"One More Time"

Dateline: 18 August 2015

Futureman feeding the meat birds.

Metaphorically speaking, I've been skiing ahead of an avalanche all summer. It has been an enormous challenge to keep up with the daily demands of my Planet Whizbang business.  I'm not sure how many more years I can maintain the pace. But things should slow down in another month or so. I'll be glad to see it. Hopefully, I'll have more time to blog here. I've had lots in mind to write but little time to get it written.

For example, I didn't even post a blog about Futureman visiting us earlier in the month! He was here for two weeks and learned all about chickens in chicken tractors. He would help me feed and water and move the tractors every day.

He also had a bug jar into which he collected grasshoppers, and then fed them to the chickens. It's all pretty exciting to a little boy.

Futureman with his bug jar.

Speaking of exciting, before Futureman left to go back to Toledo, I decided to make an impromptu video of him riding in my garden cart.  I posted the film to YouTube today, primarily for Futureman (in Toledo) to see, but you can see it too....


SharonR said...

I'm so glad for you that your business is keeping you busy. Little "One More Time" Futureman keeps you pretty busy too.

Anonymous said...

I see you don't have chicken wire on the bottom of your tractor. How do you deal with predators digging under the tractor frame to get at the meat chickens?

Paul@from up North

Farm Hill Gardens said...

I would like to see a post on the design of your chicken tractors and what your routine is for feeding the chickens and moving the tractors.

Herrick Kimball said...

Yes, the routines of life around this place are radically altered when Futureman is here. He is "high-maintenance," but getting less so as he gets older.

Only one year have we had a predator problem and that was when the tractor was on uneven ground, leaving a space for some small varmint to get into the enclosure. Lacking a field, we move the tractor around on our lawn, close to our house, so that helps some with predators. Also, in the past, we've had a dog which also helps. I've never had wire on the bottom of the tractor.

Farm Hill—
I've blogged in past years about my chicken tractor and the moving routine. Will have to try and find the posts. There is nothing complicated about the hooped frame. It has stood the test of time. We started raising meat birds for ourselves around 1999 and grew them every year, until a few years ago (maybe four). We bought chickens raised by a friend for those years. But we're back at it now (and we have two pigs now too, which is a first). Our two chicken tractors were in an area overgrown (almost out of sight) with weeds. There were sumac trees growing up through the wire. They are well aged now and beat up but still perfectly functional.

The long feeder in the picture has a set of skateboard wheels under it. I open the end of the tractor and push the feeder in. To move the tractor, I lift one end of the tractor (with an attached rope) and slide a wide skateboard ($5 at a garage sale) under the frame. Then I pull a rope on the other end to move. It works very well, as the tractor is not too heavy.

I have an idea for a tire lift mechanism that could be simply and quickly secured on each side of the tractor, around the center, and would make it very easy to move. There are chicken tractor tire-lift devices out there but they all appear to be permanently attached. My concept would be two tire lift fixtures (one for each side) that would attach and detach with ease, thus allowing them to be used on as many chicken tractors as a person has. A tire on each side of center would make moving easier than tires at one end. The lift mechanisms would work with most any chicken tractor design.

If I get this idea worked out, I hope to make a step-by-step video of the construction of a simple hooped tractor like I have and show the tire lift. Maybe next year....

Anonymous said...

Homer Walden has a very good design on his attached wheels on chicken tractors that can be moved with just one person. It is one of the best mechanisms I have seen.


Anonymous said...

Loved the "One more time" video. Grandkids are fun but exhausting :)

Jim said...

Will you comment on the final cost of raising your birds. I have a friend that raises 25-50 to sell. He feeds 100% certified organic feed. His selling price is $5 per pound, approx. $20 per bird to put in freezer. A lot of money for a winter supply.

I would like to raise a few. Since I am a suburbanite in a no farm animal community I have to ask, do the birds make noise like hens when they lay.


Mike R. said...

Herrick, no matter how busy you are and how overwhelming it is, God will let you know when it's time to give it up. I for one appreciate your blog very much. Every Sunday morning I sit with a cup of coffee and read your blog upon waking. Futureman is well on his way to becoming a good farmer. I also would like to tell you how much I appreciate your knowledge on our banking system. So many Americans are totally ignorant to the real criminals at the Federal Reserve and the IRS. I support local banks, and I know unfortunately they are pigeon-holed into the system. On one more note, I want to say thank you. I finally purchased your whizbang idea book. Going to try to build those grape trellis fittings. I should manage, but if I can't ill buy them from you. Thanks again Herrick, god bless you and your family!!!


ELittle said...

Hi Herrick,Just finally finished mounting the drive motor to the insinkerator and got the motor mount board lined up and true withe the armature arm! Whew, That was a trial trying to look out the bottom of my trifocals and read a small straightedge with my head stuffed in the space! All done and spins true with no vibration. Just in time too 'cause the apples are already to start dropping around here. I think it has been the lack of rain. Got to get a couple of coats of urethane on it now. Thanks again for all those wonderful ideas in that book!!!

