Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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Wooden automatic chicken feederAutomatic chicken feeders are a slightly more controversial topic than automatic chicken waterers.  Although it may seem like a good idea to let your chickens eat as much as they want, adult chickens will actually be healthier if you restrict their diet to ensure they don't get too fat.

The other potential problem with automatic feeders lies in chickens' tendency to selectively eat the corn and ignore the higher protein components of store bought feed.  If your chickens are depending solely on store bought rations (for example, if they're confined to a small run or if winter has killed back all the wild food), their tendency to gorge on high energy but low nutritional value corn can malnourish your birds.  As a result, automatic feeders can actually result in feather pecking in some cases.

On the other hand, if your chickens have plenty of pasture, some chicken keepers report that giving chickens free choice corn cuts back on overall feed costs.  Joel Salatin had similar results with feeding corn to his pastured poultry, counting on the flock to hunt down their protein in the grass.

Automatic chicken feeder lidThe best way to take advantage of this feed cost savings is to provide your chickens with side by side automatic feeders --- one full of whole corn, and one full of a balanced ration.  That way, snacking chickens eat out of the corn feeder rather than picking the corn out of the other feeder and spilling the parts they don't like as much.  You might want to add a third automatic feeder with free choice minerals for even better results.

I prefer to feed my flock by hand, but one of these days I do plan to build an automatic chicken feeder.  We won't use it daily, but will fill it up when we go out of town to ensure the flock has dry food while we're away.

(By the way, the automatic chicken feeder shown here is my father's invention, made out of scrap plywood.  He made a box with a hole near the bottom where chickens can stick their beaks in, then he added a hinged top so he can easily fill the feeder up.  An extra roof partway down makes sure the feed always stays dry.  You might also enjoy reading about Everett's PVC pipe feeder and Michael's very low budget automatic feeder.)

Posted early Friday morning, March 2nd, 2012 Tags:

Chicken rustlerMy brother came to pick up the Light Sussex chickens between one flood and another last week.

We learned the hard way last year that catching chickens in daylight is no fun.  So we headed to the coop the night before and plucked the four youngsters off their perch, then settled them into the isolation coop for the night.

Isolation coopAn isolation coop is an awfully handy thing to have around, and it doesn't have to be much.  Ours is simply a blocked off third of a chicken tractor with a perch and a spot to insert a chicken waterer.  Sure, the chickens are cramped while waiting for their move the next day, but they seem pretty content to just settle in and nap.

Caging chickens

Light SussexIt's actually a good idea to make your isolation coop pretty small since cramped spaces make it that much easier to grab chickens when you're ready for them the next day.  We had no problem scooping up three hens and our young rooster to stash them away in wire carrying cages.  As you can see in the picture below, Joey had brought a live trap to use as one carrying case.

Live trap

Caged chicken lays an eggOur homestead lies half a mile away from where we park the cars, so my brother and I each had to carry a crate of chickens.  All was going well until we rounded the barn and I noticed that one of my hens had laid an egg!  (By the way, this is a great way to make someone think they're getting a good deal when they come to take laying hens home.)

I set the crate down and took out the egg, then lifted the cage back up...and a hen popped out!  Our wire cage was free when we bought our first set of chickens five years ago, and the cage was pretty ramshackle then.  It turns out the wire floor had popped loose, letting a hen sneak into the wild.

Carrying chickensLuckily, our Light Sussex are the world's tamest chickens.  Even after being grabbed off her roost at midnight, stuffed into an isolation coop until after lunch, then crammed into a cage and bounced around on my shoulder, she didn't run off.  Instead, she pecked happily at snails and greenery around our feet, and once Mark threw down some chicken feed, sat still long enough that Joey was able to grab her with ease.

We wired the cage back together and continued on our way.  Joey nearly dropped his chickens in the creek while crossing, but just barely managed to make it out unscathed, and both crates somehow fit in the trunk of his car.

Chicken walk

I'm looking forward to hearing how the Sussex like their new high rise apartment, and the rest of our flock is thrilled to be out foraging in the floodplain again.  Thanks for taking the garden marauders off our hands, Joey!

Posted early Monday morning, March 5th, 2012 Tags:

Eggs pippingOur first set of chicks of the year came of the shells vigorous and perky.  I learned little bits and pieces during this hatch, none of which are worth whole posts to themselves, but all of which are worth sharing.  So here is a disjointed series of tidbits that might help intermediate hatchers.  (For beginners, I recommend first reading my introduction to incubation.)

