You can buy chickens when they are still chicks, or you can choose ‘point of lay’ hens (also known as started pullets). These are ready-to-go birds that are about to begin laying eggs, and they offer the easiest entry into the wonderful world of chicken keeping.
If you choose to buy chicks or hatch fertilized eggs laid by your own hens, you will have to care for the young birds for the five months before they start laying. They are extremely cute but delicate little things, and easy prey for cats, rats and other creatures that wouldn’t attempt to attack a full sized hen. You will also need to keep them warm, which means investing in special equipment.
Photo by Andrea Lightfoot on Unsplash
So, if you are simply keeping chickens for fresh eggs, you should start with adult birds rather than chicks.
Why buying point-of-lay hens?
This is the entry point for most people who are new to keeping chickens. By checking availability in your local area, you will be able to source birds close to home. The advantages of choosing these older birds pretty much outweigh all other options, and the only reason you would opt for buying or hatching chicks is if you want to look after small birds. For many people, this is a very rewarding activity, but for someone who just wants to look after laying hens, started pullets are the way forward.
Why keeping ex-barn hens?
Another great way to stock your coop is with rescued chickens. Intensively reared hens kept in barns are judged to be past their prime after a year and a half, even though they still have a good 18 months of laying ahead of them. For the majority, this is the end of the road. However, charities such as the Animal Place in California relocate these hens and give them new homes.
All ex-barn hens have great charm and personality. They tend to look rather bedraggled and sad when first rescued from their imprisonment, but with a bit of TLC they will blossom as impressively as the Ugly Duckling!
What do I need to know about buying chicks?
You need to be sure that you buy baby hens and not cockerels. There are no external clues as to what sex a chick is, and any stock sold sight unseen (or ‘straight run’) will be a 50/50 mix of male and female birds. You need the chickens to be sexed to ensure you get hens. If this is not possible, wait for started pullets to become available.
Chicks need special accommodation for the first few weeks, and they can’t simply be kept in a standard coop and run. You can buy brooder boxes to keep them, or you can improvise one using a cardboard box or plastic bin with holes in the side. The important thing is to keep the birds warm and protect them from drafts while ensuring good ventilation.
After transferring your chicks to their brooder, pay close attention to how they behave. If they’re crowded together directly under or adjacent to the heat source, they’re cold. Lower the heat source closer to them or add another. If, on the other hand, they shy away from it, they’re too hot. In this case, the heater or bulb will need to be moved further away.
What do I need to know about chicken brooders?
You will need to provide 6 square inches (39 square cm) per chick in the brooder. Once they are five weeks old they can be moved to a coop and run, where they will need at least two square feet (0.19 square meters) per bird. You can buy brooder boxes to keep chicks in, or can make one yourself using a cardboard box or plastic bin with holes in the side. The important thing is to keep the birds warm and protect them from drafts, while ensuring good ventilation.
The chicks need to be kept in a temperature of 35C (95F) in their first week. The heat should be reduced slightly each week until you’ve reached room temperature. A heater designed for coops and aviaries is the best option. A red heat bulb is another option (not a white one – these produce glare that keeps chicks awake at night and tends to make them irritable and prone to pecking). Standard light bulbs will not do the job.
Very young chicks will need to have their water changed at least twice a day, as they have the ability of turning all liquids to messy soups within a few hours! They also need their bedding changed at least once a week. A chicken wire covering for the top of the brooder is recommended, too. Chicks can easily ‘fly the nest’ if the sides of the brooder are less than 1’5″ high.
Chicks can spend a little time outdoors when they’ve reached two weeks. A large wire cage or some other type of portable enclosure can be placed outside for a few hours a day – but only if it’s at least 18C (65F) and not too windy, and dry. The birds will need food, water and shade, and shouldn’t be left alone for very long. Predators are everywhere when you’re a small chick!
Once they’ve reached four to five weeks, the chicks can be moved permanently into the outdoor chicken run.
Do I want to breed my own chickens?
Another way of keeping chickens is to keep the flock refreshed by hatching eggs from their own chickens. The easiest way of raising chickens is to let nature take its course. All you have to do is provide a nest box for a broody hen. She will provide the right conditions for hatching eggs (although she will not be able to cope with more than a dozen at a time, or fewer with smaller breeds), warming and turning them as necessary. An incubator is the alternative hatching method.
A cockerel will do everything in his power to tread the hens in his flock and fertilize the eggs. If a chicken is broody, she will then sit on the eggs for 21 days (the incubation period), and with a bit of luck these eggs will then hatch.
Rearing chicks is a great hobby, but you need to be dedicated to the job. If all you want is fresh eggs and a flock of healthy and happy adult chickens wait for point-of-lay birds to become available. Also, contacting a local hatchery for more information is always a good move.
This entry was posted in Chickens on February 28th, 2021 by alisa.deluca
Older rabbits need a little extra care. But when exactly is a bunny ‘old’? It very much depends on the breed. Larger rabbits have shorter lifespans than smaller ones, which means they become senior rabbits sooner than medium and small breeds.
At what age is a rabbit considered old?
As a general rule of thumb, small rabbit breeds, which live around 12 years, are seniors when they reach 8. Medium-sized rabbit breeds live up to 10 years and can be considered senior at 6 years. The large rabbit breeds have much shorter lifespans – just 4 to 7 years – and reach old age at 4.
The shortest-lived rabbit breeds are like small pets such as gerbils, hamsters and rats, in that they only have a few months of senior status at the end of their lives.
How do you take care of an old rabbit?
Here’s how to make sure those senior rabbit years are as healthy and happy as possible.
- Make sure you give them the right food. Rabbit care is largely about food, and a healthy diet is essential throughout a rabbit’s life. As your bunny gets older, you should consider buying specially formulated pellets or nuggets. There are several different brands, and they contain the optimal balance of vitamins and minerals for aging rabbits. Older rabbits can’t gain too much weight – or, indeed, lose weight – during this dietary transition, so you should weigh them regularly to maintain the correct weight. In addition to the special pellets, senior rabbits should be fed lots of hay and fresh foods as usual.
