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Make your Own Chicken Nest Boxes

It’s easy to make your own chicken nest boxes out of almost anything. If you have a place that’s sheltered from wind and rain for your chickens, like a roofed run or polytunnel then you don’t need to spend a fortune on nest boxes or hutches. Assuming you already have a hutch where the hcickens will sleep, you can pop nest boxes anywhere off the ground and almost any box type object will do. If you have a broody hen, you can suddenly find yourself without the use of a selection of nest boxes and a hutch and these extra nest boxes may be just what you need in a hurry.

 

What makes a good nest box?

  • dark
  • no breezey gaps – fully sheltered from the wind (unless you don’t want any broodies but we like to encourage ours to go broody)
  • non slippy surface Or straw for grip if it is  a bit slippy
  • Removable top so you can extract broody hens if you need to relocate them.
  • Easy access for the chickens and for you when you collect eggs
  • Dry/waterproof
  • Big enough for your chickens but small enough to be “safe” feeling. Bantams require very little space, but medium and large fowl will need at least 25cm high and as wide/long as possible. Larger is better because it will be too late to change the nest box if you find your chickens are a bit awkward trying to get in and out.

 

Wooden Boxes
Can be costly or require specific and accurate tools to construct properly. Wood may be purchased or salvaged but salvaged wood will be harder to turn into nest boxes.

 

Metal Buckets

Can be costly if purchased. Will require stableising on the bottom. Metal can get too hot or too cold with british weather.

 

Plastic Tubs

Can be costly depeding on wher eyou shop. Can be easily salvaged from skips and require little modification. Can be too bright – will need a coat of paint.

 

My Nest Boxes

I chose plastic tubs from the shop for my nest boxes. I measured up the space I had on the top of the main hutch and got appropriately sized tubs for £5 each. Then I cut a hole in the front of the the tub (one of the shortest sides) big enough so a chicken could comfortably get through (I have large fowl so this required some testing). Then painted the outside to block light coming in and let it dry. Add a bit of straw, place somewhere sheltered and viola, chickens are very happy with thier new choice of nest boxes.

If they look a bit confused, pop an egg into each one and sit the chickens next to the boxes so they can see. They will soon work it out!

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Turn your Juice and Milk Cartons into Seedling Trays

It’s easy to turn your leftover Juice Cartons and Milk Cartons into seedling planters. Not all cities recycle this material so if you are stuck in a place that won’t recycle them like us, it’s a great idea to try to re-use them instead.

Cut out a rectangle shape on the top of the carton (keeping the lid tightly screwed on still. Do not cut all the way to the edge of the carton – you will need a cm roughly around the edges to keep the carton stable with the weight of the soil inside.

Then simply fill with seedling soil and plant your salad seeds. Place on a windowsill and harvest as and when you desire! The easy compact design of these cartons make them the perfect size for windowsills and the cartons are naturally leak proof and certified food safe.

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Convert Divan Beds into Netting Cages

Okay so don’t go ripping up your own bed to do this. You will find plenty of old divan beds laying around skips, dumping areas and end of year house clear outs in student areas. The divan beds are those old fabric bed bases with wooden frames inside consisting of two separate sections to make the whole bed once the mattress is on.

The great thing about these beds are they light, they have wheels so they are easy to move and the frames inside are quite a sturdy build and require no further work to them.

Step One

Remove the fabric – most of it will be easily ripped off but you may need a knife for the edges.

convert diavn bed into netting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step Two

Using a staple gun, start tacking cheap pond netting around the wooden frame. Make sure it is taut.

netting cage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step Three

 

Enjoy your new cage net – perfect size for protecting 6 cabbages!

cage netting cage netting

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How I Created my First Home Aquaponics System

After struggling for a long time with how to keep my fish tank as clean as possible (with as little effort as possible) and failing miserably I finally discovered aquaponics – and I wanted it. This system is so special it covers looking after fish, upcycling materials and growing your own food! The problem was most aquaponics systems costs hundreds of pounds and I had about a tenner to spare, if that.

I was not to be deterred however, I wanted one, so I was going to figure out how to build my own. I already had a small fish tank with a terrible water filter that dribbled out water at best and needed changing every week. I wanted to convert this into a self cleaning system that also provided food.

How Aquaponics Works

Aquaponics is amazingly simple really. All you need is a pump to pump the water from the fish tank to a tray with various sized filtering rocks in it. Here you plant a bunch of cress seeds (or even lettuce) on top of the rocks. The idea is the plants use the fish poo and turn it into nutrients to grow. Then, the water needs to be directed back down either into a second tray or into the fish tank again. The falling water being a bit cleaner than before and oxidizing the tank.

Cost to DO:

If you already have fish and a fish pump: £0
If you do not have a pump : £10 +costs of tank and fish according to your requirements.

