The next generation

Jimmy was such a good Roo.

8 out of 9 of the eggs I placed in the incubator have hatched.

It breaks my heart to watch them, knowing what happened to their parents and the rest of my flock so recently. But I know that if I don’t get back on with it I will never want to own another chicken.

These will not be going anywhere near the outdoor coop until they are fully feathered and large enough, and until I have fortified every possible fox entrance. They wont even be able to breathe near my birds again without me knowing about it.

In the meantime, these are my newest little babies;

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Buckbeak and Blue

These two were the first to hatch. Blue is very large, and is a cross between Jimmy the horny Pekin and Chickira, a large foul White Star cross.
Buckbeak is a tiny little Banty baby and has the most emo eyeliner I have ever seen.

Next up was Henny Henry, baby of Henny kravitz, the huge Copper Maran. A miracle child if there ever was one, she is the product of the biggest hen and the smallest roo. Nobody is entirely sure what she will look like, but she is very big already, and has Jimmys fluffy feet!

Henny

Next up came Henneth. She also came from a blue egg, so is a cross between Jimmy the horny Pekin and Chickira, a large foul White Star cross. We don’t know if she will have tail feathers like her dad, or none like her mum, so that will be interesting to watch.

Henneth Paltrow

Next to hatch was Violet. So named because she is the most adorable greyish purple, although she doesn’t look it in this photograph. She’s very nervous and is absolutely tiny!

Violet

One of the last to emerge is this beauty. MrT has called it Alvin, because it has a wicked chipmunk stripe. He’s the smallest of all the chicks and is adorable.

Alvin

To match Alvin, we have Theodore. She’s the opposite of Alvin, and is white with a grey chipmunk stripe.

Theo

The very last to hatch is the most beautiful one yet. MrT fell immediately in love – obviously because its as dramatic as he is – and has named it Sanka after the Cool Runnings character.

Sanka

“Kiss the lucky egg!”


The big birds!

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Outside for the first time!

Whilst the incubator was full of little ones bursting into life, my orginals were having their first taste of the outside.

Usually the two big ones are kept in a separate enclosure to the three smaller, but I am gradually introducing them to each other. Their first time outside was the perfect opportunity.

Friday was also out there, but is buried behind Walter in the photo above.

None of them seemed to know quite what to do, especially since the lawn was dewy and the grass long, but they will learn.

When they settled, they seemed to enjoy the tasty grass and scratching about in the mud.

Typical, they’ll get mud all over their freshly cleaned enclosures!

They are constantly under the protection of their bodyguards – Bonnie and Rico the rotties. No other critters are allowed close, especially since I think the rottie club may think that the birds are actually undercover puppies!

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Heartbroken

We lost every single bird today.

I am an animal lover, but if I was face to face with that fox right now, I don’t know what I would do.

We can’t find any trace of how they got in and out, but they’ve taken Jimmy.

There’s also 1 Rhode Island and 3 Pekin Bantam hens missing – presumed dead.
It has left all the big marans headless scattered around the yard with guts all over and one bantam stuffed inside a haybale.

I am devastated.

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Jimmy and Jerry

Thankfully my neighbour saw it before me and warned me. He had already moved them in to a pile by the time I got there so that I didn’t have to see the bloodbath – but the amount of feathers all over everywhere, including in the nesting boxes where my broody hens were, was absolutely heartbreaking.

He has sent me home for a cup of tea while he cremates the remaining girls, and MrT has gone up in his work lunch break to try and figure out the plan of action.

I am supposed to be going away tomorrow morning for the weekend so have next to no time to sort anything out – not that theres any birds left to make it nice for.

Although perhaps the break will be good to take my mind off it…


Update

Having gone up there this evening to try and come to terms with what has happened, I now have an update.

My allotment neighbours found another girls as they were cleaning up. She was Maryhen and was my nephews’ favourite. I am glad i wasn’t there for that.

I found the Red, Rihenna, buried in the corner of the run, headless but otherwise intact.

I found Morgan stuffed head first inside a hay bale, covered by loose hay. She was fully intact, but from the state of the feathers she was killed up against that bale.

One lady is still missing. She was a beautiful millefleur girl called Jerry [Jeremy Cluckson]. She was broody and was sat in the nest box at the time. All of the eggs had also been taken/eaten.

Jimmy is still missing.
His feathers are scattered around the ladder entrance to the coop.
It is obvious by the layout, scratches and mess that the fox has tried to enter the coop through that door. Jimmy has been there to greet it, and has tried his hardest to defend his ladies.
He was an angel in the day, but ferocious when night fell.

We still do not know how the fox got in to the coop, but many of the other Old Boys have had a look and cannot find obvious any entrance or exit. Especially since they have been safe for the past 2 years while all other local coops have been raided, some several times.

I need to take a break from the allotment for a week or two to gather myself and focus on the chicks at home. Mr T will find out the entry route and secure the coop from any future invaders.

I know to some they are just chickens, but to me they were my pets.
Each had a name, a personality, and a daily cuddle.

They will be missed.

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Progress update

Walt and Jessie are getting BIG

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And Walt is definitely a boy.

He wakes us up at the crack of dawn every morning with his crowing.

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Walter
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Jessie

I am getting seriously worried about being able to keep him. The only reason we managed to get away with having Jimmy was because he was the quietest little man I had ever seen.

I can only hope that he quietens down when he is outside with a flock of his own.

We have a big plan to build another run next door to the current one with a big enough flock to keep both him and Jimmy happy. If not then sadly he will have to go. Walt may be my first born, but Jimmy was my first ever chicken and is the love of my life – even MrT knows that!

The feathers are coming…

I’m way too excited about these chicks.

So much so that my allotment neighbour has leant us his incubator and I have put a couple more in to see what happens!

Lovely speckled baby feathers coming through.

But look how much my first borns have grown up. Those feathers are looking beautiful and they’ll be just like daddy!

I am beginning to think that Walt may be a little boy though with those looks he keeps giving me. He’s got more side-eye glares than a teenage me!

They are definitely mummy’s chickens though, Mr T hasn’t quite made friends with them yet

Easter Eggs?

THERES ANOTHER ONE!

Jessie

This morning we welcomed little Jessie to the world.

[S]he’s beautiful and is now home and snuggled up with Walter loving life.

They are my first ever hatched chicks, and are the product of Jimmy the horny roo and one of our bantam ladies – not a clue which one though!

Now time to watch them grow up and try not to cuddle them to death…

A Very Special Announcement

It was a fabulous suprise this morning to be greeted with congratulations down the allotment on our new arrival.

We hadn’t got a clue what was going on.

But then we saw little baby Walter!

I’m so proud and so excited!!

Walter

A few weeks ago we gave one of our allotment neighbours two bantam eggs in return for two duck eggs – a very good trade on our part I thought.

It turns out that he wanted to put these bantam eggs underneath his racing pigeons to see if they would sit on eggs properly. And turns out – his pigeons are pretty good mamas!

Snuggles

So does this mean we now have a Homing Chicken? And if so, do you think we could corner the market? People pay a lot for pigeons, I bet a few well trained chickens could set us up nicely!

Bonding Time

Just kidding of course, this is our first-born, and will be my little baby from now onwards

The other egg has just begun pipping so we will see what tomorrow brings…

The Chick Inn – “Always room for one more”

So, this post has been a long time coming. You’ll remember from the end of last year my worries about the girls current living arrangements and how I wanted to get them in to a custom-built coop. Unfortunately, the best laid plans always fall through and it has taken us this long to get around to finishing off our ladies’ new digs.

I took a day off work and roped in MrT to help build the new palace. Turns out it took much longer than a day and has actually taken about 3 weeks of weekend and evening work, but that’s by-the-by. We had no strict plans, no measurements, nothing. I just knew what I wanted and had to try and relay this on to him. We were planning on using as much of the spare tongue and groove wood from our new log cabin at home as possible so that it was built with some thick, well treated wood and would last a long time yet.

