Posts Tagged With: Solar Power

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

The old and the new: Solar panels, Inverters, and electric wiring

Hi everyone,

This most recent blog post is an inquiry into another eco-friendly form of power, sun power.  The sun fuels the grasses and perennials that cover the landscape of the MacCurdy Farm.  Why shouldn’t it also fuel the poultry winter housing?  Recently, I finished the installation of the new three tab shingled roof on our 24′ x 11′ gambrel roof chicken barn, which we have erected on temporary concrete block footings so that it can be moved to the pasture, if need be.  No harm in more portable housing.  The barn is docked, so to write, near our other chicken coop for the approaching winter.  Little by little the building is taking shape.  Next comes the 1 x 8 barn board siding, the attached fenced in run for winter exercise, and a solar panel to provide adequate heat and lighting through the cold winter months.  It seems to be an increasing trend towards self-sustainability in society and in keeping with that philosophy of mind, I had a personal eureka that getting off the grid as much as possible wouldn’t be such an intolerable idea.  Perhaps, I am behind some of in terms of this school of thought but, in all due fairness, life’s journey has many twists and turns in our search for truth and love.

I am putting a call out for a licensed electrician to install outlets, switches, light bulb receptacles, an inverter and a solar panel on our winterhousing chicken barn.  Willing to barter or pay cash for some work on the barn.

MacCurdy Farms Logo

MacCurdy Farms Logo

I am hoping to purchase a solar panel from Canadian solar but am willing to consider other options should any of our readers have suggestions for a solar panel that would provide enough wattage for several light bulbs and outlets this winter.  Given that this barn houses our very hardy heritage breeds while the other production layers are in our insulated coop, there is no rush.  However, I’d like to get started on the next project at the farm so any advice, encouragement, or suggestions would be much appreciated.  Hoping someone out there can offer a guiding hand into this area.

In the meantime, I’ll be working on the attached rain barrel and spout for the barn so that we can collect rain water for the chickens and thereby limit the amount of water used from our well.  Finding ways to reduce our carbon footprint is always at the back of our minds.  Recently, my father remarked on the importance of limiting the amount of contact to a cattle feed (i.e., perennial grasses) in order to maintain a higher feed value.  Basically, the less the feed comes in contact with farm implements, more crude protein and other essential digestible nutrients remain in the feed.  I nodded in agreement and added, “Imagine if the tractor didn’t touch it at all.”  My father grew up in an age of industry post-WWII.  The use of farm machinery, in land stewardship, is something to which my father spends a great deal of time marvelling.  It is the reason for his uncanny ability to operate and maintain farm machinery, his devotion to Massey Ferguson, and his exhortations on farm machinery safety.  However, despite this, he still sees the importance of the natural way of managing livestock, like giving cattle continual access to grass with minimal use of diesel powered tractors.  However, it is breaking the forces of habit that takes time (much like my forces of habit in taking electricity for granted and not considering alternative sources of power) in realizing these ideals.  So what do we do?  Take the time to consider others ideas, endorse them, sew a seed for your interests and ideas, and converse about the endless opportunities that exist on the family farm.  Something will undoubtedly come to be.

Looking forward to hearing from you on these thoughts and ideas about a solar powered chicken barn.  Please contact us via our facebook page or my email address, justin.maccurdy@live.ca.  Thanks for reading!

Categories: 0rganics, farming, Locavore, MacCurdy Farm, Solar power, Uncategorized | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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