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CARE OF ADULT CHICKENS

Learning how to handle birds is important and should really be learnt from a professional. Old methods of handling birds, such as suspending them by their legs can cause injury or death.

Basic care consists of letting the birds out of the house in the morning and filling the feeders with meal or pellets. Nest boxes should be checked and eggs removed at least twice daily as they can become crushed. This is not only a waste of eggs, but could lead to hen's egg-eating. While checking the nest boxes you should also notice if there is enough clean litter in them and add more if necessary. Drinkers should be emptied and refilled with clean water daily and if using an electric fence you should make sure that the current is working. In the evening hens should be shut away in their house to protect them from predators. Don't leave it too late in the evening or you may find that the fox has been there before you.

The hen house will need to be cleaned out regularly- at least once a week. Painting inside and outside the house with wood preservative will kill parasites, but the hens will need to be moved out while it is done and for several days afterwards.

Created On  29 Aug 2012 17:08  -  Permalink
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CARING FOR CHICKS

Chicks without a broody hen to look after them will need to be kept in a warm brooder box for the first few weeks of their life as they are not able to regulate their own body temperature. A cardboard box bedded with absorbent wood shavings with a heat lamp suspended above it is usually sufficient. Chicks will huddle together if they are too cold or move away from the heat source and pant if they are too hot, so ensuring the chicks have sufficient space to do this is essential. A temperature of around 35 Celsius is ideal for the first week and can then be reduced by a few degrees per week until the chicks are 6 to 8 weeks of age and able to maintain their own body temperatures without the need for additional heat source.

Good hygiene is essential when caring for chicks as they are particularly susceptible to infections when they are young, so regular cleaning of the brooder and all feed and water containers is vital. Chicks should have free access to water and suitable food, high protein chick crumbs are recommended for the first 6 weeks and grower pellets can then be introduced and fed until the birds are ready to move on to layers pellets at 16 weeks of age.

Created On  29 Aug 2012 17:07  -  Permalink
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LAND

Boggy land is more easily infected with parasites and less likely to produce good grass growth, so light, free-draining land is s preferable. Birds need to be moved around rather than always kept on the same piece of land- this applies regardless of your acreage or however many birds you keep.

Hens may well damage garden plants and vegetable patches if they are not confined or stopped from entering them .If birds are to be confined to an area then electric poultry netting is a convenient and effective method of doing so as it is then easy to move at regular intervals. Electric fencing alone will not stop predators and hens will need to be shut in the house at night.

Created On  29 Aug 2012 17:06  -  Permalink
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IMPORTANT POINTS

  • Poultry need daily care and if you are not able to provide this you must arrange for someone with sufficient knowledge to do so in your absence.
  • Most importantly they need clean water, sufficient food and a clean, dry hen house where they can be safely shut up at night away from predators.
  • You do not need a cockerel for hens to lay eggs.
  • Hens need to be fed a balanced feed all year round, especially during their first lay or a moult. They cannot achieve their laying potential on grain or scraps alone
  • Some poultry will be happier and healthier if you move the house and run regularly, providing them with fresh grass and a clean piece of ground.
  • Poultry are covered by a Welfare Code of Practice and several regulations (please visit http://www.defra.gov.uk/for more details).
  • Created On  29 Aug 2012 17:03  -  Permalink
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    HOUSING

    When you are first starting out, a small purpose-built wooden house or coop is best, these can be bought ready-made and will usually be movable. Planning laws mean that any structure which is fixed or relies on a concrete pad as a base will be seen as a permanent building and may need planning permission. It may also be worth checking that there is no convenant on your property that forbids keeping poultry.

    Many different types of poultry housing are available, but whichever you choose there are certain considerations that should be born in mind:

    • Housing that is to be moved regularly must be solid enough to withstand the move, but light enough to make the move a physical possibility.
    • It must be waterproof, rat-proof and fox-proof yet still be well ventilated.
    • It must be possible and practical for you to reach all parts of the house for cleaning. If places are difficult or impossible to clean, dirt, parasites and diseases are likely to build up.
    • It must be big enough for the number of birds concerned. A general rule is to allow a minimum of 1m2 of outside floor area per bird.
    • Perches should be removable for easy cleaning and you should provide at least 15cm of perch space per bird. Make sure that feed and nest boxes are not placed under perches or they will soon become soiled. Water should be placed outside the house.
    • Nest boxes should be about 40cm2 and at least the same in height. They should be lined with soft, dry litter. Placing the nest box somewhere dark and secluded will give the gen some privacy to lay. The box and the eggs will also stay cleaner if the box is only use for laying and not for sleeping or social behaviour. Putting the boxes lower than the roosts will also top young birds developing the habit of sleeping in them.

    Nest boxes which are easy to open (preferably from outside the hen house) will make life easier for you and will avoid frightening the birds.

