Thursday, May 3, 2012

Week 6 - Fixed Roosts

So here we are entering week 6, that makes the chickens 5 weeks old, almost half way through their projected life span. I have been watching lots of videos on YouTube such as Joel Salatin - Pastured Poultry - Part 1 and Michael Pollan - The Omnivore's Dilemma and I highly recommend that you watch some too. Its amazing to me how the industrialization of food has separated us from the source of our food and thus respecting and appreciating the plants and animals that we consume. Raising these chickens has given me a new perspective on what it takes to raise quality food, the time, effort and money required. And as a consequence, more respect for life and ultimately the sacrifice of it.

Anyhow, I was growing tired of moving the little roosting bars in and out of the hoop house in order to move it. Now I know that most people don't even bother providing roosts for their meat chickens, probably because the Cornish-X bird can barely walk much less jump up on a roost. But most of my Rangers like to roost and it keeps them cleaner by not having to lay in their own poop. So I screwed a couple 2x2's between the plywood back and the skids of the hoop house and then screwed on several roosts from some small Poplar trees that I recently thinned out (they are about 1-2 inches thick). Not sure if the spacing is adequate when they get bigger but I can always move them. After just 5 minutes several were already taking advantage of their new roosts.

It continues to amaze me how fast these guys are growing. I can literally see the difference from day to day. This rooster is already sporting some wattles and a nice comb. Oddly enough my straight run chicks seem to be about 1/3 cockerels and 2/3 pullets.

I am now feeding them twice a day, about 15 cups each time (and some grit) so a total of 30 cups a day. If the feed trough is empty they act like they have been starved to death for a week when I fill it up and go into a feeding frenzy for 10 minutes. Then they spread out and graze on the grass.

I was feeding them first then pulling the hoop house to new grass thinking that they would all be at the feeder and not get run over by the back wall. Turns out this was not a good practice. When the feed trough gets pulled along with the hoop house the chickens scatter and I have had a chicken get a foot or leg stuck underneath the back end 3 different times. Plus their attention is on the food and some spillage that is left on the ground right where the back wall will drag over them.

Now that the chickens are bigger and can't escape I removed the 2x2 under the back cross member. A week ago I removed the front one and replaced it with a one foot wide strip of chicken wire and it works great. I would recommend doing the same on the back for smaller chicks but it is pointless now. This too makes it much easier to drag the hoop house.

What I discovered is that it is better to move the hoop house first. Then the chickens pay attention to the moving hoop house instead of eating and are learning that this brings them fresh grass. As hungry as they are they immediately start grazing on the new grass. If I wait just a few minutes (while filling the water bucket and hosing off the feed trough, etc.) then they don't go insane when I put the feed in and continue to eat more grass. Eventually this will add up to replace many pounds of feed. I also learned to fill the water bucket after moving the house and not before because it adds weight and sways back and forth when full.

[LESSON LEARNED] Move the hoop house first and then fill the water and feeder.

This is a better shot of how a chicken drinks from a chicken water nipple. The nipples do waste about half the water as some of it drips on the ground, but having clean fresh water without any poop or mud in it is sooooo worth it. I never have to clean it our other than a quick rinse once a week to keep it from growing algae.

On a sad note, I have one chicken that has leg problems. They don't feel broken but they are abnormally large, and he walks bow legged. More like waddles than walks, which he doesn't do much of. He gets around okay and I am sure he will survive but I don't know what caused this. I assume it is just an abnormality and not the result of anything I did. None of the rest of the chickens have this problem, and its in both legs so I don't think it was from getting stuck under the back of the hoop house. I would appreciate a post if anyone has an idea or what I can do to prevent this in the future.

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