- Don’t add supplements to your rabbit’s diet. Rabbits get everything they need from a diet of hay, fresh food and appropriate pellets. Extra calcium, for example, can cause digestive problems or stones in the urinary tract.
- Make sure your bunny gets plenty of exercise. Getting old doesn’t mean sitting around all day – rabbits of all ages need to move around to stay happy and healthy. A run will naturally allow your bunnies to hop, skip and jump around. A tunnel layout such as Omlet’s Zippi system is nothing short of essential. These run layouts keep your rabbit both mentally and physically sharp, which is all part of healthy old age. You can use rubber-backed mats on steep or slippery surfaces, to enable the rabbit to get a better grip.
- Provide quiet spaces. Senior rabbits are less active than young bunnies and appreciate a quiet space away from the action. A cozy corner in the hutch will keep a tired rabbit happy with lots of soft bedding. Incorporating ‘safe spaces’ in your run helps too.
- Keep the hutch lined with soft bedding. Senior rabbits can develop pressure points and sores or a foot condition called pododermatitis. This is caused by hard surfaces or wire meshing on the floor of a run. Good senior rabbit care means looking after sore feet!
- Keep bunny claws clipped. Senior rabbits tend to move around less, and as a result their claws can soon become very long. Regular clipping is required. If you’re not comfortable performing this, ask your vet for help.
- Provide shelter from the elements. In addition to that cozy corner in the rabbit’s hutch, some weatherproofing to shield your aging bunny from the elements will increase the comfort factor, whatever the weather. A Zippi Rabbit Run Weather Protection cover is the perfect way of keeping the worst of the weather at bay.
- Carry out regular health checks. Older rabbits are prone to dental diseases and other health problems. If your bunny loses its appetite, loses weight, salivates, produces fewer droppings or has swellings around the mouth, it could be a sign of dental problems. Ask your vet to perform a thorough dental examination. Arthritis can be an issue, too, and a bunny who has slowed down may benefit from anti-inflammatory drugs. Older rabbits may also soil their back legs, and this can cause skin problems or fly infestation. Again, the vet will be able to prescribe treatments to address all aspects of your rabbit’s health.
- Reduce obstacles. A rim around a litter tray, or a tunnel that rabbits have to hop over to get to the other side of the run, can cause problems in older rabbits who can no longer hop over things. Rearranging the run furniture and providing easy access to litter trays indoors is the answer.
- Take your bunny for regular check-ups. The best way of staying on top of problems is prevention. A vet will be able to spot problems before they become debilitating and will usually be able to offer remedies and advice.
Getting old is part of life. A healthy rabbit will take it in their stride, though, as long as you pay attention to the little details. Staying on top of little red flags will ensure your rabbit will continue to live a happy life .
This entry was posted in Rabbits on February 22nd, 2021 by alisa.deluca
Long walks with your dog help you to relax and share an intimate moment with your pet and allow you to recharge your batteries. However, if the weather is grey, and a long, cold walk isn’t appealing, we have a new activity for you! Fun and playful, Doga, a trendy, new discipline, will allow you to spend quality time with your dog and help you both disconnect from the world.
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels
Involving your pet in your yoga activities can help you develop your yoga practice but it can also be an excellent entertaining and fun way to bond with your pet.
What is Doga? Do you need specific materials?
You have probably already heard of Yoga. This relaxing activity allows the person to be refocused on themselves and their body. Practiced alone or in yoga studios, this activity is very popular nowadays and brings many benefits.
Combine the word yoga with the word dog and you get the word: Doga. This activity was born in the United States in the early 2000’s and has spread quickly to all the big cities, particularly in Asia. Unfortunately, Doga is still very little known and there are no “official” places to practice this activity in groups.
It’s not about just finding anything to engage with your dog. Doga is, above all, a shared moment between you and your pet where positions can be adapted to involve your dog and assist owner and pet bonding.
No specific equipment is required. You just need a Yoga mat and a comfortable outfit which allows easy movements. Doga can be practiced outside, but if the weather is grey, it’s just as fun indoors! If trying it indoors, choose a specific room for your Doga sessions. The routine gives your pet confidence, he will quickly associate the Yoga mat and the room and will be happy to spend a moment of relaxation just with you.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels
The benefits of Doga
Doga largely incorporates the benefits of Yoga: relaxation, concentration, meditation, refocusing on yourself… However, this activity which is done jointly with your dog, brings new advantages.
Doga helps reduce stress
Your dog can often tell when you are stressed, picking up on particular behaviors which in turn affects their mood too. Doga is a specific moment when you take time to breathe, to relax, and your dog will destress with you.
There are no precise rules in Doga and for it to be relaxing for your dog, he or she must be able to remain free to move. If your dog wants to participate in the session and be active with you all the better, but if he prefers to stay by your side without moving, don’t force him. The Yoga session will do you good and your dog will feel it, and relax with you.
Doga encourages master/dog communication
You must guide your dog throughout the session. It is necessary that you lead the pace in order to comfort your dog and give him a feeling of security. To make your dog feel reassured, work on your breathing and perform simple exercises. Repetition is the key to a successful session with your dog. He needs to soak up the movements. Show him how to do it, encourage him but as said previously never force him.
By adding this new activity to your schedule, it will be an opportunity for you to enjoy your dog’s company while strengthening your complicity.
Thanks to all these benefits, this practice can help your dog sleep better. Just like human beings, your dog dreams. These dreams often relate to the moments experienced during the day. By sharing a calm activity without outside noise, your dog’s nights will be less hectic.
Is Doga suitable for all dogs?
Doga is made for all types of dogs: young, old, large, small, restless, calm. This activity should not be seen as a way to educate your dog but as a moment of sharing. Rewards shouldn’t be necessary, as your dog will enjoy the moment with you.
Doga can be especially useful for slightly older dogs or dogs that have been injured. Stretching, if done right, and massages can have real positive impacts on your dog’s body.
The objective of Doga is to have fun and have a good time. There are no rules and Doga should not be an activity to be taken seriously. This is why this practice is open to all types of dog: the dog is not forced into anything. In the worst case, you will end your session all alone, relaxed and ready to cuddle your pooch.
How to practice Doga?
