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Why Do Chickens’ Legs Not Get Cold In Winter?

Watching chickens scratch at the frozen ground or strut through the snow, you might wonder how they manage to keep their feet and legs warm. After all, this is one part of their body with no feathers to keep it cosy (unless you happen to have a feathery-legged breed such as the Cochin, Brahma or Silkie).

Surprisingly, the simple answer to ‘How do they keep their leg warm?’ is ‘They don’t!’. Those skinny, bare legs have scales, which retain heat to a certain extent, but they will still get very cold if the bird stands still for too long.

And that’s the important detail. A chicken keeps its legs warm by moving, and by not keeping all its toes on the ground for too long. These parts of their body lose heat rapidly; but the solution is quite simple.

Perching is the most effective way of retaining heat. A hen hunkers down when roosting, and her legs are tucked into her warm body. If space allows, install a flat perch too. A piece of wood with a 10 cm width will enable the hens to roost without having to grip the perch, which in really cold weather will prevent their toes freezing. (The lucky ones will simply snuggle down in a nesting box, which is the chicken equivalent of a thick quilt!)

But of course, a hungry hen doesn’t want to waste the whole day perching, so even in the coldest spells she will make a lot of contact with the ground.

One-Legged Hens

Like many other birds, chickens often adopt the ‘one leg’ look, tucking one of their limbs up into the warmth of their bellies. This reduces overall heat loss and stops feet and toes from freezing on the icy ground.

An upturned pot, a log, pallet or other slightly elevated space – cleared of snow or ice – will help the hens get the circulation going again, without having to catch their breath on the frozen ground. Like all birds, chickens are warm-blooded, just like us, and their own body heat soon works its magic. Indeed, with an average body temperature of around 41°C, chickens can remain active in the coldest weather.

The leg-warming process is helped by other tricks, too. Fluffing up the feathers retains body heat, by trapping small pockets of air which are then heated up by the bird’s warm body.

Some owners give their hens a supper of corn and grains, which take longer to digest than a standard pellet or other chicken food. Part of the digestion process involves producing heat – a kind of internal hot water bottle!

In general, hens will eat more food in the cold months, as more of their energy is spent keeping warm. Some owners like to supplement the birds’ diets with extra protein or a little suet, to increase their fat levels for the winter. Fat retains heat, and the whole bird benefits – not just the legs (which will remain as thin as ever!)

Help With The Heating

You can help your hens keep their toes cosy by making sure the coop is clean and dry. Clear out any snow dragged in on the birds’ feet, and keep an insulating layer of straw on the floor. You can give the birds extra protection by insulating the coop – although there should still be some ventilation, to allow the gases released from the birds’ droppings to escape.

You can install an automatic door to help keep the living quarters snug. Heaters are also available – but never use anything other than a heater designed specifically for hen houses. It’s also best to use these only if the temperature gets below -5°C, otherwise hens may get used to being cosy all the time, and that could be disastrous if the heater fails and the birds are suddenly exposed. Heat-pampered poultry can die of cold shock.

A coop should be draft-free, but not completely sealed, as ventilation is important for healthy hens. During the day, a sheltered spot in the run or garden will help them take a breather and warm those long-suffering legs.

Chickens are amazingly hardy, and although not exactly warm, their legs will be able to cope with anything the average winter throws at them. As long as they can toast their toes on a nice perch every now and then…

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How Should Chicken Eggs Be Stored?

We are all used to the idea of fresh food being clean and chilled, so surely the best method of storing eggs is to wash and refrigerate them?

The answer is ‘no’. With a bit of ‘yes’ thrown in. Although the collective knowledge of chicken keepers is vast, there is still debate about the best way to store eggs.

We’ve gathered the various ends of the argument and summarised them below. Welcome to the debate!

Washed eggs?

Unless the eggs are soiled – which is the result of mud or chicken poo in the hen house, rather than dirt deposited during the actual laying – they do not need washing. A freshly laid egg has a shell covered in a protective ‘bloom’, called the cuticle, and this acts as an antibacterial defence system. If it’s washed off, the protection is washed off too. However, if the eggs are then stored in clean boxes, this won’t be a huge issue.

Eggs with dirty shells should be wiped clean, and it’s a good idea to use these soiled ones first – mainly to keep the egg box or egg-skelter looking pretty!

Chilled eggs?

Some chicken keepers keep their eggs in a refrigerator, while others believe this is unnecessary. So what’s the best advice?

There are two rules of thumb – keep them below 20°C, and keep them away from strong odours, as these may affect the flavour. Other than that, it’s really up to you.

A study was carried out in 2013 by Food Test Laboratories in England, comparing the fate of two batches of supermarket eggs. The eggs were kept for two weeks, half of them in the fridge, and the other half at room temperature. In England, supermarket eggs aren’t washed before being sold, so still have the protective cuticle on the shell.

The eggs were tested for ‘usual suspect’ bacteria such as salmonella and listeria, at the beginning of the experiment and two weeks later. The results demonstrated why there is such divided opinion on the issue, as neither sets of eggs showed any signs of bacterial nasties, inside or out.

It’s the cuticle ‘bloom’ that keeps the eggs fresh and bacteria-free. If you’ve had to wash them, it’s probably a good idea to refrigerate them, as the shells will not be protected. Keep them in boxes on the fridge shelves, rather than in a fitted plastic egg tray in the fridge door (formerly a regular feature in new refrigerators).

Eggs don’t like being shaken, as it causes the egg whites to deteriorate and turn slightly watery. An egg that’s shaken by the constant opening of the fridge door is likely to lose its binding qualities in baking, and will look very sad, flat and watery in the poaching or frying pan. Fridge doors are the warmest part of the appliance too, and the area of the fridge where temperature fluctuates the most, which isn’t ideal for egg storage.

Egg basket or box?

Eggs kept outside the fridge can be stacked in boxes, with the oldest ones in the topmost boxes. This age factor is less easy to sort out if you keep the eggs in a wire basket, although these look great on display. Some chicken owners use colour coding dots, or even dates, to sort the young from the old. If you’re unsure about relative age, you can always use the traditional ageing method: place the eggs in a bowl of water, and watch how they sit. Very fresh ones will lie flat on the bottom, while older ones will have their pointed ends raised. Ones that are way past their use-by date will float.

Another advantage of egg boxes is that you can store the eggs with their rounded ends at the top. This keeps the yolks centred, which makes them look their best if you’re hard- or soft-boiling. However, if most of your eggs end up in cakes and quiches, this isn’t going to be an issue.

An egg skelter is another attractive way of storing the fruits of your hens’ labours. These keep the eggs in age-order, and they look great too.

Storing shelled eggs?

Any leftover raw egg can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container. It should be used within three days. Stored yolks should be covered in water to prevent them drying out. The water can be poured away before use.

Uneaten cooked eggs (i.e. hard-boiled) will always leave an ‘eggy’ whiff in the fridge. This is caused by hydrogen sulphide, a gas that forms when eggs are cooked (you’ll notice it’s never present in raw eggs). Although not exactly pleasant, the gas is harmless. Eggs stored in this way should be eaten within one week.

So, the main takeaway here is that eggs can be stored wherever you want them to be stored. As long as you keep them away from heat, strong odours and too much shaking, you’ve got the storage conundrum cracked!

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This entry was posted in Chickens


How the Eglu Keeps Your Chickens Warm in Winter

In winter, one of the biggest concerns we see from our customers is: “how well is the Eglu going to keep my chickens warm?”. In this blog, we explain the science behind the Eglu’s carefully designed features, which ensure your chickens are kept nice and toasty in the colder months. 

