Monthly Archives: April 2010

Cow-Whisperer

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

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!

13 Comments

Filed under Project Start a Farm

The Arrival of the Chicks

Our day-old Amberlink chicks arrived just over a week ago, straight from the hatchery through the USPS.   It only took one day for them to travel all the way from Ohio, and they all arrived alive and healthy.

The brooder houses we built are working out well.  They keep out the rain, drafts, and predators, while maintaining a warm environment for the birds.  So far, so good.

I’ll leave you with a video of the chicks, just because they make you want to say cutesy things in a squeaky voice.

Notice the one on the left falling asleep in the heat of the lamp.  I wish they always stayed this sweet and fuzzy!

1 Comment

Filed under Project Start a Farm

Chicken Dorms

It’s been a busy few weeks out here on the farm, as we prepare for spring livestock.  The first to come will be 150 Delkab Amberlink chicks, which will add to our laying flock this fall.  Keith and I have been spending evenings and weekends building cozy brooders for the babies.  We don’t have a barn here, so we designed weatherproof, stand-alone houses to be used as brooders.  These could even double as a pasture pen for larger chickens; when the weather is nice the sides can come off to let the sunshine in.

A hen tries out the partially-constructed brooder

The day-old chicks arrive next week, straight from Ohio via the U.S. Postal Service. I will go pick them up at the Post Office and show them to their new homes. Once they are settled in, and we make any necessary adjustments to the brooder design, I’ll post plans here for anyone who is interested in copying the design for their own farm.

(Edit May 7, 2010:  Plans are now posted here with a pictoral guide and here as a PDF file)

Hauling the brooders out to the pasture

There is nothing more satisfying than accomplishing a big project after a lot of hard work, many late nights, and dozens of strong cups of coffee.

Now bring on the chicks — we’re ready for them!

Pasture brooders - ready for chicks!

6 Comments

Filed under Project Start a Farm

Rachel Learns to Use a Skilsaw

Two weeks ago, I’d never used a circular saw in my life.

Yes, we finished most of the Eggmobiles with a hand saw.  Amish, I know.

What I’m trying to say is:  if a clueless girl like me can start a farm, anyone can.    Ask a lot of questions, be a little daring, and you’ll learn essential skills as you go.

I filmed a short demonstration video on “how to use a Skilsaw”.  Then I realized I’m not very good at using a Skilsaw.  In fact, I kind of suck at it.  It takes me forever to cut a 2×4 because I have to concentrate so hard, and even then my cut is crooked.

Clueless, I tell ya.  Laugh along with me, or at me as you prefer….

4 Comments

Filed under Project Start a Farm

100% Organic Pink Flamingo Eggs

I would be remiss if I didn’t pass along the news that Afton Field Farm has 100% organic Flamingo eggs available today only.  These eggs are from pasture-raised Pink Flamingos and are the highest quality on the market.   They will go fast, so order yours today!

The flamingo hens are very healthy.  I checked on them myself.

4 Comments

Filed under Anecdotes

Escape Artists

Yesterday, Alicia and I escaped from the iron grip of book-keeping and chick brooder construction, and hit the big city.   Between chilling Portland rain showers and sporadic bursts of sun, we explored all the lovely little shops along NW 23rd Street.   Naturally, we started the day at my favorite little bakery, Two Tarts and then after buying makeup, jeans, hats and lunch and watching an Omnimax movie, we ended up drinking martinis in a James Bond-themed lounge in Northeast Portland.    It was heaven.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch….

…Keith was herding chickens.  I was sipping my dry martini when I received this text message:

“… then they all got scared and knocked the fence down. This picture shows me moving the whole fence to try to get them in, and all of them escaping to the lower pasture.  Fun times!”

Fun times, indeed, Keith.  Better you than me, boy.  I’m glad I’m sipping a strong alcoholic beverage while you chase poultry around the paddock.

Did I mention that Keith was supposed to be part of a phone meeting for work at precisely the moment all the hens escaped?

“It was fun but I had a phone meeting to go to at 6 and I missed the beginning.  Luckily it was canceled last minute. So in fact I didn’t miss anything.”

The take-home message appears to be:

  • I leave the farm for 12 hours and chaos ensues.
  • My presence appears to be required here, thus I may never again be able to go to Portland for makeup & martinis
  • Keith puts chickens above conference calls. I fear for his job.
  • Those chickens are shifty little stinkers.

3 Comments

Filed under Project Start a Farm