Only very tame pet hens enjoy being picked up. Most chickens find the whole procedure stressful, so you should only catch or handle them if you have to.
There are a few reasons why you might need to know how to catch a chicken. Your hens might be in danger, might require a clean-up after coming into contact with something oily or sticky, or you might need to carry out a chicken health check.
There are various ways to catch a chicken. If the hen is in danger as a result of escaping onto a road or into a garden with a dog in it, you can usually manage things by ‘herding’ the chicken rather than trying to lift it. If a dog is the problem, controlling or confining the dog is the first thing to sort out. If the hen has escaped and you need to catch her, guiding her back to safety by standing with your arms stretched out to the sides and encouraging her to return to the chicken coop is the best option. In these situations, the chicken will desperately want to find her fellow hens, so ‘steer’ her towards the hole in the fence or the open gate, or whichever escape route she took.
If the hen has flapped over a wall, however, you may have to resort to old fashioned hunting techniques for catching chickens.
How Do You Catch a Stray Chicken?
If your hens are very tame, you can simply offer some treats, bend down and pick them up. If only it were that easy with every chicken! Some are about as easy to catch as a fast-moving bar of wet soap – they can sprint at speeds of around 9 miles (14.5 km) per hour – and you will usually have to corner them first if you want to catch them.
If a hen has escaped or you spot her running away, or simply hidden somewhere in a large garden or meadow where you can find to trace of her, the best approach is to be patient and rely on the chicken’s homing instinct. As dusk begins to fall, the hen will instinctively head back to the coop. This is one of the handy things about keeping poultry!
The Best Way to Catch a Chicken
Do chickens like being picked up? In general, the answer is no. But if you’re trying to catch a chicken for whatever reason there are various ways of doing so. Not all of them can be recommended for the non-expert chicken keeper.
Using a pole with a hook or noose for catching a chicken. Let’s get the dangerous one out of the way first. A pole, hook or noose should only be used by experts when trying to catch a chicken. This is a dangerous tool, and in the wrong hands the poultry hook or noose can break a chicken’s leg or neck as you try to grab it, so our advice is to avoid it.
Using a net to catch chickens. Nets can be dangerous tools, as a chicken’s claws can snag in the netting, causing injury. If you opt for this method, the chickens should be netted as quickly as possible to minimise stress – although forever afterwards the sight of that net will send the poor hen into a panic! You should always use as large a net as possible for catching your chickens. A blanket may offer a safer way to catch them.
Using crate traps for catching chickens. Putting irresistible treats into a crate, and then slyly closing the door with a pole or long stick is an effective method. The main drawback is that all the other chickens will be tempted to take a look inside too!
Boxes for catching chickens. A large box can be placed over a cornered bird in the coop or run, and the flaps can be tucked in to secure the chicken. This technique can be useful if you need to capture chickens in daylight (although it works at night, too) and if they tend to be aggressive.
Torchlight makes chickens easier to catch. This is the simplest and most effective method when you need to trap a roosting chicken. When chickens are with the rest of the flock in the coop or run on their roosting bars or perches or in their nesting boxes at night, they instinctively stay put. If you open the top of the coop and shine a torch in (head-mounted ones are perfect), you’ll be able to pinpoint the hen you need to examine, and grab her up with minimal fuss.
Picking Up the Chicken
When picking up the hen, try to be firm but not rough. Getting a good grip and preventing the wings from flapping is the key. The correct method is to hold the chicken by placing your hand over its back, confining the wings, and then bring it close to your body. If the bird is very nervous, you may have to cover her with a towel to calm her down.
A tame hen is the easiest type of chicken to capture. Simply lure the hen in with a few treats, and grab her, stroking her back to reassure her. Once the cleaning or the examination is over, put the chicken on the ground and step back. She will do the rest, scuttling back to the safety of the flock.
So, there are several ways to catch a chicken, but you should only put them into operation when you definitely need to catch one. Try to avoid the poultry hook or net if you can, and use the method that suits both the chicken and the circumstances.
Moving house is stressful for everyone involved – and that includes pets and chickens. As far as your hens are concerned, the secret to a successful relocation is to have everything ready at the other end. In the same way as you might unpack a kettle and two mugs before opening any of the big boxes, the chicken shed and run should be ready in the garden before the first kettle boils!
Hens are prone to stress, and at the very least you can expect the egg count to plummet for a few days following a move. Weak or very nervous chickens are in particular danger, as panic can make them flap blindly and break legs, or even kill themselves. Minimising stress is therefore the key to a successful move.
The most stress-free way to get your hens ready for the move is to collect and crate/box them from the coop, rather than later in the day when they are out and about and need chasing and cornering. That is not a good way to minimise stress!
Your hen-carriers need to be covered, well-ventilated boxes or pet crates. They should have enough space for the birds to turn around in (to prevent them from panicking at the confined space), while being dark enough to make their instincts kick in and help them snuggle down for the duration of the trip. On longer journeys, however, you will need to have enough light in the boxes to enable the hens to feed, and pet crates will make this easier.
You’ll need one box per chicken, generally, so make sure you have enough boxes for the big day. Hens with similar, placid temperaments can be transported in a single box. Each box or crate should be lined with straw to soak up the droppings, and the boxes should be stacked securely, not more than three boxes high.
It’s important that the birds don’t get too hot on the journey, so ventilation is an issue. If you only have two or three hens, they could travel on the back seat of a well-ventilated car, secured with quilts or blankets – or even seatbelts – to prevent the boxes from sliding around.
The journey itself should be taken using as many straight, non-bumpy roads as possible, combined with the need to make the trip as brief as you can. If your new home is a short stretch of motorway and a couple of A-roads away, that’s all very straightforward. Rural locations with lots of windy-road options will need more planning. If all the roads are B-roads with lots of bends, the quickest route is the best option.
In the two weeks before the move, make sure your hens’ diet is rich in all the required vitamins and minerals. Some owners recommend adding probiotics or extra vitamins to the feed, and this is something you should discuss with your vet.
For short journeys, you will not have to worry about chicken feed. On longer trips, though, food will need to be provided. Make sure you take a long break at least every three hours, to allow the confined birds to settle down and feed. If you are transporting the hens in crates, you can attach a water dispenser to the side.
A Portable Chicken Coop?
