Putting the broilers out to pasture and building a bigger coop

Let’s get right to it. We’ve been busy lately.  The garden is mostly planted. The broilers are now outside. The new chicken coop is about 80% finished.  But boy has it been a lot of work to get to this point!  

In the past we’ve waited until the broilers were 4 weeks old to introduce them to pasture, but this year we wanted to get them out there sooner. We’re raising a bigger flock than usual, so we were anxious to get them out of the brooder, which seemed to be getting smaller every day with the broilers’ growth! And with their nice growth of feathers and the pleasant weather lately, the timing was just right.  All of the birds are now enjoying more space and fresh grass daily.

3 week old broiler introduced to pasture in a chicken tractor

Fresh? Daily? How do we do it?

Chicken tractors!  The “tractors” a great way to manage space and keep the birds safe, and with a daily dose of fresh land to forage upon, the birds develop excellent nutrition and the resulting meat with have healthier fats and just plain taste better than birds raised in confinement.  If you haven’t already, you can read more about chicken tractors here:

http://ferrinbrookfarm.com/what-is-a-chicken-tractor-with-free-chicken-tractor-plans/

We’re actually prepping to process our first round of Cornish Game Hens this weekend, and are very excited to see how the pasture affects the end product  We’ve never seen other farms do this and certainly don’t see it in the store, so these will make for some unique meals ahead!

And then there are the hens.  Those nutty hens.  Over the long weekend we were able to get a majority of the building finished for their new, much larger coop.  This is really our first time building a… well, a building, so it has been a learning experience.  Planning for real structural integrity hasn’t really come up in our other projects and we’ve tried to take it very seriously.  So far the coop is strong enough to hold my hundreds of pounds on the roof without so much as a quiver, so we’re feeling like it can easily handle a multitude of 4-6 lb layers.

We’ve also constrained ourselves to not use chemically treated lumber in this project, and instead are going to rely on concrete blocks for the foundation and paint any exposed wood.  Chemically treated woods are said to be pretty safe these days, since they banned the use of chemicals containing arsenic in the pressure treating process, but organic standards still don’t allow these woods and we don’t want to take any chances with our birds–we do eat their eggs, after all, so whatever they eat we eat.  We keep them living clean and we’ll be eating clean!

All that remains are the chicken door and ramp, laying boxes, hardware cloth to cover the ventilation windows, and then the details like trim and winterizing features to be added later. We are motivated to finish soon because we want to try using the old coop as our new brooder and we’re actually getting another batch of chicks and DUCKLINGS in a couple weeks. Yep, we’re finally going to dip our toes (bills??) in the water of raising ducks. We’re starting simple, with the most common breed of duck raised for meat, the Pekin. Stay tuned to Instagram for cute photos!

Finally, Amy has done a lot of work getting the garden ready for our seedlings, and everything is looking great. She even made sure to chicken-proof all of the beds by adding some new fencing. The vegetables I’m most excited about this year are carrots and garlic. Garlic because it’s new for us and seems to be growing very well, and carrots because they’re the best raw snack ever and Amy doubled the size of our carrot patch this year!

Welcome summer! Even though the equinox is a way’s off, we know you’re finally here!

Advertisements