Insulation 

Air is an amazing thermal insulator. Heat is conducted between an area of more heat to an area of less heat. The warmer molecules vibrate rapidly and collide with others, passing on energy. If the material the heat (in this case the body heat from the chickens inside the coop) is trying to pass through has few molecules in it then it will be harder for the heat to transfer through it. This is the case with air, and that is why it’s commonly used as an insulator in everything from walls and windows to cooking utensils and drinking flasks – and chicken coops!

The Eglus’ unique twin wall system captures air in a pocket between the inner and outer wall, taking full advantage of air’s great insulating properties. This solution stops the cold air from moving into the coop, and retains the warm air in the coop. The same process also keeps the chickens cool in summer by stopping the warm air from entering the coop and making it too warm.

Ventilation 

Perhaps even more important than the coop’s insulating properties, is how well ventilated it is. If the coop doesn’t have good ventilation, you run the risk of either having a nasty draft if the coop has badly positioned vents or large holes and openings, or a build up of moisture if the coop is too tightly insulated. Both will prevent the chickens from staying warm on chilly winter nights, and can cause unpleasant respiratory illnesses.

The Eglu coops are designed to let air flow through the coop, but without creating an uncomfortable draft for the chickens. The vents are positioned in such a way that your pets won’t notice the fresh air flowing through the coop, but the warm air evaporating from the animals and their droppings will move through the vents and prevent any moisture. 

How chickens keep themselves warm

Chickens, like many other non-migrating birds, have a layer of downy feathers under their visible plumage that they can fluff up to create air pockets close to their bodies. This will retain the heat, and will keep them warm during winter. 

Chickens also have a high metabolic rate that will speed up even more during winter, helping to keep their bodies warm. This is why you might have to feed your chickens a little extra during the winter months. 

Chickens are also able to decrease the blood flow to their bare legs to minimise loss of body heat. The overlapping scales on their feet and legs trap some warm air, so walking on snow and ice rarely causes chickens any discomfort. When roosting in the cold, the feet and legs are tucked in under the warm feather blanket, and the chicken might also tuck its head under a wing to get some extra body heat.

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This entry was posted in Chickens


Choose The Right Cover For Your Run

We often get asked which is the best cover for an Eglu run to keep pets comfortable all year round. Read our simple guide below so you know how to help your pets in all weathers!

Summer Shades

These shades are a thinner cover material which offers protection from the sun, without creating a tunnel where heat can build up inside the run. These are smaller than the winter covers to allow better airflow through the run for ventilation. Move the summer shade around the run to suit the time of day and your hens’ routine. You may wish to change this for a Clear or Combi Cover in summer when there’s rain on the way!

Clear Covers

The Clear Covers allow for sunlight to flood your pet’s run, while also offering protection from rain. This makes them ideal for spring and autumn, so the run is light and warm with sun, but also protected from unpredictable wind and rain. 

Combi Covers

Get the best of both worlds, with shade from the sun on one side and light coming in the other, as well as full wind and rain protection on both sides. The Combi Covers are half dark green, heavy duty cover for extreme wind and rain protection, and half clear cover to let in sunlight and warmth and to let your pets see when you are bringing them treats!

Heavy Duty Covers

For strong, hard-wearing protection against the worst of winter choose heavy duty covers. Even when the temperature drops to single figures, the rain and wind batters your pets home, or a deluge of snow covers your garden, the dark green, impenetrable heavy duty covers offer sturdy weather protection. Your chickens or rabbits will be able to hop around the Eglu run in complete peace, without getting cold, damp or wind-swept!

Extreme Temperature Covers

Chickens and rabbits are very efficient at keeping themselves warm in cold weather, and the Eglu’s twin wall insulation will assist them by keeping cool air out and warm air in, but when temperatures plummet below freezing for multiple days in a row, they may appreciate a little extra support. The Extreme Temperature Blankets and Jackets add another insulating layer, like your favourite wooly jumper, without compromising the ventilation points around the coop. 

 

 

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This entry was posted in Cats


6 Ways Keeping Chickens Will Benefit Your Garden

1. Fertiliser

Chicken manure is one of the best things you can use to improve the soil in your garden. Once composted, chicken droppings are full of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other important nutrients, and increases the soil’s ability to hold water. This means more beautiful flowers, and bigger and more delicious vegetables!

Collect your chickens’ droppings and compost for up to a year before using the manure. 

2. Pest Control

Chickens spend their days scratching around the garden in search of yummy treats. They love finding beetles, grubs, caterpillars and ticks. Sometimes they even go for those pesky slugs! This is an extremely environmentally friendly way of getting rid of pests, with the added benefit of happy and content hens!

3. Rotation

Want to create a new bed in the garden? No problem, get the chickens in to do the job for you. If there’s one thing they do well it’s tilling and turning. Spread some chicken feed where you want the soil to be moved and aerated, or leave a pile of leaves that you would like spread over a resting bed, and you can be sure that the chickens will have sorted it in half the time it would take you to source a rotavator. 

4. Free Weeding

In a similar way, if you want to clear a bed of weeds or grass, get your chickens on it. They will munch on weeds and dead matter you haven’t already removed, leaving the fun bits of gardening to you!

Although clever, chickens are however not able to differentiate weeds from the plants and seeds you actually want to keep, so it’s best to keep them off flower beds and veg patches where you are growing things you actually want. Use a good fencing to limit the chickens to certain parts of the garden. 

5. Added Calcium

One of the best things about keeping chickens is the delicious eggs they provide you with. But did you know that eggshells can be highly beneficial to your garden? Eggshells are made of calcium carbonate, and are a perfect way to introduce minerals to your soil. Calcium is essential for building cell walls, making sure the plants stay strong and healthy. 

Grind up your shells with a mortar and pestle and spread on your compost, or straight in your bed.  

6. Great Company

With chickens around you will have even more reason to spend time in the garden. It’s so much fun seeing them scratch around and hear their friendly chatter, and they are great company for any keen gardener. People even claim that being around chickens relieves stress and leads to better mental health.

So what’s stopping you? Chickens are the perfect pet you and your garden needs.

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Snow Safety Tips for Pets

Snowy weather can bring great fun for all the family, but when it comes to our pets we need to take extra care to keep them happy and healthy (even if they love it!) Take a look at our snow safety advice, and make sure you’re prepared for whatever winter may bring…

Dry off damp fur and feathers

Check on your outdoor pets a few times throughout the day during periods of snowy weather and check they haven’t got too wet. Damp fur and feathers will take longer to dry during colder temperatures, making it difficult for them to warm up again. Indoor animals should also be dried off with a towel after being outside or going for a walk. 

Clean paws of ice

For dogs and cats in particular, snow can get compacted into their paw pads and turn to painful cubes of ice. Use a towel or drying mitt to dislodge any chunks of snow and dry off their feet. Also take care when walking your dogs in snow, as salt used to grit the roads can be poisonous. Watch that they don’t stop to eat snow at the roadside and clean their legs and paws of any snow or dirt after their walk. 

Extra food 

Pets of all kinds will use more energy to keep themselves warm in winter, particularly in super cold, snowy spells, so they will benefit from some extra food. Although they will appreciate more treats, don’t be tempted to overfeed on these. Something nutritious will help them the most.

Extra bedding

Outdoor pets will need more dry bedding in their coop or hutch for them to snuggle into and keep warm. However, make sure their home is still well ventilated to keep fresh air moving through and prevent health problems. Read other ways you can get your coop winter-ready. Indoor animals might also appreciate an extra blanket or a cosy den for bedtime. 

Potential risks

If you have a cat who still likes to go outdoors whatever the weather, be wary of the potential of antifreeze poisoning. Look out for symptoms such as vomiting, seizures or difficulty breathing and call a vet immediately if you think your cat may be ill. An outdoor enclosure could also provide a solution for letting them play outside in safety.

