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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Sum up Sunday 10/9/17

What a week! We’ve rehomed birds and taken in some and managed to put together a play house. The play house was given to us and is perfect to keep the silkies warm on wet cold days so a lick of paint and some felt and it’s nearly ready to put them in, we just need a nest box and perches, a door and Windows and then they can move into “cluckingham palace”we also rehomed Ronnie and the four other roosters on Saturday. A short drive took us to the smallholding where the man took them to a barn with thirty or so pullets. He said on Tuesday he will take them to the market. We explained that we hatched them so he gave us a box of Orpington eggs and two young pullets that I picked out from a array of chicks. He said any roosters we hatch we can take them back. The two chicks exploring their run, he has no idea what they are I reckon the one on the right is a silver campine. When I returned home my mums friend had delivered her two chickens in their eglu go. She had to rehome them since their dog was frightened of them as they would chase him  inside 😂 one of thems a little; very hen pecked but hopefully her feathers will grow back.and finally I’ve been avertising the quail chicks for some time now and if I could rehome at least 7 I would hatch the eggs as I would be able to cope withso many birds! I didn’t think any one would want them and decided to crack the eggs, 4 were fertile and then soon after I found that bobtail orpingtons are quite rare and now some one wants all eleven quail. I should of kept them! Any way the quail will be going on Tuesday then I may hatch some more. 🐣

Sum up Sunday’s 9/7/17

I’ve not done much this week really. The Heat dosent help with making me want to get up and start doing things but as the phrase says “the show must go on” no mater What the temperature is outside in the sun. And I had a early morning today since I forgot to shut the eglu cubes door so I was awoken by pixie crowing- we usually don’t hear him but because of the heat the windows are all open- so at 4 am he was taken back into bed for a few hours. As I did I heard a loud screech, the 9 week old chicks have started crowing! And I think I have a 50/50 split this year of male to female chicks. That means I have 6 young male chicks that are all going to be screeching until I can rehome them, any one for a rooster? 😂 I’m also hoping to do a open day in the summer holidays so watch this space!

Sum-up Sundays 25/06/17

Recently I’ve been writing a lot of educational posts. When I first started theurbanhens it was really just to share experiences that we encounter with our chickens so I thought I’d bring back weekly updates in the form of sum-up Sundays where each Sunday I’ll summarise the weeks events and gossip from the coop. Wether it be a short catch up or a big essay I’ll be here each Sunday with the latest news from theurbanhens. As our first sum-up Sunday we have a rather sad thing to tell you. Today we lost one of our quail; this morning my mum found the quail Nick-named “funny eyes” (because of her eye deformity that didn’t get her down, she was one of our most craziest and likely  happiest quail) cowering in the corner of the run this afternoon she died peacefully- fly high little funny eyes you may of been tiny but you had a big  personality and will be very missed 🕊.

Funny eyes with one of the other quail greeting me,as she did every morning.
been a busy weekend aswell yesterday I moved the chicks into the run with the larger chickens, I also wrote a blog about it too https://theurbanhens.files.wordpress.com/2017/06/img_1212.jpg and so far theyve been alright but some times Autumn or Maia will give the chicks the odd peck so I created a safe area for them (I talk about this more in the blog) so they can go and relax without a bully harassing them. But this also has the beneficial factor that I can keep the birds feeds seperate. Since the chicks or should I say growers  have just been moved onto growers pellets mixed with the usual chick crumb (so they can get used to eating just the growers pellets) I can put their food in their safe area so the older chooks won’t be gobbling it down! I also found a worm in the omlet cube whilst cleaning it out, it’s the first time I’ve seen a worm in the chickens droppings. So now I’m going to mix 6 grams of flubevent domestic poultry wormer in 3kg of the adults feed and continue to do this for 7 days. Flubevent also has no egg withdraw meaning I can still eat the eggs. Once I cleaned out the coops I refreshed them with shavings and lavender; this herbs smell is relaxing for the hens and repels insects. I hope you enjoyed the first sum up Sunday if you did why not comment what you’ve been getting up to this week 🐓

Hatching eggs: broody or incubator?

It’s summer and hens are going broody and incubators are just calling to be used but which one is the best? Recently we’ve Been hatching lots of eggs . And it made myself think which ones better? So I’ve decided to channel my thoughts into a blog post… I’ll go over the dis advantages and advantages of both and then I’ll come to a conclusion.

