Wednesday, June 16, 2010

DIY free-ranging chook feeder

Chooks are quite capable of free-ranging all by themselves without any DIY input from us of course, but mine seem to do it too well. They eat all the grass and weeds in their free-range area inconveniently quickly, and gobble up newly germinated greenery the moment it pokes through the soil. They can still scratch around and find bugs to eat, but it does not seem like proper free-ranging to me if there is no living greenery for them to eat.

At first I tried partitioning off a section of their area and waiting for that area to revegetate. Once it had, I would allow the chooks back into that area and partition off a different area. I guess that is worth doing (and I do still do this), but its not really very effective. The revegetated areas are stripped bare again in a matter of days, whereas the revegetation process takes weeks. Thus, most of the time the only greenery the chooks get is the grass and weeds I toss over to them when I weed my vege patch, and the outer leaves, tops, etc. of the veges I pick for us to eat.

What I've done now...

My Big Bucket greywater project involved cutting the top 2/3rds off  of a round 500L poly tank, and of course I kept the offcut part just in case I ever needed circular walls for anything. This offcut, cut in halves vertically, now forms the walls of two 90cm diameter free-ranging chook feeders. These are bottomless, and sit on on the ground in the free-range area. I secured chicken wire over the tops of them so the chooks can't get inside them, and I planted alfalfa, broad beans, mizuna, and various other seeds I happened to have in the soil inside the walls.

The chooks can now graze on the greenery once it grows enough to poke through the wire netting without destroying the plants to the extent that they stop growing. In the photo below the alfalfa, etc., is just starting to poke through the soil, but the broad beans have been growing quickly and the chooks are already snacking on the one in the foreground.

The other day I was telling Gloria about my chook feeder and she said, "Oh I've done that too, but I made mine out of wire mesh"! Apparently her chooks managed to get in under the wire the other day, so her feeder is looking a bit bare at the moment.

Gloria's free-range chook feeder

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