Don’t forget about the wild birds in your garden! 

Place a wide bowl or tray of water in your garden with something inside to float around (e.g. rubber duck!) to keep the water moving and prevent freezing. Extra wild bird food will also be appreciated!

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This entry was posted in Cats


10 Things Not to Do in Winter if You’re a Chicken Keeper

1. Don’t shut your chickens in their coop

Chickens are built to be outside, and they are known to withstand some pretty extreme temperatures. Under the visible plumage birds like chickens have a layer of downy feathers that can be puffed up to create an extra layer of insulation that will keep them warm. 

Cooped up chickens will soon get bored and agitated, and even though you might be surprised that they choose to go out in freezing temperatures, you should definitely always give your chickens the opportunity to stretch their legs. 

Ensure chickens have a dry and sheltered spot in a secure run or in an area of the garden where they can spend time outside. We have plenty of different covers that makes this an easy job. Clear covers are ideal for winter as they will protect your chickens from wind and rain while still letting the light in. Put straw on the ground to prevent a build-up of mud, and install a perch or two for the chickens to rest on during the day. 

Close the door to the coop when all chickens have gone inside to roost for the night, or let your Automatic Chicken Coop Door do it for you. If you have chickens who are eager to stay out later you can use a Coop Light to encourage them up to bed. 

2. Don’t compensate for bad insulation by blocking up the coop

Well insulated coops, like the Eglus, will keep the chickens warm in winter by capturing the heat from the chickens’ bodies while not letting any cold air travel through the walls. They are also designed to let air flow through the coop to prevent a build up of moisture, without any nasty drafts.

Drafts and moisture are the two biggest winter enemies for chickens, as they make it difficult for them to stay warm and dry. If the coop is too tightly insulated the moisture evaporating from the chickens breaths and droppings will have nowhere to go. This humid environment – and the possible build up of ammonia – is really bad for chickens, and can lead to unpleasant respiratory illnesses.

Make sure that your coop is well ventilated, with vents that directs the air somewhere other than straight onto your chickens. 

3. Don’t heat the coop

Chickens are hardy creatures that will gradually adapt to lower temperatures, and heating the coop will mean that your chickens never get used to the cold. This will also make them less likely to actually leave the coop and get that exercise, fresh air and entertainment that they require to stay happy and healthy. 

Apart from the fact that heaters in the coop will always be a potential fire hazard, you also run the risk of your ill-adapted chickens getting a shock at a sudden drop in temperature if the power was to go off for some reason. This is much worse for them than having a slightly chillier coop. 

If you’re worried you can always add a bit of extra bedding to the nest box, or put an extreme temperature cover on your Eglu. 

4. Don’t leave eggs too long

Although the Eglu will keep your eggs warm and toasty, there is a risk that eggs laid elsewhere in the run or the garden will freeze in winter. Frozen eggs are not automatically dangerous to eat, but when the content of the egg freezes and expands, there’s a higher risk of bacteria entering through the cracks in the shell. 

Collect the eggs every time you visit your chickens to minimise the risk of a frozen yolk.

5. Don’t ignore the water

As goes for all animals, you will want to give your chickens constant access to fresh water, even in winter. They won’t drink as much during the colder months, but here that’s actually a disadvantage, as the water is more likely to freeze if not touched regularly. 

Bring the drinker inside overnight and take it out when you go to check on your girls in the morning. If the temperature goes below zero during the day, check the water as often as you can, and break the ice or change the water if it has frozen. 

There are several water heating solutions available on the market. There are heaters that you can easily plug into an outdoor power source, but there are also battery powered ones you can put in the water. Just make sure the chickens are not able to peck their way through the heater.

If the temperature stays around zero, you can put something floating in the water, like a tennis ball. As the floating object moves, it will break up surface ice as it forms on the water, which will stop, or at least slow down the freezing process.

6. Don’t put off cleaning the coop

Hanging out in the garden is not as tempting in winter, but you will still need to make sure the chickens’ house is nice and clean. It is likely that your chickens will spend more time in the coop in winter and produce more droppings there, so keep an eye out and change your routine accordingly. 

7. Don’t limit the fun

The chickens might not venture as far out in the garden as they normally do, and the opportunity to forage for bugs and other treats will be limited when the ground is frozen or covered with snow. This can lead to chickens getting bored, which might result in aggressive feather pecking and egg eating.

You will need to make sure that they have plenty of fun things to do in their run. We have lots of boredom busting accessories in our shop. Put up perches the chickens can sit on and try the super fun Peck Toys or the Caddi treat holder for gradual treat-dispensing hentertainment. Or, if you feel your chickens might be the adventurous kind, why not put up a Chicken Swing they can enjoy together?

8. Don’t stick to the same feeding schedule

Your chickens will most likely eat more in winter, as they need the energy to keep warm. Give them some extra food, and make sure it doesn’t freeze in the feeder. For an extra snack, sprinkle some corn on the run in the afternoon to add both calories and some foraging fun. 

Also make sure that you provide plenty of grit. As chickens don’t have teeth they need it do digest their food. The rest of the year they find and swallows little stones and pebbles as they peck around the garden, but if the ground is frozen this will be much harder.

9. Don’t ignore combs and wattles

All chickens, but particularly breeds with large combs and wattles, run the risk of frostbite on these sensitive body parts during winter. It’s not necessarily dangerous as it’s normally just the tips that get affected, but can be a bit uncomfortable. To prevent this, apply petroleum jelly to the combs and wattles during cold spells. 

10. Don’t take covers off when the sun is shining

If you’re in the habit of taking the covers off the chickens’ run when it’s sunny, it might be a good idea to stop doing this in winter. Clear covers in particular will create a lovely sunroom feeling on the run when the sun is out, and your girls will love having a warmer spot to retreat to. Covers will also stop cold winds, so we would suggest keeping them on permanently in winter.

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What Is a Broody Hen, and How Do You Stop Her Being Broody?

Most hens lay their eggs with minimum fuss. They might make a bit of noise to announce their egg-laying achievement, but will soon return to the daily business of exploring and scratching for food. Some hens, however, are a bit more moody. Broody, to be more accurate.

A broody hen is one who sits on her egg with every intention of staying there until it has hatched – no matter whether the egg is fertilised or not. This is very useful if you want to hatch some chicks, but otherwise it can be a problem.

The cause of broodiness is linked to body heat, backed up by maternal instincts. Hens who are cooped up together in a hot henhouse may suddenly heat up to a level that makes them think “I’m going to hatch an egg!”. Certain breeds seem more susceptible to broodiness than others, with the Silkies and Cochins being particularly moody-broody.

Signs of Broodiness

A broody hen undergoes a personality change. The most obvious sign of this is her refusal to leave the nesting box. She will sit there with the air of a bird who will happily wait until Doomsday for the egg to hatch. This misplaced dedication will also make her grumpy and liable to peck or cluck angrily if you try to move her.

When you do manage to oust her from the box, she’ll simply head back there again and resume her brooding. Once she feels established in her new maternal role, she will fluff out her feathers and may begin to self-pluck her chest feathers to line the nest.

How to Stop a Hen Being Broody

Appearances can be misleading. The hen may look as though she will sit in the box for eternity, but in reality she will only stay there – usually – for three weeks. This is the length of time it takes a chicken egg to hatch.  This means, if space allows, you can simply let her brood for 21 days, and then the mood will lift and she will return to business as usual.

Having said that, you need to make sure the hen gets food and drink during this time, and this may involve forcibly removing her from the nest box and shutting it off until she has taken refreshments. Wearing sturdy gloves is a good precaution when doing this, to make sure you don’t get pecked.

