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.