Quality eggs grow quality chicks.  I spent most of last year incubating mail order hatching eggs, which I thought yielded up pretty good chicks.  However, the difference between those eggs, which had been shuffled around by the post office for several days, and my carefully selected eggs straight from our henhouse was phenomenal.  As I type this, there are three duds and one still in the pipping stage out of 21 eggs --- an 81% hatch rate if the late pipper doesn't make it, and an 86% success rate if he does.  For the sake of comparison, my hatch rates last year were 17% (eggs from old hens), 25%, 58%, and 55% (power outage).

Incubating eggs vertically cuts down on improper chick positioning.  Our incubator allows you to manage your eggs vertically (big end up) like they'd come in an egg carton, or horizontally (lying on the floor of the incubator).  In the past, I've put some eggs each way to make them all fit, but my gut feeling was that chicks pipping on the narrow ends of their shells were mostly from eggs that had been incubated horizontally.  So this time, I incubated all of the eggs vertically, using crumpled newspapers as spacers to fill in the gaps.  (I couldn't just add in extra eggs because all eggs have to lie flat on the tray for the last three days before hatch.)  My experiment paid off --- absolutely no one needed a hand out of the shell, compared to last year's hatches where there was always at least one chick who struggled to get past the pipping stage.

Pipping orderEggs with brighter yolks result in chicks that pip sooner.  It makes intuitive sense that a healthier hen would lay an egg that results in a more vigorous chick, so I've been keeping an eye on the color of yolks from our three breeds of chickens (a simple task since each breed has a different egg color or size).  Australorp yolks are always the brightest, followed by marans and sussex.  I didn't have nearly enough eggs in the incubator to get a statistically significant result, but the graph shows that the australorp eggs tended to pip sooner than eggs from the other chickens.  (The line in the middle of each rectangle shows the average pipping order --- much lower for australorps than for the others.)  As a side note, my late pipper is a sussex and my three potential duds are two marans and one australorp, depsite the fact that australorp eggs were most numerous in the incubator (48% versus 43% for marans and 10% for sussex).  Of course, that could be because our rooster prefers brunettes --- I haven't checked to see if the duds were fertile.

Australorp chickWry neck might sometimes be a simple sprain.  One of the new problems I ran into with this hatch is that two of our chicks came out of the shell with wry neck.  They tended to point their beaks toward the sky and had a tendency to fall onto their backs.  Most chicken keepers believe that wry neck is due to a micronutrient deficiency and they treat the sick chicks with vitamins.  However, I didn't have any on hand, so I just popped the chicks under the brooder.  By the next day, they were indistinguisable from their brethren, which leads me to believe that wry neck can sometimes be an injury from struggling out of the shell, quickly relieved by rest and heat.

Our incubator definitely does heat unevenly.  I didn't try any of the tricks to move heat around because I wanted confirmation, but my numbers make a pretty clear case for different parts of our incubator having different temperatures.  Two of my duds and the Incubator locationlate pipper all came from the very center of the incubator (with the last dud having been incubated in a corner).  Of the eggs that survived to pip, the chicks in  the corners made it through their shells fastest, followed by those in the enter of the long edge, the ones that actually survived in the middle of the incubator, and finally the chicks on the edges of the two middle rows.

My hatch was also very strung out, with seven chicks coming out of their shells on day 20, eight chicks on day 21, two chicks on day 22, and one (and counting) on day 23.  This is a classic symptom of having Chick drinking clean waterdifferent temperatures in the incubator since eggs in the hottest zones hatch fastest while those in the coolest zones hatch slowest.  I think the problem was probably exacerbated by incubating eggs at a chilly time of year since the incubator had to work harder to keep the eggs warm, which tends to cook the central eggs right under the fan.

Of course, I nearly counteracted my successful hatch by freezing the first chick out of the incubator, but that's a story for the other blog.  On the plus side, our fuzzballs took to their chicken waterer in minutes!

Posted early Wednesday morning, March 7th, 2012 Tags:

Chicken rampChicken ramps have varying success as a way to get the flock to a higher location without making them fly.  One of our customers wrote in last summer with the tale of an eight foot long, three foot tall ramp over her fence that her chickens simply would not learn to use.  So I was a bit leery of the tall, long ramp in my brother's coop design.

I shouldn't have doubted Joey's ingenuity.  He added very nice stepping boards to give the chickens traction, then trained them to walk up the ramp following a trail of laying pellets.