Dipping the hen’s rear end in cool water is a common way of bringing broodiness to an end. Again, the condition is linked to body heat, so a sudden cooling of the rump will usually do the trick. The method is unsubtle – you take the hen and dunk her hind portions into the water for ten seconds.

A related anti-broody trick is to place a packet of frozen peas or sweetcorn kernels underneath the hen in the nestbox. Crushed ice cubes in a bag will do the trick, too. This has the dual impact of cooling the chicken down and making life in the nest box too uncomfortable for brooding.

Sometimes a simple obstacle such as a plant pot or a couple of bricks will have the desired effect. If the hen can’t access the nest box, she can’t sit there and brood.

Some owners use a so-called ‘broody enclosure’ to break the habit. This is a wire cage or crate, in which the chicken is placed along with food and water. The wire is slightly uncomfortable, and will also help cool her down. After three days, this gentle form of solitary confinement will usually break the broody habit. The signs that the brood-mood is over are obvious – the hen will stop fluffing out her feathers and will stalk around the cage, rather than sitting and brooding.

Then again, you could purchase some fertilised eggs and let the broody hen get on with it. If you want chicks, this is by far the easiest, and most natural way of producing them – under the fluffy belly of a broody hen.

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Introduce Your Chickens to the Awesome Chicken Swing

Roosting high up in trees comes natural to chickens, as that is one of the safest places to rest if you’re a chicken in the wild. And doing so on gently moving, or even swinging, branches makes you an even more difficult target for predators. So instinctively your birds should be happy to jump straight up on their Chicken Swing!

With that being said, chickens are vulnerable and clever creatures, which means that they can be wary of new things. They don’t like being the first to try something, so if you’ve got your flock a new toy and are disappointed they don’t seem particularly interested in it, you might have to help them take the leap!

Setting Up The Chicken Swing

The Chicken Swing is cleverly designed to make it as easy as possible for chickens of all ages to use it. The base of the swing has a texture resembling a corncob, which makes it more grippable than a smooth plastic surface.

Make sure you place the swing free from any obstructions such as walls, mesh or other things on the run. Choose a sheltered spot under cover so the hens can do their swinging no matter the weather! 

Eventually you ideally want the Chicken Swing to sit above the chickens’ heads, so that they will be able to swing without the risk of bumping into one of their friends. It’s no problem for a chicken to jump up a few feet, but to make it as easy as possible in the beginning, start with the swing close to the ground. The Chicken Swing is lightweight enough that if it were to hit one of your hens, it won’t hurt them. 

You won’t need to train all your chickens to get on the swing. They are flock animals, so if you get one of them to show the others how it’s done, there’s a high chance the others will follow shortly!

Letting your chickens have a go

So choose your most adventurous chicken and place her on the swing, which at this stage should be hanging very low to the ground. Give her something delicious straight away, so that she associates the swing with yummy treats. Do this a few times until you feel she’s comfortable perching on the swing. At this point, push the swing slightly to get it moving. Reward the chicken every time she swings towards you. Push a bit more every time you’re trying, and start lifting the Chicken Swing higher and higher above the ground. 

If the chicken at any point seems stressed or anxious, stop the training, let her down and go back to basics. It’s important that she only has good feelings associated with the swing! 

It’s not guaranteed that all chickens will warm to the swing, it’s just a fact you have to accept. Young chickens are in general more likely to take risks and learn new things, but personality plays a big part, so you’re not automatically going to succeed just because you’re introducing the swing to chicks. However most chicken will, after some persuasion, absolutely love swinging, and it’s worth a bit of work when you see your girls queueing up for their go!

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This entry was posted in Chickens


Should I Shut the Door to my Eglu at Night?

Here at Omlet we often receive calls from aspiring chicken keepers who are seeking chicken keeping advice before getting their first birds. Some of the most popular questions we get asked are, what should I feed my chicken with or how can I protect my chickens from predators? One question that keeps coming up is, do I need to shut the Eglu door at night?

Often people ask us this question because the idea of adding another task to their daily routine might be one of the reasons which puts them off chicken keeping. Much like you wouldn’t like to sleep with your front door open, unfortunately for chicken keepers, nor do your chickens, therefore most nights we would recommend you close the chicken coop door.
But having to close the door doesn’t necessarily mean that it would need to be done by the chicken keeper themselves! Have you ever thought about automatic door system? Well luckily for chicken keepers, Omlet has recently launched a new Autodoor which will solve all of these problems.
Even though our Eglus are specially designed to keep your chickens warm in winter with a unique twin-wall insulation system which works in a similar way to double glazing, leaving the door open overnight would let the cold enter inside which might result in having frozen eggs after a freezing winter night and could make your chickens feel unwell. Which is why we strongly recommend you use the handle on top of the Eglu and simply lift and twist it to close the door in one convenient motion each evening after having make sure all your flock are inside
As important as it is to close the door to protect your hens from the cold, it is also important to do it to protect them from potential overnight predator attacks. Most predators would wait for the night to attack your chickens therefore by simply closing the door it would protect your flock from being attacked by predators such as racoons, foxes and coyotes.
Having said how important it is to close your chicken coop overnight we understand that not everyone has the luxury of being at home every night to close the coop door especially for people working late shifts that are often home well after the sun sets. That is why we recently launched an automatic chicken coop door that can be attached directly to any wooden chicken coop, wire or the Omlet Eglu Cube Mk1 and Mk2.

Much like a personal chicken coop concierge, the Autodoor will always make sure your chicken’s coop is securely closed at night even when you’re running late. Whether you decide to use the light or time mode, the Omlet  secure and safe Autodoor will either open and close at dawn and dusk or at specific times that you have programmed it to. In addition to being designed to be used in different modes the Autodoor has a unique safety sensor detecting any blockages to prevent your chickens from being injured when they decide to stop half way through the door.
Benefits of the Omlet Automatic Chicken Coop Door:

  • Easy to install, no maintenance required
  • Operated by light sensor or timer
  • Powered by battery
  • Works with all wooden chicken coops
  • Improves coop security and insulation
  • Compatible with the Eglu Cube
  • Reliable in all weather conditions
  • Built-in safety sensors
  • Can be used with any chicken run or mesh

To summarise, closing the coop door is definitely the recommended action for every chicken keeper in order to protect their chickens from the cold and predators however this task can easily be completed by an Autodoor.
Check out the review below to see what one of our Autodoor owners thinks of this new product:

Thank you Omlet for a wonderful product and great service. The door arrived quickly, very well packaged and my concerns over fitting it were unfounded as I was able to complete the task completely unaided. The door is easy to operate and means my girls are safely tucked up at dusk and I do not have to get up ridiculously early to open the coop and stop them hollering!” – Wendy

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Everything You Need To Know About Keeping Roosters

Most chicken keepers limit their attentions to hens and eggs. Roosters – or cockerels, as they are sometimes called (and definitely not to be confused with roasters!) – are simply not on their tick list. After all, roosters are territorial, keen to defend their flock of hens, and famously noisy first thing in the morning.

But they are also beautiful birds, and if you intend hatching your own chicken eggs, your hens will certainly need the attentions of a rooster.

There are several cockadoodle-dos and cockadoodle-don’ts to consider if you are thinking of adding a rooster to your flock.

First, the good stuff

Cockerels look fantastic as they swagger across their territory. Their huge combs and wattles quiver like jelly, their pointy rear-end feathers and ‘mane’ of spiky neck feathers are wonderfully showy, and their posture suggests someone who has just strutted onto the dancefloor to show off some amazing moves.

But it’s not all about beauty. Roosters always have an eye out for danger, and will fight off any intruder they think they can tackle. The bird is not silly enough to attack dogs or cats, but it will make it clear to them that they are not welcome, through body language and alarm calls. This gives the hens time to flee for shelter, and the rooster will beat the retreat too, if things start to look too dangerous.