There are several books that tell you how to practice yoga with your dog. The positions are detailed and the authors explain the benefits of such a practice:
You can also find many videos on the internet and YouTube to help you train with your dog.
Watch the Video on Youtube
It is essential to spend time with your dog so that he can develop to his full potential. Just doing one yoga session won’t really benefit your relationship with him. If you establish this activity as a routine not only for you but also for your pet, you may well be surprised at the benefits you can derive from it.
In addition to this fun activity, do not forget that the well-being of your dog depends on a balanced diet, daily walks and special attention to his needs.
This entry was posted in Dogs on February 19th, 2021 by alisa.deluca
Whether you’re a beginner or experienced chicken keeper, we have put together a list of 10 essential products you should consider having to hand if you decide to keep chickens in your backyard.
Image by Xuân Tuấn Anh Đặng from Pixabay
Certain accessories and equipment are essential to keep your chickens safe and healthy.
The products to have on your shelves
- Diatomaceous earth: a must! Diatomaceous earth is a natural and completely organic product which can be sprinkled in the chicken house to prevent the proliferation of red mites. You can also treat your chickens by mixing it with their feed, or dusting them with the powder and incorporating it into their dust bath.
- A coop disinfectant. The shelter, equipment and accessories of your chickens must be cleaned regularly to keep their home hygienic and healthy. Use a pet safe disinfectant, like Battles.
- Cider vinegar has many benefits. A little cider vinegar in your chickens’ water will help to improve their respiratory system, boost their immune system and maintain a healthy digestive system. Warning: do not use cider vinegar in metal drinkers. This breaks down the metal and can create a toxic chemical reaction for your chickens. Want to clean your eggs but water is not enough? Use the cider vinegar by dipping your eggs in it for 10 seconds. They will be impeccable! You can even add cider vinegar to the water before washing your chickens. Finally, clean your drinkers and equipment with apple cider vinegar to remove traces of limestone. Vinegar is a whitener and a very good disinfectant.
- Grit: Having grit on your shelf is essential. Your chickens don’t have teeth, so grit helps your chickens digest the grains and other foods they eat more easily. The ingestion of grit is a physiological need essential for the good health of your flock.
- Food supplements: Chickens eat a lot and tend to peck at the ground in search of small insects, but did you know you can buy dried insects, rich in vitamins and nutrients, to support your chickens’ diet?A chicken eats an average of 120 g of food per day. Food supplements can be great for maintaining your chickens’ health and egg production, and providing them with their daily dose of vitamins. For example, chickens need calcium and phosphorus to produce quality eggs. This is ideal for ex battery chickens. Garlic powder is recognized for its many virtues. Added to the daily feed of your chickens, it will improve their immune system, deworm and eliminate red lice and mites.Did you know that herbs are great for their immune system and that it protects your chickens from infections and intestinal parasites? A herb treat mix will support their health and happiness!
- Vaseline/Petroleum jelly: If your chicken loves going out for a run in winter. It is advisable to coat the comb with petroleum jelly/vaseline to prevent frostbite.
- Scaly leg spray: To prevent unwanted parasite invasions on your chickens and particularly leg scabies, do not hesitate to invest in a scaly leg spray. This form of mange is caused by a mite and can kill your hen. As soon as symptoms appear, growths, yellowish legs, deformation or enlargement of the leg, treat the affected areas immediately.
- Gentian Violet Spray: It is necessary to have a small first aid kit on your shelf in case of small injuries. An antiseptic spray is very effective against small abrasions or wounds from feather pecking.
- Egg boxes: Having chickens is great, having eggs is even better! Keep them safe after collecting them with egg boxes, just like in the supermarket, or stylish Skelters where you can display them proudly in your kitchen, and keep them in date order.
- Rooster Booster Pick-No-More Lotion 4 oz: Rooster Booster Pick-No-More Lotion is an anti-peck product proven to control the problem of aggressive pecking among chickens. It is easy to use and comes supplied in a convenient bottle with applicator tip. Simply squeeze to apply and spread the lotion on the targeted area with the applicator.Pick-No-More Lotion contains 0.54% tea tree oil, 0.52% calendula and 0.35% aloe vera gel.
If you are worried about running out of a product or are unsure of what to buy, please contact our customer service team. They are available from 7am to 2pm Monday – Friday PST and 7am to 5pm EST. You can reach our customer service team at this number: 646-434-1104.
This entry was posted in Chickens on February 16th, 2021 by alisa.deluca
Guinea pigs are small animals that are increasingly finding their place in homes. Affectionate, they will make your children happy. However, in order for them to flourish at their best, it is necessary to take care of your pets by meeting their needs perfectly. The health of your pet depends on vitamins and a specific diet.
Follow our advice to ensure that your guinea pig receives an adequate daily intake of vitamins and stays healthy.
Why should I give my guinea pig vitamin C?
Just like humans, guinea pigs do not synthesize vitamin C (also called ascorbic acid). Due to an old genetic mutation, our favorite little pets can no longer make vitamin C from glucose. The intake of vitamin C in their diet becomes a necessity.
Vitamin C is a molecule that slows down the aging of cells, helps prevent the risk of infections and accelerates healing, therefore, vitamin C intake should not be taken lightly since deficiencies can cause serious health problems in your pet.
The signs of vitamin C deficiency are plentiful and here is what should alert you:
- Your guinea pig is losing weight, does not want to eat or eats differently
- For young guinea pigs, growth inefficiency may be visible
- Your guinea pig’s immune system slows down which can cause many infections. There are also problems with the joints and difficulties for moving. It is important that you are alert to any lesions or sores that may have difficulty healing. If your guinea pig squeals when you pick him up, that’s not a good sign.
Should I give my baby guinea pig vitamin C?
The answer is yes. It is recommended that you give your guinea pig the vitamin from an early age so that it does not suffer from deficiencies.
In addition to vitamin C, which we will focus on in the rest of our article, your guinea pig also needs its dose of vitamin E. Much less mentioned than the previous one, vitamin E is also necessary for maintaining the good health of your pet. If your guinea pig is deficient in vitamin E it may be suffering from muscle problems and this may also be the cause of high mortality in female guinea pigs. This vitamin participates in the production of cells, it therefore has an essential role.
