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..


tansy said...

looks like it might make a handy kid cage, i'm not getting any ideas (SAGE WOULD YOU STOP PULLING MY ONIONS OUT OF THE GROUND?!!!---) i would never think of fencing my kid in...errr...out of the garden. (walks away whistling...)

pablo said...

Maybe I missed it, but why don't you want to use wood in the construction of the chicken tractor? Rot from the ground contact? Too heavy for the support value? Chickens peck it to pieces?

I think that picture of your boy helping you with a tool is one of the most enriching moments of my weekend. Geez, that made me feel great to see it! Thanx, Karl.

hillbilly2be said...

Thanks for all the detail about your chicken tractor... I like the design. Also, I appreciate the lessons-learned regarding hardware cloth around the perimeter instead of chicken wire - it will come in handy someday when I build one. That center support idea is pretty cool, too.

I'm curious about the broilers... why do you raise them to 12-15 lbs? Do they forage for most of that weight? How long does it take them to get that big?


uncle matt said...

3" inches per...the 3's do what? Math? Hooray for chicken tractor and all the good eatin's living under it!

karl said...

tansy, i couldn't keep the kids out of the thing. i imagine i'd have similar trouble if i were to try to keep them in. contrary much?

pablo, wood is too heavy and won't last cause i refuse to use pressure treated where they will eat it. i am so proud of tristan he is beginning to really help out around the farm.

ron, you're welcome. the reason we raise broiler to 15 lbs or 14 weeks is because if we were to kill them at 8 to 10 weeks like industry standards then we have to raise twice as many birds. worse yet kill twice as many. we mostly roast our chickens and feast on them. over the next few days we make chicken salad sandwiches our chicken soup. it depends on the weather--soup for cold days is best. after sandwiches we make chicken stock from the carcass and use it as the liquid to make rice. as soup it make several meals.

the meat to weight ratio is less after eight weeks. i believe that all growth past that is meat. our chickens also eat a lesser protein custom mix. they scratch for bugs--if you get them in the grass before two weeks. we also soak some of their feed in old clabbered milk or whey or butter milk. they get a daily protein boost from the milk.

plus they get all the canning scraps. they eat like kings in return we eat like kings.

matt, yes i still use my simple pre-algebra fraction skills--almost every day.

Woody said...

Karl...what type of bamboo have you planted? I was wanting to find a good screen that could grow to 20' or better.

Cool design on the tractor.


The Unusually Unusual Farmchick said...

Thank you for sharing that about the broilers.Everything I have read stated they will start "dying of" after 12 weeks. i have no idea why I was so gullible on that.
Thanks again! I will be saving mine to the older age now.

Danielle said...

Joe likes your idea. Can you list the pieces and the pricing so we can get an idea of what it would cost and what all materials are involved?

Carey said...

Would you mind expanding on this post with photos of the completed chicken tractor and if the improvements have worked. I have built and trashed 2 in my own feable attempts recently. I cringe at wasting the time or money with another attemps. I have purchased chickens from Estes in Springfield without a single problem...healthy and no lives lost. (BTW I live in Ozark and buy honey from Mr. Davidson) Any help would be great! Thanks-rich

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