Wednesday, October 30, 2013

DIY Glass Chicken & Poultry Waterer

The Glass Natural Chicken Keeping Waterer

By Sue -

I’m not a fan of plastic for a variety of health reasons, so I've been trying to come up with an all-glass waterer that is easy to fill, use, clean, and has a nice flat bottom so that it can sit on a water heating base in the winter if necessary. When fellow Natural Chicken Keeping Forum member MLOwen posted her plastic chicken waterer on the forum a "light bulb" went on for me, and I realized that I could make one from glass pretty easily.

So why don't I just use a glass bowl?

This waterer will be my
indoor, year-round waterer for the coop. In the summer I put Pyrex pans outside with water in various places so they can drink and stand in them if they want. But I always keep a main waterer in the hen house year-round.

For the year-round waterer, (whether used indoors or out) I don't want to have a large, open bowl getting dirt and shavings kicked into it. And because I live in a cold climate, I don't want any possibility of them stepping in the water in the winter and getting frost bite. I only want a small opening for them to drink from.

You might ask why I wouldn't just use my "vintage" glass waterers that work with an upside down canning jar since they are both glass and have a restricted area to drink from. 
I have several reasons:

1. They have to be turned upside down just like the plastic base, canning jar waterers that you can get everywhere.. I
hate having to turn waterers upside down. Additionally, the glass vintage kind doesn't allow the jar to be screwed in place so you have to pick up the base and jar together when you want to empty, clean and refill. I'd like to just be able to pick it up and set it down like normal without dumping water all over....and maybe wash out the dish part without having to dump out the whole waterer.

The Vintage Jar Waterer:

Zoom in (real dimensions: 960 x 720)

2. The base is not flat on the bottom so it doesn't make good contact with a heater base. It only has a relatively thin rim that it sits on. It was enough to keep the water open in the dish, but the water in the jar would begin to freeze from the top down.

See how the base has a rim (not a great photo)

Zoom in (real dimensions: 960 x 720)

3. I wanted to be able to make a waterer that would hold more than a quart if I wanted to.

why do they make them upside down anyway?
Because you have to have an air-tight seal or the water will just pour right out the bottom and spill everywhere.

So...on to:
The All-Glass Natural Chicken Keeping Glass Waterer

- I used a canning jar and a glass bowl (Anchor Glass). The canning jar shown here is 1/2 gallon capacity and I found the
perfect size glass bowl after some searching around.

-I set the jar into the bowl and made a mark on the glass at the height of the bowl top. The Hole needs to be drilled below the bowl height, of course, as the water depth in the bowl will rise to the top of the height of the hole.

- Purchased a a 1/2" glass and tile drill bit. (Tried using a smaller bit first, but found that 1/2" worked very well for water flow.)

- Then, very carefully drilled a hole at the right height. This is the tricky part as drilling glass can be a little unstable. I tried 2 different kinds of bits and liked the one shown best. I wore goggles, long sleeves and gloves just in case there was a shatter. I also practiced on a different jar the first time. Not one mishap!

I was very careful to wash out the jar and re-wash out the jar, as well as testing the edge of the drilled hole to be sure no glass shards or sharp edges were left to harm the chickens.

 -Now I needed an AIR TIGHT LID. Canning jar flat lids will make an air-tight seal when screwed down tight. (These are easily replaceable when needed...available everywhere!) I put one inside one of the plastic lids designed for canning jars to make the seal. However, you can use a regular metal ring rather than the plastic. I used the plastic ones because I happened to have one and because I know that the metal ones can rust and deteriorate and become hard to remove over time. The plastic and the flat lid will not come in contact with the water.

-When I fill the canning jar, I simply put my thumb flat over the hole. You could use a cork if desired, but the thumb method seems to work just fine. After it is filled, keeping the thumb over the hole, screw the flat down tight using either the plastic lid or metal ring. You can now either lay the canning jar down flat on its back with the hole up and remove your thumb from the hole as the water won't spill out, or just keep your thumb over the hole while carrying it out to put in the bowl.

