off after the first rain.

May 2013--living roof planted

sedums and hen and chicks planted

This is a couple of months later.

July 2013--living roof on chicken coop

July 2013


I was rejoicing that the plants didn’t die during the winter and actually came back quite vigorously.

August 2014--sedums are filling in nicely on the living roof

August 2014

I planted some annuals in front and on the side

August 2014--Living roof on a chicken coop

I got an old scale out of the barn, put an old metal something filled with flowers on it, and sat a painted rooster beside it.

garden art  at the chicken coop

An artist from the local farmer’s market painted an old enamel table top I had and I added it to the side of the coop.

sunflower painting on the chicken coop

August 2014--chicken coop with a living roof

chicken coop with a living roof

and now 2015.

I added window boxes to all windows and planted some Amsonia divisions underneath.  I wanted something tall to grow in the spaces between the windows, but the sunflowers I planted were eaten  by grasshoppers. The only sunflower I have is a rogue volunteer from last year.   I’ll take it.

July 2015--chicken coop with a living roof

July 2015--chicken coop with a living roof sunflower at the chicken coop

Another addition is the sunflower painted door and an old bed rail from a friend’s barn interplanted with zinnias.

chicken coop front door

I have had a lot of fun decorating this little chicken coop.  The great thing is I haven’t spent too much money doing it as I have divided some plants and saved flower seeds from previous years as well as a variety of treasures (or junk if you talk to Allen)   Shouldn’t there be a DIY show dedicated to chicken houses?

Does anyone else decorate their chicken houses?


Posted in antiques, Arkansas blogger, Chickens, do it yourself, Farm life, Flowers, Garden | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Sweet Rewards

Last Sunday, my dad and I inspected the hives to check the honey production.  It was a hot, sunny afternoon and the bees were happy and paying no attention to us.

The super we’ve been watching has filled up slowly over the past several weeks.   Here’s a frame from a couple of weeks ago.

There are 10 frames to one super. This is one side of one frame.  The top half is capped honey.

There are 10 frames to one super. This is one side of one frame. The top half is capped honey.

I was a little concerned that with all the rain we’ve had, although great for the gardens, washes off pollen from flowers.  Also, flowers and veggies that should’ve have been blooming had not started yet.  So if pollen is not available for pollinating flowers, and nectar is not available either, what’s a bee to do??  In other words, I didn’t know what to expect.

bee and frame

Beginning honey production at the top of another frame. This frame also has brood (baby bees) in the right hand corner

This is what we saw last Sunday.

honey harvest bee

This frame is full of honey on both sides.  Nine of the ten frames were full.  The tenth frame was half full and we decided to leave it alone based on the fact that we weren’t sure what to do.  We did decide though it was time to have our very first honey harvest.

We harvested on Thursday which was predicted to be very hot.  We decided to get started around ten o’clock.  I lit the smoker, we donned our gear and took the necessary equipment to the hive.

One thing I did not have was a fume board.  A fume board is used to drive the bees off the honey super.  When we looked at the super last Sunday, there were very little bees in it.  This was not the case on Thursday.  Maybe (probably) it was the time of day but bees were everywhere and they Did. Not. Like. Me. taking their honey.  I got my first sting(s) that day and mentally put a fume board on my list of necessary equipment to have.

A full super (I used a medium-sized super) weighs about 50 pounds full of honey.  Too heavy and bulky for me to lift.  And since there were so many bees in the super anyway, we decided to remove the frames one at a time and put them in an ice chest to transport them.

My dad built a canning kitchen inside his barn a couple of years ago.  This turned out to be the best place to do the honey harvest. We had all the equipment set up and ready to go.

He has a friend that gave us a honey extractor.  This is by far the best invention ever.

honey harvest bee

It only holds 2 frames at a time.  If we had more hives it would be nice to have one that held 10 frames but this one was fine for our nine frames.  It is a hand cranked model with a honey gate at the bottom.

