The Omlet Blog Category Archives: Chickens

Are My Chickens Cold?

Chickens are hardy birds, and are very good at adapting to the climate, whether it’s midsummer or deep into Winter. Unless the Winter in your area is very harsh, your chickens will be able to keep warm by snuggling up in the coop, and the cold weather will not prevent them from going about their usual business of scratching and pecking through the run or backyard.

How do chickens keep warm in the Winter?

The chicken’s secret is natural insulation. Their feathers help them retain body heat and warm the air trapped beneath their downy under-feathers. When she’s at rest, a hen’s body temperature is 104–107F, and her heart rate is around 400 beats per minute – evidence of a high metabolism that sets up the birds very well for Winter weather.

Watching chickens scratch at the frozen ground or strut through the snow, you might wonder how they manage to keep their feet and legs warm. After all, this is one part of their body with no feathers to keep it cozy (unless you happen to have a feathery-legged breed such as the Cochin, Brahma or Silkie). The answer lies in the chicken’s leg scales, which retain heat to a certain extent. The average chicken will always be on the move, not keeping all its toes on the ground for too long.

How can you tell if chickens are too cold?

You can tell if a hen is feeling cold by simply looking at her. She will have her feathers ruffled up and will be perched off the ground, probably with one leg tucked up. Her wattles and comb may look paler than usual. These are not signs of distress, and as long as the chicken is only having a brief rest, rather than staying hunkered up for the whole day, you don’t have to worry.

Chickens should not be allowed to remain soaking wet. This is more dangerous than the outdoor temperature or the falling snow, and in extreme cases will result in hypothermia. An affected hen will be stiff and cold to the touch, with her eyes wider and unblinking, or closed. If you find one of your chickens in this state, take her indoors and wrap her in a warm towel. When she recovers, put her in a bedding-lined box in a warm spot for a few hours.

Does perching keep chickens warm?

Like many other birds, chickens often adopt the ‘one leg’ pose in the Winter, tucking one of their limbs up into the warmth of their bellies. This reduces overall heat loss and stops feet and toes from freezing on the icy ground. Like all birds, chickens are warm-blooded, and their own body heat soon works its magic.

Perching is the most effective way for a chicken to retain body heat. A hen hunkers down when roosting, with her feathers fluffed up and her legs tucked into her warm body. If space allows, install a flat perch in your coop or run. This will enable the hens to roost without having to curl their toes around the roosting bar, which in really cold weather will prevent their toes freezing. An upturned pot, a log, pallet or other slightly elevated space will give the birds a flat surface to perch on, to escape the ice and snow.

How cold is too cold for chickens?

Chickens will regulate their temperature and behavior accordingly, so wherever humans can live, chickens can thrive too. It is the combination of cold and wet that can prove fatal, so ensuring a dry coop is vital, and any bird who becomes soaked should be toweled dry. Applying Vaseline to their combs will prevent frost bite.

Can chickens freeze to death?

Cold conditions will not usually kill chickens, as long as they have a warm coop to retire too when the weather become extreme. Cold hens may be more susceptible than usual to illness and parasites, though, and their egg production will fall. The chickens will simply hunker down on perches and in nesting boxes, with their feathers fluffed out.

What’s the best chicken coop for cold weather?

The type of coop you have makes a big difference. In really cold winters, a wooden coop with a drafty coop door can soon become damp and semi-frozen – not to mention very drafty – while a more robust state-of-the-art structure such as the Eglu will keep out the cold and damp and enable chickens to defrost after a busy day in the run. The temperature in the Eglu will remain relatively high when all the hens are tucked in at night.

You can help your backyard chickens keep warm in the frost and snow by making sure the coop is clean and dry. Clear out any snow dragged in on the birds’ feet, and keep an insulating layer of straw on the floor. You can give the birds extra protection by insulating the run – although there should still be some ventilation, to allow the gases released from the birds’ droppings to escape.

An automatic door will help keep the living quarters snug, too. If installing a heater, it must be one designed specifically for hen houses, and it’s best to use it only if the temperature dips below 23°F, otherwise hens may get used to being cozy all the time, and that could be disastrous if the heater fails and the birds are suddenly exposed. Heat-pampered poultry can die of cold shock.

What happens if a chick gets too cold?

Chicks and young hens are more susceptible to the cold than adult chickens. If a young chicken has its full coat of feathers, it will be as hardy as the older birds. Chicks, however, will need protection from the cold, and should be kept under an appropriate heat lamp. Any chick left to fend for itself in cold weather will die.

Cold Weather Tips

The following precautions will help ensure happy chickens in Winter:

  • Protect combs and wattles from frostbite with petroleum jelly or an equivalent product.
  • Prevent water from freezing. Check it at least twice a day to keep it clear of ice. If a freeze is forecast, bring the containers indoors at night, or, if possible, buy a water heater designed for the job of preventing freezing. Ping pong balls in the waterer can also prevent freezing.
  • Chickens usually return to the coop at dusk, but in the winter you may find your birds trying to get more pecking time from the short days. If your hens tend to wander in the dark, a high visibility hen coat will help you locate them, and will ensure they’re visible to anyone else, should they stray from the property or backyard. The coats also keep the birds cozy, so it’s a double blessing in the Winter.
  • Heat lamps or oil filled radiators can provide extra warmth in sheds and outbuildings, but are generally only needed for frail birds or ones with lots of feathers missing (such as ex-battery hens). The space should be made slightly less chilly rather than actually warm.
  • If you do not have a cozy Eglu, a wooden coop can be insulated with bubble-wrap, cardboard or old carpets or blankets.
  • Extra bedding on the floor of the coop will help keep the chickens warm, too.
  • Providing weather-proof shelter in the chicken run will give the hens some respite.
  • Some extra corn offered as a treat before the hen’s bedtime will act as an internal heater as the chickens digest it overnight. In general, hens will eat more food in the cold months, as more of their energy is spent keeping warm.
  • Some owners like to supplement their chickens’ diets with extra protein or a little suet, to increase their fat levels for the Winter. Fat retains heat, and the whole bird benefits – not just the legs.

