Monday, May 30, 2011

Poultry Keeping...The Transition Pen

New pullets just starting to "feather out" in the transition pen.
   The awkward transition from fluffy little chick to gaudy pin feather pullet happens rather quickly. In a short matter of weeks the tiny birds outgrow the small, warm brooder and its confinement; now the desire room to roam and earth to scratch. The are not quite big enough for the freedom of the great outdoors and the challenges it presents; for our farm, the middle ground is a transition pen.
   For the original flock we set up our permanent coop, adding an enclosed run to give them protected outdoor space. When replenishing or adding to our existing flock, this is not practical. We created a simple transition pen using a six by ten covered kennel and a large light weight dog house.
    Soft shavings from the brooder are initially placed in the dog house to provide familiar scent decreasing the stress of the move. The pen itself is positioned near the main coop in the loafing yard. If night time temps dip very low a heat lamp can be attached to the inside of the pen for warmth. Feed and water fountains from the brooder are set up to hang by small lengths of chain hung from the ceiling.
    Curious and hungry pullets quickly scratch up the small pen area, so the lightweight pen is gently moved every few days to provide new ground. Nosy older hens visit the perimeter of the pen throughout the day checking out the new girls; roosters stop by to size up the new boys. All of the livestock that share the loafing area get an opportunity to get acquainted with the new babies.
   Poultry develop quickly; soon a cull must be determined. Extra roosters are separated to a "meat pen" and started on a meat development plan while older hens (no longer in production) are also evaluated and removed. Our focus is to maintain healthy, productive flocks for our family.
   The transition pen may only house poultry for a short period of time, but its versatility keeps it in use throughout the seasons. It serves as a holding area for animals needing special attention (for example, it is used at feeding time to separate growing does from adult does to ensure the little girls get enough). Sometimes we use it as a quarantine if an animal is injured, ill, or a new arrival. The pen can be used to graze out older poultry or small stock in a restricted area- for example, an unused area of the garden can be cleaned out quickly by a few goat kids or some hens.
   Versatile, useful, and efficient--poultry keeping with a transition pen.

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