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We have everything you need to keep your hens healthy and happy.

 
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We have everything you need to keep your hens healthy and happy.

 

Chicken Keepers Wiki

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WIKI

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Can chickens lay soft shelled eggs?

Yes they can! Soft-shelled eggs in chickens can result from various factors. One primary cause is a deficiency in calcium or other essential nutrients necessary for absorbing calcium (such as a deficiency in vitamin D) which support forming of strong eggshells. Sometimes, hens may experience stress due to overcrowding, predator threats, sudden changes in their environment, or disturbances in their routine, which can also lead to soft shelled eggs or irregular shell formation. Certain diseases affecting the reproductive system can also impact eggshell quality.

Addressing soft-shelled eggs usually involves providing a well-balanced diet containing adequate calcium & vitamin D levels. Offering crushed oyster shells or commercial calcium supplements in their feed helps boost calcium intake. Ensuring a low-stress environment by maintaining proper coop conditions, reducing disturbances, and handling the hens gently can also improve shell quality.

If problems persist, then a veterinary check-up can identify underlying health issues contributing to soft-shelled eggs, and specific treatments or adjustments to the chickens' care regimen can be recommended by the vet based on these findings.

The above is offered as general background information. It is not intended as and must not be used for "diagnosis", "treatment" or "advice" within the meaning of those terms as detailed in the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. If you are worried about the health of your birds you should always consult a qualified vet.

 
 

Why do my chickens peck each other?

Chickens engage in feather pecking for various reasons, sometimes linked to stress, overcrowding, or boredom. When chickens feel confined or stressed, they might resort to pecking as a means of coping or establishing dominance within the flock.

To address this behaviour, expanding the coop space per bird can reduce stress and competition. Introducing distractions like hanging vegetables, mirrors or treats provides mental stimulation, curbing boredom-induced pecking.

But there are other reasons. In rare cases a nutritional inadequacy can cause feather pecking. Ensuring a well-balanced diet rich in nutrients minimizes deficiencies that could trigger pecking behaviour. Sometimes lice or mites might be the cause, so always regularly check your birds and their housing to ensure they are free from the little bugs. If in doubt, consult your vet. 

As a last resort, where pecking has become habitual, separating aggressive birds and using anti-pecking sprays or beak blockers can help discourage pecking habits, or at least reduce the chance of damage to the victim.

Avian Flu lockdown forcing free range birds into smaller coops can require implementing a variety of solutions collectively to create a more harmonious environment.

The above is offered as general background information. It is not intended as and must not be used for "diagnosis", "treatment" or "advice" within the meaning of those terms as detailed in the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. If you are worried about the health of your birds you should always consult a qualified vet.

 
 

What are the main considerations when buying a Chicken Coop?

When selecting a chicken coop, consider size, ensuring ample space for your flock to roam and nest comfortably. Look for a coop with at least 15cm of perch space per bird.

Material durability is crucial—wood is repairable and warm, metal is sturdy but suffers from condensation, plastic is lightweight, all three are common choices and have their benefits and drawbacks.

Adequate ventilation promotes air circulation, crucial for preventing condensation and maintaining healthy chickens. Ventilation is key as moist air leads to condensation and mould.

Consider easy access for cleaning and egg collection.

Security against predators is essential, so opt for sturdy door bolts and predator-proof design with quality weldmesh. 

Additionally, consider portability if you plan to move the coop. Some owners want to leave the coop in the place others want to move it to fresh grass weekly. Some coops are light enough for two people to move them, some come with wheels so it is a one person job.

Finally, factor in your climate—insulation for colder regions and shade for hotter climates ensure your chickens stay comfortable year-round.

When deciding where to place a chicken coop in your garden, prioritize accessibility for both yourself and your chickens. Choose a level area with good drainage if possible to prevent waterlogging. Alternatively consider putting hardwood wood chip on the ground. Opt for a spot with ample sunlight for warmth and to aid in drying out the coop.

Ensure proximity to a water source for easy drinker refills and cleaning. Position the coop away from potential disturbances like sudden loud noise areas or heavy foot traffic to keep your chickens calm. Consider prevailing winds and aim to orient the coop to allow for good ventilation without direct exposure to harsh elements.

Lastly, integrate it into your garden layout, ensuring it doesn't obstruct future plans and that it's convenient for regular maintenance and egg collection.

The above is offered as general background information. It is not intended as and must not be used for "diagnosis", "treatment" or "advice" within the meaning of those terms as detailed in the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. If you are worried about the health of your birds you should always consult a qualified vet.

