Saturday a friend called to tell me he was getting a bunch of chickens from a flooded commercial chicken house. The birds that the chicken catchers weren’t able to get had been sealed up in the house without food or water, left to die from dehydration and ammonia. He and his brother ended up with over 70 chickens, some of which had to be killed due to illness or injury. The 60 remaining birds literally covered the floor of his small coop so he offered half to me.
I drove to his house yesterday to loaded up 30 birds that are now living fairly happily in one of my chicken tractors. It’s a tough transition for birds that spent all 4 weeks of their lives in a climate controlled house with food and water right in front of them, especially when their eyes and lungs are burned from the ammonia and they’ve gone three days without water. So far all 30 are still alive. I’m feeding them laying mash while I start some fodder in the basement. If I can keep them alive long enough I plan to feed them wheat fodder with the layer feed and give them some old canned pears to help fatten them up for processing in 2 weeks. This is the second time in the past few months that I’ve come across free commercial birds that I’ve been able to detox for a couple weeks then process. The result is a nice fat chicken that is close to the quality of my pasture raised birds for almost no cost.
The birds have two dog houses with hay in the bottom so they can stay warm at night. The feed pan is right in front of the dog houses and the hanging water bucket is also close by. Hopefully they stay alive for a couple weeks.
When I bought 50 meat chickens, I started to think very seriously about how to butcher them. In the past, we’ve butchered 10 or 15 at a time, skinning the birds instead of plucking. If they’re young, they skin easily. If they’re more than about 6 months old, they’re “tough old birds.”
The problem is, I like chicken skins. And I don’t like skinning chickens. But I really don’t like plucking them by hand. I finally realized that I would have to build a plucker.
The little PVC table top pluckers that attach to drills seemed only marginally better than plucking by hand. Whizbangs looked simple and practical but too expensive. Then I noticed the similarity between a Whizbang plucker and a washing machine. Turns out I wasn’t the only one who noticed. A man posted this video of his “Chicken Washer” on YouTube. And better yet, he offered free plans to all who asked!
That seemed great, until I finally got the plans from him this morning. Turns out it’s just a modified Whizbang dressed up as a washing machine. Nothing wrong with the design, but not what I was hoping for – I wanted to use as many of the machine’s original components as possible.
Unafraid – well… maybe a little afraid – of venturing into unknown territory without the guidance of an anonymous appliance hacking guru, I forged ahead. Continue reading Chicken Plucker: Part One
A chicken tractor is in its simplest form a mobile chicken pen. They can be built as a simple enclosure, or as elaborate coops complete with nest boxes and feeders.
There are two theories on the origin of the name. The first is that the name comes from the larger enclosures being dragged behind a truck or tractor. The second is that the chickens will dig up and fertilize the ground, thereby replacing the tractor. Both theories work; maybe they’re both true. Continue reading Why Chicken Tractors?