Tag Archives: Second time’s a charm?

Winnebeggo v2.0

13 Jun

Well, it took us two years, but we outgrew the Winnebeggo v1.0.  Ok, we really outgrew it last year, but I needed a winter to come up with the next iteration.  So, everyone, it is with great anticipation that I introduce the Winnebeggo v2.0.

We start the whole thing off with the same base frame as the Winnebeggo 1.0, a 10′ x 20′ frame bolted to the top of an old running gear. The top structure is going to be made of 10′ hoops of 3/4″ conduit that we made with our hoop bending jig.  Hoops (and their accompanying crossbeam on the base) are spaced every 4′.




After all the hoops and their uprights are witness marked and labeled(zoom in on the pic to see them where the upright 2×4’s meet the base), the whole upright and hoop part can be taken back down.  Through the middle you may notice that smaller crossbeams have been added every 16″ where the walkway will be.  Oh, and you’ll also have noticed all the boards running lengthwise that we added to the base; those are some 1×3 furring strips (which are really cheap) that will serve to distribute the weight a little bit.

Notice that we’ve left a nice wide, well-supported aisle down through the middle of the Winnebeggo.  That ought to let us walk down the length of the whole contraption to get access to all the nooks and crannies.  Believe me, you’ll need to eventually and sooner than you think.

So after that little carpentry project, we’ll take all the uprights down, stripping it all back down to the base.

No really, take them all down, because that’ll make the next part much easier.




We took delivery of this lovely 200-plus pound roll of wire mesh.  This stuff is 1″x1″ mesh that is 5′ wide.

Roll it up onto the wagon using a ramp made of extra boards and get ready to staple.




Two passes is all it should take, for a total of 40′ of mesh.

After it’s all down you can go back and cut out the holes where the uprights will need to go back in.  This is where all the witness marks and labeling will come in real handy.




Skin the whole contraption in sheet metal and it really starts to look like something.




Next up, add in a whole lot of roosting bars.  Ideally this shelter will accommodate 250 hens, so at 1.1′ of roost bar space per hen you’ll need 275 linear feet of roosting bars, or just under fourteen 2″x4″x10′ boards that have been ripped in half.




Last year we ran into trouble with the Winnebeggo v1.0 when we tried to put out all our hens on pasture.  While we had plenty of roost bars for everyone, but lots of our hens were not going into the Winnebeggo at night.  We figured out that the problem was that the hens were feeling a bit cramped.  Everything started working a lot better when we removed about half the hens.

As with most things I build, I try to look online for the correct values to tell me what size to build things.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the information I was looking for.  Turns out there aren’t a whole lot of pastured-roost builders out there, and fewer still who put all the technical details online.

So here you go internet, here’s my hard-earned research on the subject.

Winnebeggo v1.0

Volume – 660ft³

Hen capacity – 220

Volume/hen – 3ft³

Winnebeggo v2.0

Volume – 800ft³

Hen capacity – 250

Volume/hen – 3.2ft³


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So we’ve been using the new Winnebeggo v2.0 for just over a month now, and other than a little nestbox-training that was necessary, we’ve been really happy with it.  I cannot emphasize how nice it is to be able to have a full-size human walkway through the length of the Winnebeggo.  It is inevetable that one will need to access some seldom-used corner of the Winnebeggo, so it’s nice not to have to crab-walk awkwardly through a confined space to do so.  The chickens seem pretty happy in the new Winnebeggo too.  And in a final measure of improvement, the percentage of chickens who have trouble figureing out how to go in at night has dropped, from 10% with the Winnebeggo v1.0 down to a mere 3% with the new version.

What about the nestboxes though?  We got rid of the integrated nestboxes of the Winnebeggo v1.0, so we had to figure out something a little different.  Stay tuned for that riveting saga…


Evolution of a chicken feeder

30 Aug

We’ve been searching for a good chicken feeder solution while the chickens are out on pasture.  Sure, we’ve been using the regular 30 or 40 pound tube feeders, but they need a roof over them and that makes them impractical for pasture use.  We tried a big homemade hopper feeder on the Chuck Wagon earlier this year, but that was a dismal failure.  What we needed was a feeder that was weather proof, had lots of linear inches of feeder space and was easily moved to a new pasture.  Bonus points were awarded for keeping the chicken feed inaccessible to cows or pigs, since pasture co-habitation is an occasional reality (intentional or not).