 
 

What are the benefits of keeping back garden chickens?

Keeping domestic back garden poultry offers numerous benefits. Firstly, it's an excellent way to have a sustainable source of fresh eggs. The joy of collecting eggs from your own hens is unmatched, providing a direct connection to your food source and ensuring the quality and freshness of what you consume. It is also a great learning point for children.

Additionally, poultry in the garden helps in pest control by foraging for insects, reducing the need for chemical pesticides.

Furthermore, they contribute to a more eco-friendly lifestyle by recycling kitchen-garden or allotment scraps into nutritious compost and reducing food waste.

Beyond practical advantages, tending to poultry can be therapeutic, offering a chance to connect with nature and relieve stress. It also teaches responsibility, especially for children involved in caring for the animals.

However, proper care, adequate space, and attention to local regulations are crucial. Overall, keeping backyard poultry harmonizes self-sufficiency, sustainability, and the pleasure of nurturing living creatures.

The above is offered as general background information. It is not intended as and must not be used for "diagnosis", "treatment" or "advice" within the meaning of those terms as detailed in the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. If you are worried about the health of your birds you should always consult a qualified vet.

 
 

How do I keep my chickens healthy & happy?

Keeping backyard poultry healthy and content involves a mix of attentive care, suitable living conditions, and adequate nutrition. Ensuring the well-being of your feathered friends demands attention to several key factors.

Firstly, a comfortable coop serves as their haven. It should offer ample space for movement, nesting, and roosting. Ventilation is crucial to prevent moisture buildup and maintain air quality. Regular cleaning is a must to prevent disease spread and keep pests at bay.

Providing a balanced diet is fundamental. A blend of commercial feed, supplemented with greens, grains, and occasional treats like freshwater shrimp, caters to their nutritional needs. Fresh, clean water should always be available to maintain hydration.

Regular health checks are vital to detect any signs of illness early on. Observe their behaviour, droppings, and physical appearance for any abnormalities. Establishing a relationship with a veterinarian experienced in poultry care can be immensely helpful in addressing health concerns promptly.

Ensuring adequate protection from predators is essential. The urban fox will smell chickens in a back garden from miles away and will visit regularly hoping you have left your coop open! Installing secure fencing, electric fencing or covering the coop with predator-proof weld-mesh, and safeguarding access points are necessary precautions.

Additionally, maintaining a routine for exercise and free-ranging can contribute significantly to their happiness. Allowing them to explore, scratch, and peck in a safe environment supports their natural behaviours.

Social interaction is also vital. Chickens are social creatures and thrive in the company of their flock. Introduce new members carefully and managing any conflicts that arise.

Lastly, hygiene plays a critical role in keeping poultry healthy. Regularly cleaning their living space, providing clean bedding, and a dry run, ensuring their environment is free from bacteria and parasites are crucial for their well-being.

In summary, prioritizing the physical and mental well-being of backyard poultry involves attention to their living conditions, diet, health checks, protection from predators, social interaction, exercise, and maintaining a clean environment. By addressing these key aspects, you can help ensure your feathered companions lead healthy and content lives in your back garden.

The above is offered as general background information. It is not intended as and must not be used for "diagnosis", "treatment" or "advice" within the meaning of those terms as detailed in the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. If you are worried about the health of your birds you should always consult a qualified vet.

 
 

I think I have Red Mite – help!

Red mites are blood-sucking parasites that infest poultry, that they acquire from wild birds. In extreme cases infestations can cause anaemia. In small numbers they can cause stress, and decreased egg production. Sometimes if a coop is infested, the chickens will not go to bed at night, preferring to sleep in a nearby tree! They are nocturnal so identifying an infestation involves checking the ends and underside of perches, crevices, and birds at night when mites are active. Look for clusters of red or black mites and pale, irritated skin on birds.

To tackle infestations, thorough coop cleaning is crucial—remove bedding, scrub surfaces, and use disinfectants. Applying poultry-safe insecticides or diatomaceous earth in the coop helps control mites. Dust baths with ash or diatomaceous earth can deter mites, while ensuring proper ventilation and reducing hiding spots minimizes their presence. There are now treatments that can be added to the drinking water to poultry to deter mites.

Birds that are recovering from a red mite infestation should be given a good broad vitamin supplement or a supplement specially formulated to help with anaemia, then the birds will get back to full health and full egg laying quicker.

Giving your flock access to a dust bath consisting of fine sand or a mix of sand and diatomaceous earth will help the chickens help themselves.

