Off the bus, the garden tour bus, come on people get your minds out of the gutter. I mean I know it’s spring and gardening is all about sex right now (yes, and asexual reproduction, etc. too) but I’m trying to keep this blog “G” rated. Seriously though, UNCLE, I’m crying uncle. I really thought I’d nearly got the garden in and then yesterday I cleaned out the greenhouse and discovered flats, and flats, and flats of seedlings – some varieties I haven’t even planted yet. I tell you, this garden better produce otherwise I’m going to be very, very grumpy!
Enough whinging though, I really want to talk about chickens. You may remember that I made a pun about fodder in a previous post, but said you’d have to stay tuned to get the joke. Well, I’ve been wanting to follow-up since then but… well see above. Anyway, spring has been glorious here – mild with nice steady rains – so we’ve been doing lots of lawn moving. For years we’ve been throwing the clippings into the chicken run; the girls love, love, love them. However, occasionally we get more than even they can deal with and the clippings go into the compost heap. I got to thinking though (I know, that’s where the trouble starts), wondering if there was a use for these excess clippings a little higher up the food chain? So I got on trusty ol’ Google and started looking into it. The first thing I found was a fellow who discussed making hay (which he uses for bedding) with his clippings. I thought this was pretty clever but wondered “could I use the hay as food, rather than just bedding?” This led me down the rabbit hole to silage. Ideally chickens (and rabbits) should have access to greens year round, and I try to make sure they get at least some by way of scraps and cole crops during the summer and winter, but I know that they aren’t really getting enough. Now I knew about putting up silage for cattle, but I never thought of putting it up for chickens. (If you don’t know what silage is, it is essentially high moisture vegetation that has undergone some aerobic, but primarily anaerobic fermentation in order to be used as fodder.) Mother Earth News has a short article with some excellent resources on the hows and whys of small-scale silage production. Things are starting to get hot and dry here so I think I’ve missed my window for this year, but I’m definitely going to remember it for next year.
In other chicken news, one of the things I least like about keeping chickens is the whole “how to keep their water clean” issue. I tried traditional waters, I tried large bowls but inevitably I ended up with poop soup (and now you all know why the Kale right outside the coop is so big and vibrant). In addition to wanting to keep the water clean and reduce maintenance I also have to be able to add ice or super cold water to the waterers in the summer to ensure that the chickens take on enough fluids; I have the same requirement for the rabbits. Now there are all sorts of commercially available or DIY products (such as the one pictured below) that will address my needs, but to be perfectly honest with you I didn’t want to spend the money to buy one, or time to make one.
I’d remembered reading a couple of articles about watering chickens with rabbit bottle, so I tried it. Result! Poop soup problem solved, but it was still a pain to take them down and fill them up every day. So I went in search of bigger bottles and I stumbled upon flip-top waterers.
I love it when a plan comes together! The chickens took to them quickly (I was a little worried as this uses a nipple instead of roller ball). Yippee… easy, clean water that I can easily add ice to. Now if I could only convince the rabbits to use them.