A fun, interesting guide to poultry keeping, including very important poultry health care information - Written by Mrs. Chicken
1. POULTRY HOUSE
We need a nice 'airy' house with a window to make it light. That way, we can see to perch in the dark.
* Please make sure that our nest box has a cover and is very dark. *
We would like wheat straw or woodshavings on the floor and in the nest box. Each time you clean us out, please liberally scatter Mighty Organic Bedding Powder (Diatomaceous Earth) all over the house to help prevent us getting covered in lice or mite. This is unless you have a slatted floor house. If so, just keep the slats clean, and change the litter (wood shavings only) in the nest box regularly, adding Mighty Organic Bedding Powder on top.
3. INTRODUCTION TO HOME
When you first take us home, please keep us shut in for up to two days, so that we know where we are supposed to live. Otherwise, we may get lost if you let us out the same day! If you put us in with other birds, please make sure there is enough in 'our gang' to stop us being picked on and pecked (at least 50/50). Put an extra drinker and feeder in the house until we settle down with the others. We don't want any bovver!
4. FEEDER POSITION
If possible, we would like our feeder suspended in our house - preferably so the bottom of the feeder is level with the tops of our backs and kept topped up with a good quality mash or pellets.
5. MIXED CORN
You can give us a little Mixed Corn in the afternoon if you like, but only after we start to lay and no more than 28g (1oz) each, spread over a fresh bit of run, or during the winter on the floor in the house. * Don't mix this in with our daily feed, or we won't lay very well. *
6. HEN GRIT
To help us digest our food, please keep a very small pile or small pot full of our special Hen Grit in the run. 28g (1oz) per month is enough. It's very cheap to buy! * DO NOT mix the hen grit in with our feed *
7. LOOSE DROPPINGS
When we are coming into lay, our droppings will be very loose - But do not worry about it! No one gives us an enema before we start to lay! We will start with very small eggs that get larger as we mature.
Please keep our house clean and tidy. If possible, spray it with SPR Poultry Shield from top to bottom regularly. We also need to be wormed at least once per year - but twice is better! * Please don't wait until there are too many worms in our guts for us to cope with. *
9. OUR HEALTH
If you think that one of us is a little bit off colour, please contact the nice poultry people at SPR Centre as soon as possible - and don't wait a week or two! They can be contacted on: 01243 542815 or you could send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
You could also pick us up first, to see if our body feels OK and also look into our eyes and nose. (We love being picked up when we get use to it!)
Or why not have a bottle of Stressless on the shelf? * It's the best chicken pick-me-up available! *
10. RED MITE & LICE
Unless our home is kept clean of these horrible blood sucking creatures we will suffer terribly, and if not checked, we may even die. However, even a clean home can still become infested with those horrible Red Mite, who suck our blood at night as well as other mite and lice. There is now a real solution to the Red Mite problem. It is called Red Stop Solution. Mix this in our water for 10 days, and then one day a week. This then makes our blood completely unpalatable to the Red Mite which then die of starvation over a period of time, and because they can't feed - they can't breed. Still spray our house with SPR Poultry Shield and also dust our nest boxes weekly with Mighty Organic Bedding Powder if you have not noticed it at first, and we have begun to suffer from blood loss and deprivation of sleep, use the trusty Stressless in our water and we will recover and start laying eggs again.
11. COMMENCEMENT OF LAY
We will normally start to lay in about 3 to 4 weeks after we have settled into our new accommodation (although it will also depend on the time of year as to how quickly this is). When we start to lay, we will talk to you and each other, a great deal! * Please collect our eggs as frequently as possible. This prevents us from laying eggs on the floor. *
12. NEST BOXES
We do not like individual nest boxes as we will all crowd into one section - so no partitions please! We also prefer to lay our eggs in the dark, so please make the nest box very dark for us. * If you don't, then one of the other hens may peck our backsides while we lay our eggs and make us bleed. *
13. NO CUT GRASS OR LAWN MOWINGS!
Please do not let us roam on uncollected cut grass (especially when dry). We cannot break it off like we can with growing grass, it may make us 'crop bound' for which there is no cure. We cannot deal with grass mowings as they bung up our grinding stomach (gizzard). * This is because we cannot grind it up quickly enough. *
It is illegal to feed us your kitchen scraps (also salt is very toxic to us). You can feed us vegetable leaves etc. These are best hung up in a netted bag, or from their stalks.
15. NO OYSTER SHELL PLEASE!
I don't need, or want to be given Oyster Shell, as this will unbalance my 'Calcium Phosphorous Ratio' and make my bones as well as my egg shells weaker. And don't even think of giving me crushed egg shell. Its my wastage, and could be better used crushed and sprinkled in the garden to help prevent slugs and snails.
