Rabbits are designed to run, and they love hurtling around on the grass, sprinting back and forth and doing big jumps in the air. In the wild, rabbits will run about 3 miles every day, and it’s important to make sure your pet rabbit gets sufficient exercise to stay happy and healthy. Rabbits who are confined to their hutch for most of the day will soon get bored, and will often eat too much, which can lead to obesity. Overweight rabbits will struggle to move the way they want to, and are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular diseases and joint pain. Bored rabbits also tend to over groom themselves, and can get problems with hairballs. You might not be able to give your rabbit a 3 mile run every day, but you should make sure that he or she gets at least 3 hours outside the hutch, so that they can stretch their legs and explore and socialise. The more space you can give them the better. Unless you have a very rabbit proof garden and keep an eye on your pets at all times, letting them run free in the garden is not a good idea. Rabbits are escape artists, and will find ways to get through the safest of garden fences or gates. They also run the risk of predator attacks, and ingesting something poisonous.
A good way of making sure your rabbits get enough exercise is to have hutch that is connected to a run, so that your pet can move in and out of the hutch whenever he or she wants to, like the Eglu Go. You can extend the run to make it bigger, but there is now also another way of giving your rabbits more space.
Omlet’s Zippi runs are cleverly designed playpens for rabbits and guinea pigs that allow you and your kids to spend time with your pets as they are enjoying a new patch of grass in the garden. The optional roof and underfloor mesh keeps the rabbits safe if you want to keep them in the run while you’re not around, and the skirt stops predators from digging in. The runs can easily be moved when the rabbits have trimmed the grass in one area, so you won’t have to get the mower out every weekend!
Many people find moving their rabbits between the run and the hutch a very stressful part of the day. You want your rabbit to have a run around, but you probably don’t fancy chasing them around the run for half an hour every evening when it’s time to go back in. This can be solved with the Zippi tunnel system. If you’ve decided to give your rabbits more space with a new run, you can easily connect these to their hutch and create your own system that the rabbits will love running in, as it’s a version of the warrens they would have created in the wild. The fact is that rabbits who have the freedom of moving in and out of their hutch as they please will happily go back inside by themselves when night falls, and then all you have to do it close the door that gives access to the tunnels.
Make sure you furnish your pets’ new run or play pen with things you know they will love. Maybe you want to give them a few more hideaways? A digging pit? Or maybe a few boredom busting toys to gnaw on.
You can see all the different versions of out Zippi runs and play pens on our website, so that you can find one that suits both you and your pets!
As long as your chickens are laying, you can hatch and incubate chicks all year round. However, traditionally the most popular time to breed your own chickens is in the spring. Hatching and rearing your own chicks from eggs is an incredibly exciting and rewarding process. There is nothing better than seeing your tiny chicks grow up in the knowledge that they are getting the best possible life from start to finish.The incubation period for chicken eggs is usually 21 days. The most reliable way to incubate your fertilised eggs and maximise the chance that they will hatch into healthy chicks is to use an artificial incubator. Here’s our step-by-step guide to hatching chicks:
1. Long Term Plan
Before the hatching starts, you will need to have a plan in place as to what you are going to do with the chickens once they hatch. It is a safe estimate that 25-50% of eggs will not hatch due to either not being fertilized or due to some mishaps during incubation. Among those which will hatch, approximately 50% will be cockerels and 50% will be hens. Everybody wants hens and hardly anyone needs cockerels, so there is a question of what to do with the latter. In many breeds, cockerels do not tolerate each other and they will fight vigorously unless they are completely separated.
First of all, you need to be as sure as it is reasonably possible that the eggs are fertilized, so getting them from a good breeder / farmer is crucial. Eggs of some breeds are quite expensive, so every egg that will not hatch costs you money. A breeder can never give you a 100% guarantee that the egg is fertilized, but an experienced one can be quite confident they are.
The eggs should not have any deformations or bear any other visible defects. Any cracks in the eggshells are a no-go. Any defect of the eggshell might result in the chick having difficulty in hatching, being deformed, or not developing at all.
Once you have the eggs, it is a good practice to wash them with an egg disinfectant. Eggs are porous and the embryos get oxygen and water through their eggshells. If there are any toxins or bacteria on the eggshells, that might endanger the embryos.
