Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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Growing grains for poultry

Light BrahmasThe final entry in our chicken photo contest came from Sue Loring, who shared the description of her poultry-rich homestead below.  The photos, from top to bottom, are: a Light Brahma rooster eating broom corn, a Polish rooster eating Indian corn, and Partridge Silkies enjoying cornbread made just for them.

My husband and I have about 5 acres in northwest Iowa in which we have 3 acre garden in which we raise produce that we sell at our roadside pumpkin and squash stand each fall. Also we right now have 68 chickens, 3 Royal Palm Turkeys, 8 bobwhite quail and 11 ducks. These numbers fluctuate thru out the year as we incubate eggs, attend lots of exotic auctions and buy from friends and neighbors. We also sell laying hens, exotic chickens and ducks for butchering. We trade ducks for broiler chickens with a friend of ours who raises organic chickens on her farm.

We love all our poultry and currently have one big chicken house which has all our laying hens and a pair of Sumatra chickens and our Brahma chickens which don't get along with our exotic and bantam breeds. We have a separate house for our turkeys and another coop for our ducks and our original coop which my son built me in woods class when he was in high school. We have a smaller coop with the quail which are going to be expanding this spring.We started out with 8 chicks from local feed store and got few more the next year and now it's become an obsession. Love the fresh eggs, the meat, and the entertainment of raising a huge brood.

Our secrets for long, cold Iowa winters...all our chickens are free range during the days and are locked up at night to keep out coyotes and other critters. We stock all coops and houses with lots of straw which we usually only change out twice in the winter to keep better insulation on floors of coops. We don't use any lights or heat lamps ever for supplemental heat and have never lost more than one or two birds each winter. Each of our houses and coops we pack in a lot of birds which gives them extra heat.

Polish roosterAs far as feeding...we always use Purina flock raiser feed for everything but our laying hens which get laying hen mix of feed. Also to supplement in winter we keep a supply of pumpkins and squash from our fall crop and keep inside so they don't freeze. Our poultry loves a big juicy pumpkin or squash once a week especially when the snow flies.

We raise and sell broomcorn in the fall. I stick away a couple totes of it and the chickens will strip it down in matter of minutes and can't get enough of the stems of seeds. It's the same with Indian corn and dent corn. Our poultry keep busy and entertained munching on the kernels of corn or broomcorn during the cold winter days.

The vegetable scraps and fruit scraps are also fed to our poultry every couple days. Strawberry scraps cause the biggest fights in our hen house. They love wheat bread and crusts and all of our chickens and turkeys are tame enough we hand-feed the bread to them. I try not to give them bread more than once or twice a month as there is little nutritional value but it is definitely a favorite. I will make homemade corn bread every couple weeks just for the chickens and they love it.

Water is another challenge. In our laying hen house we do keep heated base to our big galvanized waterer which is the easiest way to do it. For our other smaller houses and coops we just have bought a surplus of plastic waterers at our local feed store and bring them in every night to keep thawed in our mudroom We switch out every day and it's a pretty easy method. We have regular waterers and also extra thick rubber totes that we keep open all year for our ducks to swim and play in. Fresh water is the key to healthy chickens in the winter.

Partridge silkiesOur chickens have the run of our acreage year round except early spring when we plant our vegetable garden and pumpkin patches. Each fall we leave our garden and don't rototill it under. All remaining pumpkins, squash, corn and other vegetables that didn't get harvested or had blemishes keep our chickens foraging for months feasting on the remnants of garden waste.This keeps our chickens active even on cold days.

You pull up to our farm or drive by and you will see chickens everywhere...on the deck, on the car, on the picnic tables, dust bathing in my window boxes, perching on top of coops, searching for grass seed in the ditches or scratching in our garden. Our chickens are foragers. Their biggest danger is the looming shadow of the variety of hawks that circle by once in awhile.

Well thanks for looking at my photos and I look forward to seeing the other entries in your contest. I do read your blogs and books. We also live simple lifestyle and try to stay true the way we were raised. So keep up the good work and thanks again.

Bruce and Sue Loring
Hawk Valley Garden
Spencer, Iowa

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Sue, I enjoyed your story on your chickens and all. You opened my eyes to the different varieties I never known about..THANK YOU!
Comment by Sue Michelson at lunch time on Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

Hi folks I just wanted to say I have visited Hawk Valley Garden every fall and it's a beautiful farm. Their chickens and turkeys are a real crowd-pleaser. What ever they are doing to raise them they are some healthy birds. Also they have such a great selection of chickens-some which we have never seen before. Look for forward to seeing you next fall. Jim and Denise Sandy

Comment by Jim Sandy late Tuesday evening, January 21st, 2014

I just wanted to add that my husband and I have just started raising chickens and it's good to know that the Loring's aren't using heat lamps. We questioned it this winter as it's our first with chickens. We chose not to go with heat lamps due to hearing so many people have had problems with fires. We worried that it gets too cold here in South Dakota for our chickens. I can't wait to get some exotic chickens like these.

Comment by Kara M late Tuesday evening, January 21st, 2014
I would love to raise chickens but since I don't I enjoy visiting Bruce and Sue's and seeing all their chickens. They have some really nice chicken coops. Visit their pumpkin stand in the fall to see all their poultry. Their turkeys are beautiful too.
Comment by Judy Thursday evening, January 23rd, 2014
Want some polish chickens but can never find them except for chicken companies that you have to order 15 or more. Where did you get yours?
Comment by Bob James late Thursday evening, January 23rd, 2014
Best photos!!
Comment by Tara late Thursday evening, January 23rd, 2014
I am Susan's sister and just want to say how great her place is. My grandparent use to live there so we grew up in those yards. My grandparents would love the fact that Susie and her family live there and raise their chicken and grow their pumpkins. She has a lot of pride in her place and so deserving. Great Job Sister....
Comment by Pam at lunch time on Friday, January 24th, 2014

Thanks for all the great comments and thanks also to Avian Aqua Miser (Anna and Mark)

Bob..I got my Polish chickens at our local Bomgaars which has a huge selection of baby chicks each spring. Also a few I got from neighbor when he sold out of his chickens. We got to a lot of exotic auctions each spring and summer and you can find baby chicks or adult birds at those. So good luck. Thanks again! Sue

Comment by Sue Loring Wednesday evening, January 29th, 2014

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