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With the hotter weather nearly on the doorstep, it's about the right time of the year to reconsider any poultry feeders and drinkers you may be using for your hens. If you are new to keeping chickens, then you need to make a point of choosing the right feeders and drinkers from the word go. Dirty dishes and water means loads of bacterial breeding grounds can thrive which can be really harmful for your birds.
Ideally, you would need slightly different feeders for younger chicks than you would for older birds. If you start looking through poultry magazines and online poultry suppliers, you may find yourself drowning in the amount of feeders there are on the market. However, if you go for the more basic designs then you won't go far wrong.
Young chicks don't need very big feeders – in fact, they only need feeders that hold a couple of days worth of feed. However, as they get older you will need to invest in slightly larger ones. You may prefer the plastic feeders to the metal galvanised ones. The bonus is that plastic feeders are a lot less expensive to but galvanised feeders will last a lifetime – so they do work out to be cheaper in the long run.
Chick feed tends to be quite fine – so a smaller feeder would be the better choice, think 0.5 kg capacity and that should do you fine. You can get hold of some feeders with removable feet which are great for young chicks to use. When the birds get bigger, all you have to do is put the feet back on the feeder. Remember, you need to buy the right chick feed too, because it will contain all the right vitamins, minerals and all the essential nutrients young birds need to get a good start in life.
For older birds, you'll need to invest in larger capacity feeders. Some poultry feeders come with useful scratch rings or scratch guards around them. These will prevent your hens from scratching the grain out of the feeders which means there is a lot less waste and therefore less expense. If you like to see your hens scratching around in the dirt – and let's face who doesn't, then you can always throw a few scraps and grain on the ground in the morning and then again in the afternoon so your hens can fun scratching around in the dirt. This means your hens are happy and your feeders full of good clean grain.
Again, you have the choice of investing in larger, cheaper plastic feeders or to spend a little more money and buy galvanised ones which will last a lot longer than the plastic ones.
It cannot be stressed strongly enough just how important it is to regularly clean out chicken feeders. Not only should they be rinsed out but they need to be disinfected at least once a week too. You would need to invest in a good quality poultry disinfectant that will not harm your birds. Lots of bacteria can breed in dirty feeders which can seriously affect the overall health of your birds. However, dirty feeders can be the cause of much more serious illnesses seen in chickens including salmonella, which is why the extra effort of keeping feeders as clean as possible at all times is essential.
Chickens just like any other animal, need to have access to fresh, clean drinking water at all times. It is crucial to your chicken's health which means you would need to invest in a suitable and practical poultry drinker that's easy to keep clean.
On the plus side, plastic drinkers are very cheap and extremely lightweight. The downside to them is they are very easily damaged if the weather freezes. For outdoor use, you would be far better off buying a galvanised metal drinker because you won't experience this problem if the weather turns really cold. For indoor use, then you could get away with using a plastic drinker.
Bell and round drinkers are great but you would need to get the right size for the number of birds you're keeping. If there is any loose dirt or straw around, you may find your hens scratch it all up and the debris ends up in the rim of the drinker. This can be very annoying because the water gets contaminated and the rim of the drinker gets all gunged up and horrid. If this happens you have to clean out the drinker and then refill it with fresh, clean water. One way around the problem is to invest in drinkers that are raised slightly off the ground or which can be suspended off the ground. These designs are brilliant because they stop birds from filling the rims of their drinkers with debris when they scratch around in the dirt.
Again it cannot be stressed strongly enough the importance of keeping plastic and galvanised metal poultry drinkers clean. You must regularly clean them out using a poultry friendly disinfectant. Failing to do this means a blue/green algae starts to form inside the drinkers which can be fatal to chickens. As the weather warms up the risk of the algae forming increases dramatically, so you need to clean out your drinkers every few days or as soon as you see any algae appearing on the inside of the drinker. The other thing to avoid at all costs is your chickens having access to any stagnant water which can be really detrimental to your bird's overall health if they drink it.
There is nothing wrong with buying second hand drinkers and feeders if it means you save yourself a little bit of money. However, you would have to make sure you sterilise and disinfect any used equipment that you do buy for your birds. The reason being you would not want them catching anything including bacteria that might be lurking in second hand feeders and drinkers. You would need to invest in a good quality poultry disinfectant. You can buy poultry friendly disinfectants from most pet superstores or even on the Internet, but make sure you choose a reputable supplier if you do order any online.
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