Sussex chickens on the perchThe only downside of Joey's coop appears to be something none of us expected.  The chickens go in the top door and they go in the bottom door, but they don't use the intervening perches to travel between levels.  I suspect the coop simply isn't wide enough to make them feel safe spreading their wings, and chickens do like to add stability with a bit of wing action when making large hops.  Joey's got a solution there too --- he says he may add a floor for the upper level and simply turn the high rise coop into two apartments.

Our chicken waterer keeps the flock well hydrated in their new digs.
Posted early Friday morning, March 9th, 2012 Tags:

Young chicks on pastureChicks are cute and fluffy for the first day or two, but they wear out their welcome inside pretty fast.  They also outgrow their brooder and start trying to fly out in search of pasture by week three...which is problematic when their brooder is in the living room.  So this year, I've decided to experiment with outdoor brooders.

The idea is to give the chicks somewhere predator-proof, dry, and not too cold so they won't get sick before they are fully feathered.  But, at the same time, to give the youngsters access to pasture as soon as weather permits --- hopefully by the time they're one week old.

Old outdoor brooderA search of the internet doesn't turn up very many outdoor brooders, especially if you want to go beyond the rabbit hutch option (which doesn't let your chicks on pasture).  I snagged the images in this post from various websites --- click on each to find the source and read more about the design.

It sounds like the design requirements for an outdoor brooder include:

  • Small outdoor brooder0.5 square feet of room per bird (assuming they move from the brooder to a coop by the time they're a month old).
  • Raised off the ground (so they won't get damp during torrential rains.  This is why a plain old chicken tractor won't work.)
  • A window to give them sunlight (not essential, but highly recommended) and a source of ventilation that doesn't produce a draft at chick level.
  • Located close to the house to keep predators at bay.


I'll post about the design we came up with soon --- stay tuned!

Our chicken waterer keeps brooder dry and chicks healthy from day 1.
Posted early Monday morning, March 12th, 2012 Tags:

Outdoor chick brooderBased on my research about outdoor chick brooders, Mark and I cobbled together a quick and dirty structure in two hours using nearly all found materials.

Reusing screws
(Many of the screws were even reused since they came from a chicken tractor Mark had recently taken apart.)



Brooder base

I knew that I wanted the brooder to sit up above the ground because I learned the hard way last year that chicks can't handle the bit of rain that splashes up into a tractor during thunderstorms.  So I hunted around until I found a wooden rectangle that Mark had removed from the base of a bookcase.

Plywood floor

Two pieces of scrap plywood made a good floor just high enough off the ground to keep the chicks dry, but low enough that they wouldn't have to brave much of a ramp to get to and from pasture.

Wooden scab

I wanted to reuse an old dryer door, which had already served for five years as the egg access hatch for a chicken tractor.  So Mark added some scraps of two by four under the floor to give his screws depth to bit into.  It wasn't all that tough to drill holes through the bottom of the dryer door and screw the piece of metal in place.

Framing

Next, he framed up the back wall with more scrap two by fours.  (By the way, you can see that we're locating the brooder beside the peach tree right outside our kitchen window.  This area gets a lot of our attention every day, so I figure chicks will be safest there of any outdoor location.  Plus, they can nibble on oriental fruit moths as they hatch out this spring, perhaps protecting the peach tree from insect depradations.)

Cargo carrier roof

We stole my brother's idea and used half of a cargo carrier for the roof.  Here, Mark's testing it to make sure it fits on the framing before adding in the walls.

Adding walls

Mark pounded a one by one into the side of the dryer door to make an attachment point for more scrap plywood.  Then he used some found plexiglass for the other wall to let the sun shine in (and so that I can sit and watch the chicks without disturbing them).  Finally, we added the cargo carrier on and attached it with bungee cords.

The jury's still out on how well this outside brooder will work.  I've had a thermometer inside for a week, and the temperature swings have been extreme.  The lows seem to drop down about five or ten degrees below the outside temperatures at night and sunny days Newly hatched chickhave raised the internal temperature up to 100.

I think we can mitigate the heat pretty easily, either by turning the brooder around so the window doesn't face south, or by simply adding a shade cloth on hot days.  I'm not sure about the cold, but worries there might not be relevant by the time the chicks hatch and have spent a few groggy days inside the house.  I'll keep you posted about how well the brooder works (or doesn't) once we have test chicks to put inside.