Before extracting the honey, though, you have to uncapped the frames.  Before bees cap (or seal) the honey they fan the honey to change the moisture content.  Too much moisture, the honey will ferment.  Believe it or not, bees know when the correct moisture has been reached.  Studies have shown that the moisture content of capped honey is a consistent 17%.  Another reason to be amazed at this creature.

This was our setup for uncapping.

bee frame honey

A plastic tub I found in the storage closet cleaned thoroughly.  A piece of wire mesh placed in the tub to catch the cappings, and a stick to go across the tub to hold the frame.  Cappings hold honey as well so the wire mesh helps separate cappings from honey.

honey harvest bee

honey at bottom of cappings tub

The same friends that gave us the extractor also gave us a heated uncapping knife.

honey harvest bee

We stood the frame on its end and, starting at the top, slid the knife down the frame.  For the areas the knife didn’t cut, a uncapping tool was used.  The uncapping tool has several separate, metal projections that when scrapped across a frame will open the caps.

honey harvest bee

Dad’s fast at uncapping

after uncapping tool was used

after uncapping tool was used

The uncapping tool would work fine is you didn’t have the knife, but I can tell you the knife is nice.  Very quick but expensive to buy and I am so very grateful to the friends that gave it to us.

When that was completed, we placed  two frames in the extractor and began to crank.

bee frame extractor

extractor in motion

We cranked a total of ten minutes to remove all honey from the frames.  Five minutes for one side and then we took them out flipped them to the other side and five more minutes.  After twenty or so minutes of this, my assistant (a retired electrician and also my dad) began thinking of ways to  power this baby up.

dad honey harvest 2015 bee

And believe me we discussed this at length.

After four frames, we could feel and see honey pooling in the bottom of the extractor.  We set up a bucket (also equipped with a honey gate) under the extractor and opened up the gate.

honey and beeI should also mention we put 2 different sizes  of strainers over the bucket.  These filters sit on top of each other and filter out any debris that came off the frames.

honey harvest bee

honey harvest bee

We repeated with the remaining frames.

After the honey is strained into the bucket, you can either bottle it right away or let it sit overnight.  When it sits overnight, air bubbles move to the top and can be skimmed off.  Air bubbles do not affect the taste or quality of the honey, it is just a cosmetic issue.  I decided to let mine sit because 1) I had no jars ready and 2) because I was tired.  They say people get into bees because of the honey and they get out of the bees because of the honey.  It takes time and it was a days work for me and my dad to do only nine frames.

But I forgot about all the hard work when I tasted it.

honey and bee

Oh my.  The honey is very dark so it’s probably not all from the clover in the fields.  It has a bold flavor so I can’t say what it’s from.  Bees have a 3-mile radius from the hive and I don’t know of any particular crops around this radius.   My neighbor told me his Linden tree was full of bees when it was blooming so maybe a variety of tree blooms?  I don’t know.  I do know that I have 45 pounds of pure raw honey sitting in my kitchen.

this is only half of the honey harvest

this is only half of the honey harvest

honey harvest bee honey harvest bee

In the bee classes I took 2 years ago, we were told that one bee makes 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.  45 pounds of honey equals 2882 teaspoons.  That’s a lot of bees working very hard to give us this sweet treat.

Really makes me appreciate them even more.

bees 3/12/15

Now excuse me while I go find a biscuit….


I am happy to link with the Chicken Chick at

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Lily of the Ditch

This time of year, the ditches in my area are filled with a certain lily.

Common Tiger Lily

Orange daylilies or tawny daylilies (Hemerocallis fulva) are either loved or despised depending on who you talk to.

I have some in my flower bed.  I don’t remember planting them there but they appeared and multiplied with great enthusiasm.  I’ve dug them up, gave many away and thrown some in the ditch by the county road expecting them to wither and die.


Common Tiger Lily

As a matter of fact, they thrived.  They bloomed.  They multiplied with great enthusiasm. Which is how they earned their common name of ditch lily.

I’ve always thought of these flowers as a native, old fashioned,  pass-along plant handed down from generation to generation.

Common Tiger LIly

Not so.

Turns out Hemerocallis fulva  is an invasive species from Asia.  The tawny daylily escaped someone’s garden way back in time and has been seen multiplying all over the U. S of A.

