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Category Archives: Chickens

Should I Be Worming My Chickens?

Like most other animals, chickens can suffer from parasitic worms. These are endoparasites that live inside your bird’s body, and are collectively called Helminths by vets. 

Does my chicken have worms?

The three types of parasitic worms that your chickens are most likely to contract are: 

  1. Roundworms. There are a number of different roundworms, with the large roundworm being the most common. They live anywhere in the bird’s digestive system, and can sometimes be spotted in your chickens’ droppings. 
  2. Gapeworms. These nasty parasites attach themselves to the trachea of the chicken, hooking on without moving.
  3. Tapeworms. These attach themselves to the lining of the intestine and can get really long and unpleasant. They are less common, but will more significantly affect the bird.

It’s not always straightforward to tell if your chicken has worms, but symptoms may include a paler comb, decreased egg production, diarrhoea and increased appetite without weight gain. A chicken who has been infected with gapeworm will stretch their neck and gasp for air. Sometimes you won’t spot an infection until it’s really serious and possibly untreatable. 

To worm or not to worm

Many chicken keepers therefore choose to worm their chickens regularly to prevent them getting infected, usually once in spring and once in fall. This is normally done using a poultry specific wormer you can get at the vets that will kill both the worms and their eggs. Make sure you get a worming treatment that is suitable for chickens, and check if you should be discarding the chicken’s eggs while she is being treated. Always worm all chickens at the same time. 

Other chicken keepers think it’s better to only treat chickens that have a confirmed infection. This is partly because some wormers are only effective on particular parasites, and will be pointless if your chickens have a different type of worm. Some also think it’s unnecessary to stress the system by giving the birds treatment for an issue they might not have. Additionally, it can be pricey to worm a whole flock twice a year. 

If you don’t want to treat your chickens without a diagnosis, but suspect they might have worms, you can get their droppings tested for presence of eggs. Ask your vet if they will do it for you, or you can send the droppings off to a laboratory in pre-made kits. 

Prevent infections

Whether you decide to treat only confirmed worm cases or worm preventatively, it’s always best to do everything you can to make sure your chickens don’t contract parasites.

One of the best things to do is to regularly move their coop and run to a new patch. This will stop serious outbreaks, as it stops the life-cycle of the worms. Worm eggs are expelled in the droppings from infected birds, and survive on the ground for a surprisingly long time before they are picked up by foraging chickens. This is called a direct life-cycle, as the worm doesn’t need a host animal to get to your hens. Worms that have an indirect life-cycle on the other hand let their eggs first be ingested by for example earthworms, slugs or centipedes, where they lay dormant until the host is eaten by one of your chickens. The larvae hatch inside your hens, and the cycle repeats. 

To prevent an unbreakable chain of worm infestations, it’s therefore important to regularly move your chickens. This is made easy by portable chicken coops like the Eglu Cube or the Eglu Go UP.

Another useful thing is to keep the grass mowed as the ultraviolet light from the sun can kill off potential worm eggs in your chickens’ droppings. Clean the run every week and scoop up droppings and wet bedding. If one of your chickens is infected it’ll be very difficult to get rid of all worm eggs from the ground, but every little helps!

Finally, many chicken keepers swear by the mineral supplement Verm-X. It’s a herbal formulation that works to create an environment in the gut that is able to eradicate and expel any intestinal challenges. This can be given as a supplement to your flock regularly to help their immune system stay on top. 

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How to Give Your Chicken a Health Check

As a chicken owner, you are responsible for making sure your birds are as happy and healthy as possible. By providing them with a hygienic home, plenty of space, good food and fun toys, you are doing everything you can to keep them free from illness and parasites. That unfortunately doesn’t mean that nothing bad will ever happen to your flock, however. 

Accidents occur and, just like humans, chickens sometimes get ill. As prey animals, they are highly skilled at hiding pain and weaknesses, so by the time they are obviously showing discomfort, they are likely to be very ill.

After spending time with your chickens and getting to know them, you will soon be able to tell what is normal behavior, and what is a sign that they are feeling under the weather, but to make sure you spot problems early on it’s good to regularly carry out thorough health checks. We would suggest doing this beak to tail check at least once a week – just go through our list:

Eyes

Your chickens’ eyes should be clear, bright and fully open. They should not have any discharge or look dry, or be watery or teary. 

Nose

The nostrils, or nares as they are called in chickens, should be clean, without any crusty dry bits or discharge. 

Beak

Your chicken’s beak should be smooth, without cracks or other damages. The top and bottom should align, with the top one being slightly longer. Healthy chickens keep their beak closed most of the time.

Comb

A grown chicken who is not broody or moulting should have a firm, bright red comb. It should be positioned according to the breed standard, i.e. if the breed’s comb is upright, it should not be hanging or looking shrivelled. 

It’s especially important to check combs and wattles in winter, as they are prone to frostbite. Larger combs can be protected by a daily layer of vaseline.

Crop

When you first let your chickens out in the morning the crop should be empty, as they should have spent all night digesting their food. After eating, the crop will feel firm, but not rock-hard. If it never seems empty or the hen’s breath is really foul smelling, you could be dealing with an impacted or sour crop.

Feathers

Unless she is moulting, your chicken should have a shiny and full plumage. Bald patches or ruffled feathers could be a sign of stress, parasites or behavioural problems within the group. It’s important that you know what moulting looks like as it happens at least once a year, and should not be confused with other feather problems.

Legs and feet

Check the scales on the legs and make sure they are smooth and lying flat against the bone. Raised or dry looking scales can be an indication of scaly leg mites. Also check the bottom of the foot and remove any dirt to check for cuts or black spots, which could cause the chicken discomfort and lead to a potentially fatal infection called bumblefoot. 

Vent

A hen in lay has a pink, wide and moist vent, whereas an older chicken’s vent is dryer and has a paler colour. It should never protrude or look injured, as other chickens might start to peck her if they see blood. 

Mites and lice love the area around the vent, so it’s particularly important to check for little black specks or irritation on the skin. 

Droppings

A slide out dropping tray under the chickens perches or roosting bars, like on the Eglu chicken coops, lets you inspect your chickens poo when you’re cleaning the coop. The droppings should be firm and dark brown with some white, more liquidy parts going throughout. They will vary somewhat depending on what the chickens have been eating, but if the droppings are very loose or have blood in them it indicates something is wrong. 

If you follow this list and go through it regularly with each of your chickens, you’re in a good position to spot potential problems early. Some might be treatable at home, like certain parasites or smaller cuts, but if you’re unsure it’s always best to consult your vet. You can read more about common chicken problems in our guide

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Why Your Chickens Need A Perch – Now 1/3 Off!

Chickens’ fondness for perches is instinctive. Our pet chickens descend from the Asian Jungle Fowl, that roosts high up on tree branches, and holding on to a perch is as natural to hens as scratching and egg-laying. 

Most of the breeds we keep today are however not able to get up a tree even if they were offered one to roost in – they are too big and heavy. But by holding onto something, chickens get a sense of security, as perching initially was a strategy to get away from predators. 

The Eglu Chicken Coops have perfectly rounded roosting bars that the chickens will love sleeping on at night, but it’s advisable to also provide them with a perch in the run. A wooden stick might not seem like much fun to us, but a perch is an excellent way of enriching their enclosure. 

