Raising Meaties without a tractor (free range...sort of)

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by Hideaway Farm, Oct 2, 2012.

  1. Hideaway Farm

    Hideaway Farm Out Of The Brooder

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    Oct 2, 2012
    Last year we raised Cornish Rock Giants in a chicken tractor. It was 5x10 (2 ft tall) and held 25 birds at a time. I was not pleased with how much they dirtied the ground in the latter weeks, and the tractor could have been moved two or three times a day but it was a big job - it was heavy and I had to lay bricks and rocks all along the skirt, which had to be tied up when I moved the tractor or they would catch. So I only moved it once a day. They had no room to run around and were dirty and lame by the end days. Although they tasted fabulous we felt we could do better by them.

    So this year I built a temporary coop: plywood floor raised off the ground (on old fence posts laid flat), a wall of straw bales all around (save for an opening for the door) then stuck my chicken tractor on top. The whole thing is covered with a tarp and there is a heat lamp inside. The floor is straw bedding and so far I'm just piling more on as it gets dirty (sort of a deep bed method). Its about 5x10 feet. I have a panel for a door that i put on at night and take off in the morning. Right now there are 21 birds but they will be joined by 26 more when the next batch moves out of their brooder.

    For their run there are four "quadrants" around the coop which I plan to rotate them through. Each quadrant is like a maze (but with no dead ends) such that no part is wider than 5 feet. I got the idea from a chicken moat but it's not in a circle. This keeps out the raptors, which is our main predator here. I also ran flagging tape along the top between fences for added insurance. Each quadrant is about 20 x 20 feet but it seems like more because of the way the corridors wind around, giving the chickens more places to explore, and more incentive to move around.

    The meaties are 3 weeks old now and have been outside for a week. They seem to enjoy being outside. I love watching them running around, pecking and scratching, and taking dust baths. They are acting like "real" chickens! We still have a few weeks to go, and lots more growing, but so far we are really pleased with this setup and feel the birds are much better off this way.
     
  2. DanIndiana

    DanIndiana Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sounds like a good method. We now always put our meaties in the main coop with all the other chickens and I love it. They do seem to grow a bit slower because they are outside with the others all the time, and not eating constantly. The maintenance is way reduced.
     
  3. SIMZ

    SIMZ Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Moving those heavy shelters is just a lot of work, isn't it? They LOVE being outside and being a chicken -- and that makes them more enjoyable to raise IMO. [​IMG]
     
  4. Hideaway Farm

    Hideaway Farm Out Of The Brooder

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    It really does, SIMZ. I am really enjoying them. So much so that I'm going to be getting a flock of layers - after I build a proper coop. Who knew I chickens could be such a pleasure? ;)
     
  5. Wax Myrtle

    Wax Myrtle Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hideaway Farm, do you have pics of your set up? I'm very interested! :D
     
  6. krcote

    krcote Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yes, photos please!
     
  7. Hideaway Farm

    Hideaway Farm Out Of The Brooder

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    Okay, finally got some pictures taken and uploaded...

    First shot is my coop. It's last year's chicken tractor sitting atop a wall of strawbales, which are in turn sitting atop a floor of plywood held off the ground by some old fence posts laid flat...It is covered by a large tarp and there is a heat lamp hanging in there. Straw lines the floor and I just add more when it gets yucky. The black plastic mesh in the top half of this shot normally lies over this area to deter raptors but I have it pulled back to get a good shot.


    [​IMG]

    Here is a shot of the run area before the chicks moved in. It is hard to see how it is laid out with all the mesh fencing and surveying tape run across to deter the raptors...Basically there is a short section of fencing parallel to the coop (on the left side if facing the coop). It is about five feet long and is open on either side. Another line of fencing runs parallel to that towards the outer fence (marked by the tall wood posts). then there are two lines of fencing running perpendicular to and in front of the previous ones. The end result is a sort of "maze" of five-foot passages that all connect to each other and the area in front of the coop (which has its "door" closed in this picture).


    [​IMG]

    The fenced area is in front of, and to the left of the coop. I can also put up the same setup on the right side if need be, plus there is room in front of this on either side, so I actually have four areas this size I can use. But so far I've only used this one and it is nowhere near used up yet.

    Here is another shot, now that the birds are in. I took it through some fencing so apologize that it is not easy to read...It shows how I ended up moving the food and water outside and covered that section with a tarp. It also provides some shade outside of the coop.


    [​IMG]

    I ended up scattering some straw around the entrance to the coop (on the right of the above photo) as they like to hang out there. So far they are mostly using about half the area, but are exploring more with each few days. I just moved 26 more birds in there so there are now 47 birds in here. It will be interesting to see if they eat the grass down. I can always add more fencing or just move the whole thing to the other side of the coop.
     
  8. Wax Myrtle

    Wax Myrtle Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for the pics. I think I understand now. ;)
     
  9. Hideaway Farm

    Hideaway Farm Out Of The Brooder

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    Basically it is just a coop and run system, but instead of the run being bounded only on four sides, it is more like a maze. But the maze has no dead ends, all the paths connect at various points. If the width of the maze "corridor" is 5 feet then you pretty much have what I have. ;-)
     

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