I, for one, am on the fence about this one.  On one hand, they are virtually impossible to kill.  They have a pretty orange flower and get tall enough to be a good plant for the back of the border.

Common Tiger Lily Common Tiger Lily

On the other hand, the root system is so intense it can hardly be divided without leaving a trace of a root behind.

And that’s all they need to multiply with great enthusiasm again.

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I’m beginning to mold…

As I write this, the remnants of Tropical Storm Bill is upon us. The rains have come in waves and as soon as I go out to do anything, it starts to pour.  I go in and it quits.  I go out and it begins again.  Back and forth. Forth and back.  Raincoat on.  Raincoat off.  Boots on.  Boots off.  Then it’s dark. Repeat for days.  I hate to complain about free irrigation, but enough already.

We had a two-week break from the 15″ of rain in May.  During that time, we processed 17 meat chickens and moved the remaining 48 out to the chicken tractors.  I had to get another tractor to house that many birds and it is an old rabbit hutch that Allen put wheels on.  The chickens seem to be doing ok with all the moisture but I am having trouble keeping their food dry even though it is in the covered part of the tractor.  Rumor has it if this weather continues they are strongly considering becoming ducks.

Meat Chickens in the chicken tractor

My vegetable garden has never looked this good in mid June.   Fortunately, I was able to mulch the garden well before the rains hit and, although it seems to be draining well,  walking in it is impossible.  I still have lettuce which I can reach from the edge as well as banana peppers so I’ll try not to complain.  The rains will stop on Saturday and the temps will soar into the 90’s making it full-blown summer again.

Some of the flowers I have blooming are Asclepias tuberosa  (which you know is one of my favorites)

Asclepias tuberosa or Milkweed is the host plant for monarch butterflies.

Milkweed is the host plant for Monarch butterflies

Heuchera, an Arkansas native, that grows well in part shade and our rocky soil.

Heuchera is a native plant great for part shade.

Heuchera is a native plant great for part shade. Heuchera is a native plant great for part shade.

Rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium), another Arkansas native, grows up to 5 ft. tall and is great for the back of a sunny flower bed.

Rattlesnake master, an Arkansas native plant great for the back of a sunny flower bed.

I’m lucky to have a hydrangea expert in the family

Hydrangea expert

as well as someone to show me the intricate details of a dandelion.

He is also known for his rock arrangements.

I also love to incorporate garden art amidst the flowers.

Resident garden frog

Fish out of water

Fishing  bear

But Magnum P.I. considers himself the best garden art of all.

Garden guard kitty

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Flower of the Week

As I wandered through the gardens this week, I noticed one of my favorite native plants in bloom.

Native plant Spigelia or Indian Pinks make a great addition to your shade garden.

Spigelia marilandica or Indian pink is a small flower growing about 1 ft. tall.  The bloom begins with a tubular, red flower and then opens up to a yellow, star-shaped bloom on the end.  Over time, it will make about a 1 ft. clump.

Native plant Spigelia or Indian Pinks make a great addition to your shade garden.

I have this in my half shade/half sun bed where it receives some afternoon sun.  It tolerates so many growing conditions, from part sun to full shade, to moist or dry soil.  It is a perennial in zones 5-9 and it’s good to see some nurseries starting to carry these.  I started these from seed I collected on a motorcycle trip in Colorado and planted them and then forgot about them. So add being ignored to its attributes.  Our highway department also plants these in the strips between interstate highways and it is stunning to see masses of these in bloom.

Collecting seed from this flower can be tricky, though. Timing is everything.  Seeds will form in a tight pod and then will suddenly explode spewing seeds everywhere.  (Columbines do this, too.) So when the seed pods start to form, slip a piece of cheesecloth or pantyhose around them so you can collect them easily.

Hummingbirds are attracted to the red and it’s a great source of nectar for them as well.  It is listed as one of the top ten native plants for hummers by many hummingbird organizations.

Native plant Spigelia or Indian Pinks make a great addition to your shade garden.

