Spring Cleaning

Happy Easter to everyone! It’s a beautiful day, so I’m inside blogging? Makes sense huh?

Easter is a time traditionally associated with chicks, bunnies and all things fluffy (and of course Jesus Christ) and the Easter bunny himself is of German origin, popularised by Americans. Baby rabbits and baby chicks are also common at this time of year, however, as we all know, chicks hatch all year round, not just during the Spring and here at Warwickshire Chicken Coop there is no difference.

Lots of multi coloured eggs, just in time for Easter!

Lots of multi coloured eggs, just in time for Easter!

We have recently had our second hatch of Legbars and Marans, which has been a little disappointing compared to the first, with many dying in shell quite late on in the development stages, but we are still getting good numbers of chicks, which will be ready by the end of May to go to their new homes. We are trying out some new breeds this year to compliment our core breeding groups and these include Sablepoots (tiny bantams with huge feathered feet and striking colours) – affectionately known to us as Stable Boots!  As well as a few Silkies thrown in for good measure! Our core breeds of Marans, Legbar, Buff Orpington and Pekin will still take centre stage though. Orpingtons in particular sell out very quickly, so it’s advisable to put your name on a waiting list to make sure you don’t miss out!

Buff Orpingtons for sale in Warwickshire

Buff Orpingtons for sale in Warwickshire

Legbar hens lay lovely blue/green eggs

Legbar hens lay lovely blue/green eggs

This time of year is a good time to do two things as a priority for your chickens

1. Worm them! The beginning of Spring is the perfect time to give the hens an overall health check – for mites, lice, scaly leg, weight, clean bottoms and general well-being and worming should be added to this health check. The only licensed wormer on the market is Flubenvet, available from licensed premises such as ourselves, or your vet. It is a straight forward process where the medicine is added to the layers pellets and fed to the hen daily for a week. There is no egg withdrawal too which is a bonus at this time of year!
2. Give your hen’s coop a really good spring clean! Pressure wash it clean with some Poultry shield disinfectant, apply total mite ready to use spray and leave to dry. Once dry, powder all the nooks an crannies (don’t forget under the perches!!) with a liberal layer of diatom. Add fresh shavings and voila, a lovely clean hen house all ready for Spring!

Check your hens for lice and mites, especially around the vent area

Check your hens for lice and mites, especially around the vent area

Courses

We will be running our first course of the year on Sunday 12th April – Chicken Keeping for Beginners. We are running it from our breeding site (and friends/helpers extraordinaries/all round good eggs) home in Oxfordshire, about 15 minutes from our own site in Ettington. This will enable the course to be a really hands on session, with each participant having their own bird to handle and health check. There will also be around 150 birds to see (including our breeding groups) as well as viewing the ideal set up at home! Places are still available, so call 07768 555974 if you wish to book on.

That’s it for now as I’m going to go and enjoy the sunshine outside with the hens!

Happy Easter from Jen and her hens!!

Happy Easter from Jen and her hens!!

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Farewell Mud…

Well Spring has sprung and things are looking up already! This is my first blog of the year and I will try to update more often.(I know I always say that) To start off 2014 we unfortunately had two break-ins where a number of products were taken. Thankfully no birds were taken or harmed and we were covered by the insurance, however it was a very unsettling time and we learnt some valuable security lessons! Improvements have now been made and we feel more secure with this knowledge.

Other improvements for 2014 have been to take down and re-do all the roofing on the chickens pens. A big job, but certainly a beneficial one and thankfully we managed to get it done before the majority of the miserable weather got under way. Many customers have been asking me about mud management systems over the past couple of months, so here are some tips:

1. In an ideal world, put a sloping roof with a gutter to catch rainwater over your pen. Not only will this keep hens dry, it will prevent unwanted visitors getting into the coop.
2. Not everyone is able to have the above luxury, so I would encourage chicken owners to at least create a dry space for their hens and the feeders. We make and sell mini ‘field shelters’ which provide the perfect dry spot for the hens to cover under as well as protecting feed from the elements.
3. Feeders are important to try and keep dry, and many nowadays come with ‘hats’ so add this to your chicken shopping list if you don’t have one already
4. Use woodchip or playbark (available from larger DIY stores) for the ground of your run. This will help to absorb moisture and provide the hens with interesting ground cover. It should be roughly 4 inches deep and cover the entire run area.
5. Before putting the woodchip on the floor of the run, cover the run with some polythene lining sheets (pond liner) to prevent the woodchip absorbing into the ground. These sheets will need pegging down.
6. In really ‘busy’ or boggy areas use old wooden pallets or/and wire mesh on the ground so then hens do not get their feet covered in mud and the ground isn’t churned up so quickly.
7. Put extra bedding down in the doorway of the coop so the hens get a little opportunity to wipe their feet a bit before entering all the mud into the hen house!

Mud is always a challenge and the past few months have been exceptional. I have received phonecalls from people who want to stop keeping chickens altogether because they can no longer battle with it! Do try and persevere, the winter months are always the hardest when keeping livestock, and we can hope that the worst of it is out of the way and the sun will have his hat on soon! Chickens are such a pleasure to keep and when the sun comes out and they are able to enjoy themselves in dry conditions, they really are worth the effort exuded in the more challenging months.

Other brief news for Warwickshire Chicken Coop; we are now selling white and silver call ducks in pairs, great little characters with bags of personalities (and vocal chords!). We are also pleased to be official stockists of Matador feed, which is a premium mix on the market, which your hens will benefit from enormously. It will be new in the shop this weekend on a special trial offer price, so we’d love you to try it out and hear your thoughts!

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Mud, Geese and New Opportunities

Keeping livestock is a 24/7 job and very rarely are we able to take a break from it. This month has been filled with personal social events for me and as such I took the very rare liberty to have a week off. Not a full week off from feeding, watering and caring for, just a week off from being open for business and during the latter half of the week, I went abroad for three days leaving the enterprise in someone else’s capable hands. Coming back to work in any job after a period of rest is always difficult and you often wonder if it was really worth it with everything you come back to.

We seemed to have mud, rain and wind mania whilst I was away and to put it politely the place looked like a pigsty! So this week has mainly been spent scrubbing, sweeping and shovelling to get everything looking tip top again. The woodchip in the chicken’s pens had become tired and wet, so it has been changed for some fresh woodchip which the chickens are loving scratching about it. Hens have been moved from the outdoor ‘reserve’ pens into the front, covered ‘show’ pens and everything has been given a good clean and function check in preparation for the changing temperatures. We still need to do some work on the roofs of some of the pens to stop them leaking, but I’m hoping that should be sorted by the end of the week.

In other news, it was the National Poultry Show this weekend, which is the largest show of it’s kind in the UK and I’m very lucky that it is on our doorstep in Stoneleigh. It was the opportunity to see exquisite examples of hundreds of different breeds of poultry and speak to lots of interesting and knowledgeable people. I was helping on the PoultryTalk stand on the Sunday, which mainly involved helping with their photographic shoot of ducks, chickens and geese! Yes geese…. The geese didn’t like me much at all, and one of them proceeded to hiss at me before making a launch for me in full flight. Like the big girl that I am, I screeched (a little) and ducked, leaving the escapee goose to be rounded up by the ten year old standing behind me!!! The photoshoot was good fun though and an opportunity to see some really rare breeds up close. The photos will be used to inform and inspire via the Poultrytalk team.

I very nearly came away with six new call ducks, (a chocolate trio and a butterscotch trio) but managed to refrain myself. Just as well really as our neighbours are already moaning about our noisy ‘hyena cum guard duck’ call ducks and we only have seven. I spoke to a few potentially new suppliers of some interesting products, such as garlic popcorn for chickens and the premium feed ‘Matador.’ Watch this space for new products coming to Warwickshire Chicken Coop in 2014.

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To Quote Marilyn Monroe…

I’ve had a few incidents over the past fortnight or so that had inscensed me to blog about this issue.

When I first started keeping chickens, I did it as a hobby, and as an animal fanatic it was easy, enjoyable and I learnt lots of new things. My friends who also kept chickens felt the same. We immersed ourselves in the hobby, read books, went to courses, did lots of internet research and learnt as we went along. I enjoyed the whole experience so much I set up a business rearing and selling hens. Perhaps I’m an extremist. 90% of people who come to me wanting to keep chickens have done lots of research and are willing to throw themselves into the hobby, warts and all, but the other 10% not so much.