-To put it in the bowl, put your thumb over the hole, put the jar over the bowl, remove thumb and set the jar into the bowl. It won't dump much water at that point so you have plenty of time to get it settled down into the bowl while holding the jar from the top.

-It will fill right up to the top of the hole level and stop. Refilling as the birds drink just to the level of the hole as long as the seal is screwed down tight to make it air tight.

-When I need to clean the bowl or refill the jar, I can lift it right up (upright) and tilt it back with the hole up. I have laid it on the floor on its back or on top of any other surface as the canning jars have "flat sides" and won't roll away. Pick up the bowl, dump and rinse out, replace the bowl and put the jar back in if not adding more water. Or rinse out the jar, re-fill as above, and replace onto the bowl.
Much thanks to mlowen for the inspiration!

Note from Sue:
Regular followers have heard me talking about using glass forever on The Natural Chicken Keeping Forum - and about all the "evils" of plastic. I get especially concerned about the xenoestrogens in plastics and other manufactured products, siding on our houses, paints, pesticides in our foods and in the environment, etc. etc., etc.

There are so many people that are having estrogen-related issues due to overload in our modern times that I like to avoid plastics as much as possible. I surely don't want to add more estrogens to my food supply! (After all, healthy food is one of the main reasons I have the chickens!) See some links at the bottom of this post if you're interested in reading more about it.

Animal health and longevity are also at risk from these same factors...

A few Plastic/Estrogen related informational links:

-Here's a link with a quick list of items from which we get estrogens.

- Article: The Terrible Truth About Plastics...

-Plastics Affecting Children's Health

Much, much more out there on xenoestrogens and estrogens. Google "estrogens in the environment" for more they effect cancer, development in boys, etc.

- Sue -

From The Farm Blog Hop


Monday, October 28, 2013

The Amazing Scavenger Hunt-n-Peck WINNERS

I would like to thank everybody for taking part in our Amazing Scavenger Hunt-n-Peck! 

And now for what you have all been waiting for -

Winners were chosen by

And the winner of the signed copy of Lisa Steele's new book


Sue S. (Leah's Mom)!

And the 2nd place winner of the Nu-Stock ointment (also chosen by

Lindsey H.

A Big congratulations to both our winners!

Please email me your shipping information at - I'll be shipping the prizes out after the first of the month.

Didn't win?? Never fear - we'll be doing a giveaway of Sarah Rosedahl's adorable book, Chicken Breeds A to Z very soon, so stay tuned!

And thank you once again for participating. We hope you had fun!!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

DIY Healthy Suet Cakes for Your Chickens (and other birds too)

By Leigh -
As most of you know, my birds generally free range from sunup to sundown every day. The other day my husband hurried into the house to tell me there was a hawk in a nearby tree. The crows were after it, which is a good thing, but it still put me on edge. Yes - raptors migrate in the Spring and Fall, so even if you never have trouble with aerial predators the rest of the year, it is wise to keep your eyes to the skies during migration season!

I currently have 4 broodies with 11 chicks between them (hawk bait)... and most of the chicks are already sold and waiting until I find someone with whom they can hitch a ride with up to the DC area.


That night I grabbed my adult son and we went out after dark and played a game of "musical chickens." We put all the broodies and all their chicks into a single coop with a run, and locked them up... and haven't let them out since.

 (Hey - looks aren't everything. It's secure and it doesn't leak. :-)

ANGRY BIRDS have nothing on these hens and their babies! I get the nastiest looks and have to take drastic measures to prevent escapees every time I open the coop to give them feed or water. (I had the net out twice just today to round up runaways.)

So - while normally these birds would find all kinds of bugs and plants to feast upon throughout the day while free ranging, now I need to supplement their diets with as much of the "next-best-thing" as I can. I also need a boredom-buster for these birds that are so used to running and playing the day away in freedom.

I have found home made Suet Cakes to be a great solution!

