Not-So-Awful Chicken Offal

In the last 4 days I have butchered near enough to 300 birds as makes no difference.  The last three days have all been above 100 degrees.  One might think there would be a smell.  Well, there is a slight odor when you’re next to the compost pile.  Otherwise, not so much.  Here’s how we build the compost pile.

I build my piles with pallets since pallets are free.  The pile needs to be a minimum of 3’x3’x3′ so it has enough mass to heat up.  It is important that your compost pile “cook” itself when you’re adding in manures or animal wastes.  They will digest more quickly keeping the scavengers away.  Normally I use 8 pallets wired together with baling wire in a big 2 pallet by 2 pallet square.  We dig  a slight depression in the ground in the center of the pile.  Then we add a foot or so of straw, old hay or, better yet, bedding along with a shovel or two of finished compost.  From then on, we add layer after layer of compost and carbon.  These pictures reflect the maturity of the pile.  We’re nearing the top.  I should also point out that I don’t stir my compost.  That’s too much like work.  I just let it sit for 12-18 months and feed it keep it hot most of that time.  Biology does the rest.

First I scrape away the covering material from the top.  This is 6 or 8 inches of used bedding and hay the goats rejected.  I pull the material to the edges of the pile leaving about a foot-thick wall around the perimeter.

Then I dump the buckets and level them out across the pile.  Same goes if you’re composting humanure.  If there is any roadkill in the area I toss that in too.  When we have kitchen scraps we can’t feed to livestock we put them here.  We don’t feed pork to pigs or chicken to chickens so if she makes a potato soup with chicken broth and sausage…

Next I cover the offal with an equal volume of sawdust.  I’m shooting for 2-3″ of sawdust here.  The carbon absorbs the nutrients, sponges up moisture and keeps the smell down.

Then I pull the covering material in from the edges and cover as well as I can.  We’ll need more material but it’s a start.

The goal is at least 6 inches of covering material.  That allows moisture in if it will ever rain and filters odors.

So, there you go.  Our current pile is 6×6.  It should last us until we start a new pile on April 1st.  If not, I’ll get two more pallets and make it a bit longer.

Good luck with your composting.  Don’t overthink it.  If it stinks, add carbon.  If it’s not hot, add nitrogen.  Stacey has some good ideas on that topic.

Featherman Product Review Update

This post serves as an update to my original review in April 2012.  Though I think that post is still worth reviewing, the scalder and I have gotten to know each other better and I have more to say about it.

I’m nearly 900 birds into my new Featherman equipment.  Today we processed 75 birds in just under an hour working at an easy pace.  As usual, I was kill, head removal, scald, pluck, foot removal and tail gland removal.  I also plucked whatever the plucker missed.  Three of my children stood at the table to hang up to 8 birds for mommy and to help me pluck feathers.  The oldest daughter also cut feet and glands.  My wife eviscerates 4 birds at a time cutting all crops, setting down the knife, pulling the crop and trachea from each, picking up the knife, cutting all the vents, setting down the knife and gutting each bird.  Finally, the oldest son collects the finished birds from the shackles, removes the lungs, inspects and rinses the birds and places them in chill water.  We started at 8:45 and by 10:30 we were scrubbed, had the offal in the compost and relaxing for a few minutes to write a blog post (this one).  Again, 75 birds took an hour to dress out for 2 adults and 4 children (aged 11, 9, 7 and 6) working at an easy pace.  This was not possible before we had our Featherman setup.

Even with our Featherman setup, I have a few issues.  Every part of the process hinges on the scalder.  If the water is too cold you don’t get a good pluck.  That translates into extra time spent picking feathers out later.  If the water is too hot, the skin tears and you end up with a mess you have to salvage by cutting up the bird.  When we processed on Wednesday we spent 3 frustrating hours trying to keep the scalder lit and warm.  When we finally finished I was sufficiently frustrated that I emailed Featherman to ask what could be done.  Was I using it wrong?  Am I trying to force the equipment beyond its design?  Should I sacrifice a chicken before firing up the scalder each time to appease the scalder gods?

David replied just over 2 hours later.  I’ll say that differently.  The owner of the company replied to my email almost immediately.  That’s cool.  Anyway, here’s his full reply.

Hi Chris,

I very much appreciate the time you’ve taken to outline the problems. I regret you are having them, but this is how we learn, grow, and improve. I am confident we can rectify every problem area you have identified.

