Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Best Chicken Waterer Ever!

No this is not an advertisement for Tidy Cats. But this plastic jug, one of many sitting in my recyclables pile on the sun porch, makes hands-down the best chicken waterer I have yet to experience. Instead of investing in heat lamps, heated waterers, or heated stands to stick your waterer upon, just find an old kitty litter jug.

To make it into a waterer, I slice it in half lengthwise (top to bottom), so you wind up with a skinny dish. If you cut it properly, you'll have the capped bit as one end of the dish. (Leave the cap on, or all the water will flow out.) Anyway, when the water freezes into a solid chunk (and it will, trust me), all you do is flex your formerly-litter-jug-now-a-water-dish a bit, and out pops a large rectangular ice cube. Tah dah. No banging the dishes, no heating bills going through the roof. While it does freeze over time, the girls & Rudy have figured out how to chip off bits of the ice. They'll eat that with great enjoyment. It almost seems like they like ice chips better than liquid water, some days.

I get asked a lot: Do you heat your chicken house? Well, no. Chickens actually put out a lot of heat, and they scrunch together on their roosting bars to stay warm. I also do the "deep litter" method of bedding over the winter. This is simple: Don't clean the house. Just add layers of fresh bedding on top of the dirty, mucky stuff about once a week. The chickens will root through it and mix it around, but the cleaner stuff stays to the top. Because it is a deep layer of bedding, it actually begins to compost. Composting, if you didn't already know, produces a heck of a lot of heat as the microorganisms start breaking down the organic material. This heat generation in turn heats the chicken house. It isn't like Kew Gardens in there, by any means, but it's a good 20-25 degrees warmer in the house than it is outside. Between the chickens snuggling together at night and the deep bedding, they fare pretty well without an electricity-sucking heat lamp hung from the ceiling. Come spring, I clean out all the mucky bedding and toss it onto the compost heap for a little while. It's nearly ready to spread on the gardens, directly out of the chicken house!

All those fancy-dancy water heaters always crap out on me anyway. If you read the fine print, all of them say "Do not get wet". Umm, hello. It's a waterer. It is going to get wet, because you put water in/on/next to it. Chickens are also sloppy drinkers (not quite as bad as ducks, but close), who slobber water everywhere when they go for a drink or wrestle for position amongst their feathered fellows. So save your money, find an old kitty litter jug, and make your very own Best Chicken Waterer Ever. Your happy hens will thank you. The electrical company will mourn the loss of all your hard-earned dollars that they previously tucked into their back pockets every winter. You will have the pride of being the epitome of thrify farmer-ness. Ahh, the glory.

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