Tag Archives: Chicken Care Tips

My Family and Other Animals


So finally the weather here in cold, rainy old England has started to clear up.  The  rain has stopped and spring is finally trying to make it’s mark, bringing new life to this beautifully green and verdant land. And so I thought it about time to show you our little flock of feathered friends and undoubtedly the driving force behind this little blog of ours.

As you can see, our chickens have a lovely large pen to live in, giving them plenty of space to root and explore.


The chicken house is a classic design, it’s simple but effective and large enough for all the chickens to have plenty of room to roost or lay.


The house is raised off the floor for several important reasons.  Firstly, it prevents  damp and cold getting in through the floor.  It also helps prevent pests and critters getting into the house.  And lastly, the shade it provides gives the hens somewhere to have a dirt bath and get away from the hot day sun.

We encourage egg-laying with 1 nest box for every four or five chickens. Nest boxes should be raised off the ground at least a few inches, but lower than the lowest roosting pole. They should also be dark and “out of the way” to cater to the hen’s instinct to lay her eggs in a safe place.

The chicken house also needs to be airy enough to prevent respiratory diseases, to which chickens are especially prone, but not so drafty during winter that they freeze their tail feathers off. Chickens can withstand the cold so long as it’s not drafty.


We took advice from several sites on the internet about cold weather preparation for our hens.  We found that instead of heating the coop in the winter, the chickens adapt to the cold weather over time. Their body metabolism actually changes along with the seasons. When you heat your coop, the birds will never get used to the colder outside temperature — so if the heat were to accidentally cut out causing a sudden change in temperature, you could literally lose your entire flock overnight.  Combs and wattles are wattles are susceptible to frost bite damage during freezing weather, so try smearing them with Vaseline to prevent this from happening.  You can also try using pieces of old carpet or duvet as insulation to put on the roof of the hen house, But of course be sure not to block the ventilation holes.


Dirt bath’s are the chickens way of washing and important in preventing parasites such as mites and lice from finding a home in your chickens’ feathers and legs.

Having a tree in their pen is very important (if possible) as it also provides essential shelter, not only from the sun, but also from the wind and the rain too.


Water is vital for your chickens.  They can’t live for long without it!  During the winter, you’ll need to make sure the water supply doesn’t freeze!  If you don’t have electricity in your coop and therefore cannot provide a water heater, we recommend you bring the waterer into your house every night, and return it outside every morning. Check the water once or twice a day to make sure it’s not frozen.  During the  summer, excessive heat is a real risk to birds. Make sure they have access to fresh, clean water at all times. A source of shade is important too (like a tree) and ventilation in the coop of course!

Now, this may sound obvious, but it’s easy to forget.  Having let your chickens out of the coop in the morning, don’t forget to close and secure it at dusk (once they’ve all returned of course) to make sure predators can’t get to them.  It’s easy to forget, but important to remember!


Run Chicken Run

In Greek mythology Icarus flew to close to the sun and fell foul of it’s hot glare.  On 4th June, 1783, the Montgolfier brothers demonstrated their unmanned hot air balloon at Annonay, France.  And on December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers flew the first sustained flight with a powered, controlled aircraft at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina, U.S.

But all of these historic events pale, once you’ve witnessed the Annual Bonsall World Championship Hen Races in Matlock, Derbyshire.  This event has been running for the last 20 years, organised by the landlord of the Barley Mow pub, David Wragg.  The event itself is said to go back well over 100 years when local villages competed against each other in the summer for fun.  Rumour has it that David even takes his prize winning sprinting hen ‘Flo Jo’, out running across the Bonsall Moor!  But knowing that other competitors often spend months in training, going through rigorous exercises routines to ensure their hen are in tip top shape, this should come as no surprise!

So what happens in this race of kings, I hear you ask?  Well, the chickens are raced along a 15 metre track and given 3 minutes in each heat to cross the finish line. If they don’t cross the line, the closest to the line wins.  As you can imagine, it’s a fast and furious event with tempers aflutter, although any fighting between hens is strictly forbidden and can result in disqualification.  Entries have come from all over the world, including Norway, Belgium, France and Germany.

If you want to enter your own Linford Chicken, or Poulet Radcliffe, the event takes place on the first Saturday in August annually at The Barley Mow Inn, Bonsall, Derbyshire DE4 2AY.


