Saturday, August 19, 2017

Tested PVC Pipe Chicken Feeders

 Use Pinterest? Then you have probably seen these feeders in abundance. The appeal to me was the space saving concept. My coop was crowded. Too crowded with things not chicken related so I've decided that all those rabbit cages have got to go. The chicken coop will be just that, a chicken coop. The rabbits will have their own housing facilities this fall but for now they are residing in the barn. This has made room for some brooder boxes and a nesting box that is for now just hen scratches on a piece of paper. I can tell you so far, the coop sure smells better. As for those pearly white feeders all standing like shoulders at attention snug up against the chickens coop wall on Pinterest, well, that is what this blog is about? Not how to make them as Pinterest can do that but on whether or not you should make them. I grew suspicious perusing Pinterest as picture after picture showed the feeders brand spanking new. Where was the beloved and used? Nothing but pearly white showed up so a few months ago I set out to discover whether or not these PVC feeders were a fad, or a fantastic innovation?

We had some old PVC pipe lying around in the barn and with a joint and some aluminum strap purchased, I was in business. As far as assembly, they are easy peasy. We did not bother to glue the one feeder together but just pushed the pieces tight. Caution dictated that I start with one feeder first even though those smart rows of white were sure appealing. My first discovery was that the feeders don't really need to be very tall unless you want to fill them up with a whole 50 pound bag of feed. I made mine far too tall.

My feed store friend said she babysat chickens and had to put fifty pounds of scratch into a PVC pipe feeder. She does not recommend it. It isn't about muscles after all I get big waves from strange men at the town dump and it isn't because of my beauty. Some guys appreciate a working woman willing to unload 600 pounds of barbwire in her floppy hat and shorts. I'm sure I was quite the sight on my last visit but that is not the only time I've drawn attention. It is the fact that feed sacks are floppy and the weight has a tendency to shift as it pours. There are ways around lifting the whole sack but in my experience, a smorgasbord approach computes to waste. I've learned that chickens are drawn to an easy meal and forget home on the range hitting the pocket book hard.

My goal is to cut costs and for health reasons. I want the flock to be eating natural freebies, grass, bugs, annoying Magpies, oh wait, that's just one hen that hates them - well, her and I that is. Unfortunately, she's never caught one yet despite her determined efforts. All those calisthenics running around the yard dodging, diving and yes, even leaping into the air after bugs is so much better for their health. Healthy hen, healthy eggs. Besides it is great entertainment for us human beans.

Another plus, I don't ever remember having such a low bug population. Then I have more chickens than ever before, DUH! And I can't help thinking it has got to be great on the garden. You know the one buried in weeds? So smorgasbord it will not be. But the potential for a large capacity feeder isn't such a bad idea. If the need arose and we had to have someone take over for a week or more it could be handy. My babysitters ... the fam, aren't impressed with my current four hour a day chore lists. I'm not either and as soon as the 12 boxes of fruit I just picked up is canned, we are lowering the livestock numbers. 
My first go with the feeders, I put in a couple days ration and observed. My feed mixture at the moment is chicken scratch and pelleted lay mash. Some girls like corn, and some, like my pet chicken Vivian, likes millet best. Well actually she likes the ducks feed best but that's another story. Some of you know what's coming next. They do indeed flick the feed this way and that sorting through to get to their favorite grains. The bigger the pipe, the greater the head swing and the further the feed flies. Pretty soon the the floor has as much feed on it as in the feeder or maybe it is more. 

My solution - just put a short rubber feed pan underneath to catch the spills. It worked but the pan gets some poo in it so the feed is not as clean as I'd like. Then again these girls dig through goat and beef poop so what am I complaining about - the waste issue of course. Chicken poo isn't quite so appealing as goat, and beef so they don't clean it up as well.

How do I fix this problem? Would putting just one type of grain in a pipe work better and having multiple feeders like in the Pinterest pictures. Vivian loves millet. I'm wondering, maybe there are some local farmers who raise millet or wheat. Not many raise crops beyond hay here but there might be something I can find. If the girls have nothing to sort, we....ll. What do you think?

Problem number two - it appears that the girls can't reach the back of the feeders and so don't completely empty them. I'm not positive on this as I've not withheld feed to make sure but they don't slick it all up. So I wonder, is it the exact same feed in the back of the feeder and new feed rolling over the top? Hmmm... will it eventually rot? For now I just scoop it out with my hands once in a while into the rubber feed pan below.

Problem number three - You have to unscrew the band that hold the feeder to the wall to remove the feeders to clean them. You can only do that a few times and then the screw holes aren't going to hold. Still thinking on that one for a solution. Handy man I am not. I do like the way the slick PVC stays relatively clean though.

Still all in all I kind of like these feeders if for nothing else but the space saving and the fact that the girls can't tip them over when they get in one of their tit for tat huffs and go screaming after each other. Doesn't happen often, but girls will be girls.

You may think I stopped the experiment with feed rations. Oh no, I tried feeding in the morning and feeding at night before bedtime. Definitely at night was the better option. With it being warmer at night, the girls like to stay outside. The fox and coyotes really like that. The feed entices the girls in and I can then close up without having to round up whoever is missing. Catching chickens is not a favorite task though yes, I am quite good at it. I should be.

So despite the draw backs, I think I'll keep my PVC pipe feeder and add a few more. What have you discovered with yours? I'm guessing I'm not the only one of my readers that has one. I'd love to know your experiences. I'm always looking for better ways to do things. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Which Way Do You Milk?

I've milked a number of goats over 32 years. Some my own but also a number of goats that were not. In our previous location I was called fairly often to do chores for neighbors. I've also milked not  animals not familiar to me until I latched on to their udders. If it is a horse or cow it can become exciting and needs to be done with skill and caution because of the potentially powerful kick that may follow. With goats, not so big a deal. There is a basic formula and the details the goat will let you know about in a hurry. One friend's goats let me know that were milked from the back while straddling the milk stand. For me pulling the udder backwards in this manner is awkward but who am I to argue. It just makes things more difficult and after all I'm only a brief visitor in their milking cycle.  Besides who wants goats that jump about and spill the milk?
As for me, I preferred the traditional front facing backwards position. You can see I've been doing this for years and years as this was a long time ago in another location. Most of my goats have a preference for this method. In part because the person I occasionally buy goats from using the same traditional milking style. A word of warning, this works great for does fully trained to the milk stand BUT...

But not so good with many new milkers which have a tendency not to keep their feet still. Flies, impatience, and being uncomfortable, all play into the their feet striking forward. Yup, right into the milk pail often ending up spilling the milk or standing in it. I can see you goat owners nodding your heads. We  have all experienced this. I've learned a few training tricks and milking positions that help prevent mishaps, enough for a whole other blog so you'll just have to wait in suspense. 

You can see why the traditional method of milking is the number one of choice among most milkers. The teats are or should be positioned to drain straight down into the pail. 

Yet, I do milk my does in varying positions at different times of the year and at different ages of the doe. During a heavy fly time of the year I put the pail behind the doe and milk into it so that when she kicks it is not liable to spill the milk. No matter what you do in a small operation it seems when fall peeks its head inside the door, the flies come biting with a vengeance. I train my does at a year old when they first freshen to stand in the middle of an open area - untethered - with just a little grain in a pan while I squat on the ground and milk. Most will even stand without the grain. Especially handy when you just want to fill a few baby bottles to feed kid. Warm from the tap is so much easier. And since I feed four times a day when the kids are newborn or especially small it saves time.  It also helps bring in the does milk much faster and at a greater rate of production. 

That is if I don't leave the kids on their mother. Why I leave some kids on their mother and why I bottle feed others is another blog worthy post. 
The third method is a modified version of the backwards facing position. I wrap my left arm around the goats right back leg and my right arm in between the legs. The bucket in the rear. This one is especially for Belle. Though I've modified many of her poor behavioral habits that she had when she arrived, this one is just not going away. She is the most bullheaded goat I've ever worked with. Not a high winding kick, just a low spasmodic kick, just enough to spill the milk. When she is especially bad, I tie the leg upward off the ground so she has to hold still or fall over. 

Other times she gets a "Bell..e!" in a perfect rendition of the Disney step-sisters on Cinderella when they call her to come hither to prepare them for the ball. Hear it? To counteract this angering habit, the pail is in the rear but I'm facing backwards with my arms twined unusually through her legs. The only set back is you have to make sure and not bump her legs and cause a kick. I usually rest my left arm against her right leg, the one that kicks, which helps remind her not to kick and lowers the number of times that she does it. This girl will not stay for much longer.

So.... which way do you milk? And why would be even more enlightening.