Care and Maintenance of Birds and Rabbits
Care and maintenance of birds and rabbits is pretty easy at Mezzacello. It involves checking feed levels, water levels, and making sure the ducks are playing by the rules. Everything else is automated.
Please, never go into the livestock area (building 1 or the rubber runway) without boots. There are plenty of boots available on the fence. I also have blue shoe covers if you want to cover your shoes.
The shoe covers are in a dispenser on the gate into the livestock area. You cannot go into the livestock shed where the rabbits are or into the chicken run without proper boots. This is the fastest way to spread avian flu.
The rabbits also urinate on the floor of the livestock shed (building 1) so just protect yourself. There will be a bowl full of bleach water that you can step into with boots to rinse them. Toss blue shoe covers when you are done with them.
Replace boots on the fence when you are done. This keeps them safe, organized and dry. If you want to bring your own boots, be my guests.
Just outside the gate into the livestock ecosystem is a sink and soap for washing your hands. Try to keep your hands washed, especially if handling eggs.
In the livestock shed (Building 1) you will find a double door system. Behind these doors is a steel kennel door. This is what keeps raccoons out in summertime so I can let fresh air to circulate.
The feed for the animals is behind these steel gates. There are five 10 Gallon buckets that contain
- Chicken feed
- Rabbit feed
- Scratch grains
- Cat food
- Chick feed
The chicken feed goes into the steel treadle feeder. Chickens and ducks will feed themselves. Just make sure every few days that the treadle feeder has chicken pellets in it by stepping on the treadle and seeing if there are pellets.
Fill one of the buckets with pellet feed and then take that out into the chicken run. Open the top of the lid of the chicken treadle feeder and pour in the pellets. You may never need to do this.
Ducks and chickens eat the same pellets. I try to give them limited treats in the green bowl. Open grains attract small birds which leads to lice and mites.
Ducks get a special treat, a can of green beans (in the cabinet with a can opener) or a scoop of mealworms (in the purple cabinet in a lidded bucket). They need this source of niacin and protein. They also get cat food occasionally for their feather and oils in their feathers.
The chicks are still being weened off chick feed. They will eat scratch grains though. I am encouraging them to try pellets, but they are still too small to activate the treadle feeder.
The rabbits get rabbit feed. Just make sure they have feed in their feeder troughs. In the purple cabinet there is Timothy Grass for a treat or you can pull dead clover, they love that and bananas too!
There are three sources of water at Mezzacello.
- The IBC tote in the chicken run
- The pond
- The water hose
Mostly I use the rain water from the IBC. I fill the rubber bowl at the base of the IBC for water for the ducks to dip their bills into (important). The ducks, chickens, and chicks know how to access water from the nipple waterer (the red lid bucket in a steel base.
The rabbits just need water in their watering bottles. Check the bottles every few days. They are really low maintenance.
You are free to take the eggs with you. The chickens lay in the coop behind the metal gates. Just reach in there and grab the eggs from inside the livestock shed.
The duck eggs will be in the nests on the floor just inside the sliding door into the chicken coop. Just step in and grab them and make sure you close the sliding door AND the green steel gate!
Just whistle or say “Coop Coop Coop!” and they usually come running or will run into the coop. I have trained them to do this. Give them mealworm treats to solidify this training.Jim Bruner
The chicks are getting big enough to move into the coop with the other chicken. Right now I am keeping them safe in their tractor in the chicken run. If they go in there, just shut it up and lock it.
They have their own food and water in there. During the day, I let the ducks use it to sometimes lay their eggs. They like doing that, so check the wood door and maybe you’ll find a duck egg or two!
The ducks are difficult. They do not like to go in at dusk like the chickens do. Sometimes I have to make them go in. I open the automatic door (there is a white fob that hangs on the steel door into the shed) and just say “Coop Coop Coop!” and they usually run in.
Then I close the automatic door. If the ducks are being obstinate, just grab the blue crook. That is usually enough to make them act quickly.
If you don’t mind, keep the back steel gate and front steel gate closed on the run. Let the animals just nag out in the run. If you feel confident, you can let the chickens and ducks run in the BACK YARD only.
Never let the chicks out though. They are HAWK Magnets. It will probably just be easier to let the chickens, chicks and ducks hang out in the closed coop run for the week I will be gone.
I will have pressure washed the coop and run area and have everything cleaned up. I will also have cleaned the rabbit cages. If you want to use the pressure gun to spray down the chicken run be my guest. The wastes will run into the sewer system.
The ducks are messy and muddy. the chicken run is covered in rubber mattes just for this reason. It’s not necessary, but if it makes you happy, be my guest.