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.

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! 🐣

A healthy hen

Our last post was on choosing the right breed for your backyard so now you’ve chosen your preferred breed and have contacted the breeder that you may of found in the magazine, pets 4 Homes or even gumtree and now you need to know what a healthy hen looks like to avoid any issues or to resolve them from bringing home a unhealthy bird. 

First things first the breeder. If they’re hiding something from you its best not to purchase the birds, they may also take advantage of your knowledge if your starting to keep chickens. Best way to buy birds is ask, see on poultry networks and Facebook pages if anyone knows any poultry breeders near to you and what they think about them.

Now your breeder is secure just check the birds incase of any illnesses the breeder may of not picked up on.

  1. A bright shiny eye, no clouding or foam this could be a respitory problem.
  2. Nice smooth legs, scaly leg mites can cause rough and irratable legs on your birds if your hen has scaly legs coat them with vasaline.
  3. Sneezing and heavy breathing ; this also may be a respitory illness or mycoplasma and usually solved if taken straight to the vet for some antibiotics.
  4. Generally under the weather such as hunched over, siting in a corner etc. This could be a whole array of things and is best to search on the internet first with exact details or a trip to the vets to find out what may be wrong. 
  5. A messy bum isn’t as such a life or death situation but Still nearly to be cleared up scince it can lead to maggots and secondary illnesses, if your hen has a messy bun it may just be where her fluffyness is getting in the way so just trim it. It could be lice so check for white clumps of eggs around he vent and if she does have lice  purchase some poultry lice dust to shake under ur wings and around her vent. It could be worms so using a specialised feed or powder can clear this up.
  6. Lumps me bums, look for lumps especially below the vent this could be a stuck egg is the hen is not laying and is likely to need vet advice. A rock hard crop could be a impacted crop so massage the crop breaking up the food with help from olive oil then if it does not clear please get advice from a vet, otherwise it could be sour crop then withdraw food and water 24 hours an dose 3ml of neat brandy to help kill the fungus causing sour crop.

So if there’s may thing that your chicken could have what does a healthy bird look like?

We hope this help you to resolve your chickens illness or make you feel confident when buying chickens.

At the moment we have a poorly chicken, Ivy the pekin you can get updated on her at Theurbanhens on Facebook.

Top 10 breeds for a backyard flock

Wether your a first time poultry keeper or a experienced one looking to expand here are some tips on choosing the right breed for you, first thing to decide is what you want them for. Most common purposes for urban or garden keepers are eggs, showing and breeding and you might want them to look nice or be child friendly,the  less common purpose is meat. You might slaughter a spare cockerel or old hen as a meal for you and your family and therefore want a dual purpose breed.

Hybrid or pure breed

Hybrids are generally bred for eggs although some are produced to grow incredibly fast and therefore can break bones and have heart problems. If you have a egg producing hybrid they do lay incredibly well 260 to even 320+ a year! This said hybrids will live considerably shorter lives than purebreeds and due to the amount of eggs they create they can get prolapsed vents and egg boundness lastly the males are slaughtered after hatching but most hybrids are vaccinated against common deseaises . Purebreeds come in all shapes and sizes with a variety of breeds to fit your set up, most purebreeds  an be taken to shows and contests if of good quality. Even though they may lay only 100-150+ eggs per year over their lifespan they can provide just as many as a hybrid. Some pure chickens can be rare and therefore breeding or even keeping them can help to preserve them. If you do breed heritage, rare or pure breeds it’s worth having a dual purpose type: the females can lay a reasonable amount of eggs whilst the males can be slaughtered for a nice sized carcass.

Top ten breeds

due to the fact we’ve never kept any meat hybrids I will not review them.

Purebreeds

  1. Rhode Island reds: this hardy breed is the base of many egg laying hybrids due to the fact they are a dual purpose breed and are incredibly friendly, although these birds aren’t rare they are a wonderful heritage breed.
  2. Orpington: a English breed created by Thomas cook in the village of Orpington, this breed lay well for a purebreed and come in a range of colours which will contrast in your garden perfect if you’d like a pretty bird. Due to their tameness and size they are good mothers and make great pets. 
  3. Serama: tiny little chooks with massive personalitys this true bantam breed originates from Malaysia where they are kept as house pets, a true bantam is a small chicken(bantam) with no large fowl of its breed. The males can be kept in a urban garden since their crow is very quiet and is like a cockadoodaledoo although it sound as if their voice has broken halfway through! The males love their “wives” and are very gentle towards humans.
  4. Pekin: another true bantam these little chickens also have attitude and aren’t afraid of their bigger flock members. With big feathers on their feet they need to be kept dry or trimmed of, but this feature makes them quite funny when they run its more of a side to side Waddle and the feathers mean they are less destructive to the ground. They make great mothers too.
  5. Leghorn: this Mediterranean breed are heat hardy and common in hotter countries for this reason aswell as the May eggs they lay, 300+ large white eggs per year. The way they keep cool is by sending blood through their large combs but when it’s cold they can get frostbite but a bit of Vaseline can help if you put a bit on the comb.
  6. Legbar: created by Reginald Crundall Punnett after the first three arucana hens were brought to England and the male was slaughtered by accident. Punnett cross bred these hens to create the crested cream Legbar which not only lay blue eggs but are sexable at day old the males are lighter with a large spot on the head and the females have dark stripes. Legbars are flighty but can be tamed. Legbars are the opposite of true bantams in the fact they only come in large fowl.

Hybrids

    7. Warren: this hybrid is deprived from the Rhode Island Red and light Sussex, used in the egg industry these friendly birds will lay nearly a egg a day and are perfect starter birds, cheaper than purebreeds these are easy to come by.


    8. Skylines: these are a crossbred Legbar laying more eggs it too can lay a blue egg, some olive and even a few cream. These birds share the looks of a Legbar but have a cream neck unlike the legbars grey, they also can have a salmon chest or lovely red feathers.

     9. Goldtop : this silkieXsussex isn’t bred for eggs but for friendliness and broodiness. Going broody most of the year they lay around 150 eggs, but are extremely friendly and pretty birds, harder to find a breeder of these.

         10. Copper black: a Maran hybrid who shares the gentle personality of the purebreed, the glossy black feathers and shiny rich brown eggs but lay more per year and tend to be vaccinated like most hybrids. These also are cheaper and more common than a purebreed.

Which ever breed you choose make sure you read up on the standards and other information and purchase from a good breeder.

Bird flu prevention

One of the things I have never mentioned on here is bird flu, a disease that can wipe out flocks of poultry spreading from bird to bird. In France it has been confirm end that there has been a incident and England must go on lock down. Basically keep our birds indoor (where we can) or under cover in a run where wilds birds are unable to access the inside of the chicken run. You can use foot dips and use only certain clothes when with your chickens. Please look at the defra website for more details this is a serious matter! 

How to keep chickens

Want to keep chickens but know nothing at all, well this post will teach you everything you need to know.

Why keep chickens

Chickens are great they are friendly so make great pets with funky personalitys and some are Sooo friendly they’ll jump up onto your lap at any given chance. Only needing 1 square meter at the least of run space you can keep at least a flock of two in any garden, allotment or smallholding. And two hens will lay around 12 eggs in the summer weeks and some hybrids (cross breeds) will even lay through out the winter months too. If you have a compost bin their manure make great fertiliser for the garden as well as the vegetables grown can be fed back to the hens along with egg shells.

Routines for the hens

It’s simple alike any other pet they need cleaning of the house each week the nest boxes can be changed every two days for clean eggs. Water and food can be checked every day but most feeders and drinkers are large enough to be refilled every couple of days. Birds can be wormed 2 a year using medicated feed and can be de- liced using powders and can be powdered with DE to prevent mites ( a blood sucking “nit like” Parisite that lives in crevices of chicken coops and come out at night to feed on the birds turning from a grey colour swelling into a blood red colour). If you have bark in your run this will have to be changed usually every 3 months (or what is perscribed) other materials that can be used in a run are leaves,gravel,concrete,sand or soil but when leaving the ground bare with soil it can get extremely muddy and can cause deseaises and infections so best to cover your run. Although when using concrete,gravel or paving slabs leave an area of dry soil for dust bathing wich can reduce lice and mites. Chickens love being kept on grass but if you have a run on your lawn then move it regularly or it will soon turn to mud.

What do I need

Hens- to start of with buy 2-6 Point Of Lay hens (aka POL or 20 week old pullets) as this is an easy number to manage.

Food- layers pellets or mash for laying hens and as treats sun flower seeds, oats and corn flakes,vegetables such as luettice hung up, strawberries and raspberries and corn on the cob, spaghetti and egg shells or grit this is really important to produce eggs but most layers pellets allready  have this in them.

A coop- you can find a house on eBay or build one yourself wether it’s wooden or plastic it must have adequate ventilation, rooting bars or branches for the birds to perch on, a nest box wich is an dark area for the birds to lay eggs and hatch chicks this area must have soft materials such as sawdust or hay, NOT straw.

And there you are ready to go just funk up your coop with fancy feeders, and logs and toys to keep your hens entertained and that’s it get ready for eggs any time soon.

FAQ

Do I need a cockerel for my hens to lay eggs? No, hens will happily lay without males and even sometimes try to hatch unfertilised eggs but males do make great members to a flock, warning the hens when danger is around , fertilised eggs are also OK to eat and even keep for longer.

Are chickens noises and smelly? It depends, if you Coleen and manage your hens well then they won’t smell. Hens can be noisy when laying or if they are sounding an alarm but for 90% of the day they’re quiet and make relaxing chirps.

Do chickens lay different colour eggs? Yes, here are a few breeds for mixed eggs the legbars lay blue eggs, marrans lay dark chocolate eggs, leghorns lay blue eggs and orpingtons lay pink eggs. Also if yo cross breed them you get other colour eggs, such as a legbar X marran create a olive egg layer.

How much do chickens cost? It depends, genrally hens cost more than males. Rare breeds cost more than hybrids and cross breeds and it also is depending on age. A average brown egg laying hybrid costs £17 at point of lay, pure breeds can cost £20-25 at this age. 

I hope this helps, happy hen keeping!

Hatching chicks part 2

In this part of hatching chicks we will be talking about setting up your brooder.this is a cage where your chicks will stay from 20hours old to 4-6 weeks old. For a brooder you will need…

  • Brinsea Eco glow chick brooder
  • A cage(we use a Guinea pig cage)
  • Marbels and a small pot
  • Small pot
  • Chick crumbs to grower pellets
  • Sawdust


First fill a layer of saw dust in the cage then plug the brooder into the plug socket and lead then place it in the corner with the back facing a pot of water near by nearer than the feed but as the chicks become stronger move it slowly further away. To prevent the chick drowning add some marbles into the pot also when placing the chick in the brooder dip the beak in the water and place them gently under the lamp. Feed the chicks on chick crumbs until 8 weeks of age sometimes chicks will not really get an appetite till 4 days of age so don’t worry if they aren’t eating much!Depending on weather and how feathered the chick are they are able to be put out side at 4-6 weeks of age. once the chick is older than 8 weeks change the feed to growers pellets or mash then onto layers pellets or mash at 18-20 weeks of age (just before they begin to lay). And that’s how you care for your chicks 🙂.