Regularly inspecting and treating the coop, birds, and surroundings prevent infestations. Employing integrated pest management practices like rotating treatments and introducing predatory mites can aid in long-term control. If you are struggling consult a veterinarian for treatments tailored to your poultry's needs.

The above is offered as general background information. It is not intended as and must not be used for "diagnosis", "treatment" or "advice" within the meaning of those terms as detailed in the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. If you are worried about the health of your birds you should always consult a qualified vet.

 
 

My chickens are losing their feathers. Could they be moulting?

The moulting process in chickens is a totally natural phenomenon crucial for their health and vitality and is absolutely nothing to worry about. It's a cyclical event where chickens shed old feathers and grow new ones. Typically occurring annually, moulting primarily happens in the autumn as daylight hours decrease, but can occur at other times, especially in younger birds.

Moulting timing varies, but most chickens first moult around 12-18 months old, with subsequent moults occurring annually. It's influenced by factors like breed, daylight duration, and individual health.

Moulting is a rejuvenating process. Chickens replace old, worn-out feathers to ensure better insulation during colder months and to prepare for the upcoming laying season. This energy-intensive process redirects resources from egg production to feather growth. The process may also deplete the chicken of some of it’s key nutrients, vitamins & key minerals.

Moulting periods vary but generally last 8-12 weeks. During this time, chickens cease or reduce egg laying, focusing on feather regeneration. Feathers might appear patchy or sparse, and chickens can seem more lethargic and vulnerable to weather changes.
 

HOW TO AID IN THEIR RECOVERY

  1. Nutrition: Offer a high-quality diet to support feather regrowth.
     
  2. Environment: Ensure a stress-free coop environment. Adequate shelter, clean bedding, and protection from the worst of the cold & wet weather.
     
  3. Supplements: Give the hens a good quality vitamin supplement or tonic designed to help with feather re-growth. This will boost feather re-growth and speed up a return to laying. Some breeders recommend apple cider vinegar.
     
  4. Patience: Allow chickens time to moult naturally. They will get through it and they will start laying again!

The above is offered as general background information. It is not intended as and must not be used for "diagnosis", "treatment" or "advice" within the meaning of those terms as detailed in the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. If you are worried about the health of your birds you should always consult a qualified vet.

 
 

Should I worm my chickens?

Yes, just like with dogs, cats and other pets you will almost certainly need to worm your chickens at some point. Some chicken keepers prefer to do this on a routine basis, usually every 3 to 6 months. Others prefer to check their chicken’s poop for signs of worms or eggs and treat as necessary. You can send samples of chicken poop to a laboratory for them to inspect and advise you on worming. This service is usually inexpensive and overall very cost effective as you will only need to buy expensive wormer if your birds actually need worming. They will also advise you on the correct wormer to purchase depending on what they find.
 

What wormer should I buy?

In the UK, worming chickens involves using licensed wormer specifically designed for poultry. The most commonly prescribed wormers for poultry contain the ingredient Flubendazole. The frequency of routine worming can vary, but typically, it's recommended to worm chickens every 3-6 months, depending on the product used and the level of infestation.
 

Can I prevent my chickens getting worms?

Probably not entirely. However, there are preventive measures that could reduce the worming frequency. They include good hygiene practices, keeping the coop clean, bedding and ground clean & dry, rotating grazing areas, minimising contact with wild birds, and regularly checking for signs of worms in the chickens' droppings or overall health. Additionally, there are several products available that claim to aid with “gut health”. While these are not licensed wormers, they can form part of a preventive strategy.
 

Where can I get a licensed wormer?

Legally in the UK you can only buy wormer from a vet or from an SQP (a specialist who is specifically trained and certified to dispense certain veterinary medicines). When you do buy a licensed wormer from your vet or other licensed outlet, always follow the specific instructions on the wormer's packaging and if needed consult a vet for guidance tailored to your flock's needs.

The above is offered as general background information. It is not intended as and must not be used for "diagnosis", "treatment" or "advice" within the meaning of those terms as detailed in the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. If you are worried about the health of your birds you should always consult a qualified vet.

 
 

My chicken has runny poo, should I be worried?

Fresh chicken poop is pretty wet sticky stuff normally and as any chicken keeper will tell you, they make a lot of it. Chickens typically poop frequently, with some individuals going every 15-30 minutes. Typically one chicken may produce anywhere from 15 to 30 droppings in a day, depending on factors like diet and water intake. On average they may be described as wet but firm. Once every 8 or so poops is different and called Cecal droppings. It is much stickier, sometimes yellow in colour and always very smelly. This is normal!

