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!