Pastured Broiler System

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Farside
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Re: Pastured Broiler System

#11 Post by Farside » Fri Feb 08, 2019 4:10 pm

Here is a photo of my prototype roof truss system:
Assembled.jpg
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The pieces of wood sticking out the sides will be 6ft long and come together to form a triangular shape. Two of these triangle shapes are then bolted together to form a peaked roof.

Here is a photo of the system disassembled so you can see the different parts and how they join together using 2 bolts:
Exploded.jpg
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The ridge beam is an 9ft long piece of wood that attaches to a wooden block via a bolt that screws into a barrel nut embedded in the block as shown below:
Ridge Joint.jpg
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Farside
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Re: Pastured Broiler System

#12 Post by Farside » Fri Jul 05, 2019 8:58 pm

Today we built the chicken tractor. We didn't finish it so it will take another day. These things are labor intensive to knock together!

We have all the panels constructed and most of the chicken wire covering the panels but we ran out of zip ties.

The roof construction went well, and we are joining all the 1X2 framing using triangles of 3/8 plywood which is working out really well. Tomorrow we bolt it all together!

I was thinking about the poly tarp roof and how hot it can get, so I'm using some row cover material to staple a second ceiling in the tractor. This will act to funnel airflow between the 2 layers of fabric similar to how a tent fly keeps a tent cool.

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Re: Pastured Broiler System

#13 Post by Farside » Mon Jul 08, 2019 12:51 pm

Well, what I expected to take a day took 3 days. It was a marathon construction job and I think a lot of the pain came from the modular design. 12 panels for the sides and then the peaked roof parts. All the side panels are individually covered in chicken wire.

In hindsight I would not have made this thing modular. It will take a day to deconstruct it and put it away, and I have no idea how long to reassemble it again so that it all fits back together. Maybe I'll feel different in a few months time but right now I am not up for that!

The good news is the lightweight 1X2 frame is rigid and works well. The downside is that it required a lot more joining which I think ate up so much time, and screws!.

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Re: Pastured Broiler System

#14 Post by Farside » Tue Jul 09, 2019 7:07 pm

Here is the (almost) completed tractor from the front:
tractor_front.jpg
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The top opens up to allow full access to this end of the enclosure.

Here is the back:
tractor_back.jpg
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There are two access panels that swing down.

There is a 2 ft chicken wire skirt around the entire tractor that prevents predators digging underneath the walls, and also deters them from coming too close.

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Re: Pastured Broiler System

#15 Post by Farside » Tue Jul 09, 2019 7:11 pm

Here are some chicks on their way to their new home:
chicks_enroute.jpg
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And here they are settling in:
in_tractor.jpg
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I have to say they are much happier in this mobile enclosure than they ever were in the brooder. They especially love the long grass!

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Re: Pastured Broiler System

#16 Post by Farside » Fri Jul 26, 2019 11:10 pm

I'm now moving the tractor every other day, and will be moving it every day starting next week. I've noticed a number of chickens with gimpy legs and think it's some sort of hip thing. Not really sure what to do about that. then again they are now beginning to get so big that they don't like walking anyway and just lay there eating. Such is the cornish cross from what I've read.

Yesterday I discovered that they shredded a feeding trough. We have been using pain roller troughs that are about 2ft long, and one is really thin plastic. I don't recommend them because the chickens rush the trough and tip it over as it gets low in feed, the feed spills out on the ground, and the CX are too lazy to clean up the mess.

Last night I cobbled together a 4ft long trough out of old pellet wood and ends made from 2X8 board. It's ugly but it'll do for now. At least they won't tip this one over.

I made a 3 or 4 inch gap and placed a peaked cover on the top so that they can't get in and poop in the food which is something the dominant chickens like to do for some reason. It was in the tractor for under 5 mins and a chicken managed to squeeze itself inside :-/

Tomorrow I'll go and install some vertical slats so that can't happen.

The chickens figured out the drinking cups. I had more traditional drinking containers early on because there were some chicks in there too small to reach the cups. I took those out a week ago and nobody died so that's a good indication everyone is using the system. I will not use those drinking cups in the brooder ever again though.

