Tag Archives: Feed

Chicken Cafeteria v1.0

3 Oct


60# feed capacity (two 5-gallon buckets) accommodates 125 pastured layers.

Weatherproof and resistant to other species of livestock.

Dual tow-points for easy moving by hand, ATV, truck, tractor or unicycle.


Materials list:

1x    2″x6″x 12′ pressure treated board

1x    12′ pro-rib panel (steel roof panel)

1x    24″x 10′ section of 2″x 4″ horse fence

2x    2″x4″x 12′ pressure treated board

2x    5″x 10′ steel K-gutter

4x    2-hole 3/4″ EMT conduit straps

4x    5″ K-gutter end caps (two left, two right)

6x    3/4″x 10′ EMT conduit

6x    1/4″x 4″ carriage bolts

8x    1/4″x 3″ carriage bolts

12x    Gutter hangers


All that ought to run you just about $115 nowadays.

So now that we’ve got all the stuff we need, lets build one, shall we?


Step one:  lay out 4 sticks of conduit along side your trusty tape measure and mark them at the following points  6″ 20″ 22″ 24″ 36″ 48″ 72″ 106″ 114″

Step two: fetch your 3/4″ EMT conduit bender and get bending as follows

1 – @6″ bend 90º+

2 – @7″ increase bend to 110º-115º

3 – @24″ bend 90º


4 – @36″ bend 75º  (you’ll need to get the piece up on a workbench to make this bend, so be careful up there)


5 – @48″ rotate conduit 90º and bend 90º  (bend two of them one direction, and two of them the opposite direction, you’ll see why in step 5)


6 – @72″ bend 45º

7 – @106″ bend 30º from opposite direction


Step three: fetch your 5/16″ drill and drill holes at 20″ & 22″

Step four: mark out and drill holes in each end of your 2×6 as follows


Step five: bolt your noodly-looking conduit to your 2×6 with the 4″ carriage bolts


Step six: drill holes in the conduit at 36″ and drill corresponding holes in your 2×4’s and bolt them all together with a few 3″ carriage bolts while you’re at it


Step seven: drill holes in the big fat middle of the foot rail (should roughly correspond to the 114″ mark on the conduit) and bolt it together with a 4″ carriage bolts.


Step seven and a half: Make a little brace to help hold up the middle of the foot rail.  Just a 24″(ish) bit of conduit bent at about 90º in the middle ought to do it.  Hammer the ends flat, drill some 5/16″ holes and attach the middle of the brace to the 2×6 with a conduit strap.


Step eight: attach gutters flush to the top of the 2×6 with all those lovely gutter hanger screws, don’t forget to wedge that bit of 2×4 wire fence in there too.


Step nine: Slip a 1.5″ length of 1/2″ EMT conduit into the 3/4″ hole in each end of the 2×6 and loop some #9 wire through there.


Step ten: Make the roof.  Bend three (approximately) 24″ pieces of 3/4 conduit in the middle so that they roughly match the angle of the feeder base.  Attach the bend bits to a full length stick of conduit with conduit straps.  Attach this conduit “skeleton” to the sheet of steel roofing and you’ve got yourself a feeder roof.


Step eleven: Attach the roof.  Two bolts for hinges, two bolts for “stops” and a bit of chain to keep it all from flopping about.  You get the idea.


And now you’ve got yourself a genuine Chicken Cafeteria v1.0


Earlier this summer as I was in the midst of refining this design I happened across a mention of a similar feeder in Lucie Amundson’s book.  She talked, in passing, about a chicken feeder made out of rain gutters that they’d learned how to make from a farmer in Delaware(?).  That immediately sent me looking about on the internet for more information, which was a frustratingly fruitless endeavor.

This brings me to a quote from another recent read: The Secret of Our Success: how culture is driving human evolution, domesticating our species and making us smarter by Joseph Henrich.

“With the spread of the internet, our collective brains have the potential to expand dramatically, although differences in languages will still prevent a truly global collective brain.  The other challenge to expanding our collective brains on the internet is the same one that we’ve always faced: the cooperative dilemma of sharing information.  Without social norms or some sort of institutions, self-interest will favor individuals who cream off all the good ideas and insights from the web without posting their own good ideas and novel recombinations for others to use. Right now, there seem to be sufficient incentives, often based on acquiring prestige, but that may change as new strategies spread that allow people to get the informational benefits without paying the costs. A key issue will be the degree to which prosocial norms for information sharing can be sustained on the internet over the long run.”