To some, keeping chickens seems the ‘in vogue’ thing to do. More and more people are jumping on the band wagon and keeping hens because ‘how hard can it be?’ ‘my friends have them’ ‘all the celebrities have them (darling)’ and so on. And yes, for the most part chicken keeping is straight forward and very enjoyable. But there are times when it is not all plain sailing, and not enough people are educating themselves on the issues that can arise.

The hens can get poorly, either minor things that can be sorted at home with a few supplements or more major incidents, where a vet visit may be called upon. Looking after chickens in the bad weather is also a bit more challenging; trapesing down the garden in the pitch black, rain, wind etc is no-one’s idea of fun. Or perhaps as the nights get longer and there is less daylight, you don’t see your chickens as much and you don’t bother to check on them as much and problems occur. Or perhaps one of the chickens is a bit of a bully and she’s picking on the other hens?

All of the above are to be expected to a certain extent when you keep chickens. They are living, breathing creatures and rely solely on your care and attention. My point is this; if you cannot or are not prepared to look after your chickens when ‘the going gets tough’ do not get chickens in the first place. You need to prepare yourself ‘warts and all’ for how challenging they can be sometimes. It seems unacceptable to me that if you have an issue you wipe your hands of it and pass it onto someone else. By all means ask others for advice, but don’t just pass the problem on. Of course there can be exceptions; ill health of the owner, or a change in personal cirumstances where you need to give up your chickens for their own good is perfectly understandable. But if you want to give up your hen (or hens) because it’s no fun anymore, it’s too cold or there are management issues, I think it’s a great shame and very disappointing.

Sometimes if a hen is poorly, you try everything you can, but there is a limit based on the welfare of the bird and any applicable costs – but if you as the owner are confident you have done everything you can within your means to help the bird or change the problem, then fair enough. If you are wiping your hands of the issue becuase you can’t be bothered and it’s more fun to get a new hen or a new hobby, then shame on you.

I know this may be a controvesial topic, and ‘ruffle a few feathers’ but I believe in terms of chickens, to quote Marilyn Monroe ‘“I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”

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Exciting News

Having started 2013 on a bit of a downer, I am pleased to say we are now ‘back on it like a car bonnet!’ In the past 24 hours alone, so many exciting things have happened or are developing, that I just have to tell you all!

New Hybrids Arriving

Our first batch of hybrid hens for 2013 are arriving on Monday. They will include; Warwickshire Bluebelle, Light Sussex, Speckeldy, Gold Ranger, Rhode Rock and Warwickshire White Star. Getting new hens in is always exciting and it will be nice to have a good range of breeds available again. On the downside, the two weeks we had allocated to cleaning out and replacing all the old woodchip and disinfecting the coops now has to be done in three days! Thank goodness for boyfriends and friends! Even though I am going to have to do so much baking and buy so much beer in thanks!

bluebelle2Beautiful Warwickshire Bluebelle

Trade Shows

We have decided this year to allocate a good proportion of our marketing budget to attending trade shows. So, we will be at the Edible Garden Show in March, the Pet Show in July and the Moreton in Marsh Show in September. We are also doubly excited that we have been chosen to sponsor the Poultry tent at the Moreton in Marsh show, which is a real honour.

The Pet Show is a new one for us; in fact it is new for everyone as it is a new show this year! They are promoting welfare and education in keeping pets and the Battery Hen Welfare Trust are sponsoring their avian section. We hope that we can really educate people about the right way and the wrong way to keep hens. (As believe me, there is a wrong way and many people do it unfortunately.) We also want to show people that chickens really can be the perfect pet and are especially good for young children.

Baby Chicks!