A little tip for vitamin E: Between 3 and 5g of vitamin E should be contained in 100g of food.
Foods rich in vitamin E: Fennel, broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, peppers and oatmeal.
What foods naturally contain vitamin C?
Many fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C. These foods are easily found in the supermarket. It’s even better if they come from your small vegetable garden! Always wash vegetables and fruit before feeding them to your guinea pig. It is important to present them to your pet as a treat, he will appreciate it more. Do not hesitate to vary his diet by offering different vegetables according to the seasons.
Key figures: The daily intake of vitamin C in guinea pigs should be 20 mg / lb. of body weight for an adult guinea pig. This dose can rise to 60 mg / lb. of body weight for a growing guinea pig, a pregnant female or a sick guinea pig. If you want personalized advice for your guinea pig, do not hesitate to ask your vet.
Image by Viola ‘ from Pixabay
Foods rich in Vitamin C suitable for guinea pigs in 150 g portions (be aware, it is not a question of giving 150g of the same vegetable but of varying the plate):
- Horseradish:contains 141 mg.
- Parsley: contains 140 mg.
- Kale: contains 120mg. Be careful, this food should be eaten in moderation since it may cause bloating in your animal, just like other types of cabbage (Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, white cabbage, red cabbage, green cabbage, etc.)
- Fennel: contains 120 mg.
- Red Pepper: contains 126 mg. Red peppers contain more vitamin C than green peppers.
- Broccoli: contains 93 mg.
- Dandelion: contains 58 mg.
- Chicory: contains 24 mg.
- Radishes: contains 23 mg.
- Tomatoes: contains 19 mg. In addition to providing vitamin C, they are rich in water.
- Zucchini: contains 10 mg.
- Celery: contains 7 mg.
- Cucumbers: contains 5 mg.
This list is not exhaustive, but gives you an overview of foo-
ds rich in vitamin C which you might already have at home! We advise you to vary your intake and ask your vet for more information.
Small dietary reminder: Do not feed guinea pigs rhubarb, onions, leeks, chives, garlic, avocado and lettuce (rich in nitrate) and avoid carrots as they are often too sweet.
We often forget it, but grass is also a source of food for guinea pigs as it is a complete food. You can also supplement the diet with leaves of strawberries, raspberries (beware of thorns), mulberries, willows…
Fruits must also be integrated into their diet, but be careful as they are highly concentrated in sugar and should be given in moderation.
Sometimes, despite a varied and balanced diet, vegetables and other plants are not enough. Guinea pig owners are therefore advised to provide them with vitamin C supplements.
How to give vitamins to my guinea pig? In what form should they be favored?
Vitamin C is available in a variety of forms so you should be able to find something to suit your guinea pig’s preferences. Just like humans, some will prefer capsules while others prefer a liquid form.
Image by ivabalk from Pixabay
Liquid form: Ask your vet for advice on the brand you should choose. The vitamin is injected with a syringe. This method is complex because you have to succeed in getting your guinea pig to ingest the desired dose by placing the syringe in the side of the mouth. Avoid putting it face-on or pushing it into his mouth, he could choke. Do not put vitamin C in liquid form in water. Vitamin C is sensitive to light and air, and could break down very quickly. Protect the bottle from light and recap the bottle quickly after use.
Capsules / tablets: This is an effective way to make sure that your guinea pig is getting its daily amount of vitamin C. There are brands on the market that allow you to get the optimal dose. If your guinea pig has difficulty swallowing the tablet. You can hide it in a banana for example, or in other fruits that your guinea pig enjoys.
Powdered: This form of vitamin C should be taken with caution. The powdered sachet, once opened, must be quickly consumed by the guinea pig or the benefits may be lost. Powder on contact with air will simply lose its effectiveness. The powder has a positive though; you can put it on a piece of cucumber or another treat that your pet loves, the vitamin will then be easily ingested.
Vitamins C and E should be supplied throughout the life of your guinea pig. However, avoid overdosing. Indeed, too much vitamin C can also be dangerous for your animal and cause urinary stones. Check with your veterinarian for the exact dose of vitamin C to give your guinea pig, to help him/her stay in great shape to live life happily and healthy.
This entry was posted in Guinea Pigs on February 13th, 2021 by alisa.deluca
First, before we get into the best produce to feed your rabbit, let’s talk about what is the best feeder for your rabbit. Rather than scattering all the food on the ground, the best way to feed your rabbit is to serve the fresh veg and leafy greens in a dispenser. This gives the rabbits something more interesting to interact with. This a healthy way of providing fresh food, as it avoids contact with dirt on the ground and prevents rotting leaves or vegetables being trampled into the ground. It also reduces food wastage and keeps pests away.
A dispenser that attaches neatly to the rabbit’s run, such as Omlet’s Caddi Rabbit Treat Holder is perfect, doubling as a hay feeder. Finding food in a treat holder engages a rabbit’s brain, too, as they actively forage and rummage around for food rather than just hovering up whatever they find on the floor.
What can I feed my bunny?
The list of fruits and vegetables in a rabbit’s diet is long and includes many of the standard items available in grocery shops and supermarkets. All fruit and veg should be washed before serving, and if you can source organic food, all the better. Feed your rabbit its fruit as a treat rather a staple, and the focus should always be on the veggies.
The problem with fruit is that it’s high in sugar, and sugar doesn’t feature heavily in a wild rabbit’s diet, with the exception of a few berries and windfalls nibbled at the end of Summer and shouldn’t be part of their daily diet. Your bunny may be domesticated, but it’s a wild rabbit at heart in terms of health and dietary needs.
Apples, blackberries, grapes, pears, plums, raspberries and strawberries are safe for rabbits, but should only be fed in small amounts – just one-eighth of an apple or pear per rabbit, for example, and just two soft fruits. These should not be offered more than twice a week.
What vegetables can I feed my rabbit?