So go share some information on the internet or sumthin’

Chuck Wagon

29 May

We recently refitted the Winnebeggo to include a lot of new roost bars that were needed to accommodate all the new hens that will be calling the Winnebeggo home this summer.


All the new roost bars made it necessary to remove the 55 gallon barrel that was the heart of the winnebeggo’s watering system.  Couple this with the fact that accessing the 30 pound hanging feeders under the sides of the Winnebeggo was becoming a pain in the neck, and we began to dream up a different solution to keeping the chickens fed and watered out on pasture.


And so the Chuck Wagon was born.  We acquired an extra running gear last year for a good price, so we promptly added a few 4×4’s to form a solid base and strapped on the single biggest water container that we have.

The chickens now enjoy a massive 325 gallon water reservoir in the form of a big IBC tote that we intended to use this past winter for the Mega-Waterer 2.0

As with anything that’s going to be bumping around the pasture, keeping things in their place is always a concern.  We (probably) addressed this well enough with a big handful of conduit clamps.


The water distribution is pretty simple given the relatively compact layout of the chuck wagon.  The IBC tote feeds two waterers, each housing 10 nipples each.


There is also a hose with it’s own valve.  The hose has the Plasson quick-connect fitting that allows us to fill the tote with water from any of our pasture water fittings.  This also allows us a hose to fill up the dog’s water bowl, or give something a quick rinsing-off out in the pasture.


And that brings us to the other half of the chuck wagon equation, the feed.  Bedecking the chuck wagon in a dozen or so hanging feeders didn’t sound like a great idea, so we had to come up with another kind of feeder.


We ended up with a pair of big hoppers made out of 1/2″ pressure-treated plywood.  The hoppers are 4′ wide, 21″ across the top and 3″ wide at the bottom.


Oh, and each hopper has a bottom that’s made out of a 1″x10″ on the bottom and 1″x6″ sides.   To keep it all upright during it’s pasture travels, both hoppers are braced together and to the 4×4 beams.


After adding a few bits of roof to the feeders, it was nearly time to fill them up with feed to see how much they’d hold.


The answer we got was 21 buckets, or about 650# of feed in each feeder, for a total of 1300 pounds.  Between the 1300# of feed and the 325 gallons of water, we’ve cut down our labor in feeding and watering chickens significantly.

The Chuck Wagon was not without it’s shortcomings. The first few days of use saw several intense rainstorms, which pointed to a need for more protection for the bottom of  the feeders.


We quickly sorted it all out with a few extra scraps of metal roofing.


The chickens approve.


All 450 of them have been out on pasture for nearly a week now and they appear to be quite happy.

Feed Mixes – Sow & Layer

6 Dec

I get asked all the time what we feed our chickens/pigs/cows. People want to know, and rightfully so. So here it is. This is the feed mix I came up with that I’m about to order for the chickens (the vast majority of which are pullets who are just starting to lay).

Green Machine Layer Feed
Corn – 750#
Barley  –  500#
Roasted Soybeans – 300#
Linseed Meal  –  200#
Alfalfa Meal – 100#
Oyster Shell – 100#
Premix  –  50#

CP – 15.5%

Openness and transparency and all that.

But mainly I’m just an internet-dependent fellow who knows that if I put my feed recipes up on on the internet then I will always be able to find them.

Green Machine Gestating Sow Feed
Oats – 1750#
Linseed Meal – 100#
Alfalfa Meal – 100#
Premix – 50#

CP – 12%

I’ve been messing around with feed rations for a while now, trying to work as much of the corn & soy out of the mix as I can. The most frequent request from customers and prospective customers is that the feeds be GMO free. As I can’t buy any non-GMO corn or soybeans around here, that leaves me to experiment with the non-GMO feed ingredients I can get locally. The list is pretty short, though it’s a lot better than it was a year or two ago.

Oats – 11% CP
Barley 11.5% CP (farm-grown)
Alfalfa Meal – 18% CP
Linseed Meal – 34% CP

Chicken Feeders

4 Dec


We keep getting more chickens, which means that we keep outgrowing the chicken equipment that we already have.
No sooner than I found a newer better brand of 30lb. chicken feeder did we move on to 40lb. feeders, and lots of them.