The Omlet Chicken Perch is purposefully designed to be comfortable and easy for hens to use, and it is also durable and super simple to install on your run. Choose between the 3ft or 6ft, and add enough to make sure all your chickens have a spot to take a break and watch the world go by. 

Chickens without perches are more likely to attract mites and lice, or pick up bacteria from sitting on the ground. The stress of not having a place to roost can also lower their immune system and reduce egg-laying. 

Take this unique opportunity to save ⅓ on the Omlet Chicken Perch and give your chickens a new toy they will love! Use promo code PERCH4LESS at check out to claim the discount! 

Terms and conditions
Promotion of third/33% off The Omlet Chicken Perch runs from 09/10/20 – midnight 09/14/20. Use promo code PERCH4LESS at checkout. Includes Omlet Chicken Perch 3ft and 6ft. Offer is limited to 2 Chicken Perches per household. Subject to availability. Omlet Inc. reserves the right to withdraw the offer at any point. Offer cannot be used on delivery, existing discounts or in conjunction with any other offer.

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Which of These Chicken Myths Are Actually True?

Photo by Sarah Halliday on Unsplash

Chickens are color blind

FALSE – Chickens actually have superior color vision to humans. Thanks to five light receptors in the eye (humans only have three), they can see many colors more vividly than us. 

Chickens can be half male, half female – split down the middle

TRUE – Due to a phenomena called bilateral gynandromorph there are chickens where one side of the body is male (large wattle, spur and muscular breast etc.) and the other side is female (duller plumage, smaller comb, slighter build etc). Worth a google!

There are as many chickens as there are humans on earth

FALSE – There are almost 4 times as many chickens as there are humans, more than 25 billion. In fact, there are more chickens in the world than any other bird.

Chickens navigate through magnetic fields

TRUE – Like other birds, chickens use the magnetic fields of the earth to orientate themselves and navigate around their home environment. Additionally, studies show that chickens use the sun to tell the time of day. Daylight intensity is also what tells roosters when to crow in the morning and when to go roost at night.

Chickens are cannibals

UNDECIDED – You might have heard about cannibalism in poultry, and it does happen that chickens start pecking the flesh of other hens. This is however not a natural behavior seen in the wild, but a result of a stressful environment with limited space in large egg or meat factories. A happy chicken will not eat its friend.

Chickens have no taste buds

FALSE – While it may seem like chickens will eat just about anything you put in front of them, they do have taste buds, and personal preferences. A chicken can’t taste sweetness or spiciness, but can tell saltiness, sourness and bitterness apart.

The color of the egg affects the nutritional content

FALSE – Despite what some egg producers have claimed during the years, brown eggs are not healthier than white ones, or vice versa. The colour of the shell only depends on the breed of chicken it came from, and will have no impact on taste or nutritional content.

If you chop their heads off, chickens will keep running

TRUE – Some chickens will indeed keep running after having their head chopped off. The pressure from the axe triggers nerve endings in the neck, sending a message back to the muscles telling them to move, without the brain actually being involved. 

The chicken is then moving while actually being dead, but in the case of Miracle Mike, the farmer who tried to kill him aimed a bit high and accidentally left a bit of the brain that chickens keep at the back of their necks. This made it possible for Mike to live for another 18 months (!) after his head had been removed. 

You can hypnotize a chicken

TRUE – There are several ways of putting a chicken in a trance, but the most common one involves holding the chicken with its head close to the ground, and drawing a line in the ground going outwards from the beak. This will paralyze the chicken, and she will stay laying still until you clap or poke her. 

While it probably won’t hurt your chicken to hypnotize it like this, it’s unclear how much stress it causes her, so make sure not to do it too frequently. 

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Chicken Sounds and What They Mean

Hens are always talking amongst themselves. All those clucks and squawks means something, and while some of the meanings are obvious – the explosive squawking of a bird running away in panic, for example – others are more subtle.

Here are ten ways in which you can eavesdrop on the chicken chatter and brush up on the bantam banter.

A calm, gently rising borrrrb. This is the sound hens make as they peck their way through the grass or chicken run, and it means two things. It indicates that the chicken is enjoying the endless search for quick snacks, and it’s also telling the other birds ‘everything is fine’. A flock of hens saying borrrb together sends out the reassuring message that there’s nothing to worry about.

The cluck-cum-squawk. This brief, excited cry usually means that there has been some sort of confrontation, usually between a meek hen and a more dominant one who has muscled in to see what snacks the more timid bird has found. The sound is also used if a hen is surprised by something, such as the chicken-run door opening suddenly.

The ‘squawk bomb’. This is when the hen clucks, gobbles and squawks in one hysterical flurry. It sounds as if the bird is about to explode in a cloud of feathers. This is the chicken’s main alarm call, expressing fear and also telling the other birds to run. The causes can be vehicles, dogs, people trying to pick up the hen, or predators.

Cackling. This is the name often used for the familiar Buk-buk-buk-badaaak! call. Repeated several times, and loudly, it is the sound many hens produce after laying an egg. The hen moves away from the egg and then begins cackling. It is thought to be a way of luring potential predators away from the egg and the nest.

Buk-buk-buk (but with no badaaak!) This slightly angry and persistent sound is often made by a hen who wants to sit in her favourite nest box but finds it occupied. It’s meaning is a combination of “I’m here!” and “Get out!”

Growling. If a hen is broody and doesn’t want to move from her nest box, she will make a hissing, growling sound. This simply means “Don’t touch!” and “Go away!”

Chick-chat. A hen hatching eggs will mutter various gentle clucking sounds to communicate with the chicks and reassure them. Once the chicks are hatched and running around, she tells them where the good scratching and pecking places are by saying tuk-tuk! (Cockerels use this sound too, to tell the hens that they have found a good foraging spot). Mother hens also have an insistent Rrrrrr call, which is the chicks’ cue to come running if the hen senses danger.

Crowing. This is rooster territory, the classic cock-a-doodle-doo – although some hens get the crowing habit too. Crowing says several things. It means a new day has dawned, and it’s time to be up and scratching/pecking. It also tells the world that this is the roosters’s territory, and that these hens are his. If there is more than one rooster, the subordinate ones will only crow when the boss has crowed. Crowing usually hits 90 decibels, or even more!

Help! A hen separated from the flock will make an alarm call. The sound is similar to the ‘cackling’ that announces a new egg. It is thought to be an SOS call to the rooster to come and save his lost hen. There will be a strong element of danger if there are predators around, so it’s a risky strategy for a lost chicken.

Buzzing. First thing in the morning, with the chicken coop still locked, the hens will begin to make repetitive, buzzing clucks, which may rise in volume as the minutes pass and the doors remain shut. This sound simply means “Let us out – there’s lots of pecking and scratching to be done!”

With this knowledge of chook chit-chat, you will be able to tell what your girls are talking about, even if you can’t actually see them. It’s an all-day, non-stop conversation!

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Understanding the Pecking Order in Chickens

A flock of chickens can easily give the impression of peace and equality. But it’s not like that at all!

Every flock of hens, whether it consists of two birds or 200, has a pecking order. This decides who’s top of the chooks, and who’s bottom of the bantams!

