Molting Madness

As the Autumn leaves fall so do the feathers on chickens. Many chickens molt this time of year which results in your coop looking like some ones emptied a pillow in there. Like dogs and cats chickens will molt. Usually when they reach around 18 month old hens and roosters will molts just before winter sets in so they will have a nice, new cover of feathers to keep them warm. An annual molt can take between 5-12 weeks for new feathers to grow. Usually they will start loosing head feathers and then work the way down their body. As feathers are lost new ones regrow and therefore you should never have a fully bold hen, although some do have extreme molts. Newly growing feathers are called pin feathers and can be sore so try not to touch or agrivate these. Since feathers are mostly protein give molting hens protein rich treats such as meal worms. Don’t feel the need to purchase your chicken a jumper! They restrict feather growth and can agrivate pin feathers instead make sure they have shelter and maybe a weekend treat of porridge with raisins and corn.

A close up of Maias pin feathers.

Young birds go through  a pair of little molts between the ages of 2-12 weeks of age to grow adult feathers.  So don’t be starteled if you see Down and little feathers scattered in your brooder. Also if your hens continuously have feathers missing it could be a parasite or feather pecking/bulling read my blog on mites and lice or on Preventing feather pecking.

 Key points:

  • Loose feathers around Autumn when they’re about 18 weeks old.
  • Lasts upto 12 weeks.
  • Feed protein.
  • Be gentle with pin feathers – they don’t need jumpers!
  • Chicks have mini molts.
  • Don’t mistake parasites with a molt.

I hope you feel less worried about your scraggly hens now, any questions comment or email reedhorspool.theurbanhens@gmail.com and feel free to share. 

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How to hatch eggs under a broody hen 

So I’ve just had someone who’s about to collect some eggs from our pet flock to hatch under her broody so I thought I can make a blog post to help them and other people when they decide to satisfy there stubborn broody hen. So here’s a step to step guide…

  1. Move your hen into a “broody coop” is always better than leaving her in the coop with the other hens bothering her and you’ll need another house to keep her and her chicks once they’ve hatched away from the rest of the flock.move her off her nest at night when it’s dark. put her and her eggs in the broody coop and the next morning see if she’s still broody if she is you can either purchase some eggs from a breeder or eBay and if youve got a rooster hatch your own- it’s also best to buy or set more eggs than you need to hatch under a hen a specially if she’s a clumsy first time mum or if the eggs are posted.
  2. Make sure every morning your hen is getting up of the nest to strech her legs and have a drink and some food- it’s a good time to add some health tonic or vitamins to her water as being broody can take its toll on a hen.
  3. You’ll notice that she’ll be doing massive broody poos just remove these as they can be quite un pleasant- this is why she should come of the nest each morning to get dump it else where so it’s not making the eggs messy.
  4. On day 7-10 candle the eggs using a purpose made candeling light or torch- you should see a red dot this is the embryo there also should be veins that you may see pumping. Bad eggs such as embryos that have passed or not developed or infertile eggs will be clear with a light yellow or orange blob which is the yolk and embryos that have died produce a blood ring this will look like a red ring around the inside of the egg and you won’t be able to see any veins or a embryo.Between day 19-21 don’t take her off the nest as this is when she’ll up her humidity and sit tight ready for her eggs to pip. 
    Here’s a healthy developing embryo.
  5. Make sure to powder your birds with lice/mite powder since a hen sitting in the coop all day is easy prey for mites and lice. 
  6. Leave your hen to sit tight on the nest between day 19-21 as this is when she ups humidity ready for her babies to pop out.
  7. Feed your chicks chick crumbs these should be fed to them until they’re 8 weeks old and the mother should have mixed corn too. If you’ve got medicated chick feed to prevent cocidossis (see in blog post 3 common problems in chicks) there might be a egg withdrawal if the mother hen starts laying again. 
  8. Put pebbles or marbles in the water pots to allow the chicks to drink but not drown. 
  9. The hen will decide when’s best to say farewell to her babies this tends to start when the chicks are around  7 weeks of age. The hen can mix back into the flock when the chicks are fully feathered and when she’s fed up, but keep the young chicks in the broody coop and feed them growers pellets from 9-18 weeks of age.
  10. When your chicks are 18 weeks of age and big enough they can be re introduced carefully into the new flock. And then they can start eating layers pellets and hopefully once they’re settled lay their first eggs!
    It’s a fun and great experience for every one when a mother hen hatches her brood.

I hope your mother hen hatches a lovely brood, you’ll find it’s Nice to have chicks running about the garden. Please feel free to use the categories section to serch up specific posts via key words as theres some posts on problems in chicks aswell as using a incubator to hatch them.

Mites and lice

The weather gets warmer and you might start worrying about mites and lice. Here’s what you need to know so you can fight these little bugs!

First things first what are mites? They’re little grey parisites that sometimes decide they want to invest your coop and disrupt your flock. As your birds go to roost in their coop the little mites will crawl out of the cracks and crevices and climb onto your hens for a mid night feast of blood. A fully grown mite will lay lots of eggs in crevices of your coop after 2-3 days these will hatch and in around 5 days these will be laying more eggs and before you know it you’ve got thousands of them in your coop. Signs of mites can be that your chickens don’t want to roost at night in fear of the mites so instead they camp out. You also can place a piece of paper in the coop and in the morning or when you lock your chickens up in the evening you’ll see the red dots crawling on it. 

  How to treat mites. 

  1. Use D.E aka ditamatious Earth although only use this when needed as it can cause respitory problems! D.E is razor sharp particles of aquatic fossils called diatoms these will kill the mites when you sprinkle the D.E on the birds at night or in the cracks of the house. And alowing your chickens to dust bathe will help to kill mites.
  2. Particular sprays can be used in the house for mites I suggest ~ net-tex total mite kill. 

Wooden houses are more Susceptible to red mite with plastic houses such as a omlet eglu you can just wash them away.

So thas mites what are lice? Mites are another little bug but these live on the chicken, they feed on the skin laying lots of grey eggs round the base of the feather shaft. The lice cause irritation so chickens may peck out there feathers and stop laying eggs these are things to look out for. We find that our “fluffier” breeds such as orpingtons and brahmas are more likely to get lice but any of your birds can get them! 

  Treatment for lice. 

  1. Like mites you can purchase a powder for mites to put on your birds at night alowing for it to work its way into the feathers. Barrier louse powder is the one we’ve used in the past it works well and smells like mint, perfect!
  2. A bath can wash of mites and if you chop a few feathers covered in eggs will reduce numbers of lice although it’s always best to properly treat them with powders. 
  3. And like mites alowing your birds to dust bathe can prevent lice.

The grey, white clumps are lice eggs you can find these around the vent, under wings and down the back and neck.

I hope this will make you feel at ease going into the warm summer months knowing that if you get a infestation you can treat it. Every one will get mites or lice in poultry you just need to start treating it when it happens to prevent a large infestation. After I took a break from keeping chickens I purchased a house from eBay to start again, I’ll never buy a cheap chicken coop again! Lots of paces for mites to hide and hard to control and defeate the infestation so I moved over to buying a omlet eglu go and now a eglu cube . There great and plastic meaning I can wash away the mites and dirt and it’s easy to clean.