Old fashioned chicken coops can be tricky to transport, and many hen keepers prefer to erect a new run and chicken shed at their new property. This sometimes involves housing the birds in temporary accommodation while the new coop and run are being sorted out.
There are ways of avoiding the inconvenience, though. A portable coop and run can be packed away and then installed in the new garden in a few minutes, and they have the advantage of familiarity. Hens introduced into a coop that they already know inside out will reduce the stress of the move enormously.
Coops and runs such as the Eglu are ideal in this respect. Placing the coop in your new garden as soon as you arrive will enable the chickens to feel at home before you’ve even managed to open any of your removal boxes. Human will inevitably feel the stress of the moving-in process, but the hens don’t have to!
The process isn’t quite over when your hens are safely cooped up in the new garden. Stress can cause any underlying diseases to bloom, so you need to carry out daily health checks on your birds as the flock settles down in its new surroundings. This is yet another reason to consider a pack-and-go portable coop and run.
As with all pets, you as the owner have the main responsibility for making sure the animals are safe and happy. That means that before you go away overnight, whether it’s for work or on holiday, you will need to make sure you have a plan for the chickens, ensuring they will be alright while you’re not around.
Chickens are much more self-sufficient than some other popular pets; they don’t need human interaction every day, will sort out their own exercise, and will not overeat even if there is more food than needed available. That being said though, there are lots of things to think about before you leave them alone.
How long can I leave my chickens alone for?
This is not an easy question to answer, as it depends heavily on your chickens, where you live, and what your setup looks like. Even leaving your flock of chickens for a day requires some preparation.
Hens need constant access to food and water, and enough space to move around on. This is relatively easy to organise if you’re going away for 2-3 days. The more important, and probably the trickier, thing to ensure is that the chickens are safe from predators when you are not there to keep an eye on them. Letting your chickens free range without any supervision is very risky, so you will need to have a safe enclosure that is big enough for your chickens to move around on.
An Eglu Cube connected to a Walk in run is a perfect setup for all chicken keeping situations, but maybe particularly when you’re not able to keep a constant eye on your hens. The Walk in run can be extended to suit the number of chickens you have, and you can be sure that they won’t have to fend off any foxes or wild birds.
If you are confident your enclosure is safe and spacious enough, and that there is no risk that the chickens will run out of food and water, most flocks will be alright by themselves for a weekend.
Should I get a chicken sitter?
If you’re going away for anything longer than three days, you will need to organise for someone to help you come and check on and take care of your chickens on a daily basis. Even if you’re just gone for one night, we would recommend asking a friendly neighbour to poke their head over the fence to make sure the hens are well.
Accidents happen: one of your chickens could have had a fall and seems to be in pain, or a water container may have fallen over. Your friend or neighbour will then hopefully be able to refill the water or give you a call to let you know what has happened.
You might be surprised at how many of your friends and family will be happy to go and check on your chickens once a day if they get to keep the delicious fresh eggs. If you have an automatic door that lets your chickens out in the morning and shuts behind them at night, your helpers can decide for themselves at what time of the day they would like to go.
If you are getting someone to look after your chickens for you, it’s nice to make it as easy as possible for them before you leave home.
What do my chickens need while I’m away?
If you have decided you feel confident that your chickens will be okay by themselves for a few days you will probably already have thought about these things, but they are still worth mentioning:
Food and water
You probably have quite a good idea of how much your chickens eat and drink in a day, it all depends on breed, age and size. It’s always better to leave a bit too much food than too little, and make sure you have more than one feeder to choose from in case something were to happen to one of them.
Prep for different weathers
Don’t trust the weather forecast completely. Make sure the chickens can return to the coop and that they have sheltered spots on the run in case of all day rain or a particularly scorching sunny day.
If your chickens are used to you coming to hang out with them after work every day they might miss the fun. Try to make up for this by giving them some fun toys to play with on the run. Some chickens absolutely love perching on the Chicken Swing, whereas others will go crazy for food dispensing toys, like the Caddi Treat Holder or Peck Toys.
It’s red, it looks like a spider, it lives in huge colonies, and it creeps out at night to suck your chickens’ blood. As nightmares go, this one’s pretty alarming – until you realise that it’s one that you can easily wake up from. The creature in question – the Red Mite – is less than a millimetre long, and it’s not difficult to banish from your chicken coop.
The Red Mite is able to live – and feed – on a variety of hosts, including humans, given half a chance. But it is it’s fondness for wild birds that brings it into contact with one of its favourite targets – your chickens. If there are birds in your backyard, there are probably Red Mites too.
Know Your Enemy
The Red Mite, Dermanyssus gallinae, is a parasite that hides in dark corners of the chicken shed and scuttles out at night in huge numbers to suck blood. When fully grown, they are about 0.75mm, with spider-like legs. Before feeding, the mites are greyish-brown rather than red – the colouring comes from the blood they suck. Once engorged, the mites scurry away back to their hiding places. They are patient, too, and have been known to survive for up to 10 months in empty chicken sheds.
Infested hens will eventually develop scabs and wounds, suffer from anaemia (caused by blood loss and manifesting in pale wattles and combs), and may begin to lose feathers. Egg production will plummet, too. If the hens are young, in severe cases the blood loss and physical shock can prove fatal. One of the problems of diagnosis is that the mites are often in hiding when you examine the bird, rather than sitting in plain view (like a louse or flea, for example). These physical signs in the bird should prompt you into action though, and checking the mites’ potential hiding places is straightforward.
If the mites appear to be living on your chickens full time, rather than disappearing in the day, you might have an outbreak of Northern Fowl Mite. Same issues, different beast – and the advice given in this article applies to these bloodsuckers too.
How to be Mightier than the Mite
Because they normally feed at night, you may not spot the mites at first. You can, however, look for their hiding places. Corners and crevices in wooden henhouses are a favourite, and under roosting perches. Once discovered, you need to zap the mini vampires with a hen-friendly anti-mite liquid or powder. There are two types of product aimed at eliminating the beasties – ones that you spray or dust on the hen house and its fittings, and another that you apply directly to the birds.
All bedding should be removed from an infested coop, and the whole structure should be washed with hot water – a power-hose is a good weapon in this battle – before being treated with an anti-mite preparation.