    Created On  29 Aug 2012 17:01  -  Permalink
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    HEALTH


    Coccidiosis

    Coccidiosis is a parasite disease of poultry caused by protozoa which live in the lining of the intestine. Coccidia can multiply very rapidly and coccidian eggs that are shed in droppings can infect other birds. Symptoms vary according to the strain but the overall signs tend to be bloody droppings, high mortality, general droopiness, emaciation, loss of appetite, diarrhoea and drop in egg production. If you suspect coccidiosis you must contact your vet immediately for a positive diagnosis and treatments.


    Crop bound

    The crop will appear impacted, and will be enlarged, the hen will be unable to eat and drink and will appear hunched up. Grass clippings and long stemmy grass are often the cause.

    Warm medicinal liquid paraffin or olive oil can be poured down the hen's throat and the crop massaged for at least 15 minutes. #IF this does not work immediate veterinary attention is needed as otherwise the bird will starve to death.


    Egg bound

    Eggs are formed in the oviduct but the bird is unable to lay them due to dietary imbalances or stress. The hen will attempt to lay the egg without success and will often have a vibrant red comb.

    Warm olive oil can be smeared around the vent and administering 2ml of liquid paraffin by mouth. The success rate is variable and if the above treatment does not work the bird will need to be put to sleep.


    Egg eating

    Usually caused by soft shelled eggs breaking/poor nutrition/badly designed nest boxes. It is important to treat the cause of the problem i.e. using a balanced geed such as Natural free range Layers Pellets.

    A drop in egg production or a hen with yolk on her beak may be the first signs. Old wives tales of filling eggs with mustard or chilli powder are usually ineffective.

    Rubber of china eggs can be put in the nest box to discourage egg eating behaviour. Remember to collect the eggs several times per day.


    Prolapse

    A dark red swelling will be seen protruding from the vent, other hens will be attracted to it and will peck at it leading to death if not immediately identified.

    Remove the hen and wash prolapsed in mild antiseptic, remove the egg if there is one, and push the prolapsed into the vent cavity making sure your hands are clean first. Hold the prolapsed in for 10 minutes and then keep the hen separate in a dark, warm place for a few hours. If this does not work immediate veterinary attention is needed or the gen will need putting to sleep.


    Red mite

    Approx 1 mm in length and will appear red once they have fed, otherwise they are grey. Red mite live in the hen house and suck the blood of the birds at night leading to anaemia. Barrier Red Mite Concentrate & Powder is an effective natural treatment.


    Scaly Legs

    Mites burrow under the scales of the legs. The scales become thickened and encrusted and will lift away for the leg. The hen may be lame.

    Standing the hen in a bowl of warm water and disinfectant such as Hibiscrub, repeated for several days should soften the scales so that they come away.

    Alternatively smearing the scales with Swarfega for several days has the same effect.


    Soft shells

    Occasionally an egg may break inside the hen and she will be unable to pass it. The hen will suddenly go off colour.

    Often the soft shell can be seen protruding from the vent, this can be removed very carefully and the hen should quickly recover.


    Sour crop (thrush)

    The crop will be foul smelling and full of brown or yellow fluid. The hen ill drink more than usual but will not be interest in eating and will be generally off colour.

    Remove food and water for 24 hours and the crop should return to its normal size. Then dose the bird with 3ml of brandy, gradually reintroduce water and food building back up to normal levels as long as the bird has no further problems.

    Consult the vet if the problem persists as they can prescribe anti-fungal treatments.


    Worming

    Your birds will need worming at least twice a year to keep them healthy. Flubenvet can be obtained from the vet or some online stores. Alternatively if a more natural approach is required diatamateous earth or Verm X are suitable.


    My hens have stopped laying, what could have caused this?

    This is a common question and one that can be very frustrating for the owner. A reduction in the number of eggs laid or a cessation in egg laying can be caused by numerous factors:

    • Stress-often if birds have undergone a stressful situation such as low flying aircraft or a thunderstorm the first the owner may know about it is that their birds have stopped laying. Although obviously it is impossible to control some events such as the weather! The good news is that most hens will come back into lay.
    • Diet-Laying birds cannot be expected to produce eggs if their diet is not balanced. This means providing a high quality layers ration which can supply the bird with all the nutrients she needs to lay good sized eggs. Remember that it is not only the type of feed but how it if fed that is important too. The layers ration should be fed in the morning on its own, although it can be tempting to add corn or scraps this can lead to the diet becoming unbalanced. Most birds relish corn and other treats and will usually eat these is preference to the layers ration which will lower the protein and calcium content of the diet and therefore the birds egg production levels.
    • Ill health- It goes without saying that your birds should be checked daily for any signs of ill health and treated appropriately. However good management and hygiene will go a long way to help to minimise the risk of disease.
    • Moulting- Although birds will stop laying whilst they are moulting it is important to continue feeding a layers ration as the bird will still need the protein for producing new feathers and if inadequate food is provided this may affect her future laying performance.
    • Daylight Hours- Egg laying is also dependent on the amount of daylight hours and as the days get shorter in the autumn the amount of eggs produced will also decrease, unless of course artificial lighting is provided. However during spring and summer a plentiful supply of eggs is usually produced!
    Created On  29 Aug 2012 16:55  -  Permalink
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