We finally got the chickens out on pasture, which turned out to be a lot more work than we thought. They were getting a little crowded in the brooder. First I grabbed a box and placed a few chicks inside it. They immediately hopped out and started running around the shop. After a few minutes of chasing, I was able to gather them back up. I put them back in the brooder and began searching for another way to move them from the brooder to their fenced pasture area. Soon I found some larger boxes with lids. I began to place 2 chicks at at time in the box and then quickly pulled the lid back over the box. This also meant that I had to uncover the box with my hands full of chickens squaking and fluttering about. I was able to comfortably fit 50 chicks in each box. By now each chick weighs close to 1 lb. which as I began to pick up the box, realized, adds up rather quickly. I am not a wimp, 50 lbs is no big deal, but the box was large and akward. The bottom of the box began to sag under the weight of the chicks. As the chicks felt the motion of the box being lifted, they started scrambling inside the box which constantly shifted the weight. I felt like a cartoon character running back and forth trying to balance this large box as the weight shifted from side to side. I realized that I wasn't going to be able to walk the box out to the pasture without the likely chance of dropping the box and possibly hurting the chicks.
Immediately, I was able to justify yet another use for my new toy. New is relative as this "toy" is actually 40 years old. In anticipation of buying our bigger farm, I was checking out the classifieds for farm equipment. I came across a 1970 International Harvester 656 tractor with a front loader. The price was right and Hollie and I decided it would be a wise investment given the amount of work required to set up the new farm.
My two boxes fit just perfectly inside the bucket of the tractor and allowed me to easily place the boxes over the fence of the chicken pasture. We let the chickens out and after a few minutes of nervously looking around, the chickens began to relax and check out their new home. I built a plywood box that they can access for shelter. Their pasture is enclosed by a 4' tall electric net fence. The fence is more for keeping predators out than keeping chickens in. Because chickens are covered in feathers, they are insulated from the electric shock of the fence. Predators that we have in the area include, foxes, racoons, skunks, bobcats, coyotes, mountain lions, badgers, stray dogs and cats, and hawks/eagles/owls. All of these animals are in abundance because of our remote location. With the exception of the birds of prey, all of these animals will first try and find a way through the fence rather than dig under the fence. During this process, they will touch the fence and receive a shock that has almost brought me to my knees at times. (The boys and Hollie find witnessing this hillarious.) This shock will send any wild animal scrambling and they won't even think twice about trying to dig under. Hopefully, we won't loose any chickens to the birds of prey as there is really no protection from them. We may get a livestock guardian dog (LGD) to help us out if we start having problems.
With two trips of the tractor, I was able to get all 207 chickens out on pasture. Later that evening, it starting getting cold and windy. I went out to check on the chicks and about 80 of them hadn't been able to find the shelter. They had all huddled together and were actually spreading their wings to help cover each other. I was very impressed by this. I scooped them up and moved them into the shelter with the other chicks. The next day we woke up to 3" of snow. I jumped out of bed and went to check out the chicks.