I know we have had lots of questions about which watering system to use for our chickens. We have tried a couple, some have gone by the wayside, some we still pick up some at the feed store and then put them right back down again. Our girls will drink out of the gravity-fed, nippled barrels that we posted about earlier. But, they are definitely not their preferred method of drinking.
This is our chickens’ favorite waterer… Ours holds between 2 and 3 gallons. They do make them bigger. The only drawback we have found is we cannot put cider vinegar in it since it is aluminum.
One day, all of a sudden, so it seemed, Charlotte started loosing the feathers on her back right above her tail. Soon after, Sandy followed. We would stand at the chicken run, trying to figure out who was doing the pecking. As much as we would stand there, eyes peeled, we did not see any pecking going on.
After doing some recon/research, we found out that mites were the problem and are one of those things that is a “normal” occurrence with chickens. GOOD NEWS! There is an organic solution – food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE). The sharp edges of the DE cuts the exoskeletons of the mites (and other insects), which causes them to become dehydrated, and therefore, die.
We take a 4″ high plastic bin and the bucket of DE into the chicken run. One by one, we pick up one of the girls, place them in the plastic bin, with one of us holding the chicken while the other one sprinkles and massages the DE into the chicken’s feathers. In the beginning, the girls would squirm and try to fly away, and once released, would shake, run, and shake again. We applied DE yesterday for the 4th or 5th time. Each chicken stood in the bin, with no resistance, closed their eyes while being massaged, and walked away when placed on the ground. No squirming, no fighting, no shaking. The white on the back of the girls is the applied DE.
We lifted the towel off the buckets of fermented feed this morning – did it smell!! I don’t know what smelled worse, the fermented feed or the sardines in the dogs’ raw food…
I took the bin out to the chickens and Isabella came right up, no hesitation today!
Seconds later, all the girls bellied up, finding their spot around the bin.
Before I could let myself out the door of the chicken run, a couple of them had jumped into the bin for easier access.
We have been talking about fermenting our chicken feed ever since we purchased our baby chicks. There are many benefits to eating fermented food, both for the chickens and for humans: more available probiotics and digestive enzymes, boosts the good bacteria in the digestive tract, makes food more palatable to chickens.
We finally started this week by purchasing a bag of corn, oat, barley grain mix (COB) and a bag of wheat berries. The rancher we purchase our grass fed beef from suggested following the recipe given at Scratch and Peck. To start, we used 1 pound of grain (approximately 2 ounces for each bird) mixed with a gallon of water in a bucket, then let it sit at room temperature for 4 days.
This morning, the 3rd day, we drained the water from the grain mixture, poured the liquid back in the bucket to start the next batch of fermented feed, and placed the grains in a short plastic bin to take out to the chicken run. I placed the bin in an area of the chicken run where the girls could gather around all of the sides. Like all new things, the chickens stood a foot or so away from the bin, looking, pacing a bit, and looking again. Isabella, one of the White Leghorns, went up to the bin first to take a taste. She took one grain and placed it on the ground outside the bin, then another, then another. Soon, the rest of the girls bellied up to the bin and started eating. Sandy, one of the Buffs, took one grain and ran 6 feet from the bin, ate a little, then dropped it to the ground, ate a little more, then dropped, and then finished it. I have never heard the girls so quiet…
They didn’t finish all of the fermented feed this morning so I sprinkled it on the ground under the tree. I brought the bin in to clean up for tomorrow’s feed. As soon as I placed the bin on the floor, Roxy helped me clean up.
It’s been quite a while since I posted pictures of the girls… since they were 6 weeks old and their feathers were still coming in… Look at them now
Buffy and Sandy
Buffy has the taller comb on the top of her head. Sandy’s is still very close to her skull.
Punky is in the foreground.
Sandy in the back
Magge Mae in the middle
Punky up front eating
Here’s Punky, always on the move.
One of the dirt baths is halfway under the misters. It is Punky’s favorite place in the afternoon, playing in the wet sand!
Gracie in the coop.
Charlotte, ever so majestic and regal.
Isabella, with her comb over, in the foreground
Maggie Mae behind her
Buffy behind both of them
Before we left for our 10 day vacation, we devised a watering system that could last the entire time without worrying about the chickens running out of water.
We took a 55-gallon food-grade barrel and drilled three small holes in the bottom. We then screwed in gravity-feed nipples. These nipples are designed to move up and down. When the chickens peck at the nipple, they move up and water is released. We set the barrel up off the ground just high enough for the girls to reach. When we got home, it didn’t seem like the barrel water was emptied at all. Maybe the chickens hadn’t figured the system out yet. I know with our African Grey Parrot and Cockatiel, it takes them a long time for them to approach anything new in their cage. Maybe it’s the same with the chickens.
Today, when I was out in the run, although it’s a bit hard to see in this picture, Maggie Mae was drinking out of the nipples! This will really help in the heat of our summers!!
After I posted the last entry, I looked online to find out what color eggs the Buff Orpingtons lay, According to My Pet Chicken, the Rhode Island Red chickens lay darker brown eggs. Our light brown eggs are probably from the Buff Orpingtons. For more information about egg color by breed, go to My Pet Chicken.