So, the answer to the question ‘Are my chickens suffering from the cold?’ is usually ‘no’. Make sure the hens’ environment – specifically the coop and run – is prepared for all types of weather, and your hens will be too.

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How Do I Prevent My Chicken from Flying Away?

It’s nice to have chickens in your backyard but they need to stay there! Seeing them fly away and attempting to catch them again is not necessarily the easiest of tasks. It’s stressful for everyone and sometimes even dangerous for your chickens! So what is the solution? Cut off their wings? Obviously not, but here are a number of flap busting techniques that may help to keep your feathery friends on the ground.

Why does my chicken want to fly away?

If you are dealing with a runaway chicken it could be for several reasons. Each chicken’s character is different from one bird to another. While some like to lounge under a tree or in their chicken run, others prefer to frolic in search of freedom. This traveling and sometimes adventurous spirit can be associated with certain breeds of chickens. So, it’s not uncommon to find breeds such as the Leghorn or the Gauloise, for example, perched on a branch to rest. This is mainly due to their lighter weight in comparison to other breeds. Evolved with a fairly developed herd instinct, it only takes one chicken to take flight for the rest to follow suit.

However, sometimes your chickens may fly away, or even jump, not to rest but to escape a situation. A sudden or unusual situation can induce panic. A visit from a dog, the presence of a wild predator such as a fox, or the triggering of an unexpected high pitched noise can stress your hens and cause them to flee. They then have two options: run or try to fly. Under stress, fear and panic they can easily surprise you and fly higher than you think. They may even injure themselves in a panic to get away. So how do you avoid this kind of situation?

How can I prevent my chicken from flying away?

There are three main precautions that can be taken when you have a flight-happy chicken:

  • Choose a quiet but well placed area in your backyard to set up your chicken coop. If you have space, keep the chicken coop away from potential dangers: roads, parking areas, children’s toys. Here, your chickens should feel safe. Their chicken coop is their home, they need to be able to eat, peck and sleep in peace.

  • Invest in a fairly large enclosure. Having a high enough fence can deter them from trying to fly and protect them from potential animal attacks and external dangers.
    An enclosed space, like the Walk in Chicken Run, is ideal for giving chickens a safe area to exercise and stretch their wings, without escape.

  • The third precaution is often known to chicken owners, but it is not often applied. However, this is an elementary precaution when bringing a bird into a chicken coop. It regards cutting the feathers of a single wing in order to unbalance your chicken and stop them from being able to take flight

    . But how to do it? Take a pair of clippers and cut the flight feathers, that is, the larger feathers. You can also cut the primary and secondary flight feathers. The feathers must be cut halfway for it to be effective. Rest assured, we only cut Keratin (what our hair and nails are made of). It’s like going to the hairdressers!

Find the tutorial video “How to Clip your Chickens Wings (Safe and painless) (Easy to do)” by here.

Providing a comfortable living space, and large, safe enclosure will keep your hens happy and healthy in their home. And if necessary, wing clipping can be an effective solution for particularly determined escapees.

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What You need to Know: Avian Flu 2020

Avian Flu is an issue that affects all chicken keepers. Efforts to contain the virus never result in its eradication, and the fact that it is not currently in the headlines doesn’t mean it’s disappeared. Many countries are enduring the avian flu version of lockdown in certain regions this year, and people are being told to take appropriate measures. 

There have been local outbreaks in the UK, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands in the second half of 2020. The current avian flu strain in Europe is a low pathogenic avian influenza, meaning that it is highly unlikely to spread from its bird hosts to humans. The ghost of a bird flu pandemic cannot be ignored, though.

The outbreak is thought to have originated in western Russia and Kazakhstan, following the same pattern as the avian flu outbreaks in the summers of 2005 and 2016. In both previous cases, epidemics soon spread to northern and eastern Europe.

This article describes the impact of pathogenic avian influenza, how it spreads, and what chicken keepers can do to prevent it, based on government guidelines and other practical measures.

What is avian flu?

As its name suggest, the avian flu virus is a form of influenza (flu) biologically adapted to bird hosts. Bird flu is not a virus specific to chickens and poultry, and in theory any bird, wild or domestic, can be infected. The reservoir of avian influenza is, indeed, flocking wild birds such as geese and gulls.

Symptoms of avian flu in chickens

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 bird flu 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 ail and die very quickly.

How to treat avian flu in chickens

You can reduce the risk of avian influenza in your poultry by following the latest guidelines issued by Defra and the government. Vaccination of a flock at risk from the avian influenza virus is the only method of prevention. If avian influenza affects a flock, the flock has to be put down. Links to the latest US government advice is given at the end of this article.