Our zebra fish are around £7 each, snails to eat algae are 75p each (because our zebra fish are in cold water) and the tank was free from friends (you can also scour freecycle and supermarket adverts). While we did also get a free pump it broke within a few days and we had to purchase a new one – we got the cheapest one around which was £10 from our local pet store. Since we are improving the flow capability of this pump anyway a cheap one will be sufficient.

Equipment:

  • Glue/Glue Gun/Super Glue
  • Knife/Scissors
  • Plastic tray – such as those from supermarket bread/pastry products
  • Plastic tubes (we used kids toy tubes from a pirate bed – they were the perfect fit for the pump attachment!)
  • Gravel of different sizes (taken from the original filter and replacement filters and the fish tank gravel)
  • A couple of small bottles (those little innocent smoothie bottles work great)
  • A water pump (taken from the original filter). You can purchase a pump on its own but it’s actually cheaper to just buy the cheapest tank filter instead and get the extra gravel this way as a bonus.

Method:

 

First of all before we begin, I would like to let you know that the aquaponics system isn’t the one I first built. The one I will be teaching you to make today is our Aquaponics Mark II system.

The first one looked like this:

Aquaponics Mark I

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were however several problems with this design that only emerged afterwards including:

  • Not enough space for cress – it grows hard and fast and we want more!
  • Roots clogged up holes
  • Holes were leaky
  • Fish filter pump was not enclosed enough

So we decided to create Aquaponics Mark II and significantly improved upon it’s design with some rather intuitive solutions if I do say so myself.

Step One

 

Gather together your materials including plastic tray (I prefer see through to maximise light access), plastic tubing, scissors, and glue (i used a glue gun before but ran out of sticks so used super glue this time).

Aquaponics Aquaponics

 

 

 

 

 

Cut the tube into two sections: 1 long one to fit from the pump to the fish tank lid, and one short one to fit from the fish tank lid to just above the water level of the tank. The long tube will be your water out section and the short one will direct the water back in.
Aquaponics Aquaponics

 

 

 

 

Step Two

 

Line up the plastic tray against your fish tank lid. Later on it will be glued into place but not now (just in case something goes wrong). Mark out where you want your tubes to go so that they go through the existing holes in the fish tank lid. I placed my output tube on the right hand side (so that the pump will be at the side of the tank and the power cable is closest to the wall socket). The shorter input tube I placed at the back middle of the lid/tray.

Aquaponics AquaponicsAquaponics  Aquaponics

 

 

 

 

 

Put a hole through the marks and ease the tubes in, glue in place inside the plastic tray so that water can’t leak out (you can use bath sealant I guess if you have some spare). Allow to dry thoroughly before exposing to water.

Step Three

 

Take your small plastic bottle and check the water pump you have will fit inside it. The pump should be easy to remove from the fish filter and won’t require any tomfoolery. For my filter I found it fit easily with plenty of room into an innocent smoothie bottle.

Aquaponics Aquaponics

 

 

 

 

 

Get your knife/scissors and score thin line holes at 90 degree points at the base of the bottle like in the picture above. You don’t need to widen these holes this will be plenty for the water to get into without endangering small fish.

Step Four

 

Remove the lid of the bottle and make a hole in the middle. Thread the long tube attached to the tray through this hole. Do not glue it in place (we want to minimise the use of glue where possible both for the fish and for the sake of easy removal and replacement of parts).

Aquaponics Aquaponics

 

 

 

 

 

Cut the Bottle in half above the pump and slot the pump inside. There should be plenty of breathing room in there.

Aquaponics

 

 

 

 

 

Cut a line hole in the top of the bottle and thread the wire through it (since it is attached to a pump at one end and a plug at the other, you need to cut a line to thread it through not just a hole for the wire). Do not seal the top of the bottle into the base yet – attach the long output tube to the pump first threaded through the open bottle top. Then screw the bottle top to the lid on the tube and finally slot the top half of the bottle inside the bottom half of the bottle so that the pump is covered and cannot trap fish.

Aquaponics

 

 

 

 

 

Step Five

 

Secure the plastic tray to the fish tank lid with glue in the corners. If using super glue you will need to sit around for a long time. A glue gun is much faster to dry. When it is dry, place the system into the fish tank and close the lid in place. Check that the short tube is suspended inside the fish tank above the water level and that the pump bottle fills with water and is weighed down sufficiently.

Aquaponics Aquaponics Aquaponics

 

 

 

 

 

Now is the time to check your system works before progressing further. It should all work fine but if your holes are too small, or too big you may have water flow problems or leaks and now is the time to fix those before finishing the system. Thankfully ours did not have leaks and had excellent water flow, yay! Remember we had a piddly slow water pump? Not anymore! Thanks to the vastly superior filter system the water flow was much better, some pre-built fish water filters are just designed very badly. Time to move on…

Step Six

 

In this design we also created a removable tube protection system that acted as an additional filter. This device will use the bio sponge found in your old fish filter providing a third method of cleaning the water. This sponge needs regular cleaning, so its important it’s not fixed into place – which means a tricky problem to solve for our aquaponics system. We found in our Aquaponics Mark I system, placing the sponge into the tube meant daily cleaning required and a vastly reduced water flow so this time we went for something a bit more daring.

