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Chicken part 2

So we have built the brooder and we have built our tractor. We need some chickens. Well guess what came 3/15/17? yep 26 birds from the hatchery. 1 is a bonus heritage breed so we will have to see what we got when it gets older. You can see that one in the mass of chickens it appears as a open spot in all the chicken yellow. In reality it is just a dark colored chick.

We got them all set up and a few notes that I feel I need to share. They were super thirsty. I was suprised at all the water they were drinking they really really really seemed like they needed it. So the whole pushing the beak in the water when I unboxed them seemed to really get them in the mood to drink.

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I also used some paper with some food on it as was suggested so they can find it easier. Seemed to really excite them as well. Right after the picture was taken they swarmed all over the paper after the food.

We will be removing the food every night before bed and replacing it in the morning. The insert made this suggestion for the first several weeks in the brooder as they grow so quickly that it really does cause a significant amount of stress on their bodies.

It is exciting to see these guys settleing in. They have found the warm plate (I had to push a couple under for them to figure it out for after that they took a nap and warmed up a bit. Now they come out get a drink get some food and head back under. I guess it does more closely resemble a Hen tending to the brood in that regard.

We will keep you posted as things continue to develop.

 

Doug

 

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Chicken Brooder

Brooder is a fun word. I have become more enamored with words. There are specific meanings to specific word and while many words are similar each word has a meaning. Affect and Effect, Their, There, They’re you get the point.

A chicken brooder is a house for chicks. Usually having either a Hen or heat source, bedding, food and water. They can literally be anything. Some people use metal watering troughs, sheds, wagons, boxes etc etc.

When considering chick brooders there are a couple of things we kept in mind. 1 being cost. We are not sure if chicks are a long term project for us so we did not want to get to extravagant. Not that any of the images above are extravagant.

2. Space. We have 5 acres outside and a three car garage plus two barns. All of those spaces only the garage is climate controlled in the winter and close enough to the house to check on the birds regularly. This puts the space that the brooder takes up at a premium. So we wanted something we can tuck away when not in use.

3. Functionality. Cheap and Compact are great things but it has to actually do the job. We want the chicks to be safe (should a predator get in the garage). We want them to be warm and comfy we we went to a variation on the “Panel” brooder.

We started with a sheet of 3/4 inch plywood. Cut into 4 equal sized panels.

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Then we cut two 3/4 inch sections half way down each panel using a 3/4 inch chisel to remove the cut out section.

This leaves you with 4 panels with two sections cut out half way down the panels that can be interlocked to create a box.

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Now we have the basic brooder. You can simply put some wood shavings/bedding in the box or you can add some other items. We made a lid to go on it and with wholes and 1/2 inch hardware cloth covering the openings

We elected to go with Premier 1 supply chick heater plate. There are a couple of reasons for this choice. The obvious concern is heat source on wood shavings. A heat lamp tends to dry out the wood shavings making combustion easier. A heat plate applies heat downward onto the chicks more efficiently thus using less electricity as a lamps heat is a by product of the light. Resulting in less energy per unit of heat then a lamp. There is also the space that is being heated. The heat plate applies it more directly to the chicks then a heat lamp but also the plate is sized to the brood size we expect to have so the plate only heats the chicks under it while they are in contact with the plate. Setting the plate low enough will help prevent the chicks from piling on one another.

I did add a lamp for some light as per suggestion from Murray McMurray Hatchery. So the chicks will not pile up on one another and suffocate their brood-mates. Which would run contrary to what we wish to achieve.

 

Doug

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Chicken Tractor Build

Previously, I posted that we were building a chicken tractor. After a discussion with my mother I realized that some people do not know what this is conceptually. So I am going to help explain what a tractor is? why you use one and some of the other reasons we decided to go with it.

In the easiest terms a chicken tractor is a moveable chicken coop. It provides the farmer with the ability to protect the birds while providing them a pasture to graze on. The chickens with scratch, pick at bugs and grass, and fertilize a section of a field with min work by you. If you leave them in a space to long they can and will take it to bare ground. We plan on moving it daily. This will allow fertilization but also some level of pest management. We have a grasshopper problem and chickens enjoy grubs.

 

They can take on many different shapes and sizes.  They have some general commonalities. They all have open bottoms allowing chickens access to the ground.  They also provide some level of protection from predators. They generally house water and grit and additional food. They also provide some level of weather protection ours will have a tarp.

We elected to go with a tractor of this design for a couple of reasons. 1 being lower costs, 2 it is easily transportable, 3 provides forage for the chickens, 4 allows for reduced costs of raising and housing chickens. There are many many many more. Lets just say that if you are starting out with meat chickens (like we are) you prolly want to keep the investment down as low as possible.

The tractor build was pretty straight forward. First we built a frame. We then built a mirrored frame. 20180304_092545

Plus two end frames Then used all four frames to create a box. Then added some bracing.

 

Now you have a basic open floored box with the sides and tops pretty well braced. Next we stained it and added a lid.  We also built two PVC grain silos to feed the chickens.

 

Then we covered the whole tractor in 1/4 inch hardware cloth. Why not chicken wire? Well this is galvanized stainless steel and is more durable plus has the benefit of a smaller mesh size which we hope will provide additional protection for the chickens.

 

We added a pull rope. The finished internal dimensions are 10 ft x4 ft by 30 inches high. We have the ability to add a roost bar should we wish to do that we also have two shelves for grit and water in the front. It pulls relatively easily across grass. All in all we expect chickens to do well in it.

 

Doug

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Chicken Part 1

So you have a bit of space and you have decided that you want to be a bit more healthy. Protein is important. There are many sources of protein in the veggie world. You could eat only vegetables and get enough protein if you select properly. In our American diet though meat or meat products is how we get our over abundance of protein be it from Milk, Eggs, Beef, Chicken, etc etc.  Since we have some space and the costs are not insurmountable for chicken and you have options with chicken that is where we are heading first.

You need to decide if you want meat or eggs. There are some varieties of chicken that produce meat and eggs decently but once you slaughter no more eggs so keep that in mind. Older birds are also tougher and generally are cooked differently then younger. If you go to the store and buy chicken for meat most times those are young birds. Eggs are a longer term investment in both care and infrastructure. You need to recognize that those birds can produce for 1-3 years on average and do not start until around 16 to 20 weeks old. Meat birds can be slaughtered between 6-16 weeks old depending on variety.

Are you going to keep them in a chicken coop? Are you going to use a chicken tractor? Are you going to let them free range? In our area we have a large number or predators from coyote to barn cats to eagles and owls. So our birds need to be secure. We are using a variation of Joel Salatin style tractor. You can see what his look like here. We will have a blog post when ours is finished as well as a chick brooder. Since they will be ready to slaughter in less than 16 weeks we elected to make a cheaper tractor for our first go at it.

Now you need to select the kind of birds you want. I would suggest a local hatchery. We are in Iowa and there is one just a couple of hours away that has a pretty good reputation. We could also get birds at a variety farm stores, tractor supply, country living etc etc. We elected to order from Murray MacMurray Hatchery. They have a guide to help selecting a variety you will like. We went with Jumbo Cornish Cross Rock which is most common found in grocery stores from my understanding. Since Natalie is not a huge meat eater we wanted to keep it somewhat familiar. They do have a plethora of choices that you can choose from.

Doug