3. Keep a Diary
It is a really good idea to keep a diary of hatching. This includes numbering the eggs and keeping a daily record of each eggs weight. A developing egg will gradually lose weight in its 21 days of incubation. It will lose about 10-15% of its original weight over time. When the egg in the incubator is not losing weight it usually means it is not developing.
Choose your incubator carefully. Some incubators, such as the Brinsea Mini II Incubator have an Auto-turn mechanism built-in. Auto-turn saves you a lot of time and effort. Every egg during the incubation time needs to be turned every 90 minutes in order for the embryo to be positioned perfectly in the egg. A broody hen naturally turns all the eggs she is sitting on as she moves around the nest, so the turning simulates what naturally happens when a hen takes care after eggs. If the incubator does not have the Auto-turn option, you will need to turn the eggs manually. It is therefore a good practice to mark all eggs with a non-toxic marker just to be sure that every egg is being turned every time you visit them.
A good incubator will be able to keep a steady temperature within. One that we recommend is the Brinsea Mini II Incubator. The optimal temperature for hatching chicks is 37.5 degrees Celsius. A good incubator will set its alarm off if the temperature within drops below or rises above a certain threshold. Temperature in the room where the incubator is placed is crucial here, as it heavily influences the temperature in the incubator. You will be opening the incubator during routine controls of the eggs, so it is really important the eggs don’t get a temperature shock in the process – such a shock might kill the fetuses. We advise keeping a steady temperature of approx. 25 degrees Celsius in the room with the incubator. The room should also be draft free.
A good incubator will be able to provide a good humidity inside. Optimal humidity for the eggs during hatching is around 40-50% but needs to be increased on Day 19 in order to soften the eggshells and help the chicks to hatch out. With some Incubators such as the Brinsea II Mini Incubator, there are two water containers inside. Fill one up every day, and fill both of them from Day 19 onward. You can fill up the water container in the Brinsea without the need to open it which is very useful, since you generally don’t want to open the incubator too often. It is perfectly normal that some condensation starts to build up in the incubator after a few days due to high humidity.
5. Daily routine
Day 7 is an important threshold. First of all, you need to start cooling the eggs for half an hour a day. It’s best to do this around the same time each day. A good incubator has a fan and you can set an automatic cooling time. If not, you need to cool the eggs down manually by taking them out of the incubator. The cooling temperature should not be shockingly different – a difference of 2 to 5 degrees Celsius will do.
Developing eggs keep their own temperature when exposed. That is how a hen tells the difference between a developing and a dead egg. When the hen gets off the nest to eat and drink, the dead eggs will go cold almost instantaneously. The hen will then get rid of the dead eggs from the nest.
You also need to start candling the eggs on Day 7 at the latest. Candling will show you which eggs are developing and which are not. If an egg does not show any signs of development on Day 7, it will not hatch. It is essential to take out any eggs which stop developing as they will start to decompose if left in the incubator. From Day 7 onward you should continue candling on a regular basis. It’s not necessary to do it every day, as you won’t see any significant progress on day-to-day basis, but it is a good practice to do it every third or fourth day. Weighing and candling combined are usually good indicators if the egg is developing or not.
From Day 7 up to Day 19 tasks should continue in a routine manner: daily cooling, weighing, and occasional candling.
Day 19 marks the next important stage. You need to stop turning the eggs and cooling them, and lay out a hatching mat in the incubator (so the chicks won’t slip on the incubator’s surface on their first day of life). You also need to increase the humidity inside up to at least 65%. When using the Brinsea Mini II Incubator you can achieve this by filling up the second water container inside.
At some point during that period the eggs will start wiggling: the chicks will be moving around the egg to position themselves perfectly to hatch out. You might feel the temptation to check on the eggs often, but at this time it is best to leave them be and inspect the eggs every 6 hours or so.
Around Day 20 the chicks should peck out a small hole in their eggshells to catch their first breath of fresh air. It’s best to leave them be. Do not help them by making the hole bigger or breaking the shell apart. They will do it themselves in their own time. In that time they will also consume all the nutrients in their eggshells, so it is vital for them to stay inside for the time being.
Most of the chicken breeds hatch on Day 21 with only a handful of breeds hatching on Day 20 or 22. Do not help the chicks in hatching, they should be able to do it themselves – it’s their first test of strength. Only give a helping hand when a chick is really late (in comparison with its companions in the incubator) and/or the eggshell is really thick and the chick is evidently struggling to get out for a prolonged period of time.
