Son of Something farm has about 25 laying hens at the moment with some broody mothers siting on their clutches. We really enjoy letting the mothers raise their own and watching how they teach their young. Our flock has access to some nice real estate and enjoy roaming around near the creek. With Spring in full swing we are getting close to two dozen eggs a day.
We feed our birds Nature’s Best Organic feed and let them have free access to over an acre of riverfront property. In the fall they do cleanup work in the mixed orchard as well as pruning and foraging for fallen Goji berries. Thye also prep and till up beds for the following season.
The chicken coop has a rain barrel water collection system that I rigged up to always supply water and has an overflow that drains out to the Goji plants. I started with a fifty gallon barrel and created a stand in the coop (this keeps it out of the sun). Then I added a gutter and a drain pipe to flow into the barrel. In the barrel itself is a float ball vale that I scrapped from an old toilet and attached it to a milk crate. I fitted a hose onto the float ball valve and used the crate to hold the float ball valve at a certain height. This height was set to always have the float keep the barrel filled with five gallons. I added a rock to the middle of the crate so the float would not move or rise up when the rain water fills the barrel. So when it rains it fills the barrel full and the float ball valve does not need to work. During the summer when the rain disappears the float always maintains 5 gallons. I used PVC pipe (covered with foam) and chicken nipples ( I probably could have called them something different) to supply water to the chickens and ducks. They also have access to fresh water from the creek so the whole watering setup is a bit more than necessary but like one of my favorite shows (Arrested Development) “that way you have it“.
I added an automatic coop door a year ago and it was well worth the expense ($90). The hassle of always having to close the coop door can weigh on you especially with all the other farm chores. A nice setup after adding a little timer which I adjust every month or so for daylight changes.
I feed them manually every day and make sure to not have leftover feed in the feeders (don’t want to attract pests). Although the rest of the setup is automatic I find its good to stay in contact with the flock daily not only to collect eggs throughout the day but just to check on their well being. Its good to have fail-safe systems in place but even those need checking in on. I remember one time I came out to find a leaky 50 gallon drum just after a rain storm (a seal had worn out and water was gushing everywhere for who knows how long).