Sunday, May 25, 2008

Chicken Tractors, Whizbang Adventures and Growth in the Garden

Well it's been a while since I've posted, but as always seems to happen in the spring, we've somehow become rather busy....not sure how that happens, however it appears to be a common affliction; especially among the more rural (agrarian) segment of the population.

[Note: To aid in organization I am going to insert headers (of sorts) in to this post--hope it's not too distracting :-) ]

Chicken Tractors (and chicks too)

Some time back I ordered the first batch of broiler chicks and they arrived on Monday May 19th. Before they arrived I thought I'd better have a place for them to live, and so, after a trip to my "lumber yard" (which is actually a
pole barn belonging to a very generous gentleman from church who has a little portable sawmill) I started putting a pen together based on Mr. Joel Salatin's. Here are a few pictures that Jonathan took for me:Here you can see the frame is complete, the basswood siding (sure beats the price of steel!) is up, and I've got one of the front doors covered with chicken wire.
The sheep farmer that I was helping several weeks ago, is also cleaning out a barn for his cousin, and has given me a few things from there. Among them is chicken wire. I was able to stretch one piece of 4' wire to cover each front door. There's a certain technique to it, but it worked out quite well. I secured the wire with one inch dry wall screws driven in at an angle.
Here's another shot of the lovely basswood siding. It started out 1" thick, and then we planed it down to about 1/2"--that really made the colors stand out. It's quite pretty I think.
Here it is temporarily installed behind the garage (for brooding purposes)This is the great brooder--repaired after the great smoldering (near fire) of '08, not too much worse for the wear. The dark stuff on to of the plywood is dirt. For insulation. Less flammable than wood shavings. 'Nuff said.And here's the little peepers settling in for the night:The other chickens are doing quite well--eating, growing, and somehow getting out occasionally. The latter adds some spice to life! We at least have Baxter--the super duper chicken dog. (He has helped me catch a chicken on two separate occasions now--both involved the same not-so-smart, soon-to-be-in-the-freezer rooster! He escaped twice within two or three hours. Just another month or so and the roosters will be the first to try out the Whizbang plucker. Except for the two Buff Orpingtons--I think...)

Which leads me to my next topic....

Whizbang Adventures

I finally started on the 'tub-style mechanical chicken plucker'! The same trip for boards for the chicken tractor, I also got enough lumber for the plucker. I'd purchased the hardware back in February, and ordered parts from Mr. Kimball (I wrote about it here) and then got busy. (helping with lambing and other various and sundry things....) My aunt was able to find me a food grade barrel and so now I'm in business. Sort of....

The plans (as laid out in "Anyone Can Build A Tub-Style Mechanical Chicken Plucker") are quite easy to follow (just make sure to read the entire segment about what your doing before you start in on it--just like any good recipe, for ,oh, say, chocolate chip cookies...) I got the frame whipped out and the barrel cut out in one afternoon (as I recall), and by the time I quit for the night, I had pulled fingers and got the feather plate and shaft assembly bolted together. Then I ran out of parts...I forgot to order the pillow block bearings. I also had to order the driven pulley since they're not available locally. Someone had sent through a website on the yahoo Whizbang plucker
They have really great stuff--really cheap. Even cheaper that McMaster/Carr. I found some great tires that I ordered--10" solid rubber with steel hubs and traction tread for only $6.95 each. They come in right and left wheels. I got them to mount wheels on the plucker, because I thought that it was hard enough to pick up and carry around without the feather plate, motor, pulleys and tub --the wheels should make it quite easy to wheel around. (there's also mention of wheels in the plan book) So then one day I stained it and now it looks like this:In this picture you can see the 3/4" rod stock I got for axles: two 3' pieces. One for the plucker, and one for the Whizbang Garden Cart!
Here's a photo documenting the mess :-) That means progress!
Dad and I went to the big consignment sale the first part of this month. I've gone for several years, and every year it keeps getting bigger and bigger. That's where I bought the blue plastic barrels in the background. They make the best movable work tables! Just the right height. I also got three steel barrels, a potato planter (it's really nifty gadget), and a couple of buckets of assorted fencing junk. Dad got a neat little table top drill press (one that you mount a electric drill in) and we also bought 13 boxes of canning jars! 24 1/2gal and 9 boxes of quarts. (now we just need a pressure canner) Not a bad haul. It filled the truck right up. (you'll notice we mostly bought containers!)