Sawn up fence post ‘legs’

We started off by building the base. We simply picked the shortest lengths of wood, slotted them together and kept going until it got to the right size. We made sure that the smooth side of the finished wood would be inside the coop. This lends itself to easy cleaning and also reduces hidey holes for redmite and other nasties. We then screwed a wooden square to the base for strength and the floor was done. Simples!

A very blurry MrT

Because the wood is so thick and heavy, we really needed to put it in to place before we added any more to it. We attached six leg (three either side) made out of old fence posts cut to size. This will keep the floor off the ground and reduce hiding places for Ratty and Co. to live and chew through the floor like they have the shed. We dug six holes in the ground to sink the legs and when everything is built and settled we will postcrete this in to stop it sinking. We placed it in the corner of the run so that we still have optimal space for the girls, and up against the fencing so that I can have the laying box outside the run without compromising the girls safety.

A bit wonky, but they got straightened up when we put it in position
The girls loved the readymade dust baths!
The only part we made sure was level was the floor

Next up was to build the rough structure for the walls. Again, we had no particular measurements so we used the offcuts of the base to make a rough shape. Initially I had pictured an apex roof, but I soon realised that was way too much effort, even if MrT thought it would be easy enough to do. I knew that I would end up finishing this off by myself though so opted for the easiest option. We just used a longer length for the front elevation, a shorter one for the back, and an angled piece at the top to hold it all together and support the roof. It needed to be steep enough for the rain and snow to run off, but not so steep that it makes the living quarters too shallow for the girls.

This is how it’ll look from the side
Build one side then use that to make an exact copy for the other side

Next up, screw these to the base and put in two equal lengths of wood across the front and back to make a “wonky box”. Mr T cut and installed some lovely diagonal ‘bits’ to keep the walls from flopping over in the wind. We then installed a ‘H’ shaped structure which was the height of a chicken to create the pop-door. My descriptions are obviously very technical and in no way made-up.

Don’t do this on a windy day!
Our pretty little ‘wonky box’

I wanted to include a nice laying box set-up for the girls which stuck out of the side of the herras fencing run so that I didn’t have to go in and disturb them every morning or evening. We made this run the full length of the house so that the cladding would run smoothly and to provide three nice big spaces for the girls to lay. 3 of the older ladies no longer lay much and the new girls are Bantams so take up very little space so 3 laying boxes would be more than enough for our 10. I planned to make this have a lift up lid for ease of access but also to keep it as fox-proof as possible. Its hard to describe the shape of the structure we built so take a look at the photos below and if you’d like measurements and instructions get in touch and I can send them over.

I built it through the fencing and cut the bars right at the end to keep it fox proof during construction

The next problem was that I wanted a nice people-door and a window in the new chicken-abode. MrT thought we could build them, I thought we should use the readymade ones from Cluckingham Palace Mark 1.  After many minutes of heated marital discussion, it was decided that we would do it my way. Obviously.

Nice hot pink window frame
This’ll be their view from their bed

Mr T went back to work for the rest of the week and left me with struct instructions to leave it until he we next off, so of course I got all of his tools back out (sorry love!) and spent my weekend carrying on with exactly what he told me not to do.

Cutting around the window frame was so difficult as I had to work with what tools we had

So the nice hot pink door and window frame were installed and looked beautiful. I took the window home and removed the chicken wire to install some clear Perspex. They don’t need it for ventilation as they will have the permanently open pop-door as well as a ventilation hole in the top of the coop.

Cladding up the stairs

Then it was just a case of cladding up the sides front and back. Much more difficult than it sounds since we had to try and work through herras fencing on two sides, with one also covered in brambles and nettles. Thick trousers and a jumper were required but I still felt like Snow White in the woods when the brambles grabbed hold of my hair!

This was hard to do single handed I must say!

