In my post entitled, “Working with Chicken Tractors,” I discuss some of the requirements for helping meat chickens grow quickly, but also in a healthy environment. It’s important to treat the chickens with respect—no animal should have to live in substandard conditions. With this in mind, we’ve been using short metal pans to provide the chickens with food and water. There are a number of reasons to use this sort of pan:
- Ease of access for the chickens
- Easily recycled
- Low cost
- Readily available
However, the pans do rust out quickly. We normally start using the pan for water, but after two years, the bottoms rust enough that the pan won’t hold water any longer and then we use it for food for another two or three years before we have to recycle it.
We recently tried a new type of rubber pan. The Little Giant 3 gallon rubber pan is made of 100 percent reclaimed rubber using recovered energy sources. This means that the pan uses resources that would normally be wasted. However, it does cost about twice as much as the metal pans we’ve used in the past. You’d need some good reasons to trade up to these pans:
- Lasts a lot longer
- Chickens are less likely to get hurt
- Chickens are far less likely to suffocate under one
- Fewer contaminants used in construction
- Easier to clean
I’ve talked with a number of people who use these pans and haven’t met anyone yet who hasn’t received a lot more usage out of one than the metal pans. The fact that these pans don’t corrode means that you won’t be replacing them due to rust. I’ll report back when one of them wears out.
One of the problems with the metal pans is that they’re rigid. The chickens have a tendency to trip over them or get partially caught under one while the other chickens are stomping about. The result is a broken limb or other, more serious, injury. These rubber pans are flexible to an extent, which means that the chickens don’t get hurt as easily when using them.
We’ve also had a number of chickens suffocate under a pan when it gets flipped over. The problem again is the rigidity of the pan. It makes it impossible for the chicken to get out from under the pan. I’ve already seen chickens easily get out from under these pans when they get flipped.
The metal pans are galvanized, which means that they’re coated with zinc. The zinc provides protection from rust for some period of time. However, the chemicals used in the galvanization process, along with the protective oils used on the pan, are hard to get off. They add to the toxins the chickens ingest (and that you eventually ingest). So far, I’m not finding any contaminants associated with these rubber pans and would certainly like to hear about any you find.
One of the biggest issues in maintaining healthy chickens is keeping their environment reasonably clean. This means moving the chickens so that fecal matter doesn’t pile up. It also means washing their pans daily (or more often for water pans on hot days). So far, these rubber pans are proving incredibly easy to clean. Knock out the big dirt and shower them down with a bit of soap and water. The metal pans usually require scrubbing to get them clean.
Overall, these new rubber pans are a better deal long term than using similar metal pans. About the only area in which you might find fault is that the flexible rubber sides do allow more water to escape, so you’ll end up watering the chickens a little more often. Even so, this is a minor point that most people will find that the rubber pans save time and money, and end up producing better chickens because it’s easier to keep things clean.