Unknown said...

Had to giggle just a wee bit at "Jim"'s comment about noise. Just an innocent chuckle. So glad to hear about someone starting on their path to freedom.
In case Mr. Kimball is too busy to get back to you Jim, meat chickens usually don't lay eggs. Of course it does depend on the breed.
Traditionally, Cornish X's are raised as meat birds and egg production has been breed out of them. They are full grown at eight weeks and have trouble walking and sometimes breathing.
Dual purpose breeds take longer to reach market weight and can lay. We switched from Cornish X's to Pioneers or Dixie Rainbows two years ago and although the final cost is more, we are happier with the results. All of our roosters weighed between 7.4 and 8#'s dressed out. We pasture them, much like Mr. Kimball, and we protect them from predation with a portable, solar-powered electric fence. We sustained escalating losses until we went to the fence and, knock on wood, it has been 100% effective.
Most importantly, we raise our own meat birds and do not have to rely on a hatchery, thus reducing some of our costs and improving our sustainability.
We also raise Bourbon Red turkeys on pasture and their fence is powered by the chicken tractor's unit. That has improved the soil on that pasture visibly. We do herd them to amd from a coop for the night for predation protection. Interestingly, they are quite easy to herd. Our flock has been as large as 28, but currently we have eight hens and one tom- our breeding flock. We are on a learning curve with hatching out our own poults though. Out of 35 eggs, we had 2 survive to be adults. They are challenging to raise until about 4 months.
Well, I've babbled enough. Good luck.
Mr. Kimball, I sent Jill Winger from The Prairie Homestead Blog to you regarding your plucker and methods. Hope she talks you up as she has a good following.
Respectfully, Pam

Unknown said...

One more thing, $20/bird is about right. Joel Salatin charges less but he has the economy of scale on his side.

Jim said...

Thank you Pam. I appreciate you sharing your experience in spite of giggling all the while ;-).
Let me ask for your help. As a suburbanite I will have to raise as discreetly as possible. I know
meat bird do not lay. My question concerned the noise Cornish Cross might make. Is there a comparison to layers in the noise level or are they so busy eating they don't have time to make much noise except "bring more food". A suburban lot does not provide for the moving to a new spot each day. Do you think the "deep litter" method would work for Cornish.

If $20 per bird is about right price, think I would do just as well to buy as trying to raise birds given the learning curve and the fragileness of the birds.

Hold the giggle down as you reply :-) Thanks dear.

Elizabeth L. Johnson said...

Grandpa Herrick and Grandma Marlene are this little guy's only stability in life. Futureman is so blessed.

Chris said...

I love that video. :)

Unknown said...

Hi Jim, thanks for not raking me over the coals for giggling. Well, we never had any Cornish X's crowing but I think ten or twenty would attract very little attention as the noises made would be nominal. Crowing roosters is what most folks complain about. Me, I like the sound.
The first three weeks they are kept in a brooder. They only "cheep" at that point. So that means only five weeks on pasture. You could keep that many on grass in most backyards. Move them every day until you've covered all the ground and then start at the beginning. I posted a google map picture on my blog:http://homesteadexperiment.blogspot.com/2015/02/green-acres-is-place-for-me.html
Our tractor was built for fifty meat chickens so a smaller one could be built for less chickens.
Laying hens and meat chickens make the same sounds. Now, our Pioneers do crow. They just are reaching maturity and once in awhile a rooster will crow.
Do I think deep litter will work? Sure. You can modify, tweak and redesign any plan or method to work in your particlar setting.
I think it is an important part of life to raise your own food. Our neighbor walked over recently, while we were digging our raised beds and laying the weedblock, and told us how nice it looked but wouldn't it be easier to just go to the store? I promptly answered that if you don't control your food, you are not free. He acquiesced.
Chickens are more resiliant than turkeys. Glad we started with chickens. There are lots of excellent resources for beginners. Books, videos and blogs. Jump in, you'll be glad you did.
Good luck, and thanks again.

Farm Hill Gardens said...

Thanks Herrick for such a detailed response on the chicken tractors. I'm planning on building one for next spring and your's seems to be the easiest and lightest I've seen so far.

Sheila Gilbert said...

I saw Futureman on youtube, and his laugh just got to me. He is so darling, and makes me smile every time I see him. I also noticed that your laugh sounded even more comfortable too. It's good to hear that you were enjoying it as much as he was. You two make a great team. Bless, Sheila

Elizabeth L. Johnson said...

Yes, Herrick, I agree with Sheila that hearing your voices was really neat! Loved the video! Thanks for sharing your life with us. Futureman sure looks like his dad.

Herrick Kimball said...

Elizabeth, Sheila, Jeff, Pam, Chris, Everett, Mike, Charlie—

I appreciate your comments, insights and answers very much.

And I hope to get back to blogging here very soon!