How to protect your chickens

  • Place your birds’ food and water in fully enclosed areas that are protected from wild birds, and remove any spilled feed regularly.
  • Keep your equipment clean and tidy and regularly disinfect hard surfaces.
  • Clean footwear before and after visiting your birds.
  • Ensure clothing that you use when handling your chickens is washed after contact.
  • Use run covers to protect your chickens’ enclosure from wild bird droppings.
  • Keep moveable coops in the same place – if coops are moving to fresh ground there is more chance of coming into contact with wild bird faeces.
  • Keep a close eye on your chickens. If you have any signs of illness, seek advice from a qualified vet.

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 best way to prevent infection with avian influenza A viruses is to avoid sources of exposure. Most human infections with avian influenza A viruses have occurred following direct or close contact with infected poultry.

 

 

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Can different chicken breeds get along?

All different breeds of chicken have been developed from the same ancestor, the Asian Jungle Fowl, and so most chickens get along, regardless of the variety. However, there are some exceptions to this general rule.

Any new hen introduced to a flock will need to be separated from the other birds for a week or so until all the birds get used to each other. She will then find her natural place in the chicken pecking order, and that may involve a little bullying and squabbling in the early days. That’s all very natural, and has nothing to do with feuds between specific breeds. 

Occasionally, one hen will fall out with another for no obvious reason, and the weaker chicken will sometimes be pecked and harassed by the more aggressive bird. If this situation continues for more than three days after introducing the new chicken, the two combatants may need to be separated. 

What breeds of chickens are aggressive?

Some chicken varieties are more confident and assertive than others, but this does not make them aggressive. Aggression is usually the result of environment – poor living conditions – or visual stimulus. The chicken bullying only usually persists beyond the first few days if the new hen has unusual plumage on its head. The fancy crown of feathers on the Araucana, Houdan, Poland, Silkie and Sultan breeds, for example, is like a red rag to a bull for some hens. 

The reasons for this aggression are purely instinctive. Chickens respond to the size of their fellow birds’ combs, and there is evidence that larger-combed chickens tend to dominate the pecking order, and will challenge any large-combed newcomer to assert and retain her dominance. No one is entirely sure how the visual stimulus works with feather-crowned breeds. A chicken with feathers on its head is judged by the other hens to be one of two things – either a bird with a very large comb, and therefore a threat, or one with no comb at all, which makes it fair game for some bullying. Whichever way a hen looks at it, the feather-headed newcomer is a direct challenge to the dominant birds. 

Birds with fancy head feathers are additionally vulnerable because the plumage flops in front of their eyes, impairing their vision, and so they may not spot an oncoming attack. This can result in pecks and injuries. 

Other causes of chicken bullying

Other unusual feathering will occasionally inspire bullying amongst chickens, such as the feathered ‘trousers’ of the Faverolles. This is not generally a problem, though, and this breed should get along well with your other hens.

Sometimes, new chickens with no unusual feathers or peculiar combs may be picked on if they are a different breed to all the other hens in the flock. The bullying appears to take place simply because the new chicken looks different to the others. This is an unusual issue, though, and clearly the problem disappears if your existing hens are a mixed breed flock.

Do chickens bond with each other?

In general, mixing breeds actually assists with the pecking order and the general bonding, as different varieties have different temperaments. There is more likely to be squabbling in a run that has chickens of a single breed – they may all be assertive and dominant, or they may all be shrinking violets, depending on the breed, but they still need to establish a pecking order.

The body size of the hen does not affect how it is treated. A dainty bantam can rub along fine with a hulking Sussex, and a cockerel will be respectful of all his hens, regardless of their breed, and in the vast majority of cases the birds will all get on well together.

There are other practical considerations when keeping a mixed flock. Some chickens thrive in cold weather, while others are not as robust. Age may be an issue too, if you want to minimize the number of changes in your chicken flock. If your hens all have a similar lifespan, and if you buy them at the same time, you will probably be buying all your next generation of point-of-lay hens in the same year. This prevents constant new introductions and the accompanying fluctuations in the pecking order.

What chicken breeds get along best?

Some breeds are naturally friendly, and these varieties are far less likely to start pecking and bullying each other. Super-chilled backyard chickens include Australorps, Cochins, Easter Eggers, Rhode Island Reds, Silkies, Sussex and Wyandottes.

Another key to keeping all the different breeds happy and non-aggressive is making sure they have plenty of space, thus avoiding the chicken version of cabin fever. The more chicken enclosure space you give them, the less likely they are to bully each other, and the more likely it is that your chickens will get along.

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Gift Guide: Chickens

Eglu Cube / Eglu Go / Eglu Go UP

This is the ideal time to treat yourself to that chicken coop you have been dreaming about! If would like to start keeping chickens in the new year, the Eglu Go or Eglu Go UP are brilliant starter coops for 3-4 hens. If you currently have a smaller Eglu, or keep chickens in a coop that is starting to look a bit worse for ware, you might want to consider investing in an Eglu Cube, our largest chicken coop with space for up to 10 small bantam hens.

All Eglus are super safe, very easy to clean and can be moved around the backyard as often as you like. This makes life easier and more relaxing for both you and your pets!

Chicken Accessories

Omlet’s amazing range of Chicken Toys and Accessories make great holiday gifts for chicken keepers of all ages. Interactive food toys like the Poppy and Pendant Peck Toys and the Caddi Treat Holder that can be filled with fresh produce and hung from the roof of the run will entertain chickens during the cold Winter months, as will the super fun Chicken Swing and the more traditional Chicken Perch.

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Catching A Chicken

Photo by Jim Tegman on Unsplash

Only very tame pet hens enjoy being picked up. Most chickens find the whole procedure stressful, so you should only catch or handle them if you have to.

