Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers


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Mite prevention

Boy holding a chickenOur small flock of ten laying hens and one rooster, all ended up sickly in a thick infestation of mites at the end of this past winter.  It took twelve weeks to get rid of them.  Three months of itchy, heebie- jeebies!

We live on a large wooded homestead.  Fairly certain, the mites were passed to our flock from the wild birds that we feed during the winter.  We get heavy snow on the NY/Canadian border; which is problematic for our birds who are free to range the rest of the year.  While they are sometimes cooped up for days at a time, they do not get regular dust baths.

On our part, we were not providing sufficient ash from the wood stove in the chickens' covered yard. Not for lack of ash; we heat exclusively with wood, and burn a lot of it!  Our failing was thoughtlessness that was followed by unintentional neglect.  Too, it was the trek to the coop in continuous two plus feet of snow.  We have to use sleds to get anything of bulk or weight moved from late November to early March.  No, the snowy trek didn't keep us from feeding, watering and collecting eggs daily.  In the future, all of the chickens' needs will be met, whatever the weather! 

Another mistake: we ran out of pine shavings, which is our first choice for bedding.  On hand, and cheap... hay and straw cut from the field.  Not knowing that mites find pleasure in playing hide and seek inside of the hollow dry grass.

When spring broke, our flock didn't appear very healthy.  Dull combs, weight loss, slowed laying and low energy were exhibited.  After, assessing them all and the coop, we determined an unhealthy population of mites had moved in.  Much internet research followed.  There are a few different types of parasitic mites, as you may well know.  Which kind was it, that were sucking the blood of our beloved chickens?  We'll never know.  The health of our flock was what mattered.


The immediate steps taken were - we set up new temporary housing in the pickup truck's cap (best fifty dollars spent, purchased used from a friend over fifteen years ago).  All the birds, received hand-rubbed diatomaceous earth massages before moving into the temp coop and then after, weekly, for ten weeks.  We choose to live chemical free lives.  So, running to the farm store for Sevin was not an option.  We keep honey bees (also treatment free) who share the same yard with our flock.  I think no further explanation is needed... From what I've read of your bee keeping management style, we think much alike.

Farm boy with
roosterThe cleanup measures involved, burning the grass bedding, wooden nesting boxes and roost poles.  We washed down, the empty coop weekly with a dilution of neem oil. Every week, every surface and cranny!

The temporary coop was moved weekly to a fresh spot in the yard.  At this same time the chickens received their dust massages. When on their own, the chickens had their pick of  multiple dusting areas of diatomaceous earth and ash.  The chickens were only in the truck cap during the night, to protect them from a long list of predators (opossums, racoons,  Eastern Hog Nose snakes, bobcats and coyotes).  Yeah, all of those and it happened to be mites that almost "did in" at least one of our hens. 

As you know,  some hens get broody in the longer, warmer days of spring.  This is when we very nearly lost our sweet, want-to-be mama, Flicka.  Ended up sacrificing her clutch of seven eggs and nursing her through with electrolytes.  She turned around quickly.  In just a couple of days she was able to rejoin her sisters.  The hardest part during this time, was for our young children not being able to hold and cuddle their feathered pets.  The touch deprivation extended both ways.  Our chickens are our pets. We don't eat them up; we love them up! Vegetarian here.  But, we are growing some mighty healthy, free range kids on three chicken eggs a day!


Our experience - mite infestations can be fierce and persistent!  Going forward, we will take all of the necessary measures to keep such invasions at bay.
 

As you can tell,  I don't write often or well.  However,  so very often I've gleaned entertainment, joy, and knowledge from reading about your adventures, I felt compelled to share some of our story when you asked the question.



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I have a few friends with beloved backyard chickens, and I keep thinking that is such wonderful memories they are providing their children. So much love and hard work going into this project.
Comment by Betsy Saturday evening, August 31st, 2013
Great to hear you solved your mite problem (without chemicals!) and know how to prevent things from getting bad again. Your family really cares about it's feathered members too. Wish you continued success.
Comment by Brad mid-morning Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

I think this is my favorite. :)

It also reminds me Ezzy (short for Ezra), my mom's loving and lovable barn cat who died last year. When he was a kitten and we'd just adopted him, he had ear mites horribly! It took several months before we were able to really get him better.

Comment by Emily from Bristol late Tuesday morning, September 3rd, 2013
Geat story!! Sounds like you had a lot of work cut out for you to keep your chickens clean and healthy. I especially liked the ingenious use of your sled during the winter. What kind of sled do you use? Is it difficult for you to pull? Good luck.
Comment by Russell mid-morning Wednesday, September 4th, 2013
I vote for the Mite Story. I love our chickens and would never want to go through that with them.
Comment by sarah at lunch time on Wednesday, September 4th, 2013
Thank you for such an informative post!
Comment by Lynne Ann late Wednesday afternoon, September 4th, 2013
Fabulous story!! Sounds like you handled the situation well. Good luck in contest.
Comment by cliff Thursday afternoon, September 5th, 2013
Congrats on living a chemical-free life we are trying to do that too but it is a challenge.
Comment by Chad at teatime on Thursday, September 5th, 2013
Good advice on what not to put in your coop for bedding. Glad to here your chickens have recovered and are doing well.
Comment by Anonymous Thursday evening, September 5th, 2013
Interesting article, good info.
Comment by Norm at noon on Friday, September 6th, 2013
Love this one!
Comment by Jeb Friday afternoon, September 6th, 2013

(Hi Anna, I submitted my vote...

The real winners will be the lucky birds drinking from the newly redesigned EZ Avian Aqua Miser.

A vote for our story would be a big win... 'cause cleaning out the chickens' waterer is a real yuck job, that needs done daily!

... last night yet, it hasn't posted as a comment. Maybe, I can't vote for my own story. Or perhaps, I shouldn't have mentioned the EZ Miser by name. Oh, well... My best, ecr)

Comment by Eva late Friday evening, September 6th, 2013






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