Does anyone else have a not so common flower they enjoy?


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And Before You Know It,

the month of May is gone and my plants have come to life.

heurchera bloom with columbine bloom on the side

Heuchera bloom with a columbine on the side

showy evening primrose

Showy evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa) is a good groundcover


Phlox paniculata is a tall garden phlox that blooms profusely in the spring


I’m pairing this hot pink impatiens with my white hydrangeas ’cause that’s how I roll

The garden is waiting patiently for the rain to let up.  We’ve had over 13 inches of rain this month with more to come this weekend.  My lettuce is looking very yummy but I sink trying to get to it.

pinto bean

Lina Sisco Bird Egg Bean (pinto bean)

okra seedling

Okra prefers sunnier days. This little seedling was found about a foot from where I planted it. Surprise!


Garlic seems to be holding up well


Tomatoes also love warmer days. Mulching tomatoes helps prevent blight which occurs from water splashing up from the soil to the plant.


Tomato bed with wire supports

This past winter I started saving my eggshells.  I placed them in a plastic bag and stored them in the freezer.  Around April, I thawed them out and placed them in the greenhouse to dry.

eggshells eggshellsAfter a month, the heat from the greenhouse made them brittle enough to be crushed easily.  As I planted the tomatoes, I placed a handful of eggshells (calcium) in the hole, mixed them with the soil, and placed the tomato plant on top.  Calcium deficiency in tomatoes presents itself as blossom end rot, a very dark, rotten-looking spot on the end of the tomato (hence the name).  I’ve never had any problems with this before but figured it wouldn’t hurt to give them a boost and possibly prevent a very ugly problem.

The meat chickens are growing nicely and the first batch is almost 6 weeks old.  Out of the 25 I started with, 17 have made it and they will be ready to process very soon.

meat chickens

The newest set of meat chickens are 2-1/2 weeks old.

*whisper*of the 50 I started with, only 2 have died.*end whisper*

I still have a long way to go, but so far this is much better than the first batch. They will be ready to move to the chicken tractor when the older ones are processed.

A while back, I told you about all the eggs in the incubator.  Unfortunately, none hatched.  I was sure it was operator error but Peaches only hatched 4 of the 13 she was setting on.  This means my rooster is only good for one thing.  Making noise.  Oh well.  My luck all 4 of the new chicks will be roosters.  Wouldn’t that be interesting.

My great-grandmother’s peony bloomed on Mother’s Day weekend like it usually does but the rains have beat the blooms down to the ground.


They were pretty for a day!

The peach tree is loaded.  My dad said he used to work in a peach orchard and his job was to hit the trees with a big stick to knock off (or thin) the peaches out.  I decided I wouldn’t go that far, but I did give the tree a good shake and several small ones fell off and that’s all I’m going to do.  I don’t know what the rains will do to them, but I would really like to eat fresh peaches this year.  Pleeeezzzzzeee!


My resident road runner is scouting for snakes.  Excessive rains bring out the snakes and although I’ve just seen the good ones (aka king snakes), bad snakes like the poisonous water moccasins and copperheads are also common.  I didn’t know they ate snakes until I recently saw him with a small one.

road runner

You go, bird!

This is a shot of what used to be the old highway on the way to our house.  When the new highway was finished, the Highway Department planted the old one in wildflowers.   It looks like a river of daisies and I love it.

daisies on old highway

As part of the Keep Arkansas Beautiful program, they also planted coreopsis and evening primrose on our  unmowable strips next to the highway.

roadside daisies and coreopsis coreopsis and daisies daisies and coreopsis

A weird thing happened with the bees.

I had just finished weed-eating around the bee yard and had taken the weed eater back to the barn.  From inside the barn, I  heard the buzz of bees.   It was very loud.  Too loud.  I ran to the bee hives only to see the bees POURING out of the large hive.  I’ve never seen a swarm leave the hive, but I’m sure this was the beginning.  They weren’t flying away  but gathering at the bottom of the hive.  Thousands of bees.  Luckily I had my bee suit on and the smoker ready because I was getting ready to add some supers.  I smoked them and literally picked up handfuls of bees and put them back in the hive.  I don’t know if it worked or not because it has rained ever since that happened.  Hopefully the rain will stop soon so I can check them.  Like I’ve said before though, once they get in their heads to leave, they usually do.  I have no idea what to expect when I  open up the hive.