Photo by Iñigo De la Maza on Unsplash
The list of good veg that rabbits eat includes:
- Brussel Sprouts
- Cabbage – Red, Savoy and Kale
- Carrots and carrot tops (only as a rare treat, though)
- Cauliflower leaves and stalks
- Lettuce (stick to Romaine varieties, as other types can be watery and may cause diarrhea)
- Parsley (just once a week)
- Spinach (just once a week)
- Sweet peppers (green and yellow are best, as the red ones are quite sugary; and never feed them chili peppers!)
- Tomato (only as a rare treat, as they have a high sugar content)
- Watercress (just once a week)
Vegetables that are poisonous for rabbits
Too much oxalic acid, which occurs naturally in leafy vegetables, can poison a rabbit and cause kidney damage. However, the amounts found in some rabbit foods, including parsley, watercress and spinach, are not high enough to cause harm, and rabbits can eat them as long as these foods are restricted to just once a week.
Starch and sugar are the main things to avoid. These cause digestive problems by changing the pH balance in the rabbit’s digestive system, and in extreme cases they can result in gastrointestinal disease. Foods that cause problems when fed to excess are grains (e.g. wheat, barley and oats), legumes (beans and peas) and all fruits (they’re all high in sugar).
Rabbits should avoid the following altogether:
- Potatoes and potato tops
- Rhubarb (fruit and leaves)
- Tomato leaves
Rabbits are so closely associated with carrots that it’s hard to accept that the veg might not actually be that good for them. From Peter Rabbit to Bugs Bunny, fictional rabbits love carrots, and real bunnies love them too. However, carrots contain a lot of sugar and calories but lack the good fibre found in more bunny-friendly fresh foods. A carrot-heavy diet can cause constipation in rabbits, and make sugar levels rise dangerously.
Photo by Oriol Portell on Unsplash
Carrots should therefore be treated like fruit – fine as an occasional treat, but only fed in moderation.
Safe herbs and plants suitable for rabbits
Wild rabbits eat a wide variety of plants, and even wood and bark. However, unless you’re confident about which wild plants are safe for rabbits to eat, it’s best to stick to these common species, to avoid digestive problems or serious illness:
- Blackberry, raspberry and strawberry leaves (these are good for poorly digestive systems)
- Cow parsnip
- Dandelion (but not too many, as it is a laxative)
- Geranium (wild varieties)
- Golden rod
- Goose grass
- Grass (juicy stalks, rather than cuttings from the lawnmower: garden clippings may contain toxic plants)
- Ground elder (NOT elder tree or shrub)
- Rose leaves, petals and wood
- Shepherd’s purse
- Sow thistle
- Willow leaves and wood in fresh-cut twig form
It is very important that the wild greens you feed your rabbits should not have been sprayed with pesticides, weed-killers or fertilizers. These are toxic, and some can be fatal to rabbits and other pets.
What vitamins and minerals do rabbits need?
Rabbits need a healthy mix of vitamins and minerals, and these will generally be provided by a healthy
pellet food and a good supply of hay. Rabbits need lots of vitamin A, but they get all they need from the hay. The hay also provides them with all the vitamin D and calcium they need.
Unlike many other animals, rabbits are able to make their own vitamin C, so that is not a dietary issue.
Rabbits eat a wide variety of foods – that’s one of the many great things about them, so it’s easy to vary their diets. You can ‘rotate’ which greens you are feeding them, and you can retain items such as carrot or apple for treat-based training. As long as their diet is based on a good pellet feed and plenty of hay – and as long as you avoid the toxic foods mentioned above – you will have healthy and happy rabbits.
This entry was posted in Rabbits on February 9th, 2021 by alisa.deluca
A fresh egg every day – that’s just one of the best things about having your own flock of chickens in your backyard. Sometimes starting your own flock is not that simple though. For the private keeping of chickens, there are some legal frameworks and conditions you must take into consideration – and those may differ from country to country.
To receive the most accurate and timely information and policies to avoid obsolete and incorrect information, please always contact the responsible authority for a local law and/or ordinance regarding livestock and poultry or an official veterinarian as a first point of contact.
Do you need to register your chickens?
Depending on the country you live in, you might need to register your chickens. In some countries, like the UK or U.S., you must register your chickens within one month by using the compulsory registration form if you keep 50 or more birds in your premises. This is important, as if you don’t register your chickens, you’re breaking the law. The law also applies if you keep flocks made up of different species, – chickens, ducks, geese, guinea fowl, partridges, pheasants, pigeons or turkeys – and birds for the consumption of meat and eggs.
How many chickens make a perfect flock?
To answer this question, one major consideration is how much space you have for your chickens and how many eggs you need.
As a mature hen lays about two eggs in three days on average, keeping three to six chickens will ensure you always have a steady supply of eggs for your family. However, if your family really loves eggs or plans to give eggs away occasionally, you may wish to consider expanding your flock.
In general, it’s good to start with at least three chickens – if there’s an unexpected death, you won’t be left with a lonely one. In a breeding flock, a rooster will need four to six hens.
Space requirements of chickens vary depending on the size and breed of the chicks, and how long you are free ranging the chickens during the day. Although it is recommended to have a minimum size of 2-3 square feet per hen, please keep in your mind, the bigger, the better!
Nevertheless, it is important to have an outdoor enclosure, like the Walk In Chicken Run, to keep your chickens safe from predators. Another good defense against unwanted “night visitors” is a chicken coop door. If you come home late in the evening and need an alternative way of closing them safely inside, an Automatic Chicken Coop Door is recommended. With the control panel you can set the automatic door so that it opens and closes the coop at a certain time or based on the rising and setting sun.
The Omlet Autodoor opens horizontally, meaning it cannot simply be lifted up when it is closed by predators, so you and your chickens can sleep peacefully knowing that you have the safest automatic chicken door in the world.
If you have ground predators, you can also protect your flock with an electric poultry fencing.
Do my chickens need to be vaccinated?
Different countries have different requirements for poultry vaccinations, so check with the government environmental website or a local vet for advice. However, there are some diseases you should be aware of and may consider vaccinating against, such as the Bird Flu (e.g. Avian Influenza), Newcastle disease and Marek’s disease.