Once the mites have been banished, prevention is the best way of keeping control of the situation. Regular washing of the chicken shed and any other concrete, plastic or wooden areas of the chicken run will help. This is particularly important in the warmer summer months, when the mite population tends to boom.
Some chicken breeders have reported good anti-mite effects from carbon dioxide, either in the form of a ‘dry ice’ fumigation or direct spraying, but there is not yet any formal veterinary rubber-stamping of these procedures.
Another fool-proof way of banishing Red Mite is to keep your hens in a coop that doesn’t have lots of corners, nooks and crannies – i.e. something plastic rather than wooden. Plastic chicken sheds are easier to clean and keep hygienic, and the Queen of Coops is the Eglu.
So, you can’t keep the wild birds and their mites away, but you can easily stop them regaining a hold amongst your flock. Once the nightmare is banished, both you and your hens can sleep easy at night.
Terms and conditions This promotion is only valid from 29/10/20 – midnight on 02/11/20. Once you have entered your email address on the website you will receive a 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.
Chickens really are wonderful pets for the whole family. Not only will they provide you with fresh eggs every day, they are super fun to watch and hang out with and they will teach your children valuable lessons! In comparison to many other pets, chickens are relatively low maintenance, and caring for them doesn’t really require much that children from primary school age won’t be able to at least take part in. Read on to find out more reasons why chickens are great pets for families with children!
Why Are Chickens Such Great Pets?
Responsibility Children of all ages will learn about taking responsibility for another living creature. They should of course never be given full responsibility for all the care duties, but even scattering some corn on the ground or refilling the drinker can make children less selfish.
Routines Pets are also a long term commitment that will teach children to sometimes put their immediate wants and needs aside to go clean the coop or feed the chickens. It also shows children the importance of a structured routine, something many kids really like.
Food Keeping chickens will teach your children that food doesn’t magically appear on supermarket shelves. If they care for their own chickens, they will hopefully realise how important it is for animals to have enough space and adequate care, and they won’t take animal products for granted.
Circle of life
When you have pets it’s inevitable that your children will learn about life and death. Whether you’re breeding chicks, keeping flocks of chickens for meat or just have a few as pets in the backyard, your children will be taught valuable lessons about the circle of life.
Having pets who live outside will teach children the importance of good hygiene. They will have to make sure to wash their hands after handling their chickens, and will realise that in order for the animals to stay happy and healthy, their coop and run will need to be cleaned out regularly.
Keeping chickens can be educational in many ways you might not think about straight away. Apart from maths skills from counting eggs and measuring feed and water, children will learn about how different animals have different needs, that egg shells can be used for amazing art projects, and that eggs form the base of thousands of delicious recipes.
Things to think about
Start with a smaller flock of no more than 5 chickens. That way your children will be able to differentiate them and give them names based on their funny personalities. Too many at once makes the chickens seem like a flock rather than a group of individuals, and you are all less likely to see them as pets. You can always get more at a later date!
It’s probably a good idea not to get a cockerel to start with. They are much more confident and pushy than hens, and can be a bit intimidating for younger children. You don’t want them to be put off straight away.
Get a coop that makes chicken keeping easy, so that the kids can help. The Eglu Cube is a perfect example. It’s super easy to let the chickens out in the morning and close the coop at night (even easier if you have an automatic door of course!) and to collect fresh eggs from the egg port on the side. Younger members of the family can even help with the cleaning of the coop, just empty the dropping tray and wipe down the smooth surfaces of the house approximately once a week, and your coop will look shiny and new every time!
Even if you’re not incubating eggs and rearing chicks yourself, getting young chickens is a good idea if you want your children to be involved. Encourage regular interaction, and try to pick up the chickens regularly to get them used to being handled. This is sometimes made easier by having the chickens in a run that is easy to access, like the Walk in run. When it’s uncomplicated to go in and spend time with the chickens, you and your children are more likely to do it regularly!
Choose a friendly and hardy breed that is known to be good with children. Silkies are for example famous for being loving and happy to be held, Orpingtons are calm and affectionate and Cochins easily adapt to any situation they are confronted with. You can read more about different chicken breeds here.
Chickens are great foragers, and free-range birds will peck and scratch for all kinds of wild treats, from grass and weeds to worms and beetles. However, even a hen with all-day access to a backyard or meadow still needs to be fed with high-quality layers pellets. These contain the correct balance of protein, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals (notably calcium for egg shells) that will keep them happy and healthy. Protein is particularly important for healthy egg production.
A general ballpark figure is very useful, to guarantee that the hens’ dietary requirements are being met. For medium-sized breeds you need to feed between 115 and 120 grams (just over a quarter of a pound) of feed per chicken per day, which is 805 to 840 grams (one and a half pounds) of feed per chicken per week. A slightly larger Sussex will eat a bit more, and the smaller Leghorn will eat slightly less, while a small bantam breed will only eat between a half and three quarters of that amount.
Chicks, Pullets and Layers
Until it is five weeks old, a chick will need to have its diet supplemented with protein-rich ‘chick crumbs’. Between then and 18 weeks old, while they are ‘pullets’, the birds will need ‘growers pellets’ to put on weight. As soon as the hens begin laying, they only need the regular ‘layers pellets’. These, again, are rich in protein, calcium and all the other essential nutrients.
The hens will also need daily access to grit. Treats are fine, as long as they are not being offered so frequently that the hens fail to eat their share of pellets. Corn is a healthy treat, and birds that have free-range access to grass will be in chicken heaven.
How Can You Make Sure Each Hen is Getting Her Share of the Food?
Any flock of chickens develops a natural pecking order, and the dominant birds will tend to eat their fill before the others, if there is not enough space for all the hens to fill their crops at once (something they like doing shortly before retiring for the night). A solution here is to buy a wide-bottomed feeder that allows several birds to eat at once, or to use more than one feeder. This will ensure the timid hens get their fair share of food.
However, as long as you have provided enough for all your hens, there should always be food left in the feeder when the dominant birds have had their fill. You should still keep a close eye on the health of your flock, though. Issues such as soft shells or feather-plucking can be signs of dietary deficiencies, and the problem might lie in the quality rather than the quantity of the birds’ diet.
Do Hens Eat the Same Food All Year Round?
