Moulting -Now you see them now you don’t

What is a Moult?

Moulting is an annual phenomenon that begins at approx 18 months and older hens. In reality, she will experience her first full moult in her second Autumn, and then every year after that.

What happens?

Bam! At a time when you think that hens actually need a good feather covering, almost overnight, the coop looks like an explosion in a pillow factory. The girls drop feathers like it’s a drunken pool party in Ibiza. They also renew the scales on their legs too. It can be quite upsetting for people who have not kept hens before, to see how sad they look when they are stripped of their finery. Hens can look really unkempt and un-cared for when this happens. The reverse is true, as they are provided with more protein and are not handled too much to avoid pressing the newly forming quills back into their skin. This is the reality of keeping hens.

The process of creating feathers

Once the feathers start to regrow, the hen will look like a pincushion. The incoming feather shafts are called pin or blood feathers. They are dark and look almost blue. In reality, they are filled with blood which is nourishing the newly forming feathers within the shafts. The pin feathers are very easy to damage and can bleed profusely if broken. Once the feather has finished being created inside its sheath, then the blood supply is no longer needed. The blood is shut off and the sheath begins to flake away. It is made of keratin and will look like dandruff as the hen preens the dried casing to reveal a beautiful new feather.

Other physical changes during the moult

Her comb will shrivel and become pink instead of red. Her face will also go less red than normal. This is in response to the reduction in hormones.

A moulting hen will lose condition, she will look quite dejected if she finds herself at the bottom of the pecking order. Other changes in her body will occur such as reversal of the bleaching phenomenon which removed the colour from legs, skin, and vent areas. Legs, skin and vent will return to the original colour as occurs in a non-laying hen. This is particularly noticeable on yellow skinned and yellow legged birds. The birds legs will return to yellow as the bleaching fades.

Does this affect the pecking order?

When a hen moults, her status within the flock plummets, and hens who were once high up in the pecking order will find themselves struggling to find any peace. They are often in hiding places and are unable to eat when they want. This becomes an ideal opportunity for a lower ranking hen who may not yet be moulting, to seize power. Sometimes these once meek hens, turn into little monsters and can really give the shrinking ex-head chickens a really hard time.

In the normal ranking or pecking order the head chicken (always a girl by the way) eats first, then number 2, then number 3 etc. The lowest ranking hens must wait until all the others have eaten and even then must be given permission by those of a higher rank. Such is the life of a lowly hen.

Why do my hens stop laying in winter?

A moulting hen needs good quality protein in her food as protein makes feathers, to conjure up new growth. Egg production also uses a lot of protein, therefore, no eggs will be laid for the duration of the moult. Something has to give, as all the protein has to be diverted to their feathering needs. A full moult can last 8 weeks with some hens taking much longer. The moult coincides with the shortening of days which in itself can trigger a shut-off of the egg-laying hormones. These will normally be reactivated once the days start to lengthen again after Christmas. Lack of eggs seems like a sort of curse for the chicken keeper, but it is a good thing. It gives the hens a well-deserved break from the rigours of laying for a few weeks.

Another reason why it is good for chickens to have a break from laying

Oestrogen during a laying cycle prevents calcium depositing into the fabric of the bones so chickens cannot make new bone while laying. During lay the calcium is deposited into medullary bone material which is constantly mobilised in shell formation. Chickens that never stop laying cannot restock and make new bone which can result in osteoporosis or fragile bones. Another good reason for chickens to take a break.

Keep your hens on layers pellets during the moult as the calcium will help top up her depleted reserves and the additional protein it contains will be beneficial for the feather production.

Moulting at other times

A mini or partial moult, which is usually a neck moult or a chest moult, can occur due to stress. Stress can be anything from a predator fright, or extremes in the weather, too hot, very wet, very windy. Fireworks, loud banging, DIY, lawn-mowing, dogs, or cats will take their toll. They can feel stress by you wearing the wrong wellies, or any change in the environment or habits. Getting the picture? Chickens are stressy creatures. Stress can depress their immune response and egg laying can also be interrupted or erratic for a while.

