Brothers M. MiM ’23 – We like to Move it, Move it

Brothers M. Mondays in May is our tradition of sharing our excitement about our chickens every Monday in May.

It’s easiest to have a long enough piece of pasture that you can run the chicken tractors in one direction from start to finish.  Our pasture is long enough to do this; however, the contour of our pasture makes it better for the chickens to start near middle.  So we have to change direction midway through the growing season.

Our pasture is high near the middle, highest maybe 1/3 it’s length toward the road end.  The slop near the road is a gentle slope and the house end is more aggressive.  This makes the road end a marshy area in the early spring when all the rains come and the house end a river. Neither are good for young chickens in the cold nights of spring.

Moving1-1Our solution is to start the chicken tractors on the high ground and head toward the road, then reverse direction and head back toward the house.   This means we need a wider area to run the chicken tractors so we don’t overlap where they’ve already been.  Basically 6 lanes, 3 forward, 3 reverse.

It’s easy to move the chicken tractors in either direction, but moving over out of the previous track has proven harder than it sounds, at least for me.

My first thought was to sit the tractor on four 1 1/4″ PVC pipes and just sliding it over.  It was easy to slide the tractor over, but since PVD pipes come in 10′ lengths and the chicken tractor boards are 10′ 1.5″ apart, I needed extra sections of pipe. Additionally, the chickens were confused about which way to move and it’s harder to convince them to move sideways.  Overall this was more labor intensive and frustrating.

moving2-3Next I played around with turning the chicken tractor hard in one direction.  Either way I tried this, it always took more distance than I thought to get the tractor on the right path.  When doing a hard turn it’s difficult to push and the side aprons bend under the chicken tractor and you have to pull them out.  Again, the chickens are used to going forward and you have to be careful not to run over them with the side of the tractor.

The method on the right in this illistration wasn’t too bad, but this method took up a lot of space with wise.  Our pasture has a V shape and drains down the middle, so we only have enough “smooth” area for the 6 paths plus the “river” in the middle during heavy rains.   Also the first move in the reverse direction was pretty long, so I didn’t like this method either.

Moving4-1Finally I did a LONG walk forward with a medium turn to the side, then reversed direction with another medium turn and this worked much better.  I modified it so instead of a LONG walk, I do a generous move of the chicken tractor twice, then reverse direction.  The first reverse move is a little longer than normal, but not a Long walk. Occasionally a little corner of the previous path overlaps, but it’s under the front cross member and not a problem.

I consider myself decent at geometry and puzzling things together and these moving patterns may seem obvious; but, there’s nothing like doing a hard turn forward with a chicken tractor, then doing a hard turn in the opposite direction just to realize you’re basically where you started.    Also, my drawings are not the best and may not be completely accurate, but I CAN tell you the last one is the one that’s easiest for me even if I cannot exactly explain/demonstrate what was wrong with the others.

Brothers M. MiM ’23 – Feeding Frenzy

Brothers M. Mondays in May is our tradition of sharing our excitement about our chickens every Monday in May.

Sharks get all the attention for their ferocious feeding frenzies, but chickens frenzy too.  Chickens are not ferocious, but they can injure each other as they are trying to get to the food.

FeedingIn the early years, I adopted the line of thought of keeping food always available to the chickens.  This meant 2 feeders were adequate to feed all the chickens, because they were not all hungry at one time.

Now I’ve grown to adopt a twice a day feeding method.  The birds seem healthier and more energetic when they are not allowed to eat constantly.  They also seem to forage more in between feedings. This requires more feeders to accommodate more birds “at the table”, and to hold more food, but the results are worth it.

Brothers M. MiM ’23 – Chicken Tractor Life Expectancy

Brothers M. Mondays in May is our tradition of sharing our excitement about our chickens every Monday in May.

As I said in the last post, more on wire rusts and wood rots.  Ten years ago I built 2  chicken tractors and this year some of the chicken wire is rusted beyond protection and the rest is questionable.  So to cut to the chase, 9 years is how long my chicken tractor lasted.

