Off-grid Chick Brooder

(Update: 2 October 2015) A friend of ours raises meat chickens and got us a super deal on 25 chicks that were just a few hours old (fresh from the incubator)- just couldn’t pass it up, so we built another off grid chick brooder made to house 20 chicks. We brought them home 29 September 2015, and so far so good. They are strong little buggers, and are doing great with out a heat lamp. In the morning we bring them out to the orchard in the warm morning sun and let them out into their run, to play, eat and drink all day. In the evening when the fall temperatures begin to plummet, we shoo them into the enclosed nest box and bring them in the house for the night. Repeating each day. We are amazed at how tough these chicks are, at night in their little nest box we have a thermometer, it stays around 75F all night, and in the morning they are bright eyed and ready to play outside. This experience is inspiring us to make permanently placed brooders out on our south facing slope so we can raise our own layers from chicks starting early spring. We’ll see how this experiment progresses.

Here are some pictures of the brooders and our cute little chicks.

(Posted: 27 September 2015) This is our off grid chick brooder.

In about a week or so we’ll be getting 10 meat chicks that are one day old, and will need to keep them warm. Most people now days (in America at least) just put chicks under a warming light for at least the first week or so till the chicks are able to keep their own temperatures on their own. Being off grid poses a challenge, as heat lamps are energy hogs and take around 16 or so amps per hour to run, that would deplete our batteries in no time. Tim found some info online on how to make a box brooder. Here is the link: http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/aq628e/aq628e.pdf

So we made this brooder with materials handy onsite, it isn’t exactly what is depicted in the pdf above, but close and made with what we had on-hand.

We built it out of ply wood, used wire screen for the bottoms, and top of the run box. Made an insulated lid for the nest box, then lined the nest box with pink insulation board, we plan to put hay in the bottom before the chicks go in. Painted the whole thing black to help with heat absorbtion, and also to keep the plywood from rotting too fast. Next we plan to get some little hinges to attach the run lid, and some little latches to keep the nestbox lid from coming off, and also little latches to attach the nestbox itself to the run so it can’t be knocked over by a critter. So this is an experiment, we’ll see how it goes. Wish us luck!

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Update from August 22nd to September 3rd, so much to post about!

Following are pictures from as far back as 8/22, lots of farm critter pictures, and then pictures of our family visiting (they arrived the evening of 8/24)! We were spoiled with Grandpa Steve and Grandma Sandi, they drove out their super cozy and new RV and camped in our driveway for 10 whole days! We had a wonderful time with ya’ll, and miss you two so much! The same evening that the grandparents got here, Tim’s brother, Tom and his wife Katie and their two adorable munchkins (Hannah & Tiberius) got here too. Tom and Katie stayed in a motel the first and second night close by so they spent much of the first couple days with us, then they went to explore Ohio and go to Cedar Point. I’m thankful we got to see them, it was so nice to see their faces and get some good hugs, even if the time spent together was so very brief. I felt like we got to really spend quality time with Steve and Sandi, it was so wonderful having them blend in with our daily life, help us with chores and Steve even helped Tim build another awesome spacious rabbit cage, completing our 4 phase grow-out Rabbitat!

Thoughts & Confirmation on Fermented Chicken Feed: Eggs don’t lie

We’ve been experiencing single digit weather for the past few weeks now, which has made feeding wet fermented feed very challenging as it seems to flash freeze as we put it out for the poultry. So for the last week or so we have stopped fermenting it, and just kept the feeders full of their non-gmo dry feed. Now I am noticing a drastic difference in egg quality, the yolks have lost their luster they are no longer the vivid orange I’ve grown accustomed to. So, in light of this confirming result, I am back at fermenting their feed. I’ll just make sure and put it in a tub so I can bring it inside to thaw if need be. I prefer to throw it on the ground to encourage scratching and pecking, but don’t like how it freezes to the ground and becomes hard for the birds to eat it. I am totally convinced that fermenting it improves the poultry’s ability to digest and absorb more nutrition from the same feed. For 37 chickens I take a bucket, put in 11 cups of dry non-gmo feed, plus 8 cups of non-gmo scratch, then I pour in fresh water, mixing it in making sure it all gets wet, then I put in an extra bit of water till the water is about 1 inch above the top of the feed. Then I pour in a few tablespoons of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar, and mix that in. Then I let this sit out on our counter overnight. In the morning I bring it down and feed the chickens with it, then refill it right after, letting it ferment for 24 hours, this practice more than triples the weight of the feed and breaks down the anti-nutrients naturally present in the feed making it easier to digest, they get more nutrients out of it, and consume less feed.

