I have previously posted numerous descriptions about the evils of the CAFO chicken factory. I believe in pastured poultry. However, that's kind of tough to do when the grass is under 3 feet of snow. Even in the short Canadian summers, the chicks can't be tossed out into the pasture on they day they are hatched; they must spend time under Mama's wing, or in a brooder. After 2 weeks, they will be ready for the great outdoors.
It's 17 hours round trip to the nearest abattoir that slaughters poultry. It's 2 years in jail if I try to do it on-farm. That regulation isn't for any particular health or safety reason, as it has been repeatedly shown that a farmer with a sharp knife can produce eviscerated chicken with 97% less bacterial contamination that the government approved Chicken Mafia system. The mandatory abattoir visit is due to regulatory capture by the Chicken Mafia, helping to enforce their monopoly.
Due to the high travel costs, I must max. out the abattoir on every trip. My nearest abattoir can process 500 birds in one day, so my Artisanal Chicken system must learn how to produce flocks of 500 birds.
Joel Salatin says the poults are ready to go to pasture on the first nice day after they are 2 weeks old. CFO sets a maximum density of 2.88 kg/sq. ft of barn space. Using the curve in Figure 1 below, we can design the brooder.
|Figure 1: Chick growth curve for Frey's Whiterock meat birds. I assumed the|
chick was 40 grams when hatched, then used Frey's data, fitted by
Richard's (1959) generic chicken growth equation using 4 parameters (A, b, k, and n),
showing the birds have an ultimate weight of 3.233 kg.
|Figure 2: GFQ's 5 tier brooder|
can do 500 chicks for about a
week or less, requires a warm
draft free room, electricity, and a
With GFQ's system, I still have to do something different after the first week. GFQ takes 15 amps to run the 5 electric heaters (one on each level). That much electricity on a 34/7 basis is close to impossible for my off-grid solar-wind power system to power. In addition, I have to supply a warm, draft free building. The living room of our house won't go over well every 8 weeks with my patient spouse.
After scratching my head for a while, and a few back of the envelope calculations, I decided the only available solution was a 40 ft. used sea container. You can do it in a 20 ft. sea container (about $2,500 delivered, about $15.60 per sq. ft. vs. $75 per sq. ft. to build your own barn, or $150/sq. ft. to have a contractor build it.
I decided to buy a 40 ft. can, as I have other plans for the rest of the space, and a 40 ft can is cheaper than two 20 ft. cans. I got my 40 ft. can for about $4,000 delivered to the farm and put in place. Under Ontario Building Code, a sea container sitting on the ground (or 6" x 6" sleepers) is not a building and doesn't require a building permit, and doesn't add to your assessed property value. Sweet!
Sometimes bad weather, or a delay at the abattoir could cause a backup, where the poults can't go to pasture on the planned date. In that case, you can throw a few bales of wood shavings or hay down on the central hallway, and depopulate each brooder by 67 birds each, and place 338 poults in the hallway for an additional week, or the emergency has resolved.
At 75 birds per pasture pen (10' wide x 12' long x 2' high), the birds start at a density of 9.6% of CFO's maximum, and grow to 70% of CFO's maximum density; thereby ensuring no overcrowding.
To protect the brooding birds from winter cold, 1.5" of thermal insulation, covered by 1/2" plywood is between the sea container's cold steel wall and the warm birds. The floor will have 1" of thermal insulation, then 1/2" PEX tubing carrying 50/50 mixture of heated propylene glycol-water. When a brooder is cold, the thermostat turns on the small DC recirculation pump for that zone, and sends hot fluid through the PEX to warm the chicks. I tried getting a used propane fired water heater from a travel trailer for $100, but my supplier was out of supply, so I had to buy a new one for $600
The 2 ft. high 2x4 walls between each brooder keep the chicks isolated, carry the PEX lines to and from each brooder, are internally insulated to conserve heat, then skinned with plywood.. Hockey puck LED or halogen lights will light each brooder. A sheet of 2" insulation board will be used for a roof.
Ventilation of the individual brooders is by propping up the brooder's insulation board as needed. Overall, the sea container interior is ventilated by grated air inlets cut into the floor (predator proof), and multiple roof vents.
Minimal cost, maximum energy efficiency, and maximum comfort for the birds. With Small Flockers, everybody wins.
SFPFC has made arrangements with the owner of this design as an aid to our members. Anybody who is a member of SFPFC is hereby welcomed and automatically licensed to use this design. All others must refrain from using our registered design. The design owner is not vengeful, but can be provoked to attack mis-use or unauthorized use of this design.
Any questions, or suggestions to further improve the design, please comment below or by private email.