Tuesday, August 14, 2012

This year's chicken project

We're scaling up a bit from last year's 18 hens for meat.  This year it's two batches of 25 Cornish roasters. Giant feed-sucking meat-producing mutants. I'm planning to finish some at about ten pounds so they dress out to nice Sunday-dinner size 7-8 pound roasters.
The first new addition was a hoop-style coop that can be used as a greenhouse when the second batch of chickens is done with it, in true permaculture function-stacking style.  The plastic sides roll up 2/3 of the way for ventilation.

I call it the Chicken Cathedral after the gothic arch design made with PVC conduit (gray stuff is more sunlight resistant). I'd cut the 10-foot lengths down to 8 feet next time, instead of leaving them at 9 feet.
Some construction details for the DYIers:
Plastic ridge pole notched to take arches and couplings.  Must think about snow load!

The wood frame and braces are 1x3s to reduce weight, so I attched the chicken wire with wood screws and washers. Pounding staples would have knocked the whole thing apart.

Involving the next generation in making the door from a leftover 1x10.  LR was a big help!

All moved in! 
I add straw bedding when things start to stink, and we recently moved the whole thing about 12 feet to sheet mulch a new section of garden.  The first batch is about ready to "move to the freezer".  They will actually eat greens and garden scraps, too.
We've hung burlap coffee bags on the sides for shade, and on hot days we spray water on the bags to provide a bit of air conditioning.  The heat has definitely slowed growth a little.

Update 26 September:
We raised 48 chickens, totalling 307 pounds (average = 6 lbs dressed wt.).  Even with increasing feed costs, we managed to do it for about $1.50 per pound.  The birds got mostly non-GMO grain, but we ran out toward the end.  Next time I might butcher earlier and shoot for an average of 4 - 5 pounds.  Pretty happy with the Cornish Roasters!

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