Pastured Broiler System

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Farside
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Re: Pastured Broiler System

#21 Post by Farside » Sun Aug 18, 2019 9:36 pm

Today was a very bad day for 27 of the largest chickens. We started setting up at 8 am and were done by 3 pm. Not exactly lightning fast, but not too bad for a first attempt.

I also happened to be the day that it rained for the first time in a month. So we were all soaked and cold by the time we were done. I would have taken photos but for the rain. We still have 40 or so to do in the next few weeks so I'll hopefully take some pics then.

We found the chickens got wise pretty quick, and it was really difficult catching them. 24 hours earlier we moved them onto fresh pasture and withheld feed. The idea is to ensure there is as little material in the digestive tract as possible on processing day. We found that by putting a handful or two of feed into their feeder brought them all to the door. The biggest ones push their way through the crowd, and into our waiting clutches. It was by far the most efficient method and I wish someone had told me this trick beforehand.

We had a little cart and a cage that fits 4 to 6 chickens in it. We then wheel them to the killing station about 100 yards away. It's a pole with two modified road cones mounted upside down, with pails underneath. The chickens go into them head first and they end up at the bottom of the cone with their head poking out. We left them there for a minute or so to relax, and then pushing back their feathers, find the artery in their neck and cut it. It's a very calm exercise, with the most squawking when you remove them from the cage to carry them to the cones.

Once left to bleed out for a few minutes, they are taken another 75 yards to the processing station. A pot of hot water with detergent in it awaits them and the go in there for a minute or so before going into the plucking machine. Then on to the evisceration table, and from there into a barrel of cold water.

Up here in Canada, the ground water is at about 5 to 8 degrees C - damn cold. the chickens go in there for about half an hour before being transferred to a similar barrel with cold water and ice. The first barrel also acts as a final cleaning station and we changed the water after 12 birds were processed. We changed the scalding water at the same time.

After half an hour in the ice bath, we transferred them to a final ice bath, half an hour after that, it was draining, bagging, and into the chest freezer.

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Re: Pastured Broiler System

#22 Post by Farside » Thu Aug 22, 2019 3:26 pm

I took some photos yesterday to show the sort of terrain this chicken tractor is in:
ATV Tractor.jpg
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The grass and weeds are almost as tall as the tractor itself, and I go ahead with a board to flatten down the vegetation a bit so I can move it over the top.

Here is a photo of the path left behind:
Tractor Wake.jpg
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This tractor is being moved every day, and as you can see, the chickens really do a good job stripping and stomping in all that vegetative growth.

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Re: Pastured Broiler System

#23 Post by Farside » Fri Aug 23, 2019 12:41 am

Having an "ultra light" frame has also come in handy when we need to lift and rotate the tractor through tight turns.

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Re: Pastured Broiler System

#24 Post by Farside » Mon Aug 26, 2019 1:02 pm

Well the experiment ended late Friday afternoon when a black bear made its way into the tractor and killed a bunch of birds.
bear.jpg
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I wasn't planning to go visit the chickens as my chicken raising partner was in charge, but I had sprouted grain that was getting long in the tooth so I quickly drove out to drop it off before dinner, and found the bear finishing off the feed, surrounded by dead chickens.

It had tried to get in via the roof, as a number of rafters were broken, but he couldn't get in that way. In the end he ripped one of the rear access doors off and squeezed in through the 12 inch gap.

I chased him off, then went back home to pick up some tools to fix the tractor. By the time I got back, he had been in there again and killed a bunch more. I went back home again and picked up the hoses, and other processing equipment in a race to get to the remaining chickens before the brear did.

By the time it was too dark to continue, we had processed all but 7 which we locked in a shed for the night. In all, the bear killed about half the birds that were in the tractor.

My chicken partner had been storing feed up at the tractor, and hadn't moved it for about 3 days. I suspect that it was the food and scraps that attracted the young bear there in the first place. $400 in lost chickens is an expensive lesson, and we have some extensive repairs to do to the roof of the tractor.

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Re: Pastured Broiler System

#25 Post by Andy F » Mon Aug 26, 2019 11:52 pm

That's unfortunate. Wonder where the mother bear was? I bet the chickens were scared, kinda feeling petrified. They're smart creatures. I think we'll be hearing more of this as natural food sources for wild animals lessens in coming years. Humans have encroached on their habitats.
I'd heard through the vine here, a couple coyotes took a run through a couple days ago, they were likely out looking for dinner of a few domestic cats. My one cat I have left is indoor cat only.
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Re: Pastured Broiler System

#26 Post by Farside » Tue Aug 27, 2019 12:17 am

It was weird. The chickens looked pretty relaxed. People who think "mother nature" is some sort of warm, fuzzy, enlightened consciousness need to keep animals.

The bear was there to eat the chicken food, killing the chickens was entertainment. Many of the birds were just slashed or slashed and had their heads removed. The surviving chickens were up to their shoulders buried in the carcasses of the dead chickens eating all the "good bits". There was a chicken that the bear had disemboweled and as it walked around, the other chickens were trying to pull its guts out and eat them.

Nature is cold, hard, and brutal. We used kill cones to process these chickens and they barely felt the razor sharp knife. Most didn't even flinch. the death of those chickens at the hands of "mother nature" was the polar opposite.

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Re: Pastured Broiler System

#27 Post by Andy F » Thu Sep 05, 2019 7:31 am

bump
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