Once the chicks hatch out, leave them in the incubator for another 24 hours. They should be well fed having eaten all the nutrients from their eggs. Apart from that, the incubator provides them with the optimal temperature and humidity.
Now watch our eggcellent egg hatching video to see how easy it is to hatch chicks!
Someone once said that you can train anything that has a brain that connects to a stomach, and that goes for hamsters as well. They are actually very clever little creatures and probably capable of more than you think – like learning tricks for example!
Training your hamster is a wonderful way to vary your daily playtime and spend time together, and it’s something that both stimulates your pet mentally and creates a strong bond between the two of you. It should be said though that this training takes a lot of time and patience, and every hamster is different, so there’s never a guarantee that your hamster will learn these specific tricks, or any tricks at all.
As with most pets there are advantages of getting a young hamster when it comes to training and getting the hamster used to your and your family, as they have not yet developed habits and routines that can be difficult to break. This is not to say you can’t teach an old hamster new tricks, but it will take much longer to train him or her.
The most important thing is that your hamster feels comfortable around you, and that your smell and your voice has a positive association. Try to always stay calm around your hamster, and avoid raising your voice, as that can cause unnecessary stress. Spend a good few weeks together with your hamster before you move on to tricks, so you know that you can trust each other!
TREATS Now you need treats. Maybe you already know what your hamster’s favorite is, but if you don’t, we recommend sunflower seeds. They are however very fatty, so make sure that you limit the intake to training sessions or special occasions. You can also try with small pieces of chopped vegetables like carrots or broccoli.
STAND Start with an easy trick, a good first one is ”Stand”. Hold the treat in front of the hamster just over its head so that the hamster can see it but not reach it. As you do this, use your command ”Stand”. Your hamster will instinctively stand up to get closer to the treat.When the hamster stands, give the treat and verbal praise. Only give the treat if the hamster stands, as they otherwise won’t understand why they are being rewarded. If you hamster doesn’t stand it might be because he or she is not hungry at that moment, or distracted by something else going on in the room. Try again a bit later.Repeat this a few times a day for a week or two, until your hamster stands even when you don’t have a treat in your hand. Stick to one command at the time, and still always reward the hamster for standing.
JUMP Now you can move on to another trick. Use the ”stand” command, and then move the treat up and forward and say ”jump”. If the hamster tries to jump, praise him or her and give the treat.If your hamster is happy to jump you can add a hoop into the mix. Hold some sort of hoop between the hamster and a treat, so that they have to move through the hoop to get to it. As they go though, say ”hoop” or ”jump through the hoop”. Start with the hoop touching the ground, and then gradually lift it if you hamster seems to enjoy the game.
ROLL OVER Another fun and easy trick is ”roll over”. All you need to do is to carefully place the seed on your hamster’s back and ask him or her to roll over. If they do it, reward with the seed. After a while the hamster will roll over even without you putting the seed on their back.
Be consistent with the training, and let it take time, but it doesn’t hurt to shake up the routine every now and then to keep things interesting. Some tricks are easier than others, and all hamsters are different, so be patient and do not push your pet or get frustrated if it’s taking longer than you expected.
If both you and your hamster enjoy the training, there is really no limit as to how much you can teach your pet. You can use toys or build obstacle courses; make up the tricks as you go along and show off to friends and family!
Nathalie is the owner of the Instagram account My Backyard Paradise. Together with her husband and their three teenage daughters she runs her own ‘mini backyard farm’ in Belgium. The beautiful pictures she shares with her Instagram followers show that this truly is a backyard paradise. In June 2018 Nathalie decided to extend her mini farm with three ex-battery hens. Follow their journey to recovery in the two-part photo diary she kept for us.
A laying hen, one that can lay up to 300 eggs a year, is what we were missing. During autumn, our purebred chickens don’t lay any eggs for a long time. They instead take spend their time and energy renewing their plumage and waiting for the days to get longer again. Last year we didn’t have any eggs for over 3 months despite having more than ten hens! We decided that if we wanted fresh eggs during autumn, we had to buy laying hens.
We always buy our new chickens from a smaller trader or a hobby breeder, so we can actually see the chickens and know they have access to grass, clean water and decent housing. But we like the idea of rescuing a few laying hens destined for slaughter by giving them a good life in our garden. The life of battery hens ends after just sixteen months. Their bodies need time to recover and their egg production will stop. This means a loss for the industry. Besides that, after each moult the egg production will drop, and the industry does not accept that!
