Broilers, dale339, Porter Valley Farms

Catch-up Post

Since we just started this website and we got our broilers back in March, I wanted to do a post to catch everyone up on our broilers.  First, we had to build a chicken tractor.  We used the design created by John Suscovich (look him up on YouTube).  There were three things we liked about the design…

  1.  It was simple and looked easy to build.
  2.  It seemed very mobile and easy to move.
  3.  It was large enough to get inside with the chickens.

You can order a book from John on how to build these.  The book has a material list, measurements, and step-by-step instructions.  Or, if you’re adventurous you can just look at the video like we did and take a stab at it without instructions.  Here’s a couple of pics during construction…

And here is the finished product, on March 20th, ready for chickens…

On March 21, the baby chicks arrived.  We ordered a straight-run of 25 Cornish-cross chicks.  A straight-run means that the chickens haven’t been sexed (sorted into males and females).  For meat birds, the roosters are preferred because they get larger than the hens, but when you order straight-runs, the birds are usually cheaper.  A Cornish-cross is a cross between a Cornish chicken and a Plymouth Barred Rock chicken.  It’s a breed that reaches processing size in as little as 8 weeks!  When they arrive at the post office they are 2 days old.  We keep them in a brooder with a heat lamp for the first two weeks then move them into the tractor.  Although we ordered 25, we had 26 in the box when we picked them up at the post office…


By March 27th, we had lost one chick and had four others sick!  We determined it was coccidiosis so we separated them from the others and put Corid in their drinking water.  Although these are birds we plan to eat, not sell, Corid is not an antibiotic and will not affect their organic status.  Out of these four birds, one was too sick and did not pull through.  Although we only lost two chicks, it was two chicks out of 26.  That’s a 7.6% mortality rate, so not so great numbers.


By March 30th, the weather was warm enough that we felt we could safely move them from the brooder into the tractor.  While they are still small, the tractor does not have to be moved daily.

in the tractor

In addition to the fresh green grass and insects, we feed our chickens a quick-starter grower that is USDA certified organic, non-GMO verified, and from a certified safe food/safe feed facility.  It’s an expensive feed, but we are attempting to raise the healthiest chickens possible…


By April 10th, they are all thriving, but they are no longer cute little baby chicks…

ugly chicks

Fast forward to April 25th.  Look at how much they’ve grown in two weeks!  Also, notice that I’ve removed the baby chick feeder and water jar.  To water them, we ordered chicken watering nipples and installed them on the bottom of a 5-gallon bucket.  They learn real fast how to drink from this contraption.  To feed them, I made a trough out of a large PVC pipe and suspended it from the ceiling.  At this point, we are moving the tractor every day and the feeder and water bucket now move with it.  A tip – move the tractor to a fresh patch of grass before you enter to feed them and water them.  Otherwise, you will be walking in a lot of chicken poop.


May 3rd, these birds are beginning to look like broilers…

last week

May 8th.  Two weeks until processing time…

We had one chicken that was not doing well.  The bird was not growing and acted sick.  We removed it from the flock and disposed of it.  Then, on the same day that the above pics were taken, we discovered another sick chicken in the tractor.  However, this one looked fat and healthy, it just could not walk.  Long story short, the bird had Enterococcal Spondylitis (or ES).  It’s a severe degenerative bone disease affecting broilers world-wide.  The fact that the bird was hock-sitting indicated the disease was advanced, so we put the chicken out of its misery.  To prevent this, you have to supplement their diets with vitamin D3 and reduce early growth rate.  It is treatable and you can find out all about it via Google.


That brings us up to the present.  We are going to have to purchase a plucker in the next couple of weeks.  We will probably get the one offered at Tractor Supply for home use.  Anything we sell commercially will have to be processed by a USDA certified processing facility.  We are also going to purchase a couple of killing cones, a turkey fryer to scald the birds, and some heat-shrink bags to wrap them prior to freezing.

[Every day is a good day to be on the farm.]


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