This year we are working with a local chap (he’s a lovely hound!) to breed our own pure breeds and are pleased to say we have just ‘given birth to’ 3 Vorwerks, 5 Copper Black Marans and 8 Legbars! A new 80 egg incubator has also landed in the hound’s lap, so in this weeks batch, we have; Vorwerks, Orpingtons, Sablepoots, Pekins and Araucanas going in. Fingers crossed for hens! We may have some more news about pure breeds in the next week or so, but will keep you in suspenders for a little while on this one until everything is confirmed! Unlike many pure breed breeders, we are vaccinating our chicks for Mareks, Gumboro, Mycoplasma and Coccidiosis to minimise disease risk and bio security threats. Just call me Dr Doolittle!

vorweks in incubatorFour little Vorwerks just hatched!

Boarding Expansions

Due to the popularity of our 2012 hen boarding, we are expanding and moving our boarding area to make room for 5 new houses. This means that the boarders will now be housed a good distance away from our hybrid hens and will all be housed in Omlet accommodation. (Which makes my life easier, as it’s sooo easy to clean!) And even better (and a little too girly for me really) we can have; the green house, the red house, the yellow house, the pink house and the purple house! Simple pleasures.

heavy_duty_go_full_length_831530eaThe ‘Yellow’ Omlet Go, which will house up to 3 hens

Expansion Plans FULL STOP

Our first year, (yes it’s our 1st birthday on 3rd March) was so much more successful than we’d hoped, that in 2013 we will be expanding! I will update the blog further in March & Feb about how this is progressing, but the expansion will make room for three new hybrid pens, two new pure breed pens and five breeding pens. We are hoping the expansion will be complete by April. Did someone mention ducks?!!

See, I told you I was excited! Next time in the blogs, look out for our new housing range, details on our two new hybrid hens and an invite to our first birthday party!

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New Year New Beginnings

Hello and Happy New Year to everyone. Firstly (and I think I said this last time…) my apologies for not blogging in such a long time. I think to write a good blog, you have to be ‘in the mood’ and unforunately I just haven’t been in a writing mood for a few months! But this morning I’ve had the urge to blog, so  here we go…

The title of the blog isn’t very original and I have no doubt there are lots of similar themed pieces out there at the moment. 2013 was always going to be a funny year, as so many people are suspicious about the 13. Friends are refusing to get married this year (good excuse!!), people are not selling houses; the list goes on… Personally, I am not suspicious and nor are my family. My grandparents lived at house number 13 happily for many years and my mum got married on Friday 13th, so it holds no trepidation for me. For a couple of my friends, the year has started well. One has secured a new job, another is expecting a baby and a couple are planning to buy a house. However for me, despite a fantastic new years eve and next few days, the year hasn’t actually started that well.  I am positive is a blip however, my bad run of luck is over and things will turn better.

We had a robbery on Wednesday, where although not much was taken, it makes me a little nervous that people are snooping about and there is a fear more could get stolen. But, I have learnt a valuable lesson from this and will be stepping up my security measures in future. To add insult to injury, six of my own chickens got taken by the fox whilst we were on holiday for new year. The chap looking after them didn’t secure them properly and the fox took his opportunity. Foxes really are opportunists, so please make sure your hens are in a fox proof pen, especially at this time of the year which is mating season and when grown cubs leave home.

On a more positive note, I have lots of plans for 2013 including; offering more choice on breeds to customers, we will be stocking two new hybrids; the Partridge and the Warwickshire Honeysuckle as well as seven pure breeds in season. These include; Orpington, Orpington bantam, Pekin, Vorwerk, Legbar, Rhode Island Red and Copper Black Marans.

We are also developing our boarding area so we can accommodate more holiday hens and our online shop is finally live, although it is still being populated. I am toying with the idea of getting some ducks to breed from and sell, but I am still in two minds about this; any feedback would be welcome?

On the subject of feedback, I have been doing some research into why people choose who they choose to buy chickens from. Most people have said the choice of breeds, health and welfare of the hens and a recommendation from a friend. Again, I would value anyone’s thoughts on this. Specifically, why you go to a certain business in the first place. Is it the website, a recommendation, locality etc?

Finally, if anyone is looking for a Legbar cockerel, I have one for sale. He is about nine months old now and has a good fertility rate. He needs to be kept in free range conditions as he gets aggressive when he isn’t given enough space. He’s got lots of character and keeps his ladies in order nicely though, so would make a good companion or breeding bird.