NewWireOne of the two tractors developed holes in the chicken wire late last year, I think from birds landing on it, so I knew I needed to replace some of the wire this year.  What I didn’t know was that ants had destroyed the front board of that tractor.  Here’ a picture of what I replaced at the 11th hour to get me through this year, one section of wire over the top, new front board, and new chicken wire on the front.  The 2nd tractor didn’t have holes yet, so I just added some fencing over the same area I replaced on the first.  That will get us through the growing season.

Most of the wood frame could probably go another year or two.  There’s evidence that ants have started homes in the wood, but most of it still seems solid.  Where I went wrong was that I added a board to the front of this chicken tractor because there was a big knot where we pull from.  The ants crawled between the boards and got a foot hold.  Also, I think the board I added may not have been treated. I probably meant to replace it and forgot.WoodAnts

rusted wireRust is the main factor in rebuilding the chicken tractors.  All the chicken wire needs replace.  Some would easily break off while the rest is getting there. Here’s a flattened pile of the wire.  The top, is the worst place, but the sides are not too far behind.  I think next time once it appears the wire may start rusting, I’ll treat it with some anti rust spray.

As I said, I’m not going to repair the old ones, it’s too much work just to get a couple more years.  I’ll spray and re-use the cattle panels, re-use the old doors as they have already been replaced once and are easy to replace, but the rest will be new.

Here’s a picture of the back of the tractor so you can see how well the pallet planks held up.  Really not bad considering the age.


Here’s a link to my ‘How to build a Chicken Tractor’ page.

Brothers M. MiM ’23 – Fun, not so much?

Brothers M. Mondays is our tradition of sharing our excitement about our chickens every Monday in May.

I had a different post in mind for today, but it’s raining and the chickens need fed so I thought it’d be a good day to share some of the not so fun things of raising chickens.


  • It doesn’t matter what the weather is like.  Most of the times we’re able to plan around the weather, but some days you just have to cover the food with plastic bags and go.
  • You have to plan around the chickens.  Family trips away from the house have to be arranged around and/or cut short to care for the chickens.
  • Chickens don’t care if you’re sick.  Even though there are several family members, when one gets sick, usually others do to0.  With the older kids working and away, that just makes it more frequent that chicken care is done while not feeling well.
  • Stuff breaks.  Tarps blow off, things get loose, tires go flat, wire rusts, and wood rots.  More on those last 2 to come.
  • There’s lots of cleaning, pickup, and storage.  Almost everything needs cleaned before the season starts, during the season, and when it’s over as well.  It all takes up a lot of space, brooders, barrels, water tanks, feeders/waterers, and coolers.  And, when the season’s over, the chicken tractors still need moved, even if we raise them on blocks, or they will get “rooted” to the ground with vegetation.
  • Chickens aren’t that bright.  They’re frequently underfoot, don’t move when you want them to, or they do move and you have to catch them.

So, do we still enjoy raising chickens?  The basic answer is yes; however, enjoy may not be the correct word.   I think I’d use the word appreciate.

I’ve heard the kids call it work, but I know they’ve all appreciated the opportunity raising chickens afforded them.  Things like earning their way to the National Jamboree, or that one “must see” concert.

I appreciate it because I think it’s good for my soul.  I don’t know how to describe it; maybe it’s that it gives me focus.  Spring is usually the busiest time of my year.  I have so many plans and things I want to do, even though I cannot do it all.  I think it’s maybe that the chickens give me a focus during all the chaos.

Let the games begin

2023 season is now open and we’re taking orders!

Once again, we are ONLY selling chicken through our CSA, meaning we will NOT be selling chicken at the Farmers Markets.  Please spread the word to your friends and family so we can continue to grow. 

Our Base price is now $4.72/lb, but CSA discounts levels apply, so you pay less. See chart below.

Place your order today.  Orders need to be received by March 31st.

CSA Details, including availability and pickup, can be found Here

Brothers M. Mondays in May 2022 – Brooder Series Week 5

Brothers M. Monday is our way of sharing our excitement  about our chickens.

Folding1We still needed more brooder area, but I really didn’t want to dedicate more area to just brooders so I came up with the idea of fold up brooders that hang on the wall.

