77 – Poultry Automation

I’m going to be very brief here as I tend to geek out about the ins and outs of raising good poultry.

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There are proven formulas regarding how many birds your pasture grass can support. For us, those numbers are a bit over 200 per batch with a week of rest in between each run. This meant a capable brooder (day old chicks to 4 weeks) and more movable enclosures aka “Chicken Tractors”.

The brooder is a place that controls temperature, humidity and predators while they are young and fragile. Lots of head scratching and trial/error to automate as much as possible. A pulley system was the most effective way to raise and refill waters and feeders without stepping on 200 hungry chicks. Constant fresh bedding and manure control are required since we raise the birds without the pharmaceuticals that make them more resilient to unsanitary conditions so lifting everything with the pull of a couple ropes really helps.

Brooder first:

We wanted to try some different chicken tractor designs to see if we could get build costs in check as we prepared to grow out. One design would minimize lumber which has an expiration date in wet grass, improve airflow and give the ability to walk around inside when it was time to catch birds for butchering. A wood base with 3 cattle panels wired together make it strong yet flexible. It has proven its worth through several monsoon storms now. With a canvas painters tarp and wheels we are able to make these for a few hundred dollars in material.

In all, we run 3 10’x12’ tractors at a time with @60 birds each and our original small tractor side by side as a nursery for birds that need attention or less feed competition for a few days till they can join their pals.

This picture shows how much grass they eat each day. The last week before butchering we’ll move them twice per day.

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