I’m just back from Falling Sky Farm In Arkansas and got a big education there. Cody does 8000-9000 birds per year. At this level they are more intimate with the equipment than I can ever be. Although he doesn’t use our scalder (but one with the same burner) he says he had to move indoors. The slightest bit of wind kept it from warming up.

If you are committed to an outdoor space-the way my wife and I always did it-do your best to shield the scalder from the wind while still giving it plenty of combust/exhaust air.

Steel baskets with sharp edges remaining are a huge mistake. I will let our machining and our shipping people know. A potential injury like that should never have gone out. I got cut at the beginning too. They were all supposed to be well sanded down. Due to the extra weight and chore of sanding, we have redesigned with a heavy wire mesh (1″ opening) rather than the flat and sharp expanded metal. We are adding fingers at the ends to help deter heads and feet from dragging on the outside. If you want to swap yours we will be accommodating. They are not out of production yet, however.

I have seen the Ashley and Poultryman scalders – with identical burners as ours – produce at 200 birds per hour. There is no reason ours cannot. You do have the new model scalder, correct? Our first scalder is limited by the burner to 70 bph. Either there is a perennial problem with wind or there is some obstruction in the gas or the air is choked. Look at the flame. It should be a bright blue with only a bit of yellow at the tip and about 1 1/2″ long. If not, check for dirt in the orifice (clean with air, not an object), adjust the air intake cover to see if that helps. If the flame looks good then it is environmental cooling.

Poor location of the scalder, too much or too little air flow, jostling causing movement of wires or thermocouples or pilot light or air intake cover, dirty burner orifices – all of this I have seen or personally experienced as I used the equipment. On one video shoot we waited four hours for water to heat outside, finally broke down and set up inside a green house and zipped along fine (rooster video with roto-dunker). Stainless takes up and gives off heat incredibly rapidly and I’m guessing and hoping that is the culprit here but it is always a challenge to sleuth from far away.

I’m very keen for your demo to go well and for the quirks to disappear. Please keep me informed and let us know what we can do.

One last suggestion. Get a digital thermometer and put the probe safely in the scald water so that you know immediately if the temperature is falling off.

Thanks again,

David Schafer
Featherman Equipment
660.684.6464 farm

I was and am pretty satisfied with his response.  The fire under my scalder looks good so I need to find a way to shield my scalder from wind if we continue to do my part of the job outside.  It was pretty breezy toward the end of our processing on Wednesday.  Also, primarily because of sharp edges, we’re working on replacing my roto-dunker with the one he mentioned above.  David writes later to say that, like the newly redesigned scalder, the roto dunker will evolve in time.

I’m watching the roto-dunker closely. I don’t think we are done with it yet. Nobody knows better than I the frustration of equipment mishaps at processing time. This business from Heaven was born of blood, sweat and tears. We are a long way from being finished with a line of equipment.

I am at the summer break in my schedule.  900 birds down, 300 to go in the fall.  Here are my thoughts regarding my Featherman purchase:
-The cones and stand are great.  If you want to process 200 BPH, you’re going to need more than 8 kill cones…lol.  Look for a post coming up on how we clean up the stand.
-The scalder heats up quickly and it does work well but wind and cold weather both tax its abilities.  In May I heated water three times from one 20# propane tank.  That shows it can be efficient at heating water when conditions are right.  Conditions were wrong, wrong, wrong Wednesday.
-The roto-dunker can be your friend.  If your birds dress out below 4 pounds it will turn two in each side.  If above 4 pounds, one in each side.  As I say above, using the roto-dunker under those parameters frees me to go do other things for a few minutes.  That time counts when I’m working to keep my cones full.
-The plucker is absolutely trouble-free.  I do wish I had gotten the turkey plucker though.  I had gotten the milage out of my poor Whizbang plucker.  I remember the frustration of using it on large batches of birds last year.  The Featherman plucker has asked nothing of me.  Not so much as a hiccup.
-Evisceration shackles of any make will speed up your process and help your back but the Featherman shackles are, not surprisingly, the best value we have found.  I hung ours with some inexpensive carabiner clips.
-The chill tank is durable, easy to clean and holds a lot of birds.

I wrote to David because I was frustrated with his scalder.  Looking back, I was really frustrated with the wind.  Any scalder would have given me the same trouble and any other scalder would have cost me more money.

Thanks David for all you do to help small farmers like me and for taking the time to respond to my questions.

Too Big to Succeed

This is in response to comments I got on my recent post titled “How Much Could you Make?”  Based on comments, my readers saw me as moping because my marketing skills aren’t where I would like them to be.  I suspect they are right, though I hope I wasn’t moping.  I was trying to say it’s tempting to expand and dive into any number of activities before I’m skillful at any of them.  Marketing is pretty far up on the list of things I need to improve but it’s more than just that.