On a happier note, we’ve been fortunate to spend a good deal of time with our grandkids.  When they are together, there is running, chasing, splashing, and laughter.  Lots of laughter.  They are the best part of my day.

hallie and luke may 2015

rare photo of him–most are blurry

We’ve attended PreK graduation,

hallie prek graduation

and her first dance recital

hallie ballerina recitalfollowed by losing her front teeth!

Hallie 5 lost teeth

Life is good!







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Bee Update

I can’t remember if I told you or not, but last fall I had bees from one of my hives leave.  Before we had left on vacation, both hives were doing well.  I had inspected them a few days before we were to leave and both hives had a good amount of honey stored up.  When we returned though, one hive was empty.  No dead bees just no bees at all.  Had I killed the Queen inadvertently when I did the inspection?  Was it really a weaker hive to begin with and I hadn’t recognized the signs?  Was this Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)?  I don’t know for sure, but several beekeepers told me it sounded more like CCD.  Bees will leave the hive (or swarm)in the spring due to overcrowding, but bees that leave their winter supply of food for no apparent reason is a mystery to many beekeepers and scientists alike.

The one hive I had left was strong.  It survived the winter and obviously has a good queen because in March when I inspected, both hive bodies were overflowing with bees.

Spring Bees Busy spring bees

Fearing a swarm later on, I thought about splitting the hive.  I had never done that before and was hoping to find someone to actually come out to the farm and help.  Unfortunately, all the  beekeepers I talked to were busy with their own hives and unable to make a physical trip to my place.

So, I made an executive decision and decided to add another super on top to ease the overcrowding situation.  I put 3 frames of bees from the middle box in the top box and replaced those with empty frames.  I’m not sure that’s acceptable protocol or not but what’s done is done.  (I have a tendency to overthink and research things to death so this spur of the moment decision is kinda monumental for me.)  This addition was done about 3 weeks ago.

expanding the bee hives in spring

Bee condo

The beehive and box in the background is a new group of bees I received last weekend.  The white box contains a nucleus (or nuc) of about 3000-5000 bees.

nuc bee box

nuc box

nuc bee box

nuc box

These boxes contain 5 frames of bees with their queen.  These frames are transferred into the deep hive body (gray box)

bee nuc box with awaiting hive body

with 5 empty frames so they have ample room to grow.  Sugar water is given as a ‘welcome to the neighborhood’ gift and they are left alone for about a week.  I’m hoping to get a peek inside this weekend if the rain lets up.

When I installed the nuc into the new hive body last weekend, I also checked the progress of the bee condo. I was shocked to see all frames filled in the middle box and all but 2 in the top.  Look at this

bees and honey bees and honey, sweet honey.

It was dripping off my hive tool.

bee and honey on my hive tool

I am so excited!  I then realized I will need to get more honey supers ready to add to the top of the bee condo.  I had ordered some extra hive bodies a few weeks ago, but wanted each grandchild to paint one with their favorite color.  We got both of them together recently, gave them a brush and let them loose.

painting our bee box

yellow for her

painting our bee box

and lots of blue for him! (We won’t be needing a second coat)

So much fun!

Our 5-year old granddaughter asked if she could help with the bees, so I’m hoping to find her a bee suit.  I think all she really wants to do is operate the smoker, but I love that she’s so interested in learning about them.

There is still a chance the bees in the bee condo will swarm.  Sometimes, I’m told, no matter what precautions you take to prevent this, once they get it in there little bee heads to leave, they leave.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed just in case.

If all goes well, I hope to do my first honey harvest soon.  Some good friends of my dad have given us a honey extractor.  This extractor is  stainless steel tub with a hand crank to spin out the honey.  That’s all I know about it at this time.

I better go overthink and research it.




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