A happy new year to everyone and remember to wrap up warm and keep your hens warm in the cold weather that’s coming!

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Corn – the MacDonalds Equivalent!!

Well as August’s go, this has been a pretty miserable one! We have missed our ‘summer’ and everyone seems to have bypassed their gardens for the year, thanks to the Tsunami of rain we had earlier on. The lovely weather girls (are we allowed to call them that nowadays?) keep on threatening us with good weather, but it comes in fits and starts. Only the other day I was trapped in the chicken pen for 20 mins as it absolutely bucketed it down, having been sitting in the deckchair in the bright sun only an hour before.

Many customers ring me worried that their hens have stopped laying or are losing feathers. With the weather being so changeable, it has upset many hen’s laying patterns, so don’t be alarmed if they stop laying or become a little irregular. Similarly the feather loss is the beginning of an early moult. Usually hens moult in September, but the mixed temperatures and humidity has brought on may hens moult very early. Remember, they will not lay eggs during their moult, as they are preserving their energies to grow new feathers.

I had a customer at Warwickshire Chicken Coop this morning, telling me he had bought 3 hens from me in April and one has never laid an egg. This is quite unusual to say the least, especially as she is a ‘Gold Star’ one of the best layers going. I asked him all the obvious questions, such as did she have worms, lice, mites etc. All negative. Was she laying the eggs somewhere else in the garden perhaps? Apparently not. Could she have assumed the ‘rooster role’ in the flock. Seems unlikely in a small flock…. A bit of a mystery, until I asked the customer what he was feeding them (silly me,  this should have been my first question!) Response: Corn. Ah ha. Problem solved.

To lay eggs, your hens need LAYER PELLETS or MASH. Corn and fresh greens alone isn’t sufficient. Corn should be given as an occasional treat (a bit like chocolate or MacDonalds!) not as a constant food source, and greenstuff should only make up 20% of their overall diet. Your hens will become fat and lazy and they will stop laying if they are fed just corn. His other two hens were clearly more active and not as lazy as his Gold star, which is why they were still in lay, but he did admit the eggs were sometimes ‘a bit small.’ I sent him off with a bag of layers pellets (and a ticking off!) and I will be interested to hear if a ‘miracle’ has happened and there are three eggs in his nest box in a couple of weeks.

I do get cross when I hear people give their hens just corn. I know it’s what they used to do ‘back in the day’ and the hens were fine, but nowadays, things have moved on and hens are not just required for fattening up and eating and they have a life expectancy of 5-7 years. We have them as healthy, happy pets, for eggs and amusement! Pellets or mash have been specially developed to contain everything a hen needs to have a balanced diet and produce tasty regular eggs, so I don’t know why people insist on giving them something else that doesn’t have the same end results.

I read an article in the (say it quickly and quietly) Daily Mail yesterday about some people with unusual eating habits- (once I’d waded through 5 pages – FIVE PAGES no less, on Prince Harry’s latest escapades). One had eaten nothing but Monster Munch crisps for the past 8 years (beef flavour only), whilst another only ate cheese and tomato pizza, the third cheese and chips; getting through three blocks of cheese and three family sized bags of chips a week. There is now a diagnosis for this (surprise, surprise, isn’t there a diagnosis for everything now?!) called Selective Eating Disorder. The point of the article was; how had they survived and were fit and healthy on such an unbalanced diet? Very good question. Especially since the McDonalds experiment ‘Super Size’ in 2004 had such horrific consequences.

My point to all this is, your hens do not have ‘Selective Eating Disorder’ they would like a balanced diet, consisting of layers pellets or mash as a staple, plus a HANDFUL of corn every few days, supplemented with fresh greens (cabbage, broccoli, lettuce) and some occasional tasty variants – sunflower seeds, mealworms, weeds from the garden, garlic powder, tomatoes and warm porridge if it’s cold.

That’s it. Lecture over! I will now get back to cursing the British weather and going to clean the hens out :-).

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Broody Hens

I know I only blogged a couple of days ago (my mother will be proud), but over the past couple of days I’ve heard the same sad story from a couple of customers. I am sharing it with you, so you can learn from their mistakes.

