A few blogs ago, I published one about how we were starting our meat chickens off on the right foot.
Now I am here to tell you how they will spend weeks 3 thru culling in Mid August.
We built ourselves some chicken tractors -we used rough cedar boards (yes I know CEDAR IS BAD FOR CHICKENS, but these are rough boards that have been aged for 3 years, not shavings and these chickens will be living in these for the 6 weeks, not 6+ years) for the frame and some walls, plywood to build other walls, sturdy hardwire cloth for the fence portion and tin roofing for.. well the roof.
They aren’t the prettiest thing in the kingdom, but all of this material was stuff we had around the homestead, because, lets be honest, homesteading should really be called hoard-steading. We never throw away anything that could possibly be used in a later project. Makes living a minimalist lifestyle unattainable. But if you at least try to keep it organized it works and you spend less money.
(for example – we literally have 2 dozen windows just leaning against our shed for the next greenhouse we build, a huge pile of rough cut cedar boards, tons of fencing, more tin roofing, vinyl siding left over from skirting our trailer, pallets from wood pellets from the heating company we run. the list goes on… but I guess that could be a hole different blog at this rate)
So back to the chicken tractors- we figure a pasture raised meat bird needs at least 1.5 square feet of space, to be comfortable. So for our approximately 120-ish birds, we built three tractors to get them outside. One 16×4 and two 8×3.75. This is NOT enough room for 120-ish adult meat birds, but we REALLY wanted to get them out of their 100 degree inside brooder and into the 90 degree world of outside. We built 2 more of the 8x 3.75 tractors as they grew to separate them more and allow them more room.
We did a half and half build with half being shelter and the other half being open run. Go figure, they hang out in the shelter part during the day and sleep in the run at night. This leads me, as a nervous owner, to block the sides at night with extra tin so that they can have some time to get away from any potential predators.
The tractors were put on skids, so we pull them along with just our regular riding lawnmower- the two smaller ones slide right along. The larger one needs to be pushed by a helper, so we plan on not using that size again.
We’ve had some hot days – even with all the precautions we took with the little suckers, we lost one to heat stress after a 5 day 90 degree 90% humidity stretch.
We make sure they get fresh water morning, noon and evening. We check on them whenever we have a spare minute tho, just in case they’ve run out of something.
They have access to food from approximately 6am to 6 pm. I have to fill the feeders every morning and again at lunch, and sometime even at 4 when we get home from work. These things eat and eat and eat. And they love knocking their feeders apart.
Because they eat and eat, they grow like CRAZY – I really never have seen chickens put on weight or grow in feathers this fast. We’re in week 5 and they are in between 3 and 4 pounds each at this point.
I’ll update on these birdies again before slaughter, because that’s gonna be a whole ‘nother rodeo.
Until next time, have a wicked good day!
4 thoughts on “How We Are Raising Our Meat Chickens- After the Brooder and into the Tractor”
They’re growing about the same rate ours do. They’re around 3-4 pounds at the same age. Be very careful with predators. I’m not sure what’s in your area but we had a set up almost identical to yours for after the brooder. We had a hawk who would still grab them and try to pull them through. We had several headless chicks one morning and surveillance feed confirmed it was a hawk. We have a pasture raised area set up for them now. This includes a couple of guard roosters and hiding places. Being able to be free and hide in the designated places upon the rooster’s warning has been more successful, which totally surprised me because I felt sheltering them would be safer (since they’re sooooo sloooooooooow and have no motivation to move more than necessary), but really all it did was trap them.
It is very cool though, and isn’t it great? I love knowing where my food comes from and knowing what I eat was well cared for.
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It’s been a learning experience for sure- we’ve been wanting to raise our own meat for years and finally had the resources to tackle this type of project. We have pigs too- and we definitely have predators. Before we got our alpacas we had problems with fishers, raccoons and a bobcat, but since our herd moved in we haven’t seen a thing. They very loudly tell other animals to get away from their area, lol. Thanks for commenting! I love reading other peoples experiences.
That’s so great to hear. We added donkeys and have seen the same change. Before we had hawks, raccoons, and a stupid otter. Since the donkeys we don’t even have many hawks. Probably because the donkeys stomp the rodents the hawks eat.
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I’d love to have donkeys! They seem like such loving animals.