Chicks

Tips for working with Hardware Cloth (and the start of my DIY 40 bird mobile brooder)

Joel Salatin at Polyface Farm provides the inspiration for almost every piece of the farm model. However the goal is to keep all of the livestock infrastructure mobile in hopes of expanding to rented land in the future. Therefore everything must fit on a 12 foot trailer for transportation.

Clothing:

Unwelded edges of hardware cloth is very nasty so gloves and long sleeves/pants will prevent many many scratches.

Cutting:

Tin snips or shears rated for 20 gauge steel cut through 19 gauge hardware cloth like scissors through construction paper. This was made apparent after a few frustrating minutes attempting to cut the material with a fence tool then large cutting pliers.

Additionally, working solo required large rocks to weight down the hardware cloth whose memory of being in a tightly wound roll was apparent. Below you can see the large rock used to hold the loose end of the roll in front of the gate. Another rock was used as a chock to keep the rest of the wound material from rolling.

HardwareCloth

Predator proofing, not flooring:

Predation is the biggest concern through the entire lifespan of chicks here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Specifically, rats are known to carry many live chicks to their nest at a time and repeat the process every night. As such, the role of hardware cloth in the brooder is not to supply flooring, but to prevent access to rats. As a matter of fact mesh, wire and hardware cloth can damage a chicks feet, permanently stunting its growth. When complete, the floor shown below will be buried under about 18 inches of bedding material.

Attaching to Wood

I am still experimenting with the staples so I can’t give much advice. Hardware cloth has some jagged edges that love to dig in to the wood and wedge itself in the wrong position. It is a very frustrating material to work with!

Letting the convex side of the mesh (in regards to the curve memory from being in a spool) sit into the wooden frame helped in a few ways: Will protect the excess material from dragging on the ground when brooder is complete and flipped over, let me stretch material with pliers if I needed a bit more to hold the staple, and it let me drive one side of staple partially in to allow a bit of play before the hardware cloth is permanently attached (Shown below).

 

BrooderFloorTeaser

 

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Chicks

First farm-related purchase made!

Despite the size of the purchase, I find great excitement in taking the first step out of the abstract by ordering a physical product! Here are the chicken watering nipples!

NipplePurchase

 

I will also be flying home from the Middle East for thanksgiving break, so please forgive the lack of updates for the next few days!

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Chicks

Modelling the HenMobile

Eggs will be a useful and economical byproduct of pasture sanitation. The chickens will follow the cow rotation on a 5 day delay to allow fly eggs to be laid and hatched in the cow manure. In order to get to their nutritious meal, the chickens will scratch and fling the manure. First this process distributes the manure so the cows can re-graze the entire paddock upon pasture regeneration. The nutrients in the manure are broadcast so they build soil more evenly opposed to inundating patches with the acute manure piles. Lastly, the scattering of manure helps to break and prevent pathogen growth cycles.

My mobile chicken house will provide water, shade during the day and predator protection at night when the chickens are enclosed within. Half inch, 19 gauge hardware cloth will let excrement fall through further fertilizing the pasture while keeping snakes and predators out. Water will be provided via an old 6.5 gallon bottling bucket retired from brewing beer. Via gravity, a short length of hose will feed water to nipples on a pvc pipe. The nesting boxes will be accessible from the outside for easy egg retrieval.

I have not decided on a trailer base for the henmobile, so I put it on a generic 4×8 utility trailer for reference. There are no structural considerations in my model yet. Without further ado, here is the hen mobile modelled in Sketchup!

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