Pastured Broiler System

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Farside
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Pastured Broiler System

#1 Post by Farside » Tue Jan 29, 2019 1:32 pm

Hi all,
I decided this year I was going to raise some chickens for eating. I figured it would be a good idea to sort out and fine tune a system before it becomes a necessity.

I also thought I would share my experience here with you all in case anyone's interested.

First task was securing some land to do this on since I live in the berbs. I asked around and found an old farm that wasn't in use anymore close to my house. I then presented my plan to the owner who was happy to let me raise the birds on their property. Why? Because I presented a pasturing system and explained that this system restores pastureland back to productivity due to the activity of the chickens. I am in effect improving their farm simply by being there.

So my next task was to decide on how many I wanted to raise. 1 chicken dinner a week makes for some pretty simple math => 50 chickens. Since I'm doing this with a partner, and the biggest pastured poultry pen that can be moved without machinery holds about 80 to 90 birds, we decided on 85 birds. We'll lose some, but hopefully not too many.

Next task was figuring out the cost of raising a chicken. Not so easy as it turns out because different breeds grow faster than others. After quite a bit of reading and Youtube, I decided on Cornish Cross for 2 reasons. Firstly it is the breed that we find in the supermarket so it's what my family is used to eating. Getting buy in from them in the first year means an increased likelihood of making this an annual thing rather than an experiment. Next year if they like eating the chickens then we can explore heritage breeds. The other reason is that Cornish Cross grows very quickly (8 weeks), which also means that the cost of feeding and labour is low. Consider an average heritage breed that takes 10 weeks to reach maturity. That's 25% extra feed and labour in looking after them.

So a ballpark cost of buying and raising a CX broiler if I don't include my labour cost is approximately $6.50. That is if all their feed is purchased, but I am pasturing them so roughly 1/3 of their feed will come from grass and bugs. I'm also going to try and source alternative feed (like restaurant waste, roadkill, kitchen scraps, garden weeds etc) and sprout the purchased grain to increase the nutritional availability. $6.50 is my starting cost, but I'm aiming to reduce that to around $3.50 since the chicks cost around $2.

Farside
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Re: Pastured Broiler System

#2 Post by Farside » Tue Jan 29, 2019 1:50 pm

Next is coming up with a mobile enclosure that is suitable for my climate. I live in zone 3, and on advice from a friend, I'll be raising them from the middle of June through to the middle of August. Why? Because the last shipment of chicks is around that time. The last frosts end around the middle of June, and the chicks will be out on pasture in the first week of July. As the chickens get bigger, they eat more, and so I want to time their growth with the insect population peak. Ideally I would have them a little later because that doesn't really happen until the end of August / early September. Lastly, I don't want to be processing chickens in the peak of summer temperatures and fighting off the biting and stinging bugs.

Speaking of the heat, I need an enclosure that provides enough protection from early summer storms where the temperature drops to around 5C, and yet provides enough ventilation during the hot 35C days during the summer peak. We often get big hail storms during the early summer too, and electrical storm cells all through the summer months.

So I need a design that is light enough to move, but not so light that it blows away in the wind. Something with moveable ventilation / wind protection, and a peaked roof to deflect torrential rain and hail.

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Re: Pastured Broiler System

#3 Post by dirtmurphy » Tue Jan 29, 2019 3:10 pm

Have you considered Red Rangers? I'm asking because that's what most of the pastured broiler farmers around here are doing. They say that the Cornish crosses aren't good foragers.

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Re: Pastured Broiler System

#4 Post by Farside » Tue Jan 29, 2019 8:17 pm

I have heard that too. Unfortunately red rangers aren't available around here. The alternative is a white rock cross of some sort, unless I go for a general purpose breed or a heritage type.

I ultimately chose the cornish cross despite its challenges in large part because of the resistance to things I grow in the garden. If the family isn't used to the new vegetable, they generally resist my gardening attempts in general (and complain the following year that I'm not growing that vegetable lol).

So with broilers, I'm going to raise what they are used to eating hoping that it will be similar, but superior to what we buy in the supermarket. Once I have them onboard 100% I can then maybe raise twice the number next year and explore other breeds (smaller, less breast meat, but generally healthier and more flavorful).

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Re: Pastured Broiler System

#5 Post by Farside » Wed Jan 30, 2019 5:01 pm

I based my mobile enclosure on work done by Joel Salatin at Polyface farms:
http://www.polyfacefarms.com/pastured-broilers/

The basic design is a 10ft by 12ft by 2ft enclosure with a flat top. The biggest complaint about this design is the flat roof as it tends to sag over time. The trade off here is that a peaked roof is more expensive and potentially adds weight. In my design I have added a 1 ft peak, and although it significantly increases the amount of materials required for framing, it also means the cross bracing that Joel incorporates is not necessary.

