Tuesday, 22 April 2008

While I’m Away, The Mice Do Play

I’ve had to change how I feed the chickens. Back in the UK I hung their food in a feeder in their hut. It was well off the floor and never attracted any rodents. Here I did the same thing but I started noticing some droppings on the roof of the feeder. The only way they could have got there would be for the mice to run along the beams and then down the string suspending the feeder.

I decided to mull over what to do. I moved the feeder to another beam that was more difficult to traverse. This did the trick for a while but after a couple of weeks I noticed the droppings were back.

One night, I wasn’t back until after dusk and went straight up to the hen house to lock them in. As I approached I heard the rustling of many mice as they darted through the straw and out of the hen house. I shone my torch in to check the chickens and to my great surprise there were still about a dozen mice still in the feeder, feasting away at my expense.

Needless to say they scarpered once the light hit them, well all but one baby who sat there on the feeder looking round as if to say “Where’s everyone gone’. That gave me time to go round to the main door and go in and I was in time to see him head for a hole in the floor, so I now know where to cement over the summer but the design of the sheds, breeze block with very old wood plank doors (i.e. half rotten) and a very old corrugated roof is going to be very difficult to vermin proof. Oh I forgot to mention it’s on a bank that is collapsing too so until I get the retaining wall sorted I’m not going to do much to it.

The short term fix has been to move the feeder outside and suspend it from one of the cherry trees in their paddock and to only put a days food in, bringing the feeder in with me if there is any left when I put them to bed.

That brings me on to feeding chickens. I’ve a couple of books that cover the subject and I’ve read around on the Internet and the options range from feed them nothing and letting them free range to the other extreme of giving them just layers pellets, I’ve gone for an in-between way. The chickens free range on the paddock I’ve given them, it’s not large, but large enough that they’ve not converted it to bare earth. I then give them a mixed feed and again I’ve ended up deciding on my own blend. The current mix is 4 parts wheat, 2 parts layers pellets and 1 part whole maize to which I add a sprinkling of oyster shell grit every so often. One of their treats is the seeds from the squashes, or if they are really lucky a whole slice of squash and the odd scrap of bread. Whether it’s right I don’t know but they are laying well and look fine so I’m going to stick with that until I find anything better.


Georgina said...

Hi Deborah, I don't know of any right or wrong way with chickens. Ours love rice (warm in winter), bread soaked in warm water. Maise, oats, cake. Left overs and they kill mice and eat them whole. They are free range, about 30 acres if they wish. I think they are happy. I put food out in the evening before they roost and lck any uneaten food away over night. Debs x

aims said...

What decisions you have to make! I'm shaking my head!