This took a lot longer than I though and I needed about size hands, but eventually I managed it just in time for MrT to be off again. We went out to the DIY shop in my lunch hour and spent an awful lot of dosh on some hinges, hooks, hasps and roof panels which just so happened to be the perfect width. He then spent the afternoon creating a lovely lift up hatch for the laying box.

Being the hard worker that he is he had to go back for another full-on week (or perhaps he just pretends to go to work to get out of chores?) so I carried on regardless. I installed some laying box dividers made from offcuts of the hatch. I sanded and painted and made it look beautiful in ‘Slate Grey’. I hinged the door, added a hasp lock so that I can keep them safe and added a small hook and loop to the door so that I can pin it open should I need to.

The girls weren’t happy with my mess

Then, on the windiest day of the year, I decided to put the roof on… by myself.

Sadly, this is where our lack of measuring and squaring up really hindered us as it turns of that the whole place isn’t square! I nearly flew away many times and could hardly lift the heavy wooden sheets, but I managed it in the end so sat and had a victory brew surveying my building skills.

I then had to put the roofing felt on top, which was even less fun as when the wind catches that it rips the felt out of your hands along with the skin on your fingertips. Don’t try this at home kids. But guess what? I managed it in the end so sat and had another victory brew surveying my building skills.

Late on Monday evening, I went to the pet shop and loaded up the car with some fresh bedding and went on a mission to move in my girls (and Jimmy the undercover rooster) in to their new digs.

We blocked up the door to the old house and installed a roosting bar and a ladder entrance to the pop-door, filled the new place with bedding and hay, added their food and water dispensers and snuck in to the old coop to move them in. MrT was on removal from the old roost, and I was on placing on the new roost. I definitely picked the right job, as MrT soon saw what I meant about Jimmy looking after his ladies when it gets dark. After a good few nips to the wrists, MrT soon learned the best way to pick up a rooster is quickly and from behind!

All of the girls have now moved in to their new digs and appear to be loving it! There is less space in there than the old one so they are much cosier and its really toasty in there. They still have enough space to spread out and section themselves into their groups, but there’s less area for Jimmy to have to patrol and they can now huddle up without having the tiptoe along the bar in the dark.

We went down there again last night and found that only two of the girls had figured out how to use the ladder. Bloody birds. So, we spent another evening putting them to bed. The last man standing was Jimmy and he couldn’t figure it out for the life of him. After almost an hour of trying to corral him up the ladder, he finally got on to it by accident. It was almost as if you could see the lightbulb!
Hopefully now that he has worked it out, he will show the other girls tonight, but it’ll be another trip down there later to make sure the last of the stragglers know where ‘bed’ is!

Now finally, welcome to The Chick Inn – “Where There Is Always Room For One More” ,

New arrivals <3

Welcome to The Roost little ones!!

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We had a naming session at a family barbecue over the weekend – the only stipulation being that they had to fit in with my ‘famous’ theme.

Meet (Left to Right);
Morgan Freenhen
Jimmy Hendrix
Cluck Noris
MariHen Monroe
and
Jeremy Cluckson

My current girls are Rita, Sue and Bob2, as well as Rhihenna, Henifer Lopez and Henny Kravitz so the names will work well.

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They are fitting in well and have already escaped their chick-pen 3 times in 24 hours. Unfortunately I don’t think they realise that the big chickens will be mean to them until they grow up a little!

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They are Pekins and have beautiful fluffy feet… they’re gorgeous and make the cutest little tweet noise.

Hopefully the integration in to the flock will go well in a few weeks time!

 

What do you call a chicken with a piece of lettuce in it’s eye? A: Chicken Caeser Salad

Chickens eat everything.

Except, apparently, their own food when it has touched the floor.

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Mine drop food EVERYWHERE and with us having the abandoned plot next to us, rodents are eating more than they do when they’ve dropped it everywhere.

They were being fed using pet-shop feeders similar to the one below. They are great if you have a few hens and they are store inside the coop, but mine walked all over them and they ended up full of straw and chicken poo!

