This past weekend Stuart and I spent quite a bit of time with the chickens. We had two tasks planned – the first was repairs to our chicken watering system and the second was to muck out their run. He got the first job, I got the second!
Chicken watering system
I think that I’ve told you, in the past, that we use a 5 gallon bucket and pipe work with chicken nipples to water our girls. Stuart built the set up (full credit to him) primarily because we were fed up with the mess they caused using a traditional metal or plastic waterer. Tractor Supply Co has a good selection of these waterers and they do work well, but chickens will find a way to perch on top and poop into the water. They are messy creatures! I also found that this wastes a lot of water too.
Our old system had been in place for quite a few years and was showing its age. Several of the Chicken Nipples were leaking and everything just needed a complete overhaul. One thing we’ve found is that it’s quite hard to replace old nipples and get a good result – ie it doesn’t leak! Despite the desire to reuse old pipe, there comes a time when only new will work. So new pipe and new nipples is what we put in. That’s the ‘Royal We’ of course – Stuart did all the plumbing!
Benefits of our Watering System
- Always CLEAN water for the girls
- No wasted water
- Easy refill from the outside of the run
- Almost no maintenance
- Outer stand protects water reservoir from the sun and algal growth
There are a number of different types of chicken nipple available. The ones we use have a small cup under a horizontal nipple – very easy for the girls to drink. We’ve also used a vertical nipple screwed into the bottom of a hanging 5 gal bucket & that works well too.
Mucking out the Chicken Enclosure
This second job was mine & it was a total body workout. We put straw into their run at regular intervals – they root around in it and generally have fun. The straw obviously rots down together with chicken poop and I end up with a glorious semi-composted pile of goodness for my garden. Usually, I dump all of this material in my compost bins to finish the composting process. This time I had other plans for it – look out for my next blog on Hugelkultur
It’s just hard work shoveling out the old straw, although because the weather has been fairly dry, the old litter was also dry and fairly easy to shovel. Even so it was a lot of work and my body was pretty achy the next day.
How often do I do this? It depends mainly on the weather, but 2-3 times a year. When the ground gets quite ‘springy’ when I walk, it’s time. I probably removed 4″-5″ of material this weekend. The bottom part of their run can get pretty soggy when we have a lot of rain. The rocks you see at the back of the photo above are to help drainage, but it’s still an area prone to some flooding.
The girls are happy – and laying quite well right now. My 4 Ameraucanas went into a big molt before Christmas and stopped laying. They’re looking good again and have started laying once more. I don’t give my girls extra light over winter and find that they lay an egg every couple of days instead of nearly daily. I feel that it gives them a bit of a rest. In the photo below you can see the remains of a big cabbage I gave to them yesterday. Not much left!
In the very near future, I’ll be mucking out the other half of their enclosure and get that looking good for the spring. Until next week…