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Keeping chickens: A complete guide

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Keeping chickens has become increasingly popular in the UK. Statistics suggest that there are now more than 1 million chicken-owning households in the country

In terms of feed, a good quality food is required in order for your chickens to produce the best eggs. Many top brands such as Allen & Page are made from GM free ingredients with added Omega-3 fatty acids and natural yolk-colour enhancing ingredients. Allen & Page offers chicken feed in both pellet and meal form.

Happy chickens usually lay tastier eggs so it is important that you let your chickens roam free as often as possible. If you are concerned that there may be a hungry fox on the prowl, it may be safer to let your chickens loose in their run rather than out in the open.

The final point to remember is to regularly collect the eggs. This will make sure they are at their freshest and will stop your chickens from becoming broody.

Chickens can make excellent pets with each one having unique personalities. You also get the added benefit of having fresh eggs every day. In order for your chickens to lay the best eggs you need to ensure that you buy good quality feeders and drinkers which ensure the constant supply of water and food. We sell a range of plastic and galvanised metal feeders and drinkers.

In this guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of keeping chickens at home, providing useful information for prospective chicken owners and those who are interested in adding some feathered friends to the family.

An introduction to keeping chickens

There are many reasons why the number of people opting to keep chickens at home has increased in recent years. The UK is a nation of pet lovers, with the majority of families boasting at least one pet. While cats and dogs are the most popular choices, there is a huge amount of interest in keeping chickens. Many people are eager to explore different options when looking for a new pet, and there has been a noticeable shift towards more sustainable and eco-friendly ways of living. Some people who are thinking about adding chickens to their household are keen to do so to provide eggs as part of a move away from being reliant on supermarkets and corner shops to stock the cupboards. There’s also the advantage of opting for a pet that is relatively low maintenance. Chickens are often very independent, and they don’t require a lot of time and attention.

When starting out with chickens, it’s always wise to undertake research and get some advice and tips to help you prepare your garden, make sure you have all the equipment you need and ensure your chickens are comfortable, happy and healthy. Although chickens are a lot easier to look after than dogs and cats, you will need to devote some time and energy to them and understand the basics of chicken care.

Where to buy chickens

If you’re thinking about buying a pet chicken, your first question is likely to be, ‘Where can I buy chickens?’ There are a few options when it comes to locating chickens for sale. These include:

· Chicken breeders

Reputable chicken breeders are renowned for producing healthy specimens and taking good care of their chickens. If you choose to buy from a trustworthy local or regional breeder, you’ll often end up with a pedigree bird, which has been given the best possible start in life. Buying from a breeder is likely to be more expensive than some other options, but if you’re keen to add a specific breed to your household, or you want to enjoy peace of mind that your chickens have come from an excellent home, this is an avenue worth pursuing. You can usually find details of local or national breeders online and in magazines that focus on rural life, poultry or smallholdings.

· Poultry shows

Many of us are familiar with shows where farmers or smallholding owners sell or bid for cows, sheep and pigs. Poultry shows are a similar type of event. Birds are often displayed in cages and pens and owners have the chance to inspect them before they decide whether or not to buy. For beginners, it’s a great idea to go to a poultry show, as you can pick up some tips and tricks from breeders and more experienced chicken keepers.

· Adverts

If you read magazines or you use a search engine, you’ll come across classified adverts for chickens for sale. Adverts are often used by keepers who have a small number of chickens and are looking for new homes for chicks that have recently hatched. Buying from classified ads is often an economical option, but it is important to make sure that you buy from a trustworthy individual and to be aware that the quality of the bird might not be as high.

· Auctions

There are many dedicated poultry auctions in the UK, and this can be an excellent way to buy chickens without spending a lot of money. Before you bid, make sure you read the details of the listing carefully and always take the time to look at the birds closely before you take them away on collection.

Popular chicken breeds

If you’re not an experienced hen keeper, you may be wondering which types of chickens or chicken breeds to choose. There are many different breeds of chicken, and some may suit you better than others. Before you decide, it’s beneficial to think about why you want to keep chickens, how many chickens you’d like to have and how much space and time you have available.

