Dual-purpose Chickens 11 – Anti-pecking layer boxes

What to do when you have chicken(s) pecking eggs?  I’ve tried several things with minimal success including adding extra calcium to their diet, ceramic eggs in the box, and separating who I guessed the culprit(s) were. All of these had minimal success and required more resources.

 

Then I found these boxes. 

I really liked these boxes and there are many different DIY types/variations of the roll away nesting box.  The basic principal is that the egg rolls to an area that’s hard or impossible for the chickens to peck.  I looked at various DIY types and liked the paint tray version the best.  It’s easy to make, would fit into my existing boxes with minimal remodeling, and are easy to remove and spray out when they get dirty.

Making them wasn’t too hard.  I bought the largest paint try that would fit into my existing boxes.  Besides fitting, the 10.75×15.5 tray seems to be a good size in general.  I bought a strip of outdoor grass carpet, created a pattern with the first piece of carpet, and used it as my template for cutting the rest.  It may be overkill, but I used outdoor carpet glue to adhere the carpet to the tray.  I wanted something that would withstand a strong spray of water for cleaning.

 

Top left and clockwise: Old box with drop down lid, Finished box with lift lid, Added 2×4 and blocker boards with paint tray example, Side view added 2×4 with tray example.

The refit of the boxes on the A-frame worked out good.  The previous door to collect eggs worked fine, but I would have preferred to have a lid that lifted instead of a door that flops down.

The existing boxes were too short to fit the tray, but it was easy to add length to the outside which also created the protected area for the eggs.  A 2×4 length worked great and I cut the old door and used to fill in the new wall sections of the new enclosure.

I added the green blocker boards inside the boxes where at the start/end of the deep part of the try.  This is to prevent the chickens from being able to reach the eggs that roll down and collect in the bottom of the tray.

The refit also gave me the lifting lid I wanted.  In the pictures, I used a 1×6 I had laying around for the lid, but I intend on using a 1×8 to cover it better and give me an area to lock it down.

 

We’ve used these boxes for over 8 months and it’s great to see eggs under the lid.   They are peck free and much cleaner.  Our current layers are fickle and tend to lay in the corner of the coop instead of the boxes; however, we do get frequent eggs in the boxes too.  Our new ISA Brown flock is laying consistently in their temporary boxes.  I look forward to them using the roll away boxes.

Chicken Tractor – for layers and broilers

As I’ve mentioned in my Chicken Tractor Guide, you can use the chicken tractor design for layers.  So this summer and fall we’ve used our idle chicken tractors to house the new flock of layers while the old layers are in the A-frame coop and being phasing out.

Layer Boxes

Since this was temporary, I did not fasten the layer box to the back wall, but you could easily make a light weight set of 2-3 boxes to hang off the back wall.  Instead we used a double box I made out of scrap 2x wood for another project.  It’s heavy but works good.

 

Tractoring

Optimal moving depends on the stocking density.  For our 8 birds I’d say about every 3-5 days.  We’ve gone as longer during busy spells, leaving the ground looking like a post-apocalyptic movie scene.  I reconciled staying in one place so long with the fact that using good feed and the pasture has plenty of time to recover before next year.

Their foraging area is much smaller than the A-frame; however, that can be mitigated with more frequent moving.  Also, I’ve already experienced that this lighter breed can fly over the chicken wire fence we use for the A-frame.

A final note. This ISA Brown flock really dug into the soil much more than my previous breeds leaving many deep holes when we removed the tractor.  I say deep, but the deepest was about 4-5 inches.  They seem to digging shallower holes as time passed, which may be a factor of us moving them more frequently or just age.

 

Supplemental roofing for the tractor

 

Since we have roosting poles already in our tractors, we only had one real issue, the tarps.  The tarps are medium duty and will typically last until the fall, sometimes longer, unless you have birds resting on them as we do.  Last year it was the crows that tore up the tarps.  This year it’s our flock of Guinea fowl.  Check out what a week of roosting can do to a tarp.

 

Fortunately I had an old piece of roofing laying around that I could attach to the top.  The boys just held some scrap pieces of wood on the inside of the coop that I fasten the roof to with screws.  This will protect the tarp and ensure a dry area underneath for the food dispensers.

 

Winter

October came and I decided not to move the chickens to the A-frame.  A chicken escaped the tractor during feeding and we caught her that night perched on the fence that keeps my Rainbow flock contained around the A-frame.  It’s really nice having them in the tractor, not needing to open and shut the coop each day and not worrying about them flying over the fence or aerial predation.

The cold of winter is my biggest concern.  I would want some better protection than the tarp and windbreak.  These are hearty birds and I’m think I could design a suitable shelter area in the tractor; however, snow is problematic for moving and requires some more thought.

 

The future of the layer flock

This experiment got me thinking about building a new chicken coup on a trailer frame and incorporating the best feathers of the A-frame, chicken tractor, and more.   Something very portable, versatile, and low maintenance.

