The 4H broiler contest coop

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Mark, Nov 10, 2007.

  1. Mark

    Mark Songster

    May 13, 2007
    North Central Texas
    At the end of summer, we signed up for a 4H chicken project. DW and DG went to the first meeting for participants, this week. We had been wondering what we were getting into.

    At first, I had in mind a 'pretty chicken' contest, but a month ago we learned that everyone got the same kind of chicken. At the 4H meeting we got the critical details, its a broiler contest. The child with the biggest, best proportioned 12 week old broiler wins. The chickens are 'cornish rocks' (or something like that). They seem to be bred to grow fast and go straight to the dinner table.

    The project's instructor told us that we needed to grow these chickens on a flat surface. No roosts were allowed, since roosting chickens may have asymmetrical chest development. This means the chicks cannot stay in our new chicken tractor. They can't even stay in our old tractor, unless we modify it to remove the existing cross beams.

    Another thing we discovered was that we were expected to start with 40 - 50 chicks and cull it down to 10 or so prior to the judging. We thought we were getting 10 pets, so we only ordered 10 chicks. DG's chances of winning are probably hurt by this error, but in the larger scheme of things, this matters little.

    At this point, I'm trying to figure out where to put the chicks and what to put them in. The chicks will arrive Nov 19 and the judging will be in mid January, so it is a fairly cold time of year. They will need to stay in heated quarters the whole time. My first thought is to upgrade the old 8' x 8' x 2' chicken tractor... It would need a plywood floor and 1/4" hardware wire instead of the current chicken wire, plus a roof over the whole thing.

    Just starting to think about this. I won't get anything done tomorrow, so I have one weekend to get ready. Next weekend will be busy.

    The old tractor, 1 year ago, when new:
  2. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD

    Oh my. You have got yourself in a world of hurt there if you were going for pets...

    For that type of contest, you usually raise the meat bids and they will have ALOT of poop, ALOT of meat, and often if 50 at a time, ALOT of death due to health problems. Go to the meat bird section and search posts that talk about Cornish X's and you'll see what I'm talking about.... and at least from the contests I've seen of this nature, your 10 best birds are butchered and judged dressed out. Each bird will go though about 10 lbs of chick food and butcher age should be 8 weeks old.

    They are not pet birds....

    You can try but often the results are disappointing.


    Don't worry about the roosts, they just won't use them. They get big and fat fast. As for floor, you can use your tractor, but I would just move it when you need as they will poo ALOT...
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2007
  3. Mark

    Mark Songster

    May 13, 2007
    North Central Texas

    Thanks for the links on raising Cornish X. Much appreciated.

    As to the 'coop' or 'brooder', DW and I spent more time talking about what to do. We have abandoned the idea of remodeling the old tractor. Instead, we are going to use the kitchen in our un-used guest house, and corral them inside a cardboard ring. We will then hang some lights over the corral to provide heat.
  4. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD

    As a warning though... they will produce ALOT of chick dust and ALOT of stink. If you are going to use the guest house, I'd put down a blue tarp, and a layer or two of plastic trash bags, newspaper, and then the litter on top of that. That way you won't ruin the flooring in the kitchen with stains glaore.
  5. MissPrissy

    MissPrissy Crowing

    May 7, 2007
    Forks, Virginia
    Raising meat birds is different from the ordinary little spring chicks we get for eggs.

    My jumbo cornish x (first time with is particular breed of meat chicken) arrived at 2 days old. Upon opening the box they had a different smell to them. To be honest - they stunk. I always brood my chicks in a pen in my kitchen for 2 - 3 weeks, these had to go to the barn ASAP. They stunk that bad. They are pooping machines. I cleaned the bedding daily and still it was a mess. The dust they kick up is bad, too. Once in the barn I was still amazed by the difference - 6 - 8 inches deep of pine shavings was turned into a brick of poop in less than 2 weeks - even with daily turning. I have had to shovel it all and replace it this past weekend. As of yesterday evening you can't tell it was fresh bedding from saturday morning. They are in a 12 x 12 structure with outside access.

    I have 27 birds going into 5 weeks now. They drink upwards of 6 gallons of water a day (sometimes more) and they eat like they are starving all the time. Feeding time is a zoo. I feed them all they can eat during the day and take away the feed at night. When I go out in the morning the first scoop of feed creates a frenzy of fluff and feathers - just a mess. You can't imagine the amount of poop. Sometimes I think they make more poop than the amount of feed and water going in.

    I must warn you if you plan to keep those birds in your guest house you may never get the stench out of it. I don't know how you will protect your floors either.