The pecking order generally sorts itself out. The more dominant birds will assert themselves, and the others will fall into line. Hens brought up together in the same coop or barn sort this out with minimal fuss; but if two dominant birds are brought together, they will fight for dominance. This involves lots of flapping and pecking, but rarely results in serious physical harm. Any hens who spar in this way should be left to it for a minute or two, unless you fear that one of them is going to be seriously hurt. If you intervene too soon, the battle will commence again as soon as your back is turned.

The point is, once the feathery fisticuffs are over, the pecking order is settled and you won’t have to intervene. It’s very rare for a hen to be so aggressive that she goes out looking for a fight when the hierarchy has already been established.

If you’re worried about the safety of the tussling hens, you can separate them by clapping your hands to scare them apart, and then physically removing one from the battlefield. Some Vaseline on the comb and wattles will also minimise damage, if you suspect that there may be more scuffles before things settle down again.

Hens need plenty of space. If they are too cooped up during the day, they may start to peck each other (an issue that afflicts large flocks kept for mass egg or meat production). To prevent this, you need to make sure your run isn’t overcrowded.

If a dominant hen begins guarding the food and water supply, install a second feeding and drinking station to defuse the tension. Distraction is an effective method of diffusing problems, too. Some corn cobs or cabbages, some CDs or even a peck toy hanging at pecking height, will deflect aggressive birds’ beaks to other things.

A Change in the Pecking Order

It is generally agreed that the most aggressive hens are the ones at the top of the pecking order. But sometimes a chicken seems to rise to the top with very few pecks involved. There is, indeed, circumstantial evidence that the birds’ combs may play a part in the war of the wattles. Hens with large, erect combs tend to be higher in the pecking order than birds with less impressive combs.

If a dominant hen is no longer around, the pecking order enters a state of flux, and there may be new outbreaks of feathered feuding before the new order establishes itself. A previously meek hen may find herself in charge, and this is particularly common if she is one of the ‘old guard’ who suddenly finds herself keeping a new influx of point-of-lay hens in line.

When introducing new hens to a flock, the newcomers should be penned away from the old guard for a week or so, to let everyone get used to each other. Throwing new birds in at the deep end can result in tragedy, as the older birds sometimes gang up on the newcomers and peck them. Once a hen draws blood, the other birds have a tendency to join in the pecking, and death can result.

The pecking order can also change if a dominant hen becomes ill, or becomes broody and spends her time sitting on eggs. If she’s allowed to live a full life and die of natural causes, she may lose her top place in the pecking order towards the end, and in these circumstances you need to keep a gentle eye on the flock, to make sure the old bird doesn’t become hen-pecked.

Being top of the pecking order isn’t all about bullying and the rule of terror, though! Top hens protect the flock by keeping an eye open for danger, and also lead the other birds to exciting new sources of food and scratching.

The hen-based pecking order doesn’t entirely disappear if cockerels are part of the flock, but the male bird will nearly always be at the top of the order, unless he’s unusually timid and the top hen is unusually assertive. The hens will still have a pecking order amongst themselves, though. It also needs underlining that there should never be more than one cockerel to every 15 hens, otherwise things become very unbalanced, the males fight, and the hens might be physically abused.

Living in a flock takes a bit or organizing. But as long as you give the hens enough space and keep an eye on things to make sure the pecking doesn’t spill over into open warfare, nature has a wonderful way of taking care of things.

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Why Your Pets Need A Caddi

Here’s why the Caddi is the perfect choice for your treat-loving pets…

  1. The Caddi Treat Holder decreases the rate at which your pets will eat their treats. Slower treat release through the gaps in the holder means more satisfaction for longer, and prevents over indulgence. 
  2. The Caddi Treat Holder swings around and creates a rewarding, interactive game to keep your pets entertained, which is especially great for rainy days! Your pets will love the stimulating experience of foraging for their treats, and enjoy hours of rewarding fun.
  3. The Caddi allows you to feed your pets treats without having to throw them on the ground. This improves run cleanliness, reduces food waste and prevents pests, as well as being a healthier solution for your pets. Simply hang the Caddi from the roof of your pet’s run with the plastic hook and use the string to adjust the height to suit your pets.
  4. Endless treat opportunities! With the Caddi Treat Holder you can feed a range of fresh greens, fruits and vegetables to your pets, you can use it as a hay rack for rabbits, or fill it with pecker balls for hens. Get creative and reward your pets with exciting new flavours in the Caddi. 
  5. You can save 50% on the Caddi Treat Holder until midnight on Monday, just by signing up to the Omlet newsletter. It’s a great deal for you, and an exciting new treat dispenser for your pets! Enter your email address on the Caddi page to claim your discount code.

Now available for just $6.49 if you sign up to the Omlet newsletter!



Terms and conditions
This promotion is only valid from 08/12/20 – midnight on 08/17/20. Once you have entered your email address on the website you will receive a unique discount code that can be used at checkout. By entering your email you agree to receive the Omlet Newsletter. You can unsubscribe at any point. This offer is available on single Caddi Treat Holders only. The offer does not apply to Twin Packs or bundles with Omlet Peck Toys or Feldy Chicken Pecker Balls. Offer is limited to 2 Caddi Treat Holders per household. Subject to availability. Omlet Inc. reserves the right to withdraw the offer at any point. Offer cannot be used on delivery, existing discounts or in conjunction with any other offer.

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How Should Chicken Eggs Be Stored?

We are all used to the idea of fresh food being clean and chilled, so surely the best method of storing eggs is to wash and refrigerate them?

The answer is ‘no’. With a bit of ‘yes’ thrown in. Although the collective knowledge of chicken keepers is vast, there is still debate about the best way to store eggs.

We’ve gathered the various ends of the argument and summarized them below. Welcome to the debate!

Washed eggs?

Unless the eggs are soiled – which is the result of mud or chicken poo in the hen house, rather than dirt deposited during the actual laying – they do not need washing. A freshly laid egg has a shell covered in a protective ‘bloom’, called the cuticle, and this acts as an antibacterial defence system. If it’s washed off, the protection is washed off too. However, if the eggs are then stored in clean boxes, this won’t be a huge issue.

Eggs with dirty shells should be wiped clean, and it’s a good idea to use these soiled ones first – mainly to keep the egg box or egg-skelter looking pretty!

Chilled eggs?

Some chicken keepers keep their eggs in the fridge, while others believe this is unnecessary. So what’s the best advice?

There are two rules of thumb – keep them below 70°F, and keep them away from strong odours, as these may affect the flavor. Other than that, it’s really up to you.

A study was carried out in 2013 by Food Test Laboratories in England, comparing the fate of two batches of supermarket eggs. The eggs were kept for two weeks, half of them in the fridge, and the other half at room temperature. In England, supermarket eggs are not washed before being sold, so the eggs still has the supportive cuticle on the shell.

The eggs were tested for ‘usual suspect’ bacteria such as salmonella and listeria, at the beginning of the experiment and two weeks later. The results demonstrated why there is such divided opinion on the issue, as neither sets of eggs showed any signs of bacterial nasties, inside or out.

It’s the cuticle ‘bloom’ that keeps the eggs fresh and bacteria-free. If you’ve had to wash them, it’s probably a good idea to refrigerate them, as the shells will not be protected. Keep them in boxes on the fridge shelves, rather than in a fitted plastic egg tray in the fridge door (formerly a regular feature in new refrigerators).

