HANDY TOOLS & TIPS  

  • Everyone has his or her own way of doing things, but sometimes sharing ideas helps others gain new ways of doing things. Sometimes it is just a simple idea but it helps you save time and energy.  Here are a few ideas – please review them – maybe you have never tried them, maybe you have others.  If so, please share. 
  • A yardstick or something of similar size and length is a handy tool to clean the shavings out the back corner of a cage when changing shavings.  Remove the pan and then run the stick down one side, across the back and back out the other side.  This will remove all the extra shavings without having to reach into the cage or opening the door.  The pan of clean shavings will then easily slide back into the cage.
  • The easiest way to clean your shaving pans is to use an extra wide spackling knife to clean out the dirty shavings.  One or two passes with the wide blade and the pan is clean.  It is hard to believe, but we have seen many ranchers cleaning out their pans with very small one or two inch putty knives – that takes forever to do.  Try the 8 or 10 or 12 inch knives - it will really speed up your work.

  • A stray animal can be caught with the use of a long handled fish net – just scoop up the animal or drop the net over it.  For animals that are more elusive try a live animal trap.  We keep one in each room with a water bottled attached to the opposite end.  They will find plenty to eat on the floor but it is a sure bet they will go into the cage at night to get water.  Result, you have your lost animal safely in the trap by the next morning.  Sometimes you find one in it before you know one is out and about

  • If you feed a daily supplement, remember not to over feed.  If you wish to feed ½ teaspoon daily you must either us a level ½ teaspoon measure (as a heaping ½ teaspoon really equals a teaspoon or more) of better yet use a ¼ teaspoon and you can heap it without really looking and have the correct amount. 
  • If you store your feed and hay in plastic trash cans (metal are sometimes too noisy if the lids are dropped) leave the feed in the bag and close it up to preserve the freshness of the feed.  As we use large amounts daily we empty our bags into the containers.  Use a plastic bucket to feed out of and a kitchen scoop that is the proper size for the feeders you have.  This will speed up your feeding process.  If you only have a couple animals…fill a small container to feed from on a daily basis so you won’t have to open the large container daily.  This will help keep it fresh longer.  Some ranchers feed a somewhat measured amount daily and the size scoop they use can be their gauge.  Always give mothers and babies and multiples weaned together in a cage extra feed daily as their needs are greater.  Be sure to store extra bags of feed on a pallet away from walls and floor…especially in a basement where moisture can cause it to mold.
  • Having extra water bottles on hand makes changing bottles much easier.  Keep the bottles washed ahead and filled and on a daily basis change only the ones that are empty.  In other words, if a bottle is empty, take it off and replace it with a clean filled bottle.  This way you are doing approximately 1/7th of your bottles daily and the animals get a clean bottle at least once a week  We use plastic milk crates to store our bottles in – each holds 16 – 16 oz. Pint bottles and are easy to carry (full or empty) and stack easily for storage.  We also have a square frame with rollers that we stack them on in each room to roll up and down the rows when checking the water.
  • Use the crevice tool on your vacuum cleaner to clean out your feeders from time to time – especially during the summer months.  This way you can eliminate the build up of fines, which sometime accumulate in the bottom of the feeders.  Another idea we use is not feed on Sunday except for mothers and babies and litter mates weaned together.  You find on Monday that nearly all of your feeders are nice and clean and ready to start the new week.
  • A daily calendar (large enough to write on or a book with the days of the week in it) kept in each barn or room is a handy item to mark down the everyday happenings.  You can then refer back to it from time to time to see if something out of the ordinary may have happened that perhaps caused breeding activity to slow down, etc. with out trusting everything to memory.  Things to note in it would be dates on and off of medication, all littering information, any particular changes in feed or hay, when a new batch of feed was started, if visitors may have been there, extremes in the weather, breakdowns in the equipment, etc.  Having many different breeding rooms we can then take all the books into the house about once a month and sit down and record all the littering information into our permanent record book.
  • A simple, but sometimes overlooked thing to do is to list ALL littering information on each of the breeding female’s card.  Be sure to note when put into breeding, when jump-hole opened, possible breedings noticed, when changing to another male…when and to whom, etc.   By doing this you save the time needed to always have to keep running back to your herd book (or computer) to see what her breeding record is.
  • To make metal shaving pans, dusters, feeders, doors, etc. last longer, thoroughly clean and completely let dry and paint yearly with fast drying spray aluminum paint or a thin coat brushed on. This has been done for many years by many ranchers throughout the country with no ill effect to the animals.  The little time spent to do this will be a great savings in replacing pans, etc.
  • When purchasing used cages for use in your own herd, always make it a practice to use this procedure before placing your animals in the cages.
  • Any parts that can't be painted should be thoroughly disinfected.  This will retard any chance of spreading a problem into your herd.
  • Do you have grease spills on your concrete drive or garage floor?  You have a good product already in your unit to absorb these stains - your used Chinchilla dust bath material.
  • Just cover the area with your dust material you are about to discard and let et a few minutes.  Sweep up and the grease is gone.  Leaving some on for a longer period of time may also draw some from the floor itself.
  • So...why purchase floor cleaning materials when you already have one that works in your unit.
  • Need brown wrapping paper to mail packages, etc.?  Look no further than your discarded feed sacks.  Cut off the bottom seam and split down one side.  You will find that the sack now separates into two or three very large sheets of brown wrapping paper. Great for mailing packages or give to the kids for a giant sized sheet of drawing paper.  So, don't waste what you already have - if you don't need paper - at least use the sack to discard your other trash without the cost of trash bags from the store.

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