Monday, June 9, 2014

Shufflin' Poultry; aka Project Duck Pen

For the last two weeks, I've been separating and rearranging and gradually moving outside my young poultry.  First out were the Freedom Rangers (this year's meat birds) to the small portable coop referred to as the Triangle Coop--an A-frame affair we inherited from some friends in 2007 when they moved out west.

Once the Freedom Rangers had been removed from their brooder, I added my 10 brown-egg-layer pullets (from my hatchery 'Homesteaders Delight' order) into it, where they became buddies with the two Welsummer pullets I'd purchased from the feed store with the Freedom Rangers.

That left the three turkey poults, the two ducklings, and the two goslings in the dog cage brooder.  So much more space!

Until the waterfowl had a big growth spurt about four days later.  Not so much space.

Then, about the middle of last week, I set up a temporary pen inside the chicken coop for all my pullet chicks.  This helps introduce them to the adult chickens without getting beaten to death (yeah, it happens.  They are animals, after all).  It also meant that their brooder would be available for the turkey poults to move into.  The poor poults are dwarfed by the waterfowl and weren't getting their fair share of food (or water), especially the one poult we have determined is of the breed Midget White.

pullets in the big chicken coop,
 one divider moved so I could feed & water them after this picture

they look so tiny in the coop!

Once moved, the turkeys seemed thrilled to have an entire brooder all to themselves.  The ducklings and goslings, however, suffered from separation anxiety and developed the habit of crowding along the side of the dog cage closest to the turkey brooder.  They also ran to the turkeys every time I opened the door of the dog cage to refill the waterer and feeder.

Add to that scenario the wet mess the ducks made of the dog cage several times a day with the water (going through about two gallons of water a day, most of which was absorbed by the pine shavings I replaced every twelve hours or so), and DH was beginning to grumble about having poultry living in his garage.  On Saturday, he wanted to know when their moving day was.

"Well," I told him, "I have to get a pen built for them.  I could just pound in some t-posts and stretch some of that old field fence around that little shed" (also inherited from the westward bound friends in 2007) "that I've kept turkeys in before.  But what I'd really like is a nice portable pen I could move through the orchard."

Yesterday DH took me out to the used lumber pile, and started asking questions about the dimensions of the portable pen I wanted to create.  Then he loaded a bunch of it into/on top of the tractor bucket and hauled it up to the house.  Then we proceeded to spend about four hours constructing a nice roomy poultry pen tall enough for the ducklings, goslings, and temporarily the turkeys to live and grow up in.  Temporarily for the turkeys because we're talking about constructing a second pen for them, so in the future if we want to raise a half dozen turkeys or so, we have a place to put them that is all their own since keeping turkeys with other poultry is not highly recommended.  Plus, that Midget White poult is so darn small DH is afraid the ducklings are going to hurt it.

The pen is 6' x 9'4" (mainly because I told DH it needed to be about 6'x8'; he wanted to make it 5'x almost 10' because that was the most common sizes of lumber he had in the piles, but I insisted 5' was too narrow.  So it ended up 6' x 9'4" when he trimmed broken ends off some boards that weren't quite 10' long).

basic frame

 The back one-third (roughly) has a roof and 3 walls as a wind and rain block.  It will also provide a shady area for the birds to get out of the summer sun.

sides wrapped in chicken wire

It was at this stage I took this picture and texted it to DS1-- because he and K2 are allowing K3 to come spend a week or two with us without them, and as the time for her visit gets closer, I get more an more phone calls asking about our readiness to have a toddler in the house again.  Which leads me to think that he and K2 are getting nervous that we aren't ready for a two year old around the homestead.  Like we'll lose her or something. So I took this picture and told him we had it covered; she wouldn't "get loose" while she's here, LOL.

Once finished wrapping the pen sides and top in chicken wire, and installing the door on the 'front', DH moved the pen to it's intended location: the orchard.  My plan is to move it forward one length at a time between the three rows of trees, allowing the birds to graze the grass and (hopefully) control any insects that would be harmful to the fruit trees.

finished pen towed out to the edge of the orchard,
poultry installed

happy birds, loving their new enormous space (and the grass!)

Such a nice sturdy, roomy pen, and it cost barely anything.  The lumber, sheeting (walls), and wire we all ready had on hand either from previous projects or brought in as someone else's "junk".  Cost was fencing staples, and two hinges.  We're still debating whether we want to get some T1-11 to cover the sheeting, or just slap some outdoor paint on it as sealant.

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