Farm Project Update: Breeding Pens, Not So Much

Breeding Pens

We recently described how we had constructed a couple of tractor-style enclosures for the French Black Copper Marans and American Bresse breeding groups. While we’d like to tell you that they worked exactly as intended, that wouldn’t be reflective of reality…

We should all be able to agree that no one likes it when projects don’t work out as envisioned, especially ones that require a fair amount of toil. Nonetheless, that’s exactly what happens sometimes. We think it’s important to share “lessons learned” as well as successes so that others may benefit from the identification of our mistakes and process improvements (and hopefully avoid making the same mistakes).

While the breeding pens seemed solid in theory, they didn’t work well in practice. Once we loaded them with the chicken groups, we discovered that they were too small and too short to really be suitable for the intended purpose; for example, placing a nest box in there took up nearly 10% of the square footage, far too much for the overall dimensions. Another challenge was that the hens were used to going into a covered coop at night, so they all tried to crowd into the covered nest box (a hooded cat litter box) at night. Imagine this: it looked like a clown car with them jamming themselves in there and the nest box rapidly filled up with poop. The final straw, however, was how difficult it was to move the tractors and ensure the chickens were safe: we realized we couldn’t see where the chickens were inside the tractor since we had to keep the lid closed to contain them. After assessing the obstacles, we decided to retire the tractors as breeding pens…and repurpose them as rabbit tractors! We can use every rabbit tractor we build.

Full disclosure: we knew before we deployed the tractors as breeding pens that it would be easy to add wire to the bottoms and a little additional support inside to transform them into suitable containment for rabbits. We’ll have some grow-outs ready in about a month and they’ll enjoy residing in the former breeding pens (now extra-roomy rabbit tractors). The two chicken breeding groups have been relocated into wire enclosures with individual coops and after an initial adjustment period, are now happy as clams. Lucky for us, we had the two standalone coops available for this use.

Ultimately, it worked out, even if not the way we had originally hoped – but we’re adaptable. If only all projects that go sideways could have this kind of outcome…