Waiting List Image

Waiting List

Waiting List Information

Our waiting list is a mailchimp list whereby we can send an email to all our waiting list subscribers who would like to know as soon as we have some chickens for sale. You can find the waiting list option on our contact form here

HOT NEWS

We have plenty of stock at the moment of all ages so the waiting list is not needed. Please contact us if you wish to purchase hens via our contact form or call us on 01244-/646/026

WE HAVE BEEN INCUBATING MORE EGGS AND WE HAVE SOME STOCK READY TO GO FOR 2021

Wrapped up chicken
A chicken is the gift that keeps on giving

The year 2020 was a funny old year.

We were inundated with requests for chickens for sale ever since Covid-19 has taken over the newsreels of the world. We restocked hybrids and Black Rocks twice but sold out of older chickens almost immediately. Our suppliers exhausted their supplies and had no more available. Chicken availability was somewhat of a problem but we tried to keep up with demand as much as possible.

This year 2021

So far in 2021 it is looking like demand is similar to that of 2020. We normally mostly hatch from our own breeding flock and this year is no different. Our incubators are hatching every 3 weeks so that we can meet the demand. We will be obtaining some hybrid stock when travel arrangements are not so restrictive.

Chicks are sold whenever people want them. Unsexed chicks are available from day old. (There is a risk that they could be cockerels so please bear that in mind). We can determine the sex of our chicks at 6-8 weeks old and we offer a hen guarantee with those. Any that turn out to be boys will be swapped in line with the guarantee. We don’t swap boys when we have specifically sold them as unsexed. If you are looking for hens (albeit rather cute youngsters) then take a look at our latest stock post. We update our availability here on our blog page. We will be having Cochin, Brahma, Swedish Flower Hens, Coronation Sussex and Salmon Faverolles. Various hybrids will be available at some stage during year. We also have “guest” hatchings of breeds such as Cream Legbar, Marans, Leghorn, Orpington and Ixworth.

Essential things to do while you are waiting

Research the Care Requirements by joining our Online Course

While you are on our waiting list, you may wish to research some good chicken husbandry minimum requirements. Chickens don’t require much but they do require the correct care to enable them to lay well and remain healthy. Get a jump start in your chicken knowledge by looking into doing our online Chicken Keeping Course. It is £35 very well spent. The course can also make your realise that perhaps chicken keeping is not for you once you have more knowledge on the subject. This is a two edged sword because if your heart isn’t in it, you will have wasted money on setting yourself up to no avail if you decide at a later date that it doesn’t fit into your lifestyle. Either way it is £35 well spent.

Day Old and Young Chick Care Research

If you are looking for day old chicks or young chicks then it is very wise (essential) to consult our blog article on the care needs of these more delicate creatures. We will be asking for proof of your preparedness. It you don’t get the conditions right to look after young chicks, they will die.

Horror Stories

It is coming to our attention that some people are of the opinion that they can just dump chickens in the garden and they will stroll around popping out some eggs every day. Chickens require housing for safety and weather protection. We have been hearing of people feeding them on old bread and left-over takeaway rubbish. Their welfare needs to be high priority so this is not good enough. You need to feed your chickens well with a diet that is properly formulated and best suited for avian digestive systems. Feeding them household scraps is not legally allowed and is certainly not going to give them a diet which will allow them to be most productive or healthy. Based on the saying rubbish in, rubbish out; with hens it is definitely rubbish in, nothing out.

Attend to Foxproofing as high priority

Most important is how to avoid your new hens from becoming a convenient take-away snack for a hungry fox or badger. Check out our chicken foxproofing post for tips to safeguard your chickens

Avian Influenza Current Information

We have a blog page devoted to the current regulations relating to Avian Influenza which had raised its head again in the winter of 2020/21 in the UK. Make sure you are up to date with what you MUST do to comply with the current laws. There are unlimited fines and probably imprisonment for those not heeding the requirements. There is currently no restrictions in place BUT it is always wise to be prepared so building a confinement area that is big enough for the birds to be happy will stand you in good stead should an avian lockdown be forced. It might not happen every winter but if it does then this forward planning will allow you to feel quite smug and prepared.