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So I decided I needed to find a way of being able to securely store enough food for my hens without the pests or rain getting to it. I also needed to be able to allow the chickens to eat but not drop food everywhere.

I did an internet search and found many versions of the same thing – PVC pipe feeders.

Many people used clear plastic tubs like those used to store things in the attic with pvc elbows glued in like this one here – http://blog.mypetchicken.com/2015/10/05/diy-no-waste-feeder/

I wanted something on a larger scale though for my 12 hens in the hope that I may be able to use a whole bag of feed at a time and reduce the tips to the storage shed.

So I got myself a big plastic water butt on a free site. It came with a lid, but also had taps on the bottom so I will remove these and plug up the holes… or maybe just leave them against the fence as a good “attachment point” to stop it falling over.
I also went to Screwfix and got some 55mm PVC elbows when I went to sort out my automatic drinker system. I had hoped for larger sized ones but apparently they are hard to come by at regular shops! I also saved some old thick card and shaped it in to a cone to direct the feed pellets.
Tool wise I needed a 60mm hole bore for MrT’s drill, and squishy tube of sealant. Job done.

It was a pretty simple task really. Lay out where you would like the openings and mark them, then drill the holes. I did mine all around the edge, but you can always use one or two on each side if it will sit in a corner. Make sure they are high enough up that you chickens don’t have to bend too much, but also low enough that they can peck at the food after the 90 degree bend.

Put your arm inside the barrel and poke the elbows through from the inside, leaving about 1.5cm outside the barrel. This will give the food protection from rain running down the barrel if I have to move it outside at any point.

Then use the sealant to secure the pipe from the inside and let this set. Then do the same on the outside! You can try and do them both at the same time but if you knock the pipe at any point you’ll end up with it everywhere. Not a good look.

Then use the thick cardboard to make a cone that fits in the middle of you barrel to direct the food towards the pipes. This isn’t desperately needed as the weight of the food above will push enough of it down, but it means that you don’t end up with food sat in the middle of the barrel between all of the pipes which goes stale having not been eaten.

Et, Voila!

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It takes a while for the girls to figure out that food is inside that little hole, but they get there eventually!

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No more messy floors and having to fill up tiny feeders in the shed every day…

Bliss.

Cluckingham Place gets new plumbing

I love my chickens, I really do, but they eat and drink you out of house and home.

Every day I am down there filling up the food and water troughs (twice in the summer!) and every day I end up covered in chicken poo and overspray from the enthusiastic hose attachment.

I needed to find a better way of doing things.

I searched everywhere online for different ways of watering my chickens using rainwater collected from their coop, and nowhere could I find a suitable solution.

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I looked in to using chicken nipples or drinkers, but these are either very expensive (over £5 each on Ebay!) or have very bad longevity reviews. Plus my chickens are stupid. They would NEVER figure out those little knobly bits held water.

I then looked in to a system which looked perfect. It was a tupperware tub bolted on to a tank with a bit of pipe. Hydrodynamics kept it from overflowing. However these only seemed to work with catering buckets and HAD to be airtight. Plus I don’t think it would work with such a large container as air is too stretch-able and squash-able for a good enough vacuum to be created. Overflowing and losing all the water is not good when watering 12 hens daily.

There are a few specialist products out there too; cups, drinkers, pipes, bowls… however all of these had one issue – EXPENSE.

Everything had to be cheap.

So I did some creative thinking and while I was in the bathroom one evening (TMI I know!) I had a brainwave.

I need my system to run like the toilet. A big tank full of water supplying a little bowl of water which turns off without input from opposable thumbs.

So I went to Screwfix – leading supplier of all things toilet.

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Here I picked up some PTFE tape (12 rolls for £4!), a toilet float valve, some rubber washers to fit the float and 6 55mm PVC 90degree elbows (for my next project – operation food waste). I also found a large blue barrel on Gumtree going for free. The final thing I needed was a tub that could fit the float in, but wasn’t too big for the chickens to drink from and would hopefully not fill with poo and shavings (a girl can dream).

