Thinking Outside the Box

Or in the box as the case may be.  I mentioned in Chickens, Chickens Everywhere that we’ve run across a few minor issues with the chicks.  Nothing earth shattering that would make us not want to continue in our Chicken Nugget adventures, but annoying nonetheless.  Thank goodness I have a GadgetMan living here!

We have a couple of those self-feeders and waterer things for chicks that you can get at any feedstore.  It’s basically a bottle that can screw into either the water base or feed base.  See them there?

That bottle holds quite a bit…for a bunch of chicks.  The issue with the feeder was that they were kicking out a ton of food…almost whole bottle worth each day!  Even though they were scratching around in the bedding and eating some of it, there was still a HUGE waste.  Remember, the bedding needs to be changed daily…sometimes more then once (but I’ll get into that in a minute).  At first GadgetMan used duct tape to attach a fishing line “loop” around the bottle and with a wire “hook”, he hung the feeder at about chest height to the chicks.  Even though that helped some, they were still knocking out a ton of food.  And even though chicken feed isn’t expensive (compared to say dog or cat food), it’s not cheap enough to be throwing more then half of it away in the trash.  That’s when GadgetMan took the feeder apart and attacked it like one of the puzzle challenges that he loves!

Can you see the fundamental problem?  Look how high the inside collar is.  It’s quite a bit above the lowest point on the feeder holes.  Think back to school…what happens when gravity comes into play here?  All the chicks had to do was disturb the feed looking for the best piece near the bottom (something chickens do) and more would pour down at them…which would then make them want to dig and scratch it out to get back to that good piece.  No wonder they were going dumping so much out!  Took GadgetMan about 2 seconds to come up with the solution…Macgyver style!

Take a used up duct tape roll…cut it down to size…

…shave off just a little bit on the inside…

…slip it over the inside collar on the feeder…

…and problem solved!

It’s hard to tell here, but there’s a little more then a finger width below the tube fix.  Plenty of room for gravity to do it’s job and let feed out…in a nice orderly fashion.  Now they go through a bottle of feed about every 3-4 days.  MUCH better!

Another issue we ran across was in regards to the waterer.  It wasn’t the design that was messed up this time.  It was the messy nature of chicks.  They kick and scratch all over the place…and they were kicking their bedding into the water.  Get enough bedding in there and the absorbent nature of the bedding would wick water out and soak the whole box.  Not a good situation for temperature sensitive chicks.  At first the solution was to raise the waterer…but you can only raise it to chest height so they can drink without jumping on it.  That worked okay at first…but it’s only been the last couple of days when I raised it up even higher as they’ve grown.  Now it’s a good 2-3 inches above the bedding so it’s not as easy to kick bedding up into it…still happens, but not to the degree of before…and definitely not enough to fill the tray and cause a wicking action.

Another issue we had happened within the first couple of days of bringing them home.  If I hadn’t done such a thoroughly insane amount of research before hand I would never have known about this.  As it was, I only saw it mentioned a couple of times just before getting them.  It’s called “pasting up”.  My kidlets called it pasty butt…which kind of gives you an idea of what it is.  You can do a google and find out more detailed info if you’re so inclined.  Basically it’s poop getting stuck to a chick’s butt in such a way that it blocks their ability to poop.  Doesn’t take a rocket scientist or chick biologist (is there such a thing?) to figure out this isn’t a good situation for the chick.  In fact this can kill the poor little thing.  Good thing I knew to look for this because one of the blacks got pasty butt that first night (or perhaps it was the second night).

You just have to work it off with a little warm water.  Not the most pleasant things to do…and never once have I ever thought I’d be cleaning the rear end of a chick!  She loved the warm water running over here butt, but didn’t particularly like me pulling off the mess.

I don’t blame her!  Even being as gentle as I possibly could, her poor little bum was quite red.  That’s the other thing to note.  I had to make sure she was quite dry and none of the red showed…otherwise the others might pick at it and cause some serious damage.

Don’t think she’s very happy with me. (sorry it’s such a bad pic)

Final issue…again it deals with the waterer and them getting their bedding wet…again.  Last week the girls got most of their wing feathers in…and they couldn’t wait to test them out.  The best way they thought was to flap to the top of the water bottle.  Doesn’t take many of them doing that before they were tipping the waterer.  *sigh*  Happy, happy, joy, joy…more wet bedding to change…and change…and change.  Kind of solved the problem by duct taping (yes we use this stuff quite a lot!) another container to the top.  In our case we used an empty butter tub.  I also added a better pedestal base made from an upside down tupperware container and a child’s plastic plate (note here…don’t use a red one)…and duct tape!  One of the girls (not sure who because she only does it at night) has figured out how to get up there still…but no tipping…probably because they’re not all trying to get up there.  Another solution to this has been addressing the need to stretch their wings.  Their coop/run aren’t ready yet…and of course I’m not going to let them loose in the house…so we needed a safe way for them to play outside.  Here’s the solution…

Good thing I have 6 kidlets…I have plenty of those gate sections!  Plenty of room to run and stretch…and even experiment with a dust bath.

We have flying predators around here…small hawks, desert vultures, owls and ravens (yes, they’re even a danger to chicks).  The “recess” pen has a bird netting over the top attached with simple binder clips.  Easy, simple and no fuss!  The pen is even just outside the back door where I can sit here and watch while they have their outside time.  This lets them stretch and wear themselves out enough that they’re not driving everyone crazy with their attempts to fly in the brooder.  It’s also getting them used to being outside before they perminately go out at the end of June.

Another interesting note…chickens are social creatures.  Even though there are 10 of them, when they go out for “recess” play, they’ll call loudly until one of us comes out to sit with them.  I’m thinking they’re more then a little spoiled.  What do you think?  At least I can say they’re feeling attached to us, right?  🙂

Fell asleep while one of the kidlets was petting her!

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