Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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EcoGlow repair instructions

The power cord on our EcoGlow chick brooder broke at the nub.

I'm pretty sure the reason it broke was the way we wedged the brooder power cord up against the wall of a plastic tub. I don't think it was meant to bend at such an extreme angle with pressure.

I used a coping saw with a knife to free the nub from the plastic case. There's not much wire to work with, so make sure when you cut it that it doesn't fall back in the hole.

Posted early Tuesday morning, May 26th, 2015 Tags:
cute chick drinking from nipple waterer

It's that time of year when our little chicks are growing into tween chicks.

A nice thing about our EZ Miser 1.5 gallon bucket watering system is how easy it is to increase the height as the chicks grow by simply adding another layer of bricks to the base.

Posted Wednesday afternoon, May 20th, 2015 Tags:
2015 chicks
more older chicks

We ordered 25 unsexed chicks from Cackle Hatchery this year.

, Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire Red, Buff Orpington, and Dominque were the breeds we selected.

Why didn't we hatch them ourselves? Because we only have two good breeding hens and it's always fun to experiment with a new breed.

We'll probably use Cackle Hatchery again the next time we don't want to incubate due to how strong and hardy these chicks are.

Posted early Tuesday morning, May 12th, 2015 Tags:
poultry fence repair

Our dog Lucy chewed a hole in some poultry netting when it was turned off.

I filled in the gaps by weaving in some 16 gauge electric fence wire.

Use the 16 gauge wire like a needle to get past the nylon string. After it's made contact with the charging wire a few times bend back the 16 gauge wire to hold it in place.

Posted early Tuesday morning, May 5th, 2015 Tags:
chick friendly cat

We got 25 new chicks in the mail last week.

Our two cats will sometimes show an interest, but so far there's been no problems.

The door to the outdoor brooder stays closed the first few weeks unless we're around.

Posted mid-morning Tuesday, April 28th, 2015 Tags:
Ducks with honeyberry

A month ago, I started pondering --- why shut our chickens and ducks up into rotational pastures in the spring if they can just free range all year long? My memory is terrible, so I'd forgotten just how much trouble poultry get up to in the growing season if left to their own devices.

First there are the ducks, who ever since the
big flood, have been a bit hit or miss about giving me eggs. Oh, sure, they lay eggs (a dependable egg per duck per day)...but not in the coop unless we chase them inside every night.

Meanwhile, as the weather warmed up, our ducks started bedding down further and further afield until one day we didn't find the waterfowl until nearly dark. They'd settled in to float out the night in our main creek, and I couldn't even reach the girls to chase them home. That's when I knew that if we wanted eggs for breakfast, things were going to have to change.

Nest box

The chickens were causing problems too, but in a different way. It all began in February, when the first hens to pick up production decided that their current coop wasn't worth laying eggs inside. Instead, three bad hens opted to jump over our perimeter fences, scratch up the garden, and then lay eggs in the weeds.

So I stuffed the troublesome trio in the chicken tractor, and everything calmed back down. Until, that is, I got it into my head that I'd let the tractored hens loose into the tree alley to work up that mulch prior to planting. Unfortunately, the girls didn't even last an hour before they remembered that they liked to fly fences...and back they were in the main garden.

I could have put the three bad hens back in the tractor, but I was worn out that day and found it easier to simply chase them back into our main flock instead. As a result, the girls kept flying fences, but this time they opted to fly into our backup coop (earmarked for the spring chicks) to lay in that nest box. Since the hens weren't causing problems in the garden anymore (flying over the fence into that coop's pasture, running in the pophole to lay, then flying right back over the fence into the woods), I decided to leave well enough alone...for a while.

Pastured poultry

But then came the bad-duck night, and the next morning our waterfowl found a hole in the perimeter fence and ended up beside the secondary coop at the same time that our chickens found a different hole and ended up in nearly the same place. I figured our girls knew what they wanted --- to be back in a rotational pasture attached to the backup coop --- so Mark fixed the pasture holes while I shut the girls in.

You'd think that free ranging would be what our poultry crave, but the truth is that a managed pasture offers more tasty tidbits at this time of year than an overgrazed barnyard. Cautionary pastureTo illustrate the point, the photo here shows the bit of sacrifice pasture I use to let the flock out of their coop and into the woods during the winter months. To the right is untrammeled pasture, just starting to grow up in grasses and clover after a winter of dormancy. To the left is the chicken-scratched and duck-trod-upon ground, which is bare except for some smartweed seedlings (which chickens won't eat). Even the nearby woods looks pretty picked over after a long winter of poultry action, so it's no surprise that our girls would prefer to go back to a smaller but fresher salad bar.

