For the record, chickens LOVE pie. Pumpkin pie, past its prime is deftly devoured and disappeared down beaks, after a bit of squabbling, wing flapping, and “hey, that’s my pie!”, “no, you seem to be mistaken… you ate yours… this is MY pie. Nomnomnom.” (no, they didn’t get that whole thing, just the last piece that sat on the counter too long and sprouted three fuzzy dots of mold. Chickens don’t give a cluck!).
Pie is a hit, but they are indifferent about nipples. Specifically, the “poultry nipples” which dispense water, mounted underneath a hanging five-gallon bucket with a submersible aquarium heater on a temperature controller that turns on whenever it’s below freezing, to free us from the worry and chore of constantly defrosting their waterer- they now have liquid water available in their coop at all times (added bonus- the design makes it impossible for them to poop in the thing, fill it with bedding, or otherwise muck it up, which chickens are adept at). Only problem? Getting them to use the darn thing. They’re red, like the base of their other waterers, which is supposed to be an “attention-getting” color for chickens. Mine didn’t get the memo. I’ve tried tapping it so that drops of water come out as they watch, which results in them pecking at the ground where the droplets fell but remaining oblivious to the source above them. I tried holding them and gently touching their beaks to the fount- mmm, tasty magic trick on my part apparently, no hoped for Helen Keller-AHA-moment… w-a-t-e-r… WATER! Hey, did you know there’s water in here? And its nice and warm, and here we’ve been eating snow and freezing our little chicken tongues off? Bitchin! I’d try finger-spelling it to them but I know that’s hopeless.
How does the waterer work? Picture a water bottle for rabbits or other small animals- if you had a hamster or guinea pig as a child I’m sure you’re familiar with the mechanism- little ball bearing at the end of a metal tube is held shut by gravity and water pressure (sorry, not an engineer, people) and releases small drops of water when tapped. These work the same way, but with a little peckable stick thing that releases the water on a diminutive threaded valve that can be installed on the underside of just about any container. I keep hoping maybe they’ll run into it one day, get water on their head and finally look up, and that the one clumsy or bright bird (whichever) will figure it out to teach the others. Till then they persist in eating snow and ice with apparent relish, and drinking from dishes whenever I set them out for them. Any tips on training them to use the wonder waterer? I’m at a loss. They look like this, http://www.avianaquamiser.com/chickennipple/ (though we bought ours for about $12 for a 5-pack from an amazon seller, as we didn’t need the whole “kit” or pre-assembled ones that they sell, just the nipples thank you very much) and if I can get the girls to take to them would highly recommend them over the traditional style of waterer. I have yet to try the grape trick listed in the manufacturer’s troubleshooting page (http://www.avianaquamiser.com/troubleshooting/) but will give it a go… any other suggestions for titillating treats (sorry, couldn’t help myself) that will stick on the underside of the fount but not gum up the works?
In other news, we have a new member of our flock of three (now four). “Goldie Hen”, who was described as maybe a Buff Orpington, but maybe Minorca (she’s a wee thing, with a comb that flops slightly to one side… though her pale brown egg and gentle demeanor give credence to Orpington), was a rescue listed on the Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts list by a neighbor of her former owner. He’d gotten her as a chick last Easter and kept her in a cage as a house pet, and called her Colonel Sanders until she started laying eggs. Apparently the novelty of a chicken in the house wore thin (I can’t imagine- our three lived in an oversized dog crate in the kitchen for three days before we finished the chicken tractor, and it was three days too long). He was going to turn her loose “for the coyotes or whatever” but luckily his neighbor found us first and brought her over. We’re keeping her separate from the other girls, in the chicken tractor which is totally stuffed with straw that she can burrow in to keep her warm until she acclimates to being outdoors all the time. I’m not sure what he was feeding her, but she can’t get enough good organic layer mash, scratch, slightly-off aquaponic arugula, and oyster shell… I wonder if maybe she was eating birdseed before? We’ve gotten one adorable pullet egg already and hoping that she and the other ladies can get along so she can stay with us- I’m a little worried about her holding her own, as she’s a little timid and hasn’t been around other chickens before.
Pictures coming soon!