Here’s the problem I’ve been trying to figure out…

I want to free range my hens, because they can find all the organic food they need and it’ll save us a lot of money. Plus, they are pretty much maintenance free when all you have to do is let them out in the morning, and put them up in the evening.

But when they are loose, either the hawks or foxes pick them off, one at a time, like a lunch buffet. And, when the hens lay, it’s often off in the woods somewhere where we’ll never find the eggs.

Since we’ve lost so many hens to predators, we decided to put them in a large, caged run. But having them enclosed makes for a lot of work! You gotta keep bedding down in the run, ’cause they’ll dig up all the grass in a heartbeat. And you have to keep fresh water and food in supply, which costs time and money.

I’ve been pondering a way of making a self-watering system for the chicken run. I’d love to figure out a way of putting a gutter on the chicken coop, which brings water into a rain barrel of sorts, which then self waters a container in the run. Wouldn’t that be awesome? I have to make that one of my goals this year. I’d have to figure out a way of keeping it clean, though; off the ground a little, where they can’t walk all in it.

I’ve also been wanting to study up on how to create an environment for grub worms or maggots to hatch. If I can make a “maggot farm”, somehow attracting flies to hatch eggs on rotting materials within a controlled area, I’d have a way of supplying my chickens with lots of organic protein for free.

I know some people who put a light low to the floor in the chicken coop, with the purpose of attracting moths and such for the chickens to eat. But I’ve heard of too many coops catching on fire from lights like that, so I don’t think I’ll try it myself.

Last year, we put raised beds in the chicken run, to supplement their foraging. We covered the boxes with a chicken wire lid, and allowed grass to grow up in the boxes and through the wire tops. The chickens were able to peck the grass, without digging it all up. This ended up working out really well.

Anyways, just thought I’d share some of my ideas with you. One of these days I’m gonna perfect the art of owning chickens!

Do you have a creative way of caring for your caged hens?