Notes from Windward: #69

Chick-Plex Improvements

adding some finishing touches


     The weather folk tell us that we're looking at record high temps next week so we're hustling to make sure that our animals are as well protected from the heat as we know how. Towards that end, we've covered the Chick-Plex with 50% shade cloth--dense enough to make a real difference in the amount of solar radiation that gets through the cloth, and open enough to allow for good ventilation.

     The Chick-Plex was located where it was so that the two shipping containers could give it a good deal of protection from the sun. But even as shaded as it is through most of the day, it remains exposed enough to the afternoon sun that we felt it needed additional protection.

     We secured the shade cloth to the Chick-Plex using a product called Wire Lock. It's a marvelous fastener product that allow us to quickly switch from shade cloth to 6 mil plastic and back again as the seasons change. Our supplier for the wire lock, the shade cloth and the metal hoops themselves is Oregon Valley Greenhouses. We've dealt with them for more than a decade, and their service and products have always been first rate.

the Chick-Plex with the shade cloth in place

     We've also installed a watering system to insure that the birds have a ready supply of clean water to help them deal with the heat. The traditional gallon-sized water containers are tedious to clean and refill, a chore that needs to be done each morning because the chickens routinely fill their water troughs with wood chips as they scratch around through their bedding looking for bugs. There rarely are any to find because bugs and mites generally don't like the sap given off by the pine wood chips that we use for bedding, but that doesn't slow down the hens from scratching away.

      A key characteristic of sustainable systems is that they are thrifty; they conserve resources and save time. A system that's tedious to maintain isn't going to work as well as one that is self-managing. In order to create a resivour for the water system, we took a plastic 55 gallon drum and rigged it with a sight-guage so that we could see when it needed to be refilled. Refilling was made easy by the permanent attachment of a hose so that the water tanker could pump it full when needed.

the holding tank for the new water system

     The water flows down a 5/16" tube from the holding tank and along the back walls of the Chick-Plex. At each pen, there's a tee that brings water down to a drinking cup that lets out water when a chicken pecks at the yellow toggle in the center of the cup. I was pleased to note that the hens figured out the trick quickly and are seeming to enjoy their access to a clean and fresh water supply.

one of the new water fountains

     We obtained the drinking cups, mounting brackets, hose and clamps from Stromberg's Chicks and Gamebirds. Their service was quite friendly and they shipped the components promptly.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 69