Chicken Cafeteria v0.1 (proof of concept)

Version Notes: lots of linear inches of feeder space, easily moved.




Chicken Cafeteria v0.2

Changelog: added hinged roof

Version Notes: quite weather resistant, chickens prefer to perch on the gutters while they eat.




Chicken Cafeteria v0.5


fixed floppy-gutter, switched from vinyl to aluminum gutter

improved foot-rail usage by implementing a flat rail

added anti-perch roller

added tow points

Version Notes: foot-rail usage much improved, anti-perch roller ineffective, potential runner wear issues.




Chicken Cafeteria v1.0


improved foot-rail & gutter height to reduce feed waste

modified runners to improve towing performance/wear

lowered roof height to reduce non-poultry feed access

added anti-scratch/anti-perch screen

Version Notes: This is it! Detailed DIY instructions coming soon…

Big Wheels Keep On Turnin’

9 Oct


We’re not quite done with our first market season with the new (to us) display freezer and we’re completely in love with it.  We happened upon it last winter on Craigslist for $150; worth every penny.

If you, out there in internet land, sell meat at a farmers market and you don’t already have one, go get yourself a display freezer ASAP.

While we tried to outfit our freezer the best we could ahead of time, one weakness has already reared it’s head, the big wheels weren’t big enough.


The 5″ casters were plenty big for the (now defunct) egg refrigerator, but not quite up to the task of dealing with a full 7 cubic foot display freezer.


If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  But this time with mild steel, a welder and bigger wheels.


Fits just right.

And don’t worry, the old wheels are making themselves useful on the farmers market cart these days.  Waste not.

Turkeys: take two

21 Jul


Earlier this month, against our better judgement we got a few turkeys.  We’ve been (understandably) gun-shy about getting more turkeys after our big disaster with them the first time.


But we sure didn’t like having to go buy a turkey for Thanksgiving last year either.  So turkeys it is.

Twenty Bourbon Reds.  Just enough to have a couple for the big fall feast.  They’re awfully expensive little guys.  It’s already $11 for each chick (poult if you want to get all technically-correct) and another $10 for butchering when the time comes.  Add in all the time and feed we’ll put in them in the next 5 months and they’re gonna cost a bit more than you’re average butterball.

Spring Farrowing 2015

18 Mar


Today we pretty much finished up all the action around our spring farrowing.  We ear-notched, castrated and weighed all the piglets, situated the last sow in the barn and did a bit of doctoring on another sow.


Our three sows have a grand total of 18 piglets between them this spring.  That’s not so great when you consider that we’re aiming for at least 8 pigs per litter, or 24 from three sows.

While I’ve been ruminating about which of my spotted sows I should keep a daughter from, our Large Black sow comes along with the best litter.  It’s a bit of a hassle keeping the detailed farrowing records that I do, but it does give me a lot of good data to use.

Here’s a peek at the numbers from the last two farrowings.

Margo (Large Black)

14 live piglets, 1 mortality 4.9# average weight (@72hrs.)

Annette (G.O.S.)

14 live piglets, 3 mortalities 3.24# average weight (@72hrs.)

Dottie (Spotted)

12 live piglets, 15 mortalities 3.2# average weight (@72hrs.)

With it all there in black-and-white it’s pretty clear who isn’t making the cut.

Baby Pigs!

9 Jul


Well after a year or so of raising pigs we finally had our first successful farrowing on the farm!

Trixie, one of our Large Black sows had a litter of 6 piglets early Monday morning.


Five of them have now made it through the “danger zone” of the first 3 days when they’re most likely to accidentally get killed or injured by their mother.  Sadly there was one little boar pig who got stepped on and didn’t make it.

The other boar and his four sisters all got their first checkup this morning.


The little fella eyeballing the camera just went from a boar to a barrow (he was castrated). All of the piglets got weighed and ear-notched. This ought to help us keep tabs on their growth and make better decisions about our breeding program going forward.
I’m now convinced that ear-notching is the way to go with pigs. The little guys hardly seem to mind it, protesting at being held immobile without so much as a whimper at their ears notched. Plus we have several pigs with ear tags and I’m not all that impressed with how they hold up to the rough-and-tumble antics of pastured pigs. The tags work fine for feeder pigs, but by the time a pig is big enough to breed the tags are all but illegible. Annette, our GOS gilt, is our only breeding stock with an ear-tag. Being purebred, she is also ear notched, as required by most breed registries.

