Tag Archives: assembly

Rabbit Scooter

Here at Good Life Ranch, we want everything to be as pasture-based as possible.  Not everything can eat 100% grass, of course – chickens, turkeys, and pigs can only utilize grass supplementally, for example – but we do want all of our animals that can digest pasture forage to be doing so.  Therefore, we want to get our newly-acquired rabbits out of their elevated hutches and down onto grass.

However, we can’t just let the rabbits loose like we do with the poultry.  Rabbits don’t tend to come back inside when it gets dark.  I think the predators would also have an absolute field day.  Our rabbits do not run from new things – they investigate.  The coyotes would never have it so easy.  Electric fencing is also not an option because the rabbits could go right through it or dig under it.

So no free-ranging or fenced enclosures for the rabbits, but we still want them down eating lots of green grass and getting all of those nutrients into their system.

Here’s our solution in picture/caption form:

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Tomorrow we’ll determine the genders of all our rabbits and put a good number of them into the scooters in groups of 3 or 4.  The rabbits, for obvious reasons, will not have c0-ed quarters unless it’s breeding time.

I do anticipate some initial temporary issues with pasturing the rabbits.  Wild rabbits get nothing but pasture and do fine, but modern commercial and pet rabbit breeds are so far removed from the pasture that they don’t typically handle it very well.  They no longer have a digestive system capable of handling lots of fresh greens; they have a digestive system bred to ingest easily managed pellets.  We won’t be taking them completely off pellets right away, but I still anticipate a good number of rabbits with upset tummies.  These rabbits will have access to pasture at all times along with free-choice to eat the pellets they have been eating so far.

What we want to do is select the rabbits in each generation that grow best on pasture and use them to create each successive generation.  Over time that will hopefully create a line of rabbits that can get a high percentage of their nutrient requirements from the grass.  Daniel Salatin over at Polyface Farms (www.polyfacefarms.com) has been breeding rabbits for pasture for almost 20 years now and has come pretty close.  Hopefully we’ll be able to go over and buy some of their rabbits in order to add their genetics to our herd as well.  I’ll stand on someone else’s shoulders if I can – there’s no need to reinvent the wheel every time someone needs to go somewhere.

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Chicken Scooter

The completed chicken scooter along with the previously completed doggie, Scooter.

Not too bad for a few hours work, huh?

This chicken tractor – or “chicken scooter” as we’ll be calling it – will be the home for our first batch of broiler chickens to move across the pasture.  It’s 12’ x 6’, so that’s 72 square feet of green pasture for our group of 25 White Rock broilers.  It stands a little over 3’ high in the middle of the arch.  Each day this pen (and soon, others like it) will be moved one length onto fresh green grass and away from yesterday’s excrement.  That means cleaner chicken for eating and a controlled amount of fertilizer put down on our pastures.

Here’s the recipe for one chicken scooter, most of which we found lying around:

Ingredients

2 12-foot lengths of 2 x 4

1 6-foot length of 2 x 4

4 6-foot lengths of 2 x 2

4 2-foot lengths of 2 x 2

4 scraps of plywood

1 50’ roll of 48” tall chicken wire

2 5’ x 10’ sections of remesh (concrete reinforcing wire)

1 scrap of corrugated metal

short length of rope

zip ties

wood screws

1 old license plate

carabiners

Tools I used

drill

hammer

screwdriver

staple gun

pliers

jigsaw

circular saw

Process

1.  Lay the 12-foot 2 x 4’s parallel to each other on the ground.  One foot in from each end, attach a 6-foot 2 x 2 to perpendicular to each 2 x 4.  Then place the other 6-foot 2 x 2’s equidistant inside the first two to make a frame like shown below.  I used an extra scrap 2 x 4 to help solidify the front where we’d be dragging it.

Braces attached to the skids.

Braces attached to the skids along with the front plate for attaching the door later.

2.  Lay one of your remesh sheets over the frame perpendicular to the wood.  Note where the tag ends on the remesh are and drill holes with an appropriately-sized drill bit so that these ends of remesh can be inserted into the holes in the wood.  Then repeat on the other side of the frame.  Put the tag ends of the remesh into the drilled holes on one side of the frame and tap them down with your hammer, then go over to the other side and repeat the process.  Use zip ties to secure the remesh to the wood.  When you’re done you should have a short tunnel of remesh that covers one half of your wooden frame.  See below.

Ends of the remesh inserted into holes drilled in the skids.

The remesh is bent and each end of it is placed into holes drilled in each skid.

Then zip ties secure the remesh to the wooden frame.

3.  Repeat step 2 using another sheet of remesh on the other end of the frame.  Then zip tie the two tunnels of remesh together at the bottom and at several other points to help hold the whole thing together.

Both sheets of remesh bent into the supporting hoop shapes.