    Honestly, I would think raising them in there would ruin your guest house.
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2007
  6. muddler6

    muddler6 Songster

    Sep 12, 2007
    Jefferson County, PA
    I would seriously reconsider keeping those birds in any building you intend to have humans in in the future. Poop machines doesn't even begin to tell the tale. As for housing, I raised mine (15 of those filthy critters) they rarely climbed the ramp into the coop, especially when they got big, and they will get big. The roosters will get the biggest the quickest. I made a simple A-Frame run with chicken wire and land scape timbers, and there was no getting ahead of the droppings. I gave them shelter from the rain with a tarp. Of course the coldest that it got was 40 Degrees at night when they were outside this past spring. But they will go through the feed and water!! If they are enclosed, you will need to clean their housing and run often. And by "clean" I would change out all the bedding material and anything in the run. I tried covering the straw I had in the run and letting it go for a while, Big Mistake!! But live and learn. But they are good eating now and I have orders for some from friends and family next year. But that is how I got started with chickens and there is no turning back for me now. Good Luck!
  7. Stench, stink, miasma; none of those words BEGIN to describe what Cornish Xs produce! As I told someone else, take the amount of poop and stink you can imagine from these descriptions, and multiply times 3, at a minimum.

    My barred rock and production hens didn't poop this much or smell this bad. In their first day in a tractor that is 8x5, my 20, three-week old Cornish Xs produced more than 2" of poop!!! I had to move them out of the 6x8 shed they had been occupying because they were going through a bale of wood chips every other day, and the chips were SOLID poop; it was like concrete with little flakes of reinforcement in it.

    These are dirty, greedy, pooping and eating machines; many of them fall asleep with their head in the trough.

    Have you ever smelled the difference between normal puppy poop and sick puppy poop? That is the difference between these and normal chickens; their poop just doesn't smell quite right.

    All of that said (have I discouraged you enough from the kitchen idea? If they are on a solid floor, you will have poop encrusted chicks in less than a day), if you move them into the old, low-slung tractor (which is just about perfect for them, in my opinion), you can keep them warm pretty easily. Here was what I wrote a couple of weeks ago, when the temps fell to 38 in the Dallas area one night:

    I am in the process of experimenting with what it will take to move the chicks to one of my tractors (there is no electricity near the area in which I put my tractors). I have read that birds will eat more when they have to provide their own heat; since these guys basically only stop eating to poop and sleep, I figured they can generate enough heat. So, a-Googling we go....

    I found the idea here:

    Bought the Tekfoil (Reflectix) at my local Home Depot, and
    made the "hover" about 12" larger (on all sides) than the cluster my chicks make when they huddle. Tried it out inside their current abode, which is a metal building with no insulation. By 11pm they were all under the "hover", snug as bugs in a rug. At 2am, some were half-in, half-out, so clearly they were getting a little too warm. Another check at 4 am (hey, I was worried about the little buggers and didn't sleep much that night!) showed 3 of 30 actually outside the hover, but right next to it. After that, I didn't worry about them.

    When I move them to the tractor this weekend, I will put a good pad of wood chips on the ground, to keep them from soaking up the cold from the ground, and make sure the hover is correctly sized (they're growing like weeds, drool drool).

    It worked like a charm, except that the chips were solid poop by morning. I finally put a 250W heat lamp in the tractor, on a 100' extension cord, and put it about 4' away from the "hover". They moved back and forth between the two warm areas at night. My min/max thermometer under the hover showed that the low temp was 64 on that very cold night (and that was before I had the heat lamp going; the heat lamp seems to do a good job of keeping the dew off the tractor area.)

    If you want to see what you're in for, I'd be happy to have you come down to Lancaster and see mine; this will be the last week for some of the larger roos; if the heat tomorrow doesn't kill some of them, they've just about outgrown the tractor.

    Oh! roosts? Ha! They can barely walk and stand up, let alone roost!
  8. Mark

    Mark Songster

    May 13, 2007
    North Central Texas
    If you guys are trying to scare me, I want you to know it is working. :|

    27 birds, 6 gallons of water a day! I can sense infrastructure issues here.

    Our instructions have been to never change to wood chip floor. It is good for their immune systems. We are instructed to add more chips as needed. This doesn't seem to match what I'm hearing here.

  9. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD

    Eek! Really! Well, best have a good big open space for them then. Good luck. I just move my tractor brooder for thoes guys around and around... Here's one at 4-5 weeks old... I can never move the thing enough! They bed down on straw here.

  10. BerdooFarm

    BerdooFarm In the Brooder

    umm, Silkie, uh, I think you're supposed to pluck em' after they're dead.[​IMG]

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