Eggs don’t like being shaken, as it causes the egg whites to deteriorate and turn slightly watery. An egg that’s shaken by the constant opening of the fridge door is likely to lose its binding qualities in baking, and will look very sad, flat and watery in the poaching or frying pan. Fridge doors are the warmest part of the appliance too, and the area of the fridge where temperature fluctuates the most, which isn’t ideal for egg storage.

Egg basket or box?

Eggs kept outside the fridge can be stacked in boxes, with the oldest ones in the topmost boxes. This age factor is less easy to sort out if you keep the eggs in a wire basket, although these look great on display. Some chicken owners use color coding dots, or even dates, to sort the young from the old. If you’re unsure about relative age, you can always use the traditional ageing method: place the eggs in a bowl of water, and watch how they sit. Very fresh ones will lie flat on the bottom, while older ones will have their pointed ends raised. Ones that are way past their use-by date will float.

Another advantage of egg boxes is that you can store the eggs with their rounded ends at the top. This keeps the yolks centred, which makes them look their best if you’re hard- or soft-boiling. However, if most of your eggs end up in cakes and quiches, this isn’t going to be an issue.

An egg skelter is another attractive way of storing the fruits of your hens’ labours. These keep the eggs in age-order, and they look great too.

Storing shelled eggs?

Any leftover raw egg can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container. It should be used within three days. Stored yolks should be covered in water to prevent them drying out. The water can be poured away before use.

Uneaten cooked eggs (i.e. hard-boiled) will always leave an ‘eggy’ smell in the fridge. This is caused by hydrogen sulphide, a gas that forms when eggs are cooked (you’ll notice it’s never present in raw eggs). Although not exactly pleasant, the gas is harmless. Eggs stored in this way should be eaten within one week.

So, the main takeaway here is that eggs can be stored wherever you want them to be stored. As long as you keep them away from heat, strong odours and too much shaking, you’ve got the storage conundrum cracked!

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10 Things Not to Do in Summer if You’re a Chicken Keeper

1. Don’t leave the coop and run in the sun

If possible, move the coop into a shaded spot of the backyard, maybe under a tree or in the north-facing side of your house that doesn’t get as much sun. This means that it will be nice and cool when the girls want to go to bed in the evening, or if one of them wants to go in to lay during the day. The Eglu chicken coops are so easy to move that you, on a really hot day, could effortlessly move it around the garden as the sun moves.

2. Don’t leave the water for too long

Your chickens will drink more in summer. To minimize the risk of algae in the water, as well as dust and dirt from the chickens, change the water at least once a day in hot weather. Place the drinker in a shaded spot on the run and make sure it’s really cold when you put it out. 

3. Don’t overfeed your birds

Dried corn and grains take longer to digest than pellets or fresh food, which wastes energy and heats the body unnecessarily. The chickens will not need to eat as much in hot weather, and if they were to get hungry during the day, your backyard will be full of bugs and fresh green material at this time of year.

4. Don’t leave your chickens alone for too long

When it’s really hot outside it’s important that chicken owners keep an eye on their flock to look for signs of overheating. An open beak, panting and wings held away from the body are signs the chicken is hot. If you think one of your hens is really struggling, try dipping her bottom in a bucket of cold water. This will cool her down for a bit and allow the body to reset.

5. Don’t depend on water

You can leave a small paddling pool or shallow containers out for your chickens to cool down in, but it’s unfortunately not very likely your hens will use them. It might be better to create a mud bath in a corner of the run; chickens are much more likely to approach mud and sand to cool down than water.

6. Don’t play with your chickens

Interaction with the chickens might lead to more movement for them, which increases their body temperature. If you want to spend time with your chickens, or need to pick them up for health checks, do so early in the morning or late at night when it’s cooler.

7. Don’t cover the run completely

Covering your chicken run with a lot of covers might seem like a good idea to create a shady spot, but if you don’t let air circulate, it’s likely to become a boiling tunnel of warm air. It’s extremely important to have ventilation, so that fresh air can move around. This goes for your coop as well. The Eglu’s cleverly designed ventilation system allows air to circulate in the coop at all times, keeping it nice, cool and fresh even on the hottest of days. Choose a few darker covers to give your pets shade on the run as well.

8. Don’t leave the eggs

You’re probably getting fewer eggs than normal during the warmest weeks of the year. That’s completely normal, chickens don’t lay as much when they are hot, and some go broody and stop laying completely. Although the eggs won’t go bad if you leave them in the nest box of an Eglu for a day, eggs in the nest can encourage broodiness and result in egg eating, so it’s good to collect all as soon as you discover them.

9. Don’t put off cleaning

It’s always important to keep the coop nice and clean for your girls, but maybe even more so in summer. Parasites and pests are stronger when it’s warmer, including red mite, so make sure to use a bird safe disinfectant and cover roosting bars and perches in mite powder to prevent problems at least once a week.

10. Don’t treat all chickens the same

If you have a flock with mixed breeds or have had chickens in the past but now own a different breed, remember that different chickens need different care. Some breeds are much better than others at handling heat, and some really struggle. Read up on the breeds you’ve got here, and take extra care of vulnerable birds.

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Choose The Right Cover For Your Run

We often get asked which is the best cover for an Eglu run to keep pets comfortable all year round. Read our simple guide below so you know how to help your pets in all weathers!

Summer Shades

These shades are a thinner cover material which offers protection from the sun, without creating a tunnel where heat can build up inside the run. These are smaller than the winter covers to allow better airflow through the run for ventilation. Move the summer shade around the run to suit the time of day and your hens’ routine. You may wish to change this for a Clear or Combi Cover in summer when there’s rain on the way!

Clear Covers

The Clear Covers allow for sunlight to flood your pet’s run, while also offering protection from rain. This makes them ideal for spring and autumn, so the run is light and warm with sun, but also protected from unpredictable wind and rain. 

Combi Covers

Get the best of both worlds, with shade from the sun on one side and light coming in the other, as well as full wind and rain protection on both sides. The Combi Covers are half dark green, heavy duty cover for extreme wind and rain protection, and half clear cover to let in sunlight and warmth and to let your pets see when you are bringing them treats!

Heavy Duty Covers

For strong, hard-wearing protection against the worst of winter choose heavy duty covers. Even when the temperature drops, the rain and wind batters your pets home, or a deluge of snow covers your garden, the dark green, impenetrable heavy duty covers offer sturdy weather protection. Your chickens or rabbits will be able to hop around the Eglu run in complete peace, without getting cold, damp or wind-swept!

Extreme Temperature Covers

Chickens and rabbits are very efficient at keeping themselves warm in cold weather, and the Eglu’s twin wall insulation will assist them by keeping cool air out and warm air in, but when temperatures plummet for multiple days in a row, they may appreciate a little extra support. The Extreme Temperature Blankets and Jackets add another insulating layer, like your favourite wooly sweater, without compromising the ventilation points around the coop. 

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6 Ways Keeping Chickens Will Benefit Your Garden

1. Fertilizer

Chicken manure is one of the best things you can use to improve the soil in your garden. Once composted, chicken droppings are full of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other important nutrients, and increases the soil’s ability to hold water. This means more beautiful flowers, and bigger and more delicious vegetables!Collect your chickens’ droppings and compost for up to a year before using the manure. 