A rooster will add harmony to a hen flock, making sure none of his birds are bullied, and keeping everything in order, a bit like a hands-off, benign sheepdog.

If you want to hatch chicks, hiring the services of a rooster is the only way forward. Fertilised eggs are still edible, as long as you collect the eggs on a daily basis. Any fertilised egg taken away from the warmth of a broody hen will not develop into a chick.

And the downsides?

If you live in a town or village, noise might be an issue with the neighbours. In many places in the USA, roosters are banned for this reason. However, if your bylaws don’t place an outright ban on male chickens, you’ll have the law on your side. But what about those irate neighbours?

The irony is that people who keep roosters – and many others besides – love the sound of early morning cock-crow. I raise my hand, as the author of this post, and admit to loving the sound of a rooster at daybreak – and I live in a village with half a dozen cockerels battling it out first thing in the morning. It’s a much better sound than car engines and slamming doors as people prepare for the working day. If people can live with the sound of road, rail and air traffic, surely they can get used to the wonderful sound of a full-throated rooster?

Sadly not, in many cases, and a crowing cockerel can be the subject of arguments and recriminations. So, so if you have nearby neighbours, it’s an issue you can’t ignore. Start off by speaking to everyone who live near enough that they will hear a cockerel crowing in the morning and see how they feel about the idea. You never know, they might be really excited about the prospect of a new alarm clock!

There are ways to keep roosters quiet before everyone has got out of bed. Some people swear by anti-crow collars, Velcro strips that restrict airflow to the rooster’s voice box. They don’t hurt the birds or affect their breathing, but they transform the noisy COCK-A-DOODLE-DO! into a much quieter clucking sound. If you have a large rooster you may also be helped by a coop with a low roof. Roosters must stretch their neck to crow, and if the coop roof is not high enough to allow him to stretch the neck fully, he will have to wait until you let him out.

With that being said though it’s worth noting that roosters naturally crow, and if you (or your neighbours) can’t stand being woken up at the crack of dawn, you might be better off sticking to hens. 

The rooster is not just a chicken version of a sheepdog, he’s a guard dog too. At the sight of any intruder, he’ll let you know. This is just the kind of vigilance you’d expect from a bird once declared to be the messenger of the sun god. And that’s a lovely image – he’s not crowing to annoy anyone, he’s crowing to announce the arrival of the life-giving sun. Who could say no to that?

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What’s wrong with my chicken?

If you keep chickens, you already know what a happy, healthy hen looks like. If anything changes, it’s a sign that all is not well in the henhouse.

The commonest problems are not due to diseases or parasites, but stress. If the henhouse is overcrowded, dirty, or too hot, or if the birds are feeling harassed, they will become stressed. The symptoms include egg-eating, aggression to their neighbours, loose droppings, lethargy, and a sudden interruption to their egg-laying.

The cause should be obvious enough, once you stop to look. Too many birds in one house? No shelter from direct sunlight? No room to exercise? Nothing but wet mud? These things can be sorted out by rearranging the hens’ environment, extending the run, and getting a bigger hen coop. Check the hens’ diet, too – are you feeding them a good, fortified chicken feed, supplemented with some corn

? Poor nutrition is a gateway to other health issues, as it weakens the birds’ immune systems.

Infectious Bronchitis – The Commonest Chicken Disease

There are many diseases that can afflict chickens, but thankfully most of them are uncommon. Anecdotal evidence shows that Infectious Bronchitis is the one that small-scale backyard hen keepers are most likely to encounter.

Hens suffering from this ailment will have a quiet, rasping, wheezing cough, sneeze or snore. The first signs of the problem are usually a loss of interest in food. As the disease takes hold, the hen will develop a ‘runny nose’, with discharge from the nostrils and eyes.

The bronchitis is caused by an airborne virus, and the best remedy is vaccination of the flock. Any infected birds should be isolated and kept somewhere dry and warm, making sure they eat and drink well. Some will die, but most pull through.

Note: the symptoms described here are also associated with other diseases, including Infectious Sinusitis, Newcastle Disease, and the deadly Aspergillosis, Pullorum and Bird Flu. The Omlet Chicken Guide has more details.

Bumblefoot – The Commonest Chicken Injury

A leg or foot wound that becomes infected can result in Bumblefoot. The wound will not always be obvious, but the biggest clue is a limp, or the tendency to stand for a long time on one leg while the other hens are scratching and pecking for food.

After a few days, the limb will swell, at which point you need to act fast. Taking the bird to a vet is the best bet, as the wound will need thoroughly cleaning, and minor surgery may be involved if the problem is severe. Untreated hens can die.

Not all limps are the result of Bumblefoot, though. Hens sometimes land awkwardly after the chicken version of flying. Broken toes and legs are quite common too, and these will require a splint. But if there is no visible surface wound, Bumblefoot is unlikely to set in.

So, look out for the limp – that’s your first clue that all is not well.

Common Chicken Mites

Chicken parasites are common, but not usually life-threatening. The commonest ones are the mites, of which there are several species.

Red Mite, or Chicken Mite – These nasties hide away in the henhouse, in corners, under perches and elsewhere. Anti-mite powders and liquids can be applied to the coop, and keeping things super-clean at all times will discourage the tiny red bloodsuckers.

Northern Fowl Mite – these are a bit bigger than red mites, and live on the birds rather than just dropping in for a quick bite. Remedies are available, and need to be applied to the bird itself.

Scaly Leg Mite – This variety causes a hen’s legs to become rough, sore and weepy. Antibacterial scaly-leg treatments are the only way to tackle the problem; although rubbing in a little Vaseline can ease the discomfort.

Depluming Mite – This variety burrows into the feather shafts, causing swelling and producing a discharge on which the mites feed. The hens will then begin plucking their own feathers to relieve the discomfort. The mites spread quickly, so the whole flock and henhouse will need treating.

Quick action is the best way of tackling these ailments. Each morning, carry out a quick visual health check. Any of the following should be taken as a warning sign:

  • Dirty or messy feathers
  • Hunched-up posture
  • Lethargy
  • Evidence of parasites
  • Unhealthy-looking poo
  • Sneezing, wheezing, coughing
  • No appetite
  • No eggs

If you have cause for concern, check out Omlet’s chicken health guide, and call the vet for advice.

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How to Prepare your Chicken Coop for Winter

The temperature is already dropping rapidly, the nights are drawing in and we are just weeks away from the first frost. Although the fresh air and crunchy leaves may be loved by some, the signs of winter being just around the corner can be a worry for chicken keepers. 

Now is the time to act! Get your chickens’ coop ready for the colder months before the freezing temperatures hit, and you will be able to rest easy knowing that your girls are warm and healthy throughout winter. 

Take a look at some of our top tips for getting your chicken coop winter-ready…

Move your coop closer to the house

This is a simple step for making it easier for you to look after your girls and give them their daily health checks, which are even more important in the colder months. Choose a lightweight coop with wheels, like the Eglu, to make it even easier to move it around your garden.

Upgrade your wooden coop to an Eglu

The main benefit to an Eglu Cube Chicken Coop for chicken keepers in winter is the twin wall insulation found in the design of the plastic house. This works in a similar way to double glazing, by creating a barrier between the cold air outside the coop, and the air in side. The air between the two walls conducts poorly, which means inside the house stays at a consistent and warm temperature throughout winter, whatever the weather is doing outside. Chickens are very efficient at keeping themselves warm, all you will need to do is make sure the coop door is shut at night time. 

