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In order to get a constant supply of food and feathers, I decided to set up a simple semi-automated chicken farm, but for some reason, my chickens keep dying. Why is this? Here are the details:

enter image description here

The dispenser is triggered by a rapid pulsar. This way, approximately every 16 seconds a new chicken is spawned, until I run out of eggs. The chickens float on a 1-layer thick water surface to allow collecting eggs:

enter image description here

As you can see the floating area is about 2x10 blocks large.

There used to be many chickens in these containers, dropping an egg every few seconds. Then, they all died (I could collect meat instead of eggs). Luckily, I had a batch of eggs, so I refilled the dispenser and got around 20 chickens out of it. Leaving the farm for a while and coming back left me with just 2 chickens.

How can I avoid these mass extinctions?

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3  
they could be drowning. Either in the water or in the walls. Last I knew too many chickens within a too-small enclosed area could actually push eachother into the wall and suffocate them. Fences, I'm told, do not cause this problem. –  Ender May 6 '12 at 8:04
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Glass wall will prevent suffocation, I would try building the whole wall of glass, but not sure if that is your problem. –  Blem May 6 '12 at 8:19
    
@Ender: I heard that too, but even when I only had ~20 chickens (1 per block) they kept disappearing, so I suspect its not that there is too little space. –  blubb May 6 '12 at 9:22
    
Is this single-player or multiplayer? –  Kevin Reid May 6 '12 at 20:03
    
@Kevin Reid: It's SMP. –  blubb May 6 '12 at 20:24
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9 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

The issue I see is (especially on SMP) Mobs are loaded before blocks (last experienced this on 1.2.4) so they move before the walls/blocks load. I have lost many a chicken this way.

also this is made worse on SMP as the chunks are loaded/unloaded much more often.

Edit: should have mentioned, there is a fix for this in the next release, but until then, the only way is to stay with your birds at all times.

Edit 2: the only fix I can recommend is to replace all the wood with glass and hope for the best, as you are on SMP I would also hide this whole thing in case it is a chicken hunter, not a bug killing them.

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Do you know how to work this issue around? –  blubb May 7 '12 at 21:03
    
If this is the problem I think you just need to make sure the wall in water level is made out of glass also to prevent suffocation –  Blem May 8 '12 at 12:05
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I have been starting my own automatic egg farm going to eventually upgrade to a chicken tender farm but I recently changed the water from flowing from 2 corners of my 9x9 suspended room which was working perfectly fine to a still water by surrounding all sides with solid sources. I started adding the chickens just like i did the first time (Killed them all off to make it easier) but noticed they did not last more then a minute. I went into the water flow room under the chickens that pushes drops to the center and noticed they where taking damage on the signs holding up the water. I am not sure what causes this but it might be worth trying to make the water 2 deep or making the water flow by using a source block from each side.

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You don't even need water in my experience....if you just build a one block wide and one block deep moat (no water) just inside your fence, the chickens will jump down in it but not up to the 1/4 block ledge next to the fence. Thus, they don't get stuck on anything.

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The water is part of the egg-collection mechanism. –  SevenSidedDie Jun 8 '13 at 15:34
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I have seen this on the server I play as well. My suggestion is that you create a chicken coup with a water flow that pushes the chickens away from the walls.

My design is pretty simple. I create a square building somewhere between about 9-15 blocks in width. Continue to use the signs to build a water level, but instead of creating perfectly still like you did, simply place source blocks at each corner of the square room. The water flows will then push all the chickens to the center where they will not try to walk through walls and either escape or suffocate.

floating pen above floating pen below

Alternate with buffers. chicken pen

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I'll post a picture this evening. –  Zoredache May 8 '12 at 19:03
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Longest evening evar. –  SevenSidedDie May 27 '13 at 4:32
    
@SevenSidedDie, Thanks for the reminder. –  Zoredache May 27 '13 at 7:38
    
Thanks for the picture! :) That's a nice chicken coop. –  SevenSidedDie May 27 '13 at 16:58
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Baby chickens drown if they are left in water until they are fully grown.

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This isn't true. Baby chickens can swim as well as any other animal. –  SevenSidedDie May 27 '13 at 4:30
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@SevenSidedDie - any other full grown animal at least. I lost a few baby cows from drowning because they don't float –  Robotnik May 27 '13 at 4:43
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It could be that the dispenser is hitting the chickens and killing them, or letting them escape.

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Mobs are not hurt if hit by an egg. –  blubb May 7 '12 at 7:35
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I'm pretty sure I've killed young chickens with eggs on several occasions in single and multiplayer, although I don't have video evidence at the time (at work). –  Chris May 7 '12 at 13:18
    
@Chris: The Minecraft wiki says that mobs aren't hurt by eggs. Also, hitting a young chicken with ~20 eggs did not kill it. (single-player, creative). But either way, the problem is not the eggs as the last 20 chicken disappeared without me refilling the dispensers. –  blubb May 8 '12 at 14:33
    
Huh, well then it must have been killed by something else coincidentally although it seems odd that the coincidence has happened so often. I won't argue with the wiki, though. I didn't expect it to be a solution to the problem, just food for thought. –  Chris May 8 '12 at 14:42
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I have had a chicken farm running for 6+ months, with never an issue like that. The biggest difference between mine and yours, is the water. My water is as follows (this is a side view)

X        X
X        X
X        X
XSWWWWWWWX
XXXXXXXXWWWWWWWW
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX


X-> Rock/Dirt/Glass
S-> Water source block
W-> Water flowing from source block

I have never had an issue like you describe. Doesn't answer "why" they're dying, but answers "how to avoid this in the future."

As for why they are dying, I haven't a clue.

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Remember when you throw an egg there is I think 10% chance of getting a chicken out of it! Maybe they don't die maybe they just don't spawn!

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No, that is not the problem. My problem is that the chickens disappear. –  blubb May 6 '12 at 14:02
    
Your answer is useful, but the question does not ask it at all. –  Michel May 8 '12 at 12:38
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The chickens have to have an area to walk about on or they will drown if left too long in the pool.

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I could certainly imagine that this is the problem, but do you have any references? –  blubb May 6 '12 at 9:17
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I am pretty sure this is not true –  Blem May 6 '12 at 9:18
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In this video it shows HOW to create this egg-machine. And it also inform that Chickens Don't Drown! –  Michel May 7 '12 at 18:00
    
If you look on minecraft wiki it should tell you something similar –  mrminecraft3000 May 8 '12 at 20:51
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