Broody hen


 Advantages 

  1. No need to check humidity, egg turning and temperatures the broody hen will do it all herself.
  2. She’s Eco friendly too: no power needed just food, water and a shelter- she will even give you nice big smelly broody poos for the compost big too.
  3. It’s much more natural for the chicks they can learn to be a proper chicken.
  4. The mum will teach them to drink and eat.

 Disadvantages 

    1. You will need to move her into her own coop even when she’s incubating eggs.
    2. She may leave the eggs especially is she’s a first time mum.
    3. She may break eggs while incubating them.

    Incubator/brooder


     Advantages 

    1. Accurate hatching times as with a hen she gets off to eat drink etc. They might take a couple of days longer.
    2. You get to experience up close a chick hatching.
    3. You can candle the eggs easily (as with a hen she will peck your hand off!) to make sure you have no nasty eggs that may effect the growing embryos.

     Disadvantages 

    1. Once they’ve hatched you need to put them in brooder which needs regularly cleaning out and needs to be inside a Warm room.
    2. You need to regularly dip the chicks beaks in the drinker so they know where the food is, with a broody she will, teach them this herself.

     Conclusion 

    Both! We’ve found its better to incubate the eggs your self then brood them under a hen. You will get better hatch results with a good incubator especially if the hens a first time mum. As you might of picked up with the advantages and disadvantages that with the broody hen her advantages were mostly once the eggs have hatched and her disadvantages were when she was incubating the eggs the Opposite goes for a incubator. You’ll find that there’s nothing better than seeing a chick hatch and then for a affectionate mother hen raise it. 

    So how do you go about doing so firstly once your hen goes broody start to incubate the eggs (I’ve got a two part blog on incubating eggs ) then once they’ve all hatched wait for darkness outside then pop the chicks under the hen in her broody coop. (I also have a blog on caring for chicks) she should take to the chicks straight away when morning comes. Don’t disturb her to much. Leave her to it after all mumma hen knows best.

    The beautiful bond between a mother hen and her chick.


    3 herbs to give to your hens.

    I like giving my chickens herbs not only do they love them but it also can improve their health and create a calm environment that smells nice too. Herbs are easy to grow or can be brought from any garden store or even food shop.

    1. Lavender is one of the herbs I give to my chickens more often. I take some of the leaves and flowers to sprinkle in the nest box. Since lavender scent calms chickens I feel it will make the hens daily laying more relaxed, it also prevents flies and other insects so is great in a coop! 
      Mix the lavender and shavings together before adding it to you flocks house.
    2. Oregano is one of the most beneficial herb for your birds it’s thought to fight off salmonella, coccidiosis even the dreaded avian flu which struck at the end of last year and still is lurking about… Its also full with vitamins K and E and boosts immune systems this is why I like giving it to my growers. You also can dry herbs for their feed or as I do cut and serve.
    3. Mint is a great plant it smells good, repels rodents and can cool your chickens down. So you could grow it around the coop to keep away rats and mice and then cut to use in the coop or in your chooks wateres on hot days to cool them down. 

    I hope you enjoyed this blog there are many more herbs for your chickens too and the great thing is that you can use the manure to grow them then cut them, give them more manure and the cycle continues. Why not comment what herb you flock like? I’d love to know.

    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.

    3 common problems in young chicks.

    It’s half way through spring and many of us expanding our flocks may have little chicks snuggled under a brooder or with a mother hen, if your wondering how to incubate eggs then search hatching chicks into the serch bar on our page. Otherwise here are 3 common problems you may need to resolve when keeping chicks…

    Pasty butt

    Pasty butt is common it’s when droppings stick to the down around the chicks vent. It can be caused by being overheated, too cold even stress or because of something they have eaten. The vent should not be confused with the chick’s belly button. The vent is the area on a chick where droppings and eggs exit the body. Pulling off a belly button can not only hurt the chick but get infected and even cause disembowelment. But if droppings block up a chick’s vent without being removed the chicks could die. 
        Prevention    

    1. Clean regularly to minimise loose faeces.
    2. Check chicks vents every now and then for pasty but.

        Treatment  

    Its very simple just use a warm damp cloth or paper towel and remove the droppings carefully and be even more gentle not to pull the droppings or down other wise it can cause skin around the vent to rip. After you’ve dried and cleaned the area put some petroleum jelly on it to prevent any other droppings from sticking. 

    As you can see the droppings stuck to the vent area therefore this is pasty butt.

