Today was going to be the buying all the chicken tractor things and building the chicken tractor for the meat birds. Off to the big box store we go:
Said big box store did not have two of the fittings necessary to build the frame. They claimed to have one of the parts at a “nearby” store, 90 miles away. Somehow, I think their definition of “nearby” is a tad different than my own. Fortunately, you can buy pretty much anything online these days, so I ordered those fittings plus a double wye connector to make my vertical feeder. The layers will have the vertical feeder. The meat birds will get fed in a trough. The reason I came up with a vertical feeder is simple: chickens are messy eaters, and will scratch food out of their feeders to the ground – where they will rarely touch it. It’s a space- and food-saving design.
All the birds, however, will have a nipple-accessible water supply, rather than an open one. There are a handful of reasons for this, but the most important one for the waterer AND the food can be boiled down to one word: poop.
Chickens will happily sit or stand on top of their waterers or feeders and just as happily poop all over them and their contents. Two of the waterers will be hanging, without enough room for them to sit on top. The third will be set on cinder blocks to keep it off the ground, and will have a cone-shaped top to make things uncomfortable for chicken butts.
I have some giant boxes (thanks, amazon!) to use as brooders for the chicks. While the meat birds will grow quickly enough to be kicked out into their tractor after just a couple of weeks, the layers will need a bit more time before being put out to pasture. It is necessary to clean out the brood boxes pretty frequently, unless one enjoys the smell of chicken poop (nope!). For that, I’ll line the bottom of the box with non-skid shelf liner, and then have some puppy pads on top of that. That way, when it’s cleaning time, the puppy pads can just be rolled up and tossed.
The flaps of the boxes I’ll stand upright and duct tape together, so the sides will be high enough they can’t fly out when they realize they have winds. On the top, some 1/8th inch hardware cloth for ventilation and to keep out snakes – as the chicks will likely be out back on the patio, this is necessary to keep the snakes from eating the tasty wee chicks – and then a heat lamp for each brooder, so the chicks can warm themselves if they get chilled.
The chicks are due next week, and I still have quite a bit to do to finish prepping for them. My brother is very handy, and he’s going to be building me a mobile coop when the guy who created it releases his plans for the 2.0 version, which is lighter and better balanced than his prototype. Half the layers will go into the mobile coop, and I’ll take them around the areas of the property that still need work. They’ll scratch, peck, and (most importantly) poop in these areas, which will help the building of the soil in those places. The other half will go into the chickenyard we used for the OG chickens. All the meat birds will go into the chicken tractor to live out their short but happy lives. They’ll get fresh grass and bugs and such, but they will not be ranging – they get large very quickly and they’re unable to run into a coop if a predator circles around. They also do not scratch and peck while foraging as the layers do. But – as always, the most important thing – they will be pooping, wherever they are, and that will be good for my soil.
At the end of the gardening season, I plan to design a way to let the mobile layers into the gardens themselves, to clean up whatever is in the rows – and, of course, poop everywhere – as we head into winter. They can’t be trusted in a production garden, as they will peck at pretty much anything, including fruit still on the plants and stomp all over the plants themselves. This plan is still a work in progress.
Until next time, poops – I mean, peeps: be well.