2. Pest Control

Chickens spend their days scratching around the garden in search of yummy treats. They love finding beetles, grubs, caterpillars and ticks. Sometimes they even go for those pesky slugs! This is an extremely environmentally friendly way of getting rid of pests, with the added benefit of happy and content hens!

3. Rotation

Want to create a new bed in the garden? No problem, get the chickens in to do the job for you. If there’s one thing they do well it’s tilling and turning. Spread some chicken feed where you want the soil to be moved and aerated, or leave a pile of leaves that you would like spread over a resting bed, and you can be sure that the chickens will have sorted it in half the time it would take you to source a rotavator. 

4. Free Weeding

In a similar way, if you want to clear a bed of weeds or grass, get your chickens on it. They will munch on weeds and dead matter you haven’t already removed, leaving the fun bits of gardening to you!

Although clever, chickens are however not able to differentiate weeds from the plants and seeds you actually want to keep, so it’s best to keep them off flower beds and veg patches where you are growing things you actually want. Use a good fencing to limit the chickens to certain parts of the garden. 

5. Added Calcium

One of the best things about keeping chickens is the delicious eggs they provide you with. But did you know that eggshells can be highly beneficial to your garden? Eggshells are made of calcium carbonate, and are a perfect way to introduce minerals to your soil. Calcium is essential for building cell walls, making sure the plants stay strong and healthy. 

Grind up your shells with a mortar and pestle and spread on your compost, or straight in your bed.  

6. Great Company

With chickens around you will have even more reason to spend time in the garden. It’s so much fun seeing them scratch around and hear their friendly chatter, and they are great company for any keen gardener. People even claim that being around chickens relieves stress and leads to better mental health.

So what’s stopping you? Chickens are the perfect pet you and your garden needs.

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What Are Red Mites, and Why Are They a Chicken Keeper’s Worst Nightmare?

It’s red, it looks like a spider, it lives in huge colonies, and it creeps out at night to suck your chickens’ blood. As nightmares go, this one’s pretty alarming – until you realise that it’s one that you can easily wake up from. The creature in question – the Red Mite – is less than a millimetre long, and it’s not difficult to banish from your chicken coop.

The Red Mite is able to live – and feed – on a variety of hosts, including humans, given half a chance. But it is it’s fondness for wild birds that brings it into contact with one of its favourite targets – your chickens. If there are birds in the garden, there are probably Red Mites too.

Know Your Enemy

The Red Mite, Dermanyssus gallinae, is a parasite that hides in dark corners of the chicken shed and scuttles out at night in huge numbers to suck blood. When fully grown, they are about 0.75mm, with spider-like legs. Before feeding, the mites are greyish-brown rather than red – the colouring comes from the blood they suck. Once engorged, the mites scurry away back to their hiding places. They are patient, too, and have been known to survive for up to 10 months in empty chicken sheds.

Infested hens will eventually develop scabs and wounds, suffer from anaemia (caused by blood loss and manifesting in pale wattles and combs), and may begin to lose feathers. Egg production will plummet, too. If the hens are young, in severe cases the blood loss and physical shock can prove fatal. One of the problems of diagnosis is that the mites are often in hiding when you examine the bird, rather than sitting in plain view (like a louse or flea, for example). These physical signs in the bird should prompt you into action though, and checking the mites’ potential hiding places is straightforward.

If the mites appear to be living on your chickens full time, rather than disappearing in the day, you might have an outbreak of Northern Fowl Mite. Same issues, different beast – and the advice given in this article applies to these bloodsuckers too.

How to be Mightier than the Mite

Because they normally feed at night, you may not spot the mites at first. You can, however, look for their hiding places. Corners and crevices in wooden henhouses are a favourite, and under roosting perches. Once discovered, you need to zap the mini vampires with a hen-friendly anti-mite liquid or powder. There are two types of product aimed at eliminating the beasties – ones that you spray or dust on the hen house and its fittings, and another that you apply directly to the birds.

All bedding should be removed from an infested coop, and the whole structure should be washed with hot water – a power-hose is a good weapon in this battle – before being treated with an anti-mite preparation.

Once the mites have been banished, prevention is the best way of keeping control of the situation. Regular washing of the chicken shed and any other concrete, plastic or wooden areas of the chicken run will help. This is particularly important in the warmer summer months, when the mite population tends to boom.

Some chicken breeders have reported good anti-mite effects from carbon dioxide, either in the form of a ‘dry ice’ fumigation or direct spraying, but there is not yet any formal veterinary rubber-stamping of these procedures.

Another fool-proof way of banishing Red Mite is to keep your hens in a coop that doesn’t have lots of corners, nooks and crannies – i.e. something plastic rather than wooden. Plastic chicken sheds are easier to clean and keep hygienic, and the Queen of Coops is the Eglu.

So, you can’t keep the wild birds and their mites away, but you can easily stop them regaining a hold amongst your flock. Once the nightmare is banished, both you and your hens can sleep easy at night.

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What Is a Broody Hen, and How Do You Stop Her Being Broody?

Most hens lay their eggs with minimum fuss. They might make a bit of noise to announce their egg-laying achievement, but will soon return to the daily business of exploring and scratching for food. Some hens, however, are a bit more moody. Broody, to be more accurate.

A broody hen is one who sits on her egg with every intention of staying there until it has hatched – no matter whether the egg is fertilised or not. This is very useful if you want to hatch some chicks, but otherwise it can be a problem.

The cause of broodiness is linked to body heat, backed up by maternal instincts. Hens who are cooped up together in a hot henhouse may suddenly heat up to a level that makes them think “I’m going to hatch an egg!”. Certain breeds seem more susceptible to broodiness than others, with the Silkies and Cochins being particularly moody-broody.

Signs of Broodiness

A broody hen undergoes a personality change. The most obvious sign of this is her refusal to leave the nesting box. She will sit there with the air of a bird who will happily wait until Doomsday for the egg to hatch. This misplaced dedication will also make her grumpy and liable to peck or cluck angrily if you try to move her.

When you do manage to oust her from the box, she’ll simply head back there again and resume her brooding. Once she feels established in her new maternal role, she will fluff out her feathers and may begin to self-pluck her chest feathers to line the nest.

How to Stop a Hen Being Broody

Appearances can be misleading. The hen may look as though she will sit in the box for eternity, but in reality she will only stay there – usually – for three weeks. This is the length of time it takes a chicken egg to hatch.  This means, if space allows, you can simply let her brood for 21 days, and then the mood will lift and she will return to business as usual.

Having said that, you need to make sure the hen gets food and drink during this time, and this may involve forcibly removing her from the nest box and shutting it off until she has taken refreshments. Wearing sturdy gloves is a good precaution when doing this, to make sure you don’t get pecked.

Dipping the hen’s rear end in cool water is a common way of bringing broodiness to an end. Again, the condition is linked to body heat, so a sudden cooling of the rump will usually do the trick. The method is unsubtle – you take the hen and dunk her hind portions into the water for ten seconds.

A related anti-broody trick is to place a packet of frozen peas or sweetcorn kernels underneath the hen in the nestbox. Crushed ice cubes in a bag will do the trick, too. This has the dual impact of cooling the chicken down and making life in the nest box too uncomfortable for brooding.