Chickens moult every year, and will usually eat more food during this process, to ensure their bodies have all the protein they need to grow a new set of feathers. Hens usually eat more during cold weather, too, in order to fuel their metabolisms and stay warm. Free-range hens also tend not to find as many treats in the backyard during the winter, as the insect population is at low ebb and the grass is no longer growing.
You can add a little more food each day during these periods. You will soon know if you are giving them too much or too little, by noting the amount of pellets left in the feeder each evening.
However, the hens produce fewer eggs in the winter, so all in all the amount of protein-rich pellets required does not differ significantly from season to season. Again, the key detail is to ensure a regular supply of food. In the summer, if your hens appear to be eating very little, it may be because they are finding too many good things on their foraging trips in the backyard. This can be a problem if the wild food they are filling up on doesn’t provide the right balance of nutrients. You might want to confine a hen to the coop if she doesn’t seem to eat enough pellets. That way, she will be forced to eat the good stuff rather than the backyard treats.
Layers pellets should be available to the hens 24/7 – they will eat as much as they need, and will not behave like a dog, eating everything at once simply because it’s there!
If possible, move the coop into a shaded spot, maybe under a tree or in the south-facing side of the backyard that doesn’t get as much sun. This means that it will be nice and cool when the girls want to go to bed in the evening, or if one of them wants to go in to lay during the day. The Eglu chicken coops are so easy to move that you, on a really hot day, could effortlessly move it around the backyard as the sun moves.
2. Don’t leave the water for too long
Your chickens will drink more in summer. To minimise the risk of algae in the water, as well as dust and dirt from the chickens, change the water at least once a day in hot weather. Place the drinker in a shaded spot on the run and make sure it’s really cold when you put it out.
3. Don’t overfeed your birds
Dried corn and grains take longer to digest than pellets or fresh food, which wastes energy and heats the body unnecessarily. The chickens will not need to eat as much in hot weather, and if they were to get hungry during the day, your backyard will be full of bugs and fresh green material at this time of year.
4. Don’t leave your chickens alone for too long
When it’s really hot outside it’s important that chicken owners keep an eye on their flock to look for signs of overheating. An open beak, panting and wings held away from the body are signs the chicken is hot. If you think one of your hens is really struggling, try dipping her bottom in a bucket of cold water. This will cool her down for a bit and allow the body to reset.
5. Don’t depend on water
You can leave a small paddling pool or shallow containers out for your chickens to cool down in, but it’s unfortunately not very likely your hens will use them. It might be better to create a mud bath in a corner of the run; chickens are much more likely to approach mud and sand to cool down than water.
6. Don’t play with your chickens
Interaction with the chickens might lead to more movement for them, which increases their body temperature. If you want to spend time with your pets, or need to pick them up for health checks, do so early in the morning or late at night when it’s cooler.
7. Don’t cover the run completely
Covering your chicken run with a lot of covers might seem like a good idea to create a shady spot, but if you don’t let air circulate, it’s likely to become a boiling tunnel of warm air. It’s extremely important to have ventilation, so that fresh air can move around. This goes for your coop as well. The Eglu’s cleverly designed ventilation system allows air to circulate in the coop at all times, keeping it nice, cool and fresh even on the hottest of days. Choose a few darker covers to give your pets shade on the run as well.
8. Don’t leave the eggs
You’re probably getting fewer eggs than normal during the warmest weeks of the year. That’s completely normal, chickens don’t lay as much when they are hot, and some go broody and stop laying completely. Although the eggs won’t go off if you leave them in the nest box of an Eglu for a day, eggs in the nest can encourage broodiness and result in egg eating, so it’s good to collect all as soon as you discover them.
9. Don’t put off cleaning
It’s always important to keep the coop nice and clean for your girls, but maybe even more so in summer. Parasites and pests are stronger when it’s warmer, including red mite, so make sure to use a bird safe disinfectant and cover roosting bars and perches in mite powder to prevent problems at least once a week.
10. Don’t treat all chickens the same
If you have a flock with mixed breeds or have had chickens in the past but now own a different breed, remember that different chickens need different care. Some breeds are much better than others at handling heat, and some really struggle. Read up on the breeds you’ve got here, and take extra care of vulnerable birds.
Most people would agree that the yolk is the best part of the egg. A double-yolker in the breakfast pan is therefore a very welcome sight!
Some hens lay double-yolkers every time, a genetic quirk that simply means two yolks are released into the system instead of one. However, hens that manage this impressive feat are rare, and no single breed has been developed to pull off the double-yolk trick every time.
The one-egg-with-two-yolks breakfast can still be yours every day, though, if you’re willing to pay extra for it. You may have spotted double-yolk ‘super eggs’ on the shelves of certain supermarkets – sold at a premium, of course – but these are nearly all from young birds, rather than the mythical Double Yolker breed. It’s worth pointing this out, as a Google search will lead to some interesting information about such a breed. But it doesn’t exist – yet!
Most double-yolk eggs encountered by chicken keepers come from young hens. Point-of-lay birds tend to produce a very small egg or two, and then a couple of double-yolkers, before their bodies settle down into a regular four or five eggs-per-week pattern. A double-yolk egg after this early laying stage is very rare in most birds, although some hens begin to produce double-yolkers again towards the end of their egg-laying lives. Circumstantial evidence suggests that the Rhode Island Red, Oxford Brown, Sussex, and Leghorn breeds have a higher chance of producing double-yolkers.
How Are Double Yolks Formed?
Hens’ bodies release a yolk approximately two hours after the previous egg has been laid. Once in the hen’s oviduct – the part of the bird’s body in which the eggs are formed – the yolk is surrounded by the white albumen part of the egg and then covered in hard calcium. If a hen has released two yolks side-by-side, the egg-forming process treats them in the same way as a single yolk, resulting in two yolks ‘trapped’ inside a single egg shell.
If double-yolked eggs are fertilised, the result is two chicken embryos in one shell. Most of these ‘twin’ eggs fail to develop properly, though, with only one chick growing beyond the early development stage, or with neither of them developing. This makes it rare for two chicks to emerge from one egg. Chicken breeders are advised to put aside the double-yolkers to prevent them developing, and in commercial operations most double-yolkers are sold to food companies that use eggs in their products.
How Can You Tell If An Egg Has Two Yolks?