I had it in there with the idea that they would learn to use them, but they leak and I ended up with water in the deep bedding. It's not a big deal in the tractor but it cause problems in the brooder.

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Re: Pastured Broiler System

#17 Post by Farside » Fri Jul 26, 2019 11:16 pm

Oh, and we had what I think was a bear in the compost pile near the tractor. Probably because all the bones and fish heads that the chickens have had a go at end up there. We've also spotted foxes around the tractor, and crows cleaning up spilt feed behind it as we move the tractor forward. So far no sign of a predator probing the tractor or attempting to get in.

That said, we have a 2 ft skirt of chicken wire that lays on the ground around the tractor walls. We walk it into the mowed pasture when we move the tractor and place some boards and rocks on hollows etc. It seems to be an effective barrier to predators getting in as well as chickens getting out. When the chickens were small I found a couple that squeezed under the wall and got snared in the wire. They weren't injured, and it prevented them from getting lost.

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Re: Pastured Broiler System

#18 Post by Farside » Thu Aug 01, 2019 1:36 am

Interesting week. We cut the long grass ahead of the tractor, and it revealed huge craters in the ground. Apparently someone a few years back dug a bunch of holes with the intention of planting a bunch of trees, but the trees never eventuated and nobody though to tell me that I was heading into a replica WWII battlefield.

I had to take an alternative route with a hard right hand turn, over the first few craters, and 2 ant hills. Annnnd, it got stuck. Chickens escaped under the 12 inch gap in the front, and others got pinned trying to escape at the back.

At the same time we had a wind storm come in from the North, directly into the tractor where there is no poly curtain to act as a bind break.

On the plus side, we made the chicken wire skirts extra long so the worked well for bridging the 12 inch gaps. The ultra light design also bends with the contour somewhat and so the tractor didn't rock and tip in the wind. It also didn't blow away, or blow apart which I am pretty impressed about because the shed roof next door din't fare so well.

Today I went there with a few people to move this thing to a better location, expecting to find dead chickens , but they were are happily doing chicken things.

When we constructed the tractor, I extended the framing out at each corner 12 inches so they could be used as handles in case we needed to pick up and rotate, or move it.
We used them and it worked like a charm. A bunch of chickens escaped, but left alone they followed us to the final destination and most of them walked back under the walls as we held it a foot off the ground for them. The remainders stood around for a bit and when they started looking nervous, we simply picked them up and popped them back in.

I'm really liking the extra light design. There are a few things that could do with changing, but it's maneuverable, has held together in some extremely rough terrain, and withstood wind and heavy rain well.

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Re: Pastured Broiler System

#19 Post by Farside » Sat Aug 10, 2019 11:16 pm

The first half of the flock are due for processing next weekend, so I took a few pics of them out in the jungle:
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The "pasture" is about 4 ft tall and mostly thistles, goldenrod, vetch, and timothy. As the tractor get moved it flattens it enough so the chickens can move around ok.
The shred the vegetation, eating quite a bit of it, and the bugs too. Looking back 6 weeks where the tractor was, I see a lot of thistle, clover, and dandelion growing. So they don't do much for the thistle control, but I think they might be dynamite on goldenrod.

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Re: Pastured Broiler System

#20 Post by Farside » Tue Aug 13, 2019 1:17 pm

Yesterday a chunk of the chicken tractor ripped off as I was trying to get the thing unstuck from an ant hill without having all the chickens escape out the front, or get crushed at the back.

This terrain is certainly not the pasture you see chicken tractors sitting in on instagram. The number of humps, holes, and ant hills is ridiculous. Ant hills never entered my mind because nobody mentions them as a thing when talking about chicken tractors. If I had made this thing with heavier gauge wood, I would have been completely stuck weeks ago. Even dragging the thing over the goldenrod, which is as tall as the tractor, is a challenge.

I think in rough terrain (which I think is more of a typical situation around here), a tractor on bicycle wheels that can be raised and lowered is the answer. It's safer for the chickens too.

When I do spot an ant hill I try and knock it down with a spade, but it's hard as rock and I really need a pick axe. Ideally I would level the entire field with a bulldozer but this just isn't an option.

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