My dad recently asked, “Why don’t you get some more layers?  That’s money you make every day.”  First, I appreciate my dad asking me questions. He’s not questioning my judgement, he sees an opportunity and wants to help me succeed.  He’s encouraging me to grow.

I think the layers are a good example of why I’m reluctant to grow.  A few layers are easy to keep.  A small home flock eats your kitchen scraps, weeds, bugs, etc. and gives you enough eggs to keep your kitchen hopping.  They are entertaining in the extreme.  Your only role is to ensure they have water, shelter and protection from everything that walks.  With a small flock the needs of the chickens are few.  Now.  Let’s shift gears.  Let’s go from three birds up to 300 birds.   Now you need in the neighborhood of 10 pounds of feed every day.  Now you need a much larger shelter.  Now you could lose a bird a night for a week and not notice it…that’s bad.

Each night we gather or 30 or so eggs in a basket.

We bring that basket in the house and set it on the buffet.  When two baskets are full we set out 5 or 6 egg cartons, sort and clean each egg by hand and label them for sale.  We get somewhere in the neighborhood of 14 dozen eggs each week in the summer, 8-10 in the winter.  We try to put an americauna egg in the front right of every box.  Blue eggs really freak people out sometimes.

While I agree we don’t get enough eggs, that’s where we are now.  My house holds 50 birds.  That’s it.  It’s a portable house.  I can’t build an addition onto it.  In the winter we house our flock in the greenhouse.  I can only fit so many birds in that greenhouse.  My infrastructure (or lack thereof) dictates my scale.

But my scale is also dictated by other factors.  There are only so many eggs I can lug up the hill in baskets.  Only so many eggs I can handle, clean and pack.  There are only so many hours in a day.  I’m nearing the ceiling for my skill level, my children’s ability to help at their age and my availability outside of employment.

It’s that last one that hurts the most.  I’m not even making enough money to pay the very modest farm payment, let alone live on.  I have to find a way to bridge the gap somehow.  At this time, we’re adding to our list of products using seasonality on our side.  But, as several commenters pointed out, I need to gain more exposure through everything from farmers markets to Facebook.  I just have to get out there.  But to get out there I have to have something to sell.  Now we’re back to the beginning.

It is a lot to think about.  It’s a lot of work.  It’s a lot of time invested in a helpless, tasty little bird with a narrow profit margin when my time is factored in (and I’d rather do nothing for nothing).  But it’s exposure.  Customers want eggs.

You see where I’m at here?  I need to grow knowing that not all growth is good.  I don’t want to overextend myself but have to do something to move forward.  I could quickly become too big to succeed complete with sick animals, neglected children and a failing marriage.  I’m using my time, putting my assets at risk and trying to anticipate customer needs.  I have to tread carefully.

Second Butchering Day Aftermath

We’re tired.  Like tired tired.  Wiped out.  Used.  Sapped.  Tapped out.  Done.  Spent.  200 birds.  2 days.  2 adults, 4 children and a little help from my mother-in-law.  The dog may have eaten a few livers too.  We also went swimming, watched a little Star Trek, read, played legos and took care of the rest of the farm but the poultry processing was the absolute focus.  It’s not like we’re new to this…it’s just hard work.

Here’s a shot of the new freezer:

Here’s a shot of the CL freezer we got from a nice couple in a beautiful home complete with chickens and kittens way, way out past the greater MO trailer park-o-rama off of 70 somewhere.  I mean way out there.  Well, not as far off the beaten path as we are…but still.  Way out there.

So.  That ought to keep ’em for a while cause that’s it.  Well, I have another hundred on pasture to butcher in the next three days or so but then I mean it.  That’s it.  Well, that’s kind of it.  That’s it till we butcher again in October.  Maybe.  Raymond Mears (ex-gf’s grandfather (I have some of his ties)) said, “Corn in the bin is money in the bank”.  I suppose I could look at this chicken that way.  As long as the power doesn’t go out, it’s money in the bank and it’s safe from the 4-legged masked bandits that have apparently taken over the farm.  I saw 3 in my yard early this morning!  Sheesh!

I read about guys who process 300-500 birds/day or process 10,000 birds/year.  Salatin says he processes 30,000.  I can’t imagine how they chill all those birds.  Those two freezers are putting out a lot of heat right now.  Maybe walk-in coolers can handle it better.

