Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Maiden Voyage

The New Pen

Salatin Type Pen

I have been trying to come up with a broiler chicken field pen design that would work better for me than the Salatin type pen (Joel Salatin is the Guru of modern pastured poultry). His style of pens (bottom picture) are 10x12 and 2 feet high. We have been using this design for the past 5 years or so. The nice thing about them is that they are quick to build and have a low profile, which helps them blend into the landscape and keeps them from blowing away in wind storms. What I dislike about them is that they are hard to get the chickens back out of when their time comes. Also there are times when we have too much rain for the ground to absorb and water starts to run into the pens. If these chickens can't get dry because they are sitting in a puddle they get hypothermia, and that's it for them. More than once I have been out in a torrential downpour at some wee hour of the morning trying to spread hay out under the covered part of these pens. The hay lets the chickens get up out of the water and they soon dry off. Another trouble is that it is hard to see if the chickens are out of the way of the trailing edge of the pen or the dolly it rolls on, which makes moving the pens a little nerve wracking.

I built at similar shelter to the new pen last year for the turkeys. The fatal flaw on the turkey tunnel was that I didn't enclose the ends at all, which apparently made it close enough in design to a hang glider, and it took off in an October thunder storm (see archives). The turkey tunnel hoops were made out of steel rebar which made them remember every way they had ever been mistreated. The final insult was about 8 inches of wet snow which flattened it beyond repair.

The newly built field pen is almost identical to the turkey tunnel except that it is half of the length, the ends are closed in, and the hoops are made out of 1 1/2 inch PVC pipe. We will need a couple of 60 mph windstorms to decide if the new design works better for us, but we generally get a few of those a year, so we should know in a few months


Anonymous Nicola said...

OK, how do the chickens stay drier in the new pen?

Are you able to see more when moving the new pen because there's a greater height between the bottom and the level you have covered with the tarp?

Have you had any windstorms yet to test if these are more stable than the turkey ones? I hope these are doing better! Maybe you can sell Salatin and his followers a little booklet with directions for building your improved design!

7/23/2006 06:01:00 PM  
Blogger Peter comly said...

Hey Nicola,
They don't stay drier, but it is easier to get into the pen to spread out some hay so that they can get up off of the wet ground and dry off. The real trouble with running over chickens with the Salatin pens comes when the enclosed end is the trailing end because you just can't see if they are out of the way, because its dark in there and the low roof keeps you from getting a good vantage point.

I haven't had any 60mph winds to check it out on as far as keeping them on the ground, but I am sure we will get one one of these days.

7/25/2006 09:48:00 PM  

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