Tag Archives: Rural Living

Essential kit for the chicken keeper

Boy feeding chickens

Having the right kit on hand means you won’t be caught out when one of your birds is off colour.

If you are new to keeping chickens, picking up any poultry magazine or visiting stockists of poultry equipment and feeds can prove a little daunting given the amount of kit on sale. You will want to do right by your birds and ensure the husbandry of the flock is spot on, but are what essentials should you invest in?

Every poultry keeper should have at hand a field kit: the sort of stuff you will need one or more items from at least once a week. I find it useful to put them all in a bag or box so they are to hand. (It’s also ideal if you are away from home and have someone else caring for the birds.)

Torch – it’s often easier to handle and treat chickens after they have gone to roost; they tend to be much calmer then and can be easily handled. It does mean you will be working in the dark, so you’ll need a torch. Investing in a good-quality head torch, particularly one that has adjustable beam strength, will mean you have both hands free to deal with the chickens.

Scissors – a strong, sharp pair of scissors for cutting string, bandages, plasters and most of all, flight feathers, if there is a flighty one who keeps jumping out the pen.

Toenail clippers and nail file – most chickens will keep their toenails worn down by scratching around, but birds kept indoors or on soft ground may require a bit of a pedicure. Plus you may need to attend to the spurs of some cockerels.

Leg rings – having a range of leg rings in different colours and sizes means you can quickly and easily mark an individual bird. This can be particularly useful if administering treatments to the flock and will help identify those who have been treated from those yet to be dealt with.

Pliers or wire cutters – these are not only useful for emergency fence repairs but are also ideal for quickly removing plastic leg rings.

Feeding syringes – a collection of different-sized feeding syringes are essential for administering fluids such as medicines down the chickens’ throat.

Latex disposable gloves – these are not a frequent requirement. but when it comes to vent-related problems such as a prolapse or vent gleetthey can make the task much easier for the keeper (and probably more comfortable for the chicken too).

Vet’s antiseptic spray – ideal for treating minor wounds to birds but can also double up as anti-feathering pecking spray in minor cases of plumage pulling.

Petroleum jelly – not only does this serve well as a lubricant for sticky catches and locks it can also be applied to the combs of birds during extremely cold weather to reduce the risk of frost bite and applied to dry patches of skin on the face or legs. It’s also handy when treating for scaly leg mite on the chickens should they become infested.

Cotton buds – for delicate tasks such as cleaning around the eye or nasal passages of the birds.

Purple spray – works in much the same way as the vet’s antiseptic spray, however it has the advantage of being visible. This means it can also be used to quickly and temporarily mark birds, either post-treatment or for further selection. Don’t use on chickens you intend to exhibit, though, as it can be difficult to remove fully.

Pet carrier or dog crate – you can never have too many pet carriers for transporting or quarantining chickens. Plastic dog or cat carriers are ideal for single or small numbers of chickens, but be sure to disinfect after each use to avoid any possible transferral of pests or diseases.

Vet’s telephone number – it may not be necessarily needed by you, but if you have friends or neighbours looking after your stock when you are away it could prove invaluable.

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/gardening-blog/2013/jun/12/essential-kit-chicken-keeper


How to protect chickens from foxes

This is a great article by Andy Blackmore and I thougbht would prove useful for all us poultry keepers!  You can read more of Andy’s great blogs HERE

Know your enemy: Mr Fox makes a wily opponent for those new to poultry keeping (Picture: Getty)
Know your enemy: Mr Fox makes a wily opponent for those new to poultry keeping

Even if you’ve decided that keeping urban chickens is not for you it’s a fair bet you will encounter their nemesis – the fox. The first thing that says you are the subject of unwanted fox attention is the disagreeable smell – a sharp choking musty aroma – an unpleasant amalgam of musk, blocked drains and stale urine.

Foxes are wily adversaries of those inexperienced in keeping poultry. And any small mistake will be punished unmercifully – so let’s take it as red that your coop or hutch is sturdy, strong and perhaps has even been sold to you as fox proof.

Even so you might want to consider a little help in skewing things further in your favour  – so here are a few suggestions.

Electric fencing: Foxes check everything with their noses first so it shouldn’t take too many shocking encounters for them to get the message. While being the most obvious solution it can seem quite expensive – but worth it to protect both your investment and your feathered friends.