We work to be very efficient from kill to chill and from chill to freezer but I’m surprised to take note of how long we spend packing the birds into transport crates.  I don’t think there is much of a solution to that but I haven’t been estimating that time correctly.  Just an observation.

Well, chicken for dinner tonight.

Butchering Days

We are butchering this week.  We have 3-digit high temps coming this week so we’re trying to butcher our broilers before that happens…you know, since I’m on vacation.

Yesterday morning there were 300 broilers on pasture.  We butchered 100 yesterday.  It took us 2 hours to get them in the chill tanks, another hour to bag.  But we were late getting started so we barely finished before lunch, took a break and bagged them from 3-4.  Today we intend to start earlier.  I really mean it this time.

My flat Salatin-style chicken tractors get the hottest so they got emptied first.  Today I’ll take 20 birds from each of the hoop tractors to make more room, take 40 of the turkey’s roommates and finish up the remaining Salatin-style box.

Yesterday’s birds weighed an average of 4 pounds.  That’s just what we were shooting for.  Customer feedback on 5 and 6 pound birds varied.  It’s nice to have normal-sized birds available again.

The freezers are nearly full!  This is it for the summer.  There are no chicks on the farm right now.  Soon we’ll be focused on swimming instead of feeding and watering!

OK.  Really gotta get going.  Have to start butchering at 7 and I have to catch the birds, sterilize the work surfaces and sharpen the knives.

How Much Could You Make?

“How much money could you make doing this? ”

Oh, golly.  The sky is the limit on could.  Ask a more direct question.

“How much money do you make doing this?”

Well.  Yeah.  You see…we…um…not much.  I see the potential.  I know the market is there.  I just have a hard time introducing myself to that market.   We’re learning every day but we’re still in school.

You can do the math.  We raised 900 birds on a little over an acre to an average of 5 pounds dressed.  4500 pounds of chicken sold at a minimum of $3/pound.  Chicken feed isn’t free.  Chicks aren’t free.  Electric netting isn’t free.  Land isn’t free.  My time is worth something.  So, we come out a little ahead on our season but we’re not getting rich.

We do better with pigs.  Pigs need our attention for about 2 minutes/day, every day for 4 or 5 months.  Then we load them into a trailer (which can be hilarious frustrating interesting) and send them to town.  We have annual pig revenues in the hundreds of dollars.  Yup.

We’re small.  Many of the things we do are just first efforts.  We are still learning what works here.  Yes, I have read Salatin’s Pastured Poultry Profit$: Net $25,000 in 6 months on 20 acres.  My copy is pretty worn.  Yes I have 20 acres.  Yes I raise poultry.  Yes, I have studied the 40 pages in that book on marketing.  I agree with Salatin that sales are driven less by advertising and more by word of mouth.  We have a superior product.  Our customer feedback is positive.  It just takes time to build sales…to get your name out there.  This is our third year raising chicken and we are taking it slowly.  We have to.  It would be very easy to outstrip our sales with production.  While we have always sold out on chicken and pork there is more than just numbers involved.  We have to find ways to get the work done.  Just doing the work is tiring.  We could raise more chicken but when?  I have no doubt we could raise more pigs but I don’t know how many more.  We need time to figure it out.

Could I make my farm payment from the farm?  No doubt.  Could I make a living by farming alone?  I don’t know.  I suspect I could but I need more time.  Time to learn.  Time to market.  Time to figure out what works.  Time to try new things.  Time to grow.

I have to learn about pasture management.  I have to learn about seasonal changes, annual changes, multi-year drought management, low-stress livestock handling, water management, nutrient cycling, winter stockpile management, managing differences between North-facing slopes and South-facing slopes….you see where this is going?  Orcharding, aquaculture, growing and marketing vegetables…on and on.  It takes time to learn/try/recover from each.  Time is not on my side but I have to resist the temptation to force something to happen.  It has to grow.  We have to move slowly.

Farming is a biological process.  Biological processes take time.  I could present you a business model that shows $X over X years but it would not be honest.  There is a lot of work to do.  There is a lot to learn.  Things take time.  You better get started now.

How does the Week Look?

What does your week look like?  I’m on vacation this week so I’m penciling in the plan.  We got this mostly roughed in during our weekly planning meeting yesterday but not all the detail.  Weekly planning meeting?  Yup.  If we don’t sit down every week to sync up our planners we get lost.  We also meet with the kids to find out where they want to go.  There is supposed to be a big family meeting as we think it is important to involve the kids in family goals.  That meeting was missed yesterday so we could attend the Sustainable Backyard Tour.