How to get notified of new stock

Please use our Contact page to be added to our waiting list. Tick the waiting list option along with the “opt-in” to give us permission to contact you. Our mailing lists, which are infrequent, have an easy unsubscribe link to unsubscribe at any time. We do not wish to annoy you by emailing you unnecessarily. Please know that we take your privacy very seriously and will not spam you without permission. As we say, spam is for fritters and we hate fritters.

Update your Chicken Coop equipment

We are now stocking fabulous coops called Henlays Roost which are easy to clean and are easy to manage from a Red Mite eradication perspective. If you need to have a lie in in the morning instead of living in “chicken-time” then invest in a Chickenguard. This will let your chickens out at a time of your choosing so you don’t have to rise with the lark at stupid o’clock. It will also shut them away safely at night so rushing back to close your coop is now a thing of the past. We now have Chickenguard for sale on our web shop. Green Frog Designs have approached us and we are happy to be providing these coops also in the very near future.

Latest Stock

Latest Stock For Sale

and Breaking News

Latest stock page so you can see at a glance what we have going on and what is the latest chicken availability for sale.

  • Splash Cochin and Brahma
  • Blue Salmon Faverolles
  • Swedish Flower Cockerel
  • Salmon Faverolles Boy
  • Black Rock Hens
  • Cockerel Group
  • Sussex group
  • Hatching Eggs
  • Chicks and Hen
  • Young Ixworth cockerel
  • Cream Legbar Cockerel

Latest Chicken availability as at 4th September 2021

We had a busy year in 2020 as it seems COVID 19 has encouraged people to begin to keep chickens in the garden. 2021 is beginning to show a similar pattern so we are hatching as fast as nature will allow whilst still being mindful that we need to give them the best care possible.

New Breeds Available

We will be offering some new breeds this year such as Ixworth and Marsh Daisies. We have obtained some rather lovely Ixworth chickens as our breeding stock. Once the Ixworth chickens start to produce eggs in sufficient numbers for us to incubate, we can offer those for sale in due course. Ixworth are a rare and splendid dual purpose bird which are pure white. Marsh Daisies are a chicken breed which originated in Lancashire. Marsh Daisy chickens will be offered for sale at intervals through the year albeit in small numbers.

Hatching Eggs – see latest stock

We are now offering hatching eggs for collection only just at the moment. Ring us on 01244~646 ~ 026 to book collection or we have some on our shop page

Waiting List – Not currently needed as we have plenty of stock.

Our waiting list is still active because demand remains high. Join our list if you want to be told when our latest stock is ready. You can register on our contact form to go on the waiting list if you would like to keep informed. How our waiting list works. You can sign up to our occasional newsletter service if you wish as an alternative.

Latest stock Available Listed below

  • Other CockerelsBlue Splash Cochin, Swedish Flower, Cream Legbar, Coronation Sussex, Brahma, Ixworth. All £15 each
  • Young chicks hatching soon sold unsexed
  • Cochin  – Dayolds unsexed from £7.50
  • Brahma X Cochin – which are unsexed from £7.50
  • Faverolles – available in November 2021
  • Bluetails/Blacktails – In-house Rhode Island Red crossed with Sussex which hatched late July 2021. We have have 5 of these at 8-9 weeks old
  • Black Rock ® – We have LOTS of these in most age groups. (care info MUST be read). Some Black Rocks are POL whereas some are 4 and 9 weeks old
  • Brown Rock ® – We have LOTS of these at 5 weeks old. From £12 each
  • Cream Legbar – We have females in these as hatched 25th May 2020
  • Hedgerow Homemades – White and Black Araucana X Swedish flower 1 left currently
  • Swedish Flower hens – POL and slightly younger up to £30 each
  • Marsh Daisies – POL at £30 each 1 left of these
  • Hatching eggs – now available in Araucana crosses (with Swedish Flower), Sussex and Faverolles
  • Coronation Sussex, Cochin, Brahma, Marsh Daisy, Faverolles, Ixworth and Swedish Flower Hens are £30 each at POL. Price is by age.
  • Black Rock, Brown Rock, Bluetails, Cream Legbar are £25 each at POL. Price is by age

Breaking News!!!!