If you’re looking for an excellent egg-layer, breeds like Rhode Island Red and Leghorn are ideal, while Buff Orpingtons are a great option for beginners who don’t have a huge amount of time to spend tending to their chickens. This breed is more self-sufficient than others. For owners searching for active, friendly chickens that make perfect backyard chickens, Plymouth Rock is a fantastic breed. The Dominique is another breed known for its nature, and if you want your chickens to be part of the family, this could be the best pet for you. Dominiques are often recommended for families with children.

Rescue chickens

More and more people are eager to give rescue animals a home, rather than buying animals from breeders or owners. Rescue chickens are widely available from organisations like charities and welfare trusts in the UK. Rescue operations give battery hens the opportunity to live a happier and more fulfilling life, with the chance to roam free and enjoy wide, open spaces and the care of loving owners. If you are interested in rehoming or rescuing chickens, look for details of organisations that have hens available, including welfare trusts and battery hen rescue charities. The British Hen Welfare Trust rescues around 60,000 hens per year. Once you have contacted the organisation and provided your details, you can start preparing to bring your hen’s home. All hens must be traceable in case of an outbreak of disease, and some organisations will recommend a minimum intake. Chickens are sociable animals, and they like to spend time in small groups.

Choosing a chicken house

If you took a moment to search online for a hen house or a chicken coop, you’d be greeted with hundreds of adverts and links. Before you buy a chicken house, it’s wise to research, to compare different options and to think about your home and the amount of space you have for a new coop. Chicken houses range from basic coops to fancier models with different zones and split levels. Unless you have a burning desire to have the best-looking chicken property in town, a solid, spacious, sturdy coop will do the trick. Always ensure you have plenty of space for the number of birds you own (experts recommend 2-3 square feet per chicken inside the coop) and provide your chickens with shelter and protection. The coop should offer a comfortable spot for your chickens to rest and lay eggs, and it should also protect them from predators. Depending on how far you want to let your chickens roam, you can locate your coop in a large garden or field or add a run to your chicken house.

When looking for a chicken house, it’s useful to spend a bit of time researching and looking at different types of coop before making a decision. Read reviews, look for expert advice and make sure you have enough space available before you buy.

Tips for collecting eggs

As a novice chicken owner, you’re probably looking forward to collecting eggs, but how do you know if your eggs are fresh? Eggs don’t last forever, and it’s always a good idea to inspect your harvest to avoid unwanted encounters with rotten eggs. There are some basic tests you can do to show you how to tell if eggs are fresh. These include:

  • Floating: fresh eggs should sink, lying on their side at the bottom of a container. If an egg is passed its best, it will stand on its end. If it is rotten, it will float.
  • Breaking in a bowl: to test the freshness of an egg, you can break part of the shell, tipping the contents into a bowl. You may be able to detect an unpleasant odour as soon as you make a dent in the shell, or the freshness may come into question once you’ve cracked the egg and inspected the contents. If the shell is tough to break, or the liquid is thick, this is a red flag. If you’re ever in doubt, it’s best to discard the egg.
  • Light: this test is based on the old candle test, which is designed to see if an egg is fertile by shining a light through it. You can use a torch to achieve the same effect.

To ensure you collect eggs while they are still fresh and make the most of your produce, it’s beneficial to inspect the coop every day.

Can chickens fly?

Chickens can fly, but they don’t fly far, and they are limited in terms of the amount of time they can spend in the air. As a pet chicken owner, you shouldn’t have to worry about your hens flying off into the sunset. Some breeds can fly higher or further than others, but it’s very rare for chickens to spend more than 10 seconds off the ground.

Feeding chickens

If you’ve ever heard the expression, ‘rare as hen’s teeth’ you may have questions about its origins. Hens don’t actually have teeth, and this is where the saying comes from. When it comes to feeding your chickens, you’ll need to factor this in to help them eat and digest their food. In the absence of teeth, hens ingest grit, which helps to break up food and aid digestion. Chickens are natural scavengers, and they will spend hours touring a yard or garden looking for food. They will gladly scoop up insects and grass, but it’s important for owners to supplement their diet by adding chicken food pellets that provide nutrients, vitamins and minerals. The average hen will consume around 100-150g of complete chicken food per day. Mixed corn can be added for a treat.