There are a few reasons why you might need to know how to catch a chicken. Your hens might be in danger, might require a clean-up after coming into contact with something oily or sticky, or you might need to carry out a chicken health check.

There are various ways to catch a chicken. If the hen is in danger as a result of escaping onto a road or into a backyard with a dog in it, you can usually manage things by ‘herding’ the chicken rather than trying to lift it. If a dog is the problem, controlling or confining the dog is the first thing to figure out. If the hen has escaped and you need to catch her, guiding her back to safety by standing with your arms stretched out to the sides and encouraging her to return to the chicken coop is the best option. In these situations, the chicken will desperately want to find her fellow hens, so ‘steer’ her towards the hole in the fence or the open gate, or whichever escape route she took.

If the hen has flapped over a wall, however, you may have to resort to old fashioned hunting techniques for catching chickens.

How Do You Catch a Stray Chicken?

If your hens are very tame, you can simply offer some treats, bend down and pick them up. If only it were that easy with every chicken! Some are about as easy to catch as a fast-moving bar of wet soap – they can sprint at speeds of around 9 miles (14.5 km) per hour – and you will usually have to corner them first if you want to catch them.

If a hen has escaped or you spot her running away, or simply hidden somewhere in a large backyard or meadow where you can find to trace of her, the best approach is to be patient and rely on the chicken’s homing instinct. As dusk begins to fall, the hen will instinctively head back to the coop. This is one of the handy things about keeping poultry!

The Best Way to Catch a Chicken

Do chickens like being picked up? In general, the answer is no. But if you’re trying to catch a chicken for whatever reason there are various ways of doing so. Not all of them can be recommended for the non-expert chicken keeper.

  • Using a pole with a hook or noose for catching a chicken. Let’s get the dangerous one out of the way first. A pole, hook or noose should only be used by experts when trying to catch a chicken. This is a dangerous tool, and in the wrong hands the poultry hook or noose can break a chicken’s leg or neck as you try to grab it, so our advice is to avoid it.
  • Using a net to catch chickens. Nets can be dangerous tools, as a chicken’s claws can snag in the netting, causing injury. If you opt for this method, the chickens should be netted as quickly as possible to minimize stress – although forever afterwards the sight of that net will send the poor hen into a panic! You should always use as large a net as possible for catching your chickens. A blanket may offer a safer way to catch them.
  • Using crate traps for catching chickens. Putting irresistible treats into a crate, and then slyly closing the door with a pole or long stick is an effective method. The main drawback is that all the other chickens will be tempted to take a look inside too!
  • Boxes for catching chickens. A large box can be placed over a cornered bird in the coop or run, and the flaps can be tucked in to secure the chicken. This technique can be useful if you need to capture chickens in daylight (although it works at night, too) and if they tend to be aggressive.
  • Flashlights makes chickens easier to catch. This is the simplest and most effective method when you need to trap a roosting chicken. When chickens are with the rest of the flock in the coop or run on their roosting bars or perches or in their nesting boxes at night, they instinctively stay put. If you open the top of the coop and shine a flashlight (head-mounted ones are perfect), you’ll be able to pinpoint the hen you need to examine, and grab her up with minimal fuss.

Picking Up the Chicken

When picking up the hen, try to be firm but not rough. Getting a good grip and preventing the wings from flapping is the key. The correct method is to hold the chicken by placing your hand over its back, confining the wings, and then bring it close to your body. If the bird is very nervous, you may have to cover her with a towel to calm her down.

A tame hen is the easiest type of chicken to capture. Simply lure the hen in with a few treats, and grab her, stroking her back to reassure her. Once the cleaning or the examination is over, put the chicken on the ground and step back. She will do the rest, scuttling back to the safety of the flock.

So, there are several ways to catch a chicken, but you should only put them into practice when you definitely need to catch one. Try to avoid the poultry hook or net if you can, and use the method that suits both the chicken and the circumstances.

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Moving House With Chickens

Moving house is stressful for everyone involved – and that includes pets and chickens. As far as your hens are concerned, the secret to a successful relocation is to have everything ready at the other end. In the same way as you might unpack a kettle and two mugs before opening any of the big boxes, the chicken shed and run should be ready in the backyard before the first kettle boils!

Hens are prone to stress, and at the very least you can expect the egg count to plummet for a few days following a move. Weak or very nervous chickens are in particular danger, as panic can make them flap blindly and break legs, or even kill themselves. Minimizing stress is therefore the key to a successful move.

The most stress-free way to get your hens ready for the move is to collect and crate/box them from the coop, rather than later in the day when they are out and about and need chasing and cornering. That is not a good way to minimize stress!

Transporting Chickens

Your hen-carriers need to be covered, well-ventilated boxes or pet crates. They should have enough space for the birds to turn around in (to prevent them from panicking at the confined space), while being dark enough to make their instincts kick in and help them snuggle down for the duration of the trip. On longer journeys, however, you will need to have enough light in the boxes to enable the hens to feed, and pet crates will make this easier.

You’ll need one box per chicken, generally, so make sure you have enough boxes for the big day. Hens with similar, placid temperaments can be transported in a single box. Each box or crate should be lined with straw to soak up the droppings, and the boxes should be stacked securely, not more than three boxes high.

It is important that the birds do not get too hot on the journey, so ventilation is an issue. If you only have two or three hens, they could travel on the back seat of a well-ventilated car, secured with quilts or blankets – or even seat belts – to prevent the boxes from sliding around.