Teacher chicken

Exciting development. Our chicken keeping courses are now ONLINE. See our Chicken Keeping Courses Page for details so you can START ONE TODAY.

Easy to follow

We are hoping that people will find the easy-to-follow bite size chunks an enjoyable experience. It is crammed with masses of information you should know about keeping chickens. It will take you on a deep dive into the fascinating world of this wonderful creature. We guarantee that you will therefore learn things that will make you think about chickens in a totally new light.

Getting it right

It will help you to make good equipment choices, and get your husbandry right. Spotting illness quickly is a biggie because unless you are able to spot sickness, it can rapidly get way out of hand. A slow or wrong diagnosis can then be catastrophic for the chicken.

Easing the burden

Getting the right coop for example will make the cleaning out of your chickens a 10 minute job rather than a real thankless task. We help you get it right, first time. This saves you money and time and who doesn’t need some of that?

Benefits

Chickens are enjoyable however making poor choices can take the shine off it very quickly.

Premium Chickenguard

We are now able to offer Chickenguards for your coops

Having chickens is great but getting up early in the morning however to let them out especially in Summer is not so great.

Fitting a chickenguard on your coop means you can have that lie in or even just get up at normal time rather than chicken time.

Chickenguards will allow you to go out of an evening and not have to get back at dusk to shut your chooks away. Chickenguard will do it all for you. Your chickens will not demand that you become party poopers.

Battery powered with 4 AA batteries which last from 6 to 12 months.

Visit our shop page for more info

Henlay Coop

We are now stocking Henlays Roost chicken coops.

Perfectly designed coops that are manufactured from 12mm thick recycled plastic sheets.

Built with both chicken welfare and human welfare in mind because humans matter too. They look and feel solid.

No more back breaking stooping or crouching to clean out. Contortionism is also not required. Just open the roofline, lift the well spaced perches out and hey presto, the entire coop area is at the mercy of your shovel and scraper.

Red mite will be spotted in double quick time so therefore you can treat if necessary as they have no where to hide.

Visit our shop page for details

Heat stress in Chickens

Heat Stress…Is it a thing?

Heat stress is one of the major factors in illness, death and egg production failures. Chickens can cope very well in temperatures just over zero degrees centigrade, however, adding chickens to heat is a whole new ball game.

Why is a bit of heat a problem?

  • Chickens are covered in their own feather duvet
  • Their natural temperature is 41 degrees C
  • They cannot sweat to cool down

Heat stress can result in collapse, lack of eggs, stress related moult, neurological issues, organ failure, and death. It can happen suddenly which leaves you the keeper wondering why on earth it has happened.

Symptoms of heat stress

The danger period happens once the temperature rises to about 22 degrees C and above. It is worse on days when there is no wind. If you spot any of the symptoms below then you need to act very quickly

  • The birds will start to seek out shade.
  • They will start to hold their wings away from their bodies if they are too hot to lose heat
  • Chickens will start to pant.
  • Slow panting at first, followed by quick panting and throat fluttering as the risk increases.
  • Chickens may start to show neurological symptoms such as throwing their heads back or circling
  • They could go off their legs all of a sudden
  • Egg production will reduce or cease entirely

Fast panting sets off a dangerous chain reaction. It changes the chemical composition in the body and respiratory system which in turn puts pressure on organs such as the brain and kidneys.

The Solution to heat stress in chickens

Electrolytes are extremely important to supplement in the water when the temperature gets over 22C to assist the birds with replacing lost vital salts. A poultry supplement such as “Solulyte” which is designed to combat heat stress is essential. It is wise to have this on standby for the summer. I have linked to a website, but there are many suppliers who do the same product with varying sizes etc. Supplementing with Solulyte will save the life and health of your chickens during prolonged heatwave situations. Alternatively you can Google a recipe for poultry electrolytes for a home-made fix. You may need to keep the bird cool and encourage them to drink by dipping their beak. Neurological or collapse symptoms will mean they are confused and maybe unresponsive so they need assistance to drink.

