Posts Tagged With: chicken housing

Egg-wagon: Restricted free range laying hens

Our egg-wagon is up and rolling.  After two years of planning, preparation, and construction we finally put our egg layers out to pasture.  With built in nesting boxes and roosting space, the 7′ x 12′ egg-wagon is built to house up to 60 birds.  Given that this is our test phase, the birds currently have around 1700 square feet of salad bar to feed on, exercise in, and express their species specific behaviors.  At present, we are moving the egg-wagon to a new section of greenery every 7 to 10 days when the grass is eaten down and fertilized by chicken manure.  We’ve had success with fertilization by chickens using our chicken tractors so I am curious to see the rate of grass growth after one pass on a chicken grazing quadrant.

I'm free, free rangin'.

I’m free, free rangin’.

Our set up includes our egg wagon, waterers, feeders, free choice grit, calcium, and kelp meal, electric poultry netting, and an s17 Gallagher solar energizer.  The s17 is not recommended, however, if one mows the perimeter of the fencing before installation, there is lower impedance that allows for a fully functional and electrified poultry netting.  In one week, one bird jumped the fence and made her way back to the chicken barn.  To date, it’s been successful, but we’ve found that egg production dropped markedly over the first 3 – 4 days while they acclimated to their new surroundings.  White egg layers, who have a tendency to lay in the grass, stain their eggs making an egg unappealing to customers.  I am thinking of adding cut out milk crates for portable nesting boxes as well.  A brief search on http://www.backyardchickens.com should produce some creative ideas for extra nesting space.

In for the night, I just might.

In for the night, I just might.

I can truly share with you that it is very rewarding, aesthetically pleasing, and peaceful to sit and watch the birds run around their mobile enclosure, safe from predation and free to be chickens.  I can’t imagine a bird of such activity being stuck in a cage to lay eggs for the duration of their lives.  Can you?

Double decker nesting boxes

Double decker nesting boxes

Given that the egg wagon is built on a single axle frame, we stake all four corners and strap down the hitch with dog t-screws.  During the second move, one side of the fence remains in place, while the other lengths are moved to a freshly cut strip and staked to establish the next grazing quadrant.  This can be done with one person, but two is preferred.

Keeping chickens in a restricted free range egg laying system requires letting them out of the coop every morning.  Filling waterers as necessary and feeding birds their daily layer mash ration.  It is important to keep a pan of grit, calcium, and seaweed available as well.  Supplementing these things may help to deter heavy scratching on the grass bed.  Nothing is more tedious than willing chicken ruts in your fields.  Every week I clean out the nesting boxes, putting down new straw.  I also shovel out poop inside the egg-wagon onto the grass between moves.

Solar power

Solar power

Roosting space is incredibly important as well to maximize space inside the coop for night time roosting and also provide a place for hens to get away from the roosters and other bossy hens.  Remember to provide ample width for the birds to place their feet on the roost. A two by four is suggested and it’s what we use for all roosts.

Restricted free range eggs have arrived on MacCurdy Farm.

Categories: farming, organics, pastured poultry | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Multi-purpose MacCurdy Farm Brooder

Incubation, hatching, and brooding season is upon us.  Every Spring poultry enthusiasts, hobbyists, and farmers start to set eggs to grow their flocks.  Provincial regulations, say what you will about the quota system, currently allow farmers without quota to have 199 laying hen and 199 meat birds on farm without a quota.  I’ll blog about the quota system a couple of months down the road but for now I’d like to focus on the infrastructural changes currently happening at the farm.  As we seek to grow our farm flock, we must continually build buildings (small-scale) that are multi-purpose to enable us to properly house birds at the different stages of development. for different purposes such as breeding, and to house them if they become ill, injured, or require confinement.  Brooders, such as the one below, allow us to do all of the above.

New multi-purpose home for MacCurdy Farm chickens.

New multi-purpose home for MacCurdy Farm chickens.

MacCurdy Farm Brooder:

You will need 6 sheets of 1/2″ x 4′ x 8′ plywood.

I ripped rough sawn 2 x 6 lumber into 2 x 3 lumber for all studs, bottom plates, top plates, rafters, angle braces, etc.

2 1/2″ screws, 3″ spiral nails.

Staples, and either chicken wire or hardware cloth for the end walls.

Front and Back Wall

Bottom plate: 8′ x 2″ x 3″ (2)

Top plate: 8′ x 2″ x 3″ (2)

Studs: 15″ x 2″ x 3″ (8).  I placed them at 32″ on centre.

Plywood sheet: 19″ x 8′ (2)

Side Wall

Bottom plate: 7’5″ x 2 x 3″ (2)

Top plate: 7’5″ x 2 x 3″ (2)

Studs: 15″ x 2″ x 3″ (8).

Plywood sheet: 19″ x 8′ (2)

Roof

Rafters: 8′ x 2″ x 3″ (3)

Plywood sheet: 8′ x 23″

End Wall pieces:

27″ x 2″ x 3″ (4)

25″ x 2″ x 3″ (2)

21″ x 2″ x 3″ (2)

17″ x 2″ x 3″ (2)

Hinged Roof

47″ x 2″ x 3″ pieces (2).  I used a framing square to cut the proper angle on both ends.

4′ x 8′ x 1/2″ (2)

3″ hinges (4)

Roost

8′ x 2″ x 3″ (1)

End wall side view

End wall side view

The brooder will need to be equipped with different feeders, waterers, and bedding depending on what you plan on housing in them.  At the moment, I am housing my breeding Roosters so I have straw and cedar sawdust as bedding.  I’ll continue to fork it around and add sawdust, wood ashes, straw, and water as necessary as I build up the compost inside of it.  I’m building an identical brooder to house my meatking chicks and turkey poults.  We’ll be purchasing them at the age of 3 weeks when their feather development is nearing completion.  The turkeys will be mixed in with them at the age of 5 weeks.  Chicks will require a different bedding (pine shavings) and chick sized feeders and waterers.

We’re making good time in our preparations for our second year of pastured poultry production.  The chicks and poults have a planned arrival for May 10 and May 31, 2014 on the farm.  It’ll be our first year trying turkeys, but we believe the demand from our farm supporters necessitates growing turkeys and we hope to have our turkeys on your dinner table for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We have some renovations to do on our pastured poultry pens and one more to complete to accommodate our chicks and poults this Spring.  After our meat birds make it to pasture, we’ll begin to break land for our foray into small fruit (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and my favorite, raspberries) production in the community of Point La Nim through a partnership with Natures Estate Farm.  We have an exciting summer ahead.  Look for future installments on our small fruit production and pumpkin patch plans to meet one of our farm goals of making it more family friendly.

MacCurdy Farm – Responsibly Stewarded, Naturally Balanced

 

 

Categories: brooder, farming, future generations, hatching chicks, MacCurdy Farm, multi-purpose housing | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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