    Spraddle leg

     Spraddle leg is a deformity of a chick or birds legs, the feet a spread/pointing out to the sides. It makes walking hard or even impossible for the chick. if untreated it can be permanent. Although it can simply be fixed! It can be caused due to incubation problems such as the temperature going up or down or a long, difficult hatch. Injury to the legs in also a problem with another cause being a overcrowded brooder and last it could be a vitamin e deficiency. 

      Prevention  

    1. Don’t overcrowd your brooder and use paper towels or as we have found best shavings for a floor in your brooder.

      Treatment  

    You will need to “brace” your chicks legs to allow the muscles to strengthen in the right position. yarn, rubber bands, tape and vetwrap can be used for a brace although it will need to be able to stay fixed in place, not restrict blood circulation when applied, doesn’t damage the skin, is easy to take off and allows the chick try walking. Now to make a brace: wrap two little pieces of The material around each of the legs just below the knee, don’t wrap too tightly. With vetwrap it sticks to itself, so no tape is used. Next cut a long pice to secure the legs together. The legs should now be underneath the chick, slightly wider compared to a normal stance but allow a slight amount of space for the chick to more them a bit. Over time the chick’s legs will become stronger and therefore slowly start to allow for more leeway inbetween the legs until it is definite that the brace is no longer needed.

    As you can see a plaster is being used to brace the chicks legs together.

    Coccidossiss 

    Coccidiosis is a parasite which damages the wall of a chickens gut there are many different types some harmless right through to life threatening. sporoulated oocyst is digested by the chick then chemicals inside the gut start to break down the oocyst wall and it then releases the type of the coccidiosis called the sporocyst. The sporocyst changes and it occupies cells of the gut wall and they then start to replicate, more occysts are made and then they are passed out in the faeces into the brooder, run or enclosure and can infect other chickens. What is so fatal about coccidiosis is that one oocyst through its cycle can destroy thousands of cells in the gut, so think what happens if the chick is to digest lots of oocyst. It’s extremely painful for the chicks and causes the birds to stop eating, stand with a hunched posture and messy looking feathers. And damage created to the gut reduces the amount of nutrients it can absorb then the birds can loose weight and they usually may have diarrhoea.

      Prevention  

    1. Clean regularly, since the chicks are passing out oocyst in their faeces which then can infect other birds.
    2. Don’t overstock your pens, brooders etc. Birds are more likely to spread diseases rapidly if kept confined in a crowded space.

      Treatment  

    Keep them in a warm and dry environment- nice and cosy and Then treat with medication, I suggest Harkers coxoid .

    Here is a very bad case of coccidossiss note the hunched over chick and blood in the droppings .

    I hope you know feel more confident in raising chicks and enjoy the experience if you need anymore advice take a look at the blog posts or email me via reedhorspool.theurbanhens@gmail.com and find us on Facebook at Theurbanhens or on my own Instagram page which is now full of chicken photos called r33dyr0011 thats two zeros! Oh and don’t forget to keep an eye on our page as I’m aiming for at least two educational posts every month! 🐣

    Roll on 21 days!

    So as you may know I’ve got my brinsea Eco egg incubator!

    And now my six new macdonalds farm eggs!

     There now in the incubator so roll on the next 21 days!

    marran,black arucana,black leghorn fatherd by anybof the seven cockrels running alongside their 75 hens!
    welsumer,brabanter or marran or warren, fenton blue fatherd by any of the seven cockrels running along the 75 hens they keep

    Broody Beyoncè 

    Pure breeds especially brahmas,pekins,orpingtons and silkies. Every year Beyoncè goes broody sometimes pepper too. This year Beyoncè is broody!!! Really early in the season too!!! I think she herd me when I was at morrisons saying “if one of the hens goes broody can we hatch some eggs?” Then I came home to a grumpy faced Beyoncè on her three eggs she had laid. So when I was back down the town I got some Clarence court eggs from the supermarket. I know it’s from a farm where there aren’t any cockerels but a boy maneged to hatch a legbar egg from Clarence court and many people hatch Clarence court duck eggs. Also I love the legbars blue shells! My Nan was telling me how at a farm where her husband works they produce brown eggs on a large scale for supermarkets and within the many hens there was a cockerel roaming around there for a year as it wasn’t sexed at the hatchery.

    clarence court legbar eggs
    Ŷ

    lovely blue shells
    old cotswold legbar from clarence court

    I hope to purchase some eggs from south Yeo farm too.

    I hope you enjoyed this blog if you did and you haven’t read our other blogs why not?

    Thankyou for reading😄