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grahamrhind

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About grahamrhind

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    Chicken Eggspert

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  1. Is free-ranging enough?

    @Dogmother This forum is one of the very few I take part in because the members are generally very supportive and understanding, and there's little bullying. Of course not everybody will agree with everybody and everything - as long as we all stay polite that's OK with me. But ... back to rats. This is going to be a process, and I will do what I can without killing unless no other options remain open. I take all the advice on board - the compost bin with food remains is rat-proof (the others contains just garden waste), our rubbish bags sit on top of a wall where the rats can't (easily) climb up to, the chicken feed is in closed containers, and so on. The rats have never yet succeeded in getting into any outhouses (they tried to chew through a shed door last time I succeeded in locking away the food, but they failed). They also won’t find food anywhere inside any of them. Inside my house, if they can get through the concrete, they will find two ex-feral cats, who don't share my principles. My belief is that, when they disappear (which they do when I succeed in locking down the food source), they go to the stables next door where they have an easier time finding food than trying to break into my house. That suits me fine. If they do start raiding the house, then I will take other action. But until then, I'll stick to my preferred humane course. Just for the information of anybody else who uses a Feed-o-Matic: it's important that it is placed on a hard flat surface, slanted slightly forward. This was how I had it originally and the rats couldn't get into it. However, they did tunnel beneath it and, in so doing, tilted it slightly backwards so that the rats needed less pressure to open the flap to get to the food. I have tilted it forward again, and added magnetic weights to the flap, and that seems to be keeping them out.
  2. Is free-ranging enough?

    @AyeAyeMagpie Am I not being clear enough? I live in a rural area surrounded by farmland and riding stables. I could be outside with a spade, caving in little rat skulls from morning to night from now until Christmas. The prevailing view is that it will not do the slightest bit of good - as long as there is food for them to eat, they will keep coming. Ergo, I am removing the food. I am in principle against killing other living creatures, so that's the route I have to take. I can understand people who live in more urban areas, who have rats in the house and who don't share my principles having other solutions - that's fine. But all my research suggests that you have to remove the reason you have the rats to get a result, and that's what I'm doing. I do somewhat resent the implication that I am contributing to the problem because I am not taking action against it - that's not true. It's just that my solution doesn’t involve killing.
  3. Is free-ranging enough?

    @Beantree As far as I can ascertain, there are no laws requiring me to kill rats (or any rodents) where I live in Germany. But don't get me wrong - I am trying to control them, by removing a food source that I control. They can carry diseases - so can chickens. I don’t intend to start down a path of killing them (or anything else) when it won't do the slightest bit of good (Germany is in the throes of a rat plague after the warm dry summer - any I kill will be replaced if I leave an easy food source lying around for them). I do notice that when I can successfully prevent their access to the chickens' feed their numbers drop significantly - that strategy works for me.
  4. Is free-ranging enough?

    Thanks everybody for your respomnses - they are much appreciated. As I said, there'll be no killing. Rats have as much right to life as I have and I admire their cunning and intelligence. I don't have any problems with rats being around per se - I just want to limit their numbers and prevent them from rolling around in the chicken feed, for hygiene reasons, and from attacking the chickens when they get hungry - I saw that once and it was quite frightening, though the chicken came off much better in that fight! I do take the chickens' fresh water in at night, but as I have a pond which is deliberately accessible to wildlife, and there's a drainage ditch next to my property, that just means they have to travel a few metres more for their drinks. There is also a lot of fruit and veg lying around and three compost heaps (my garden sounds like yours, Daphne!) so plenty to eat if they can't get at the chicken feed, and there are stables next door, probably with enough rats to repopulate any I could kill, so even were I the Pied Piper of Hamelin, I'll never get rid of them all. I live in rural splenditude, so the rats will always be there - I guess it's a different situation if you live in an urban area. My rats are also active during the day, but I shall certainly start taking the feed in at night - thanks Daphne, I should have thought of that - and I am now experimenting with magnets to increase the weight of the flap on the feeder to make it harder for the rats to get in whilst not preventing the hens from feeding, rather than trying to move the feeder to a higher place. Let's see what happens ...
  5. Can anybody tell me whether a chicken can get enough nutrition from free-ranging alone? Mine free-range 24 hours per day. I'm asking because, like so many on here, I'm currently having a running battle with rats in their feed. As mentioned here: I am using a Feed-o-Matic to keep the rats out. For a short period the feed I needed went down. Then it went back to normal. I assumed that this was because the chickens were working up to laying again until I found nine rats in a row, like men on bar stools in a pub, enjoying a meal from the feeder; and this morning there were five rats shut inside it. The only solution I have is to raise the feeder off the ground so that the rats cannot reach it, but that has to be high - greater than 80 cm I've read, as rats can jump - and even experimenting with low heights has shown that the chickens can't work out that they need to jump up to get to the feeder. So, I'm wondering if they get enough nutrition from free-ranging to keep them going until me and the rats have finished our battle, or whether anybody has any other ideas (that doesn’t involve killing the rats). Cheers.
  6. Can chickens have tomatoes ?