Folding2I made two 2’x4′  hinged brooder boxes. The bottom is hinged to the wall so it folds down, the two sides fold into the floor, and the front is hinged to Fold under the bottom.  The lid had hinge pins so you could take it off and hang it on the folded down brooder or store it someplace else.

folding3To support the front of the folding brooder, I hung chains from the rafters with S hooks on either end to unhook from the brooder and remove from the rafter to store the chains away.

I liked the boxes, but because of their size, they didn’t hold many chicks after I added the feeder and waterer, about 15, 20 max.  Also, I only folded them down when I had to have the space and they stayed up most of the time.

4x4So, I decided to take them out and make a 4×4 in the back corner.  A family member made a similar brooder to this one and gave me the idea.  The idea is that it’s 4’x4’x1′ so you can make it out of one 4×8 sheet.  I made mine a bit taller and added a strip of wire mesh, this was to give me a little more height for waterers and feeders, and I thought I might make more and stack them for transporting the full grown grown chickens, the latter never really panned out.

Even though this makes getting to the back corners of the two brooders in the back of the lean-to, I really prefer this brooder over the 2 hanging brooders.  It worked well this year.

Brothers M. Mondays in May 2022 – Brooder Series Week 4

Brothers M. Mondays is our way of sharing our excitement  about our chickens.

I decided we should have a dedicated brooder area so I cleared out my 8’x16′ lean-to and enclosed it. I lined one long wall with 2 3’x8′ brooder boxes.  The back is 3′ high and the front is 2′ high.  I chose 3′ wide to make it easy to reach the birds in the back; likewise, that’s why the front is shorter.  The back is higher so I can fit a 3gal waterer under the lid.  Additionally, I started out needing clearance for the lights which hung from the lid.

The lid is 2×2 frames with 1/4 hardware cloth, hinged in the back so it lifts up.  I use safety hooks to fasten it down so raccoons cannot unhook it.  I put additional eyehooks in the roof rafters so we can use the safety hooks to hold the lid up.

I switched the lights to sit on top the lid vs hanging because the chickens kept knocking the lights and they would fail; we lost several birds one night because of that.  So instead I sat the lights on top the lid, and attached the shroud to with pieces of wire.   I had to cut a hole in the lid to allow the lamp to protrude through since it sticks out further than the shroud.  This also comes in handy when I need to change a bulb.

Used pickle barrels line the opposing wall and make a safe place to store the feed. These brooders will hold 100 chicks each.

Brothers M. Mondays in May 2022 – Brooder Series Week 3

Brothers M. Mondays(on Tuesday this week) is our way of sharing our excitement  about our chickens.


We have a 3 1/2′ x 7′ wooden trailer, which became our next brooder.  I added a lid to it so we could use it to take the chickens to our processor.  It doubled as a pretty good brooder.  My biggest concern was that predators would breath through the lid, it’s made out of a 1×3 frame and 1/4 inch hardware cloth.  It’s pretty sturdy for travel when it’s locked down, but not really meant to keep something from chewing and pulling at the corners.

Trailer2Turns out I should have been more concerned about how secure the heat lamps were attached via the squeeze handle.  One fell off and burned a hole in the floor of the trailer.  Fortunately the conditions were right and it only smoldered a hold the size of a basketball instead of starting a fire.  Unfortunately I cannot find my picture of the hold.  After that I fastened the lights securely to the lid, which looked pretty ominous from outside the tent.

trailer3The down side of the trailer was running off an extension cord, how deep the trailer was for reaching onto it, and we outgrew it once we started raising more than 100 birds at a time.

Since I was worried about predators, I setup a trail-cam during one run.  Here’s a bonus video I made out of it, hope it makes up for the delayed post.

Brothers M. Mondays in May 2022 – Brooder Series Week 2

Brothers M. Mondays is our way of sharing our excitement  about our chickens.

Crate1Our very first brooder box was thrown together with a lamp and a plastic tote for 20 guinea fowl we bought.  But for the meat chickens, I needed something better and bigger.  I converted a pallet crate into a brooder.  I enclosed the crate on the outside with 2×4 wire fence to keep predators from breaking in.   I used some scrap composite wood flooring for the floor, I was a little short so there were a couple places I filled in with scrap wood. The crate didn’t have a top or lid, so I used a regular pallet with 2×4 fence attached for the top.  It wasn’t attached, but was heavy enough critters couldn’t move it.