By making your own suet cakes, you can customize the mixes based upon your birds' biggest nutritional needs. When hung in a suet cage, a mesh onion bag or just by a rope wound about it, it gives the babies and their mammas a fun family activity. So far these suet cakes have proved to be even more entertaining for my chickens than lining up along the run fence to glare at me as I walk by...

I also happen to have chicks in a brooder. These chicks have never free ranged, but they also need the vegetation and meat protein to insure their health.

So - first pick your ingredients based upon what your birds need most. If you are simply making these to feed wild birds, you can use packaged wild bird feed. For this batch (which I made for my chickens) I used:
  • Fresh young clover (harvested from the chicken yard)
  • raw chicken liver (um... not harvested from the chicken yard in this instance)
  • Squash seeds (natural wormer)
  • Old fashioned oatmeal
  • Dried meal worms
  • Scratch grains
  • Chick starter feed
  • Garlic (great for health and deters external parasites)
  • Oregano (natural antibiotic properties)

I simply used my judgement to determine percentages. You want to think about how much of what they would be eating while free ranging. Lots of clover and vegetation and plenty of bugs! I also use their regular feed as a filler. I use "treat" foods (scratch) very sparingly.

Add more meat protein for molting birds or more vegetables and grasses for your non-free ranging flock.

Yum - just look at those delicious worms! When you pick out your ingredients, think of these suet cakes as a health supplement more than a treat or dessert. 

You also need suet... thus the name "suet cakes..."

If you have a local butcher, you can ask for waste suet. Many of the larger chain grocers won't give it (or sell it) to you because they can't sell anything unfit for human consumption... even if you swear up and down no humans will be consuming it... but sometimes nice people will help you out anyway.

If you can't get super cheap or free suet from a store, just save all the grease from cooking meats. I save the drippings from hamburgers when I cook on our George Foreman Grill, and when I brown ground beef in the skillet to make tacos. I put it in a container and keep it in the refrigerator until I'm ready to use it. If it will be more than a few days, go ahead and freeze it to preserve freshness!

Many folks are against using plastic - and I'm not a big fan, but this was what I had available the other day.

When you are ready to make suet cakes, just heat the now solid suet up until it is liquid, and start adding in your ingredients.

Add in dry ingredients a little at a time to test consistency. You don't want the mix to be too dry or it won't hold together. On the flip-side you don't want too much suet or your creation will look more like bumpy soap than something delicious.

Now you need a mold. I had these cute little (and horribly under-used) heart pans from a project I did with kids. They work great and the end result fits neatly into a smaller-size suet cage.

But you can also use just about anything else you have about the house...

 Just don't bring these to your kids' school bake sale!

You can even use old boxes lined with tinfoil or parchment paper or anything else that seems a good size and shape for your needs.

Unless I am lining my molds with foil or paper, I do grease them to help the hardened suet cakes slide out easily.

Then, just seal them up and pop them into the freezer for an hour or so. 

Once the suet has had time to harden, you can remove the cakes from the molds, reseal them and put them back into the freezer until you are ready to use them. All your fresh ingredients and meat will stay fresh this way, too! 

I put one in the indoor brooder and it took no prompting for the chicks to go to work on their new treat!

Creating your own suet cakes is so easy, and your flock will thank you... even if they are still covertly plotting your untimely demise for locking them up.

Get creative. These suet cakes can also make great gifts for your chicken (and wild bird) loving friends. 

(And though I would have loved to have been able to post a photo of my cooped broodies and their chicks enjoying my suet creations, when I opened the coop a crack in an attempt to get the shot, all I got was a blur of angry beaks and feathers flying directly at my camera lens in their frenzy to escape... sorry.)

And do you know what else make great gifts for your chicken-loving friends this holiday season?

How about Lisa Steele's new book, Fresh Eggs Daily? See This Post for more book details and to enter (you have just a few hours left) for a chance to win a copy!

And how about Sarah Rosedahl's adorable book, Chicken Breeds A to Z? Keep your eyes out - we'll be giving a copy away in the next few days!

Chicks dig it!

- Leigh

From The Farm Blog Hop