The Pryor Times


June 28, 2007

Raising free-range chickens


The chickens were placed in the pasture with the goats in boxes containing 50 birds each with screen wire on half of the top. Goats are animals that like to climb and jump on things, so the boxes were great fun for them, but not for the chickens.

So Colpitts developed the huts he is now using. The huts are 10-foot by 12-foot, and approximately seven feet tall in the center. The sides are constructed of PVC pipe bent to form a U-shape and attached to each side of the frame. The frame is covered with a tarp on the sides and the ends are enclosed with wire. Each hut contains 50 to 60 birds.

“The tarps do get holes in them, which I attempted to patch,” said Colpitts. The raccoons figured out how to tear the patch off and get the birds. Then one of the guard dogs also decided to help himself to a chicken dinner killing about 30 birds. Colpitts then put up a mesh fence to keep the dogs out, but it didn’t slow the raccoons down.

“It’s a constant battle,” Colpitts said. He is in the process of replacing the current tarps with new tarps of a heavier weight. Three hundred and eighteen of the 400 birds in his second batch reached the finished stage. Colpitts’ third batch of birds will be ready to leave soon. He appears to have achieved a good livability rate on this flock.

The chicks are ordered from a hatchery in Wisconsin and shipped to the ranch. They are brooded for a couple of weeks then placed in the huts. Colpitts has chosen to raise the Bronze Ranger breed, which is similar to Rhode Island Reds. They produce a four and a half to five and a half pound chicken in eight to 10 weeks.

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