Breaking Out

Life is often taken for granted.  And sometimes it’s easy to forget the struggle all life goes through to emerge from our fetal development to emerge as new life in the arms of our parents.  This lovely little video shows a baby chick fighting to escape the safety of it’s egg and take it’s first glimpse of a new world.  We’ve also included a small chart to show you what happens as the embryo develops into a chick.

Do baby chicks need grit?

Yes indeed, baby chicks do need grit.  Just like their older parents and siblings, they use grit to grind down food in their gizzards.  Take a look at this article for more information about a chickens digestive system:


What foods NOT to feed your chickens

Don’t feed the following things to your chickens

(I’m sure people have experienced exceptions to this list, but if we want to raise our birds the best way possible, it’s “better safe than sorry”.)

Food Stuff

Why Not

Raw green potato peels

Toxic substance called Solanine.

Anything very salty

Can cause salt poisoning in small bodies such as chickens.

Dried or undercooked Beans

Raw, or dry beans, contain a poison called hemaglutin which is toxic to birds.

Avocado Skin and Pit

Skin and pit have low levels of toxicity.

Raw eggs

You don’t want to introduce your chickens to the tastiness of eggs which may be waiting to be collected in the nestboxes.

Candy, Chocolate, Sugar

Their teeth will rot!  Only joking.  But seriously, it’s just bad for their systems, and chocolate can be poisonous to most pets.

Regarding toxicity, the following is copied from a post by DLhunicorn on May 14, 2007 in a thread titled “Potato Peels”. (Thank you DLhunicorn for your tremendously helpful and knowledgeable contributions to BYC!)

“Do not count on your chickens “knowing” what is bad for them…also do not count on these “toxic” plants immediately being identifiable by finding a dead bird the next morning.  Usually it is a slow process damaging organs, inhibiting the ability of your bird to utilize the nutrients in their feed, etc.

Source: http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/chicken-treat-chart-the-best-treats-for-backyard-chickens

The British Hen Welfare Trust

The Smallholder Review and GMM Insurance Direct for Smallholders have now teamed up together to help raise money for the British Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT).

Happy Hens at Exe Valley Farm, Devon

The BHWT is a national charity that re-homes commercial laying hens, educates the public about how they can make a difference to hen welfare, and encourages support for the British egg industry. Its ultimate aim is to see consumers and food manufacturers buying only UK produced free range eggs, resulting in a strong British egg industry where all commercial laying hens enjoy a good quality life.

For every person that signs up to our newsletter, GMM will contribute a donation to the BHWT!

So sign up here today!

Chicken Out!

What is Chicken Out!?

hugh-with_chickenHere at The Natural Poultry Farmer, we are very keen to have chickens kept in an open free ranging environment and to move away from the cruel intensive battery farming methods of old.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall launched the national Chicken Out! campaign because he felt so strongly about the welfare of  chickens. The River Cottage TV series on Channel 4 highlighted the unacceptable conditions in which most table birds are reared and Hugh is putting pressure on the UK industry to raise their standard

More and more consumers are voting with their basket and choosing chicken meat from higher welfare systems. When you’re shopping for chicken, always look for chicken labelled free-range, organic, RSPCA Freedom Food or higher welfare indoo

Around 90% of UK chickens are reared for meat in standard intensive systems. This chicken is usually the cheapest on the supermarket shelf and the meat found in most sandwiches and restaurant meals.

These chickens are farmed in barren and crowded sheds with no outdoor access, no natural daylight and little room to move freely. These birds have been selectively bred to reach slaughter weight in around six weeks, these unnaturally fast growth rates result in millions of chickens suffering from painful leg disorders, breathing disabilities, ammonia burns and dying of lung or heart failure.

Through the Chicken Out! campaign, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Compassion in World Farming are reaching out to consumers, politicians, producers and retailers to put an end to the intensive ‘factory’ farming of chickens.

Chicken Out! wants clear and honest labelling

Check the labels, packaging can be misleading

Labelling can be very misleading and phrases such as ‘farm fresh’ and ‘farm assured’ do not always represent higher welfare systems. Unless the label states free-range, organic or RSPCA Freedom Food, the chicken you’re buying has probably been reared in intensive conditions. We want clear information on the packaging of the chicken meat so you can make the best, informed choice.

Chicken Out! is reaching the government

We want the government to take the welfare of chickens seriously by introducing legislation that meets the behavioural needs of the millions of chickens. Over 270 MPs recently signed a Parliamentary motion calling for improved welfare standards and clear labelling of chicken meat.

Your choice could improve the lives of millions of chickens!  To find out more: http://www.chickenout.tv/about-campaign.html