Sunday, April 27, 2008

chicken tractor part 1

our chicks have arrived--25 broilers 6 hens. we are expecting another batch in a week or so. we only have one dilapidated chicken tractor. the old tractor served us well but there is lots of improvements that we have learned we need in the new one.

improvements are:
• less weight
• narrower
• higher
• support the horizontal wire better.
• make it completely from emt and other galvanized metal
• no goats

our past tense goats almost destroyed the old coop. it stood up fairly well considering the destructive nature of goats. i'll shore up the old one when this one is finished--just in time for the second batch of chicks.

the new tractor starts with new dimensions. eight by ten by two feet respectively. the new one needs to be narrower to get through our ten foot gate entrances. it wants to be taller cause we raise our birds to an excessive weight of 12 to 15 pounds. at that weight they get too tall for the old 18 inch height.

i use a standard emt 90° connector at all eight corners. i take off the cover plate and screw the verticals into them and re-assemble the 90°. rather tristan took them apart and re-assembled them. he was a huge help and the task was just perfect for him (righty-tighty, lefty-loosey).

he got frustrated very frequently but i had plenty to do and allowed him time to figure things out himself. he was so proud have taken apart every 90° and re-assembled the modified versions. home schooling lesson modified to be helpful--everybody wins.

i figured out a method of attaching the cross supports using a hole at the end of the pipe and a heavy gauge wire threading the hole and around the crossing pipe. this new technology (to me) affords the dismissal of pvc pipe supports.

after i assembled the skeleton i rolled out the 4' chicken wire for the top and attached it by twisting a light gauge wire around the pipe. i stretched the wire as best i could--it'll sag eventually. the largest unsupported span is 2.5' by 4'. that size will only sag minimally.

i then wrapped the side in 1/4" hardware cloth. standard chicken wire won't work on the sides since the chickens sleep next to the edges and raccoons can reach through the larger chicken wire and eviscerate the chickens. we have had this trouble in the past.

wiring the hardware cloth and chicken wire to the pipe is tedious but i simply went anal retentive on it. wiring took a very long time since i want this coop to stand up for many years to come. i figure one year of goat destruction equals ten years of regular use. but i still stepped up the frequency of wiring. this thing will rust into the ground before it fails mechanically. no more goat trampoline.

simple math skill seemed to allude me when i was compiling my parts list. i didn't purchase enough hardware cloth--fyi (2x8)+(2x10) doesn't equal 25:) the door and waterer are slated for today. i might build a feeder also since all purchasable ones don't meet our specific needs. the feeder needs to meet this formula--(3" per bird X (1/3 number of birds)the amount eating at any given time). the threes cancel and it is roughly one inch per bird--easy peasy, why didn't they just say 1" per bird? the feeder will have a hopper since we are lazy and only want to feed them once per day--when we move them.

shade/weather cover will be a piece of this heavy billboard tarp we have covering everything around here. the door will be a piece of scrap metal roof from the barn. the bucket waterer will sit on top of the door to keep it closed. the door frame/support must be robust. i have some scrap aluminum that will work for this. where the wheels slip on the ends i have to put a skirt that closely follows the ground since young small birds escape there all the time during moves.

i had an epiphany for the center support. i used a sweep emt 90° and made it swing to the ground but flexible enough to skid over stuff during any rough terrain moves. this structure is flexible enough to follow most contours on our property. this makes for a tight fit to the ground--especially since we put a heavy rock on each corner.

other news tabitha spent the day mowing and mulching. we are short of straw this year and we will suffer for it.

kids play on pile of chat.

tristan might be peeing in this photo.

i removed the long overdue bean arches and mowed up the seedy weeds. i used them as mulch around my bamboo. good luck competing with bamboo weeds..
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