Outdoor cat feeder adventures

I previously posted about the outdoor kitty condo I got as a feeding station for our outdoor feral cats. I since got a food dispenser, but that attracted the attention of raccoons and other wildlife, so I started putting it away overnight, which got old fast.

Next I tried getting an automatic feeder… but that didn’t fare too well; it was stolen and ripped open by the masked bandits; I found it elsewhere in the garden:

So time for a better solution: I repurposed one of our plastic deck table boxes to contain a different auto-feeder. I cut a hole in the bottom, and made a kind of funnel out of a pipe reducer (leftover from the chicken feeder), so the raccoons couldn’t get to the feeder. Even if they reach up the tube (and they’ve certainly tried!) they can’t get the food, as the feeder closes off the outlet after dispensing food:

The box also contains some sand bags for extra weight, and to help hold the feeder in place:

The box is also strapped to a couple of concrete blocks, to give it extra weight and raise the hole off the ground. The food dish from the feeder is also strapped to the blocks:

So far this has proved raccoon-proof, so I think this’ll work.

The kitty condo now just houses the water, which helps keep it cleaner:

Chicken coop: heated water

It’s getting cold, starting to drop below freezing at night, so it’s time to put out the waterer heaters. Each of the coops now has a metal water dispenser that sits on a heated base. The base only comes on when the temperature drops below freezing, to warm up the water a little, just enough to prevent it from freezing:

The coops themselves aren’t heated or insulated. It may seem counterintuitive, but providing heat is actually bad for the chickens — since a sudden power loss could result in them freezing to death. If they gradually get used to colder temperatures, they build up fat and fluff to keep themselves warm. They also snuggle together while roosting.

The main requirements for winter are to prevent the water from freezing (and thus preventing them from drinking it), avoiding cold drafts while ensuring ventilation, and collecting eggs more often so they don’t freeze (and crack).

Barriers

It’s been a little while since my last blog post. I haven’t done much around the homestead of late, with the rainy and cold weather, and lots of Dejal work to do.

One tiny thing was to repair a screen covering a hatch under our bedroom closet. The outdoor cats (or some other wild animals) had ripped off the old screen:

So after evicting the kittens, I recently repaired it with three layers: hardware cloth, insect screen, and more hardware cloth. Not the prettiest job, but that should prevent any further intrusion:

We’ve had a lot of wind, so this morning I set up an ad hoc windbreak in front of the beehives, to give them some shelter, using some bits of junk I had lying around:

Speaking of, we’re currently feeding the bees some 2:1 sugar water, though they aren’t taking much, since they’re largely dormant, except on warmer days (they also have their honey stores to sustain them):

Chickens in the veggie garden

Now that we’re done with the veggies for the year, it’s time to let the chickens in to clean up the beds. In no time at all they’ll eat all the leftover vegetation, and till the beds.

Here’s a YouTube video:


I cut a hole in the fence from the new run:

Enabling the new chickens to enter the veggie garden:

And re-opened the hole from the old run, for the old girls:

The new chickens didn’t take long to start investigating the garden beds:

For the most part, the two flocks are staying on opposite sides of the garden, though there have been some interactions: