Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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Trying to move a mother hen

Chicken in the
garden

I thought I was so lucky to get bonus chicks when a missing hen turned up with eight babies in the barn, but this has actually turned out to be one of our most traumatic hatches ever.  When I posted last, one chick had been eaten by a snake and I was pondering whether to try to move the hen to a safer location.  A few days later, the hen stopped my vacillation in its tracks when she decided to move the chicks herself.  (There were only six chicks left by that point, which may be what spurred the move.)

Unfortunately, this mother hen seems to have no instinct for what is a safe spot to raise her offspring.  Her new location was under a few pieces of plastic trellis leaned against the outside of the barn.  That seemed so patently unsafe that Mark and I decided it was time to move them ourselves.

Easier said than done!  Grabbing the hen was simple once she settled down for the evening, but the chicks exploded out in all directions.  Trying to catch six mouse-sized chicks in the barn proved impossible, so we had to let the hen go to gather them back up herself.

Moving the chicken
tractor

Then things got worse.  The hen lost three babies overnight, leaving her with only three, and she also decided it was time to take them out for strolls into the garden to peck at my ripe strawberries.  Bad chickens!  Mark helped me move one of our old chicken tractors close to the barn, and I easily tricked the hen and chicks inside.  (Silkworms make great training tools --- after just three feedings, the hen now comes when I call.)  However, she hated being cooped up so much that she battered her way back out after I closed the door, and the chicks followed.

It seems that each broody hen we've dealt with so far has had a major weakness.  Our cochin was not only mean, she couldn't seem to incubate the eggs very well so we only got a single chick.  This marans is kinder and did a great job hatching her eggs, but she can't seem to keep them alive and won't stay within bounds where we can take care of chick safety.  Suddenly, the tried-and-true incubator is looking better and better.

A chicken waterer in the tractor helped tempt the hen and her babies in the first time.


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