So that’s what we did. First thing to do was find a place where you can rescue commercial laying hens from slaughter. The first option we came across was www.redeenlegkip.be (‘Save a battery hen’), a Belgian website where you can buy or adopt a laying hen. If you decide to adopt a hen, you’ll pay a monthly contribution of €5 and get 24 egg per month in return. When you adopt or buy a chicken, the organization ensures the chickens are collected from the companies and given appropriate first aid. However, we wanted to experience this ourselves. After continuing my search, I came across another Belgian website www.lespoulesheureuses.org (recently also available in France). They give you the opportunity to collect the chickens yourself, so you’ll know the address and code (the one you can find on the egg) of the company.
We then had to wait for the right weather. The best time to save a laying hen is when you can give her the ideal conditions to recover. They often don’t have many feathers left and have probably never been outside their barn, where the temperature is always at least 18 degrees! They’ve never seen rain and you should also be careful with draught and wind. You don’t want them to get ill, they have experienced more than enough stress already.
On June 16th 2018, it is finally happening. I reserved three Isa Brown chickens from a code 2 company. Code 2 means the eggs from this company are sold as free-range eggs. Sounds good, you might think…
Free-range eggs from the commercial industry come from chickens that only have access to barns. They have perches, nesting boxes and scratching areas with some straw on the floor. There is a maximum of nine chickens per square meter and debeaking is allowed. This is probably not what most of us have in mind when we think of free-range chickens…
My youngest nine-year-old daughter is joining me on my way to pick up the chickens. I tell her in advance that the chickens will be in a bad shape and will look nothing like the chickens we have at home, that she isn’t allowed to pick them up and cuddle them, and that we have to take care of them first. We are not the only ones here today to buy chickens. An older couple buys two chickens and there is someone with a trailer with 50 chicken cages. People keep on coming. We ask a staff member if we can have three chickens. He looks at my daughter first before turning around to get them for us. Of course, we are not allowed in the barns, we’re not even allowed to take a picture. The chickens we get are in a much better condition than the ones the older couple got, ours still have a lot of feathers. Maybe I shouldn’t have taken my daughter with me, to get a more honest impression of the condition of an average laying hen. The man probably had our daughter in mind when he chose our chickens. After paying €3 per chicken, the life these chickens deserve can finally begin. At home everything is ready for them. After driving 10 minutes, my daughter and I look at each other. It’s smelly in the car. And it’s a strange smell, not like normal chicken manure, but a chemical, unnatural smell. The chickens are quiet, I hope they will survive the one hour drive home…
When we get home, we inspect them carefully. They seem numb, or are they frozen with fear? They still have lots of feathers, but they are dull and not shiny like the feathers of a healthy chicken. Their feathers are tangled and the tail feathers don’t look good at all. Their gaze is blank and their comb is very pale. Their toenails are way too long and curly, and there is manure stuck under them. Clearly, they haven’t been able to scratch around that much. The beaks of our chickens have been trimmed. This means the top of the beak has been cut off when they were only ten days old. This is very painful and is done to prevent feather pecking. Chickens do this when they are stressed, for example due to limited foraging opportunities.
It’s time to treat them against parasites such as lice and worms. We use Diatom Earth, a natural product used against all kinds of parasites. They need to be quarantined first. For this, we give them a temporary home in our Eglu Classic from Omlet. It has a 2 meter run and we can easily move it around in the garden so they have access to fresh grass every day. It’s also very easy to clean. We lift the chickens out of their cage and watch carefully how their feet touch the grass for the very first time. They seem surprised and for a few minutes they just stand still, until one hen realizes she can, and is allowed to, move. Slowly but surely, they cautiously start to explore their run. While the children are watching the chickens, I add the first dose of medication to their drinking water. We use Avimite, a product against lice and mites. The first week they need this on a daily basis, then weekly for the next five weeks. They soon find their water and it looks like they haven’t had any for days. Usually we don’t feed our chickens layers pellets so I had to buy them, because this is the only thing our new chickens have ever had. In the evening we help the chickens into their Eglu where they can safely spend the night.
When I open the coop the next morning they don’t want to come out. After an hour we get them out of their coop and notice they have already laid three eggs, one in the nesting box and two on the roosting bars. Because of the medication, we cannot eat their eggs for the next few weeks. Sad, but we just don’t want to take any risk. We have to discard them.