Our chicken waterer will keep the brooder dry and prevent diseases like coccidiosis.
Posted early Wednesday morning, March 14th, 2012 Tags:

Pasture dog doorWith the Light Sussex at my brother's house, I was able to let the rest of the flock out to free range in the floodplain again.  Imagine my chagrin to find chickens inside random pastures and in the garden in short order.  Drat!

I soon found the problem --- our dog had build doggie doors in various fences to expedite her patrols.  Lucy's boltholes turned into chicken doors, allowing the flock to go wherever they wanted rather than just where I wanted.

We've used a short span of electric fence to train Lucy away from these problem areas in the past, but she always finds a new spot to burrow through.  After fixing about a dozen dog holes in the past year, I decided it was time to try a new strategy --- making real doggie doors in the fences so that Lucy could pass through but the chickens couldn't.  After all, it is a bit much to ask of our sentry that she run in huge loops around our chicken moats every time she wants to get from point A to point B.

Mark threw together a doggie door quite easily out of a bit of lumber (treated since it'll be in contact with the earth) and an old carpet.  He doubled up the carpet and put a small piece of wood at the bottom to increase the weight, making it less likely that a critter smaller than our hefty dog could push through.

Training Lucy to go through the door was pretty simple.  Mark stood on one side and I stood on the other, both with treats in hand.  "Come on Lucy, good girl!" called the master on the far side of the fence while flicking up the edge of the carpet so Lucy could see through.  I'll admit that Lucy accidentally ran all the way around the barn once during the training episode, but she soon caught on and went through the door without any help from us.

Only time will tell whether this dog door prevents Lucy from tearing apart the pasture fences.  If no new holes show up in the next week or two, I'll have Mark install a couple more to make Lucy's rounds even easier, and then we may be able to sit back and relax as pasturing season rolls around.

Our chicken waterer keeps our flock even healthier with unlimited clean water.
Posted early Friday morning, March 16th, 2012 Tags:

Small brooderDue to our extended hatch and a cold spell during the subsequent days, our oldest chicks spent the first week of their life in a rubbermaid storage bin.  By day four, the makeshift indoor brooder was starting to stink, even though I kept tossing new leaves on the bottom.  It was simply way too small for 18 rambunctious chicks.  But some chicks were only four days old --- way to young to brave the elements.

Insulating an outdoor chick brooder

So I set Mark to work on insulating the outdoor brooder so it could handle chicks during a chilly spring.  He screwed sheets of styrofoam insulation under the floor, then edged the foam with some scrap tin so the chicks wouldn't eat the insulation once they were running around outside.

Chick hover

Nights were still getting down into the high 20s and neither of us felt comfortable with putting the chicks in the brooder despite the floor insulation, so Mark decided to add an insulated chick hover.  He took another rubbermaid container, added some reflectix insulation inside the bottom, cut out a door near the top, and turned it upside down to hold heat around the Brinsea Ecoglow brooder.

Chick brooderThe sun must have seen all of our hard work, because the weather shifted just as Mark finished revamping the chick coop.  Highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s pretty much negated Mark's efforts, but the insulation still made me feel better when I put the chicks out in their new coop for the first time.

We did run into problems (of course).  First, it took the chicks an entire day of huddling in the corner to acclimate to the observation window in their brooder.  They also didn't want to go under the hover (perhaps because the brooder was accidentally unplugged and the Chicks perchingchicks found it cold), so we ended up taking out the tupperware container and herding chicks underneath the brooder at dusk during their first day outside.

And then, like the awesome little chicks they are, they bounced back.  Day two in the outdoor coop found chicks running and jumping for joy, testing their wings on the baby perch, bounding over the brooder, and pecking thirstily at the waterer.  I started giving them large handfuls of worms and greenery (mostly chickweed, bluegrass, and clover), and they chowed down nearly as fast as I could supply the produce.

Adjustable chick watererNow the only problem was the brooder getting too hot.  Mark turned the coop around so the observation window faced east, which helped block late morning and afternoon sun, and I started slipping the lid halfway off during hot days to let hot air vent out.  We may have to put the brooder in the shade for our second batch of chicks, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Meanwhile, I'm wondering how fast our little scamps will outgrow their new digs.  Perhaps when they're two weeks old, they'll be big enough to understand trotting up and down the ramp to explore pasture?