And me? I'm relieved to be able to stop wrangling pesky poultry who are feeling their spring oats. The ducks are now laying in the coop and are coming home at night (because they can't range far in the pasture and don't have a tempting body of water to bed down in) and the chickens aren't flying any fences and are laying in the nest box they sleep beside. And that's the long reason why I stick to rotational pastures even though we have acres of woodland for our poultry to explore. Now let's see if I can remember why it's a good idea to shut the girls into a pasture at this time next  year....
Posted early Tuesday morning, April 21st, 2015 Tags:
chicken, goats, and Lucy

We haven't tried to actually mix our chickens with goats yet, but today we let two hens forage in one of the empty goat pastures.

The plan is to have them eat any green buds that might be popping up from a layer of straw that still had seed heads attached.

Posted early Tuesday morning, April 14th, 2015 Tags:
chicks under heat lamp with new nipple waterer

Casey B. built this nice milk jug chick waterer from one of our kits.

Keeping the container small makes it easy to raise as the chicks grow.

It's best to stabilize a light container like this. Hanging it from a string would create a considerable amount of swinging.

Posted Thursday afternoon, April 9th, 2015 Tags:
solar powered round top chicken coop

One of those pretty Round Top Backyard coops has just enough space to accommodate a 120W Siemens solar panel.

The panel provides shade for the chickens and being on the ground makes it easier to adjust the angle compared to roof mounted panels.

Image credit goes to reddit user Tugrik.

Posted early Tuesday morning, April 7th, 2015 Tags:
Foraging ducks

We've been writing a lot more about ducks than chickens for the last month or so, which isn't because we love our chickens less. In fact, our land fowl are much more malleable, while our waterfowl seem to require much more supervision to make sure they come home for the night and lay eggs. On the other hand, ducks are quite interesting.

Duck swamp
When half of our farm went underwater during the floods early this month, our ducks flew the coop...or rather, they swam away and refused to come home at night. We'd hear them quacking at intervals down the huge lake that had taken over our lowland areas, but even as the floodwaters receded, the ducks refused to even return to the coop for a snack. I thought they'd run away for good when Mark came home from checking on the chickens one day and excitedly told me that the ducks were back! He fed them a much-relished meal, shut them in for the night...and waited in vain for eggs.

At first, I thought our ducks had found somewhere else to lay during their two-week excursion and that they were rushing out of the coop in the morning to return to that hidden nest site. But over the course of a week, one duck, two ducks, three ducks, and finally all four ducks began to lay at home once again. My final conclusion was that the ducks were able to consume enough wild food to keep them alive, but not enough to make eggs, and that the laying pellets we offered when they came home slowly worked through the waterfowls' system and resulted in eggs in short order.

Why is our experience relevant for the 99.99% of you who aren't likely to lose your ducks to floods? I think we all like to dream of letting our livestock free range for all their food, but the reality for most of us is that production will be low to none if we don't provide supplemental feed for our flocks. Perhaps if our ducks had run away while the world was at its most green, they might have been able to lay on wild food alone. But I suspect that if we want duck eggs, even if we had a pond, we'd need to pony up the cash for some extra grain and soybeans to supplement their wild diet. I guess there really is no free lunch...even if you're a duck and have acres of water to choose from.

Posted early Tuesday morning, March 31st, 2015 Tags:
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I just purchased your chicken nipples and bit, but I have a question since I'm new in the chicken world. Do chickens need direct sun almost all day to lay eggs or are they happy with a few hours in the morning and streams of sun through the trees. They are out in there pen from 8am until dusk.


Comment by suzanne roemer late Wednesday evening, July 27th, 2011

Especially in the summer, chickens will actually gravitate toward the shade. They do like to have some sunny spots for dust-bathing, and like more sun in the winter.

The longer the day length, the better your chickens will lay. But that doesn't mean they need to be in direct sunlight during that time, just that there needs to be enough light to keep them awake and active.

Comment by anna late Saturday afternoon, July 30th, 2011

My chickens go out of there way to try and find sources of the stuff, I have Styrofoam (polystyrene actually) insulating the outside of my package heat pump. They finally figured it out and have peck/eaten a large chuck out of one section, maybe 1 ft in diameter. They have found the stuff before, and they didn't seem to have any adverse affects, I try to keep them out of harms way. I assume they will be fine this time, and I have blocked them off from the area. but my question is, Should I eat the eggs? I have 2 buff orpingtons and a white silkie(the bad influence).They are known as betty white and the golden girls. the buffs had just started laying a few days ago. Any ideas?

