Grow-out Pen

Chicken Runs Panorama

The grow-up pen alongside the Worker Town yard.

With the new incubator producing good hatch rates and the breeding operation in full swing, it became apparent that relying on the existing system of indoor pens combined with an A-frame tractor for grow-out just wasn’t going to cut it. The small enclosed run that was attached to the movable A-frame coop just wasn’t large enough and keeping the chicks inside until they were large enough to be either integrated into Worker Town or culled was going to result in both high food costs and more cleaning than was ideal.

Chicken tractor A-frame de-tractored

The A-frame of the chicken tractor situated in the shade as a fixed-location coop.

The solution was to run two lengths of fencing between the existing fencing attached to Worker Town and the side of our large steel outbuilding. With about 100′ of surplus 2×2 welded wire fencing we were able to create an area of just over 50′ x 30′ that is about 3/4 pasture and 1/4 wooded. The fencing is attached to a combination of black walnut posts pulled from the back of our property in preparation of our orchard plantings as well as some salvaged T-posts we had on hand. The wooden posts are unlikely to last more than a few years, but this gives us plenty of time to salvage some more cheap/free T-posts with which to replace them.
Chickens clustering in the forest

Chickens getting used to the wooded section of the grow-out pen.

There is a small gate on each side of the pen to allow people access to the back of the property and one section of fencing is removable to allow the tractor to travel through if necessary. The A-frame portion of our chicken tractor is parked in the shaded section of the pen with a 3 gallon waterer inside and both a 5 gallon waterer and large feeder located just outside.

Feeder

Sheltered from the elements by the back shell of an old projection TV, the feeder is built from the bottom of an old plastic barrel. The feeding ports are built using 3″ ABS with holes drilled through the bottom just inside the barrel. One piece goes entirely through the barrel creating two feeding ports. A third shorter piece is inserted at right angles to create the third port. The long piece of ABS also goes through an inverted plastic flower pot which creates a void in the center of the feeder and forces the food to sit along the outside of the barrel where it feeds more readily into the feeding ports. This is the general system we use to deliver food in the majority of our pens, as it forces the chickens to reach in to access the food and reduces their tendency to spill or fling food, thereby wasting it. The idea is a variation on the system featured in Rob Bob’s bulk poultry feeder. Although we feed all of our birds ad libitum, food consumption generally drops dramatically when they have access to pasture and are including both forage and insects (and the odd amphibian, mammal etc.) in their diet.

Chicken Feeder

Sized to fit a 25kg (55lb) bag of feed, the feeder has three feed outlets and is covered by the back of an old projection TV to keep the weather out.


Chicken feeder lid

The interior lid of the chicken feeder.

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