Any way, back to the plucker...

My Uncle gave me a motor:
A big old green beast!
I also have some Ideas for a semi-portable butchering station which involves this old slate counter top that another friend gave me....
There's three pieces, and I think that if I put two on one side of an old deep porcelain sink that I can get for free, it should work pretty slick....

Well on to....

Growth in the Garden

The onions are coming along nicely, and the tomatoes are starting to take off again after I transplanted them into the hoop house. One kind of peas are coming up, and we had some fresh lettuce on our hamburgers the other night. The radishes are coming along nicely in two waves, as is the lettuce, and the beans in the hoop house are up two or three inches. Here's a look into the hoop house:
And these are the onions:

Another gentleman from church (the one I cut wood with) is letting us put a big garden in over at his house. The one garden is about 180' long by 80' wide. We can also use part of the spot where is regular garden is. He's very generous. In fact a lot of people are being very generous to us/me. I feel that God it really blessing me through them.

And speaking of blessings, Mr. Shropshire over at Promised Land has recently posted a really great essay on a vital topic. I would encourage you to read and dwell on it, if you have not already. (read the comments too--there's another whole post down there)

Well that's all for now....

Until next time--May He who is able to do more that we can ever imagine bless you and yours, grant your desires and shelter you under his wings.



Goodolboy said...

Hi Matthew, Ya have sure been busy. We are busy here too. Getting our last batch of chicks and turkeys this Friday. That will make 300 broilers and 25 turkeys and 75 layers. Keeps us busy for sure. I got a couple of calves but one had phnemonia (sp?) when I got it. We treated it. It rallied and then got sick again. It did this a couple of times and finnally died. I wanted to shoot it long before it died but my daughter talked me out of it saying she thought she could save it. She tried but some things just aren't meant to be. The other calf is doin fine. I want to get another one to replace the one that died. My son is into baseball so that is keeping me hopping going to games, clinics and practices. His team is like the Bad News Bears but they have lots of fun so that is what counts. You are going to love your plucker. They work great. I built mine 2 winters ago and used it for the first time lat year. Makes plucking fun. My son and kill and pluck faster than the wife and 2 girls can clean and bag. The year before we did all the plucking by hand. 4 of us couldn't keep up to my wife while she cleaned and bagged. Weather here is still cool. We are still getting frost at night. Well I will talk to ya soon. take care and God bless ya all.

Say hi to Jonathan for me.

Matthew said...

Hi Mr. Guy,
Good to hear from you again!

Sounds like the poultry enterprises are going well for you. My chicks (and chickens) are doing quite well also. Those broilers sure do eat an awful lot!

I was on a baseball team once too...I think that we played about 20 games that summer and never won even a single one...wasn't even close as I recall. But it was fun.... We have a Soft Ball game at church on Father's day, I always look forward to that. Most sports I enjoy playing at, but mostly I'm not much good at 'em!

Weather's getting kinda warmish around here (see Jonathan's latest post) but the gardens are finally starting to take off so I guess it's worth it. Seems like I always like spring and can't hardly wait for the weather to warm up--but then as soon as we hit the hot weather for about a week, I'm more than ready for the cooler temps of Fall! (Fall's my favorite season, don't ya know--hunting and all :-) )

I sure am looking forward to trying out the plucker. I've told several people about it who want to come and watch! Maybe I could start up a business--Matthew's World Famous Chicken Plucking Show! Charge admission and all that. ;-)

Thanks for dropping by,


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