This week I have a couple of books I want to finish reading, fence to build, chickens to process, bookshelves to design and build, wire to run, and ponds to swim in.  That means I’ll spend the week reading to the kids, teaching about fence post placement, teaching anatomy, geometry, fractions, measurements and buoyancy.  I also need to get the greenhouse ready to plant for fall crops and I may start digging potatoes…no rush on that though.

Today is more filled out than Thursday.  That’s kind of on purpose.  I try to stay flexible.  Things happen.  Some projects drag out more than others.  No big deal.  I have a to-do list and have that list prioritized.  I’ll knock out what I can and if, by some miracle, I get to the end of my list I’ll find more to do.  There is always more work to do.  If things were right in the universe there would be no unemployment.  But then, I try to avoid discussing politics and economics here.  There is more work to do than can be done…it’s an issue of price.  OK.  I’m done.

This week finishes out our broiler production season.  We may run a small fall batch depending on sales but at this time we’re leaning away from it.  Exciting times.  Chicken evisceration, blueberry picking, raspberry picking, potato harvest, goat milking…it’s both fun and overwhelming at the same time.  Everything has to be done at once.  It has been that way since February.  Ah, the good life.

How about you?  Staying busy?

A Picture of the Future?

I’m going to show you a picture.  Tell me what you see in the picture’s future.

Come on.  Ignore the alfalfa.  Ignore the chicken tractors.  What should be here?  What would you do with this space?

I’m asking you to be creative.  I have an acre that makes several tons of feed for ruminants and chickens.  Is that the best I can do?  What else could I do with the space?

Remember this mild disturbance from mid-March?

Well, now that it’s hot and dry we see this:

Recovery is slower in the absence of rain…but it does recover.  I’m have raised 4500 pounds of chicken on this field and two cuttings of alfalfa…and it’s not even July yet.  But then what?  I haul goat and cow manure out of the shed to spread it out on the field again?  I compost the chicken guts and bring them back out to the field?  Isn’t there something better I could be doing?

I ask this because I’m reading The Blueberry Years.  Also I’m making an intensive study of permaculture right now.  What if I planted 1,000 berry plants?  What if?  What if I planted them on contour to preserve water?  What if I planted an orchard?  What if I planted a food forest?  What if I just sculpted the landscape to retain water and grazed it with beef?  Where would I raise chickens?  Would I raise chickens?  Possibility overload!

I look at the alfalfa field and I see any number of possibilities…maybe even a series of greenhouses.  What do you see?  What could be there?

Raising Helpful Children

We aren’t parenting experts.  We’re just parents.  We have four helpful children and we don’t believe that helpfulness is an accident.  Mileage may vary but here’s what we find works.

The workload on the farm is staggering.  Not only do we face the normal household routines of dishes, laundry and food followed by dishes laundry and more food, we have to deliver meals on wheels to a few hundred animals.  Messes seem to happen in certain locations day after day in the house.  We have to clean those up.  Then we have to clean up after a few hundred animals by constantly moving them to fresh ground, composting bedding and moving fencing.  In the yard we pick up fallen tree limbs, weed and mulch the flower beds, mow, keep the garden moving in the right direction and then carry that work out to the rest of the 20 acres.  Thistle threatens to take over the pasture, limbs fall on fences, fences short out and chickens lose the fight to raccoons.  We have to be diligent about testing our fences for shorts on a daily basis.  I’m just scratching the surface here.  There is a lot of work to do both in and out of the house.  We could not function at our current skill level if our children were not helping us.  We don’t see much of a future on the farm if our children run screaming away from us when they get old enough to be on their own.

Our children have to know that we love them.  They aren’t accidents.  We don’t regret our decision.  We thought, saved, considered and prayed before each was born.  Well, maybe we would have liked to spread them out a bit more but…  Our children aren’t a burden to us, they are our treasures.  I could give up the farm tomorrow but I will never give up my children.  I need them.

They have to know that this is home.  It’s not my home.  It’s our home.  They belong here, this is theirs too.  That sense of ownership is important in helping them understand they aren’t imposing on us or living in a hotel and I’m not providing a storage locker for their things.  This is their home.  I’m not passing my time hoping they’ll move out someday.  I am not burdened by their presence.  I don’t calculate the “cost” of raising a child (nor should you).  I hope they stick around as adults.  They make everything I do easier and more fulfilling.  As a part of a home they have to share the workload.  Being a part of any community requires one to contribute.  Sometimes being part of a home goes beyond contribution into sacrifice.