Sometimes a simple obstacle such as a plant pot or a couple of bricks will have the desired effect. If the hen can’t access the nest box, she can’t sit there and brood.

Some owners use a so-called ‘broody enclosure’ to break the habit. This is a wire cage or crate, in which the chicken is placed along with food and water. The wire is slightly uncomfortable, and will also help cool her down. After three days, this gentle form of solitary confinement will usually break the broody habit. The signs that the brood-mood is over are obvious – the hen will stop fluffing out her feathers and will stalk around the cage, rather than sitting and brooding.

Then again, you could purchase some fertilised eggs and let the broody hen get on with it. If you want chicks, this is by far the easiest, and most natural way of producing them – under the fluffy belly of a broody hen.

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6 Steps to Starting Seeds in Your Girls’ Eggshells

 

Next time you’re about to throw away your empty egg shells, spare the compost bin and keep hold of them. Many people use crushed up egg shells in gardening to add calcium to the soil, however we have another great way you can use egg shells to add to your garden. Many propagators or seed starter tubs are made out of plastic, which isn’t great for the environment. Why not use your empty egg shells to start your next batch of seeds?! It’s so quick and easy to do!


1. Firstly rinse out the shells, and then let them dry.

2. Once dry, fill the egg shells halfway with compost and sit them in the egg carton.

3. Sprinkle a little water on the compost and then add your chosen seeds to the compost.

4. Spread a thin layer of compost on top and drizzle a little bit more water.

5. Then place in a sunny spot indoors – a window ledge is a great place to start seeds.

6. Keep watering your eggshell seeds each night, and after a few days you should start to see them sprout!


Once they’re too big for the shell then transfer to a bigger spot to continue growing indoors or outdoors depending on the chosen seeds (see packet for details).

 

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Introduce Your Chickens to the Awesome Chicken Swing

Roosting high up in trees comes natural to chickens, as that is one of the safest places to rest if you’re a chicken in the wild. And doing so on gently moving, or even swinging, branches makes you an even more difficult target for predators. So instinctively your birds should be happy to jump straight up on their Chicken Swing!

With that being said, chickens are vulnerable and clever creatures, which means that they can be wary of new things. They don’t like being the first to try something, so if you’ve got your flock a new toy and are disappointed they don’t seem particularly interested in it, you might have to help them take the leap! 

Setting Up The Chicken Swing

The Chicken Swing is cleverly designed to make it as easy as possible for chickens of all ages to use it. The base of the swing has a texture resembling a corncob, which makes it more grippable than a smooth plastic surface.

Make sure you place the swing free from any obstructions such as walls, mesh or other things on the run. Choose a sheltered spot under cover so the hens can do their swinging no matter the weather! 

Eventually you ideally want the Chicken Swing to sit above the chickens’ heads, so that they will be able to swing without the risk of bumping into one of their friends. It’s no problem for a chicken to jump up a few feet, but to make it as easy as possible in the beginning, start with the swing close to the ground. The Chicken Swing is lightweight enough that if it were to hit one of your hens, it won’t hurt them. 

You won’t need to train all your chickens to get on the swing. They are flock animals, so if you get one of them to show the others how it’s done, there’s a high chance the others will follow shortly!

Letting your chickens have a go

So choose your most adventurous chicken and place her on the swing, which at this stage should be hanging very low to the ground. Give her something delicious straight away, so that she associates the swing with yummy treats. Do this a few times until you feel she’s comfortable perching on the swing. At this point, push the swing slightly to get it moving. Reward the chicken every time she swings towards you. Push a bit more every time you’re trying, and start lifting the Chicken Swing higher and higher above the ground. 

If the chicken at any point seems stressed or anxious, stop the training, let her down and go back to basics. It’s important that she only has good feelings associated with the swing! 

It’s not guaranteed that all chickens will warm to the swing, it’s just a fact you have to accept. Young chickens are in general more likely to take risks and learn new things, but personality plays a big part, so you’re not automatically going to succeed just because you’re introducing the swing to chicks. However most chicken will, after some persuasion, absolutely love swinging, and it’s worth a bit of work when you see your girls queueing up for their go!

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Everything You Need To Know About Keeping Roosters

Most chicken keepers limit their attentions to hens and eggs. Roosters – or cockerels, as they are sometimes called (and definitely not to be confused with roasters!) – are simply not on their tick list. After all, roosters are territorial, keen to defend their flock of hens, and famously noisy first thing in the morning.

But they are also beautiful birds, and if you intend hatching your own chicken eggs, your hens will certainly need the attentions of a rooster.

There are several cockadoodle-dos and cockadoodle-don’ts to consider if you are thinking of adding a rooster to your flock.

First, the good stuff

Cockerels look fantastic as they swagger across their territory. Their huge combs and wattles quiver like jelly, their pointy rear-end feathers and ‘mane’ of spiky neck feathers are wonderfully showy, and their posture suggests someone who has just strutted onto the dancefloor to show off some amazing moves.

But it’s not all about beauty. Roosters always have an eye out for danger, and will fight off any intruder they think they can tackle. The bird is not silly enough to attack dogs or cats, but it will make it clear to them that they are not welcome, through body language and alarm calls. This gives the hens time to flee for shelter, and the rooster will beat the retreat too, if things start to look too dangerous.

A rooster will add harmony to a hen flock, making sure none of his birds are bullied, and keeping everything in order, a bit like a hands-off, benign sheepdog.

If you want to hatch chicks, hiring the services of a rooster is the only way forward. Fertilised eggs are still edible, as long as you collect the eggs on a daily basis. Any fertilised egg taken away from the warmth of a broody hen will not develop into a chick.

And the downsides?

If you live in a town or village, noise might be an issue with the neighbours. In many places in the USA, roosters are banned for this reason. However, if your bylaws don’t place an outright ban on male chickens, you’ll have the law on your side. But what about those irate neighbours?

The irony is that people who keep roosters – and many others besides – love the sound of early morning cock-crow. I raise my hand, as the author of this post, and admit to loving the sound of a rooster at daybreak – and I live in a village with half a dozen cockerels battling it out first thing in the morning. It’s a much better sound than car engines and slamming doors as people prepare for the working day. If people can live with the sound of road, rail and air traffic, surely they can get used to the wonderful sound of a full-throated rooster?

Sadly not, in many cases, and a crowing cockerel can be the subject of arguments and recriminations. So, so if you have nearby neighbours, it’s an issue you can’t ignore. Start off by speaking to everyone who live near enough that they will hear a cockerel crowing in the morning and see how they feel about the idea. You never know, they might be really excited about the prospect of a new alarm clock!

There are ways to keep roosters quiet before everyone has got out of bed. Some people swear by anti-crow collars, Velcro strips that restrict airflow to the rooster’s voice box. They don’t hurt the birds or affect their breathing, but they transform the noisy COCK-A-DOODLE-DO! into a much quieter clucking sound. If you have a large rooster you may also be helped by a coop with a low roof. Roosters must stretch their neck to crow, and if the coop roof is not high enough to allow him to stretch the neck fully, he will have to wait until you let him out.

With that being said though it’s worth noting that roosters naturally crow, and if you (or your neighbours) can’t stand being woken up at the crack of dawn, you might be better off sticking to hens. 