A hen goes ‘broody’ when she decides to sit on eggs (fertilised or not, she doesn’t know the difference) She will sit on the eggs like it’s the only thing that matters in the world. It is her mothering instinct kicking in. Certain breeds are more prone to broodiness; silkies, dorkings, Sussex and orpingtons especially. It’s not uncommon and is a problem that is easily solved.

Usually the hens will leave the nest box very quickly a couple of times a day to eat and drink and then promptly return. In the case of the recent customers (and in extreme cases) the hens will ‘forget’ to eat and drink and regrettably starve themselves to death.

If your hen is not sitting on fertile eggs, her broodiness is a nuisance to you and the other hens. Most of the time she will ‘hiss’ at you if you get too close and she will hog the nest box and not let the other hens in. She will huddle every egg underneath her, and if she is a heavy breed like an Orpington, she is likely to stand on the eggs and break them. Many people ask me how to stop hens from being broody, when placing them out of the nest box several times a day isn’t doing the trick. The answer is really very simple and in my experience is the only thing that actually works.

Separate the broody hen completely from the rest of the flock. Place her in a wired cat or dog crate; somewhere uncomfortable where she cannot settle down, we affectionately call them ‘sin bins’, ‘slammers’, ‘jail’ or ‘the cooler’. Provide her with constant fresh water and food, and leave her there for about 3 – 4 days. Don’t take pity on her and let her roam around your garden or put her back with the others, you have to be cruel to be kind. After a few days, put her back in with the others, if she runs back into the nest box, give her a few more days in the Sin Bin. If not, she is cured and problem solved.

I promise this works, so anyone with a broody hen, please take this advice, and in this extreme hot weather, avoid untimely and unnecessary hen deaths.

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Cock-a-doodle-do

Firstly, my apologies for not blogging in a long time. Every time I see my mother, she helpfully comments; “You haven’t blogged recently…” Which I haven’t, so regrettably, she is correct. To keep her quiet and to get me back into the blogging mentality, here it is.

This time of year is always a bit of a funny time. Some people are really, really busy and some people are dead as door nails. I guess that could be said of any time of year, but it seems more obvious to me as I have experienced both ends of the spectrum. In my previous employment, I worked for a college and this time of year was the time for us to ‘reflect and plan.’ In reality that meant we all dropped down a gear, wore jeans in the office, took longer lunches, went out for drinks at 5pm on the dot and jollied off on our holidays. On the other hand, my partner who is a farmer, is all pedal to the metal at this time of year, which is harvest time. Farmers are hugely dependant on good weather to get the harvest done, so since the sun is shining, they are all outdoors working every hour of daylight to get the hay mown and baled before rain arrives and ruins everything.

In chicken world it is busy too. Eggs are hatching, chicks are growing and everyone is on red mite patrol. The hotter weather also means we are trying desperately to keep the hens cool. They must have access to shady spots and fresh, cold drinking water all the time. The set up here at Warwickshire Chicken Coop means, regrettably there is no natural shade, so we have made shade by attaching ground cover to the pen roofs and put oscillating fans in the pens to keep the air moving. I have also taken large carpet off cuts into the pens and soaked them with water. The hens will stand on them to keep cool. This is also a useful tip when transporting hens; place a wet tea-towel in the bottom and over the top of the box or crate to keep them cool on the journey. I also encourage people who are coming to buy hens, to avoid doing so in the strong lunchtime/afternoon heat. (and that’s not so I can have a long, lazy lunch!!)

As well as keeping the hens cool, I have been kept entertained by our new arrival of cockerels. As a rule, we do not take or sell cockerels, however we currently have three living with us; Terry, Brian and Derek.

Terry the cockerel

Terry cock-a-doodle-do-ing

‘The boys’ were hatched by a good friend who has no more space herself for cockerels. I could see they were in excellent health and otherwise doomed for the pot, so I agreed to take them. WOW – what a difference they have made to the hens. I have put one cockerel in a pen of 20-30 hens each and the hens adore having them around. They all cosy up to them when they are resting, and they follow them round the pen like little puppies. It is also notable the calming effect the cockerels have had on the hens. My pen of white stars are especially flighty (see previous blog entry on the escapee white star…), but since Brian has been with them, they have settled down completely. They even come up to the pen door and squat down for me to stroke. Once upon a time they would have done several laps of the pen, squawking and flapping at the fact a human was in their pen at all.

