Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Vacationing with your Peeps! ~Traveling with Chickens, DIY Water Bottle

Have you ever taken a vacation with your chickens?  We did!

We didn't exactly have a choice.  When the chicks were almost 5 weeks old we needed to go out of town for 4 days to our daughters house, which is about a 3 hour drive away.  At their young age, the chicks had only voluntarily gone to bed in the coop for the first time on the night before we were due to leave.  So they still needed me to scoop them up and put them to bed at night.  I friend offered to check on our chicks while we were away but I couldn't ask her to come let them out early each morning then come back and put them away each night.  Besides, she doesn't have chicks so she has no experience catching them to put them away, and twice a day is a bit too much to ask.

So the only option left was to take them with us.  So I got started figuring out how exactly we were going to travel with 8 little chickens.  I figured they could travel in the dog crate that we brought them home in, but this time I needed something to keep them in the crate, and hopefully keep some of the litter in the crate instead of in my van.  I picked up a yard of heavy clear vinyl from JoAnn's Fabric store.  I cut it into 12" strips that I placed inside the crate around the walls.  To keep the vinyl in place I used some zip-ties to attach it to the bars.  In order to attach the zip-ties through the vinyl, I needed to punch some small holes in it.  Since I already had my scissors outside with me, I got the really dumb idea of using them to poke the wholes, rather than taking the time to go inside the house to find an awl.  Why was this a dumb idea?  Because when I was poking my very first hole the heavy vinyl I found it difficult to puncture so I had to apply lots of pressure with the scissors...then it gave way and sliced through my finger on the other side!  OUCH!!

The first thought that went through my head, (right after, "OMG that was stupid!") was, "Uh-Oh, right before slicing my finger open I was just flicking the poopy litter out of my way with my FINGERS!" My second thought was, "Gee, when was my last Tetanus shot?"  I couldn't remember the last shot so I am pretty sure it was well beyond the 10 years recommended for booster shots.  I went in the house and thoroughly cleaned my wound and bandaged it up.  Then I went back outside (with an awl that I had in my sewing room) and finished punching the remaining holes and attaching the vinyl to the crate walls.  Then we made the 45 minute drive into town to get a Tetanus shot.

After we got back home I went back to work on the chicken travel crate.  They needed a portable water source so I decided to make them a mini watering bottle out of a DaSani bottle and a chicken nipple.  
It was really easy to make and a great thing to have on hand in the future if I have to confine a single chicken (or more baby chicks) away from the main Chicken Fountain in the future.   Back before we got our first chick, when I was shopping for waterers I came across chicken nipples, so I bought 6 of them to have on hand in case I might need them in the future.  Good thing because they are not available locally and I didn't have time to buy them at the last moment.  I could have bought a portable watering bottle but they were pricey -the nipples were very cheap and the bottle was free.

Here's how to make your own.  Remove the screw-on cap from a water bottle.  Using a 5/8" drill (the threads on my chicken nipples are 5/8", so check yours first) drill a hole in the center of the cap.  Clean off any plastic bits 'n pieces remaining around the hole.  Wrap the chicken nipple threads with a piece of teflon plumbers tape (being sure it is going in the same direction it screws on).  Then screw the nipple into the hole you drilled in the cap.  The nipple just happened to fit perfectly in my screw driver end so I used it to help screw the nipple in.  Screw it in only until the threaded area is no longer visible, do not over tighten or you might strip out the hole.  Fill the bottle with water, screw on the cap with the chicken nipple. Turn the bottle upside down and poke a tiny hole in the bottom of the bottle (using an awl or tiny drill bit).  This tiny hole will allow air to get in the bottle as the water drips out the nipple.  If you don't put the hole in it the bottle may either collapse as they drink or will not allow more water to drain out when they try to drink.  When refilling the bottle simply place your finger over this hole until you replace the cap and turn the bottle back upside down.

At first I used light wire to attach the bottle to the crate door, but I realized that was going to be a problem every time I needed to refill the bottle, so I replaced that with a loosely zipped zip-tie and two pieces of elastic pinned together to hold the bottle in the right position.

With the dog crate travel-ready, we loaded up the chicks and headed out.  Once we arrived at our daughters we placed the crate inside the 6'x6' chain-link dog kennel and let the chicks out.  To prevent the tiny chicks from simply walking out the chain link I wrapped the bottom 2' with chicken wire.  We then put blocks around the bottom and two pieces of plywood on the top to keep stray cats (or the squirrel overhead) from getting into the kennel area. Then we posted my Boston Terrier 'Piggy' on guard duty.  She loves to chase any cat that moves -other than our own.  Each evening I put the chicks back in the dog crate and we took them inside with us.  Each morning we took them back out to the kennel.  This worked out pretty well except I think the chicks doubled in size during that 4 days (Seriously) so they seemed to be getting a little cramped.

When we finally arrived back home I took the chicks (still in the crate) out to the chicken run.  The last hour of the drive they were making quite a racket so I know they were sick of being cooped up in such a small space.  When I opened the crate door they immediately ran out in flying leaps, peeping like crazy with excitement.  They ran around the chicken run, over to the food and water, then in and out of the coop as excited as kids on Christmas morning!  I could tell they were so thrilled to be back in their big yard and so happy to realize that the dog kennel was not their permanent home.  When it was getting dark they came to me to put them to bed.  Even the Rhode Island Reds came up to me and let me pick them up.  They always run from me so this was totally out of character for them.

I little later I went out to check on them and found them all sitting on their perch for the first time.  "Home Sweet Home" was definitely the mood tonight.

Keeper of 1 husband, 2 grandkids, 3 dogs,
3 cats, and 17 Chickens!
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Did this post stir something inside of you? If so, Please leave me a comment, I would love to know what you're thinking!!!