16. KEEP US SAFE AT NIGHT
Make sure you shut us in the house each night as soon as we go to bed, to protect us from Master Fox. * Do not let us out too early in the morning either, as he may still be lurking around! *
When I become tired and my ovaries need a much deserved rest, my feathers will become tatty and broken with possibly a few bald patches on my chest and bottom, and I will stop laying nice shelled eggs (lack of Calcium Phosphate). Some of us will grow new feathers between the old ones, they are normally those of us which lay fewer eggs, whilst I (being the best layer), could be nearly completely bald! My skin will look very red and sore but it isn't, that is my natural pigmentation covering the bald patches. Although I am resting, you will still need to feed me with the best quality food, so that I may be able to recover more quickly - and lay you plenty of nice hard-shelled eggs during my next period of lay. * Don't just give me corn, I need a proper balanced ration! *
This moulting period takes 10 - 12 weeks, and I will need ALL this time to recharge my batteries!
If you see some us streaking - bare bums and bare breast, then you know that we are the very best layers in your flock and our feathers have become brittle and broken off from laying so many eggs. These feathers will not be replaced until we come into a full moult (see above section 17. Moulting). This is also the time when we take a well earned rest from laying eggs for you.
19. EX-BATTERY BIRDS
There are now several people selling Ex-Battery Hens and providing little if any formal advice to the customer. My sisters when re-housed in their new alien environment need a little extra treatment and understanding. Firstly, they need to recover from the shock and stress of being re-located and secondly, they will need help to stop laying so they can rest and recharge their batteries. If this is not done, then a few of them may pass on to 'Chicken Heaven' or continue to lay very thin shelled eggs 'as and when' they feel they are able to. There is no secret potion or feed which will help them to grow back their feathers or thicken their egg shells, and please, for heavens sake don't start giving them oyster shell grit or any other type of calcium. On their arrival, please put Stressless in their drinking water for the first five days, then for two days each week until you think they are over the stress and are looking fine. This will provide them with the necessary multi-vitamins and minerals to alleviate the stress caused from moving from one environment to another. Secondly, please encourage them to moult. To do this put them on a strict corn diet for 7 days then back on to a good layers feed. And finally, they will need some assistance in adapting their house or night accommodation. Perches for them to sleep on need to be much lower to the floor in case they have difficulty flying up to the normal height. Also make sure that any litter put in the house (either in the nest box or on the floor) is short so that it does not bind up in their crops which will kill them.
20. THE IMPORTANCE OF WORMING
We need to be wormed every 3 months with the only accredited and effective wormer on the market - Flubenvet. You can only buy Flubenvet from an authorised company or SQP (Suitably Qualified Person). Unlike supposed herbal remedies on the market, Flubenvet actually works. It is highly efective against gapeworm, large roundworm, caecal worm, hairworm and gizzard worm. It has no adverse effect on our ability to lay eggs or the hatchability of those eggs. It is also completely safe to eat eggs from hens being treated with Flubenvet.
21. CARNIVORES / FISHMEAL
We are natural carnivores and unless we are allowed plenty of free range to roam in, we go short of our necessary meat. All diets these days are now vegetarian due to the 'fuss' caused over salmonella in eggs. Although proved wrong by leading experts (led by the late Professor Heather Dick), the government of the day would not expect the findings so we sometimes suffer from an enforced vegetarian ration. To offset this, a small container placed in the house containing Fishmeal will not only improve our feathering but we will repay you with our natural abundance of eggs.
Some of us might fancy having a new brood of chicks so to do this, we become 'broody'. We will stop laying and swear at you every time you take us off the nest! If you leave us there, we will remain broody for a very long time and encourage our sisters to do the same (frequent egg collections will not prevent this state of mind!) As soon as possible, put the 'broody' hen in a small box or crate with a wire slatted floor (ideally an all wire pet cage or carrier). This must be raised off the fllor so it is well ventilated. A good way of doing this is to rest the corners of the broody cage on bricks. Give us drinking water and food for 5 days. By then, we will have forgotten what we were doing in the first place! After 5 days, put us back in with the other hens during the evening and with luck the will not of missed us. To delay such treatment will only make the problem worse! Please Note: There may be 1 or 2 of us that will swear at you (even when we are laying an egg). This is because we do not like being disturbed!
*If you have any problems concerning your birds, please email us at email@example.com, or phone SPR Centre (01243 542815) so that a member of staff (who understands our little idiosyncrasies!) will be able to assist you.
This article by Mrs. Chicken was compiled with the help of (now retired) poultry consultant, author, executive committee member and director of UKEPRA, and founder of SPR Centre - Mr David C Bland
©SPR Centre 2022