If you find yourself in the market for a 30lb. chicken feeder you can’t really do better than the Harris Farms free range feeder.  They’re mostly identical to the standard Miller/Little Giant 30lb. feeder but they do have one much-needed improvement.


The Harris Farms feeders have a little spring integrated into the hooks on the pan.  The springs may not look like much, but they keep the pan attached to the tube when empty.  My biggest complaint about the Millers is the constant need to reattach the pan to the tube.


That being said, we’ve recently moved on to the 40lb. Miller/Little Giant feeders which are quite a lot better than their smaller brethren.  For some reason they don’t have the same problem with pan-tube detachment even though they lack springs.  They also have a slightly wider and deeper pan, which makes it harder for the chickens to waste feed.


I’ve got my method of hanging chicken feeders pretty nailed-down by now.  I use a hook in the ceiling of the coop, a bit of small chain and a double snap hook to hang the feeder.  Cut a long enough piece of chain that your smallest feeder will just touch the floor, that’s as much chain as you should ever need. The feeders can be slowly raised over the course of the winter as the bedding builds up.


30 Jun

Here’s a little something for all my fellow farmers that I just stumbled across today.


A ton of good information on forages, grains and the like.

Much helpful.

Trough full of Piglets

12 Apr



The piglets are old enough to be transitioning over to feed. Today I gave them their first trough of feed in their creep area. I wondered if they’d be interested.  The answer was yes, they will be quite interested, if a bit unsure of how this eating-from-a-trough thing works.

In an effort to get another litter of piglets in the warmer months, I’m going to speed up weaning piglets.  I’ll be shooting for 5 weeks, which is not fast by commercial standards, but a fair bit quicker than the 8.5 weeks we were using last year.

The piglets will be lighter when they’re weaned, which means they’ll need the smaller “shoat” rings in their noses. It should mainly be a matter of keeping my eye on the two runts (from the same litter, guess who’s?)

Outdoor Pig Feeders

18 Mar


I just picked up this pair of used outdoor pig feeders for a song.


The old modified Smidley feeder wasn’t quite cutting it anymore.  In it’s defense, the Smidley was a calf creep feeder, so it was not designed with swine in mind. As such, the pigs made a big mess out of eating their feed from it, wasting feed and attracting rodents. Another downside of the Smidley was it’s linear layout, which lead to too much jostling and fighting amongst the pigs as they ate alongside their peers.

Now we can move the feeders around to different paddocks without worrying about spoilage, spillage or any of the rest.  Plus, with it’s new-and-improved circular shape, the pigs don’t fight for space nearly to the extent they did with the Smidley.

These new feeders hold quite a bit of feed, more than I probably care to use at this point.  They have two “rings” which means that they’ll hold about 65 bushels (or 3500#) of feed.  We’re planning on rotating the pigs through different paddocks on a semi-weekly basis, which means that we’ll need the feeders to be empty on a semi-weekly basis.  We can always remove a ring to make a 40 bushel (2400#) feeder if we find that the smaller size works better for us.

And when the galvanized-steel bottom finally rusts out, we can always order up one of the newer fiberglass/plastic bottoms to bolt right on to the top we already have.


Distillers Grain Handling

6 Nov


So we’ve got a few months experience with feeding wet distillers grain, and we’ve come up with a few things that make our lives a bit easier.

Picking up the grains from the distillery is pretty simple.  We drop off an empty 275 gallon IBC tote, and they load a full tote in the back of our truck with a forklift.

At home we have a bigger 325 gallon IBC tote for a “holding tank” that we transfer the newly-gotten grains into.  This keeps us from having to lift a full 1-ton tote out of the truck with the front-end loader of the tractor.


So far we’ve been feeding the distillers grains mixed with cracked corn.  We have the “holding tank” up on two pallets, the perfect height to get a 5-gallon bucket underneath.  A bucket usually gets about 2/3 distillers grain and then topped off with cracked corn.  No need to mix, just pour it in the trough.  The pigs take care of the mixing as they root through it trying to hoover up all the corn first.

Anyway, to transfer the grains from the “pickup” tank to the “holding” tank we connect a 2″ suction-hose to the valve on the bottom of each tank and let gravity do the rest.  Keep in mind that the “pickup” tank is on a pallet in the bed of our truck, a good 3′ or so off the ground, plenty of room for gravity to work it’s magic.