You don’t need to crack the shell to find out what’s inside – you can spot a double-yolker by ‘candling’ the egg. The word candling comes from the ancient practice of holding an egg in front of a candle flame, but a small torch does the job just as well (although they are still ‘candled’ rather than ‘torched’!) If there are two yolks inside, they will be visible as two dark blobs against the bright light as it shines through the shell.
So, although double-yolkers are estimated to occur in just one per thousand eggs, the sheer abundance of point-of-lay hens means that they are a common sight on the plates of chicken keepers around the world.
Triple yolkers, however, are very unlikely to grace the breakfast table. This super-rarity is found in just one egg per 25 million!
1. You have created a social media page for your Hens
Let’s face it, when you invest in a chicken coop and purchase your first flock you have to share it with friends and family. Whether it is documenting first eggs laid in the coop to your gourmet recipes with your farm-fresh eggs you are posting it on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.
2. You find eggs throughout the house
As you start becoming more comfortable with your chickens maybe you decide to let them in your home. They never bother anybody and get along great with your pets but occasionally you find a fresh egg in your fruit bowl or on top of your favourite armchair. Hey, at least you know they are comfortable!
3. A “staycation” is your idea of a holiday
When you invest in your first brood you feel like you are a second parent to theseanimals. You wash them, feed them, and make sure they are comfortable. Add that in with taking care of your own kids and the idea of going on vacation is the last thing on your mind. You would much rather set up a zoom background of the beach or the tropics, order in a favourite meal, and put your feet up. Ahhh!
4. You find yourself chatting with your chickens
Sometimes we just need a good therapy session with an attentive listener and who better than your chickens. They will never talk back to you or judge you for your decisions. They may give the occasional nudge or peck for a pet but hey it is cheaper than therapy.
5. You have pet names for your hens
After the first couple weeks of tending to your chickens you start noticing some have different personalities. Some are on the shy side, some are very particular about their feeding time, and some just want all of the cuddles in the world. What a perfect time to give them a name! Whether it is Rudy, Cleo, or Fluffy we don’t judge here because they are your pets.
6. The home is filled with fashionable fowl decor
Whether it is chicken cocktail napkins or a hen-tastic serving platter you or your friends have made sure that you have all of the latest in chicken-related home furnishings.
7. You have a carrier bag to transport your chickens
Maybe you need to take them to the vet like any of your other pets. Who says that they shouldn’t be comfortable. That is why you have the top of the line carrier bag to transport your chickens whenever they are unwell.
8. Dressing up your brood for special occasions
When you have Spring chickens or Fall Fowls they must be dressed for the season. When Halloween comes around you wouldn’t put it past yourself to dress up your chickens in a matching outfit with your other pets.
9. Instead of walking the dog you find yourself walking the Flock
Yes, there are harnesses for chickens because you have already researched it on Amazon. Maybe you have limited land and your chickens need to stretch their legs each day so you take them to the local park to graze and get some fresh air. Totally normal, right?!
10. You find yourself building a chicken picnic table for feeding time
We have all seen the trend of building mini picnic tables for our squirrel friends in our backyard. If you haven’t just Google it and you will be entertained by these structures. Well, who says your chickens should have any less than the squirrels. You paint your own table to pour your chicken feed into each day so your chickens can chow down in style.
At the end of the day, we understand that when you decide to venture out into the land of chicken coops it can be a daunting process. Everyone has unique experiences and should be able to tend to their hens/ roosters in their own way. Your flock is part of your family so why skimp on their care and upkeep!
The very short answer to that question is probably no. If you give your chickens a good quality feed and some corn, and let them peck around the garden for insects and small stones they use to grind down their food they should technically be getting everything they need.
Any supplement should be given to your chickens as a complement to a healthy and balanced diet, and not instead of giving them good feed or sufficient space to live out natural chicken behaviours. However, just like you might boost your own system with some extra vitamins and minerals, there are some things that you can give your hens that will help them stay healthier and give them more energy.
Particularly useful at more challenging times, like around a moult or during a particularly tough cold snap, we’ve listed all the supplements you might want to have in your cupboard:
Chickens don’t have teeth, but use small rocks and stones to grind their food down. Most free range chickens gather grit naturally while exploring the garden, but if you for some reason have to contain your chickens to a smaller area than normal, or if their run is covered in snow, you might need to add grit to their diet.
Make sure to choose something that is chicken specific and will have the right composition and size of components.
Vinegar, normally Apple Cider Vinegar, is a great booster all year around. It aids digestion, keeps internal parasites at bay, and is mildly antiseptic. In the winter it’s also fantastic to use preventatively to keep respiratory infections away from your flock.
Choose an organic or unpasteurised vinegar that contains a substance called ‘the mother’. It’s a gel-like substance that grows naturally on the vinegar, and it’s the mother that contains the most powerful enzymes and minerals that make the vinegar so beneficial.
Vinegar can be added to the chickens’ drinking water, approximately 10ml per liter of water.
As well as keeping vampires away, garlic has been used for its beneficial properties for centuries, and it’s a great addition to your chickens’ diet.
You can crush up a fresh clove or use garlic powder to add to the feed. It’s great for circulation, and can help with respiratory infections. It’s also said to help ensure a good appetite, so it’s ideal to give it to newly rescued hens that need a nutrient boost.
Plenty of herbs and spices are said to have medicinal properties that will help your hens keep their immune system in top condition. Verm-X is a 100% natural supplement that helps maintain intestinal hygiene and keeps the hen’s gut and digestive system in great condition, which can help keep parasites and infections away.
Oregano, cinnamon, parsley, turmeric and ginger are other chicken favourites that will increase vitamin levels and aid the immune system, and that grinded down can be mixed into your chickens feed.
Chickens use lots of calcium to build egg shells, so laying chickens can sometimes need a little more than they get from their pellets.
Choose a supplement that contains high levels of calcium and phosphorus and will strengthen the quality of your chickens’ eggs. This is especially important for ex battery hens or hens going through a moult.
Like most other animals, chickens can suffer from parasitic worms. These are endoparasites that live inside your bird’s body, and are collectively called Helminths by vets.
Does my chicken have worms?
The three types of parasitic worms that your chickens are most likely to contract are:
Roundworms. There are a number of different roundworms, with the large roundworm being the most common. They live anywhere in the bird’s digestive system, and can sometimes be spotted in your chickens’ droppings.
Gapeworms. These nasty parasites attach themselves to the trachea of the chicken, hooking on without moving.
