I’m a big fan of nipples.
Please allow me to elaborate. I’m a big fan of nipple watering systems for poultry. Anyone who has ever brooded chicks knows how frustrating it is to attempt to keep the water clean, “attempt” being the operative word. Chicks (and chickens) poop wherever they darn well please, frequently in the food and water supply. Not exactly a recipe for good hygiene.
Enter the nipple.
Nipple watering systems are a godsend. Once trained, the chickens activate a stainless steel nipple with their beaks which releases drops of water, from a (generally) suspended water supply, which is inaccessible to the chickens, and, therefore, gloriously poop-free. “Once trained” being the operative words.
I “trained” Heedley’s Hens 1.0 during the hottest week of last summer (naturally). I couldn’t leave them alone with only the nipples for water, because it was too hot too assume they’d get it. And, with an easier system to hand (water in a bowl), they weren’t motivated to learn. Which wouldn’t have been so bad if they didn’t keep knocking over the water dish because they were so damned thirsty. Gah.
I was just about to give up when:
Pip got it. Then…chicken see chicken do, and we were off to the races.
I decided to start off with nipples right away with 2.0. The brooder was set up with a rabbit waterer when they arrived home from Agway. I tried to get them to get it, but…they wouldn’t get it. I was forced to put out a shallow saucer of water, and wait for them to figure it out.
I came very close to giving up. I tried forcing their beaks to activate the ball bearing which releases the water, but only succeeded in traumatising them.
One day, I began to click at the ball bearing with my fingertip. The sound attracted the bravest of the chicks. When she saw water drops hanging off the bottom of my finger, she drank at them eagerly. I kept this up for a while, then pulled my finger away, hoping to cut out the middle man. She looked up, perplexed. Where did the water go?
I did that for a few days with the same results, then resigned myself to the idea that I might have to wait until they were integrated into the flock, and they could learn from the big girls. I’d just have to put up with poopy water until then.
And, then…it happened. I was watching them in the brooder yesterday, and one chick went over to the waterer and just…pecked at it. She seemed surprised when she received a drop of water for her trouble. She pecked again, and again. Chicken saw, chicken did. There were four chicks crowded around the waterer before I could register what had happened.
I watched very carefully to ensure each of them had the idea before removing the saucer today, and I’ll continue to watch to be sure each of them is drinking enough.
By George, I think they’ve got it!