The rest of the day the chickens sit outside. They eat clover and grass for the first time and seem to realize this is not bad at all. The second and third night we have to help them into their Eglu, but from then on they finally realize that this is their new home. In the morning they come outside when I open the door and after a few days they only use the nest box to lay their eggs. Their eyes are getting brighter and they start to establish the pecking order. They are more lively than the first few days, but still nothing compared to our other chickens. Although they aren’t afraid anymore when we come near, they don’t allow us to touch them. This is hard for the children who want to cuddle them to make them forget their past. But the chickens first have to get used to their new environment, to us, and to their new life.
We only have to repeat the red mite treatment once a week now and we can start with the deworming. This treatment, which they need five days in a row, can also be added to their drinking water. The hens give us two to three eggs every day. It’s now time to gradually change their diet. They are used to their new home, they’re not scared anymore when we come near or when our dog wants to sniff at them. They clearly defined their pecking order. We want the very best for our animals, and this also includes a rich and varied diet. Our chickens get Garvo but our 3 laying hens need something extra, a mineral and vitamin boost. We give them Alfamix, a very rich grain mixture with pellets and amphipods. But when I mix this with their layer pellets, I notice that they only eat their pellets and not the new food. They do eat a lot of grass and clover. Slowly but surely their combs are getting redder.
During the weekend, our youngest daughter decides it is time for them to free range in the garden. They love it, and really enjoy the dust baths. But trying to get them back into their Eglu is less enjoyable. Finally they decide to go back into their home. Our daughter has learnt that they are not ready to discover the great outdoors just yet…
Come back in a couple of weeks time to read part two of the diary!
Cats and dogs (and humans) make noises to show others what they feel, want or really don’t like. Rabbits do as well, but they mainly use body language to communicate with other rabbits, and with us. You will most likely not be able to understand everything your rabbit is trying to tell you, but by learning a few things about rabbit body language, you’ll be able to make life a little bit better for your pet.
Lost of postures and vocalisations can mean several things depending on the situation, and can differ somewhat from rabbit to rabbit. It is therefore important to be able to take in accompanying signals that help you see what’s going on.
Rabbits are relatively quiet animals, but they do make a few noises that you’ll be able to differentiate from each other. Here are a few of them: Growling – A short barking growl is a sign of aggression, and indicates that you, or something else close by, is threatening the rabbit.
Screaming – If the rabbit lets out loud, piercing screams he or she is likely to be very scared or experiencing a lot of pain.
Low grunting & grinding of teeth – This is the rabbit equivalent of a cat’s purring, and means that the rabbit is content and relaxed.
Loud teeth grinding & chattering – If the grinding however changes into louder teeth chattering, the rabbit is most likely in a lot of pain.
Thumping – Rabbits drum their feet against the ground when they are afraid or threatened, or want to make others aware of what is going on. Thanks to the rabbit’s strong hind legs, this can be surprisingly loud.
EARS, EYES & NOSE
Rabbits use their ears to tune into what’s going on around them, and they can often be a good indicator of how your rabbit is feeling. If the ears are stood up and are twitching, your rabbit is listening out for something. If they are confident it’s not dangerous, or not particularly interesting, they might only raise one ear. When they are relaxed, the ears will rest against the body, normally along the back.
Rabbits have very expressive eyes, and as they are prey animals, they will only fully close them when they are extremely comfortable and feel completely safe. So if you find your rabbits sleeping with their eyes closed, it is a clear sign that they feel at home. Eyes wide open combined with fluffed up fur and growling indicate fear. The rabbit’s inner eyelids might also protrude and become visible if he or she is uncomfortable.
The nose is also a good indicator how the rabbit is feeling and how interested they are in what is going on around them. The faster the wiggling of the nose, the more attentive or agitated the rabbit is. Rabbits tend to rub their noses in a way to show affection, so if you find your rabbit rubbing their nose on you it’s a sign that they really like you. If they also throw in a little lick, you’re properly loved!
The Classic – Rabbit is sat with weight on the bottom, forelegs straightened and ears standing up. He or she is checking to see what’s going on.
Head on the ground – If the rabbit rests its head on the ground, he or she is showing submission, and might want to be petted or groomed. In different circumstances it can also mean that they want to be left alone, so make sure to take in other signals.
