So. How does this work in the morning? What do you do with your chickens each day?
I’m glad you asked. Have you seen the Walmart cheer? We don’t do that. We walk or bike down to the alfalfa field (half mile?) and are greeted by the entire flock. Then there are a couple of checks we do every time.
1. Are any layers dead? It happens. Something penetrates our fence, enduring the pain of electrocution in desperation for a free chicken dinner. Or it flies in. Whichever. But it happens rarely but sometimes birds die.
2. Do they have water?
3. Do they have feed? We now keep a 300# pasture feeder in the field. We only feed the birds once each week. It’s great.
4. Do they have shell? No shell means broken eggs.
Then we check the chicken tractors.
2. Do they have water? Do the birds have access to that water?
3. Are any broilers dead? It’s rare but it does happen. Most commonly happens when they are very young and pile on top of each other. It can happen when they get just about butcher weight. But it can also happen after a heavy rainstorm. You will know because the birds will probably be laying on their face. We have only had two deaths in a chicken tractor related to predation. One morning we found two dead chickens in the same tractor. They were young birds. One was killed by talons of a predator through the chicken wire side. The other was crushed under a pile of chickens trying to get away from the owl. However, the owl never returned. He banged into the side of the tractor and left a pile of his own feathers on the ground. You may also find a bird laying on its back and looking purple. Heart attack. We had an americauna rooster die of a heart attack so it’s not just a CX thing.
4. Do they have feed? We always feed the broilers. I want to know if I fed them too much or not enough last time. I want to offer them too much feed…but only a little too much.
Feed or not, I pull the feeders from the chicken tractors one at a time. Then I use the dolly to move each tractor forward, waiting on the chickens to move, being careful not to run over any birds. We find this goes better in the cool of the morning when the birds are hungry than in the evening when they are fat and the temperature is higher. The dolly was a trade for 8 chickens. He made it from sucker rod, angle iron and lawn mower wheels.
The layer houses also need moved because they too make serious deposits on the ground.
Feeders are filled and replaced, the water is filled again and we’re done for a couple of hours when we come back to feed and water again. The broilers need our attention about every four hours or so. If they go short on water they die. If they go short on feed they don’t grow the way we need them to.
We can easily get away with checking the layers once/day when we gather the eggs. All it takes is excess feed and water capacity. But the broilers need our attention regularly. Consequently we’re shortening our broiler production windows. Keeping the two groups of birds together saves on time, reduces our fencing needs and limits waste from the broiler feeders. Any food that hits the ground gets picked up by the layers eventually.
Are you collecting eggs in the morning when you check the food/water for the layers? Our birds are still laying till about lunchtime, so eggs here get collected first thing in the morning and after school. That is one skookum feeder, great investment I bet. How are you getting food and water down to this area where you are keeping the birds just now. Water from the pond behind them maybe?
I think our dollies are related – same genetics and similar price, except I paid for mine 2 chickens and a month of eggs. We check broilers three times daily when we have them – first thing in the morning, after work/school (which is when we move them), and at dusk when we shut the layers in. We also plan to consolidate our broiler effort – all our birds this year will be raised Aug/Sep – temperatures are a little cooler, still not much rain, and customers seem readier to buy in quantity at the end of September.
And – last question – what did you end up doing about nest boxes in your layer houses? I remember pictures from last year of your experiments with the metal ones. but I don’t see them in the picture above – too heavy? not attached to the house so you can move them separately?
You crack me up. I should write another post. Because of the big feeder and plenty of water options we COULD go once per day but since the broilers are down there we go several times. Once the broilers are gone it will be an afternoon chore only. Well, I suspect when it’s 100 degrees at night in August we’ll check all the livestock more frequently.
The feeder is awesome. Put 6 bags of feed in and walk away. They also need other options. There is a pan of oyster shell as well as a pan of oats. Sometimes they get rabbit liver or other organs we don’t care to use.
Water comes primarily from the pond. I would like to set up a solar system to pump water into a holding tank. That’s a maybe someday project that keeps getting pushed into never.
There are two layer houses. One has nest boxes, the other is just roost bars. I need to revisit that design as one is light and one is heavy. Manageable but heavy. The weird part is not locking up the birds. Neighbors just shake their heads.
Have you seen the types of watering options like this video shows? It’s its own self contained water catchment system…pretty sweet. http://youtu.be/uuIAWC9VtRE
Nice setup. Just curious. Is your net fencing electrified? If so, what kind of energizer do you use? Do you clip their wings?
We have free-ranger layers, but the henhouse is stationary. We’re adding a couple of eggmobiles this year so I can move birds into gardens and pastures that would benefit from their presence. Just not sure if we need to energize the net fencing and/or clip wings.
We do not clip wings. The birds have flown out in the past but usually only when a predator scares them into it. I think a fox jumped the fence last winter and scared 6 or so of them out.
We use Premier One Permanet for fence and one of their solar chargers. I believe it’s the PRS 100. It does not maintain a charge where we are in December or January but otherwise does a great job.