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We have got an IBC that MrT helped me to collect, so if this goes well I will make another one. My hens will never have to worry about being a bit parched. As long as it doesn’t freeze but I will come to that in the autumn…

I could find nothing similar on the internet before so hopefully this will make sense, but if not feel free to message me you questions!

It is environmentally friendly, uses less water, wastes less time and also feeds my constant need to ‘upcycle’ and re-use

Blue Barrel

My first step was to clean out the old tank. From the smell of it (and experience of being a Chef Widow) this barrel used to contain some sort of veg oil. This is edible so it isn’t too big of a deal, but oil can quickly go gross so best to clean it now. The amount of times I have washed this from MrT’s work clothes has taught me that the best way of getting this out is the good old fashioned way.

  1. Fill the barrel with warmish water. I used a hose from the outside tap mixed with a couple of kettles just boiled!
  2. Add a really CHEAP dish soap. The expensive “moisturising” ones are rubbish for this. The good old 25 ones that make your hands feel like stones are perfect.
  3. Screw the tops on the barrel.
  4. Roll it on its side up and down the driveway for a few minutes. Good way of finding leaks too.
  5. Avoid stares from confused neighbours.
  6. Tip content of barrel away (safely!!).
  7. Stop dogs from playing in oily bubbles.
  8. Repeat.
  9. Rinse with clean cool water.

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I then drilled a hole large enough for the threads of my float valve, but not so large that it would flap about and let water leak. 20mm did it for me.

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I also did the same thing in the tub that the chickens will drink from. Plastic can be quite hard to cut through, so it is worth drilling a pilot hole and then allowing the cutter to spin and melt the plastic slightly as it cuts. Don’t force it, you’ll split the drum or stab yourself with flying plastic/drill bit. And definitely don’t touch it straight away.

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Remember physics; Friction=Hot

When (if!) I do this with the IBC, I will add some PVC connecting pipe between the tank and the float, just simply because the IBC has a tap already installed which I will use as an emergency cutoff for cleaning and if the valve fails.

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My barrel conveniently had a screw cap at the top which was the perfect size for a click-on hose adaptor, so I added this on there for when the rains don’t come (HA! We live in the UK, so not likely!). On the other side will be my downpipe for the guttering when i have fitted it, but that will be a weekend job so ill be hose-pipe filled for now.

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Next up, I screwed the float valve in to the drum. There is a nut to use on the inside, but there was no way i was getting my hand in that barrel so I just screwed it in and will use sealant to keep it watertight. Then unscrew it again when you realise you forgot the water container. I was very careful this whole time not to damage the threads but also not to strip the hole I had just drilled. This would hopefully add some extra water resistance.

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Then put it all together and pray.

The order is this; Nut (if you can get it in there), washer, barrel, washer, tub, washer, float valve. The float valve sits inside the tub where the chickens will drink. Use the float valve screw to wedge all of these parts together like a big BLT.

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Add some water and its time to test! Maybe put waterproof shoes on for this and don’t do it on your kitchen floor – you know, just in case.

The way it SHOULD work is that when the water flows out of the barrel and in to the tub the float rises to close the valve and shuts off the water at the correct level. When the chickens drink and lower the level the valve opens again.

You may need to have a play around to try and get the water level just right. Mine is on its lowest setting, and i will cut the plastic tub into a more “easy to drink from” shape when i know it is all working properly.

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Remember that small chicks can and WILL get in the water and drown, so this should not be used for young babies. This is for my ExBatt hens for laying (about 2 years old) so if they fall in it is because they are thick.

Hopefully this will save me getting soggy shoes and poo covered hands, as well as keeping my hens hydrated in the summer months!

They love it!

I will let you know in winter how it fares with freezing, but I have a feeling that I may need to resort to some sort of heating mechanism or just fill them up daily, especially if using pipes!