The Ball – Rabbit is sat rolled up with legs tucked, normally with ears resting against the body. He or she is sleeping or napping. Rabbits can sleep with their eyes open, but prefer to keep them closed if they feel comfortable and safe enough.
Belly on the ground – The rabbit is lying on its belly with legs stretched out behind or maybe to the side of the body, with the head either up or resting on the ground. The rabbit is resting, and is relaxed. The further the legs are stretched behind the body, the more comfortable the rabbit is.
Grooming – If the rabbit is grooming itself when you are around it can be seen as a sign that he or she trusts you. Rabbits are prey animals, and will never take their eyes off what they think might be an intruder.
Nose nudge – This can either mean “leave me alone” or “you’re in my way”. It is however also a sign of trust, as you aren’t seen as a threat to the rabbit.
Circling – Sometimes the rabbit starts running around your feet when you’re in the run with him or her. This is a mating ritual, and a sign that he or she is in love with you.
Territorial behaviour – If you have got a new hutch or run, the rabbit will have to make sure that its territory is marked. Rabbits do this by rubbing scent glands on their necks against objects, spraying urine and scattering their dropping around the place. This behaviour normally stops once the rabbit feels at home.
Nest building – If you notice that your female rabbit starts pulling out hair from the fur, and collects hay in a specific place in the hutch, it’s likely that she is building a nest. Rabbits sometimes have false pregnancies, but if you think that there is a possibility that your rabbit might be pregnant, it’s worth contacting your vet.
The bunny flop – Rabbit is rolling on its back with the legs in the air. This is a sign that the rabbit is really happy and relaxed, and the movement can sometimes be combined with a binky, which means that the bunny is running around and dancing madly, often jumping up in the air out of pure happiness.
In this post we’re introducing Esme, the latest addition to the Omlet HQ Pet family. This new puppy colleague has reminded us all of the crazy things we say to or about our dogs. Only truly mad dog parents will be guilty of saying these things…and also happily admit to it. If you think of someone while reading these, make sure you name and shame them on social media using #OmletPets.
“Can I work from home today?”
“My dog gets lonely…”
“Oh, don’t worry the dog will clean it up…”
“Go do wee-wees, go on”
“Sorry I’m late, my dog was -”
“Oh my God, my dog did the cutest thing this morning…”
A lot of chicken keepers are worried about their chickens during cold winter days. Chickens are usually well adapted to the cold and as long as their coop is dry on the inside, they feel happy and warm in the Eglu.
Of course there are a few things to look out for and prepare for during the winter, so we have spoken to Stefanie, who is going through her second winter with the chickens in their Eglu Cube this year. She tells us about the preparations and adaptations she makes for when the weather gets icy and how she and her chickens get through the season.
Omlet: How long have you been keeping chickens and how many have you got?
Stefanie: We have been keeping six chickens since February 2018.
Omlet: What is your favourite thing about keeping chickens?
Stefanie: I love that we have our own, freshly laid eggs every morning.
Omlet: You live in an area of Germany that usually gets very cold and snowy in winter. How cold can it get in winter and how much snow do you have at the moment?
Stefanie: We live in Lohberg, in the south of Germany. The temperatures are usually between -5 and -15 degrees centigrade in winter (5f), so it does get very cold here. We currently have around 50cm of snow, which is normal for this time of year.
Omlet: What changes did you make to the Eglu Cube to get it ready for winter?
Omlet: Do you change the daily food and water routine during the winter?
Stefanie: We make sure to feed them more regularly and keep an eye on them to make sure they definitely eat enough. They eat a lot of fresh lettuce, and I like to give them warm food to help them keep warm. Keeping an eye on the water is extremely important as it easily freezes.
Omlet: Do the chickens use the run more or less in the winter than they do the rest of the year and do your chickens like snow?
Stefanie: My chickens don’t like snow at all, so that’s why they mainly keep to the covered areas of their run, where it’s dry.
Omlet: Do your chickens lay eggs in the winter?
Stefanie: Our six girls don’t lay as much as they usually do during other times of the year, but even though we have a lot of snow, we still get around two to three eggs every day.
Omlet: Do you add a light source to your coop?
Stefanie: Yes, we do have a light in the coop as it gets dark very early these days.
Omlet: As chickens love scratching and foraging for food, do you give them some other entertainment when it’s snowy and icy?
