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Sunday, March 09, 2008

FAIL, Chicken House Style

Or: How My Saturday was Shot to Hell for Me

I knew it wasn’t a good idea to agree to help with the chickens today, but Daughter Dearest and The Boy were both ready to help so I was pretty much stuck. When I got to the back of #2, one of the feed line motors wasn’t running and I assumed it was electrical. Mrs. Fetched told me different: a bolt had gotten into the feed line (sloppy maintenance at the feed mill) and we were pretty much stuck doing something about it. Amazing, how she manages to “forget” about these things until I’ve already signed up for a quick morning tour. Scope creep isn’t just an engineering plague.

Broken feed lineAfter figuring out that it wasn’t electrical, we took the guard off the motor reset switch and Mrs. Fetched managed to finally make it click. “I’m going to just plug it in for a second,” she told me. “You listen and see if you can figure out where it bangs.” It took all of two rounds of that to find it. When we started looking, it was obviously b0rk3d.

DiscontinuityNaturally, this couldn’t be close to the motor. After dorking with stuff for a while, and not solving anything, I asked Mrs. Fetched, “So what do we do?”

“We call Wesley,” she said. Wesley is a chicken house repairman — yes, there is such a thing. It requires electrical, welding, and mechanical skills, as well as a high tolerance for ammonia and dust. We broke for a late lunch (since we had a late breakfast) and Wesley showed up just as we were heading back to try to prepare for battle.

Kinked AugerWith a little help from us, they took the feed line apart at the break (it's a series of tubes, with a twisted screwy thing inside — you know, like the Internet) and pulled the auger out. We quickly found the auger was pretty seriously kinked — again, the Internet similarities are amazing. (And look! they both eat up all your free time!) After attempting to straighten it, he got the tools.

Cutting the augerI assumed that we’d have to replace the entire auger. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. Cut out the kinked part, braze in a new piece, and put it all back together. But first things first: cut the sucker. A Dremel tool with a cutting wheel did the job, with plenty of drama.

BrazingThey had brought a piece of replacement auger line with them, along with a brazing rig (large oxyacetylene torch) and a jig to hold it together while putting it to the torch. The actual repair actually didn’t take very long — indeed, it was probably the quickest part of the entire procedure. Isn’t that usually how it goes?

Once the auger was repaired (and cooled off), the rest was anti-climatic. Replace the broken pipes, feed the auger line through, and hook it back up to the motor.

It’s always best to test your repairs before buttoning it all up… otherwise, something is sure to go w0rng. Fortunately, everything was doing what it was supposed to:

And that was how my Saturday afternoon went. I could think of a couple zillion things I’d rather have been doing… and at least three or four that I actually could have been doing. All indoors… it was cold and windy with snow flurries and at least the chicken houses are warm.


  1. I'm glad to hear that things got back to normal. Interesting that you had snow down there and we had only rain up here in NY.

  2. Boran, that's not as uncommon as you might think. We're at a fairly high elevation (1600 ft) and the winter jet stream likes to track through here. It's often colder here than quite a few points north, especially along the coast.

  3. (waving) Hi Boran & FARfetched!!

    FAR, I'm glad you got things going again. It sounds like it was QUITE a time.

  4. Super Far to the rescue! DA TA DAH! Super Far to the rescue! ha! ha!


  5. KB, yes it was. It was an entire afternoon shot to hell, when I was hoping to get a nap.

    Yooper, it was more like Super Wesley and his sidekick Dwayne to the rescue. *chuckle*

  6. FAR, I read this a couple of days ago but was pressed for time, so I didn't comment. I had no clue you folks had such a big thing going on ... I'd imagined a couple small houses with a few chickens. I sit corrected.

    What an operation, and not exactly my idea of a fun Saturday, lol. Glad everything's up and running as it should now!

  7. Hey IVG, it's always good to hear from you.

    Yup, these are factory houses. A tad over 90,000 chickens total, in four houses. Mrs. Fetched and EJ are doing an all-nighter as they get the catch. If they ever do it on a weekend, I might have to grab pix.

  8. I'm a Poultry Containment Structure Technician myself. I'm from Mississippi. Looks like y'all done a mighty fine job of fixing the problem. Way to go chief!

    Catlin aka Big Country


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