Keep an eye out for the results of my new coop idea.  I’ll add a link to the new post here when it’s ready.  Until then, here’s a teaser.

-Jason

What to do with a whole chicken

“I don’t have time to roast a chicken.”

“I’ve never cut up a whole chicken.”

“What do you do with a whole chicken anyway?”

These are the comments I hear most when it comes to buying a whole chicken.  I’ve been making meals with whole chickens from our land for a few years now and this is what I’ve come to realize.  I don’t have time to roast a chicken either.  And knives, chickens, and myself should never be within proximity of each other at the same time.  HOWEVER, regarding the last question, I do know what I do with a whole chicken and thought I would share my no-time, no-fuss method of getting the max out of a chicken.  Grab a crock-pot, a few staple kitchen ingredients, and you are ready to go.

After thawing out the chicken in the fridge for a couple of days I place it in a crock-pot.  Sprinkle it generously with salt, pepper, and garlic.  You can add other seasoning if you want.  This is just my basic, take 5 minutes, and get the bird slow-cooking.  Cook on low for 6 – 8 hours or high 4 – 5 hours.  As with all food prep, times may vary depending on the size of your bird, crock-pot, etc.  Basic rule is an internal temp of 165 degrees and juices run clear.

Once the chicken is cooked I take it out of the crock-pot and let it cool down for 30 or so minutes.  When it is cooled down enough to handle without burning your finger tips, it’s time to pick apart the meat.  I’m sure there are plenty of YouTube videos that showcase the how-to’s and ways to pick apart a chicken efficiently.  Watch a couple, get the feel for it, wash your hands, and start pulling!  This process only takes a few minutes once you get the hang of it.

After the chicken meat is pulled off I cut it up and divide it into 2 cup quantities.   You now have the base for a multitude of recipes;  chicken salad, enchiladas, soups, casseroles, and the list goes on….

Now comes the next step.  What to do with the frame and chicken leftovers after pulling the meat  off?  Chicken stock, of course!

Using the same crock-pot (keep the juices from the chicken) return the chicken remnants.  At this time I add whatever vegetables I have on hand that don’t have much shelf life left.  Onions, garlic, carrots, celery, and bell peppers are my usual.  Sometimes all and sometimes none.  It’s not an exact science and you can wing it.  A splash of cider vinegar, a couple of bay leaves, add water to cover plus about an inch or two higher, and you are good to go.  Cook on low for 8 – 10 hours.  If life gets busy and you forget and it cooks longer, no biggie, the longer you cook it the more nutrients you will get from the bones.  Good stuff.   Once your stock is done, strain it through a cheese cloth and marvel at the nutritional liquid gold you have at your disposal.  Note:  Coloring will vary from a yellow to a darker brown and is dependent on time cooked and vegetables used.

The final step is to use and/or freeze your bounty.  I usually place everything in the fridge and use it, as needed, for a couple of days.  Then I divide out what I have left and freeze for future use.  For the chicken stock I pour into ice-cube trays, freeze, and pop them out.  Store them in a gallon zip lock bag and you now have grab and go chicken stock.  I use these for just about anything that requires water.  Rice, sautés, soups, etc.

And that, folks, is what I do with my whole chicken.

~ Tricia ~

Brothers M. Mondays – Family

Brothers M. Mondays – A new post each Monday until the 2018 market season starts on 5/26.

We are family.   Samantha fractured her ankle, but the chickens don’t care if you’re sick or hurt, they still need care multiple times a day.  So family kicks in.  Dad, Joseph and even a cousin or two have been helping Matthew while he’s the lone wolf.

Since Samantha couldn’t help, we put her to work taking some video.  And the youngest did her part by taking a few pictures and an unintentional  video of Sam and the boys with her new camera she got for her birthday.

Enjoy the video we’ve put together.

 

Brothers M. Mondays – Care of the Earth

Brothers M. Mondays – A new post each Monday until the 2018 market season starts on 5/26.

We recycle at our house and in the past have reused our plastic bags for Brothers M. Poultry.  With the increasing awareness of waste plastic polluting the environment, we’re switching to paper bags made from recycled material.  They look nice and are better for the environment.  Get one free with every chicken purchase.

Brothers M. Poultry – Out to Pasture

Brothers M. Mondays – A new post each Monday until the 2018 market season starts on 5/26.

Pasturing is an important part of producing such high quality, good tasking chicken.  We get them onto pasture as early is safe for the chickens to maximize their naturally grown experience. Enjoy the video of the kids moving the chickens from the brooder into the pasture.

Brothers M. Mondays – Tarps

Brothers M. Mondays – A new post each Monday until the 2018 market season starts on 5/26.

Each year the chicken tractor tarps need to be replaced.   These are an important part of the tractor providing shelter from rain and storms as well as shade. Therefore they need to be in good shape each year.