Chickens and bird flu

Bird flu, also known as avian flu, is a viral disease, which can affect captive and wild birds. If you have baby chicks or hens, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms of bird flu, which include:

  • Decreased energy levels
  • Blueness in the head
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased wetness in the eyes
  • Ruffled feathers
  • Coughing

If you have any concerns, contact your vet as soon as possible.

Keeping hens in your garden: Are Chickens a help of a hindrance to your garden?

With the current economic crisis hitting home quite hard for most families, many people are looking at alternative ways for feeding their family. Although most people don't have enough space to keep a whole farmyard of animals, almost everyone could accommodate a few hens in their back garden.

Hens are really easy to keep at home and if they are well looked after you can expect to harvest approximately 300 eggs per year. Hens like to have company so it is worthwhile investing in a couple of hens. Any spare eggs that you have you could swap with friends who are growing other types of produce. Hens also make for a great pet and are easy to care for. If you want to your hens to reproduce, you will also need to buy a rooster.

Hens need to have a secure pen to live in, with enough space to roam and scratch around. These can be made from chicken wire and wood. They like a roost as well, but you could use a converted rabbit hutch.Hens need to be fed a balanced diet that generally consists of wheat and corn, although they will eat certain vegetables such as lettuce and are great for using as pest control in your garden. One of their favourite things to eat is a slug. You'll be reaping in the free-range eggs in no time at all.

If you are thinking about keeping chickens, you might be wondering what impact they will have on your garden if you allow them to roam free. Will they help your garden to thrive or will they churn up your soil and eat many of your precious plants?

The Good News About Chickens

More and more people are keeping chickens on their properties. The unique character of the birds and the eggs that they produce are certainly major draws. The good news is that, if managed correctly, your chickens can also help improve the environment your garden.

Fresh Eggs and Reducing Waste

If you are keen to make your lifestyle a little more earth friendly then chickens are certainly a great investment. You will enjoy all those wonderful fresh eggs which will not require transportation and packaging. Your chickens will eat any food scraps that are left on your plate and so you will reduce the volume of organic matter that you throw away. That has to be a good thing but make sure that only around 10% of your poultry’s diet comes from scraps.

Chicken Manure

Chickens will search around for worms and grubs in the soil and this will give it a good tilling. Chicken manure makes for good fertiliser too. But it is high in nitrogen and so should kept for a few months before being applied around plants, otherwise it may burn them.

Chickens produce a lot of poop which makes for great manure and soiled is the perfect mulch for your garden. Chicken nest bedding can also be added to your compost pile to help to create more manure to feed your vegetable patch.

Insects and Plants

Free range chickens will also eat insects which is a good thing unless the insects happen to be resting on plants that you don’t want destroyed! In their search for insects the chickens will consume young ornamental and vegetable plants in your garden. More mature plants should be safe. If there are plants that you wish to protect, these should be fenced off. Your other alternative is to invest in or build a large enclosure which can be moved around the garden to suit. It is useful to move your chickens around any lawn areas as they will eat some of the weeds that develop.

Chicken Grit

Your birds will need to help them grind the food in their gizzards. If you allow them to live free range in your garden, they may have access to rocky soil and that could mean that they do not require a supplement of chicken grit. Always keep a supply of chicken grit on hand, though, in case your chickens need ever need it.

Chicken Friendly Planting

If you do decide to give your chickens the run of the garden, then you can boost their health and wellbeing with judicious planting. Herbs are a very good choice, especially fennel, marjoram and parsley which are thought to boost egg production. Carrots, marigolds and watermelon can give egg yolks a deeper orange hue. If you are going to raise chicks then plant some basil, dandelion and tarragon as these herbs can help to ensure healthy birds. Chervil, dill, oregano and sage are considered to be excellent food supplements for chickens and rosemary and thyme help to boost their immune systems.There doesn’t appear to have been any research into how herbs impact the health of poultry but anecdotal evidence suggests that they do have a beneficial effect. fresh herbs can also be used in nesting boxes to calm the sitting hens, to create a nice aroma around the coop and to repel insects.

Living in Harmony

It is possible to allow your chickens a degree of freedom in your garden without too much plant destruction ensuing. The chickens can help to cultivate your soil and to keep the bugs at bay whilst providing a good source of manure.

Are Chickens Intelligent?

Chickens tend to get a poor rap. Most people believe these birds to be rather dim but research has suggested that chickens could be much more intelligent than previously thought and are even capable of skilful subterfuge.