Bird Flu can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species. In the worst scenario, if e.g. the avian influenza affects a flock, the flock has to be put down. These viruses do not normally infect humans. For more information, please visit our blog article What You Need To Know About Avian Flu.
The Newcastle disease can vary from mild to severe and unfortunately, there is no treatment for Newcastle disease yet – but when given between 14 and 21 days of age, a vaccine can help to prevent this disease. Newcastle disease is also transmissible to humans.
Marek’s Disease is caused by a chicken herpes virus and affects the chicken’s central nervous system. Like many herpes viruses, once an animal becomes infected, it will be infected for life. However, not all infected birds will get sick. This disease isn’t contagious to humans.
For the health and safety of your chicken and flock, and to prevent the risk of spread, it is definitely recommended to vaccinate them. Especially if you plan to sell or buy chickens, you need to vaccinate your hens.
And remember: always isolate new flock members for at least 30 days!
Do I need permission for chicken keeping?
Depending on where you live, some cities and towns have restrictions and regulations on chicken keeping. For example, the number of chickens that can be kept, the minimum and maximum size of the coop in which the chickens will be housed or a minimum distance to the neighboring property. Some areas prohibit the keeping of roosters due to the extra noise; others require that all chickens be leg-banded for identification purposes.
However, you may also be subject to by-laws, lease conditions or the deeds to your house preventing you from keeping chickens, and there are rules that may apply to back-yard poultry keepers, so be sure to check your local restrictions before buying chickens.
In addition, you might want to consider your neighbors when raising chickens. Although lots of people will be won over with the promise of fresh eggs, it might be a good idea to check with your neighbors first, and assess your backyard to ensure you’ve done all you can to prevent your hens hopping over to their vegetable patch!
What are other considerations of keeping chickens in my yard?
Some regulations require you to meet some minimum requirements. In Spain, for example, the legislative provisions stipulate, you need to keep the noise level as low as possible, the chicken coop must be well illuminated and regular veterinary care must be provided.
Most suburban councils will limit the number of birds you can keep or even prohibit roosters on residential properties due to the disturbance they could cause to neighbors.
Australia is an interesting example of how different local restrictions can be. In Victoria, residences with backyards can have a maximum of five chickens, whereas New South Wales allows no more than 10 chickens in residential areas. In Western Australia, owners can keep up to 12 poultry birds. Furthermore, it is prohibited to keep roosters in general in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia.
Even the length of the perch where your chickens sleep on is set at around 30 cm off the ground.
Although there are many different regulations and laws when it comes to chicken keeping, there is one inevitable rule which applies to all countries and local areas: chickens need access to fresh bedding, food and water at all times!
Always be sure you are in accordance with local ordinances and up-to-date before embarking on your chicken-keeping endeavor, especially as policies and law can change. Obtaining information such as the correct local hen house keeping (farming method for laying hens) or the examination of species-appropriate hen houses is important, – each country has its own animal welfare requirements and regulations, and should not be ignored.
This entry was posted in Chickens on February 8th, 2021 by alisa.deluca
Dementia is not a uniquely human condition. Many older pets suffer the condition known as Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS), and the effects are often subtle.
Photo by Pacto Visual on Unsplash
The problem first becomes noticeable when pets’ behavior changes. For example, a dog may not respond to your voice, or will stand with its tail down, looking anxious. Cats may ‘disappear’ for several hours, or even days, and any affected pet may seem suddenly uncertain of its surroundings, sometimes cringing, sometimes running away.
What is pet dementia?
As with human patients, dementia in pets results in memory problems, leading to confusion, disorientation and anxiety. The causes for this are the same as those responsible for Alzheimer’s and other types of human dementia. Destructive proteins may build up in the brain, and these cause individual brain connections to stop working. Plaque build up is another cause, as is a build-up of phosphorus.
Which pets can get dementia?
Cats and dogs are the most common victims of CDS, although other mammals such as rabbits, Guinea
pigs and ferrets may show similar symptoms. Shorter-lived mammals such as hamsters and gerbils are not affected by dementia.
Long-lived birds such as parrots, intriguingly, do not usually show dementia symptoms. Research has shown that they lack a dementia-linked variant of a gene known as GSK, something found in most animals (and even plants). This gene causes the build-up of phosphorous in the brain, and this impacts a protein called tau, which in turn triggers Dementia symptoms.
What are the signs of dementia in pets?
Most animals are very resilient and do not like to let you know when they are in pain. CDS is a different matter, though, as it causes your pet’s natural defenses to go down, and you can often spot the red flags.
These are some of the signs of dementia in pets.
- Confusion. In the middle of everyday activity such as a walk or a trip from one room to another, your pet will become indecisive or may bolt for a safe spot for no apparent reason. Other symptoms include growling, raising the hackles, or shaking.
- Disorientation. Your cat or dog might become anxious, or stop in its tracks, in a familiar place – even indoors where they spend most of their time. Temporarily forgetting where they are, they may feel trapped, and their panicky or fearful body language – or sounds – will make this clear.
- ‘Accidents’ indoors. Pets with CDS may suddenly forget that they’re not supposed to relieve themselves indoors. This is often linked to disorientation and confusion rather than loss of bodily control. They may wake up in the night, thinking it’s time for the morning routine of heading outdoors for a morning trip to the bathroom. Cats might forget the location of the litter tray or cat flap.
- Odd sleeping patterns. A change in sleeping patterns can be a sign of CDS. Dogs may become restless at night, or sleep away from their usual beds or baskets. Outdoor cats may decide to sleep rather than heading out for their usual night on the tiles, or may be restless during parts of the day when they would usually be curled up and asleep.
- Change in personality. Any big change in behavior in an older pet could be an early sign of CDS. An outgoing pet might become withdrawn, and a quiet pet might be grumpy or aggressive. Affected pets might temporarily forget who certain family members are, or might suddenly treat fellow pets with suspicion.
- Memory loss. This classic symptom of dementia is often the first sign of CDS in a pet. They will stop responding to commands or may struggle with things they have managed for years, such as stairs and the quickest route home on a walk.
- Loss of energy. Although there can be physical sources of sudden ‘laziness’, it is also one of the symptoms of dementia. In addition to not being as active as usual, an affected pet might pace up and down like a caged animal, or stand on the spot gazing around in apparent confusion.