Zip ties hold the 2 sheets of remesh together in several places.

4.  Use a jigsaw to cut some plywood scraps to fit all 4 corners of the chicken scooter.  Attach them to the wooden frame with screws and the remesh with zip ties.

Scrap plywood frames the front end for the door.

More scrap plywood frames the solid back end of the scooter.

5.  Now roll out your chicken wire and cut 3 10-foot lengths.  Put them over the remesh on one end and staple it to the wooden frame.  Then do the other end.  Save the middle part for last.  The chicken wire will overlap some in the middle, which is fine.  You want to get the ends perfect, though, so do those first.  Secure with staples to the wood frame and with zip ties to the remesh.

Chicken wire covering the front end of the scooter's remesh.

3 4-foot sheets of chicken wire are enough to cover the entire length of the remesh on the chicken scooter.

6.  Using the 4 2-foot sections of 2 x 2, put in your corner braces.  I recommend doing this WAY earlier, like between steps 1 and 2, but I forgot.  Almost as easy to do it now, but just requires crawling into the chicken scooter structure.  I found out it’s quite roomy and comfortable, FYI.  Angle cut the ends of the 2 x 2’s and screw them into the wood frame as shown below.

A scrap 2x2 length with angle cuts on the ends makes a serviceable corner brace for added stability when dragging the chicken scooter around the pasture.

7.  Put a section of tarp over the chicken wire on one half of the chicken scooter to provide some shade for the chickens.  Secure the tarp with zip ties.

The tarp provides shade and shelter from the rain for the broilers.

8.  I used pliers to cut the remesh for this next step, but if you have a linesaw it will probably make your day go faster and your hands be less sore.  The cutting of the remesh with pliers took more time than the rest of this project put together.  Anyway, cut the remesh to fit your openings on each end of the chicken scooter.  Cover the remesh with chicken wire using zip ties.  Attach the chicken-wire-covered remesh to each end with staples and zip ties on the back end (the end you won’t use for a door).  I then covered this with a scrap sheet of corrugated metal so that the chickens had one end of their scooter fully enclosed for protection from the weather and predators.  We hooked one of my old license plates to the back end just for fun, but obviously that’s optional.

The solid back end provides shelter for the broilers as well as a place where predators have difficulty getting to them.

9.  Do the same thing as in the previous step, just instead of attaching all of the metal to the remesh and chicken wire and tightening it down this side will become a door.  We tied the bottom of the door to the wood frame using zip ties.  Then we used carabiners to secure the top so that we could just unhook them and ease the whole front down to allow us access to change water, add feed, or gather chickens up for processing.

The poor-boy hinges made of zip ties allow the door to swing down. They are also cheap and fast to replace.

10.  Drill two holes in the 12-foot 2 x 4’s in the front and put a loop of rope through it to help you pull the scooter around.  It’s actually really lightweight.

11.  Pull the rope until you get your chicken scooter to the pasture you want your chickens to use.

12.  Add waterer, feed trough, and chickens.  Move daily.

Well, there’s your 12-step program for building a chicken scooter!

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Gifts and a finished poultry house

Our wonderful housewarming gift from my parents!

Isn’t that a fantastic mailbox?

That’s one of the presents my parents got us as a housewarming/farmwarming gift.  Lindsey and I think it’s really beautiful, and it was up on the post within hours of arriving via UPS.  It’s a vast improvement over the old mailbox, but I’ll let you be the judge:

Before

After

The postal worker should be delighted to put mail in that box!  My parents also got us a purple (Lindsey’s favorite color) bluebird nesting box – we have a lot of bluebirds that hang around, and we’d like to encourage them to stay.  The final gifts were 4 car magnets with our logo that we can put on the vehicles to drum up customers:

Now we look legit!

Don’t the magnets and the mailbox look great?  Next task:  find a good location for the bluebird box.

Yesterday Lindsey and I finally finished the poultry house / brood house.  I think it will be used to brood batches of poultry in the late spring and summer and then be used for turkey breeding during the late winter and early spring.  One bay of it will also be the guinea fowls permanent home.  Here are the front and side shots:

The front of the poultry house, viewed from the loft of the barn.

A 3/4 view of the new poultry house.

It looks crooked because the whole building is crooked.  It’s from the 1920’s and still standing, so I won’t gripe about it until I’m still standing at 90.  It has chicken wire across the top for sunlight and ventilation, separations inside to divide the birds into manageable groupings, and several tree branch perches of different diameters in each bay.  The bay on the left also has 5 milk crates attached to the back wall in which we hope our laying hens will make their daily deposits.

This took a lot longer than I thought it would because we had to measure everything so many ways and basically experiment to see what would fit where to make this coop as predator-proof as possible while still being comfy for the flocks.  Total cost to us = $219.37.  We did buy a lot of extra wood on accident.  The girl said the boards we bought for the front of the building were 6 feet long.  She meant to say that they were sixTEEN  feet long.  I was very confused when we pulled around to the side of the lumber yard to load the wood up and I saw the 16 foot boards.  I saw a lot of sawing in our future.

