I don’t know if it’s some kind of farming/homesteading/hobby farm benchmark but we did buy some chickens specifically for meat this year. We opted out of the Cornish cross, from what we have read and seen, and our own bias for non-commercialized breeds. We also have the benefit of having run some broad breasted white turkeys a few years ago and compared to the heritage breeds we raised they were kind of mindless eating machines, ‘the bag of hammers’ was how I usually referred to them.
So for chickens we chose Buff Orpingtons. They are a dual purpose breed, we know they do well here (we have a handful of Buff layers) and if we want we can cycle out some older laying hens and use some of the pullets we have growing for meat as replacement layers. We also have a handful of replacement pullets including some Andalusian that are a threatened breed.
Typically we start them in a crate/box/stock tank in our house till they are old enough to not paste up on shavings. Then they go out to the ‘Brooder Box’ that sits on our front porch. Once they are feathered out we put them in an A frame chicken tractor. Only those are HEAVY and don’t end up moving. Having watched Joel Salatin’s Chicken Tractors I decided to build two of them for us. On a mostly flat 5 acres, my hope is that I can shift them to a fresh patch every day or so till they are either butcher or egg age, then they go in with the rest of our laying flock. Or the freezer.
The Heffer Project has a great booklet on this that I got from somewhere. Keeping weight in mind we didn’t add any wood that we didn’t think was necessary. The metal roofing acts as bracing/stabilizing for the top and two sides. From what I could find Joel makes his about 24″ tall. Per our ‘animal comfort specialist’/farm manager I was directed to make them ‘bigger’. So they are 36″ tall. And that worked. The metal siding come in 36″ with, and we had a roll of 48″ chicken wire from some long forgotten project. The roofing came in at just under $400, and I probably could have saved some coin if I would have gone with craigslist, or all galvanized, but all the other structures on our property (save the house) have green metal roofing, and it was quickly available as well. Ordered on Monday, picked up (thanks Dad) on Wednesday. They went together quickly, with some scrap wood we had and about another $80 at the lumber yard. I suppose the lumber tab was more like $45 as I picked up a big box of screws that I only used about 10% of, and a tube of calk for something else. So if I can get 10 years out of these that’s only about $21 per year per unit. And the roofing should last much longer, if it gets incorporated into other projects. About 12 hours of my labor in construction, and another 4 from my brother in law (some of the birds are going to their house when they are grown up). I suppose I did spend another $60 on the automatic waterers, but one of those will go into the main chicken yard when the pullets are done with it to save me some time and headache there this summer. So they will see use year round, not just with these.
Here are some progress photos…
#1 is complete! Just waiting on chicks! That’s my brother in law, lending a hand. Some of the hens are going to his house too.