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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Preparing for bird flu

There  is a constant threat of a bird flu out break. But in the U.K it is more likely to break out in the winter since birds are migrating to England for winter. So we should always be careful and aware of avian influenza. Here are some tips to prevent your flock being affected by the flu…

  • Make sure that wild birds and waterfowl can’t get into contact with your flock. Wether this means keep in them in spacious ventilated sheds or even just making a temporary netted run to keep out wild birds.
  • Keeping the feeders and waters under cover and making them unecssesable by wild birds is vital.
  • If you can cover the area you keep your birds in with a roofing material such as tarpaulin to prevent birds droppings falling into your coop.
  • Keep your coop clean and use disinfectant.
  • Wash your foot wear and any and vehicles before entering the area you keep your birds.
  • Try not to Intergrate too many new birds from markets as markets are perfect places for bird flu to be distributed.
  • Contact your vet if any birds as seeming poorly even if you think it may not be th Flu.
  • Try to deter rodents.
  • Keep your birds entertained when kept enclosed ~ See Here on how to hentertain your flock.

Hopefully there will not be any out breaks this year but keep updated by DEFRA . 

    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.


      Integrating new flock members.

      Betty (who we now know is a boy) looking happy in his new pen.
      Chicken math hits you again, you’ve got a flock who get on as happy as Larry and now all hell breaks loose because you’ve added new members. The thought of sharing the coop with the newbies leaves your hens distraught. They have no other choice but to attack so here’s 6 steps to help your chooks become best friends…

      1. If you have brought them from a market or have any worries that your hens might be carting diseases quarantine them until you are sure they are fine (search a healthy hen in the blog post to know what a healthy hen looks like). 
      2. It’s always best to add birds that are the same age or the same size as you’re existing flock for instance a 4 week oldchick and a two year old hen might not go down well. 
      3. If you have birds that may be younger or smaller than your original chickens givethem a space only they can access for instance a shelter with a door only they can fit through, here they can relax and you can givethem food and water in this area incase they are scared to come out for the first day.
      4. Create a distraction such as hanging veg, giving them some chicken toys. (To find out more search hentertainment  for a blog on entertaining/distracting chickens).
      5. Add extra drinkers and feeders to the run so if the original chickens guard the food and water The newbies have a supply too.
      6. Some people suggest keeping them separate for a week in a run inside your original chickens run so they get used to each other although I’ve never tried this.

      Don’t worry (he says as he checks them every five muinets) a peck and a kick is normal and will establish a pecking order. But if any of the flock are being really bullied spray them with anti pecking spray or use beak bits with the bully. These can be found in most country stores or on good old eBay. I hope this helps as it can be a very stressful time mixing birds. Thanks for reading 😊

      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.

      Hentertainment 

      Our hens are happy in their run and whenever I get the chance I let them out into the garden to have a dust bathe and just generally enjoy themselves while destroying the garden in the process! But it’s important to keep your birds wether it be chickens, quail or any other poultry occupied. If birds are left in a bare run – no matter how big it is – they will soon get bored this can cause feather pecking and bulling and even depression your egg numbers may decrecrease any you flock won’t be exercising as much either. It’s easy to keep your flock entertained here are some tips you could use….

      1. Give your birds  the 5* luxury accommodation it can be cheap too: some branches and logs make great perches in a run that your hens will enjoy and soil mixed with a little bit of D.E makes a great dust bathe and straw to scratch about in.
      2. Treats are a great and nutritious, both you and the birds will benefit from these. A luettice you won’t use can be hung up with string you hens will love pecking at this the same goes for any other poultry friendly fruit and veg. Corn scattered in the straw or soil will encourage the birds to enjoy digging around aswell as wearing down their claws the eggs will also be nice and rich from the corn. And bird feeders you may use for fat balls can be filled with spinach or hentastic treats which our chooks love!
      3. Mineral blocks can be purchased cheaply and are full of vitamins and minerals, grit and all your birds favourite corns you flock will love them.- you can also DIY and I’m the summer make ice blocks: freeze mixed corn, peas, sweetcorn and other goodies with water put it in the freezer a ta-da a refreshing tasty ice block to not only give your hens something fun to do but cooling and hydrating them at the same time 🙂

      I hope this helps you as boredom can be a real problem especially in ” lock down ” when bird flu is about luckily we now can let out birds to free range or into a uncovered run due to restrictions being lifted Aswell as being a problem when it’s muddy and wet and the birds have nothing to do.If you’ve got any boredum busters comment below well love to hear your ideas! 

      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.