Stefanie: Yes, we tend to spread some corn in the covered areas of their run. This keeps them entertained and offers them a chance to scratch naturally.
These are great ideas to keep your chickens happy and healthy during the winter. Have a look at our video of top tips for chicken keeping in winter:
On a cold winter’s day, when there’s a heavy frost or a thick blanket of snow do you ever wonder how your chickens manage without central heating and a mug of cocoa? It’s natural to worry if your hens will be comfortable when the temperature dips below freezing.
Unsurprisingly, chickens will look for shelter when the weather’s bad so the first thing you can do to keep your chickens cosy is make sure they have a winter proof chicken coop. In this respect choosing the right chicken coop is similar to choosing your own house. You wouldn’t want drafty windows and doors, a leaky roof, and paper thin walls – and neither do your chickens. Many coops that are bought are fine during the summer, but unfortunately when winter comes they can leave their occupants shivering.We set about testing two very different chicken coops over the course of 3 nights in the Bavarian Forest in Germany. A place that gets more than its fair share of snow and ice.
The first chicken coop was typical of the type sold all over the internet. On first impressions everything fits together well and it’s attractively painted, it comes with a roosting bar and a nesting box and a run. It appears that this is a perfectly good chicken coop. However, on closer inspection it’s worrying to find that large sections of the wooden panels are only 5mm thick. There’s no insulation and nothing in the instructions regarding the suitability of the coop for year round use.
The second coop was the Eglu Cube by Omlet. This chicken coop is part of the Eglu range which all feature a twin walled construction providing an insulating layer all round the coop. Similar to the way ice chests are made, it feels extremely robust and heavy duty. You could say it’s agricultural quality in a hobby chicken coop. It looks the part – but would the Eglu keep the cold out and the warm in?
Identical digital thermometers were placed inside the Eglu and the wooden coop which would take readings both inside and outside the coops during the night. Cameras were also placed inside the coops to record the chickens. After the chickens went to bed the front doors were closed, in fact the Eglu Cube came complete with a rather fancy Automatic Chicken Coop door (coming soon) which gently closed behind the last chicken.
As it got dark the outside temperature dropped to -3.8℃. While it was getting colder outside, it was getting warmer in the Eglu Cube. Around an hour after the chickens had gone to roost the temperature inside the Eglu Cube was 8.3℃ and it stayed there all night. That’s a plus 12℃ temperature difference.
Unfortunately it was not as cosy in the wooden house. As the temperature outside dropped so too did the temperature inside the wooden coop. At 11pm it was -2℃ inside the coop. That’s only 1℃ warmer than the outside temperature. In fact the inside of the wooden coop stayed below zero for nearly the whole night, warming to just above zero by 7am.
If it was freezing inside you might be wondering how on earth the chickens survived. Chickens, as with all other warm blooded animals, have temperature-regulating mechanisms to keep their body temperature at a constant level (around 41-45℃ in a healthy adult hen), so they can cope with a certain amount of cold. Just like wild birds, chickens will fluff up their feathers when it gets cold; this traps a layer of air which insulates the chickens against the cold. This is why it’s so important that chickens don’t get wet during cold weather, as this prevents them from being able to fluff their feathers up. In addition a drafty coop will make it hard for them to trap this layer of warm air too.
They will also tuck their head under their wings and huddle together with their coop companions to keep themselves warm. On the in coop camera recording you could clearly see how the chickens select a roosting place, and then fluff up their feathers.
So if the chickens in the wooden coop were able to keep themselves warm even though it was freezing inside there’s nothing to worry about? Not quite, a coop that’s not insulated or draughty will place extra demands on your chickens because of the heat being lost. Chickens in a cold coop will have to increase their metabolism to turn food and fat reserves into heat at a faster rate than hens in a cosy coop. If the heat loss is extreme, or a chicken is not fully fit then over the course of several cold nights there is a risk that all the energy reserves are used up resulting in the chicken being unable to keep it’s body temperature high enough with potentially fatal consequences.
What this test shows is that properly insulated, winter ready chicken coop can make all the difference between a cosy night in the coop and one spent shivering to keep warm. As an added bonus hens that use up less energy keeping warm are more likely to keep laying.