1/4 of the enclosure does not have a solid roof, just like the original model, and this area I left with a flat top so that the water containers can be easily accommodated.

One big design consideration is that I need to be able to easily disassemble it, transport in in pieces, and reassemble it. For this reason, my roof trusses are made of two parts that interlock. All the prefabricated panels will be joined together with nuts and bolts. Because of the additional framing involved, I also reduced the size of framing wood I'm going to use to 1X2.

Ice Age Prepper
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Re: Pastured Broiler System

#6 Post by Ice Age Prepper » Wed Jan 30, 2019 7:23 pm

Farside,
I am going to be following this as you progress. Very interesting what you are doing and you are really working into the preparedness level 3 of sustainability. It is great to see people thinking outside the box and doing!

My idea was to have the tractors made out of pvc so as to be able to break them down easily, slide them around easier and have a bowed roof to deflect rain/snow and anything else hitting topside. With the bow it will focus the weight to the outside and down into the lower frame much like Roman arches. The center cross pieces will have to be heated with a heat gun and gently formed into place. To anchor the setup I was thinking of pouring sand into the bottom frame pipes to weight it all down and putting a couple camping tent like anchors around the sides just for added safety from coyotes and other predators. I got this idea when I found on YouTube ideas to make truck bed tents using pvc. That turned out very well so why could I use it on bigger scale for chicken?!?

Just my ideas I was brewing up but now we decided on raising quail. Their eggs are more beneficial in so many ways. They are far easier to raise as well but that is another topic.

Keep doing!

#iceageprepper
"Your Gonna Need More than a Wool Blanket for This One!" *Ice Age Prepper
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Re: Pastured Broiler System

#7 Post by dirtmurphy » Wed Jan 30, 2019 9:04 pm

@Farside, you had mentioned not wanting to fight off biting insects while processing. That's a problem I've had in the past as a lot of the "undesirable" insects are attracted to blood. Although it costs money, you might consider buying one of those mesh-enclosed canopies and doing your processing in there. Processing is a miserable enough chore without adding yellowjacket stings to the mix.

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Re: Pastured Broiler System

#8 Post by Farside » Tue Feb 05, 2019 3:38 pm

Because of the mobile nature of this pen, feeding and watering systems need to be accessible, and also mobile.

My plan is to use watering cups that are inserted into 3/4'' pvc tube and attached to the front wall of the pen. Since I will need 24 cups to service the number of chickens in this enclosure, I will need an additional row of watering cups suspended from the roof, and attached to a partition. Since the cups will be suspended above the ground, I will be able to move the pen without having to touch the watering system.

The watering system will require 3, 5 gallon pails to supply enough water for a 24 hour period at the height of summer. These pails will sit on top of the flat roof which is hinged to allow for internal access. These pails will act as weights to hold this lid shut.
equipment.png
equipment.png (39.31 KiB) Viewed 714 times

Farside
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Re: Pastured Broiler System

#9 Post by Farside » Tue Feb 05, 2019 4:11 pm

Here is a diagram of the watering system. I'll be using something similar to these
Chicken watering cups.

They are a lot more efficient at delivering water to the animals, and they also prevent the water from getting filthy nasty.
Pastured Poultry - Waterer.png
Pastured Poultry - Waterer.png (13.37 KiB) Viewed 713 times

Farside
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Re: Pastured Broiler System

#10 Post by Farside » Thu Feb 07, 2019 1:11 pm

Here is a diagram of the enclosure looking at the sides and ends.
Pastured Poultry - Mobile Pen - Side.png
Pastured Poultry - Mobile Pen - Side.png (18.55 KiB) Viewed 710 times
The rear end has two sliding panels so the feed troughs can be accessed.

The roof is 1 foot high at the peak, and overhangs the walls just a little so that the rains runs off correctly. The peaked roof is the right dimensions to fit a 9X12 tarp perfectly, and I will used the rivets in the tarp to secure it to the roof framing.

I have wheels in this diagram, but it's possibly I won't need them if I use PVC conduit as skids so that the while enclosure slides. I won't really know until the thing is assembled. The challenge with wheels is that you need the bottom edge of the enclosure on the ground, and when you go to move the enclosure it needs to be just a little off the ground so that young birds don't get caught up and crushed in the gap.

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