Well, it’s done!  Just add bedding, waterers, feeders, and birds!  Next project….. chicken tractor.

Putting up the board walls.

Still putting up boards.

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Building a Poultry House

2 blog entries in one day…

Can you tell it’s raining outside?  🙂  It’s good, though, because the garden could sure use the rain.

So, why have a poultry house?  Eventually we want our chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys out on pasture anyway.  You can’t rotationally use a poultry house to keep diseases down and let the pasture around it rest.

Basically, we need something this year to put our laying chickens and turkeys into.  It’s a one-year bridge to the time where we have ruminants for the birds to follow around the pastures.  That doesn’t mean we won’t use the building anymore, though.  We plan on using this as our turkey breeding house so that we don’t have to order expensive poults every year and so that we can breed the turkeys that do well on our farm in order to produce the best animals for us.  Additionally, one “wing” of this house will be a permanent home for the guinea fowl.  They’ll be let out every morning to range around the garden, barn, and house areas and eat the ticks and squash bugs.  Right now Scooter is our tick finder, and he doesn’t make good use of them.  He just brings them into the house for us to pick off of him.

So really the house will be used all year by the guineas and for 2 months of the year by the turkeys.  And this year we’ll have some laying hens in there as well.

This old shed was used for miscellaneous storage by the previous owners.

The photo above shows what we are starting with.  A shed from the 1920s in which nothing is straight, level, or square anymore.  I will give the original carpenters the benefit of the doubt that building initially boasted all three of those qualities.  The plan is to frame up the outside and create 3 bays inside for the turkeys, chickens, and guineas with a door going to each of the bays from the outside.  Simple right?  That’s what I thought.  Unfortunately, I forgot how hard it is to modify a structure that is no longer straight, level, or square.

First order of business was cleaning out the shed, which I discussed in a previous post.  Along the way we also had to evict some other birds that were using the place, but at least we know that the doves like to lay their eggs there.  Hopefully that means the turkeys will too.

An active nest we found while cleaning.

The shed had some drainage problems, with several small arroyos running through the eastern side.  So we dug along the channels and installed a French drain using some leftover tubing and gravel from the stream.  This goes through the guinea fowl’s portion of the house, so hopefully it will keep their feet dry.

Lindsey digs a path for the new drainage system.

French drain laid in newly dug ditch.

Hopefully this will keep the water in the drain, otherwise the guinea fowl may donate their home to waterfowl.

Gravel over the French drain. The chicken wire on the bottom going into the ground is in place to discourage predators from digging under the walls to reach the birds.

As you can see, we also put in some 4” x 4” posts for structural stability.  Those things go 3 feet down into solid clay.  We also put on cross braces to help provide support and to attach the exterior boards to when the time comes.

The 4x4 posts and 2x4 braces on the south wall with chicken wire above for ventilation. Scooter is our quality control officer.

The same features as above, but on the interior of the north wall.

A closer view of the chicken wire around the roofline that provides ventilation while still protection the birds.

A trench along the exterior wall of the poultry house. We will sink chicken wire into this all the way around the exterior of the house for added peace of mind with regards to predation.

Here's a shot of the chicken wire trench going over the French drain.

As you can see in the pictures above, we also put 1” galvanized chicken wire on the top and bottom boards.  The chicken wire running from the top board to the rafters will allow sunlight and ventilation without putting the breeze directly on the poultry.  The chicken wire running from the bottom board and into the shallow ditch we dug around the perimeter is designed to stop predators from digging underneath the boards to get into the poultry house.  Hopefully they’ll give up if they just keep digging into chicken wire.

This was our supervisor on the job site.  Scooter likes to watch from the shade and occasionally roll around in the grass when he thinks we’ve got the job covered.

Supervisor Scooter, Sir

We also set some posts for doorways and framed out the front of the future poultry house.  Yes, I know the doorways get shorter as you move to the right.  Remember we already mentioned the lack of straight, level, and square?  This is what we mean.

Boards framing the south wall

Boards framing the front of the poultry house.

We cut some doors out of exterior grade plywood and coated it with some rubberized spray paint that the former owner left us.  I assume he used it for good grips on his machine guns and RPGs.  No, I’m not kidding.  We then hung the doors using regular old hinges and gate latches.

Lindsey cuts some chicken wire.

Our very professional-looking door.

All that actually took several days to accomplish.  Even though none of it sounds very hard, everything we put on this building has to be angle cut or leveled multiple times or double framed to make up for the lean in this old building.

What’s left to do?  Put all of the boards around the exterior and create the inner bays for the birds!

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