Crate2I lined the inside with pink 1/2″ foam board insulation.  On the sides I attached some scrap Formica sheets to protect the foam board from being pecked and eaten, it didn’t protect all the way to the top, but that was only a problem when I temporarily hosed a grown bird in the brooder.  I had a piece of foam board that covered almost the complete top, then I sat the pallet top/lid on to of that.

Crate3An attached light to the side and a waterer and feeder and it was ready for chickens.  This worked pretty good.  But we quickly outgrew it, I think the max was about 30-35 birds.

Brothers M. Mondays in May 2022 – Brooder Series Week 1

Brothers M. Mondays is our way of sharing our excitement  about our chickens.

I’ve recently received a couple questions about starting chicks, so this year for Brother M. Monday’s in May I’m doing a Brooder series

One of these things

Starting out, here’s some general brooder basics I use:

  • Length – In general, the chicks can leave the brooder as soon as they are feathered out.  Anecdotal wisdom is that the sooner the chicks eat pasture grass, the sooner they build immunities.

Starting in early spring, mine usually go out near the end of 3 weeks.  After that they start crowding the brooder.  When raising them in the summer, I like to get them out around the end of the 2nd week, assuming we’re having warm weather, during a cold spell, I’d still wait another week.

  • Heat – I subscribe to a “normalizing” heat method using heat lamps.  This means I supply the heat and rely on the chicks to self-regulate their temperature by moving closer if they’re cold and further away if they are hot.  This method means you have to be observant to what the chickens are doing.

In the spring I use 250w bulbs and switch to 120w in the summer.  When the temperature drops low enough that the chickens are crowding the light, I use foam insulation and some blankets to cover the tops of the brooder, leaving appropriate space around the lights to prevent fire and allow air flow.

  • Bedding – I use the deep bedding method of bedding the chicks.  This means I layer in bedding as it gets soiled.  This method results in several inches of bedding, which gets sent to the compost pile when the chicks are done.

I use medium wood chips for bedding, don’t use cedar.  Fine chips will work, but you use a lot more in this method and there’s more dust which isn’t great for the chickens.

  • Water – I started out with plastic 1gal waterers, then switch to metal 3 gallon, well actually I started out with a couple quart waterers, but we outgrew them really quick.  I used the one gallon waterers because I initially sectioned off my big brooder into 4 sections and the 1gal worked well in that space.  I removed the dividers so I had 2 larger 3×8 brooders and switched to using the same 3gal metal waterers I use in the chicken tractor.

In the future I plan to switch to a nipple water system.

  • Feed – I started out with chick feeder troughs and quart feeders, but they didn’t hold enough food and were too cumbersome to keep up with.   I switched to using the same 7lb feeders that I hang in the chicken tractors, just sitting on the bedding.  I also set them on a piece of scrap deck board to help prevent wood chips from getting into them.
  • Space/segregation – I’ll mention the capacity of each brooder as I post them.  Initially I subscribed to more separation, 50 per brooder, but today feel that 100 per brooder works well.  The reason for separation is to prevent crowding, as chicks will trample each other.  However, my problem with separation is the lack of redundancy and the loss of brooder space for the equipment.

In my personal experience, with the brooder divided, I could only have one heat lamp per brooder.  When a bulb failed one night, I lost almost a dozen chicks due to cold and crowding for warmth.  After removing the divider,  there are two lamps offering redundancy in a failure, I experience a similar failure, but only lost a couple chickens due to the redundant light.  FYI, I think I got a bad batch of bulbs that year as I had several new bulbs fail.

Plus, using the one 3 Gallon waterer in the center instead of the two 1gal waterers gives the chicks more room.  It’s not necessarily about the actual space the waterer takes up, but the placement in the center.  In the divided brooder, the waterer always ended up near a corner which uses up more space.

I hope some of this info on how I do things is useful.  Stay tuned for the rest of the posts on the various brooders I’ve tried.