Our chicken waterer keeps bedding dry and chicks well hydrated from day 1.
Posted early Monday morning, March 19th, 2012 Tags:

Lonely henTwo weeks ago, one of our Australorp hens started showing up in a blocked off pasture every morning.  I searched the fenceline, but found no break, and eventually I just got used to letting her into the coop to rejoin her compatriots at feeding time.  I know our hens can fly over our fences, but they usually don't want to, and I figured this hen had some bee in her bonnet about the closed off pasture and would eventually grow out of it.

The bee in her bonnet turned out to be the 55 gallon barrel coop Mark had made when the Light Sussex were afraid to roost with their flockmates.  No one really wanted to use the extra little coop at the time, so it sat around, full of fresh straw, until our Australorp hen decided to start laying inside.  She'd already filled the nest annex with eleven eggs by the time I figured out what was so special about the pasture to make her willing to fly a fence to reach it.

Clutch of eggsThe hen wasn't setting on the eggs yet, but Mark and I both figured her secretiveness was an early sign of broody behavior.  So we decided to move the newly re-named brood coop out of the closed-off pasture to keep my chicken herding time down and still let the hen access the eggs.  We set the coop annex outside the main coop where anyone could reach it, but two hours later, the hen was back in the closed off pasture, now making a ruckus.  Where had her eggs gone?!  After two days of this behavior, I gave in and moved the brood coop back to where the hen had initially found it, and she started laying in the annex again.

I was still sick of herding chickens, so I decided to just shut the hen into her pasture with a spare chicken waterer and a little food so she could go about her business without flying over the fence.  The result?  She immediately wanted out!  After squawking like crazy, the other chickens flew over the fence to join her, and I opened the door to the pasture in frustration.  Let them come and go as they please!, I decided.  If the grass got eaten down in the pasture prematurely, so be it.

Broody henOnce I washed my hands of the situation, the broody hen suddenly decided to start sitting on the eggs.  Two mornings in a row, she was hunkered down for several hours, ignoring her sisters who seemed to want to lay eggs in the front part of the coop annex.  However, she popped off the nest each afternoon, perhaps because of this crazy heat wave.  While the broody coop probably seemed nice and sunny in its exposed location two weeks ago, now the hen risked baking herself if she sat on the eggs in the afternoon.

Mark and I have tossed around several potential solutions to the problem.  Option A is to erect some sort of shade over the broody coop and hope that without the sun in her face, our hen will settle in and stay on the nest overnight (which is what Harvey Ussery waits for before deciding a hen is broody).  Another idea would be to make a broody area inside the main coop where it's cool and just shut the hen in for a day or two in hopes she'll make the location switch.  What do you think we should do?

Posted early Wednesday morning, March 21st, 2012 Tags:
Chicken painting

Photo of chickens with sunflowersOur old Golden Comets are no longer with us, but they've been memorialized in a painting by Neiley Harris.  "Sunflower Feast" is too beautiful not to share!  (In fact, I'd probably snap it up if our trailer had room on the walls for art.)

I've included the original photo so you can compare and contrast.  What do you think?

Our chicken waterer is the POOP-free alternative to traditional filthy waterers.
Posted early Friday morning, March 23rd, 2012 Tags:
Australorp chicks on pasture

Temporary chick enclosureWhen's the best time to hatch chicks to take advantage of spring pasture?  I'm very happy with our March 2 hatch, which allowed me to let the chicks out into the outside world on March 16.  The greenery is tender enough that they can eat gobs of it, so I haven't had to hunt down succulent growth especially for them.

Granted, this has been an obscenely warm spring so far, and it might have been too cold for chicks to be out and about in a different year.  I've got a second set of chicks slated to pop out of their eggs at the beginning April, which might be a more realistic time for chicks if you live north of our zone 6.

Another factor to consider is trying to get the chicks fattened up by the beginning of the summer pasture slump.  If you're buying Cornish Cross, that won't be a problem since they're ready to eat in 6 to 8 weeks, but we grow our heirloom broilers out to 12 weeks.  Will the pasture still be lushly growing a the end of June?  We'll have to wait and see if better management this spring will ensure good chicken forage that late into the summer.

Chicks eating clover

Our chicken waterer lets chicks drink POOP-free water from day 1.
Posted early Monday morning, March 26th, 2012 Tags:

Australorp roosterI finally started the chickens back rotating through their pastures after a winter spent free ranging in the woods.  The reason was not so much that the grass was getting high (although it was) as that the garden has reached a point that my blood pressure rises when I see sneaky chickens there.  Our temporary fencing where the driveway enters our main homestead area is in Lucy's way, so she often knocks it down, which lets the chickens amble right on in.  After about six rounds of chicken herding, I decided our flock could graze on grass and clover for a while.