Superior Thinking

A review of scientific research conducted in the US has been published in the journal Animal Cognition. This has concluded that chicken intelligence has been severely underestimated. The birds are actually capable of advanced thinking similar to that of mammals and primates. Their logical thinking is superior to that of young children and the birds have individual personalities.

Devious Behaviour

The birds were found to be incredible devious. Males make food calls when there is actually no food present in order to attract females to their area. They cluck more quietly during mating rituals if rivals are present so that they wouldn’t alert them to the presence of a potential mate.

Doing the Maths

Chickens can also count and even newly hatched chicks are able to tell the difference between quantities of items and to do simple arithmetic. Chickens can also discriminate between crude diagrams.

Surprising Complex

Unfortunately, chickens are generally viewed by people as a commodity. But there is clearly more to chickens than previously thought. They possess the capacity to reason and can make inferences from what they see and experience. This is an ability which humans only develop at around the age of seven. Chickens can perceive time and may even be able to anticipate future events. They can discriminate between different individuals, they interact socially and they learn in complex ways.

Self-Control and Communication

The birds were also found to possess self-control when it comes to holding out for a better food and are able to understand their position in the pecking order. This demonstrates impressive self-awareness. Communication between chickens is also surprising complex. Chickens have a large repertoire of visual displays and it is known that they can produce at least 24 distinct vocalisations. They use these to attract mates and to signal danger. Mother hens show a wide range of maternal traits and these seem to affect the behaviour of their offspring.

It is now thought that chickens experience emotion. They feel fear, anxiety and anticipation just like people do. Perhaps it is time that we gained a new appreciation for poultry!

Keeping and Raising Hens

The keeping of hens as pets is becoming increasingly popular. They are not overly expensive to keep, they lay fresh eggs and also make good pets. Gone are the days when you needed to live on a farm or an open rural environment, more and more people are now raising hens in more urban living surroundings.

Hens need a good, solid pen which is generally made out of wood. These can be made but it is a good idea to buy one to ensure the wood is treated correctly and the pen has all the correct elements such as a substantial roofed area and roosting shelf. Hens also need a good run, but all you need is a decent amount of grass so they can run around.

How to Raise Chicks Using Chicken Lamps

New chicks desperately need warmth. Without the correct environment they can quickly become too cold and then die. Chicks are extremely vulnerable until their feathers fully develop and so it is vital that you keep your brooder at the correct temperature. To do this, during much of the year, you will need chicken lamps.

The Hatchlings

When you move your newly hatched chicks to their brooder do remember that you are transferring them from the hot environment of the incubator and any sudden drop in temperature would be dangerous. In the first week you should maintain a temperature of 35ºC in the brooder. This can then be lowered in increments of 3ºC over the next five weeks.;

Creating the Perfect Environment

The temperature in the brooder will be affected by the ambient temperature of
the room and the number of chicks sharing it. The warmer the room and the more chicks you have, the hotter it will be in the brooder. If you are in the midst of a hot summer then you may not need to switch on your chicken lamps. Heavier breeds will require less heat than smaller breeds. The brooder must be kept free of draughts otherwise there will be cold spots.

How to Monitor the Temperature

Keep an eye on the temperature by using at least two thermometers. These should be at different points in the brooder. You should feature more than one thermometer as this will tell you if there is an even distribution of heat. Terrarium thermometers (for reptiles) are a good choice as the probe remains inside the brooder but the body of the thermometer will be outside of the brooder. This will mean that the chicks will not be able to peck at it. This type of thermometer is also easy to read. The behaviour of your chicks is a good indicator of how they are faring.

How to Monitor Behaviour

If the chicks are sticking to the perimeters of the brooder and steering clear of the heat lamp then they are probably feeling too hot. Panting is also a sign of overheating. If the chicks are huddled together close to the heat lamp then the brooder is probably too cold for them and you should increase the temperature immediately. Chicks which are comfortably warm will be eating, drinking and exploring the brooder and their peeps will sound cheerful.