Tapeworms. These attach themselves to the lining of the intestine and can get really long and unpleasant. They are less common, but will more significantly affect the bird.
It’s not always straightforward to tell if your chicken has worms, but symptoms may include a paler comb, decreased egg production, diarrhoea and increased appetite without weight gain. A chicken who has been infected with gapeworm will stretch their neck and gasp for air. Sometimes you won’t spot an infection until it’s really serious and possibly untreatable.
To worm or not to worm
Many chicken keepers therefore choose to worm their chickens regularly to prevent them getting infected, usually once in spring and once in autumn. This is normally done using Flubenvet, a poultry specific wormer you can get at the vets that will kill both the worms and their eggs. Make sure you get a worming treatment that is suitable for chickens, and check if you should be discarding the chicken’s eggs while she is being treated. Always worm all chickens at the same time.
Other chicken keepers think it’s better to only treat chickens that have a confirmed infection. This is partly because some wormers are only effective on particular parasites, and will be pointless if your chickens have a different type of worm. Some also think it’s unnecessary to stress the system by giving the birds treatment for an issue they might not have. Additionally, it can be pricey to worm a whole flock twice a year.
If you don’t want to treat your chickens without a diagnosis, but suspect they might have worms, you can get their droppings tested for presence of eggs. Ask your vet if they will do it for you, or you can send the droppings off to a laboratory in pre-made kits.
Whether you decide to treat only confirmed worm cases or worm preventatively, it’s always best to do everything you can to make sure your chickens don’t contract parasites. One of the best things to do is to regularly move their coop and run to a new patch. This will stop serious outbreaks, as it stops the life-cycle of the worms. Worm eggs are expelled in the droppings from infected birds, and survive on the ground for a surprisingly long time before they are picked up by foraging chickens. This is called a direct life-cycle, as the worm doesn’t need a host animal to get to your hens. Worms that have an indirect life-cycle on the other hand let their eggs first be ingested by for example earthworms, slugs or centipedes, where they lay dormant until the host is eaten by one of your chickens. The larvae hatch inside your hens, and the cycle repeats.
To prevent an unbreakable chain of worm infestations, it’s therefore important to regularly move your chickens. This is made easy by portable chicken coops like the Eglu Cube or the Eglu Go UP.
Another useful thing is to keep the grass mowed as the ultraviolet light from the sun can kill off potential worm eggs in your chickens’ droppings. Clean the run every week and scoop up droppings and wet bedding. If one of your chickens is infected it’ll be very difficult to get rid of all worm eggs from the ground, but every little helps!
Finally, many chicken keepers swear by the mineral supplement Verm-X. It’s a herbal formulation that works to create an environment in the gut that is able to eradicate and expel any intestinal challenges. This can be given as a supplement to your flock regularly to help their immune system stay on top.
As a chicken owner, you are responsible for making sure your birds are as happy and healthy as possible. By providing them with a hygienic home, plenty of space, good food and fun toys, you are doing everything you can to keep them free from illness and parasites. That unfortunately doesn’t mean that nothing bad will ever happen to your flock, however.
Accidents occur and, just like humans, chickens sometimes get ill. As prey animals, they are highly skilled at hiding pain and weaknesses, so by the time they are obviously showing discomfort, they are likely to be very ill.
After spending time with your chickens and getting to know them, you will soon be able to tell what is normal behaviour, and what is a sign that they are feeling under the weather, but to make sure you spot problems early on it’s good to regularly carry out thorough health checks. We would suggest doing this beak to tail check at least once a week – just go through our list:
Your chickens’ eyes should be clear, bright and fully open. They should not have any discharge or look dry, or be watery or teary.
The nostrils, or nares as they are called in chickens, should be clean, without any crusty dry bits or discharge.
Your chicken’s beak should be smooth, without cracks or other damages. The top and bottom should align, with the top one being slightly longer. Healthy chickens keep their beak closed most of the time.
A grown chicken who is not broody or moulting should have a firm, bright red comb. It should be positioned according to the breed standard, i.e. if the breed’s comb is upright, it should not be hanging or looking shrivelled.
It’s especially important to check combs and wattles in winter, as they are prone to frostbite. Larger combs can be protected by a daily layer of vaseline.
When you first let your chickens out in the morning the crop should be empty, as they should have spent all night digesting their food. After eating, the crop will feel firm, but not rock-hard. If it never seems empty or the hen’s breath is really foul smelling, you could be dealing with an impacted or sour crop.
Unless she is moulting, your chicken should have a shiny and full plumage. Bald patches or ruffled feathers could be a sign of stress, parasites or behavioural problems within the group. It’s important that you know what moulting looks like as it happens at least once a year, and should not be confused with other feather problems.
Legs and feet
Check the scales on the legs and make sure they are smooth and lying flat against the bone. Raised or dry looking scales can be an indication of scaly leg mites. Also check the bottom of the foot and remove any dirt to check for cuts or black spots, which could cause the chicken discomfort and lead to a potentially fatal infection called bumblefoot.
A hen in lay has a pink, wide and moist vent, whereas an older chicken’s vent is dryer and has a paler colour. It should never protrude or look injured, as other chickens might start to peck her if they see blood.
Mites and lice love the area around the vent, so it’s particularly important to check for little black specks or irritation on the skin.
A slide out dropping tray under the chickens perches or roosting bars, like on the Eglu chicken coops, lets you inspect your chickens poo when you’re cleaning the coop. The droppings should be firm and dark brown with some white, more liquidy parts going throughout. They will vary somewhat depending on what the chickens have been eating, but if the droppings are very loose or have blood in them it indicates something is wrong.
If you follow this list and go through it regularly with each of your chickens, you’re in a good position to spot potential problems early. Some might be treatable at home, like certain parasites or smaller cuts, but if you’re unsure it’s always best to consult your vet. You can read more about common chicken problems in our guide.
Chickens’ fondness for perches is instinctive. Our pet chickens descend from the Asian Jungle Fowl, that roosts high up on tree branches, and holding on to a perch is as natural to hens as scratching and egg-laying.
Most of the breeds we keep today are however not able to get up a tree even if they were offered one to roost in – they are too big and heavy. But by holding onto something, chickens get a sense of security, as perching initially was a strategy to get away from predators.