Chicken pastureI also figured the woods could use a break after a winter of endless scratching feet.  The chickens clearly prefer the woods to the pasture, and would gladly spend all year there, but from a management perspective, I need to save that ground for winter.  If I left the flock in the pastures during the cold weather, they'd scratch up every bit of groundcover and turn it into a muddy mess, but spread out through the woods, they merely churn up the leaves and stay healthy and happy.

Chicken focal points

Multi-trunked sycamoreBefore the signs of chicken feet disappear from the woods, I decided to get an idea of how large of an area our flock ranged over during the winter months.  The map above shows the focal points of chicken attention, three of which are large trees like the one shown here.

I suspect that old trees of any species build so much humus and fungal growth around their roots that invertebrates move in like crazy.  Maybe that's why the base of every sizeable tree within the chickens' free range area was scratched bare.

Overgrown fenceOther favorite spots included overgrown pasture fences, which form hedge-like zones that made our flock feel safe, and (once our spring heat wave hit) the shade behind the barn.  As usual, the chickens remind me that providing optimal habitat is more about structure than it is about the specific plants that make up that structure.  Nobody would plant Japanese Honeysuckle for their chickens, but the mass of plant growth attracts lots of worms and keeps hawks away.

Free range chicken perambulations

Here's my guesstimate of where our flock of seven chickens roamed for the last five months or so.  I counted on the creeks to moat them in, but the truth is that the chickens stayed closer to home than that, rarely straying further than 100 feet from one of our fences (which mark the boundary of regular dog and human travels).  Perhaps if I had cut their rations back further, they would have ranged over more than three quarters of an acre, but I Hens grazingwas already feeding them only about half as much as the recommended daily allowance for an adult chicken.

The chickens are currently pouting at being locked into their pasture (no matter how lush), but hopefully they'll get used to it within a day or two.  Maybe in five or ten years, the mulberries, persimmons, and other goodies I've planted there will make the pastures as enticing as the woods.

Our chicken waterer keeps the flock healthy with POOP-free water.
Posted early Wednesday morning, March 28th, 2012 Tags:

Oriental fruit moth larvaChickens can be very destructive in the garden, but if you're more careful, you can take advantage of their busy feet and beaks to improve your garden ecosystem.  A timely application of chickens to the orchard can kill pest insects without chemicals. 

Plum curculio, codling moth, and oriental fruit moth are all orchard pests that have been successfully controlled with chickens.   These insects overwinter in debris under your fruit trees, emerging as adults between the time peaches bloom and apples reach the pink stage (for plum curculio and oriental fruit moth) and when the last Peach flowerspetals fall from the apple blossoms (for codling moth).  If you allow chickens to scratch around under your fruit trees in early spring before the adult insects emerge, your flock will eat a large number of the overwintering insects and cut back on damage to your fruit trees.

If you've waited too long and the adult insects have already emerged, you can still get some benefit from chickens in the orchard.  Plum curculio is a type of small beetle that tends to be slow-moving on chilly mornings.  Head into the orchard and jar the trunks of your trees several times soon after dawn and the beetles should fall to the ground and into your hungry chicken beaks.

Another useful time to let chickens into your orchard occurs as fruits begin to drop from the tree.  While the good fruits are still hanging on the branches but pest-ridden fruits are falling to the ground, you can turn chickens (or other livestock) into the orchard to clean up dropped fruits and lower insect pressure for next year.  It's also handy to let your Chicks grazing in orchardchickens eat any rotten fruits after you've harvested, since these fallen fruits sometimes harbor diseases as well as pests.

You won't want to run your chickens in the orchard 365 days a year since the flock might overdo their scratching and will likely overfertilize your trees.  I located our outdoor brooder close to our oldest peach tree so that our first batch of broilers can scratch through the mulch, figuring that these three week old birds will work the ground up in the two weeks left before they get moved to the main coop.  If all goes as planned, I'll let our second batch of broilers visit our next biggest peach tree for a few weeks as well.  We've had serious problems with oriental fruit moths in the past and are hopeful that chicken feet will mitigate some of the damage.

Our chicken waterer makes it easy to manage poultry on pasture.  Just fill up a bucket waterer once and provide clean water for the flock for days on end.
Posted early Friday morning, March 30th, 2012 Tags:







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