Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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Advantages of free range chickens

Chicks in the garden

Free ranging your chickens has several disadvantages (which I'll post about later in the week), but the management plan does have three huge advantages --- amazingly orange egg yolks, delicious and nutritious meat, and lower feed costs.

Our pullets started laying a couple of weeks after we added a light to the coop, and I was stunned to see the brilliant color of their egg yolks.  They spent most of October grazing in the woods, supplemented by about 0.15 pounds of storebought feed apiece per day.  That's a 40% reduction in feed costs from the usual quarter pound we'd give a laying hen each day, and an immeasurable increase in egg quality.

Broilers eat watermelon

Our broilers have also been enjoying the nomadic life, traversing our acre of garden and orchard.  They're right under our feet all day, so I've got a lot more data on what they've been eating --- any bug they can find, lots of white clover leaves, smartweed seeds, grass seeds, and the scraps we give them.  I keep meaning to increase their feed allotment from 0.07 pounds apiece to the roughly 0.12 pounds they each should be getting per day, but the chicks always come home with full crops and are growing well, so there seems to be little reason to feed them more.  I won't have real data on feed conversion rate and meat quality for a few weeks, though.

However, I have to admit that the biggest advantage of free ranging is the sheer pleasure of watching the flock work.  On Sunday afternoon, I went to sit in the sun and found myself gravitating to the patch of lush clover outside the kitchen window.  Half of the leaves had been pecked off by hungry chick beaks and the owners of those beaks were foraging just a few feet away, but there were still plenty of flowers left to attract bees from our hive.  Who knew that twenty square feet of clover could feed the bodies and souls of so many critters at once?

Our chicken waterer keeps both flock well hydrated during a hard day hunting for bugs.

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