- Changes to vocalizing. A quiet pet might start making a lot of noise, or an inveterate ‘woofer’ might fall quiet. There might be an increase in barking or meowing at night.
- Change in appetite. This goes both ways – a pet with CDS might become a glutton (forgetting that they’ve already eaten), or might not want to eat at the usual time at all.
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash
How can I treat dementia?
There is currently no cure for pet dementia, but there are medicines available to help reduce the symptoms and even slow down the progression of the illness as your pet ages. These treatments are only available from vets, so that’s the place to go as soon as you suspect CDS in your pet.
As ever, prevention is an even better cure, and by keeping your pet active and fit through exercise and games, you can help their bodies and brains alike. Diet plays as big a part in this as exercise, so keep the healthy food coming and go easy on the unhealthy snacks. A supplement that includes omega-3 fish oils is very beneficial, too.
Once the CDS has begun to manifest daily, there are still things you can do to make life easier for the afflicted pet.
- Don’t make unnecessary changes in the environment in which the pet spends most of its time. Keep furniture where it is, and don’t make changes to the beds or baskets.
- Remain calm and don’t change your behavior. If you shout at a cat or dog because it’s soiled the floor, it will only add to the problem and cause your pet’s anxiety levels to rocket.
- ‘Lead the way’ if disorientation sets in, encouraging your pet to follow you into a room, or back to the house. With dogs, a leash should always be taken when you are on a walk.
- Don’t stop family members from interacting with the pet, even if it seems to have temporarily forgotten them.
- Play games that help keep the pet’s brain active, like training (if they can manage it) or puzzle games.
- Try retraining your dog to sit, stay and come when you call – and retrain those toilet skills too, if possible!
If the vet prescribes medication and a change in diet, make sure you stick to the new routine. Interventions that support brain function, including medicines and food supplements, can make a big difference. Although dementia changes a pet’s life, it does not automatically mean that they will stop enjoying life. You and your pet will continue to enjoy a wonderful pet/owner relationship if you follow the guidelines above.
This entry was posted in Uncategorised on February 5th, 2021 by alisa.deluca
Bird flu, also known as avian influenza, is back in the headlines, and new restrictions have been imposed on chicken keepers. In these circumstances, it is natural to ask whether wild birds present a major risk.
Wild birds are not the main source of the spread of the disease, however, even though they can act as reservoirs for the virus. It is human commercial activities associated with poultry farming that are the major cause of the bird flu’s spread across the world. If you are keeping just a few chickens, most of the risks can be avoided by simple hygiene and protective housing measures.
Avian influenza (bird flu)
As its name suggest, the avian flu virus is a form of influenza (flu) biologically adapted to bird hosts. Avian influenza is not a virus specific to chickens and poultry, and in theory any bird, wild or domestic, can be infected.
Bird flu – good news and bad news
In theory, any species of wild bird can catch the flu. Waterfowl such as geese, swans and ducks are thought to be major carriers of the disease, sometimes displaying no symptoms themselves. Chickens that come into contact with avian influenza are likely to catch it.
But let’s look at the good news first. The risk to human health from wild bird diseases, including avian influenza, are extremely low. In 99.9% of cases, humans affected by the highly virulent H5N1 strain of the bird flu have caught it from intensively reared poultry. The disease is not easily transmitted from human to human.
Similarly, chickens that are kept in runs and subject to common sense precautions are unlikely to catch the disease. Unless you live in an area suffering a major avian influenza outbreak, the visitors to your bird table are unlikely to be carriers of the disease.
Now for the bad news… If only one wild bird in a thousand is a carrier of avian influenza, that’s still one too many. Like it or not, backyard chickens are at risk. This is why new rules and new housing measures were introduced in December 2020.
Avian flu in wild birds
The chances of a human catching avian influenza directly from birds that visit the garden are practically nil. This is no reason to avoid basic precautions, however, especially if you keep chickens. Keeping bird feeding stations clean is important, to avoid droppings and moulds accumulating. These can impact the health of wild birds and lower their immune systems. You should always wash your hands after restocking or cleaning a feeding station, or after any situation that brings you into contact with bird droppings (feeding the ducks in the local park, for example).
Sick or dead wild birds should not be touched. In general, you do not need to report the discovery of a dead bird. However, if dead ducks, geese, swans, gulls or birds of prey should be reported, as should the discovery of five or more dead birds of any species in one place.
How do I know if my chicken has bird flu?
Chickens with avian influenza will display various symptoms. They may be less active than usual, and will lose their appetite and show signs of nervousness. Their egg production will drop, and eventually their combs and wattles will look swollen, with a blue discoloration. Other avian influenza symptoms in poultry include coughs, sneezes and diarrhea. Unfortunately, many of these avian influenza symptoms are associated with other ailments, too, so a vet will need to make the diagnosis.
It can take 14 days for an avian influenza outbreak to spread throughout a flock. Some infected birds may exhibit no signs, even though they are still potential virus carriers. Others may sicken and die very quickly.
Guidelines from the CDC
If you are concerned your chickens may have been exposed to the the Avian Flu please follow these guidelines here to protect yourself at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/avian-in-humans.htm
CDC currently recommends a neuraminidase inhibitor for treatment of human infection with avian influenza A viruses. CDC has posted avian influenza guidance for health care professionals and laboratorians, including guidance on the use of antiviral medications for the treatment of human infections with novel influenza viruses associated with severe disease. Analyses of available avian influenza viruses circulating worldwide suggest that most viruses are susceptible to oseltamivir, peramivir, and zanamivir. However, some evidence of antiviral resistance has been reported in Asian H5N1 and Asian H7N9 viruses isolated from some human cases. Monitoring for antiviral resistance among avian influenza A viruses is crucial and ongoing.
