Several developments have happened so far this week in the poultry department.
First, the Black Australorp laying hens have discovered the wonderful world of rabbit manure! We put the chickens near the rabbits deliberately so that we could add carbon (wood chips, straw, whatever) to the rabbit manure and the chicken could scratch through it looking for fly larvae and such, thus making compost for us and eliminating the flies from the rabbit area while getting cheap protein for the laying hens. Sounds great in theory, right? What we’ve been lacking so far is chicken cooperation. All of the poultry has been free-ranging for the last week or so, and the chickens have steadfastly refused to venture underneath the rabbit pens.
Over in the Meat Chicken Division, we built Chicken Scooter 2.0 and moved the broilers into it to test out the new design and so I could modify Chicken Scooter 1.0 and add the new features. In the second generation, I made a feeder out of PVC pipe and attached it to the frame. No more taking the feed trough out in order to move the pen every day! The major design changes were to the ends of the scooter. Each end is now fully formed by plywood. At other farms that use this type of method, the weather tends to come from only one direction. We’re in a valley with hills on the eastern, western, and northern sides. That makes our winds swirl around and the wind and rain can come from either east or west, hence the plywood on both sides. The most convenient new feature though is the door is now right above the feeder on the covered end of the scooter. For Chicken Scooter 1.0, I wasn’t thinking about efficiency as much as I should have and made a design where I had to crawl into the scooter to grab the food trough on the far end, where I had to put it so it wouldn’t get wet. While I was doing that, some of the chickens invariably escaped and I would have to round them up and return them to the scooter. All this work because my brain wasn’t on the first time. Hopefully, lesson learned. Here’s some pictures of the newest chicken scooter. As you can see, the design is still the same size and almost everything is the same, save the ends and the door!
Finally, the broilers now have a date with the processor. Eventually we want to do this step here at the ranch for many reasons (less stress on the birds, no gas used driving them to Bowling Green, $2.85 less expense per bird), but until we figure out all of the legal mumbo jumbo surrounding turning animals into food we are going to have to allow someone else to process our birds. We chose SS Enterprises (http://aboutssenterprises.com) because they are relatively close to us, are family-owned and operated, and certified organic. So on August 23rd at 7:30 am, the broilers and I will be pulling into Bowling Green. Sometime after that, I will be leaving Bowling Green will several ice chests. Any readers in the area, we will have chicken for sale!