Thursday, February 23, 2012

Meat Chickens - Part II

My BIL, a friend and I have gotten the ball rolling.  The chickens are ordered and the clock is ticking.  76 chicks will be calling our place home in a couple weeks.  The chicks will live in a brooder for a couple weeks, but they will grow quickly and need a place to live outside on the pasture.

Again, the internet was researched to learn from the great chicken farmers that had gone before us.  Why make the same mistakes others have made?  I'm all about letting others make mistakes.  It was narrowed down to the flat rectangular chicken tractor that Joel Salatin made famous, or try a more hoop-house type of shelter that would allow me better access to the inside.  Even while getting materials at the big orange box, the decision wasn't finalized.  That probably accounted for the excess of wood and supplies that were purchased.

After getting the cattle panels from Southern States and seeing how flimsy they were, the decision was made to go hoop-house style.

I started out by laying out the cattle panels slightly overlapping.  I nailed the short ends of the panels to a 12' 2x4.  All the wood was pressure treated to hold up to the outdoor weather.  Once that was done, an 8' 1x4 was connected between one end of the 2x4s.  Then an 8' 2x4 was connected between the other ends of the 12' 2x4.  This made the basic frame of the chicken shelter.

I chamfered the front ends of the 12' 2x4s to make it easier to drag.  A 1x4 was also connected in the center to keep the 12' 2x4s from bowing out too much.

The next step was to put some framing on the back side to help make it more rigid and hold up the chicken wire that would enclose the back side.  A couple 1x4s would do the trick.

The edges of the cattle panel were nailed to the supports along with a few zip ties for good measure.  Surprisingly for looking so flimsy, it is actually quite rigid and strong.

The next step was the front side.  I wanted a door that I would be able to walk into easily.  Using a few more 1x4s to make the door frame along with another 1x4 on the sides for lateral support, the door frame was created.  (The top of the side supports are 48" above the ground, so the 48" tall chicken wire would fit perfectly between the bottom board and the lateral support board.  A couple hinges and some more 1x4 framing and the door was attached.

A note for others to learn from my mistakes, be sure to wrap the chicken wire around the shelter before attaching the door.  This will save you from installing the door twice.

The two door cross members are for the chicken wire.  The top support is 48" from the ground, and the bottom support is 48" from the top.  The middle section has overlapping chicken wire.  The front and back top sections were covered in chicken wire and secured to the cattle panels using zip ties.  This was done first so the bottom chicken wire would overlap the top.  Then a bottom row of chicken wire was put all the way around the shelter.  On the front and back it was staple gunned to the boards.  On the sides it was staple gunned at the bottom and zip tied at the top.  The top of the cattle panels are open as it will be covered by a tarp.

You can see it was dark when I finished.  The Good Wife and her sister came home from the boys swim meet and helped finish up the zip-tying process.  It only took two trips to the orange box (1 more 1x4 was needed for the door) and one trip to Southern States.  It was a beautiful day this last Saturday, and surprisingly (to me at least) I got it finished in one day without any plans drawn out.  It is 12' x 8' and a little over 6' high in the center.

The next day, the weather turned as it seems to happen whenever I have a project to do.   I got the tarp on the top of the shelter for a full out weather check.

Five plus inches of snow later, it help up great!  It kept this inside snow-free, and it held up to the weight of the snow.  It can easily support a waterer or feeder hung from the top of the panels.  I added two eye bolts on the front 2x4 to place a rope for dragging it around the pasture.  It could be dragged by one person with some weight, but I would like to add at least a couple wheels on the back to make it easier.

Overall, the cost was about $175 or so.  The cattle panels were on sale and were $60 for the 3 panels.  The 48" x 50' of chicken wire was $40 and I still have about 10' left as I started with a left over roll from the original chicken run.  I also had to buy some all weather screws.  I used about half a box of the short screws and only about a dozen or less of the long screws, so that cost gets counted towards stocking up the garage supplies.  The rest was lumber, two hinges, two eye bolts and a door latch that I need to take back.  The tarp was something that I had.

Other than the tarp, this should last for several years at the least and probably more than five.  Overall, the cost wasn't too bad for such a sturdy and durable shelter.  As each dollar gets spent, we are becoming more and more committed to raising more than our initial batch of meat chickens.  What are we thinking?

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