free ranging your Cornish X birds

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by MyFirstFarm, Nov 2, 2011.

  1. MyFirstFarm

    MyFirstFarm In the Brooder

    Jan 31, 2010
    We've just had our second batch of Cornish Rock Giants processed. This was our first year raising chickens of any kind. The taste of the birds made it all worthwhile but we were left feeling like we would like to do things differently next year. This year I built a 10x5 tractor out of wood (2x2s) with wheels on one end, with a skirt of chicken wire around the bottom to deter diggers. It seemed to work fine, but had to be weighted down with rocks and that made moving the tractor a bit of a pain. I moved it every 24 hours but towards the end that wasn't enough to keep up with the mess, and they smelled pretty bad.

    We'd really like to free-range them, or at the very least have them in a large paddock of some kind. We don't appear to have many ground-based predators around, judging by all the free-ranging chickens on other farms on our street, but we do have raptors. So we are trying to wrap our heads around a management system that would protect the birds, especially while they are small, while giving them lots of room so the poop issue isn't so bad. Hopefully with more room they might walk a bit more and not be so pathetically lame (towards the end they would take a few steps and just drop to the ground, exhausted).

    I'd love to hear from those who don't use tractors for their meat birds - what's your setup and how often do you clean, move things, etc?

  2. LarryPQ

    LarryPQ Easter Hatch!!

    Jul 17, 2009
    I gave mt 15 to a broody sizzle, in a covered pen that was 10 by 15. I raked it out once a week and tilled the dirt twice during their short stay. The broody made sure they got enough exercise, and I kept the food and the water on seperate sides of the pen. I let them free range with the layers during "free time"---so they were pretty healthy.

    ..There is not much in this world funnier than a bunch of meaties running after you for treats.
  3. miss_thenorth

    miss_thenorth Songster

    Dec 28, 2007
    SW Ont, Canada
    I use Premier One's electric poultry netting, and have used it for 4 years. Love it!!! I move it every two or three days, less when they are younger, more when they get bigger (and poo more) I have a shelter inside the netting that they use at night time, and to get out of the elements.
  4. EggsForIHOP

    EggsForIHOP Songster

    Apr 18, 2010
    I do use a tractor - so not much help in changing the base of your routine...but have you considered a few things...

    Like maybe adding a second tractor as they get larger to allow more room and splitting them into 2 groups? That's my plan - right now I have 20 2 week olds that go out in the day into one 6X4 tractor...but as they get bigger they will be divided down into 2 tractors. Less birds per tractor = more room for the birds and no worries about overhead predation.

    Then, with ours, I used a landscape timber to hold the skirting down around the sides - just flipped it off, moved the tractor and flipped it back on...only took a minute to do it and was easy peasy...I couldn't imagine having to move individual rocks...I'd give up. Which is what I did when I realized we didn't have anything trying to get in to them. The LGDs for us keep things out from the ground - so now I don't even bother with the skirting. If you don't need to, then why bother with skirting? I've seen plenty of tractors that didn't have it on here - and even still, those landscape timbers are sturdy and hefty, but not a big PITA to deal with - I even attached a handle to mine just to make it easy on me so I didn't have to bend over to pick it up [​IMG]

    Lastly, it's just my vote...but I would rather scoot a tractor a few feet TWICE a day then clean a coop! We really did talk about building a little meaty bird coop complete with run...but then we thought about it...when it rains you can't move them to a poop and mud free spot in just seconds, then you have to do regular poo removals and find something/somewhere for the poop to go, then there are the shavings for the coop part instead of scooting them to clean grass which adds to the costs and unlike a second tractor (which would cost money too I know) shavings are NOT reusable, and it took me a day to throw a tractor together out of mostly found scraps versus the multiple days if not weeks of throwing together an actual coop and buying all the lumber plus that tractor if done correctly can re-purposed into other things. Ours fits in the bed of our truck and makes a lovely "stock box" for transporting other small livestock like baby hogs, grown turkeys, goats...or even a spot to lock down the puppy when he is aggravating me [​IMG] A fixed coop/run set up while still interchangeable is not as easily transported either - one more motivation for the tractor.

    i dunno...just a thought, like I said...we really did kick around the idea of a permanent "operation meaty base" for a while...but we decided a permanent base of operations for them wasn't worth it because in all honesty, they are not a permanent fixture - they come and go...I dunno...just saying...I was glad I was talked out of it when I think about what really would have gone into it long term. LOTS of poo removal from the birds versus removing the birds from the poo and with a tractor it's easier to scoot them along...just saying...maybe revisit HOW you utilize the tractor instead of another method? [​IMG]
  5. halo

    halo Got The Blues

    Nov 22, 2007
    My Coop
    I have mine right now growing out in a 12 x 12 stall in my barn. In the afternoon when I come home, I just open the door and let them roam until dark. They dont go very far, but they do venture out of the barn and graze and scratch around. You need far less sturdy netting with them, or even as tall, since they can't fly hardly at all. Two foot tall chicken wire will contain them. You can get those metal posts with hooks on them and just make a pasture with chicken wire and those posts. As far as your raptor issue, maybe just let them out a few hours in the evening when someone can be home to keep an eye on them.
  6. galanie

    galanie Treat Dispenser No More

    Aug 20, 2010
    Quote:So true! [​IMG] I only have one that does that, a "buddy" for a singe hatch chick, and that's funny enough. Plus it thinks I'm it's mom (that single chick gave it that idea) and wants to sit on me like the other chick. It's going to be dinner though just like the others.
  7. jessicayarno

    jessicayarno Songster

    Oct 6, 2011
    Pacific Northwest
    I have my cornish cross in a coop and run and I will be using a tractor next time... way too stinky and messy and I personally would rather move a tractor than clean up all the poo these guys leave behind.... It way more sanitary too... jmo

  8. MyFirstFarm

    MyFirstFarm In the Brooder

    Jan 31, 2010
    I hear you all on cleaning the coop versus moving a tractor, so a fixed coop and run is not under consideration.

    Instead we had envisioned something like what Miss_thenorth described. A simple, floorless "coop" (shelter) we could move around within an area fenced with electric poultry netting. I'm assuming they don't poop much at night (ours were always huddled sleeping by nightfall) so perhaps the coop would then not need to be moved very often. Regardless, we could make something lightweight and forget the skirting because it would be inside the poultry netting. In fact we were thinking that we might not have to move the netting much at all, depending on how big the area was (and I don't know what poultry netting costs but we could easily give these guys a huge section of the field next to our house). But even if we do I think moving poultry netting is easier than moving my tractor especially since it wouldn't be done every day.

    So, Miss_thenorth, have you any issues with raptors? And what is your shelter made of?

    How about this: when the birds are small we could make the poultry netting area small and drape some netting over the top of it (something like the kinds gardeners use for keeping birds off their crops)? And how old do you think meaties need to be before they are too small for an eagle, hawk, or turkey vulture? By that time we could greatly increase the size of the enclosure and remove the netting.

    halo, I wish I wish I wish we had a barn! It's in the "five year plan" but towards the end, lol. Then I would totally do what you are doing.
  9. galanie

    galanie Treat Dispenser No More

    Aug 20, 2010
    As for the netting, that's what I use over the top of my tractor thingie and it keeps the hawks out just fine. I know that other critters can get through it but if you have electrified fencing that should take care of that.
  10. Mr. Nappy

    Mr. Nappy In the Brooder

    Oct 24, 2011
    Planning to order our first 25 meat birds in a couple weeks. The plan is to let them roam the yard with the others. If the others have had no problems with raptors (they have places to hide quickly), is there more concern for the cornish X, because they are slow or something? Thanks!

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