Homemade Electrolyte Recipe for chickens

  • 4.5 Litres of water (1 gallon)
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda/bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (sea salt preferably)
  • Splash of orange juice (optional for vitamin C or crush a vitamin C tablet)

Mix together and serve to your chickens.

Warning

Don’t use this if there is no danger of heat stress. Chickens will pant when they are heat stressed. Chickens should not have salt or sugar in their water under normal conditions.

Man rolling in mud

Mud Management

Mud Management for chickens

Mud Mud Glorious Mud as the song goes is something that a lot of chicken keepers end up with. The problem with chickens is that they are the worlds most committed excavators. They will dig and scrape looking for tasty morsels in the ground. If you have some precious plants, or that lovely rose that dear departed Auntie May gave you, then you will need to protect the roots from the attentions of your chickens. Chickens will uproot almost everything they find, apart from nettles and brambles annoyingly. Such is their dedication to extreme garden remodelling.

It’s not all bad

The ground your chickens’ run sits on will become a moonscape of barren earth in a short space of time. They quickly create dust-bathing pot-holes and they fervently dig for insects, worms and other goodies. However, there is a plus side. If you have some ground you need clearing, veg plot, allotment, jungle, greenhouse, then team chicken are the ones to call. Add chickens to any unruly wilderness and you will have ground clearance par excellance. Sit back with your cup of tea and watch diligence in motion.

Why does it turn into mud and why is it a problem?

Chickens’ feet are also great at padding the ground and compacting it despite not being very heavy creatures. The combination of compaction, and lack of greenery means the soil now won’t be able to soak up any water without a bit of help. Surface water creates mud, thick, gooey, welly sucking mud. Mud is great at growing nasty bacteria and other pathogens as pathogens just love moisture. Pathogens make smells to add insult to injury.

So now we have a job description of chicken destruction, we now need to find a solution.

One Solution

So how do you stop mud in a chicken run? You could do some sort of rain dance but this will certainly entertain your neighbours. The top and bottom of it is your run or the chicken area needs to remain dry. Dry earth is less likely to harbour or grow nasties that will harm the health of your chickens. Compacted earth doesn’t allow the rain to soak in so digging the area over will keep the drainage good. It also gives the microbes in the soil some much needed air. Microbes in the soil are your friends, so keep them alive. This in combination with a roof covering is going to make it a winner all round.

If you tackle the mud issue then you will have a nicer area for everyone. No smells, no disease and no slipping in mud.

Voila!

So there we have it!!! Microbes are your friend and chickens will uproot anything that is remotely green, even poisonous plants. Who’da thought it? It didn’t take us long to realise that the chickens had to have their own area, so segregate them. You get your own garden and the chickens can have theirs. That is where sanity lives but because I am a chicken nut our human area is very small because the girls just gotta have fun.

We have much more information on this very topic on our online course and also many more useful nuggets of useful info if you wish to know more

Hazards of Backyard Hens

I saw this youtube video a number of years ago and I still find it really funny. I highly recommend you take a peek because it just sums up the hazards of backyard hen keeping quite well.

If you don’t already keep chickens then it is not meant to put you off but it does give a fine example of the way chicken keeping is very addictive. This is for all chicken addicts out there. Enjoy

Brahma

Incubator Hire News

An incubator hire story

Early in March 2019 we had an incubator hired out at Wirral Hospice St John’s in Bebington. I was a bit apprehensive to take it to somewhere that I felt might be quite a gloomy place given the massive healthcare issues the patients face. I could not have been more wrong. It is fair to say that they became ever so excited to witness the hatching of their eggs. Work stopped in favour of egg watching, you can feel the excitement in the air. The hot topic amongst patients and staff alike is not medical – it’s eggs and it’s chicks. The last thing on the patients’ minds was medical matters. They definitely are in the grips of chicken fever.