The journey itself should be taken using as many straight, non-bumpy roads as possible, combined with the need to make the trip as brief as you can. If your new home is a short stretch of highway and a couple of roads away, that’s all very straightforward. Rural locations with lots of windy-road options will need more planning. If all the roads are roads with lots of bends, the quickest route is the best option.

In the two weeks before the move, make sure your hens’ diet is rich in all the required vitamins and minerals. Some owners recommend adding probiotics or extra vitamins to the feed, and this is something you should discuss with your vet.

For short journeys, you will not have to worry about chicken feed. On longer trips, though, food will need to be provided. Make sure you take a long break at least every three hours, to allow the confined birds to settle down and feed. If you are transporting the hens in crates, you can attach a water dispenser to the side.

A Portable Chicken Coop?

Old fashioned chicken coops can be tricky to transport, and many hen keepers prefer to erect a new run and chicken shed at their new property. This sometimes involves housing the birds in temporary accommodation while the new coop and run are being sorted out.

There are ways of avoiding the inconvenience, though. A portable coop and run can be packed away and then installed in the new backyard in a few minutes, and they have the advantage of familiarity. Hens introduced into a coop that they already know inside out will reduce the stress of the move enormously.

Coops and runs such as the Eglu are ideal in this respect. Placing the coop in your new backyard as soon as you arrive will enable the chickens to feel at home before you’ve even managed to open any of your boxes. Humans will inevitably feel the stress of the moving-in process, but the hens don’t have to!

The process isn’t quite over when your hens are safely cooped up in the new backyard. Stress can cause any underlying diseases to bloom, so you need to carry out daily health checks on your birds as the flock settles down in its new surroundings. This is yet another reason to consider a pack-and-go portable coop and run.

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How Long Can I Leave My Chickens For?

As with all pets, you as the owner have the main responsibility for making sure the animals are safe and happy. That means that before you go away overnight, whether it is for work or on holiday, you will need to make sure you have a plan for the chickens, ensuring they will be alright while you are not around. 

Chickens are much more self-sufficient than some other popular pets; they do not need human interaction every day, will sort out their own exercise, and will not overeat even if there is more food than needed available. That being said though, there are lots of things to think about before you leave them alone.

How long can I leave my chickens alone for? 

This is not an easy question to answer, as it depends heavily on your chickens, where you live, and what your setup looks like. Even leaving your flock of chickens for a day requires some preparation. 

Hens need constant access to food and water, and enough space to move around on. This is relatively easy to organize if you are going away for 2-3 days. The more important, and probably the trickier, thing to ensure is that the chickens are safe from predators when you are not there to keep an eye on them. Letting your chickens free range without any supervision is very risky, so you will need to have a safe enclosure that is big enough for your chickens to move around in while you are gone. 

An Eglu Cube connected to a Walk in run is a perfect setup for all chicken keeping situations, but maybe particularly when you are not able to keep a constant eye on your hens. The Walk in run can be extended to suit the number of chickens you have, and you can be sure that they will not have to fend off any foxes, raccoons, or wild birds.

If you are confident your enclosure is safe and spacious enough, and that there is no risk that the chickens will run out of food and water, most flocks will be alright by themselves for a weekend. 

Should I get a chicken sitter?

If you are going away for anything longer than three days, you will need to organize for someone to help you come and check on and take care of your chickens on a daily basis. Even if you are just gone for one night, we would recommend asking a friendly neighbor to poke their head over the fence to make sure the hens are well. 

Accidents happen: one of your chickens could have had a fall and seems to be in pain, or a water container may have fallen over. Your friend or neighbor will then hopefully be able to refill the water or give you a call to let you know what has happened. 

You might be surprised at how many of your friends and family will be happy to go and check on your chickens once a day if they get to keep the delicious fresh eggs. If you have an automatic door that lets your chickens out in the morning and shuts behind them at night, your helpers can decide for themselves at what time of the day they would like to go. 

If you are getting someone to look after your chickens for you, it is nice to make it as easy as possible for them before you leave home. 

What do my chickens need while I’m away?

If you have decided you feel confident that your chickens will be okay by themselves for a few days you will probably already have thought about these things, but they are still worth mentioning:

Food and water

You probably have quite a good idea of how much your chickens eat and drink in a day, it all depends on breed, age and size. It is always better to leave a bit too much food than too little, and make sure you have more than one feeder to choose from in case something were to happen to one of them. 

Prep for different weathers

Do not trust the weather forecast completely. Make sure the chickens can return to the coop and that they have sheltered spots on the run in case of all day rain or a particularly scorching sunny day. 

Entertainment

If your chickens are used to you coming to hang out with them after work every day they might miss the fun. Try to make up for this by giving them some fun toys to play with on the run. Some chickens absolutely love perching on the Chicken Swing, whereas others will go crazy for food dispensing toys, like the Caddi Treat Holder or Peck Toys.

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What Can I Treat My Chickens to in Winter Months?

Introduction:

As November and December start to roll in, the cold weather will come with it. You may have already purchased the Omlet Eglu Cube or Go-UP to keep your chickens cozy during these cold nights. However, who said you do not want to spoil your chickens even more over the holiday season?! It is the season of giving after all! Below is some information on feeding your chickens in colder months and some “egg-cellent” treats that you can surprise your hens with on a cold, blustery day that they will absolutely love!