The rooster is not just a chicken version of a sheepdog, he’s a guard dog too. At the sight of any intruder, he’ll let you know. This is just the kind of vigilance you’d expect from a bird once declared to be the messenger of the sun god. And that’s a lovely image – he’s not crowing to annoy anyone, he’s crowing to announce the arrival of the life-giving sun. Who could say no to that?

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What’s wrong with my chicken?

If you keep chickens, you already know what a happy, healthy hen looks like. If anything changes, it’s a sign that all is not well in the henhouse.

The commonest problems are not due to diseases or parasites, but stress. If the henhouse is overcrowded, dirty, or too hot, or if the birds are feeling harassed, they will become stressed. The symptoms include egg-eating, aggression to their neighbours, loose droppings, lethargy, and a sudden interruption to their egg-laying.

The cause should be obvious enough, once you stop to look. Too many birds in one house? No shelter from direct sunlight? No room to exercise? Nothing but wet mud? These things can be sorted out by rearranging the hens’ environment, extending the run, and getting a bigger hen coop. Check the hens’ diet, too – are you feeding them a good, fortified chicken feed, supplemented with some corn

? Poor nutrition is a gateway to other health issues, as it weakens the birds’ immune systems.

Infectious Bronchitis – The Commonest Chicken Disease

There are many diseases that can afflict chickens, but thankfully most of them are uncommon. Anecdotal evidence shows that Infectious Bronchitis is the one that small-scale backyard hen keepers are most likely to encounter.

Hens suffering from this ailment will have a quiet, rasping, wheezing cough, sneeze or snore. The first signs of the problem are usually a loss of interest in food. As the disease takes hold, the hen will develop a ‘runny nose’, with discharge from the nostrils and eyes.

The bronchitis is caused by an airborne virus, and the best remedy is vaccination of the flock. Any infected birds should be isolated and kept somewhere dry and warm, making sure they eat and drink well. Some will die, but most pull through.

Note: the symptoms described here are also associated with other diseases, including Infectious Sinusitis, Newcastle Disease, and the deadly Aspergillosis, Pullorum and Bird Flu. The Omlet Chicken Guide has more details.

Bumblefoot – The Commonest Chicken Injury

A leg or foot wound that becomes infected can result in Bumblefoot. The wound will not always be obvious, but the biggest clue is a limp, or the tendency to stand for a long time on one leg while the other hens are scratching and pecking for food.

After a few days, the limb will swell, at which point you need to act fast. Taking the bird to a vet is the best bet, as the wound will need thoroughly cleaning, and minor surgery may be involved if the problem is severe. Untreated hens can die.

Not all limps are the result of Bumblefoot, though. Hens sometimes land awkwardly after the chicken version of flying. Broken toes and legs are quite common too, and these will require a splint. But if there is no visible surface wound, Bumblefoot is unlikely to set in.

So, look out for the limp – that’s your first clue that all is not well.

Common Chicken Mites

Chicken parasites are common, but not usually life-threatening. The commonest ones are the mites, of which there are several species.

Red Mite, or Chicken Mite – These nasties hide away in the henhouse, in corners, under perches and elsewhere. Anti-mite powders and liquids can be applied to the coop, and keeping things super-clean at all times will discourage the tiny red bloodsuckers.

Northern Fowl Mite – these are a bit bigger than red mites, and live on the birds rather than just dropping in for a quick bite. Remedies are available, and need to be applied to the bird itself.

Scaly Leg Mite – This variety causes a hen’s legs to become rough, sore and weepy. Antibacterial scaly-leg treatments are the only way to tackle the problem; although rubbing in a little Vaseline can ease the discomfort.

Depluming Mite – This variety burrows into the feather shafts, causing swelling and producing a discharge on which the mites feed. The hens will then begin plucking their own feathers to relieve the discomfort. The mites spread quickly, so the whole flock and henhouse will need treating.

Quick action is the best way of tackling these ailments. Each morning, carry out a quick visual health check. Any of the following should be taken as a warning sign:

  • Dirty or messy feathers
  • Hunched-up posture
  • Lethargy
  • Evidence of parasites
  • Unhealthy-looking poo
  • Sneezing, wheezing, coughing
  • No appetite
  • No eggs

If you have cause for concern, check out Omlet’s chicken health guide, and call the vet for advice.

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Want to keep chickens and rabbits together? These are the things you need to consider!

Rabbits and chickens are two of the nation’s favourite pets, and while there are many things that set them apart, they also have a lot of similarities, and if you are careful and manage to cater for their different needs, they can actually live together in harmony.

Both chickens and rabbits are very sociable animals that like spending time together with others, and it doesn’t matter too much if the company is of another species. They also have similar requirements when it comes to space, temperature and attention. Apart from that, having the two live together will also be more space efficient for you, as you won’t have to create two living quarters, but can focus on one larger area instead. 

There are however things to think about if you’re considering keeping rabbits and chickens together – just putting them together in a run and hoping for the best will probably not end well. Chickens may carry diseases that are latent and symptomless, but that will make the rabbits ill, and they are also by nature scared of fast-moving things (animals included), and having speedy rabbits racing around their feet might create a lot of stress if they are not used to it. 

So while it’s not problem free having the two live together, it’s definitely possible. Here are some things to think about:

  • You are more likely to succeed if you start introducing the animals to each other when they are young, so that they are raised together and don’t really know a life without the other. Start by keeping them on different sides of a fence or a run, so that they can get used to each other (Omlet’s partitions for the Outdoor Pet Run will be perfect here). Move on to keeping them together, but in a very large enclosure, so that no one feels threatened by the other species. Make the enclosure gradually smaller, until they are all in the run where you are planning to keep them permanently. 
  • The chickens might try to peck the rabbits while they are getting used to the fast movements. This doesn’t hurt a fully grown rabbit, and it will pass after a few days, but never put a baby bunny in with a flock of adult hens, as they are much more vulnerable. 
  • Give both a place to retreat to. Chickens and rabbits are both nervous and vulnerable animals that will benefit from having their own space to return to when it all gets a bit too much.
  • They also have different requirements. Chickens need perches to roost on at night, and rabbits will need plenty of hay in the hutch to both curl up on, and to eat. Keep this away from the chickens to avoid contamination. You will also need to feed them separately; chickens will try to eat everything, and rabbit food will make them ill. 
  • Rabbits are known to be extremely cleanly animals, a reputation you rarely hear about chickens. To keep your rabbits happy you will therefore need to clean the run and the hutch and/or coop more often than you would if you only had chickens. The rabbits will not be impressed with chicken poo in their home!
  • Make sure there is plenty of room for all. Having two species in one place might be space efficient on the whole, but make sure the run is big enough and equipped with toys and hiding places to entertain and calm your pets. The Caddi Treat Holder is a perfect food toy for both rabbits and chickens, and the Zippi playtunnels will be perfect as a small den for a tired bunny.
  • If you’re planning to have rabbits and chickens living together, we would definitely suggest neutering male rabbits. Even if he doesn’t live with female rabbits, unneutered bucks are notoriously known for mounting everything that comes in their way, including feathered friends. 
  • It’s never a good idea to keep one single rabbit in a flock of chickens, or vice versa. Despite being part of a group, they will feel lonely and stressed without a friend of their own species. 