Light and sound: Leaving a radio on in the coop overnight can be very effective simply because a fox would generally prefer not to be in the presence of humans and simple lighting arrays that mimic the eyes of another predator like the Nite Guard Solar can also work wonders.

Sonic repellents: They do work but you get what you pay for and as they start at around £20. But remember these will be audible to dogs; so opt for models that only sound when they detect a threat and not one on all day – or you could send your pets barking mad.

Chemical repellents: There are a couple on the market but Scoop is widely acclaimed as the most effective product of its type on the market. It’s totally safe for use in gardens, near chickens, on plants and edible crops and is humane, bio-degradable and very effective.

Scent marking: Most of us won’t have access to Lion dung (as used by one well known comedian to protect his brood) but we have the next best thing – for free. This involves directly mimicking the territorial behaviour of a fox by the application of male urine to your boundaries – I’ll leave issues of supply and demand to your imagination. However, if that’s too much for you, consider using human hair (male works best), either your own after a cut or try asking at your local barbers. Stuff some into a pair of old tights and hang around the margins of your garden – good luck.

Source: http://metro.co.uk/2013/06/11/pet-blog-how-to-protect-chickens-from-foxes-3836084/

More than 700,000 Brits now keep chickens

NEARLY 700,000 Brits now keep chickens — a rise of 80 per cent in three years, figures reveal.

The largest increase in poultry-rearing since World War 2 has come as households try to cut grocery bills by producing their own eggs.

Brian Mott, of birdseed suppliers Nature’s Grub, said: “We’re seeing a return to 50 years ago, when it was usual to keep half a dozen chickens in the back yard.

“Over the past few years more Brits have started growing their own fruit and veg — and the next step seems to be having their own eggs.”

The figures by the British Hen Welfare Trust have helped push the value of the coop industry to £1billion a year.

Tesco said sales of poultry pens had nearly doubled since 2008. They sell chicken coops in the Tesco Direct catalogue.

The store’s Clodagh Corbett said: “The surge in demand for chickens and coops shows how keeping hens has become a hobby for many.”
Source: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3725935/700000-Brits-now-keep-chickens.html#ixzz2ScfrX5To

How to Choose Fertilized Chicken Eggs


“Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched,” the old saving goes. True, you can’t be sure any given egg will produce a live chick, but you can make a pretty good guess at the hypothetical bird’s sex before the smallest crack appears in its shell. When you’re buying fertilized chicken eggs or choosing which eggs to hatch from your own flock, there’s just one simple method to keep in mind. It’s quick, easy, works for all breeds and is so reliable that we raised 23 pullets from 23 carefully chosen eggs!

Here’s the secret: If you want your brood to be mostly female, select and incubate only the most nearly oval eggs. Those with a noticeably pointed end produce cockerels. Many of the chicks-to-be you examine, of course (especially the first time you try this idea), will fall into an indeterminate range, so pick only the most clearly oval shapes if you want to hatch future layers.

Commercial breeders cull and hatch their “female” eggs because pullets bring a higher price. Therefore, a fertile batch of “straight-run” eggs bought from a big dealer is likely to contain mostly indeterminate and pointed discards and give you considerably less than a 50/50 chance of hatching female chicks. To improve the odds, choose from your own hens’ layings or ask a local chicken raiser to save his most obviously oval finds for you.

Sound hard to believe? The first time I heard of this trick, I thought someone was pulling my only-recently-rural leg. But try it — it works!
Source: http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/buying-fertilized-chicken-eggs-zmaz74zhol.aspx#ixzz2Scdggvkw

Providing Suitable Dust Bath Areas for Your Chickens

OK, so chickens don’t wash with water the way we do. They use soil to clean their plumage instead and it is vital to their health as it is the method by which they remove lice etc. Plus, they enjoy it and happy chickens produce good eggs! Outdoor chickens can usually find plenty of soil to fulfill this purpose but if you have to keep your chickens indoors for such reasons as cold weather or protection of predators, it is a great idea to include a dust bath for them. This is a great little article about dust baths.  Click on the picture or the link below to go to the original article.Featured Image

Providing Suitable Dust Bath Areas for Your Chickens.