Although avian influenza A viruses usually do not infect people, rare cases of human infection with these viruses have been reported. Infected birds shed avian influenza virus in their saliva, mucous and feces. Human infections with bird flu viruses can happen when enough virus gets into a person’s eyes, nose or mouth, or is inhaled. This can happen when virus is in the air (in droplets or possibly dust) and a person breathes it in, or when a person touches something that has virus on it then touches their mouth, eyes or nose
The main takeaway messages
- Feeding wild birds in the backyard is still safe
- Simple precautions and good cleaning habits minimize the dangers
This entry was posted in Chickens on February 4th, 2021 by alisa.deluca
Cockerels have three main purposes in a flock of chickens. They protect the hens by warning of any danger, they enable you to breed your own chicks, and they look fabulous. Sometimes, however, the cockerel’s protective instincts becomes a problem, and the bird becomes over-aggressive. This can be a particular issue in the Spring, which is the breeding season.
Image by Anthony Scanlon from Pixabay
Cockerels are wired to protect their hens. If you watch the flock foraging in a backyard, the loud clucking of a hen will bring the cockerel running to make sure everything’s okay. If a hen squawks when you pick her up, the cockerel will put on an aggressive display until you put her down again. As long as this doesn’t involve physical attacks, there’s no problem. Some cockerels will physically attack, though.
If these face-offs continue, the cockerel might decide that you – and all humans – represent danger and will try to fight you off at all times. Luckily, you can usually defuse the situation.
Cockerels give warning of their intention to attack. They lower their heads and perform a strutting dance while looking straight at you. Things get trickier if the cockerel decides to run up and attack your legs, like an angry farmyard goose. If you’re walking away, the cockerel may chase you from the yard, and that can cause nasty surprises too.
How Do You Stop a Rooster From Attacking You?
- Don’t walk straight towards the cockerel when you enter the place where the chickens are kept.
- Don’t stare at the cockerel unless he’s already behaving aggressively, as this is a sign of aggression as far as he’s concerned – you’re fixing your eyes on him and his flock just like a predator would.
- Don’t tiptoe around or run away if the cockerel looks at you, as these are signs that you’re afraid, and the cockerel might take this as a cue to rush in and finish the job!
- Don’t dash around the yard – the cockerel equates quick movements with predators. Go about your business in the chicken yard in a calm, slow but focused way.
- Make sure your hens are in a stress-free environment. If there are prowling dogs or unruly children running amongst the hens, their clucks and squawks will send the rooster into overdrive to protect his girls.
- If your cockerel brings you small ‘gifts’ such as stones or twigs, don’t be too flattered. He is treating you like a hen, and you will have to refuse the gifts and shoo him away, otherwise he will think he’s subdued you with his presents!
- Don’t crowd the cockerel. If he feels trapped in a corner, he is likely to fight his way out.
How to Handle an Aggressive Cockerel
Never respond to an angry cockerel with violence.
Image by Linda Saayman from Pixabay
This will have no positive effect on the cockerel or flock’s behavior afterwards, and it can result in serious injury to the bird. He may be aggressive, but a cockerel is still a bird, fragile bones and all.
A cockerel should be lifted with thick protective gloves to remove him to a safe place or away from the eye of the storm. Your arms and legs shouldn’t be bare when handling the rooster, and your footwear should be sturdy too. If the cockerel is only in the early stages of aggression, he can often be calmed down with a few treats. It is a good idea to carry treats with you whenever you’re in the same place as the cockerel. After you’ve fed him a few times, he will come to associate you with treats rather than danger. The treats should be hand-offered. If you throw them down and then run away, the rooster will recognize that you’re afraid, and the problems might continue.
A more hands-on – or feet-on – method is to gently roll the cockerel over with your safely booted foot when he approaches you looking for trouble. After a few of these gentle wrestling throws, the cockerel will realize that you’re the top bird in the run and give you no more trouble. In theory, at least!
How to Lift an Angry Cockerel
Image by Irina_kukuts from Pixabay
Alternatively, when the cockerel tries to peck you, scoop him up with your gloved hands and hold him like you would hold a hen, under your arm. The cockerel will flap and squawk angrily, but he will eventually calm down if you ignore these protestations. This may take 10 to 15 minutes, but it’s time well spent if it means that the cockerel will not attempt to attack you again.
If the cockerel has not yet attacked, you may be able to deter him by taking a large, deliberate step towards him, looking at him as you do so. If the rooster starts to fidget and looks at the ground or starts pecking it, you have won the battle, and you can back down without fear of attack.
The key to all these methods is to make the cockerel realize that you’re not a threat to his hens. Protecting the flock is all he wants to do. If that doesn’t work, and if the cockerel starts to stretch his wings and neck ready for attack, stretch out your arms. Carrying a stick can help here, as it makes your ‘wingspan’ look even greater in the rooster’s eyes.
What is the Most Aggressive Rooster?
Circumstantial evidence suggests that some cockerels are just born mean! In these cases, the cockerel’s instinct to protect a flock of hens is in constant overdrive. The aggression is occasionally seen when the birds are still chicks, although it is more usual for the aggression to kick in at 6 to 8 months old. Although the breed of the chicken makes a certain amount of difference, even supposedly gentle breeds can sometimes decide to take no prisoners in the chicken yard!
The most aggressive rooster breeds are said to be Aseel (allegedly the biggest bullies of all), Cornish, Leghorn, Malay, Old English Game and all other traditional ‘cockfighting’ or ‘game’ species.
What is the Least Aggressive Rooster?
The least aggressive roosters include the Australorp, Brahma, Polish, Silkie and Welsummer. Bantam breeds tend to be relatively calm, too. However, there are occasional ‘bad pennies’ in all breeds, and some cockerels just seem to hit an aggressive streak and never entirely leave it behind.
Constantly aggressive roosters are a real problem, especially if you have children wandering in the backyard. A cockerel readily backs up his anger with a physical attack, and he is armed with sharp spurs – the spikes on his legs – that can do real damage. If all attempts to calm the cockerel down fail, the tyrant rooster will have to be rehoused.
If you have chosen a non-aggressive breed of cockerel, and if your chickens have lots of space, you will seldom have major problems with rooster aggression. Let cockerels know who’s boss as soon as they hit adulthood, never accept those tempting little gifts, and you should be recognized by all your chickens as being top of the pecking order.
This entry was posted in Chickens on February 2nd, 2021 by alisa.deluca