Mobile chicken coop

I have completed another chicken coop for the farm.  I used a farm wagon (purchased used for $100) under a shipping crate (free) for the coop.  The shipping crate was laid on its side, making a 7’x7′ coop that is 44″ high.  The 8 nest boxes inside were free from someone else no longer keeping chickens.  I put ventilation on 3 sides and both a front and rear access door to make cleaning easier.  Once it warms up, we will get some more oops paint at Home Depot and paint the coop a natural color to blend in to the scenery.

Total cost on this coop was a little higher because of the wagon.  I spent about $125 with the wagon, hardware ,and lumber used.  We plan to house up to about 25 chickens in this coop with electric netting around it.  Once the netting arrives, we will move the Jersey Giants into the coop (even though there are only 6 birds) and put it near the back of the farm.

Chicken Tractor, Sawyer style

For those of you not into the grow your own meat movement, a chicken tractor is a moveable chicken pen.  It is intended to be moved daily to allow the chickens access to grass and bugs while providing shelter at night and protection from predators.  We needed a chicken tractor to house chickens as they grow to be replacement hens, roosters for meat, and our upcoming order of broilers.  For now, we have only built 1 tractor to decide what we do and don’t like about it.  There are many common designs, and probably the most notable is Joel Salatin’s design.

Our chicken tractor is made entirely out of red oak.  Now you might be wondering why I would make a chicken pen out of red oak, and it’s a very simple answer: mahogany would have been ridiculous and maple shows the dirt too much.  Seriously, I just had a lot of extra red oak on hand and it made more sense to use excess wood I have than to spend money on new pine.  I also had 6′ 2″x4″ field fencing, so that is what I used for the sides.  I built the tractor 8′ wide and 12′ long.  I specifically chose 8′ (instead of the common 10′) because if we move or I decide to sell this version, it is still small enough to be transported on a flatbed trailer.

What makes this Sawyer Style, it the recycling.  The total cash expended on this project was $25 for the 2 wheels and 2 door hinges.  Everything else was stuff we already had here on the farm with no predetermined purpose.  Sure, at some point I bought the red oak, but it was almost firewood, so I might as well use it in a project.

We did put a roof made of OSB to give the birds shelter.  The sides under the roof will be finished in using feed bags to provide wind shelter.  We will still add a waterer and feeder that can be accessed from outside the fencing.  We also put roosts into the back of the tractor in the sheltered area in order to give the birds somewhere to get off the ground.  Hopefully, that will keep them healthier and minimize the chance of a predator pulling them out from under the edge.

A few immediate observations of what we don’t really like.

1. The only access is from the 4′ wide door in the front.  You have to get down on the ground to get inside.  I think that will get old in bad weather.

2. The extra support frame at the divider between the shelter and open areas is a death trap for the chickens.  When pulling the tractor on the ground, the birds tend to stay towards the middle.  Unfortunately, that cross-bar is in a perfect spot to trap chicken legs and cause injuries.  I may have to cut it out.

3. Red oak makes a heavy tractor.  I did include wheels on the back, but it’s heavy.  On the positive side, it is definitely sturdy.

Here are some pictures.  The tractor was put to use this afternoon with 38 birds we are raising that are 8-9.5 weeks old.  If you are thinking about building your own, come on over and take a look.

Getting some broilers

Anna and I have debated many times the advantages and disadvantages of what to raise for a meat chicken. In the end, our primary concern is that we are raising a healthy chicken for our family to eat. We are offering some extra birds for sale, but based on the time committment to process the chickens (and raise them) we do not anticipate raising hundreds of chickens at a time. So, despite some previous discussions and plans, we have decided to order Freedom Rangers. One significant advantage of this bird is we can keep some for our own breeding stock if we want. The first batch of chickens will get processed in late June or early July.

 

Just another non-stop weekend building and improving the farm

Since the base was having a “big drill” last week, the Nautilus Museum was closed Thursday and Friday so I had the day off.  Of course, we are always behind on the list of farm projects, so it seemed like a great time to catch up (a little).  In fact, I have yet to meet a farmer who feels everything is just right and caught up on their farm…

The biggest project for the weekend was goat fencing.  I hired 2 high schoolers to work for me Thursday, Friday, and Saturday because I needed the extra hands.  My neighbor Tim has a large backhoe that he brought down to remove a couple of stumps for me.  After that, I put up 1 long stretch of fence to create a corridor between the horses and goats.  Now we can easily go back and forth across the bottom of the property.  Of course, that 12′ wide by 180′ long corridor can also be used as a grazing area for ponies, calf, etc.  Then I built a fully contained by field fence kid area inside the goat pen.  I’ll explain why.

When a doe has kids, the kids get all of momma’s milk for the first 2 weeks.  After that, we start to isolate the kids at night so we can milk the doe in the morning.  For Betty’s kids, we just locked them in the kidding stall at night.  However, since Maggie is due this week, we needed a better/larger solution.  Now, our 30’x30′ kid pen can be used as the overnight isolation area.  I’m sure it will get lots of other use too.

As I have discussed before, we like to recycle as much as possible.  I have previously posted about recycling pallets into goat shelters and chicken coops.  Last week when I went to get another load of pallets, I found out the moving company that supplies us is going out of business.  Bad news for them, but good for us because they are emptying out their warehouses.  That means I was able to get 4’x4′ wood crates and 7’x7′ shipping crates.  Add a recycled door, and what do you have?  How about a storage shed for the rabbitry.  Now all of the rabbit supplies, feed, hay, etc are conveniently located next to the cages (it just needs some paint).

Of course, we had people coming and going all weekend.  Some were here to buy chicks, while other were just here to meet us or catch up.  For example, we placed an ad in the North Stonington Bulletin Board classifieds.  Some neighbors a couple of miles away saw the ad and found our page.  It turns out they have a very similar mindset with slightly different focus.  Check out this blog to learn more about Morning Star Meadows Farms and their Icelandic Sheep!  You can also see what other blogs we like on the right side of our home page.

And there was one other little thing.  Turbo.  We were waiting to get serious about finding a new horse for me until we placed Cinder in a new home.  Well, on Wednesday Cinder went to a new home.  On Friday, I test rode Turbo.  And Sunday morning, I brought him home on a 30 day trial.  I never have been very patient.  Vicki approves.

It’s good to be crazy.

Meet Turbo!

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Only 4 days after Cinder went to his new home, we have the barn filled again. Turbo (SF Galaxy Quest) is an 11 year old, 16.1h National Show Horse (1/2 Saddlebred 1/2 Arabian). His color is Seal Brown and he is already barefoot.
After a short test ride on Friday, I was hooked. We have him on a 30 day trial period to make sure it works out. He has the get up and go that I love, is very responsive under saddle, and has jumping experience. He just didn’t bond with the previous owner. Looks like I found my show horse!

The story of our lives with horses