For a cockerel and hens to thrive as a group, there needs to be, in my opinion and recommendation, at least eight hens per cockerel. The boys should also be kept separate as they would fight (ie one cock per pen). You will find any less than eight hens, and the cock won’t have enough ladies to keep him busy. Clearly hens and cockerels kept together for breeding purposes is another matter, but if you want a cockerel to calm and protect your hens, try working on the 1:8 ratio.

As well as boys, we have been kept busy with a full cohort of boarding hens, treating a couple of cases of sour crop (more about sour crop next time), taking the hens to agricultural shows and delivering hens to eager families around the Midlands.  We have also had a couple of videos produced – let me know what you think?

During the next couple of weeks we will be taking delivery of our next batch of 200 hens, embarking on our first ‘chickens in the community’ project at a nursing home in Bromsgrove, and waiting excitedly to read our write up in the National Birmingham Post newspaper about two journalists experiences about keeping hens from Warwickshire Chicken Coop. I promise I won’t leave it so long next time! 🙂

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Nice Weather for Ducks… Not for Chickens!

Well, this weather is fowl (tee hee). It has to be the wettest drought Britain has ever seen. There are reports on the news today of ‘monsoon’ conditions on the M1 and M6 and severe weather warnings have been issued by the Met Office. My friend is trying to film some scenes for a new movie he is directing and has commented that whenever he schedules in an outdoor scene, the heavens open. If he’d started filming months ago perhaps we wouldn’t be in a ‘drought’ at the moment?! Next door’s duck seems to be enjoying herself, but everyone else’s chickens are not impressed.

My chickens at home are looking very sorry for themselves as they huddle under their shelter until the rain eases for a few moments, before trudging back under their shelter when the downpour starts again. It really is important in this weather to keep your chickens as dry as possible and provide sheltered spots for them if you are not able to provide a complete covering . I would also recommended you up their nutrient levels with additional vitamins as they will use up lots of energy keeping warm in wet conditions. If you have birds with dense feathering such as Orpingtons or Cochins, play special attention to them as they will take longer to dry off. Make sure your hen house is waterproof or else damp conditions will occur which will encourage respiratory disease.

I am pleased to say the chickens at Warwickshire Chicken Coop have remained dry in this weather, thanks to the completion of the pen roofs (just in time!) We also have solid fencing along one pen wall which protects them from the wind and any driving rain.

Other than the weather, what else had been happening at Warwickshire Chicken Coop this week? One of the Orpingtons had a gunky eye at the beginning of the week, which I treated by bathing with luke warm water twice a day and administering some herbal eye drops. I am pleased to say her eyes have cleared up now and they are bright as buttons and she is back to her usual self, pecking at my boot laces and jewellery.

Orpington Chickens for sale

I am in talks with the local college about a breeding programme of Orpingtons they are looking to set up with the animal welfare students. It is still early days, but the programme sounds interesting and something to look forward to. The manager of the department came to see our set up to get some ideas for the chicken pens for the college and I was pleased that she seemed so inspired by them. It really makes a difference to invest in pens and housing and get something bespoke that suits your requirements exactly.

I have a delivery of 200 chickens arriving next week, which is our largest delivery yet and includes a couple of new varieties – rhode rocks and gold rangers. We actually sold out of hybrids last week and I know a lot of chicken retailers who were in a similar position. The demand for chickens has increased hugely over the past few months (800% over the past year) and Practical Poultry comments that there are 3 million households with back-garden chickens. (Talking of PP – we are on page 4 this month promoting our business and new projects we’re working on! :-))

Chicken keeping is a delightful hobby, but owners should not become lazy or complacent that it is ‘easy’ all the time. Occasionally there can be challenges (such as declining health and adverse weather conditions!) where owners need to be vigilant and push themselves a little bit more to make sure their hens are happy and healthy at all times.

The rain is still pouring as I write this, but the dog needs his walk so I will adhere to his demands (as usual) although my new library books and the kettle look much more appealing.

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