Aquaponics Aquaponics Aquaponics

 

 

 

 

 

Take your second small bottle and cut the top off. Then cut a small rectangle (smaller than the bio sponge you have) into the bottom side of the bottle.

Aquaponics

 

 

 

 

 

Then with the bottom half of the bottle cut a thin strip off the top so it makes a circle like this.

Aquaponics

 

 

 

 

 

Slot the strip of plastic into the base of the top half of the bottle so that it covers the rectangular hole you created. You should find the plastic bends inwards a bit creating a gap as the plastic ring is slightly bigger than the bottle top half. This is great and just what we need to get water through the sponge so align this inward bend so that it is behind the rectangular hole you created.

Aquaponics Aquaponics

 

 

 

 

 

Then place the sponge between the plastic like above. It will be clamped in to place by the plastic strip but still allow water to pass through the sponge. Your tube protection device can now be sat on the plastic tray around the shorter tube hole. This will help stop roots clogging up the tube and provide an extra filter for the water exiting the system. Not all of the water will go through the sponge but it will capture a lot. It does not need anything to weigh it down – it will be heavy enough and the water flow won’t disturb it.

When the sponge gets brown – rinse it under a tap and then replace it. Turn the bottle top periodically to sever ambitious roots heading for your tube hole.

AquaponicsAquaponics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step Seven

 

Fill the tray with your smallest gravel from the filter, then the second smallest, then the biggest and finally with the gravel from the bottom of your fish tank (after you have cleaned it all). This creates several layers of filtration. Make sure the level of the gravel is higher than the stable water level when the pump is on to help prevent seed movement.

Aquaponics Aquaponics Aquaponics Aquaponics

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, scatter some cress seeds on the gravel, put your fish tank by a window and turn on the pump. Check the water flow is still good to ensure sufficient oxidisation of the water for the fish. Wait 3-6 days and eat the resulting cress – plant more on top and repeat the process!

If you do not have a spare window you can get a special growing LED bulb plate to fix above your fish tank but this will cost around £20.

Congratulations, you are finished!

Great job on getting this far, you now have your own aquaponics system that will/is:

  • Oxidise your water
  • Provide a multi-filtration system by: Plants, Gravel layers and Bio Sponge
  • Provide quick and easy to grow healthy food to snack on and use in salads (the kids will LOVE this!)
  • Make happier healthier fish
  • Reduced cleaning for your fish tank required (deep clean once a month if the water starts going green and consider adding one or two water snails).
  • An amazing self sufficient system you didn’t pay £400 for.

In a few days your tray will look something like this one did (picture from Aquaponics Mark I):

Aquaponics

 

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Convert Gutters to Grow Salad

This project was quick, easy and very effective to do and best of all, it only cost a couple of screws and a glue stick. If you are like us stuck for places to grow your salad food close to home you can take advantage of any spare guttering you have or find in skips. You can find old guttering down the side of houses, at building sites or in skips, just check with the house owner first in case they still want them.

Step One

Collect Guttering from Authorised Source – You don’t need to buy new guttering, it’s expensive and there are lots of gutters laying around going to waste.

Try to find the brackets too. If you can’t find any brackets you can pick them up from your local DIY store for £1.50 each for the cheapest kind.

Step Two

Dig some plastic milk bottles out of the recycling bin, if you don’t have any you may find a few in any of the recycling bins in your street. It’s better to reuse something than to recycle it so don’t worry about it but you can always ask permission from the house owner first just to make sure. In fact, it usually strikes up a fun and interesting conversation! Cut the milk bottles in half vertically and horizontally and take the halves of the base.

Step Three

Using a low watt glue gun (available from most DIY or arts & crafts stores), glue the base and sides of the milk carton quarter to the guttering to seal up the ends like this:

upcycle guttering

 

Step Four

Drill holes along the base of the gutter to allow the water to escape and avoid boggy soil.

upcycle guttering

 

Step Five

Fill the bottom of the gutter with small pebbles or rock fragments to improve the drainage of the soil. Than top the gutter up with good all purpose compost or general soil fit for planting.

 

Step Six

Transplant plants of your choice to the soil and ensure you water after planting.

 

Step Seven

Place gutter brackets on to your chosen area with screws such as a bare fence panel or the side of your garden shed. Make sure the guttering gets plenty of direct sunlight through out the day but also gets the most light for the longest duration of the day. When fixed into place simply slide and snap the guttering into place.

upcycle guttering