Autodoor

…and to make sure your chicken coop’s door is always shut at dusk, even if you are not yet home, the Automatic Chicken Coop Door is a convenient solution for the Eglu Cube or wooden chicken coops. You can set the Autodoor to close at a specific time or light percentage to suit when all your girls have gone up to bed and the sun has set. The Autodoor runs off batteries and has been tested to work down to -10 degrees Celcius so there is no worry, however cold it gets outside! 

The other benefit to the Autodoor is that it will open again at dawn so you can head off to work early before the sun rises and your girls need to be let out, or you can stay in bed for even longer at the weekends without going out in the freezing cold to let your chickens out of their coop! 

The NEW Coop Light also makes it easier for you to check on your girls and carry out daily chicken keeping duties if you don’t get home until after dark. This plugs directly into your Autodoor control panel, and can even be programmed to automatically turn on 5 minutes before your Autodoor closes to encourage your chickens up to the coop.

“The nights are drawing in and I couldn’t be happier knowing that my girls are safely tucked up in bed with their Omlet Autodoor closed behind them. The Autodoor has given me peace of mind, flexibility and a well needed lie in! Couldn’t recommend it enough!” – Hayley’s Lottie Haven

Run covers

Chickens are very good at coping in cold temperatures, but don’t like getting wet, so it would be kinder for them to be protected from the elements when in their run by our clear covers and windbreaks. Available in a variety of sizes to suit your run length, the clear run covers protect your girls from wind and rain so they can continue to play whatever the weather, whilst still allowing light into the run. 

Extreme temperature jackets

When the temperature drops below freezing for multiple days in a row during the very depths of winter, it might be wise to give your chickens extra warmth with an extreme temperature jacket. Poorly or older chickens, will definitely benefit from this extra support.

Hentertainment

Prevent chickens getting bored when rain stops play with a variety of fun and interactive toys they can play with in all weathers. The Chicken Perch provides an easy outdoor perch which can be installed in their run (and protected by the run covers) for when your chickens can’t perch in their usual spots around your garden. The Chicken Swing provides hours of fun and again, can be easily installed in any run. While the Peck Toys and Caddi Treat Holder offer enriching entertainment as well as a rewarding flow of treats.

Added extras

Prevent your chickens’ water from freezing with a water heater to ensure they have access to flowing water at all times. It is also recommended to provide extra layers pellets and treats during winter, as chickens will need more energy to keep themselves warm and lay their eggs in the colder months.

 

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Want to keep chickens and rabbits together? These are the things you need to consider!

Rabbits and chickens are two of the nation’s favourite pets, and while there are many things that set them apart, they also have a lot of similarities, and if you are careful and manage to cater for their different needs, they can actually live together in harmony.

Both chickens and rabbits are very sociable animals that like spending time together with others, and it doesn’t matter too much if the company is of another species. They also have similar requirements when it comes to space, temperature and attention. Apart from that, having the two live together will also be more space efficient for you, as you won’t have to create two living quarters, but can focus on one larger area instead. 

There are however things to think about if you’re considering keeping rabbits and chickens together – just putting them together in a run and hoping for the best will probably not end well. Chickens may carry diseases that are latent and symptomless, but that will make the rabbits ill, and they are also by nature scared of fast-moving things (animals included), and having speedy rabbits racing around their feet might create a lot of stress if they are not used to it. 

So while it’s not problem free having the two live together, it’s definitely possible. Here are some things to think about:

  • You are more likely to succeed if you start introducing the animals to each other when they are young, so that they are raised together and don’t really know a life without the other. Start by keeping them on different sides of a fence or a run, so that they can get used to each other (Omlet’s partitions for the Outdoor Pet Run will be perfect here). Move on to keeping them together, but in a very large enclosure, so that no one feels threatened by the other species. Make the enclosure gradually smaller, until they are all in the run where you are planning to keep them permanently. 
  • The chickens might try to peck the rabbits while they are getting used to the fast movements. This doesn’t hurt a fully grown rabbit, and it will pass after a few days, but never put a baby bunny in with a flock of adult hens, as they are much more vulnerable. 
  • Give both a place to retreat to. Chickens and rabbits are both nervous and vulnerable animals that will benefit from having their own space to return to when it all gets a bit too much.
  • They also have different requirements. Chickens need perches to roost on at night, and rabbits will need plenty of hay in the hutch to both curl up on, and to eat. Keep this away from the chickens to avoid contamination. You will also need to feed them separately; chickens will try to eat everything, and rabbit food will make them ill. 
  • Rabbits are known to be extremely cleanly animals, a reputation you rarely hear about chickens. To keep your rabbits happy you will therefore need to clean the run and the hutch and/or coop more often than you would if you only had chickens. The rabbits will not be impressed with chicken poo in their home!
  • Make sure there is plenty of room for all. Having two species in one place might be space efficient on the whole, but make sure the run is big enough and equipped with toys and hiding places to entertain and calm your pets. The Caddi Treat Holder is a perfect food toy for both rabbits and chickens, and the Zippi playtunnels will be perfect as a small den for a tired bunny.
  • If you’re planning to have rabbits and chickens living together, we would definitely suggest neutering male rabbits. Even if he doesn’t live with female rabbits, unneutered bucks are notoriously known for mounting everything that comes in their way, including feathered friends. 
  • It’s never a good idea to keep one single rabbit in a flock of chickens, or vice versa. Despite being part of a group, they will feel lonely and stressed without a friend of their own species. 

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How to Introduce New Chickens To Your Flock

Many of us know what it’s like. You start with a few chickens, thinking you’re just going to try it out, but once you realise what amazing pets they are and what delicious eggs they lay you will probably soon think it’s time to expand the flock and get some more hens for your garden.

But adding new chickens to an existing flock is easier said than done, and it’s important to know what you’re doing to avoid bickering and bullying, or even worse.

The key to introducing chickens is time. Be patient, it might take a while before your new individuals are living happily with your current flock, but it will be worth it in the end. Each breed of chicken is different, and all chickens have different personalities, so how well your attempts will go depends on many different factors. Here are some useful things to think about:

Make the right choices

Some people say sticking to the same breed is a good idea, but it’s definitely possible to have several different breeds living side by side. If possible, add chickens that are of similar age and size as your existing ones. Smaller, younger hens will easily become a target if added to a group of larger chickens, and new younger, fitter chickens might cause stress for the older members of your current flock. Never add chicks to a group until they are old and strong enough to fight back if someone decides to bully them. 

Also never introduce a chicken on her own; she is bound to become bullied in an already established pecking order. The more chickens you add, the more the pecking order will have to change, and it will be easier for the group to decide who is actually the most dominant. If possible, adding more chickens than you already have will often minimise problems with bullying, but it’s a risky game if you plan on expanding your flock more than once!

Quarantine

The first step in the process is to quarantine the new chickens somewhere away from your flock to make sure they don’t carry any diseases or parasites. Do regular health checks on the new chickens while you’re keeping them separate, and treat any illness you might come across. It might be worth doing a worming treatment and to dust them in Diatomaceous Earth a few times to be extra sure they are not bringing in any parasites into your coop.

Quarantine the new birds for at least a week, preferably longer, or until you’re certain they are happy and healthy.

Slow introductions

Unfortunately you can’t just plonk the new chickens down with the old ones as soon as you’re sure they are healthy. Instead you must allow them to get used to each other. Ideally this is done by placing the two groups close enough to each other that they can see and smell each other, but not close enough that they can touch. They will hopefully be curious of the other group, but not feel that their home is being invaded. The partitions for the Omlet Walk in run is perfect for this stage, as it means you can divide the run and slowly introduce the two groups. 

Keep this setup for at least a week. It may seem like they have gotten used to each other after a few days, but for chickens there’s a big difference between seeing some hens over the fence and actually sharing a coop and run with them. Be patient, then you’re more likely to succeed.