Hatching begins

On Monday 12th March the 21st day of the incubator hire period, the first chicks emerged to greet the world. But the rest are still to hatch so the incubator must remain closed to make sure that the humidity remains constant.

Conserving humidity

The way an egg incubator works is you need to wait until all the eggs have hatched before you can open it up to get at the chicks because otherwise you lose the humidity. Chicks need the  humidity to keep their shell membranes soft so they can break through them. Moisture laden air also assists the chick so it is able to spin inside the egg to unzip the top by creating a crack all the way round to make an escape hatch. Remaining egg yolk is absorbed by the chick into its body before hatching and they live off it for the  first 48 hours. The early birds are safe to remain in the incubator until the rest of the batch of eggs catches up.

And there’s more!

A day later passes and another 4 chicks have hatched. The brooder has been delivered and installed and there was a rush of staff to the incubation site so they could get their first experience of handling a bundle of cute fluffiness. There is much distraction around, staff making excuses to just have a peek on their way to another task. Patients with families and friends ogling the little tweeting fluffballs and a real sense of pride that they have produced their own little creatures. The incubator hire was a winner in more ways than one.

Therapeutic benefits of chickens

From what I have seen in care situations, chicks bring a sense of new beginnings. This is true for the elderly or the lonely or those who are very sick or dementia sufferers. They bring a real joy to those who witness it. It is something that I never tire of. It is no wonder that care institutions are bringing hens in as therapy. They are a source of chatter, where once there was none, and a thrill of excitement where there was numbness or loneliness. A humble chicken can provide a sense of being needed and of purpose. This is the superpower of a creature that seems to know exactly the right things to say to make all other problems seem to melt into the background. Chickens bring a feeling of well-being, cooperation and togetherness to all those involved in their care – such is their magic.

If you need convincing watch this video by equalarts.co.uk View our incubator hire packages here

The Hen Men from Equal Arts on Vimeo.

Coops for the less mobile

We have just started to stock these coops called Henlays Chicken Coops. They are easy to clean because there is no stooping or bending needed to make sure they are clean. We think they suit the needs of a care/medical/support organisation more than any other coop we have yet seen. Check this page for more info or view the specifics on our shop page

Spread the love

If you know of someone or somewhere that can benefit from the therapeutic benefits of these bridge-building creatures please ask us to see if we can assist you get up and running via our contact page. They don’t call them a gateway livestock for nothing.

Newly hatched chicks

Day-old Chicks

Day old chicks need special care

Looking after day-old chicks is a rewarding experience for everyone, no matter their age. However, there are some things that needs to be in place before you contemplate looking after dayold chicks in your home.

The list below is considerations that need to be addressed BEFORE embarking on this exciting adventure.

  • Day old chicks are delicate and can easily die
  • Young chicks need a heat source in their first weeks
  • Day-old chicks can drown in a water source
  • Chicks need to be kept indoors for at least 3 weeks in summer
  • They must be indoors for longer when the weather is cold
  • Chicks need cleaning out regularly otherwise they will smell
  • Raising young chicks indoors creates massive amounts of heavy dust from their feathers. This can cause breathing issues in sensitive individuals
  • Most non-hybrid dayold chicks cannot be sexed accurately until they are 6-8 weeks old
  • Unsexed means there is a risk that you will get cockerels which can cause neighbour issues
  • Most important if we have sold them unsexed we cannot take the boys back due to a biosecurity risk for our stock.

All our day-old chicks get sent to their new homes with a full care sheet. The minimum needs are listed below.

  1. Brooder to contain the dayolds. Rabbit or hamster cage. They must NOT go outside in a coop till they are at least 3 weeks old in warm weather. This will be longer in cold weather.
  2. Water dish or drinker, which should be shallow initially
  3. Food dish or specific feeder with chick crumb constantly available
  4. Warmth minimum 28C for the first week which can be reduced as they feather up. Suitable heat sources are electric hens, reptile heat mats or heat lamps. Bear in mind a possible fire risk from unsuitable equipment
  5. Safety from other animals including and especially other chickens
  6. Companion of other day old chicks because a solitary chick is very noisy indeed

Finally please don’t ask us for young chicks if you have no equipment ready we will not sell them to you.

