Introduction: Feed Bag Projects
Raising chickens involves certain basic constants reminiscent of the old Computer ????? GIGO which stood for "Garbage in; Garbage Out" except that, with the chickens its an never ending cycle of CFICPO "Chicken Feed In Chicken Poop Out."
Chickens appear to eat most anything! And our free ranging birds get all our food scraps as well as the basic supplemental 'store bought' fifty pound bags of 'Chicken Feeds.
As a result, a modest flock produces lots of poop, dozens (hopefully) of eggs, and loads of chicken feed bags - both paper and plastic! Now, in our experience, paper bags are few and far between as we chase he best feed prices. Most of our feed comes in one of two types of plastic bags that seem to be constructed of a weave of thin 'fibers' about 3/32" wide, thin as a hair and as long as needed for the bags at hand. The sturdier feed bags (like those our Dog Food comes in appear to be coated inside and out with the outside 'coatings' designed to take four color process printing in varying degrees of detail - some nice Chicken Pics on some of the bags!
The bags w/o the coating are accepted by our feed supplier who simply refills them and re-stitches the top/closure.
The paper bags can be used where you might use newsprint or cardboard (in the garden as mulch? Fire starter? Paper mache starter?
But the bags with the coating have served me well for quite a number of uses - keeping chickens warm, keeping firewood dry - creating an ad hoc 'paint booth' - Creating a 'seamless' background for photographing stuff for Instructables or Craigslist and E-bay
The latest re-use solved a crazy problem that had been driving us crazy for years.
Chickens, you see, seem to enjoy and definitely peck and eat plastic foam. From the packaging that came with the new toaster, vacuum cleaner etc appears to be a real chicken treat. The will peck the stuff until it disappears without a trace.
Now, I am the last to begrudge a wee hen a bit of toaster packaging. I gotta believe it actually means they eat less cracked corn - saving me money! Problem is, chickens cant tell the difference between discarded packaging material and a white foam picnic cooler, or worse, the insulation on my new garage door and the insulation added to my old shop door. They literally ate the lower eight feet of insulation from both doors!
I replaced the white 'factory' stuff with a green insulation board from the home center thinking the color might not suit them. Wrong again. First time they got into the garage, they started pecking the green insulation board.
What I use(d) for the Feed Bag Re-cycling
Dog Food Bags
Chicken Feed Bags
Hammer Tacker Stapler
2 Cheap Tarpaulins
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Step 1: De Construct the Feed Bags
While the stitching at the top of a feed bag is designed to be undone, the stitching at the bottom is not the same and is a pain to remove - though it can be done by people more patient then I.
So, I simply take the scissors and cut off the stitching and about an inch of the bottoms of the bags - if there is a project for which an inch pf bag were critical, well I've yet to come across it.
Now, you need to find the SEAM where the bag is joined - apparently glued - but maybe heat sealed somehow? At any rate find a corner and pull/peel the seam apart. Sometimes you have to pull from the inside, other times it works when you start on the outside and - if it won't come apart at the top, try the bottom.
Once you've got it started and can grip the beginning of the two pieces, just pull with all you might and it will come apart resulting in one sheet of feed bag.
Step 2: Putting Your Feed Bag Sheets to Good Use
Now I come by these bags in lots of three to seven at a time and wind up deconstructing a bunch at once. If I've a project at hand, they go right to use - if not, they roll up nicely if you lay them out flat one on top of the other and roll the stack up tightly and secure with a rubber band or tape.
The first recycling I did with these bags was simply to tack them on a chicken coop frame during the Winter to keep most of the harsh wind out. I have a Hammer Tacker Stapler and found the bags defied the winds and snow nicely and had to be removed when the Spring came. One bag I'd stapled up several years ago is still in place but the images printed on it have faded.
But the big problem they solved involved the insulation on the 'garage' doors in my shop and my street-level garage.
Chickens, it turns out just love to peck at insulation, They go after any white foam from packing materials to picnic coolers and incubators and, then they went after the foam on my new, insulated garage door! On that one, they had to peck through a (seemingly tough) plastic coating to get to the white foam material beneath.
I wound up replacing the damaged foam in that door and in my 'shop' door with some green insulation board I found at the Home Center. Whatever made me think the color would make a difference, I don't know,
First chance they got, the chickens pecked and ate the green board I'd just installed.
So, I tried Feed Bags!
Step 3: Bagging the Door Insulation
I found a picture of the green board post pecking.
I laid out the feed bag and prayed one edge with glue.
Then with the door raised up, I clamped one edge to the bottom of the door, letting the excess hang down where I could spray glue on it and the foam and press it in place, smoothing it out as I went along. Worked like a charm. I used two Dog Food bags that covered the lower portion of the door the chickens could reach.
So far (a year along) nary a peck - fowl fouled again.
Next - the wood pile!
Step 4: Bagging the The Firewood Bin
Here the bags actually served as a bit of the 'structure' of the 'roof' of our pallet wood firewood crib. The crib itself was constructed using three 40 x +/- 8' pallets joined together and set on some decking piers found at a Habitat Re-store. All of this was set on ground covered with plastic lumber wrap salvaged from the dumpster at a local saw mill that uses the stuff to protect (wrap top, sides and ends) stacks of lumber that may be twenty feet long. The plastic keeps stuff from growing up under the firewood and helps shedding the rain. Its free and long and wide!
The idea was to provide some shelter for the firewood while it waited to be turned into heat. Off the ground for starters, then a covering of (cheap) tarpaulins. The problem with a tarpaulin 'roof' is sagging between purlins (the supports - strips of 3/4 wood running front to back every 10-12" along the length of the crib.
Short of a solid (plywood/OSB?) decking up there, there as going to be sagging tarp when it rained or snowed. I pitched the roofline front to back so water would tend to flow off the tarps and down the hill behind the crib.
To eliminate as much 'sagging potential" as possible, I needed to add support between the purlins and that seemed a job for feed bags.
Since I didn't know of a recycle contest at the time and didn't think of making an instructable until I heard of the contest, I don't have a series of 'as built' pics to share. Best I can do are the pics taken after the build.
You can just make out the labels though the inside (white) side is down.
Each bag is made taut, then stapled to the next purlin and across the front and rear, then to the next pulin, and so on down the line, overlapping six inches or so with each new feedbag
Next, the two Tarpaulins (in turn) are stapled at one end, pulled taut, stapled at the far end and then this is repeated front to back with them overlapping in the middle/
One good thing about writing this long after the build is that, while there are few pictures of the construction, the crib has proven itself to be functional over several months and lots and lots of rainfall and wind - as yet no snow!
Step 5: A Few More to Close This Out
The faded bag on the small coop has survived for years - maybe eight or more! On the left end, a couple of Candidate signs serve a similar purpose a bit more elegantly - also for as many years! No wonder we have a plastics pollution problem - this stuff never dies!
The Double the Meat door on another coop came from a Subway sandwich shop renovation and the 'screens that form the back and end panels were made from plastic bread racks - they keep the chickens in nicely!
That last coop has the end and back sides covered with feed bags for the Winter.
The last shot shows a recycled electric griddle used to keep the water in the coop from freezing by heating beneath the coop floor when temps drop below 45 degrees.
BTW - if you look closely at the roof of that last coop, you may recognize and old chimney cover we found on the property years ago and pressed into use as a coop roof. The only ting in that coop that was purchased new was the chicken wire everything else was salvaged save teh nails/staples!
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