The Eglu Chicken Coops have perfectly rounded roosting bars that the chickens will love sleeping on at night, but it’s advisable to also provide them with a perch in the run. A wooden stick might not seem like much fun to us, but a perch is an excellent way of enriching their enclosure.
The Omlet Chicken Perch is purposefully designed to be comfortable and easy for hens to use, and it is also durable and super simple to install on your run. Choose between the 1m or 2m, and add enough to make sure all your chickens have a spot to take a break and watch the world go by.
Chickens without perches are more likely to attract mites and lice, or pick up bacteria from sitting on the ground. The stress of not having a place to roost can also lower their immune system and reduce egg-laying.
Take this unique opportunity to save ⅓ on the Omlet Chicken Perch and give your chickens a new toy they will love! Use promo code PERCH4LESS at check out to claim the discount!
Terms and conditions Promotion of third/33% off The Omlet Chicken Perch runs from 10/09/20 – midnight 14/09/20. Use promo code PERCH4LESS at checkout. Includes Omlet Chicken Perch 1m and 2m. Offer is limited to 2 Chicken Perches per household. Subject to availability. Omlet 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.
FALSE – Chickens actually have superior colour vision to humans. Thanks to five light receptors in the eye (humans only have three), they can see many colours more vividly than us.
Chickens can be half male, half female – split down the middle
TRUE – Due to a phenomena called bilateral gynandromorph there are chickens where one side of the body is male (large wattle, spur and muscular breast etc.) and the other side is female (duller plumage, smaller comb, slighter build etc). Worth a google!
There are as many chickens as there are humans on earth
FALSE – There are almost 4 times as many chickens as there are humans, more than 25 billion. In fact, there are more chickens in the world than any other bird.
Chickens navigate through magnetic fields
TRUE– Like other birds, chickens use the magnetic fields of the earth to orientate themselves and navigate around their home environment. Additionally, studies show that chickens use the sun to tell the time of day. Daylight intensity is also what tells cockerels when to crow in the morning and when to go roost at night.
Chickens are cannibals
UNDECIDED – You might have heard about cannibalism in poultry, and it does happen that chickens start pecking the flesh of other hens. This is however not a natural behaviour seen in the wild, but a result of a stressful environment with limited space in large egg or meat factories. A happy chicken will not eat its friend.
Chickens have no taste buds
FALSE – While it may seem like chickens will eat just about anything you put in front of them, they do have taste buds, and personal preferences. A chicken can’t taste sweetness or spiciness, but can tell saltiness, sourness and bitterness apart.
The colour of the egg affects the nutritional content
FALSE – Despite what some egg producers have claimed during the years, brown eggs are not healthier than while ones, or vice versa. The colour of the shell only depends on the breed of chicken it came from, and will have no impact on taste or nutritional content.
If you chop their heads off, chickens will keep running
TRUE – Some chickens will indeed keep running after having their head chopped off. The pressure from the axe triggers nerve endings in the neck, sending a message back to the muscles telling them to move, without the brain actually being involved.
The chicken is then moving while actually being dead, but in the case of Miracle Mike, the farmer who tried to kill him aimed a bit high and accidentally left a bit of the brain that chickens keep at the back of their necks. This made it possible for Mike to live for another 18 months (!) after his head had been removed.
You can hypnotise a chicken
TRUE – There are several ways of putting a chicken in a trance, but the most common one involves holding the chicken with its head close to the ground, and drawing a line in the ground going outwards from the beak. This will paralyse the chicken, and she will stay laying still until you clap or poke her.
While it probably won’t hurt your chicken to hypnotise it like this, it’s unclear how much stress it causes her, so make sure not to do it too frequently.
Hens are always talking amongst themselves. All those clucks and squawks means something, and while some of the meanings are obvious – the explosive squawking of a bird running away in panic, for example – others are more subtle.
Here are ten ways in which you can eavesdrop on the chicken chatter and brush up on the bantam banter.
A calm, gently rising borrrrb. This is the sound hens make as they peck their way through the grass or chicken run, and it means two things. It indicates that the chicken is enjoying the endless search for quick snacks, and it’s also telling the other birds ‘everything is fine’. A flock of hens saying borrrb together sends out the reassuring message that there’s nothing to worry about.
The cluck-cum-squawk. This brief, excited cry usually means that there has been some sort of confrontation, usually between a meek hen and a more dominant one who has muscled in to see what snacks the more timid bird has found. The sound is also used if a hen is surprised by something, such as the chicken-run door opening suddenly.
The ‘squawk bomb’. This is when the hen clucks, gobbles and squawks in one hysterical flurry. It sounds as if the bird is about to explode in a cloud of feathers. This is the chicken’s main alarm call, expressing fear and also telling the other birds to run. The causes can be vehicles, dogs, people trying to pick up the hen, or predators.
Cackling. This is the name often used for the familiar Buk-buk-buk-badaaak! call. Repeated several times, and loudly, it is the sound many hens produce after laying an egg. The hen moves away from the egg and then begins cackling. It is thought to be a way of luring potential predators away from the egg and the nest.
Buk-buk-buk (but with no badaaak!) This slightly angry and persistent sound is often made by a hen who wants to sit in her favourite nest box but finds it occupied. It’s meaning is a combination of “I’m here!” and “Get out!”
Growling. If a hen is broody and doesn’t want to move from her nest box, she will make a hissing, growling sound. This simply means “Don’t touch!” and “Go away!”
Chick-chat. A hen hatching eggs will mutter various gentle clucking sounds to communicate with the chicks and reassure them. Once the chicks are hatched and running around, she tells them where the good scratching and pecking places are by saying tuk-tuk! (Cockerels use this sound too, to tell the hens that they have found a good foraging spot).Mother hens also have an insistent Rrrrrr call, which is the chicks’ cue to come running if the hen senses danger.
Crowing. This is cockerel territory, the classic cock-a-doodle-doo – although some hens get the crowing habit too. Crowing says several things. It means a new day has dawned, and it’s time to be up and scratching/pecking. It also tells the world that this is the cockerel’s territory, and that these hens are his. If there is more than one cockerel, the subordinate ones will only crow when the boss has crowed. Crowing usually hits 90 decibels, or even more!
Help! A hen separated from the flock will make an alarm call. The sound is similar to the ‘cackling’ that announces a new egg. It is thought to be an SOS call to the cockerel to come and save his lost hen. There will be a strong element of danger if there are predators around, so it’s a risky strategy for a lost chicken.