Chicken Lamps

A 250 watt infra-red heat lamp is ideal for heating your brooder. Red bulbs are the perfect source of heat as the light won’t prevent the young birds from sleeping. Do remember that heat lamps must be kept clear of flammable materials including cardboard and wood shavings and must be properly secured. Sadly, the careless installation of heat lamps can quickly lead to disaster. With a good chicken lamp you can create a fabulous environment for your chicks which will enable them to thrive. However, you must keep a close eye on your chicks at all times to ensure that you have achieved the right balance.

You need a good cockerel

Ensure you have a strong rooster (cockerel), that is not too aggressive. Hens are very social creatures so keeping a few and ensuring the rooster is confident and strong will ensure a good relationship between the hens and the rooster. Happy hens lay better eggs, so their immediate environment is important. It is also better to get your hens from as young as possible. If brought up from being chicks they will accustom to you more easily and let you handle them and become affectionate pets.

Could your Chicken Coop get you in Hot Water?

After several decades of an inexorable progression towards lifestyles geared for convenience, many people are now moving back to basics. People are seeing the benefits of cooking their own food rather than microwaving ready meals and they are growing their own produce. Many householders are also keen to keep chickens but some may not be able to.

It is all too easy to think that your home and your garden are yours to do whatever you want with. However, buried deep in the smallest of small print of your title deeds or lease you may find restrictive covenants which prevent you from doing all manner of things from parking a van on your drive to keeping chickens in your garden. Breaching one of these could land you in deep trouble and cost you a fortune. It pays not to fall foul of restrictive covenants which prohibit poultry!

A Question of Time

Some of these covenants date back many years and could now be anachronisms. You may be able to overturn these by making an application to the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) but the process can be long and costly. Other covenants are of more recent vintage and are included by developers to ensure that their estates remain attractive and are the preferred places to invest. These can include stipulations about the hanging of washing, the parking of commercial vehicles or the installation of security cameras. They may also refer to the keeping of livestock.

Chicken Coop Choices

If you would like to install a then it is wise to check that you are not restricted from doing so. If you find that there is a restrictive covenant then you are faced with a difficult choice. You could challenge the covenant, give up on your idea altogether or proceed anyway and then plead ignorance if you are caught.

Treating Your Neighbours

Whether you are permitted to keep chickens or not, it is your immediate neighbours who would be the most likely to object to your poultry or to report you. This being the case it is always best to keep the neighbours on side. Talk to them about your plans to keep chickens and ease their concerns regarding noise, mess, smells and rats. The gift of a few eggs might also help and you should check the wording of the covenant as this could be vague and may enable you to argue that your chickens are pets.

The longer you manage to keep your chickens without inducing a complaint, the more likely you are to win out if you have to challenge a restrictive covenant. If a chicken coops has featured on your property for several years without issue then it becomes harder for anyone to assert that your chickens are a nuisance.

Chickens are a fabulous lifestyle choice but your chicken coop may not meet with universal approval and could be prohibited. Check your deeds or lease carefully and keep the neighbours happy to ensure that your poultry does not land you in hot water.

Hygiene

Fresh eggs are simply delicious and a wonderful benefit of keeping chickens on your property. Eggs are extremely nutritious and a healthy food for the whole family. Keeping chickens and eating the eggs they produce is earth friendly as your eggs require no transportation or packaging. Fresh eggs are fabulous but they can also carry bacteria on their shells.

The primary concern with poultry and eggs is salmonella. This can cause you to become seriously ill and can result in serious long term health issues. Eggs can also contain other harmful bacteria and so it worth taking a few simple precautions to guard against infection.

The Coop, Poultry Feeders and Chicken Drinkers

It is essential to maintain a clean environment for your chickens. The should be cleaned regularly and then disinfected. Your should also be cleaned regularly and both food and water should be replaced daily. Feed your chickens inside the coop if possible to ensure that wild birds do not have access to the food.

Rodents will also seek out the food and can be carrying diseases. If there is vegetation around the chicken house then keep it cut down so there are no places for vermin to hide. Change your chicken bedding at least once each week to ensure that the birds have somewhere clean to lay their eggs. Dirty eggs are not fit for human consumption and should be discarded.

Handling Your Eggs

It is best to collect eggs as soon as possible after they are laid. This is because the longer they are in the nesting box, the more chance there is that they will be stepped on by chickens. This raises the risk of more bacteria being transferred onto the shells. If you touch the chickens, their bedding, the poultry feeders or the eggs then always wash your hands using sanitiser. Do not put your hands near your face until they have been cleaned.

