Broiler Pens

Our first batch of broiler chicks has been ordered and will arrive on May 4.  Three short weeks after that, all 170 birds will be out of the brooder and onto the pasture.

Problem.

I haven’t built broiler pens yet.

Nothing like having a deadline to light a fire under you.

Fortunately, Tyler’s dad Bradd is building ten new broiler pens for their farm this week, so I volunteered my outstanding construction expertise (ha!)  in exchange for some pen-building tips.   The verdict is that these things are really easy to build, and they don’t take long at all.  With three of us working, we made three frames in just a few hours.  The lids and siding are projects for another day, so I’ll post pictures of that when we get there.

For the uninitiated, here are a couple pictures of what a  Salatin-style broiler pen looks like:

Tyler Jones and Joel Salatin at Afton Field Farm. Broiler pens in background

Tyler demonstrates how to move a broiler pen

The pens are specifically constructed to be lightweight yet sturdy.  Unlike copy-cat pens made from PVC, these will hold up over the years.  They are moved every couple days by sliding a dolly under the end and then walking backwards while pulling a handle on the front. (Edit: these pens are moved every day).  The dolly is visible in the first photo, at Joel’s right shoulder.

The chickens are get water from a Bell-Matic automatic waterer that hangs in the pen.  It is connected to a water reserve in the black five-gallon bucket with plastic tubing.  Each pen has one feeder made from 5 ft long, 6-inch diameter PVC pipe cut in half on the horizontal, which you lift out before you move the pen.  I’ll have a feeder construction tutorial up soon, but for the time being here is a crummy iPhone picture for reference.

PVC broiler/layer feeder

So, without further ado, here’s a picture of the frame of a broiler pen.  It is completed; it just lacks wire to keep it taut, siding, and a lid.

broiler pen frame, 10'x12'

broiler pen from another angle

Here’s a clearer picture of the end piece:

broiler pen end

As soon as Bradd gets me the materials list and lumber specifications, I’ll post it here.  I have had little luck finding any of this on the internet, so I’m sure this will be of use to someone.

(Edit: You can see the plans for the broiler pasture shelters on my 4/29/11 post.  Click here: Broiler Pasture Shelter Plans.)

And yes, I realize it looks like I live at Afton Field Farm.  I do, kind of.   So, if you’re learning anything at all on this site, thank them!

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13 Comments

Filed under Project Start a Farm

13 responses to “Broiler Pens

  1. Way to use those muscles and skills to help build all those broiler pens! We just realized that we have to build more than we originally thought… we may be calling for your expertize once more ;) Oh, and nice photos of Field Day.

  2. Laurie Burke

    Can’t you ask that they arrive on 5/2 so I can see them before I leave your place? I think that’s only fair since I’m coming all that way….

  3. Cara

    Are you able to move the 10×12 pens by yourself? I’m also a smaller female and was thinking about making mine 8×8 and putting about 50 birds in them. I’d rather make them bigger, but I’m concerned that once I get them built, I’ll have to recruit muscly men to help move them every day.

    Thanks for all this great info!

    • Cara,
      I have no problem moving the 10×12 pens myself. It doesn’t take much strength, as they are pretty lightweight and you pull them by walking backwards. The limiting factor is height, which seems to make a difference in your ability to leverage the wheeled dolly under the end of the pen. You have to lift up the pen with one hand (using a rope handle) and tuck the dolly under the pen so that the dolly handle is laying on the ground. I have absolutely no problem doing this, and I’m 5′ 7″. I know other women who are 5 or 6 inches shorter than me who have trouble doing it.
      I wouldn’t change the size of the pen, because it’s pretty optimal as is. The dolly, however, could be easily modified to be shorter to accommodate your height.

      • Cara

        Thanks Rachel!

        I “stalk” Polyface on youtube and had only seen muscly guys moving the pens and was getting concerned. Thanks for the tip on the dolly. I’m short, so I’ll have my husband ergonomically weld the dolly for my 5’2″ self.

  4. Pingback: How-To: Chicken Feeder from PVC Pipe « A Daring Adventure

  5. Anthony Jaems

    Did you use 2 x 4 lumber or 1 x 4 lumber that was pressure treated?

  6. Pingback: Broiler Pasture Shelter Plans | A Daring Adventure

  7. Jeff

    How have these pens held up over the past couple of seasons? What changes would you make? Thanks.

    • They have held up very well and we have transported many of them across town in a truck. I typically have a few fixes to attend to at the beginning of a season, but just little things like repairing struts that broke on a weak point after a long season’s use. Overall, they hold together well and haven’t shown signs of decay after 3 full years of use.

  8. Katy

    how many broilers did you put into each pen? We have 20 coming and need to make a pen for them but not sure how big to make it?

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