Chicken Pen Changes

29 May


We aim to try to learn from our mistakes. So in that spirit, I present you a few little tweaks that we’re making to our pastured poultry pens and chicken waterers that we’re making this year.

After a few of our pens went blowin’ in the wind last year, it looked like a little reinforcement of some key parts were in order for this year. The initial design goal was 2+ years of minimal maintenance, and after last year we had 66% of our pens in need of significant repairs.
The worst repairs are those to the wooden frame. Everything else attaches to the frame, so if the frame gets fragged, everything else has to come off to fix it. Last years frames had some issues, mainly a tendency to “toe-out” the big runner boards.


That’s being addressed this year with a few more/bigger fasteners, and the addition of an “L” bracket low in each corner.


The rest of the pens went together pretty much the same as last year, with the exception of the funky recycled-campaign-sign “skins.” Seeing as how this is not an election year (at least not a big one) the recycled campaign signs were in short supply. We made due with a few “heavy-duty” silver tarps. Here’s hoping that they’re heavy enough to last until next year. We’ve got a big election season lined up, so there ought to be plenty of nice campaign signs to use next year.


We had just enough leftover signs to finish out the sides. The chickens don’t seem to care one way or the other…


The last change we’ve made is to the pasture chicken waterers. The nylon fittings we were using to attach hoses to the buckets were prone to cracking after the first year. We’ve moved to using bottling bucket spigots in place of the nylon fittings. These spigots are a few bucks more, but they have gaskets on both sides of the bucket so they’re much less likely to crack the thin plastic of the bucket.

Brooding Chicks

22 Apr

So with it being spring we decided to get started with raising some meat chickens.  We thought we’d get a batch of cornish-cross chickens started and hopefully have them ready to go by the time that our markets all start up in June.  Last year we didn’t really have any chickens for sale until July, and we wanted to have some ready earlier this year.

Unfortunately, we hadn’t fully thought through our little plan.

You see, it’s Minnesota, and even in the spring it’s not exactly balmy.  Chicks need it to be balmy, like 90°F balmy.  So when we setup the brooder that we’d used all last summer and fall, we quickly ran into problems getting everything up to a comfortable (read: survivable) temperature for the chicks.

Heat lamp bulbs were swapped to the more powerful variety, but to no avail, still too cold for chicks.  The old hover brooder just wasn’t cutting it.


So I quickly slapped together a bigger badder hover brooder.  With 1000 watts of electric heat at our disposal, the new brooder was sure to keep everybody toasty, right?


Wrong.  Still too cold.

Add to that a wet floor from recent rains, and we had to take some drastic measures.

Chicks were all whisked away to the hayloft of the barn, where the chicken pens have been snoozing all winter.  Brooders were shoehorned into chicken pens, along with every available heat lamp.  Chicken pens were covered with tarps to keep in the precious heat. Still no dice.

We had run out of good ideas.  We had reached the point where there was nothing left to do but overcome the weather with raw power.  Our last-ditch effort was to throw a spare electric space heater into the chicken pen-nee-tent and set it to “incinerate.”

Luckily, it seems to have worked.  Ambient temps in the chicken pen are now up to 80°F which means that the temps under the brooders are perfectly toasty for all the chicks.


And it only took 2875 watts of electricity to accomplish.  Yikes.

Next year we may be back to starting chicks a month later, it may be the only affordable way to raise them in this climate.

Hover Brooder Mod

11 Nov

A few weeks ago when I was getting ready for the new chicks I made them a nice little hover brooder.  I got the basic idea from Bruce King’s hover brooder, but mine’s only 3’x3′ because I was a bit short of a full sheet.

The hover brooder was working great until I went out to check on the chicks this evening.  The brooder was dark, and both bulbs were on the ground outside.  All the chicks were huddled together underneath.


It looks like the little buggers got feisty and decided it would be great fun to jump on top of the heat lamps. Natrually, the heat lamps are not designed to support roosting chicks, so they broke off at the base.


Fortunately, these bases were much easier to remove from their sockets than some I’ve dealt with lately.

To prevent any further chicken-stupidity I added one little modification to the brooder.  Two bits of hardware cloth now wrap around the bulb and socket to prevent any chicks from getting on top of the bulb.




19 Apr

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When I checked the incubator last night before bed, I thought I heard a few eggs peeping.

New Chicks!


Sure enough, this morning there were two little chicks in the hatching tray, with another half-dozen eggs pipping.


Cinco looking at baby chicks

Cinco loves baby chicks.