Don't Clean Your Eggs

Do not be tempted to clean your eggs until you are ready to use them as this will merely spread bacteria. Even eggs which are not dirty should not be rinsed as they may still be carrying bacteria on their shells. Eggs have a waterproof cuticle or bloom which prevents bacteria from passing through the shell to the eggs. If you wash the eggs then you will weaken this protective bloom and bacteria will be able to pass from the shell to the egg.

Storage and Cooking

Store your eggs in a cool place but not in your fridge. You should prevent the eggs from coming into contact with other foods. Use the eggs within three weeks of being laid. You can help yourself to keep track of the dates by marking the eggs using a pencil. Do not use eggs with damaged shells and always ensure that your eggs are cooked through thoroughly before you eat them.

Good Husbandry & Salmonella

Salmonella lives in the digestive tracts of chickens and spreads in their droppings. Chickens walk through their droppings regularly and so the germs are easily spread. Even apparently healthy birds could be harbouring Salmonella. You can easily become infected when you handle your birds.

Salmonella rarely kills but could see you become serious ill and even hospitalised. It can also lead to several long term health issues including arthritis, high blood pressure and kidney failure. Salmonella is best avoided. You can enjoy your chickens and create fabulous manure with your poultry nest bedding but should also take the appropriate measures to prevent the spread of infection.

Here are some useful measures to keep your chickens disease free and to prevent you and your family suffering from the effects of salmonella poisoning.

  • If you travel to places where there are chickens or other livestock, wash down your car’s tyres before returning home.
  • Wash your hands after you handle your birds, preferably with sanitiser.
  • Keep a pair of boots or shoes specifically for use in the garden and around the chickens. Change your footwear before travelling anywhere else. If you need to wear any other footwear to visit your birds then scrub it before you go down to the coop.
  • It can be a good idea to wear overalls when you tend to the chickens.
  • If you have to take the chickens off of your property, to visit the vet for instance, then quarantine them when you return.
  • Don’t kiss your birds or place them close to your face. If you handle the chickens or their bedding then keep your hands away from your face until they have been sanitised.
  • Do not permit poultry to enter your house.

Worm Infestations in Chicken

Worms are one of the most common issues for chickens. A worm infestation is rarely life-threatening but will impact the health and productivity of your birds. It is important to acquaint yourself with the warning signs and to understand the preventative measures that you can take. Worms will deprive your birds of nutrients as they take these from the food of their hosts. This leads to weight loss or reduced growth rates. Worms can also damage the digestive tract of the birds leading to other infections. Egg production will fall in infested birds and they may become listless.

Which Worms Infest Chickens?

There are three worms which can infest your birds. Roundworms are the most common issue. They have a spaghetti-like appearance and live in the intestines of the birds. Chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese are all prone to roundworm infestations. There are several species of roundworm including hairworms and threadworms but the most common issue is the large roundworm which causes weight loss and poor egg production.

The droppings of infested birds will contain the eggs of the worms which are then picked up by other birds or eaten by earthworms which are then consumed by the birds. They have a life-cycle of 28 days and can be seen in poultry droppings.

Gapeworms are a type of roundworm which attach themselves to the trachea of chickens where they restrict breathing and so cause the birds to gasp. Young birds are the most susceptible to these worms and can become infected by sharing space with wild birds. Chickens become infested when they consume intermediate hosts such as earthworms, snails and slugs. Gapeworms have a life-cycle of 14 days. They can also be picked up from other birds when they cough up the worms which then fall on the ground.

Tapeworms are not as common as roundworms and are segmented and ribbon-like in appearance. They attach themselves to the wall of the birds’ intestines. Their eggs are carried by slugs and snails so free-range birds are more susceptible than indoor birds. Infestation reduces the birds’ immunity. The worms are transferred to new hosts when segments of the worms break off and are passed in droppings, contaminating the ground. They have a life-cycle of 6 weeks and are very difficult to see with the naked eye.

How Do You Check for Worms?

It is useful to check your birds’ droppings regularly. You may see worms in the droppings. Yellow-coloured loose droppings are also a sign of worms. A mucky bottom, a dishevelled appearance, listlessness, weight loss, a pale comb and a drop in egg production are all signs that your birds may be infested with worms.