Over time you will get to know what is normal for your chickens, and therefore will be able to spot if something is wrong.

Persistently runny poop in chickens is not normal, especially if it is so runny the feathers at the rear end are getting wet and matted. Persistently runny poop can be caused by various factors, such as bacterial or viral infections, parasites, dietary issues, stress, or changes in the environment.

(It is worth noting at this point that broody chickens can have runny green or watery poop, and it may be ok - more on that in a different post)

In the first instance ensure your chicken has access to clean water, a balanced diet, and a clean living space.

If the problem persists or worsens, it's best to consult a veterinarian specialising in poultry to identify the specific cause and recommend appropriate treatment.

There are various products on the market that claim to help with loose poops. It may be appropriate to try these, for example if you know the cause is something simple like a change of diet or if recommended by your vet.

The above is offered as general background information. It is not intended as and must not be used for "diagnosis", "treatment" or "advice" within the meaning of those terms as detailed in the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. If you are worried about the health of your birds you should always consult a qualified vet.

 
 

Help, my chicken coop has turned to mud!

Muddy chicken coops can be tricky to deal with and if left indefinitely can cause problems for poultry.
The most common solution is to move the coop to fresh ground on a routine basis. The muddy patch left behind can then be left to recover naturally or sown with “chicken pen mix” grass seed.

Not everyone can move their coop though, and sometimes the weather in the UK can be really wet! A good solution for fixed coops is to add a really good deep layer of hardwood wood chip to the run. This creates a free draining surface that poultry love to scratch around in.

As a temporary measure keepers can use chopped straw. Chopped straw is a low cost route but this isn’t as good as hardwood woodchip as it will need replacing as it rots.

If the chicken run starts to get a bit smelly consideration should be given to the use of a Ground Sanitiser. Depending on the brand chosen ground sanitisers can help reduce disease & parasite build up, modify the soil PH and aid with soil draining.

The above is offered as general background information. It is not intended as and must not be used for "diagnosis", "treatment" or "advice" within the meaning of those terms as detailed in the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. If you are worried about the health of your birds you should always consult a qualified vet.

 
 

I’m not getting any eggs from my chickens, what’s going on?

Sure, here's a breakdown of the potential causes for a decrease or no egg production:

  1. Changes in daylight: Chickens' egg-laying cycles are influenced by daylight length. Shorter days during autumn and winter will decrease egg production, especially as hens get older. Supplemental lighting in the coop can help mimic longer daylight hours but is not encouraged in a back garden situation.
     
  2. Stress: Stressful conditions, such as predator presence, overcrowding, loud noises, or sudden changes in their environment, can cause chickens to stop laying eggs. Creating a calm and secure environment is important for consistent egg production.
     
  3. Diet deficiencies: Inadequate nutrition, especially a lack of calcium or protein in their diet, can affect egg production. Ensure they have access to a balanced feed containing proper nutrients required for egg-laying hens. Consider giving a vitamin tonic or boost.
     
  4. Health issues: Various health problems like infections, parasites, or diseases can lead to a decline in egg laying. Regular health checks and proper veterinary care can help maintain the chickens' well-being.
     
  5. Aging: As chickens get older, their egg production naturally decreases. Younger hens tend to lay more consistently than older ones. 
     
  6. Moulting: During moulting periods, where chickens shed and regrow feathers, egg production often slows down or stops temporarily as the hens redirect their energy toward feather regeneration. Consider a vitamin & mineral supplement.
     
  7. Light and temperature fluctuations: Sudden changes in temperature or exposure to extreme heat or cold can stress chickens, affecting their laying patterns. Additionally, drastic fluctuations in lighting or irregular schedules might disrupt their natural laying cycle.
     
  8. Egg thief’s: Your chickens might be laying, but then something pinches or eats the eggs. The most common egg thief’s are the chickens themselves. Either through bad habit or nutrient deficiency, they can eat their own eggs. The next most common egg thief’s are corvids (rooks, magpies, jays etc) and rats. Other thief’s include weasels and stoats. Ensure the nest box is dark and that the eggs cannot be seen from outside. Always collect eggs regularly- don’t leave eggs in the nest box. Try putting plastic or ceramic eggs in the nest box.
     

The above is offered as general background information. It is not intended as and must not be used for "diagnosis", "treatment" or "advice" within the meaning of those terms as detailed in the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. If you are worried about the health of your birds you should always consult a qualified vet.