    When I owned a restaurant we would give the hens the leftovers from the salad bar, including tomatoes. It caused them no harm. My experience is that chickens generally avoid eating anything that would harm them.
  7. Treadle feeder training

    Don't get me wrong - it definitely reduces the accessibility of the feed to other animals a lot - just not completely. I only need about 25% of the feed I used previously, as I'm not feeding the whole of North Germany's sparrow population on a daily basis any more; and it's great that it doesn't need refilling all the time and that the feed stays dry. The rats are definitely having a harder time of it - they've tried to burrow under the feeder (pointless), chew through the plastic (failed) and chew through the door to the shed where the feed is kept (also failed). I did, though, see one larger rat treating the feeder like a buffet yesterday, so it's not completely rat-proof. That said, I have now re-positioned the feeder on a hard flat base, and tipped it ever so slightly forward to let gravity help with the closing mechanism, so that might help further.
  8. Treadle feeder training

    Note: the Feedomatic is not rat proof. Though it keeps out wild birds and smaller rodents, the rats can feed from it simply by pushing the closed gate back with their noses. I guess this isn’t a problem with the Grandpa's range because they open by swinging upwards rather than backwards. Just so you know ...
  9. To straw or not to straw!!!!

    Hmmm. Like Andy, I also use straw and I've also never had any problems with mites or with the hens eating the straw. But it's good to know that there might be issues, so I shall look for good alternatives.
  10. Lone chicken

    Yes, hens normally roost and lay in the same place, but I do have one hen who changes her laying place frequently for none of the reasons Beantree lists, so it's not a hard and fast rule.
  11. Lone chicken

    Yes, that's a good point @Beantree. If they are alone and confined, they are certainly less likely to adapt well.
  12. Treadle feeder training

    @Patricia This is the largest one (20 kg, the only one my local feed supplier had on display, probably on sale or return) and was EUR 54. They have 5, 8 and 12 kg versions too. It's a Dutch company - https://feedomatic.com/. They don't seem to sell via their website but you should be able to easily find a UK supplier.
  13. Treadle feeder training

    Well, sometimes I underestimate them. 30 hours in, and at least two of them have worked out how to use the treadle feeder! This is Whitey, the broody one that I had just hooked out of the coop, who was clearly very hungry!
  14. Lone chicken

    I've regularly been left with lone hens and I've never had any problems with any of them. They’ve all been quite happy and just got on with the job of being a chicken. In my experience the idea that chickens need to be kept together because they're flock animals is over-emphasized. My three are happy to go off in different directions during the day and they don't even sleep in the same place. I'm sure your lone hen will be just fine.
  15. Treadle feeder training

    The feeder I have bought protects the feed from rain and has side panels (see picture). The openings for the food are small and I'm not sure my hens are going to like them. But I'll phase out the Omlet feeder and, if I find they're getting enough food from free-ranging (which they do 24-hours a day) then I've saved myself a fortune in feed costs! I'll keep you posted.

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