Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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chicken tractor scrap food door

A little door on the top of a chicken tractor makes it easier to add scraps.

Sometimes scraps will attract predators like racoons. That's why we keep this tractor close to home where our hard working dog Lucy can stand guard.

Posted early Friday morning, August 29th, 2014 Tags:
best way to save sunflower seeds from birds?

We're trying an idea from a comment on a recent sunflower seed post.

It's simple to try. Wrap a shopping bag around the flower, secure bag at base.

I cut some air holes at the bottom to prevent molding.

Posted early Wednesday morning, August 27th, 2014 Tags:
making a chicken tractor light weight

The one downside to all the recent chicken tractor repairs has been weight gain.

Our nest box collapsed last week and instead of replacing the rotted wood I cut a piece of aluminum flashing to support a straw nest.

Make sure the sharp edges are out of the way. A metal nest bottom is much lighter than wood and won't rot after it gets a little moist.

Posted early Monday morning, August 25th, 2014 Tags:
do it yourself bucket holder for a chicken tractor

We upgraded our chicken tractor water container to a 2 gallon bucket.

It was easy to fabricate a wooden holder from scrap pieces of furring strips.

Anything bigger than 2 gallons might prove to be too heavy for a chicken tractor. On most days we'll only fill it half way up, but the extra capacity is nice when you need to go away for the weekend.

Posted early Friday morning, August 22nd, 2014 Tags:
chicken tractor capacity update

We added yet another chicken to our tractor bringing the count up to 4.

One of our hens kept escaping and it was easy to just stuff her in with the others.

I thought 3 was too many, but they seem fine and show no signs of crowding.

Posted early Wednesday morning, August 20th, 2014 Tags:
Rainy chicken tractor

One of these days, we'll get our act together and really grow the majority of our chickens' feed.  At the moment, we put most of that kind of energy into keeping our pastures green, figuring that the health benefits of an endless salad bar are more important than changing the bulk of our chickens' diet over from store-bought corn and soybeans to homegrown grains.  However, we're also always experimenting with things we can do on a small scale to make homegrown foods a larger percentage of our flock's diet.

One common supplement to the backyard hen's diet is kitchen scraps, which we've been feeding for years.  We did make a major change to our food-scraps campaign this year, though --- rather than tossing the tomato tops and eggshells into the coop for the majority of our layers to consume, I've been giving all of our scraps to our four tractored birds instead.  The reason is predators --- the scent of food scraps (especially cobs leftover from cutting sweet corn into soup) attracts raccoons like nobody's business.  By keeping the highly-scented feeds very close to our trailer, we've cut down predator pressure in the coop significantly.

Cutting up over-mature squash

Another feed we've been giving for a while, but are using slightly differently this year, is over-mature summer squash and cucumbers.  In the past, I've just stepped on these mammoths in hopes of getting a few seeds to squirt out and tempt the chickens to peck, but cutting up the over-large cucurbits has been much more effective.  Chickens will nibble at the flesh of these monstrosities, but the seeds have most of the nutrition and they know it, so anything you can do to make the seeds more accessible is worth the effort.

Black soldier fly bin

On a more experimental front, we're trying out sending some of our food scraps into a black-soldier-fly bin this year rather than giving them all straight to the chickens.  Whether we'll get more bang for our buck this way is still up for debate, but since our bin can take bits of onions, cabbages, and other foods that our chickens mostly turn up their noses at, it might be a win-win.  (If you drink coffee, the grounds are also an excellent bin addition that wouldn't be good for chickens in their original form.)  Stay tuned for further updates.


Sorghum and sunflowersFinally, I've been planting more sunflowers as cover crops, hoping that we might end up with some seeds to give our chickens in the winter.  Similarly, my mom gave me a packet of sorghum seeds which I opted to plant with the chickens (rather than molasses) in mind.  We didn't devote much space and energy to either planting, but if they're particularly successful, we can always expand for next year.

If you're interested in other alternative chicken feed options, you can browse through several years of experiments here.  And I'd love it if you comment with your own accounts of trial and error!

Posted early Monday morning, August 18th, 2014 Tags:
Starplate chicken coop

Christopher sent in the beautiful photo above as an entry in our photo contest.  He wrote:

"I have not done anything particularly clever with the kit, but it works really well and the chickens took to it right away.  I wasn't going to enter, but in honour of our first chicken laying it's first egg (the other four seem to be keeping their legs crossed) today, I figured I would send in some pics anyway.  In the photos you can also see the starplate coop inspired by yours!"

Christopher's beautiful hens include Buff Orpingtons and Laced Wyandottes.  Can your birds compete with their beauty?  You've got a couple of days left to enter our photo contest and find out!

Posted early Friday morning, August 15th, 2014 Tags:
Chicken bucket waterer

Homemade EZ MiserI've been enjoying seeing the entries to our photo contest coming in, especially the ones that showcase homemade EZ Misers.  The cinderblock-top mounting method that we use in our own coop and pastures does seem to be everyone's favorite way of getting the chicken nipples up to bird eye level.  The two photos shown here are courtesy of Mindy (top photo) and Jamie (and her Orpingtons).

For everyone who hasn't entered yet --- there's still time!  And, don't forget, you don't need to own an EZ Miser to enter.  I'm looking forward to seeing your happy, hydrated birds!

Posted early Wednesday morning, August 13th, 2014 Tags:
feeding herbs to chickens?

The first chicken contest I've registered for in years is going on right now!

I encourage you to check out the Urban Chicken Podcast where Tina Hickman is interviewed about her Luv Nest herb blends she sells.

The winner gets their choice of two Luv Nest herb blends. Something I'd like to try if we get lucky enough to win. Don't wait too long. The contest will end in two weeks.

Posted early Monday morning, August 11th, 2014 Tags:
diagram on how to make a self leveling platform

Sometimes a chicken tractor needs to rest on ground that is not exactly even.

Both our EZ Miser and original Aqua Miser waterers can function at steep inclines, but this mechanism could be adapted to automatically level itself even on extreme angles.

It would more than likely be the World's first automatic leveling chicken watering platform.

Posted early Friday morning, August 8th, 2014 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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