Who’s a chicken?

For more than two months now UK poultry have had to be confined to keep them separate from wild birds because of the risk of avian ‘flu’. Originally it was suggested that they should be housed 24/7, but when it was realised that is was not possible, netted areas with water and feed kept under a solid cover was deemed to be acceptable. The end to this restriction is in sight: after the end of February birds will be allowed to range once again as long as various mitigation measures are in place.

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Approved disinfectant and Self-assessment form

The situation varies a little across the UK, but here in Wales all poultry keepers are required to complete a self-assessment form which they must have available if they are inspected. This outlines the actions that they are taking to minimise contact between wild birds and stock (e.g. use of bird scarers) and the biosecurity measures being implemented (e.g. hosing down and disinfecting concrete paths, disinfecting boots after accessing poultry).

For the duration of the restrictions, the hens Chez Snail have been happily foraging in the fruit cage, which has been connected to their small run and house by a netted corridor. Their small run always has a ‘roof’ over it to give them somewhere to shelter from the rain, so their feeder has been in there. Now they are going to be allowed to range free round their half of the garden, however, a different sort of feeder seemed like a good idea. So, I bought a rodent-proof, wildbird-proof feeder…

The hen stands on the pedal,the lid opens and there’s the food. It can only be activated by something weighing more than 500g, so garden birds and most rodents won’t even be able to open the lid. We can keep this out on their range without fear of attracting wild birds.

The only issue now, is training them to use it. Yesterday, we put it into the fruit cage propped the lid open and there was some interest…

Today, even with the lid propped open, they very carefully avoided it… hens really are chicken when it comes to new things. So, Mr Snail has been out there showing them the ropes… with some success:

I hope they get the hang of it soon – or at least before the end of the month!

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19 Comments

  1. The things we do for our animals! I have been rather relieved that I have no poultry at present as ducks seem to have been a particular problem. Good luck with the training Mr Snail!

    Reply
  2. I had something similar for my chooks and it took them all of 10 seconds to learn. One of them blundered across the foot plate, the top swung open and the rest of them descended like a plague of locusts… But I could never get them to learn to use a water nipple system, which kept the water clean and free of food, straw, poop and dust.

    Reply
    • He’s back out there giving them some more coaching right now. They took weeks to decide they liked the new house, but I had hoped that, being the source of food, this new object would be less of an issue… alas not. I’m sure once one of them realises, there will be no stopping them. I’m going to put a little Sugru on the edge to stop is clattering as it descends because that does seem to be something they really don’t like.

      Reply
      • They’re creatures of habit and limited scope… Now the feeder’s out there, any new hens you introduce will have a tutorial from their sisters as soon as they arrive and hopefully it will no longer be an issue after this initial hurdle.

        Reply
  3. sarahfoto

     /  February 19, 2017

    What a great idea! Sometimes our hens seem so clever like finding the tiniest hole in a fence but getting back through it is different question…

    Reply
    • Ah yes – they can get into all sorts of places you don’t want them, but ask them to do something and they aren’t interested!
      I hope your new Esme is flourishing!

      Reply
  4. Ann

     /  February 19, 2017

    Love the training session!

    Reply
  5. The can be intelligent when it suits them. As has been said they can be escape artists but don’t return in the same way. Although I did have one whom was quite cunning I never did work out how she escaped and returned.
    I’m quite intrigued by your new feeder although I’m not sure mine would work it out. How about cutting an inner tube on the upper and lower lid of feeder. Would that work? I like the idea of keeping rodents out (grr). Ours is on a pully system, so I pull it up every night and down again in the morning. Of course rats don’t just come out at night do they? :/
    I’ll listen out for the training updates – good luck guys.

    Reply
  6. nettyg

     /  February 19, 2017

    I have one of these, the blurb with it said 3-4 days and they’ll be good to go…ha ha! At least a month or more, even with training sessions like Mr Snails. I’ve had it for about 2 years now and the girls are old hands at it….my smallest hen just uses one foot to hold it open. But despite the manufacturers saying nothing under 500gs can open it, I’ve found this not so….. I had to hang a bird scarer near mine, as the doves figured out it’ll open if 2 or 3 of them stand on it! One eats, the others hold it open, then they swap. Mine isn’t under a roof yet. I also put a brick on top at night, as I’ve heard it clanging and think rats were trying to get a midnight snack! They only need to have the lid raise little and they can slip through. They’re good though and I find not much food is lost to wastage being scattered on the ground.

    Reply
  7. So many helpful suggestions. One of the great things about blogging ~ put something out there and the community responds to help work out solutions and/or modifications!

    Reply
  8. What a brilliant feeder! We don’t have to keep any paperwork for our three chickens, but they are fed up of having so little space now. We are building a much larger run for them at the allotment which should be done by the end of the month.

    Reply
  9. Oh wow, this is like a fancy deli counter for hens! Hopefully they’ll get the hang of it soon, before Mr Snail has to start taking his meals out there with them!

    Reply
    • today, with a stone on the peddle, they have all eaten out of it… at least they know that’s where the food is now, but propping it open rather defeats the purpose… ah well, we’ll give it a few days…

      Reply
  10. Best of luck with the training. I think that’s where the term bird brain comes from. They can be a little slow. 😦

    Reply

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