How Do You treat Worms?

Chemical anthalmintics (wormers) such as are suitable for poultry. Flubenvet should be administered in spring and autumn and will rid your birds of worms. If you do not wish to use chemical treatments, there are herbal solutions and these are suitable for organic environments. Herbal products will not tackle grapeworms, however. They are preventative which make the host bird inhospitable for the worms.

You could decide to use the herbal products per the instructions and only defer to chemical treatments if the worms persist.

What Can You Do to Minimise Worm Infestations?

Prevention is always better than cure. Here’s what you can do to minimise the chances of your birds becoming infested with worms:

  • Give your chickens clean ground regularly. If they occupy the same ground for too long it will harbour worm larvae and bacteria.
  • If you are not able to move the run, install a surface which can be cleaned and sanitised.
  • Adding apple cider vinegar to your birds’ drinking water will change the acid balance of their guts so that the environment is less hospitable for worms.
  • Keep any grass short so that sunlight can destroy any worm eggs which are present.

Chickens and Mites: What You Need to Know

Chickens can be infested by a variety of mites and this will impact the health and well-being of the poultry. The potential issues range from irritation to serious illness and death. Here’s all the information you need to help you prevent infestations, to identify mites and to treat your birds.

Red Mites

Red mites are blood sucking ectoparasites that can infest chickens and turkeys. They could invade at any time but infestations are more common in the warmer summer months. These mites can be difficult to spot unless you have a serious population explosion. They are nocturnal creatures and hide during the day, emerging at night to crawl up the birds’ legs.

It is advisable to check any areas where mites could hide and to have a look in the coop after dark. If you see what you believe to be red mites, press a sheet of white paper onto them and if they are red mites, red streaks will appear on the paper. Any smaller greyish creatures are mites which have yet to feed. They turn red when they feed on blood and then turn to reddish-brown as they digest their meal. Low numbers of red mites cause irritation but larger numbers can result in a case of anaemia. The symptoms of anaemia are a pale comb and wattles, weakness, dullness and reduced egg production. Death can occur when red mites get out of control.

The red mite life-cycle is only between 7 and 10 days so it is vital to keep checking for them.

How to Prevent and Treat Red Mites

To prevent an infestation of red mites, clean your coop regularly with a disinfectant which is effective against mites. When the coop is clean and dry, apply a dusting of mite powder or spray the coop with an appropriate product such as Smite Professional Red Mite & Parasite treatment. Apply powder to the birds, paying attention to the areas under the wings. You should also apply powder to nesting boxes and perches.

Northern Fowl Mite

The Northern Fowl Mite is an oval shaped mite which is about 1mm in size. Like the red mite, it is initially a pale grey colour and feeds on the chicken by sucking its blood and then turning to a brown colour. This feeding irritates the bird causing it to lay fewer eggs and to lose weight. A bad infestation can lead to anaemia and matted feathers. The mite lays its eggs at the base of the feathers around the vent. The eggs hatch after a few days and mature into adult after 12 days. They will spend their entire life on the bird.

Treating Northern Fowl Mites

With this type of mite, it is important to focus on the bird rather than the coop as you will not find the mites hiding away in the cracks as with the red mite. These mites will be found on the chickens. You should apply an appropriate powder or spray onto the vent areas once a week for three weeks.

Scaly Leg Mites

These mites burrow beneath the scales of the chickens’ legs, damaging the tissues. You may see white crusting and the affected legs may become infected. The mites cause only minor irritation initially but the damage will get worse as time passes. It can take months for severely damaged limbs to recover after treatment.

Treating Scaly Leg Mites

Cleanse the affected legs using an appropriate anti-mite treatment together with a toothbrush or cloth. When the legs have dried, dip them into a solution of an appropriate mite treatment. smothering the legs in Vaseline will soften the scales and help to suffocate the mites. Repeat the treatment every few weeks until the legs start to heal.

The Depluming Mite

The De-pluming Mite is related to the Scaly Leg Mite and is also a burrowing species. However, the depluming mite burrows into the feather shafts, particularly on the head, neck, back, belly and upper legs. This activity damages the tissues which then ooze a fluid which the mites feed on. The burrowing is irritating and causes chickens to scratch and pull their feathers out. Chickens may lay fewer eggs and lose weight.