Blog Summary:

  1. How often should I feed my chickens during Winter?
  2. What is the most comforting treat?
  3. What are the easiest treats to prepare?
  4. What are the most nutritious treats for your flock?
  5. Conclusions 

1. How often should I feed my chickens during Winter?

During the colder months it is normal that other animals hibernate and usually stock up on food for the Winter. With your chickens it may be helpful to feed them a little more than their usual ration, especially if you are planning to have your chickens continue to lay eggs throughout the colder season. A good rule of thumb is if you feed them 1 time a day, give them half of an extra ration in the Winter.

2. What is the Most Comforting Treat?

If you have already bought some pumpkins to paint or to decorate your doorstep with in the Fall Season and are wondering what to do with them here is a solution, Pumpkin Puree! This is a great treat for your hens that you can easily whip up in minutes.

All you have to do is scoop out the seeds and cut the pumpkin into small enough pieces that they can be put in a food processor or a blender. Then, just blend it up until it is a nice, smooth consistency for your chickens. After you have pureed the pumpkin, take it straight out to your chickens and add some chicken feed and they will go crazy!

Another option is also to warm up the Pumpkin Puree for a warm treat on a colder day! Make sure that the puree has cooled down to a comfortable temperature before you feed it to your hens. 

3. What are the easiest treats to prepare?

Sometimes simpler is better and these treats will definitely keep your hens happy and maybe give you a little laugh in the process.

One easy treat to give your hens is leftover pasta! Who knew that chickens like to load up on carbs in the Winter as well! If you have some leftover spaghetti or penne toss it into the chicken pen and you will get a good laugh watching the chicken have noodles hanging from their beaks.

Another easy treat is warm oatmeal! Just add hot water and stir. You can also add some chicken feed or any nuts and seeds that your chickens prefer. You will be amused watching your chickens try to slurp up the warm oatmeal. Again, make sure the oatmeal is at a comfortable temperature to serve to your hens.

4. What Winter Foods Are Healthy for my Flock?

For those of you that like to keep your flock in tip top shape here are some ideas for healthy treats. One food that helps with egg production and is very nutritious is scrambled eggs! I know it sounds crazy, but it provides your chicken with needed protein and vitamins during the Winter months.

Also, egg shells believe it or not will provide your chickens with extra calcium and nutrients that they will need even more during the colder months. After you have used one of your chicken’s eggs just break up the shells into small pieces and feed it to them. They will love it!

5. Conclusions

All of these recipes can be found from this great website: https://morningchores.com/chicken-treats/. Go check out her page for more ideas on treats for your chickens and help your chickens stay warm and cozy this season!

Psssst… Read More About Fun Pet Tips and Tricks Here: http://blog.omlet.us/ 

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50% off Peck Toys when you subscribe to the weekly Omlet newsletter this Halloween

Trick or treat your hens this Halloween with a s-peck-tacularly spooky Peck Toy! Save 50% on Peck Toys when you sign up to the Omlet newsletter!

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This promotion is only valid from 10/29/20 – midnight on 11/02/20. Once you have entered your email address on the website you will receive a discount code that can be used at checkout. By entering your email you agree to receive the Omlet Newsletter. You can unsubscribe at any time. This offer is available on single Poppy and Pendant Chicken Peck Toys only. The offer does not apply to Twin Packs or Twin Pack with Caddi Treat Holder. Offer is limited to 2 Peck Toys per household. Subject to availability. Omlet ltd. reserves the right to withdraw the offer at any point. Offer cannot be used on delivery, existing discounts, or in conjunction with any other offer.

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How Much Should I Be Feeding My Chickens

Chickens are great foragers, and free-range birds will peck and scratch for all kinds of wild treats, from grass and weeds to worms and beetles. However, even a hen with all-day access to a backyard or meadow still needs to be fed with high-quality layers pellets. These contain the correct balance of protein, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals (notably calcium for egg shells) that will keep them happy and healthy. Protein is particularly important for healthy egg production.

A general ballpark figure is very useful, to guarantee that the hens’ dietary requirements are being met. For medium-sized breeds such as the Rhode Island Red, Oxford Brown or Orpington, you need to feed between 115 and 120 grams (just over a quarter of a pound) of feed per chicken per day, which is 805 to 840 grams (one and a half pounds) of feed per chicken per week. A slightly larger Sussex will eat a bit more, and the smaller Leghorn will eat slightly less, while a small bantam breed will only eat between a half and three quarters of that amount.

Chicks, Pullets and Layers

Until it is five weeks old, a chick will need to have its diet supplemented with protein-rich ‘chick crumbs’. Between then and 18 weeks old, while they are ‘pullets’, the birds will need ‘growers pellets’ to put on weight. As soon as the hens begin laying, they only need the regular ‘layers pellets’. These, again, are rich in protein, calcium and all the other essential nutrients.

The hens will also need daily access to grit. Treats are fine, as long as they are not being offered so frequently that the hens fail to eat their share of pellets. Corn is a healthy treat, and birds that have free-range access to grass will be in chicken heaven.

How Can You Make Sure Each Hen is Getting Her Share of the Food?

Any flock of chickens develops a natural pecking order, and the dominant birds will tend to eat their fill before the others, if there is not enough space for all the hens to fill their crops at once (something they like doing shortly before retiring for the night). A solution here is to buy a wide-bottomed feeder that allows several birds to eat at once, or to use more than one feeder. This will ensure the timid hens get their fair share of food.