Warning!!!

Don’t expect that a broody hen will take on the day-old chicks you present her with. Always have a backup plan. Broodies can be remarkably fickle, moody and dangerous. Unless a hen is showing clear signs of being very broody then she will NOT look after chicks. She will more than likely try to kill them. If she has not looked after young chicks before then please supervise any introductions and be prepared to intervene quickly if she decides to attack the chicks. A swift angry peck to the head of the chick can render them unconscious or severely bruised. A normal broody/chick communication is a gentle tap to the head. This is the broody telling the chick to pay attention to what she is telling it. If she sounds angry then she is so watch very carefully. More info on broody hens here

Wiley Fox

Fox Proofing

Fox Proofing to protect your chickens

Fox proofing needs to be your primary focus when you design your chicken accommodation.

Foxes have a bad press, but well deserved. They are are probably quite misunderstood. We are not fans of foxes except they are beautiful creatures and have a purpose in the great scheme of nature to keep the balance right as a top predator.

With this in mind, the first thing you should do beyond all else is to foxproofing, foxproofing, foxproofing. If you don’t attend to this then your beloved chickens will be on the take-away menu of any resident fox in your area. It upsets us enormously when we hear that chickens have been taken due to foxproofing errors.

Foxes are indiscriminate killers aren’t they?

Foxes are misunderstood. Most people are of the opinion that foxes kill for fun. The reason they think this is that when a fox attacks, he will kill everything living in sight. Foxes like all other creatures only kill for survival. Yes it appears indiscriminate, but they do have a cunning plan.

Whenever we humans think the shops are shut we will tend to fill our freezers, fridges and cupboards almost like the world is coming to an end. The fox has the same mentality. When food is plentiful, ie you have presented your lovely chickens to the fox on a plate then he is thinking that “I don’t know when I am going to get the opportunity to eat again so I will stockpile or cache the goods”. The equivalent of us going to do our Christmas shopping. While it is available, he is going to fill his cache with goodies.

A fox only has one mouth and he can only carry one at a time. By which time we have discovered his fowl deed (pun intended) and have gotten rather upset and have tidied up. Mr Renard is fully expecting to keep coming back and bury his goodies for lean times ahead.

So how do you fox-proof?

Any physical barriers you can place in the way for fox proofing the better. Firstly chicken wire is not fox-proof. It is only chicken-proof. It keeps chickens in but not foxes out.

Bury the wire at least 1 foot deep into the ground and also splay it out at right angles to your run sides along the ground the make a physical barrier to exclude Mr Fox. Paving slabs can be placed round the edge to make another no dig zone. Don’t forget the doorway or the roof. The more barriers you have the better. Make sure your nest boxes lids are well attached and securely bolted. Rooves should be well fitting and secure. Mesh should cover any ventilation points to exclude vermin. Most cheap wooden coops are not fox-proof. Don’t neglect the underside of your coop which is often used as an access point. These are often not screwed securely. Coops can easily tip over. Mr Fox knows this. He is wiley, strong and very persistent.

Materials used in fox-proofing

Weld-mesh with a minimum gauge of 16 and a small aperture. Two inch by two inch is not good enough. Foxes can get their mouths into that space and use it to overcome the barrier. A 1 inch mesh or smaller is better. Rats can get through 1 inch square mesh so a smaller space will exclude rats, and mink, stoat, pine marten, badgers and weasles also. These predators are all partial to a bit of takeaway chicken too. Weld-mesh is measured in gauges. The larger the gauge number the thinner the wire. 16g is better and stronger than 19g.