At least that’s how it’s supposed to go…

In reality the bigger particles of grain tend to settle to the bottom of the tank.  Those bigger particles have a nasty habit of clogging up the valve and/or hose, bringing the whole gravity-assisted transfer to a grinding halt.

We’ve tried lifting the pickup tote higher (to increase the hydraulic head) with the tractor.

We’ve tried blowing compressed air into the pickup tote to push the grains through with pneumatic pressure.

None of it works very well.


Except this.

This is the best option we’ve come up with so far.  It’s a leftover scrap of 1/2 EMT conduit attached to a leftover scrap of garden hose.  Very fancy.


We smashed the end of the conduit flat-ish with a hammer.

To use this very fancy piece of equipment, just stick it down into the full tote of grains with the smashed end pointing toward the valve.


Attach it to the spray-handle of your regular garden hose and let ‘er rip. By constantly adding a little bit of water right around the valve, where the grain tends to plug up, it keeps it all flowing quite nicely.

Adding water to the grain mix will result in a little more volume, but after a day or so of sitting in the holding tank the grain will have settled out again, and the excess water can be siphoned off or drained out.

While this is working out pretty well for us right now, we’re quickly approaching the time of year that this will no longer be feasible. I don’t want to be fooling around spraying water everywhere when it’s well below freezing outside.

I’m looking into unloading the totes straight into troughs for the winter months, bypassing the holding tank completely. Without water to aid in the unloading process I think I’ll have to bite the bullet and buy a trash-pump to facilitate the transfer.

A Quick Illustration of the Absurdity of Commodity Markets

5 Nov


Lets just say you bought a feeder pig in June.

That pig would have weighed about 50lbs. and cost you a princely sum of $70.00

Five months have passed and now you’re little feeder pig has grown into a full-fledged market hog.

You’ve spend five months feeding and caring for the little guy (or gal) and you bought enough feed in June to raise your pig to maturity for the price of $89.75 (corn & soy only at June 2014 market prices)


Pig cost – $70

Feed cost – $89.75

Total – $159.75

You load up your pig and haul him/her (for free) to the auction barn to be sold.



Your hog sells for $142.50

Congratulations, you make a gross profit of -$17.25

That’s right, you’ve just paid $17.25 for the privilege of raising a pig.

Oh, and lets not forget the $0.57 you owe the National Pork Board.

Minnesota Moonshine, our new Pig Feed.

4 Jul


Yep, you read that right, we’re getting the pigs all liquored up!

Well, not really liquored up, but they are getting some tasty new feed courtesy of one of Minnesota’s newest distilleries!
I took a quick trip up to St.Paul last week to meet Bob McManus of 11 Wells distillery and pick up a load of the spent grains.


Historically, breweries, distilleries and farmers have had a very productive relationship. Breweries and distilleries all make a lot of so-called “spent-grains” in the production of their delicious libations, and we farmers are more than happy to dispose of those grains for them. This saves the distillery money because they don’t have to pay to dispose of their “waste” product, and it saves us farmers money on feed for our livestock.

I’m particularly excited that 11 wells is primarily using a heritage variety of corn called Minnesota 13. This particular variety of corn has a long and storied history of use in making moonshine in Minnesota and it makes a wonderful feed for our pigs. The distilling process takes almost all of the starch out of the corn (and wheat, oats, rye, etc.), leaving a high-protein, high-fiber liquid feed supplement.

The biggest problem for us as farmers is learning how to handle this new form of feed.
For starters we got our hands on a big 325 gallon IBC tote to hold the mash (grain & water mix).


I was thrilled to find out that IBC totes have standard 2″ threads on the big ball valve at the bottom of the tank. That means that most standard 2″ pump fittings will spin right on, like this quick-release hose fitting.

Feeding the new stuff is a bit different than feeding a dry feed. The wet distillers grains need to be mixed with a starch (corn) to be a well-rounded feed for the pigs. I’ve experimented with ground, cracked and whole corn and I prefer mixing the cracked corn.


The pigs don’t care what form the corn is in. They absolutely inhale the stuff in any form.
So far it’s a bit more work and a bit less expensive than using a dry feed. I’m sure that with more experience we’ll iron out the kinks and get a fairly streamlined system for handling the wet distillers grains.