Comment by David L at noon on Thursday, February 9th, 2012
I've heard from other people whose chickens go after styrofoam. I figure it can't be good for them, so I'd do my best to keep them away from it. As long as the chickens are healthy, though, I doubt it will affect the eggs, but I don't really know!
Comment by anna Thursday evening, February 9th, 2012
i have a week old chick that was doing fine until yesterday. Now he is not eating and just standing around or sleeping. I put him in a box by himself with a heating pad. I have been trying to get him to drink water with probiotics and electrolites. Does anyone have any suggestions?
Comment by Anonymous at teatime on Thursday, June 21st, 2012
Anonymous --- I'm so sorry to hear about your sick chick! Unfortunately, chicks sometimes just dwindle away, especially if they had some trauma in the egg or soon after hatching that didn't show up at the time. That said, solitary confinement in a warm place sometimes helps them bounce back, so it sounds like you're doing just the right thing.
Comment by anna early Sunday morning, June 24th, 2012
I cook for my chickens.I have four girls. in the morning they get laying food and cracked corn then I give then lettuce and bread they go gaga for it. in the afternoon they get a combo of rice flax seed sucker seed canned green beans. they don't get anything green in Michigan in the winter unless I give it to them. they never got the memo that they don't lay in the winter. their pen is protected and there is no snow in their pen i live my girls.i live in the city and have never had chickens before
Comment by Linda Monday night, March 25th, 2013
Linda --- Sounds like you've got happy chickens!
Comment by anna late Monday morning, April 1st, 2013

I was contemplating buying a hydroponic system for Fodder production (green forage) for my horses. With the rising, and unrelenting price of fuel to make the hay, hay has become very expensive ($5.50-7/bale)with NO end in sight. I wanted to be sure that my horses would eat this type of forage readily. I started to grow it in my DARK- no light available- cellar. Fodder can be grown without any light source, but it will be white and not green. I did, however, use a grow light for 2hrs/day. This made the fodder very green. It took a little bit of trial and error to get the water amount needed just right, but it worked. The animal consumes everything in the tray at the end of the week, seed casing, roots and all. There is no dirt, and the animals do LOVE it. Since fodder can be fed to ALL livestock, I fed to my ducks, chickens, and horses throughout the winter. basically as a treat, as I was only using seed starter trays, and my cellar isn't that big to have the number of trays I would need on a single layer all over my floor. ;) You need to soak untreated seed- Barley works the BEST! And, 85% of it is digestible, so they get a lot of good nutrition from the fodder, unlike hay which is 15% digestible. Protein levels of barley fodder equal that of corn, so you can save on feed! Steps- 1) soak seeds 15 minutes in 5 gallon bucket with 5% solution of bleach or peroxide:water ratio. You just need to make sure all the seed is covered. (you can use this solution to clean your trays after your seeds are soaked, so after the 1st day, don't throw it away. Literally, it takes only 10-15 minutes/day to maintain this feed source! 2) Rinse and fill up with only water- seeds need to soak 24hrs additional. 3) then drain again, after the 24hrs. 4) Place soaked seed inside your trays. 7lbs of DRY seed/day will fill a 12' long channel, and feed 4-6 horses and 100 chickens for the day. SO measure, and adjust the amount of seed you need, to account for how long your trays are and how many animals you need to feed. whether this is going to be your feed source, or if you are just giving them a treat. 50 for the 2nd day, I usually just use a spray bottle to water the seeds- enough to thoroughly soak them, but not enough for a lot of standing water. Then, spray every other day, put in 2cups water/tray every other day, starting on day 3. 5) Each day do a tray- with just enough for each days use. This gives you fresh fodder daily. Each tray takes 7 days to reach the right height. 6) Turn grow light on, if green fodder is wanted, for maximum of 2hrs/day. Materials needed: 5 gallon bucket; (2) 5 gallon buckets with lid are ideal! Spray bottle Water bleach or peroxide scrub brush to clean out trays before 1st use, and after every use to kill and inhibit fungi and mold growth 7 seed starter trays liquid cup measure SEED from seed distributor (online) and place to dry store seed. Garbage can with lid works great! Grow light bulb and brooder lamp works great! Spot where water run off/spillage won't damage property. I placed trays near our sump pump.

You can make your own feed, know what your chickens, ducks, and other animals are getting as a seed (you can be sure that there are no GMO's in your feed, and thus end up in your belly) And, they get fresh feed which they gobble up!

Comment by Heather Thursday afternoon, May 15th, 2014

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