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How to Introduce New Chickens To Your Flock

Many of us know what it’s like. You start with a few chickens, thinking you’re just going to try it out, but once you realise what amazing pets they are and what delicious eggs they lay you will probably soon think it’s time to expand the flock and get some more hens for your garden.

But adding new chickens to an existing flock is easier said than done, and it’s important to know what you’re doing to avoid bickering and bullying, or even worse.

The key to introducing chickens is time. Be patient, it might take a while before your new individuals are living happily with your current flock, but it will be worth it in the end. Each breed of chicken is different, and all chickens have different personalities, so how well your attempts will go depends on many different factors. Here are some useful things to think about:

Make the right choices

Some people say sticking to the same breed is a good idea, but it’s definitely possible to have several different breeds living side by side. If possible, add chickens that are of similar age and size as your existing ones. Smaller, younger hens will easily become a target if added to a group of larger chickens, and new younger, fitter chickens might cause stress for the older members of your current flock. Never add chicks to a group until they are old and strong enough to fight back if someone decides to bully them. 

Also never introduce a chicken on her own; she is bound to become bullied in an already established pecking order. The more chickens you add, the more the pecking order will have to change, and it will be easier for the group to decide who is actually the most dominant. If possible, adding more chickens than you already have will often minimise problems with bullying, but it’s a risky game if you plan on expanding your flock more than once!

Quarantine

The first step in the process is to quarantine the new chickens somewhere away from your flock to make sure they don’t carry any diseases or parasites. Do regular health checks on the new chickens while you’re keeping them separate, and treat any illness you might come across. It might be worth doing a worming treatment and to dust them in Diatomaceous Earth a few times to be extra sure they are not bringing in any parasites into your coop.

Quarantine the new birds for at least a week, preferably longer, or until you’re certain they are happy and healthy.

Slow introductions

Unfortunately you can’t just plonk the new chickens down with the old ones as soon as you’re sure they are healthy. Instead you must allow them to get used to each other. Ideally this is done by placing the two groups close enough to each other that they can see and smell each other, but not close enough that they can touch. They will hopefully be curious of the other group, but not feel that their home is being invaded. The partitions for the Omlet Walk in run is perfect for this stage, as it means you can divide the run and slowly introduce the two groups. 

Keep this setup for at least a week. It may seem like they have gotten used to each other after a few days, but for chickens there’s a big difference between seeing some hens over the fence and actually sharing a coop and run with them. Be patient, then you’re more likely to succeed.

The big meet

When you think it’s time for the two groups to meet for real, it is best done in a new, neutral area that no chicken has claimed as her own, even if it’s just a small fenced off area in the garden. 

It’s always best to let the old flock come to the new, so put them down before you let your existing flock approach. This is especially important if you’re carrying out the introduction in the flock’s current run: don’t let them out of the coop until the new chickens are comfortable on the run. 

Try putting up some entertaining distractions that might avert their attention somewhat. Fill a Peck Toy or a Caddi with your chickens’ favourite treat, and they will hopefully be more interested in that than the newcomers. 

Another thing worth trying is introducing chickens in the night when they are quietly roosting in their coop. Open the door of the Eglu and put the new chickens in with your existing ones. This allows them to get used to the presence and the smell of the new chickens while they are sleepy and not likely to attack. This seems to work really well for some, whereas it leads to a few problems for others, so it’s up to you if you want to risk it. Make sure you are there in the morning when the chickens wake up to see how they are reacting to their new friends. 

As we said, it might take a while before the flock goes back to its harmonious self. You must prepare yourself for some disagreement and a bit of bullying, this is part of establishing the pecking order. It should however have calmed down after a few days, maybe a week. If you notice that chickens are getting seriously hurt or are drawing blood it’s time to step in. Identify the main bully and isolate her somewhere else for a few days on her own. It might seem harsh, but it’s the best thing you can do for your flock. When you put her back with the group she will be too busy trying to figure out the new order that she won’t have time to bully. 

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How to Find and Buy Chickens At The Moment

We are getting lots of questions at the moment from people who are ready to start their chicken keeping journey. They know where they will be able to source their new coop, run, feed and accessories (hint!), but not how to get their new pets. As in most cases these days, the internet will be the place to start looking

One of the best ways of finding people selling chickens is to google ”buying chickens + your state or area”. There are several websites online that allow people to post adverts for chickens, or you will be able to find websites and contact information for farms or smallholdings that are selling chicks or hens. Lots of these will not be hatching chicks at the moment, so you might have to call a few before you find someone that is still taking orders. 

You will also be able to find Poultry Forums and Facebook groups where enthusiastic chicken owners discuss all things chicken, and you often see people wanting to sell or rehome chickens in these groups. 

Normally it is always best to contact the person you are planning to buy the chickens from, and ideally pay them a visit to see what their setup is and under what conditions the chickens are living. This will help you pick a good breeder that treats their animals well, so that you can be sure that your chickens arrive happy and healthy. During the current circumstances this is however not something we recommend, but you can still ask questions over email and telephone that can give you an idea about the level of expertise of the person.

If you go ahead with your purchase, make sure to arrange something that feels appropriate given the restrictions, and safe for both you and the person you’re buying your chickens from.

Here are some good terms to search to use:

Chickens for sale

Simple, but effective. If you just want chickens and don’t really care about how old they are, what breed they are or how many eggs they will provide you with, just google chickens for sale and the state or area you’re in. 

Point of lay chickens for sale

A point of lay chicken is a chicken that has just begun laying eggs. This is a good time to get hens, as they are old enough to take care of themselves, but happy to be moved and introduced to a new home. When point of lay occurs varies somewhat between breeds and other external circumstances, but it generally happens when the chickens are approximately six months old. It’s worth noting that it will normally be another 6 months before the hen is fully grown and laying to her full capacity. 

People selling larger amounts of hens often hatch chicks in batches, and they might not always have hens that are ready to leave the same week you contact them. It is best to get in contact now if you want to collect your hens in May, June, or even July. 

Rare/pure breed chickens for sale 

These chickens are bred from show birds, and the breeders are often affiliated with a Poultry Club. The chickens will have been well taken care of, and the breeder will be knowledgeable about the breed and chicken keeping in general, so you will be able to ask them lots of questions about the birds. 

These chickens are often a bit more expensive than hybrid hens, but you will know what you are getting. This is especially useful if you have a clear idea of what type of chicken you would like. Read up on some chicken breeds here and choose one that you think will suit you, your requirements and your garden. Breed clubs might be able to help you find someone in your area that will sell you hens.

Again, it’s important to plan ahead, probably even more so when it comes to rarer breeds of chickens. You might have to book several weeks or even months in advance depending on what breed you are choosing.

If you’re struggling to find someone that will sell you hens, you can always take matters into your own hands and start rearing chickens from scratch.

If you’re up for the challenge and can source a good incubator, hatching eggs is a really exciting experience, and can be a great education for children in the house. It should be said though that it does require more time, effort and equipment than getting fully grown hens, and you must be aware of the fact that approximately 50% of the eggs will be hatched as cockerels that will not be happy living together. Do you have a plan for what to do with these? 

If you think hatching in an incubator might be for you, you will be able to find fertilized eggs on sites like Ebay or in chicken keeping forums. You might also want to read our step by step guide to incubation – you’ll find it here

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