Quarantine Poultry Coop & Pen

I nabbed this post off of my husband’s facebook page, as he says it so well.

So as I mentioned the other day we came across a deal that was to good to pass up, ten young hens and a pair of young Royal Palm turkeys for $65. So we had to jump on it! The problem was the price was all I had in available cash and as you may know you can’t just dump new poultry with your existing flock, you must have a quarantine coop and run and of course I have not set that up yet. To get the deal we had to pick up the birds today as the person we got them from is moving today and could not take them with her.

So Tuesday, Gage and I ran into town and loaded as many free pallets as we could fit in the van and trailer. Sadly, by the time I got home and ready to work I only had about an hours worth of daylight and didn’t get much done. So today, Jamie and I got right on the job this morning in hopes to complete the job before the lady called and said we HAD to come NOW, sadly, we did not. Luckily we have a couple of large cages made for large dogs that we were able to transport and keep them in while we finished the coop. Then it started raining…dabnabit!

We went and picked up the birds and went back home and jumped right back on the project. We mostly completed the coop…at least got it secure enough to put the birds in tonight just as it was getting dark (I sure miss summer daylight hours!). We had to tarp the roof until we can get some metal to finish it off and tomorrow we will fence in the new run area. Here’s some pics of what we did today. I’m so lucky I have such a great partner like Jamie, today would have been a pure failure for me without her.

Now, we just have to put sheet metal on the roof to finish it, and a few more final touches to the run. Eventually we want to enclose the run like we did to the other coop, and then create a bigger pen for them to come out into during the day. I had to clip the turkey’s wings today too as the male tried to fly out, lol!

Fodder: Experimenting with Weight

From what I have read about growing fodder, is that it doubles if not quadruples in weight upon sprouting for 7-10 days. So I decided to do an experiment.

I took 1 cup of wheat berries and weighed them, then again after soaking 24 hours, then again each day, up to day 5. I didn’t go past day 5 because the sprouts draw flies, so I moved the experiment outside rather than the counter inside. This climate change seemed to adversely affect the sprouts, so I’ll have to start over again and try to make it to at least 7 days.

Here is the info I collected over the 5 days.

1 cup of dry/dormant wheat seed = 7.5 oz or 0.46 lbs

Sprouting day 1, After 24 hour soak = 12.02 oz or 0.76 lbs

Sprouting day 2 = 12.7 oz or 0.79 lbs

Sprouting day 3 = 13.8 oz or 0.86 lbs

Sprouting day 4 = 16.2 oz or 1.0125 lbs

Sprouting day 5 = 14.7 oz or 0.918 lbs

So the mat of wheat berries lost a little weight on day 5, but I hadn’t watered it yet, so that may have made a difference. Plus I don’t think the wheat liked the container I had it in. I will update this post after I have more data.

 

 

Fodder: Refining my system – Update

Continuing to learn and change things. Using the screen trays is a no-go. The little rootlets get stuck and make it a nightmare to harvest. So I’m switching to my solid bottom trays. Still hoping to get a sprouting room up and running before winter hits.

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Fodder: Refining my system… I need shelves and a sprout room

Free Ranging Chickens & fermenting their feed

Recently we’ve finally been able to let the chickens free range. They are all laying in their nest boxes, and have been for a month or so, so out they go! They love foraging, and picking through the manure under the rabbit cages, so many worms in there. This should also help with feed costs, not to mention they are getting greater diversity in their diet 🙂

Since we are on the subject of diet, I have recently began supplementing their food by fermenting a good deal of it. This has huge health benefits for them, and can save us tons on the feed bill.

Will write more about it after I get us fed.

 

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