Creeper Feeding Chicks

The creeper referred to in this post is nothing like these.  The word comes from creating a separate feeding area that piglets, lambs, etc can access by “creeping” under a barrier too low for larger animals to pass.

Young humans mostly have it good.  Young birds, not so much.  They are slow, small, weak, and inexperienced feeders relative to the rest of the flock.  They are at the bottom of the pecking order.  Literally.

This summer I was concerned that small chicks (with and without their mother hens) couldn’t compete well with the older hens and pre-freezer cockerels for food.  The coop feeder is too high; a length of plastic gutter mounted at the level of an adult hen’s back, plus the bigger birds always got to the “treats” (insects, toads, frogs, etc found free-ranging and the kitchen scraps I throw to them) first.  So, I came up with a simple way to ensure the smaller birds access to food.

HWA and I originally made this little pen for SAB’s rabbit a million years ago.  Never intending it to be anything but temporary, we snapped together some 1×2’s and chicken wire one afternoon, so the rabbit would have a way to get out and eat some grass in the backyard safely.  However, over the years it has held together and been used almost constantly, either to segregate a broody hen in the coop, or to give chicks a safe place for their first outdoor excursions.

Anywho….while trying to figure how to allow chicks access to food, it hit me that this little run, raised on some bricks, would allow the chicks to slip under to eat, while preventing the adults birds from gaining the same access.  It has worked phenomenally well.  It doesn’t take chicks a heartbeat to “figure it out” and I’m certain they appreciate having access to feed without the adults crowding them out.  Unfortunately, there were no chicks eating at the time I snapped the photo here, but I thought it would give the idea anyway:

100_0236

It is hard to see that it is raised off the ground, but you can see the bricks – the run is on top of them, so 3-4″ off the ground.  Newly hatched chicks run under easily.  My current youngest chicks are at least 8 weeks old and they now have to flatten against the ground to squeeze under – but they do it!  Experimenting with it, I’ve found I can’t raise it much higher without the older birds snaking their necks under and getting at the feed, so I leave it at this level and once the chicks grow too much to even be able to belly slide under it, they just have to start eating at the big feeder instead.  By then they are old enough to hold their own so it all works out.

HWA has proposed a more permanent and purpose-built solution which would a) be mounted to the side of the coop, b) have a solid (rain-proof) slanted roof hinged for easy access, and possibly c) adjustable height barrier to entry.  That sounds great.  I’m sure he’ll have it built by the time a) we’re all dead and buried, b) the planet-destroying astroid hits, or possibly c) global warming has made our home the same shallow sea it was during the late Cretaceous Period.

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