However, as long as you have provided enough for all your hens, there should always be food left in the feeder when the dominant birds have had their fill. You should still keep a close eye on the health of your flock, though. Issues such as soft shells or feather-plucking can be signs of dietary deficiencies, and the problem might lie in the quality rather than the quantity of the birds’ diet.

Do Hens Eat the Same Food All Year Round?

Chickens molt every year, and will usually eat more food during this process, to ensure their bodies have all the protein they need to grow a new set of feathers. Hens usually eat more during cold weather, too, in order to fuel their metabolisms and stay warm. Free-range hens also tend not to find as many treats in the backyard during the Winter, as the insect population is at low ebb and the grass is no longer growing.

You can add a little more food each day during these periods. You will soon know if you are giving them too much or too little, by noting the amount of pellets left in the feeder each evening.

However, the hens produce fewer eggs in the Winter, so all in all the amount of protein-rich pellets required does not differ significantly from season to season. Again, the key detail is to ensure a regular supply of food. In the Summer, if your hens appear to be eating very little, it may be because they are finding too many good things on their foraging trips in the backyard. This can be a problem if the wild food they are filling up on does not provide the right balance of nutrients. You might want to confine a hen to the coop if she does not seem to eat enough pellets. That way, she will be forced to eat the good stuff rather than the backyard treats.

Layers pellets should be available to the hens 24/7 – they will eat as much as they need, and will not behave like a dog, eating everything at once simply because it is there!

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Why Do Some Eggs Have Double Yolks?

Most people would agree that the yolk is the best part of the egg. A double-yolker in the breakfast pan is therefore a very welcome sight!

Some hens lay double-yolkers every time, a genetic quirk that simply means two yolks are released into the system instead of one. However, hens that manage this impressive feat are rare, and no single breed has been developed to pull off the double-yolk trick every time.

The one-egg-with-two-yolks breakfast can still be yours every day, though, if you are willing to pay extra for it. You may have spotted double-yolk ‘super eggs’ on the shelves of certain supermarkets – sold at a premium, of course – but these are nearly all from young birds, rather than the mythical Double Yolker breed. It is worth pointing this out, as a Google search will lead to some interesting information about such a breed. But it does not exist – yet!

Most double-yolk eggs encountered by chicken keepers come from young hens. Point-of-lay birds tend to produce a very small egg or two, and then a couple of double-yolkers, before their bodies settle down into a regular four or five eggs-per-week pattern. A double-yolk egg after this early laying stage is very rare in most birds, although some hens begin to produce double-yolkers again towards the end of their egg-laying lives. Circumstantial evidence suggests that the Rhode Island Red, Oxford Brown, Sussex, and Leghorn breeds have a higher chance of producing double-yolkers.

How Are Double Yolks Formed?

Hens’ bodies release a yolk approximately two hours after the previous egg has been laid. Once in the hen’s oviduct – the part of the bird’s body in which the eggs are formed – the yolk is surrounded by the white albumen part of the egg and then covered in hard calcium. If a hen has released two yolks side-by-side, the egg-forming process treats them in the same way as a single yolk, resulting in two yolks ‘trapped’ inside a single egg shell.

If double-yolked eggs are fertilized, the result is two chicken embryos in one shell. Most of these ‘twin’ eggs fail to develop properly, though, with only one chick growing beyond the early development stage, or with neither of them developing. This makes it rare for two chicks to emerge from one egg. Chicken breeders are advised to put aside the double-yolkers to prevent them developing, and in commercial operations most double-yolkers are sold to food companies that use eggs in their products.

How Can You Tell If An Egg Has Two Yolks?

You do not need to crack the shell to find out what is inside – you can spot a double-yolker by ‘candling’ the egg. The word candling comes from the ancient practice of holding an egg in front of a candle flame, but a small flashlight does the job just as well (although they are still ‘candled!’) If there are two yolks inside, they will be visible as two dark blobs against the bright light as it shines through the shell.

So, although double-yolkers are estimated to occur in just one per thousand eggs, the sheer abundance of point-of-lay hens means that they are a common sight on the plates of chicken keepers around the world.

Triple yolkers, however, are very unlikely to grace the breakfast table. This super-rarity is found in just one egg per 25 million!

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Do My Chickens Need Supplements?

Photos by William Moreland on Unsplash

The very short answer to that question is probably no. If you give your chickens a good quality feed and some corn, and let them peck around the backyard for insects and small stones they use to grind down their food they should technically be getting everything they need. 

Any supplement should be given to your chickens as a complement to a healthy and balanced diet, and not instead of giving them good feed or sufficient space to live out natural chicken behaviors. However, just like you might boost your own system with some extra vitamins and minerals, there are some things that you can give your hens that will help them stay healthier and give them more energy.

Particularly useful at more challenging times, like around a molt or during a particularly tough cold snap, we have listed all the supplements you might want to have in your cupboard: 

Grit

Chickens do not have teeth, but use small rocks and stones to grind their food down. Most free range chickens gather grit naturally while exploring the backyard, but if you for some reason have to contain your chickens to a smaller area than normal, or if their run is covered in snow, you might need to add grit to their diet. 

Make sure to choose something that is chicken specific and will have the right composition and size of components.

Vinegar

Vinegar, normally Apple Cider Vinegar, is a great booster all year around. It aids digestion, keeps internal parasites at bay, and is mildly antiseptic. In the Winter it is also fantastic to use preventatively to keep respiratory infections away from your flock.

