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Friday, June 24, 2011

Baked chicken and omelets


Finally figured out how to add pictures. 

Here's this year's model of our chicken tractor.  We recently took these 45 broilers to be processed.  Raised on organic feed and grass/bugs, they're about 4 lb. each.  We're selling them for $4/lb if you're interested in eating pasture raised poultry. 

I found this design at http://www.pvcplans.com/.  They have a couple of other designs that I liked specifically because of the wheels they incorporate into the design but time was of the essence so I went with modifying my old tractor.  The wheeled designs would make it much easier for one person to move.  Ours can be moved by one person but it requires walking back and forth to opposite sides to scoot the corners.  Two people can move it with ease. 

We've used achicken tractor over the past 3-4 years.  The prior one was three feet tall and could accomodate turkeys if we so chose, which we didn't.  The old tractor was a couple of years old and was falling apart with many broken joints.  I cut all of the joints off and just shrunk the size of the tractor by about six inches in width and length.  I also dropped the height from three feet to just over two feet.  I was able to salvage about $100 in pipe costs.  The first tractor I built with this design was about $220.  This one was about $120 with some joints left over for the next one.

One thing I learned was to go with the gray pipe instead of the white PVC because the white will get brittle and crack when exposed to UV light.  I think the gray pipe is called Schedule 40 and can be used for conduit or water pipe.  The pipe I have now is in its third year.  The first one I made I used the white PVC pipe and it was trash after the first year. 

Our original version was three feet high but the design provided only has a door on top.  That meant the little girls who were willing to help couldn't get in and out of the tractor on their own.  I installed a "front" door on that one to address that.  With my redesign that is shorter it's easer to reach in and pull the feeder and waterer out.  But, Spencer and I figured out pretty quickly the day that we loaded them you need a really short person to climb under the 3/4 of the tractor where the birds try to hide when you're trying to catch them. 

We've also found that the tarps are very vulnerable in windy weather.  It's tough to get them really tight but, even then, there's a lot of flapping that stresses and tears the tarp.  We also had some exposed ends to the chicken wire covering that pierced and weakened the tarp. We've only had the existing tarp on about 5 weeks and it's already pretty well torn up and needs to be replaced. 

I was at WalMart last night picking up some supplies for Evan's camping trip to CO.  I noticed a grommet kit for tents.  I'll be grabbing one of these kits when I get the new tarp to install.  This will allow me to put the grommets where I need then to further tighten the fit of the tarp and minimize the blowing in the wind.  The grommets that are already in the tarp don't always get placed where the would work best.  Hopefully we can finish the season with the second tarp.

We're currently raising our layers in the chicken tractor.  They get moved twice a day and are thriving.  We lost a couple of birds in the first few days that we moved them but we're not sure why.  They may have been injured when we moved the tractor.  I also learned quickly not to walk away from the tractor with the door propped open.  The birds are very flighty.  I did that a few days ago and instantly had 15 birds fly out.  Fortunately Seth and I were able to get them back in with him shooing them towards the tractor while I lifted it and they ran right in.

Hopefully we'll be getting eggs sometime in August.  With 43 remaining layers, we're going to have lots of eggs when they start coming.  Anybody for an omelet?

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