Our children have to know that their work is necessary and important.  We aren’t just keeping them busy.  We aren’t sending them because we are too lazy to go ourselves.  They know that we can’t do everything and they find ways to help us.  Together we keep things running around the farm.  Our kids understand this so well we have to hold them back at times.  With time and training the kids will finally be able to help me buck bales.  Right now they sit frustrated on the sidelines knowing I’m tired and wishing they could help.

We have to model an appropriate attitude toward work for our children.  We don’t complain about the work.  We don’t drag our feet.  We just get it done.  In fact, we work to be joyful about our purpose.  They know it’s hard.  I’m sure they realize we don’t always want to do the work but we do it anyway.  It has to be done.  No matter how late we were up the night before, no matter how hot/tired/sick/hungry/busy we are, the chickens have to be watered.  Sometimes the routine gets old.  There’s a lot of just going there when you’re going somewhere.  But when we arrive!  The destination is worth the journey.

Our children have to know that hard work is rewarding.  There is no allowance.  Our children aren’t paid to live.  Our children earn money.  They either earn play money for doing regular household chores or they earn real cash for doing farm work.  Either way, we have an opportunity to teach them about savings and delayed gratification.  Sometimes we just stop for ice cream and tell them they are great.  Sometimes we go swimming.  Whatever we do, we make it a point to tell the kids how much we appreciate their help.

Our children need to be trained to accomplish each task.  Just like I won’t hand the car keys to my untrained 16 year old and say, “Well, you’ve seen me do this so just go do it.” we train our children to do the housework.  Cleaning a bedroom is not obvious to a 6-year old.  She might get started looking for socks under her bed but would quickly be distracted.  The whole project is too big if she hasn’t been trained to break it up into multiple tasks…bite sizes.  Stay with her, encouraging her, working with her for the first few room cleanings.  Help her at the end of each day to tidy things up so next time it’s not such a big deal.  Every morning ask if she made her bed.  This is training.  In time, it will become routine so when she’s 12 you won’t be talking (let alone screaming) about cleaning rooms.  Our oldest two can run the house now.  The meals may be a little bland but they can cook, clean, fold and put away laundry, vacuum and clean the bathroom.  It took years of training to get them to this point but now they are wrapping up the training required to function daily as a human so they can spend their adolescent years in a focused pursuit of their passion…be it art, astronomy or bio-intensive carbon sequestration.

Finally, we have to praise our children for their contribution.  We tell friends and neighbors how proud we are of our children…in front of our children.  My oldest taught a group of men from India how to eviscerate a chicken when he was 9.  It was a hands-on class and he was the teacher.  We have told that story to everyone who would listen and now I have shared it with the internet.  It was a big deal.  Not only could he do the work, he could teach it to adults…at age 9!  Now, at age 11, he can replace me at any point in the chicken process, though he has been doing final inspection lately.

I hope that helps you understand why our kids jump to meet our requests and how we got there.  Please comment if you have any additional suggestions.

Good Morning Piggies

A lot of my readers are looking for more information on my pig trough.  Either that or they just want to see more of the pigs.  Either way, today is your day.

I took slab oak from my sawmill.  Slab lumber is waste wood.  It either has bark on it, marks from the chainsaw or it’s an uneven thickness.  Whatever the reason, it’s more useful as firewood than for furniture.  I cut it down to a 1×6 then cut it into 3.5′ long sections and screwed those together in an L shape.  I had 8-10″ long boards left over and I screwed those to the ends of the trough to act as legs.  These are rough measurements but it really couldn’t be more simple.

Now that the pigs are getting some size to them they don’t all fit around the trough.  We give them a rubber pan too.  The rubber pan is better than a metal pan because pigs play with their feeders and inevitably push them against the fence.  I don’t want them to associate the feed pan with pain when they push it against the electric fence.

Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for.  Breakfast at Piggany’s.  I especially liked the pig trying to figure out the mystery of the feed bucket.  Please notice the pigs aren’t tackling me to get to the feed trough.  Feeding your pigs is more art than science.  I want them to grow, I want them to get enough but I don’t want them to waste the feed.  They eat more on cool mornings than on hot afternoons so we try to account for that in our routine too.  I recently increased their ration because they had been eating it all and I like for them to have a little snack between feedings.  I try to feed them a little more than they can finish in one sitting.  The rubber pan still had feed in it from last night so I guess I went overboard yesterday.  On the other hand, they weren’t tackling me to get to the feed either.