Choose an organic or unpasteurized vinegar that contains a substance called ‘the mother’. It is a gel-like substance that grows naturally on the vinegar, and it is the mother that contains the most powerful enzymes and minerals that make the vinegar so beneficial.

Vinegar can be added to the chickens’ drinking water, approximately 10ml per liter of water.

Garlic

As well as keeping vampires away, garlic has been used for its beneficial properties for centuries, and it is a great addition to your chickens’ diet. 

You can crush up a fresh clove or use garlic powder to add to the feed. It is great for circulation, and can help with respiratory infections. It’s also said to help ensure a good appetite, so it is ideal to give it to newly rescued hens that need a nutrient boost.

Herbs

Plenty of herbs and spices are said to have medicinal properties that will help your hens keep their immune system in top condition. Verm-X is a 100% natural supplement that helps maintain intestinal hygiene and keeps the hen’s gut and digestive system in great condition, which can help keep parasites and infections away. 

Oregano, cinnamon, parsley, turmeric, and ginger are other chicken favorites that will increase vitamin levels and aid the immune system, and when it is grind down it can be mixed into your chickens feed.   

Calcium

Chickens use lots of calcium to build egg shells, so laying chickens can sometimes need a little more than they get from their pellets. 

Equimins Egg Shell Improver is a great example of a supplement that contains high levels of calcium and phosphorus and will strengthen the quality of your chickens’ eggs. Ideal for ex battery hens or hens going through a molt. 

Poultry Spice

This is a long term favorite with chicken keepers, a mineral supplement that will be beneficial to your chickens’ general health. It’s perfect for molting, or to help maintain good appetite in the Winter.

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10 Ways to Tell if Your Chickens Have Taken Over Your Life?

Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash

1. You have created a social media page for your Hens

Let’s face it, when you invest in a chicken coop and purchase your first flock you have to share it with friends and family. Whether it is documenting first eggs laid in the coop to your gourmet recipes with your farm-fresh eggs you are posting it on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. 

2. You find eggs throughout the house

As you start becoming more comfortable with your chickens maybe you decide to let  them in your home. They never bother anybody and get along great with your pets but occasionally you find a fresh egg in your fruit bowl or on top of your favorite armchair. Hey, at least you know they are comfortable!

3. A “staycation” is your idea of a holiday

When you invest in your first brood you feel like you are a second parent to these animals. You wash them, feed them, and make sure they are comfortable. Add that in with taking care of your own kids and the idea of going on vacation is the last thing on your mind. You would much rather set up a zoom background of the beach or the tropics, order in a favorite meal, and put your feet up. Ahhh!

4. You find yourself chatting with your chickens

Sometimes we just need a good therapy session with an attentive listener and who better than your chickens. They will never talk back to you or judge you for your decisions. They may give the occasional nudge or peck for a pet but hey it is cheaper than therapy. 

5. You have pet names for your hens

After the first couple weeks of tending to your chickens you start noticing some have different personalities. Some are on the shy side, some are very particular about their feeding time, and some just want all of the cuddles in the world. What a perfect time to give them a name! Whether it is Rudy, Cleo, or Fluffy we don’t judge here because they are your pets.

6. The home is filled with fashionable fowl decor

Whether it is chicken cocktail napkins or a hen-tastic serving platter you or your friends have made sure that you have all of the latest in chicken-related home furnishings. 

7. You have a carrier bag to transport your chickens

Maybe you need to take them to the vet like any of your other pets. Who says that they shouldn’t be comfortable. That is why you have the top of the line carrier bag to transport your chickens whenever they are unwell. 

8. Dressing up your brood for special occasions

When you have Spring chickens or Fall Fowls they must be dressed for the season. When Halloween comes around you wouldn’t put it past yourself to dress up your chickens in a matching outfit with your other pets. 

9. Instead of walking the dog you find yourself walking the Flock

Yes, there are harnesses for chickens because you have already researched it on Amazon. Maybe you have limited land and your chickens need to stretch their legs each day so you take them to the local park to graze and get some fresh air. Totally normal, right?!

10. You find yourself building a chicken picnic table for feeding time

We have all seen the trend of building mini picnic tables for our squirrel friends in our backyard. If you haven’t just Google it and you will be entertained by these structures. Well, who says your chickens should have any less than the squirrels. You paint your own table to pour your chicken feed into each day so your chickens can chow down in style. 

At the end of the day, we understand that when you decide to venture out into the land of chicken coops it can be a daunting process. Everyone has unique experiences and should be able to tend to their hens/ roosters in their own way. Your flock is part of your family so why skimp on their care and upkeep!

You can read more about the Eglu Chicken Coops here

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Should I Be Worming My Chickens?

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

Does my chicken have worms?

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

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

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

To worm or not to worm

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

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

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

Prevent infections

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

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

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

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

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

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How to Give Your Chicken a Health Check

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

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

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

Eyes

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

Nose

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

Beak

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

Comb

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

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

Crop

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

Feathers

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

Legs and feet

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

Vent

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

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

Droppings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Which of These Chicken Myths Are Actually True?

Photo by Sarah Halliday on Unsplash

Chickens are color blind

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

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

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

There are as many chickens as there are humans on earth

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

Chickens navigate through magnetic fields

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

Chickens are cannibals

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

Chickens have no taste buds

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

The color of the egg affects the nutritional content

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

If you chop their heads off, chickens will keep running

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

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

You can hypnotize a chicken

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

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

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Chicken Sounds and What They Mean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Understanding the Pecking Order in Chickens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Change in the Pecking Order

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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