Jo Page is a veterinary nurse who also runs the blog My Little Country Lifestyle, where she shares stories from her countryside life in the South West of England. Jo recently upgraded her old wooden chicken coop for an Eglu Go UP, and has written about her first weeks with the new coop:
“As a veterinary nurse I take the welfare of all my animals very seriously. As humans we have bred animals and birds to suit our wants and needs and on occasion this does mean they aren’t able to survive or thrive without human intervention.
The hens are also not ‘only a chicken’ they are birds I have chosen to keep for the benefit of fresh eggs and it is my responsibility to ensure their needs are met.
The Eglu Go UP is worlds away from the make shift house they had when we moved and much more superior to the coop and run at our previous house. Both were predominately made of wood and we have already had to dispose of one chicken house due to a red mite infestation which we could not clear. Red mite bite the chickens at dawn and dusk, can make them anaemic and effect egg production. They thrive in damp woody environments so traditional wooden chicken coops are a breeding haven for them.”
Studies have shown that having a pet can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, relieve stress, increase fitness levels and boost overall happiness and wellbeing.
Read our top ten benefits of owning a pet
They keep you fit
Dogs need regular, daily walks in order to stay happy and healthy, and so do we. On an average 30 minute dog walk you can burn between 100 and 200 calories!
They lower your stress levels
Life can be stressful and high levels of anxiety can lead to numerous health problems. Pets can help us to relax. Stroking your cat or simply watching your chickens in the garden can make your worries melt away
They make sure you’re never lonely
If you live alone, or your partner works different shift patterns to you, it can get very lonely at home – unless you have a pet! They make great companions – they’ll always be waiting for you to come home.
They can lower your cholesterol Levels
Reports have shown that people who own pets–and men, in particular–have significantly lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels than those who don’t have pets.
They can lower your blood pressure
It has been suggested that owning a pet decreases your blood pressure. The reduction in blood pressure could, in turn, lower risk of stroke and heart disease.
They can help you make friends
The pet owner community is incredibly friendly – you’ll often find that people will stop to talk to you about your dog during a walk. Having a pet is a great way to meet new people.
They can teach children responsibilities
Having a pet in the home is a great way for children to learn valuable life lessons in a fun, rewarding way. They get to take on the daily responsibility of feeding, exercising and caring for their animal.
They can boost your mental wellbeing.
Studies have found that pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets and ownership can reduce stress and anxiety levels. Playing with your pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.
They help you establish a daily routine
The responsibilities that come with owning a pet can give your day purpose, reward and a sense of achievement. Regular routines are said to help forge discipline, help energy management and support mental space.
And last but not least, they will give you unconditional love
However bad your day’s been, you’ll have someone who depends on you to shower you with affection. The British Medical Journal believes the emotional bond between owner and pet can be as intense as that in many human relationships.
January is historically the month to set yourself some achievable goals for the year ahead. We’ve put together some ideas for creating New Year Resolutions for you and your pet!
No more quick walks around the block after dinner. 2019 is all about getting fit with your pet. Both you and your pet will reap the rewards both physically and mentally. On an average 30 minute dog walk you can burn between 100 and 200 calories.
Try a new activity with your pet
From hiking to kayaking, hitting the waves to joining a pet exercise class, it’s easier than ever for people to incorporate their pet into a new pastime. These new activities will help you burn lots of calories! A 30 minute walk on the beach will burn approximately 150 calories and you could expect to burn 220 calories on a 30 minute hike.
Incorporate More Playtime into Your Routine
Dogs love to play games and Cats love the thrill of chasing a toy; let’s just not tell them it’s exercise! Enjoy spending more time playing with your pets this year. A fun 20 minute tug of war would see you burn 50 calories.
Groom Your Pet Every Day
Brushing your pet helps to remove excess fur from their coat which reduces the amount you find on your clothes and furniture. It also helps distribute oils from the skin to the fur, to keep their coat healthy and shiny. Grooming an average sized dog burns 200 calories.
Teach an Old Dog a New Trick
Studies show that mental stimulation can help reduce cognitive deterioration in older animals. By keeping your senior pet’s brain active, it can actually make it healthier.
Update your Pet’s ID Info
Over the course of a year, a lot can change — people move, get new phone numbers, and forget to update their pet’s tags. Don’t wait — update their tags and microchips now.
Make new Friends
Visit your park and get to know other pet owners! It’s easier that you think!
Maintain a healthy diet
Lead a healthy life with a balanced diet and not too many treats.
Most of all; enjoy spending time with your wonderful pets!