Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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What to do with wet chicken feed

Light Sussex chicksWhat should you do if your chicken feed gets wet?  In a perfect world, this never happens, but the reality is that sometimes rain will leak into the trash can where we store our chicken feed and the pellets in the bottom of the bag will go moldy.  If you catch the damp chicken feed on day 1 or 2, there's no problem --- feed it right to the flock.  But after that, you're risking the health of your birds by giving them food in which disease-causing bacteria may have had a chance to grow.

Previously, I've played it safe by composting the problematic feed, but I accidentally stumbled across a better solution last week.  We had dumped the bedding from our brooder in a pile outside, knowing it was full of spilled chick feed lost in the leaves but not wanting to find a way to carry the poopy mass to the adult chickens to be picked through.  Weeks of intermittant sun and rain passed, and then I decided to see how our five week old chicks would do free ranging through the yard.  Four of them made a beeline for the old bedding and I ran right after them, worried they were eating spoiled grain and making themselves sick.

Chick eating maggot

Dirty chickI should have given those chicks more credit for good sense.  With a yard full of late summer insects and garden debris, they weren't interested in rotten chicken feed.  However, the maggots that had been eating the damp feed were top notch protein sources.  The chicks ate until they nearly popped, and I patted myself on the back for finding a way to turn that lost chick feed back into food for our youngsters.

In the future, I think I'll try to replicate my success whenever I end up with moldy feed during warm weather.  Mixing wet feed in with leaves keeps the area from going anaerobic, which allows maggots to thrive.  The only trick is to let the flock in to scratch through the pile at just the right time so you don't instead end up with a bumper crop of flies to plague your days.

Our chicken waterer solves another problem --- POOP-filled waterers.

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The maggots in the photo (near the middle toe, and in the mouth) look like younger black soldier fly larvae before they turn gray.
Comment by Brian at lunch time on Friday, October 7th, 2011
I thought there was a good chance they were black soldier flies, but I have to admit that maggot ID is not my strong point. :-) We do have plenty BSFs around. In that case, it wouldn't be so essential not to let them turn into adults (although I would lose the high quality chicken feed.)
Comment by anna at noon on Sunday, October 9th, 2011

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