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Everything posted by grahamrhind

  1. Nic, I have a version of the " Eton" feeder you mention - see I've had it for several years and I would highly recommend it. The hens had no problem learning to use it, the feed stays dry, it never clogs and all the rats I had have abandoned ship and moved on. I did have to slightly weight the flap opening, because the rats would work together to produce enough weight on the treadle to open it.
  2. For a few weeks one of my hens has been laying eggs with slightly thinner shells than usual and with spots and little "heaps" of calcium on them. There's no signs of illness, the eggs are perfectly edible, and I'm guessing it's just a minor malfunction of her egg production system. But I wanted to check with the experts on this forum to make sure - does anybody know if this is a sign of any structural or deeper health issues? Thanks in advance!
  3. The area for my two chickens is, per chicken, similar (perhaps slightly larger) to yours, but my experience is not the same as Beantree's. It turns into the Somme every winter, but by spring it is always full of grass and other plants which the ladies can't destroy, however hard they try. I also don't poo pick and haven't noticed that causing any issues at all. Though obviously you don't want the hens knee deep in mud all the time, I think within a few weeks this issue will have resolved itself. Let us know what happens!
  4. Yes, I agree with the general advice given here and, as ever, it depends on your setup. Mine free range permanently (no predator problems), they have a treadle-feeder that can hold many week's worth of food, multiple water sources that can't be tipped over, and no pecking order issues. I wouldn't hesitate to leave them for a night. That said, I would ask a friend just to drop in to cast an eye over them if it were to be longer than that - I wouldn't sleep snugly with thoughts that the treadle-feeder might get blocked or something like that. The friend get the eggs and otherwise there's nothing really for them to do if all is as it should be.
  5. Thanks Lewis. A quick internet search showed loads of sites which suggested giving fruit to chickens was no problem, but I value the comprehensive knowledge of this group's members more I've never had any chickens with crop problems, but then (apart from watermelon rind) I never give fruit to the chickens - they take it themselves from windfall, but that's incidental. My experience is that chickens with give themselves a varied diet if they get the chance - mine free range 24 hours per day so they don't gorge themselves from any one source. I'll keep an eye on their eating habits in future, though, though I wouldn't want to start having to clear up the fallen fruit - there's not enough hours left in my life for that .... 🤗
  6. Can somebody enlighten me as to why fruit seems to be considered a no no for hens? Mine live in an orchard - they eat apples, pears, plums and blackberries and we give them watermelon rinds. I've never noticed it doing any of them any harm and they get all the other nutrients they need via their feed. Am I missing something?
  7. @Cats Tails Out of interest, and slightly off topic, where in the Netherlands are you? I lived in Amsterdam in a terraced canal house and wouldn't have considered chickens at that time because of the proximity of, and number of, neighbours. One, in particular, moaned incessantly about everything: about shade from the trees in my garden, for example, and about the wild birds waking them up in the mornings (!) even though I had to put up with their two screaming, ill-behaved children. They even had the audacity to complain to me when I moved and sold the house because there was a chance that somebody who was less compliant to their demands would move in. Good riddance, frankly - I'm with @mullethunter in my views of most people. Present company excepted, naturally!
  8. In my opinion, any neighbour who thinks that it's their role to decide what you may or may not do with your garden (and I've had loads over the years) is not worth cultivating. You will never satisfy them. If it's not the chickens it will be trees that need pruning, beds that need weeding or fences that need painting. Keeping chickens is accepted and legal provided you take steps to reduce potential problems, and I think you need to stand firm but remain friendly and polite. (I should state that this is easy for me to say because my only neighbour is a horse stables where they are more interested in their livestock than in mine). The rats issue is one I've had problems with in the past, and you would need to stay on top of that so that they had no valid grounds for complaint. Consider getting a treadle feeder - rats can't get into those and move elsewhere for easier pickings. Good luck! It's because of "neighbours" that I moved to a house surrounded only by fields. Best move I've ever made ....
  9. With the treadle feeder that I use: this hasn't been a problem - I never used pellets, only meal. I do, very occasionally, give it a poke with a screwdriver just to get the meal moving if it's been damp, but that's very rarely so it's not a big problem.
  10. Thanks @Lewis. Have you tried to feed them with meal instead of pellets? (I know they'll eat virtually anything. When I owned a restaurant a pair of (wild) ducks would visit 6 or 7 times per day (entering the restaurant if we were too slow in reacting) to gorge themselves on our bread. It became quite the tourist attraction because I would have to help them cross the road both ways. I know they're not supposed to eat bread but she wouldn't take anything else and, as she was back five years in a row, I guess it didn't damage her too much .... ) Also, the water. If I make a pool, e.g. a children's paddling pool, which isn't sunk into the ground, do I need to provide a ramp for them to get into/out of it, or can they jump up and down if required?
  11. I know that the knowledge of the members here extends way beyond chickens, so if anybody can help with these duck questions, I'd be much obliged. My current setup is for chickens (Eglu Classic, treadle feeder with chicken feed, all-day free-ranging), but it's currently empty as my surviving hen has defected to a neighbour's flock (I can just about see her to wave to across the fields some mornings). Enter somebody who has asked me to take their four Indian Runner ducks which, as the alternative was for them to end up in the pot, I agreed to do. However, I have no experience at all with ducks. So, the questions are related to what I need to do to make my setup duck-friendly. Do I have to buy special feed for the ducks, or will they be happy with the feed I have left over from the chickens? Or can they get their nutrition just from free-ranging? Could they feed from a treadle feeder? I'm wondering if their bills would make it hard for them to get at the food? If not, what alternatives are there - I want to avoid open food sources as I've only just got rid of the rats? If I remove the roosting bars, is an Eglu classic OK for them? It may be too small for four ducks, but actually, as we have no predators, do they need to roost at all or are they happy to settle down anywhere? Or do I need to look at buying a new house for them? And ... anything else I may not have thought about. I'm a bit anxious about being fobbed off with them (though I'm sure I'll love them when they arrive), but I'm a sucker for rescuing animals, so ..... Thanks in advance! Graham
  12. The rats can't open the one I have unless they work in union. They were able to open mine to start with but I used some fridge magnets to increase the weight of the flap so that the chickens could open it but the rats couldn't. Worked a treat.
  13. Alis, check out the thread I started here: My hens had no problems with the feeder and, with some adjustments, it also rid me of all the rats as they couldn't get to the feed any more. I would recommend one, though I can imagine those where the top opens could frighten the hens. If you have any questions, just let me know.
  14. Whilst my most recent hens were happy to lay in the Eglu (when in lay), they would leave its shelter, in rain, gales, snow and ice, to roost up a tree. It concerned me to see them clinging for dear life on the merest of twigs, but it didn't seem to do them any harm and I couldn't have climbed up to retrieve them in any case. Recently, my remaining hen has moved her roost across the field to the stables where she spends most of her time - I get visited occasionally when she wants a dust bath, but otherwise the Eglu is sitting there gathering dust like an expensive folly. We don't have a predator problem and I've always taken the view that, as long as she's not in danger, let her be. She's the picture of health despite everything.... That said, I won't be getting any more white hens. Mad as hatters ...
  15. @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.
  16. @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.
  17. @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.
  18. 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 ...
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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 ...
  23. 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.
  24. 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.

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