The big meet

When you think it’s time for the two groups to meet for real, it is best done in a new, neutral area that no chicken has claimed as her own, even if it’s just a small fenced off area in the garden. 

It’s always best to let the old flock come to the new, so put them down before you let your existing flock approach. This is especially important if you’re carrying out the introduction in the flock’s current run: don’t let them out of the coop until the new chickens are comfortable on the run. 

Try putting up some entertaining distractions that might avert their attention somewhat. Fill a Peck Toy or a Caddi with your chickens’ favourite treat, and they will hopefully be more interested in that than the newcomers. 

Another thing worth trying is introducing chickens in the night when they are quietly roosting in their coop. Open the door of the Eglu and put the new chickens in with your existing ones. This allows them to get used to the presence and the smell of the new chickens while they are sleepy and not likely to attack. This seems to work really well for some, whereas it leads to a few problems for others, so it’s up to you if you want to risk it. Make sure you are there in the morning when the chickens wake up to see how they are reacting to their new friends. 

As we said, it might take a while before the flock goes back to its harmonious self. You must prepare yourself for some disagreement and a bit of bullying, this is part of establishing the pecking order. It should however have calmed down after a few days, maybe a week. If you notice that chickens are getting seriously hurt or are drawing blood it’s time to step in. Identify the main bully and isolate her somewhere else for a few days on her own. It might seem harsh, but it’s the best thing you can do for your flock. When you put her back with the group she will be too busy trying to figure out the new order that she won’t have time to bully. 

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How to Find and Buy Chickens At The Moment

We are getting lots of questions at the moment from people who are ready to start their chicken keeping journey. They know where they will be able to source their new coop, run, feed and accessories (hint!), but not how to get their new pets. As in most cases these days, the internet will be the place to start looking

One of the best ways of finding people selling chickens is to google ”buying chickens + your state or town”. There are several websites online that allow people to post adverts for chickens, or you will be able to find websites and contact information for farms or smallholdings that are selling chicks or hens. Lots of these will not be hatching chicks at the moment, so you might have to call a few before you find someone that is still taking orders. 

You will also be able to find Poultry Forums and Facebook groups where enthusiastic chicken owners discuss all things chicken, and you often see people wanting to sell or rehome chickens in these groups. 

Normally it is always best to contact the person you are planning to buy the chickens from, and ideally pay them a visit to see what their setup is and under what conditions the chickens are living. This will help you pick a good breeder that treats their animals well, so that you can be sure that your chickens arrive happy and healthy. During the current circumstances this is however not something we recommend, but you can still ask questions over email and telephone that can give you an idea about the level of expertise of the person.

If you go ahead with your purchase, make sure to arrange something that feels appropriate given the restrictions, and safe for both you and the person you’re buying your chickens from.

Here are some good terms to search to use:

Chickens for sale

Simple, but effective. If you just want chickens and don’t really care about how old they are, what breed they are or how many eggs they will provide you with, just google chickens for sale and the town or area you’re in. 

Point of lay chickens for sale

A point of lay chicken is a chicken that has just begun laying eggs. This is a good time to get hens, as they are old enough to take care of themselves, but happy to be moved and introduced to a new home. When point of lay occurs varies somewhat between breeds and other external circumstances, but it generally happens when the chickens are approximately six months old. It’s worth noting that it will normally be another 6 months before the hen is fully grown and laying to her full capacity. 

People selling larger amounts of hens often hatch chicks in batches, and they might not always have hens that are ready to leave the same week you contact them. It is best to get in contact now if you want to collect your hens in May, June, or even July. 

Rare/pure breed chickens for sale 

These chickens are bred from show birds, and the breeders are often affiliated with a poultry club. The chickens will have been well taken care of, and the breeder will be knowledgeable about the breed and chicken keeping in general, so you will be able to ask them lots of questions about the birds. 

These chickens are often a bit more expensive than hybrid hens, but you will know what you are getting. This is especially useful if you have a clear idea of what type of chicken you would like. Read up on some chicken breeds here and choose one that you think will suit you, your requirements and your garden. Breed clubs might be able to help you find someone in your area that will sell you hens.

Again, it’s important to plan ahead, probably even more so when it comes to rarer breeds of chickens. You might have to book several weeks or even months in advance depending on what breed you are choosing.

If you’re struggling to find someone that will sell you hens, you can always take matters into your own hands and start rearing chickens from scratch.

If you’re up for the challenge and can source a good incubator, hatching eggs is a really exciting experience, and can be a great education for children in the house. It should be said though that it does require more time, effort and equipment than getting fully grown hens, and you must be aware of the fact that approximately 50% of the eggs will be hatched as cockerels that will not be happy living together. Do you have a plan for what to do with these? 

If you think hatching in an incubator might be for you, you will be able to find fertilized eggs on sites like Ebay or in chicken keeping forums. You might also want to read our step by step guide to incubation – you’ll find it here

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How To Turn Your Chickens’ Droppings Into Manure

Our chickens provide us with entertainment, company and fresh eggs – and lots and lots of poo! While cleaning out the Eglu might not be the most fun part of chicken keeping, those droppings can be turned into what gardeners sometimes refer to as “black gold”, one of the most desired fertilizers out there – and you can get it for free!

There are however a few things to think about when it comes to getting chicken manure right. Keep reading to find out more!

It can all be used

Unlike some other types of manure, chicken manure is too strong to use straight on your flower beds or vegetable patches. It will burn the roots or other parts of your flowers and crops, and can also contain harmful bacteria that can cause illness if ingested. This is why it needs to be composted!

While you can put the chicken droppings straight on a bed in autumn and cover it with dry leaves that will moult through the winter, your best shot is probably to be patient and let it mature in a separate place.

Whether you do a weekly clean or pick up droppings in your Eglu every day, everything in the coop can be put straight onto your compost, including the bedding. Adding the bedding helps create the correct ratio or carbon (bedding) and nitrogen (droppings) needed to break down plant matter and waste. As chicken droppings are extremely high in nitrogen, you will probably want to add a larger ratio of other plant matter than you would in a normal compost. Dried leaves from the garden will make a great addition.

We recommend having a sealed container for your compost rather than a heap in a corner, as the latter can attract rodents and pets that should not be ingesting chicken poo. 

Composting chicken droppings

Apart from carbon and nitrogen, your compost will need air, moisture and heat. This is easily done, all you need to do is to water your mixture thoroughly and turn the heap every few weeks to get air flowing through. This will automatically heat the compost, breaking down the plant matter and burning off unwanted bacteria. 

If you want to speed up the process and become a composting champion, you can purchase a compost thermometer at a local garden center and keep an eye on the temperature in the middle of the heap. The ideal temperature is 50-65 degrees Celsius (130-150 degrees Fahrenheit), and this should be maintained for about 3 days, after which you will need to turn the matter completely and start over.

This is however not necessary, you can just leave the compost to do its magic, just turning it regularly. How long it will take depends on the conditions, but to be sure everything is properly composted you should leave it for 9 months to a year. 

Adding black gold to your garden

Once composted, chicken manure adds organic matter to your soil and increases the soil’s capacity to hold water, as well as returning nutrients to the soil. It’s also an amazing fertilizer that provides your plants with nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in much higher levels than other types of manure. Chicken manure can be spread on top of your vegetable patch or flower bed, or worked into existing soil. You can also put a handful of manure in a watering can and let it mix for a while before giving your flowers a very nutritious shower. 

If you have composted the manure properly all the harmful bacteria will have been burned, and there is very little risk of you getting ill. However, if you’re on the worried side of things, make sure you clean your veg properly before eating them, or use the chicken manure on crops that are not touching the ground, like sweetcorn, peas or tomatoes. 