De-pluming Mites give birth to live young and they can complete their life-cycle in as little as 17 days. They tend to be most prevalent in spring and summer. Mites are transmitted between birds by direct contact.

Treating the Depluming Mite

Consult with your vet if you suspect that your chickens have been infested by these mites as you will need a prescription medication to tackle them.

Lice

Chickens can also suffer from Lice which are golden in colour; Lice are fast moving and lay eggs (nits) which are white. Both the nits and the lice can usually be found around the vent, under the wings or at the base of their feathers.

Lice bite the chickens and feed on the skin and the secretions from the damaged skin. Low numbers of lice cause irritation, larger numbers lead to weight loss, restlessness and a reduction in the numbers of eggs laid; Lice are most active later in the year and are transmitted by direct contact.

Treating Lice

Treat the coop as you would for red mite infestations and apply a powder or spray which is effective against lice to the birds. View our range of mite products

What should I feed them?

Hens feed on wheat and there are some great products available based around wheat and corn that will ensure your hens get everything they need. In the summer months, they will feed on grass also. Ensure you have other areas of grass to move them to should they eat all the grass in one area. Grit should also be used to assist with the digestion of food, as hens do not have teeth so digestion can be difficult. Minerals should also be given if you want to produce really good quality eggs. A good hen will lay a couple of eggs a day, but remember they do not lay eggs in the winter, so you will be looking at around 300 eggs per year, per hen.

Hens live for around 5 years and more and more people are introducing them as pets to their children, as not only does it provide children with a friendly and affectionate pet, it is also very rewarding.

Chicken Treats:Delicious Treats your Birds Will Love

If you keep chickens then it is always nice to give them a few treats, but as with all animals, some treats are healthier than others! If you want to spoil your hens a little then it pays to choose your treats wisely.

From the Packet

The easiest way to spoil your poultry is to provide them with proprietary poultry treats such as Hentastic Poultry Foraging Cake or Garvo Chicken Treats. These are formulated to be healthy for your birds whilst being delicious. However, you may also wish to provide your chickens with leftovers and scraps. So what are the wisest choices?

From Your Pantry

The that you provide in the form of food from your kitchen do not represent a balanced diet and so should not be offered in unlimited quantities. But there are several foods which are safe and healthy if provided in moderation. Chickens do have different tastes, though, and so your choices may meet with various levels of enthusiasm!

Fruit

Fruity snacks are great for chickens and so the occasional fruit salad or treat of leftover fruit is a great idea. Chickens will eat apples and pears which are good for chickens. Berries are also healthy but should picked in the wild or washed thoroughly as the pesticides and fertilisers used on commercially cultivated berries are toxic to chickens.

Citrus fruits are not a good choice as the peel of these fruits contains limonene. In large quantities, limonene can be toxic and may block the nutrients required for egg shell development. Choose melon instead as this fruit is great for hydration.

Fruit also has the advantage that it can be free! You can pick a variety of berry fruits in the wild, notably blackberries which are everywhere, and windfall fruits are easy to come by too. Just speak to any friends and neighbours who have fruit trees and they will probably be glad to offload some fallen fruit.

Vegetables

Cabbage and cauliflower are both healthy choices but few chickens seem to relish these vegetables. You may have more luck with carrots and broccoli florets. Raw is best but leftovers are fine if these is all you have. Chickens also appreciate some fresh lettuce and this low calorie and nutritious treat is a good boredom breaker to scatter around. Chickens adore tomatoes which are actually a fruit but hey! Tomatoes are packed with healthy anti-oxidants but don’t let your chickens eat the plants because they are toxic.

Dandelions and Other Flowers

You may think of dandelions as weeds but chickens love them. You can pick them in the wild or allow them to grow in your chicken run. Poultry will enjoy the leaves and petals of young plants but may reject more mature dandelions as they are bitter in taste. Chickens adore flowers and so your patio planters could be under threat but make sure that your birds don’t have access to flowers that have been sprayed with insecticides.

So you have plenty of great options when it comes to treating your chickens!

Summary

There are myriad benefits to keeping chickens. If you’re interested in buying chickens, it’s useful to prepare in advance and make sure you know what life with feathery friends involves. This guide should give you a headstart.

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