An excellent preventative obstacle is an electric chicken fence. The fencer or energiser (the thing that supplies the electric current) has to be powerful enough to zap any vegetation. Vegetation can weaken the current the fencer is supplying and make the difference between a startling jolt and a slight tickle for a resourceful hungry fox especially one with a load of cubs to feed in spring. A guide for installing an electric fence for chickens is here. If you want information on what electric fence to choose, there is a complete guide here

What to guard against

Foxes can climb trees. They are excellent jumpers, easily clearing a 6 foot fence. They are formidable diggers so don’t assume you are safe if you have not made the perimeter fox-proof and secure. Please remember that the fox only has to be lucky once, and that you have to be lucky every time. In the picture below, this fox visits every day.

Chickens ready for sale

Chicken Maths = How many chickens?

Today I spent a good few hours rearranging all my pens to keep the age groups in one place. I have chickens all over the place so it was time to make it more organised.

Well after I caught them up, they ran off, so I caught them again. They didn’t like their new pen because it was obviously a scary place. So inconsiderate! Considering I spent ages digging in some lime to disinfect the area. It also rearranged my hair as I got it caught in the netting. Dragged through a hedge backwards is a recurring theme for me these days. They then made a bolt for the door every time I brought another 2 over. I don’t know about them, but I found it quite stressful. It certainly increased my step count for the day according to my fitness phone app so not all bad!!

When I finally finished I took a picture so I could see what I had and which colour mixes I had. This is not the only batch of chickens I have either so I might have to give myself a stern talking to.

These are now ready to go to their new homes. We have Brahma in Pyle, and Buff Columbian. We have some Orpingtons in Lavender and some Swedish Flower Hens Crossed with either Leghorn or Ancona.

That moment when you realise exactly how many chickens you have. Chicken maths – aka chicken addiction – is a real thing, especially here.

For the uninitiated, the term Chicken Maths relates to a Phenomenon (excuse) for why numbers of chickens get out of control. It starts off by getting a flock of 3, then because you cannot add a single chicken to an existing flock, you end up with 2 more. If you lose one and need to replace it, you end up with another 2 minimum. And so it goes.

 

Bantams – 8 reasons why we don’t keep them

What is a Bantam

First of all, a bantam is a size of chicken, not a breed. They are divided into true bantams, which includes Pekins, Sebrights, Serema, Dutch and Booted bantams amongst others. True bantams have no large fowl equivalent. Many large fowl have a bantam equivalent, these are roughly a quarter of the size of the large fowl version. There is a bantam version of Wyandotte, Brahma, Leghorn, Sussex, Rhode Islands, Faverolles, Welsummer, Araucana to name a few.

An interesting fact regarding the Pekin and the Cochin which causes some confusion when viewing Facebook groups which have many nationalities as members. A Cochin has no bantam equivalent, however chicken keepers in the USA call Pekins a Cochin. As ever, the Americans are often at odds with the way we name stuff.

8 Reasons why we don’t keep bantams

  1. They are a quarter of the size of a regular chicken and they might not mix well in a large fowl flock
  2. They can have a “Napoleon Complex” which can actually show aggressive tendencies much bigger than their size in a mixed size flock. Sometimes bantam sized chickens can suffer with bullying when in with the bigger girls.
  3. They are usually very broody. Broody hens can be aggressive with other hens and also their keepers. Broody hens won’t lay eggs.
  4. They have repeated attacks of broodiness throughout the year and its often difficult to get them over it. Broodies can die from malnutrition or dehydration in particularly warm periods. The broodiest by reputation are Silkies, Goldtops, Pekins and Wyandottes.
  5. Their eggs are too small for your average chuckyegg. They need very small dippy soldiers to fit. Bring on those proper sized eggs!!
  6. They are no more easy to handle than large fowl even for children.
  7. The numbers of eggs are poor because they have repeated bouts of broodiness.
  8. They are more at risk of danger when a cat is involved or larger birds of prey.

We only stock Large Fowl

Large fowl and very large fowl can be just as friendly and cuddly as bantams. The largest chickens are fluff balls which are easy and calm to handle. They are not prone to panic running about as some bantams are. There is nothing standard about a chicken however as they all reserve the right to be individual characters, just like us.

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