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Omlet’s Eggcellent Guide to Eggs

Eggs are truly amazing things, and sometimes we might take them for granted. For something that only takes the hen about 24 hours to make, they are eggstremely well engineered and cleverly constructed, as well as really delicious! Here are some cracking egg blogs that will hopefully make you appreciate the humble egg a bit more!

Why are chicken eggs different colours?

The ancestor of all chickens is the Red Junglefowl, Gallus gallus, a native of South-east Asia. All Junglefowl eggs have shells of a creamy white colour. And yet, as any chicken keeper knows, the eggs of domestic… Read more


How do Chicken Actually Lay Eggs?

The process of egg laying starts in the chicken’s eye. Sunlight enters the eye and activates a photosensitive gland, the pineal gland, located… Read more


Step by Step Guide to Hatching Chicks

As long as your chickens are laying and there’s a cockerel in your flock, you can hatch and incubate chicks all year round. However, traditionally the most popular time to breed your own chickens is in the spring. Hatching and rearing your own chicks from eggs… Read more


Why chickens hide their eggs and how to stop them doing it?

If you’re keeping chickens in your garden, you’ve probably become accustomed to your morning routine: wake up, drink a cup of tea or coffee and collect fresh eggs from your flock. Of course it’s an unpleasant… Read more


Not done with eggs? Download this printable colouring page and share with the family – fun for all ages!

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Which Chicken Breed Are You? Take Our Test!

Do you like travelling and seeing new places?

A: “Home is where the heart is”, as I always say. That’s where I feel the happiest.

B: I love exploring new places, and I’m always looking for a new place to visit. 

C: I like the occasional holiday as a treat, but I prefer going places where I’ve already been.

D: I love going somewhere warm, but while there I mainly spend time by the pool.

How do you feel about children? 

A: I LOVE children, they are so CUTE. And they say the funniest things!

B: Kids are like small adults really: I like some and find others quite annoying.

C: I don’t love babies, but once you can talk to them they are quite fun to be around. 

D: Honesty, I don’t think they are worth the effort.

What’s your role in a group?

A: I normally stay in the background and let other people decide – it’s easier that way. 

B: I tend to bond with the people who I have the most in common with and stick to them. I’m not really a people pleaser. 

C: I often get the leader role without actually asking for it. Maybe I give off assertiveness? I don’t mind though, I quite enjoy it.

D: I’m normally the loud one who tries to make sure everyone is happy and that there is no awkwardness. 

Would you say you’re friendly?

A: I get on with most people, and it’s important to me to be liked.

B: Yeah I suppose so. I’m extremely generous to people I like, but I don’t spend time and energy on being nice to people who I don’t like.

C: Yes, definitely. I’m curious, so I like meeting new people.

D: I can be a bit suspicious in the beginning, so maybe I don’t always come across as the friendliest of people. 

How clean and tidy are you?

A: I really don’t like being dirty, and I keep my home spotless. 

B: I’d say the perfect amount, but I think others would probably say I’m on the slightly messy side.

C: Can I say medium? Medium.

D: I’m not super fussed, mainly because there is always something more fun to do than to clean.

What would you say is your greatest quality?

A: I’m very easygoing. 

B: I stand up for what I believe in.

C: I’m very friendly.

D: I’m ambitious and proactive. 

How would you describe your sense of style?

A: I’m quite interested in fashion, especially shoes. You could say shoes are a bit of an obsession of mine.

B: The most important thing for me is that the things I wear are comfortable.

C: Elegant and classic.

D: I like big bold patterns, but my wardrobe is mainly black and white with a few colourful additions.


Mostly A: You’re a Cochin

Just like the fluffy Cochin, you are humble and appreciate the simple things in life. Because of your friendly demeanour you tend to get on well with most people and pets, but just like the Cochin sometimes becomes the submissive breed in a mixed flock you need to work on standing up for yourself to make sure no one takes advantage of you. You’re not particularly adventurous, but prefer to spend time at home with family and friends over crazy nights out, just like the Cochin. These rather lazy chickens stay close to the ground and prefer not to get their feathered feet dirty. They also have a strong maternal instinct and run the risk of regularly going broody.

Mostly B: You’re an Old English Game

These beautiful small chickens are one of the oldest breeds around. Just like you they are active and confident, always on the lookout for new things to explore. You are family orientated and very generous to those close to you. This can however mean that you find it hard to forgive people who have hurt you or the people you love, and you are quite happy to fight someone who you don’t agree with. Old English Game are hardy and quite noisy, and don’t do well with confinement. They are small and very friendly to humans, but especially roosters have an aggressive side to them, probably due to the fact that they descend from cockfighting birds.

Mostly C: You’re a Leghorn

You are an ambitious and hardworking person, and you tend to be the center of attention in any situation. Just like the Leghorn you’re not fussy and can handle most things life throws at you, but don’t like losing control. Due to their independent nature, Leghorns are difficult to tame, and if given the opportunity they will roost in trees. They are not natural sitters, but will care for their own children. They produce plenty of eggs and will be assertive but friendly towards humans.

Mostly D: You’re an Ancona

Just like these beautifully spotty birds you are independent and assertive, and will always be busy with something. You are open and friendly and take the role of the joker in a group,  but it can take a while to get close to you as you only open up to those who you really trust. Anconas are happiest if they get to free range and forage for food during the day, but then return to the safety of a comfy coop. They produce a good amount of eggs, but are notoriously famous for their inability to sit on the eggs – just like you they don’t find babies that interesting.

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If You Buy Your Chickens One Toy This Autumn…

…make it the Peck Toy!

Here’s why the Peck Toy is the perfect choice for your chickens…

  1. The Peck Toy ensures a slow rate of feed release which is perfect for use with treats to prevent your chickens having too much at once, while keeping them satisfied throughout the day. 
  2. The Peck Toy is also a great way of keeping your chickens entertained throughout the day, especially ideal for wet or windy days when they would prefer not to leave the protection of their run, or if you are unable to let them out to free range. The Peck Toy offers an interesting, reward-based game for them to play with all day long.
  3. Available in 2 designs to suit your coop requirements and chickens, the Peck Toy can either be hanging from your run so it swings as your chickens peck at it for treats, or free standing, placed in the ground in their run or anywhere in your garden.
  4. Use for any of your chickens’ three nutritional needs – treats, feed or grit. The number of Peck Toys you need will vary depending on the use, for example 1 peck toy is suitable as a treat dispenser for 4 medium sized chickens, or as a feed dispenser for 2 medium sized chickens. 1 peck toy is also enough for 6 chickens if used as a grit dispenser.
  5. Placing treats or feed in a dispenser also helps to improve run hygiene as it prevents the ground being covered in more treats and feed than your chickens need or want. This is most beneficial for preventing rodents becoming interested in your coop and run.
  6. You can save 50% on the Peck Toy this weekend only when you sign up to the Omlet newsletter. This is an eggcellent opportunity to snap up a great deal and treat your chickens to a new toy for the spring. Get your unique discount code on the Peck Toy page here

Now available from $12.99, or $6.50 when you sign up to the Omlet newsletter.


Terms and conditions
This promotion is only valid from 05/03/20 – midnight on 09/03/20. Once you have entered your email address on the website you will receive a unique discount code that can be used at checkout. By entering your email you agree to receive the Omlet Newsletter. You can unsubscribe at any point. This offer is available on single Poppy and Pendant Chicken Peck Toys only. The offer does not apply to Twin Packs or Twin Pack with Caddi Treat Holder. Offer is limited to 2 Peck Toys per household. Subject to availability. Omlet ltd. reserves the right to withdraw the offer at any point. Offer cannot be used on delivery, existing discounts or in conjunction with any other offer.

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