The Chicken Hotel

One of the main obstacles that all chicken owners face at some point in their lives, is what to do with your hens when you want to go on holiday?  If you’re lucky, a neighbor or family member will be on hand to take care of them.  But sometimes that just isn’t the case and you’re left stuck between a rock and a hard place   Well, not any more!  David Roberts has opened a Chicken Hotel in the UK just for our feathered friends.


Services at The New Chicken Hotel in UK

UK’s chicken hotel provides a generous and nutritious buffet dinner, lunch and breakfast made of locally grown produce. The meals are served in open air (of course). The coops have been specially designed for the chickens with each housing around 8 chickens.

Chickens roam around freely in the extensive verdant grounds at the hotel. At night, they are gently cajoled back to their apartments, to spend a safe and comfortable night on the tiles!

Extra Services

Chicken chauffeur
The hotel also offers e are pleased to be able to offer a special chauffeur service to ferry your chickens, stress free, to the hotel.

A visiting butler
If you have a LARGE flock the Chicken Hotel offers the visiting butler service, where they will come to you and your chickens , checking on the well being of your chickens and feeding and watering them twice a day.

The FULL Spa treatment
Turn your Chicken Hotel holiday into a full Spa holiday with a few added egg-stras!

Trim your chickens nails and even use emery boards to gently round the tips! In the wild, Chicken ancestors nails would naturally be worn down through scrabbling. But through breeding and domestic enclosures they often don’t wear down (especially with lighter breeds like bantams). Roosters nails are especially a problem for the backs of their lady-friends.

Sharp pointy beak? Eating your own eggs? Want a cute, trimmed and rounded schnozle? When you book in for a stay why not add a beak-trim! Gently clipped tips and filed with a slight natural round, if they could smile I’m sure they would.

Ever feel like your chickens are trying to re-enact The Great Escape? You can even have them booked in to have their wings clipped while they’re staying at The Chicken Hotel!

The Chicken Hotel Nursery
They’ll incubate your eggs for you and even offer a brooding facility to bring your chicks on to adolescence.

Grow Your Own Chicken Feed

ModestoOrganicLayerPelletsIn the world where the pace of life is getting faster and faster and money tighter and tighter, being a free ranging poultry farmer is not always easy.  Buying pellet feed for our chickens is a quick feeding solution but it’s expensive and won’t necessarily give your birds all the nutrients they need.  So what’s the alternative? Why not try a more natural, home-based, self-reliant feeding methodology?  Putting it simply, we could try growing our own chicken feed.  And to do this we have to start by identifying the natural foods in our own backyard’s that we can give our birds access to. So what would a chicken eat in an ideal world?   Well, ultimately it would eat green growing plants, wild seeds, and animal foods such as earthworms and insects. In other words, it will eat live foods. Whatever the touted virtues of mass-produced, ultra-processed chicken feeds, they are anything but alive and so the benefits will be lessened. Growing the food for our chickens could well be the key to both flock health and contentment and to making the homestead or farm more self-sufficient and ecologically sound.  Joel Salatin, of pastured poultry fame, said that a chicken’s diet could consist of as much as 30 percent from pasture grasses and legumes. And both humans and chickens benefit from a 12% to 18% protein diet. We both appreciate variety. But just what can you  grow in the garden to keep a small flock of hens happy, healthy, and highly productive.

  • Grains: feed corn, sorghum, amaranth, and sunflowers. All are beautiful, boost insect diversity and support pollinators, and ripen nutritious seeds.
  • Cover crops: small grains, buckwheat, and cowpeas.
  • Chard and mangels: Chard (Swiss chard) and mangels (fodder beets) are simply variants of garden beets, Beta vulgaris.
  • Potatoes: must be cooked
  • Comfrey: high-mineral, high-nitrogen leaves
  • Dairy byproducts: If you milk a cow or goat and make butter or cheese, skimmed or soured milk and whey are good poultry feeds.
  • Cultivated Earthworms and Soldier Grubs
  • Decomposers as live protein feeds: earthworms, black soldier flies, and carrion flies

You can use kitchen scraps of course.  We’ve been feeding them cucumber peels, tomato cores, onion ends and stale bread.  We’ve found that putting the table scraps through a blender in the evening and then putting the food out for the birds the following morning, and they demolish it.

And finally, guano can tell you a lot about the health of your birds!  Learn what the poop from a healthy bird with an efficient digestive system looks like. If you make a change and start getting a lot of smeary, off-color, smelly poops—back off and try again!