After taking a few years off, we've jumped back into raising meat birds again! I know, I know... for those of you who get a bit squeamish, it's ok if you don't read any further! I'll understand. Just be careful on what you buy at the grocery stores... most of those meat products (aka: chickens, cows, pigs) weren't cared for as well as the 'local farmers' care for their animals. Ok, on with the task at hand!
We start our birds (layers & meat birds) in a BIG cardboard box! Actually, two dishwasher/washer/dryer sized boxes or 1 refrigerator box will work great!! Lay the box on its side. You'll need to keep the bottoms of the boxes but cut off one side piece. This becomes the opening or top of the brooder. Do this to both boxes and then slide the two together, kinda like an accordion! This way they have a small space to start with and as they grow, you slide them apart to give them more space! Clip a heat light in there and cover with a large screen! (a junked slider door screen works great!) This entire creation needs to be kept in a barn, garage, shed or basement for protection from the elements & predators!!
After about 3-4 weeks, your birds should be feathered ... this is where we are at now!! After thinking this through and checking out a few different grower/finisher pens, we've decided to build ours! In the past, we had a pen that we dragged around the yard, allowing the birds to eat the grass etc. as well as grain. It is a great way to go, IF you can put them far enough away from the area that you also use as a yard! We've done it that way a few times. This time we are building a pen that will be movable (for storage purpose) and will stand over a portion of the garden that has been harvested and is ready to be put to rest for the winter! Reasons... additional fertilizer with NO shoveling! We'll see if this idea actually works out for us!
Pete is finishing the frame of the floor!
The plan: a pen approximately 7X10 with a slatted floor, size determined by the available scrap wood that we already have! We did purchase strapping to use as flooring and have spaces so HOPEFULLY the droppings will drop down to the garden area!
There is 1/2 inch of space between the slats of inch strapping wood...
Tweak is wondering what this project will become!
We have chicken wire for the sides and will have inserts of cardboard to protect them from chilly nights on one end! This may become wood eventually, depending on the needs and how this works out or maybe we'll use a tarp as a windshield! That is yet to be determined...
Travis, Pete and Austin are stapling the chicken wire to
the sides. This should keep the chickens
in and the unwanted critters out!
The roof is sections of corrugated roofing.... with hinges so that
we will have access to them from the top!
Ok, having a finish carpenter in the family can lead to more expensive projects then it could have been! But, this should last us for many years of raising birds!! Check out the opening... pretty cool huh! Now I (the shortest one in the family!) can reach in to feed & water! :)
Fortunately, we have scrap lumber around so we didn't have to purchase all of the materials. We are hoping to spread out the work of raising meat birds by doing 25 in the spring and then another 25 in the fall!! Maybe we can even toss in a few turkey chicks in the spring to be ready for the fall! (But, let's keep that little plan a secret for now!) Check out other awesome ideas at Sustainable Eats look for the Simple Lives Thursday and look at some of the past issues!! There are some very creative people out there!! :)