Buzzing. First thing in the morning, with the chicken coop still locked, the hens will begin to make repetitive, buzzing clucks, which may rise in volume as the minutes pass and the doors remain shut. This sound simply means “Let us out – there’s lots of pecking and scratching to be done!”
With this knowledge of chook chit-chat, you will be able to tell what your girls are talking about, even if you can’t actually see them. It’s an all-day, non-stop conversation!
A flock of chickens can easily give the impression of peace and equality. But it’s not like that at all!
Every flock of hens, whether it consists of two birds or 200, has a pecking order. This decides who’s top of the chooks, and who’s bottom of the bantams!
The pecking order generally sorts itself out. The more dominant birds will assert themselves, and the others will fall into line. Hens brought up together in the same coop or barn sort this out with minimal fuss; but if two dominant birds are brought together, they will fight for dominance. This involves lots of flapping and pecking, but rarely results in serious physical harm. Any hens who spar in this way should be left to it for a minute or two, unless you fear that one of them is going to be seriously hurt. If you intervene too soon, the battle will commence again as soon as your back is turned.
The point is, once the feathery fisticuffs are over, the pecking order is settled and you won’t have to intervene. It’s very rare for a hen to be so aggressive that she goes out looking for a fight when the hierarchy has already been established.
If you’re worried about the safety of the tussling hens, you can separate them by clapping your hands to scare them apart, and then physically removing one from the battlefield. Some Vaseline on the comb and wattles will also minimise damage, if you suspect that there may be more scuffles before things settle down again.
Hens need plenty of space. If they are too cooped up during the day, they may start to peck each other (an issue that afflicts large flocks kept for mass egg or meat production). To prevent this, you need to make sure your run isn’t overcrowded.
If a dominant hen begins guarding the food and water supply, install a second feeding and drinking station to defuse the tension. Distraction is an effective method of diffusing problems, too. Some corn cobs or cabbages, some CDs or even a peck toy hanging at pecking height, will deflect aggressive birds’ beaks to other things.
A Change in the Pecking Order
It is generally agreed that the most aggressive hens are the ones at the top of the pecking order. But sometimes a chicken seems to rise to the top with very few pecks involved. There is, indeed, circumstantial evidence that the birds’ combs may play a part in the war of the wattles. Hens with large, erect combs tend to be higher in the pecking order than birds with less impressive combs.
If a dominant hen is no longer around, the pecking order enters a state of flux, and there may be new outbreaks of feathered feuding before the new order establishes itself. A previously meek hen may find herself in charge, and this is particularly common if she is one of the ‘old guard’ who suddenly finds herself keeping a new influx of point-of-lay hens in line.
When introducing new hens to a flock, the newcomers should be penned away from the old guard for a week or so, to let everyone get used to each other. Throwing new birds in at the deep end can result in tragedy, as the older birds sometimes gang up on the newcomers and peck them. Once a hen draws blood, the other birds have a tendency to join in the pecking, and death can result.
The pecking order can also change if a dominant hen becomes ill, or becomes broody and spends her time sitting on eggs. If she’s allowed to live a full life and die of natural causes, she may lose her top place in the pecking order towards the end, and in these circumstances you need to keep a gentle eye on the flock, to make sure the old bird doesn’t become hen-pecked.
Being top of the pecking order isn’t all about bullying and the rule of terror, though! Top hens protect the flock by keeping an eye open for danger, and also lead the other birds to exciting new sources of food and scratching.
The hen-based pecking order doesn’t entirely disappear if cockerels are part of the flock, but the male bird will nearly always be at the top of the order, unless he’s unusually timid and the top hen is unusually assertive. The hens will still have a pecking order amongst themselves, though. It also needs underlining that there should never be more than one cockerel to every 15 hens, otherwise things become very unbalanced, the males fight, and the hens might be physically abused.
Living in a flock takes a bit or organising. But as long as you give the hens enough space and keep an eye on things to make sure the pecking doesn’t spill over into open warfare, nature has a wonderful way of taking care of things.
Here’s why the Caddi is the perfect choice for your treat-loving pets…
The Caddi Treat Holder decreases the rate at which your pets will eat their treats. Slower treat release through the gaps in the holder means more satisfaction for longer, and prevents over indulgence.
The Caddi Treat Holder swings around and creates a rewarding, interactive game to keep your pets entertained, which is especially great for rainy days! Your pets will love the stimulating experience of foraging for their treats, and enjoy hours of rewarding fun.
The Caddi allows you to feed your pets treats without having to throw them on the ground. This improves run cleanliness, reduces food waste and prevents pests, as well as being a healthier solution for your pets. Simply hang the Caddi from the roof of your pet’s run with the plastic hook and use the string to adjust the height to suit your pets.
Endless treat opportunities! With the Caddi Treat Holder you can feed a range of fresh greens, fruits and vegetables to your pets, you can use it as a hay rack for rabbits, or fill it with pecker balls for hens. Get creative and reward your pets with exciting new flavours in the Caddi.
You can save 50% on the Caddi Treat Holder until midnight on Monday, just by signing up to the Omlet newsletter. It’s a great deal for you, and an exciting new treat dispenser for your pets! Enter your email address on the Caddi page to claim your discount code.
Now available for just $8.99 if you sign up to the Omlet newsletter!
Terms and conditions This promotion is only valid from 12/08/20 – midnight on 17/08/20. 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 Caddi Treat Holders only. The offer does not apply to Twin Packs or bundles with Omlet Peck Toys or Feldy Chicken Pecker Balls. Offer is limited to 2 Caddi Treat Holders 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.
Red mites, or Dermanyssus gallinae, are without a doubt backyard chicken keepers’ worst enemies! They are nocturnal creatures living in cracks and crevices of the coop, and they only come out at night to feed on chicken blood. Most long term chicken keepers will have encountered these parasites, and can confirm that they are more destructive and difficult to get rid of than all other pests combined.
Getting Rid of Red Mites
If you have diagnosed a red mite infestation in your wooden coop, there are a few things you can do to try to get rid of them. Start off by giving your coop a really deep clean. Strip the house down as much as possible to get into all corners, nooks and crannies, and scrub with warm water. You will need to replace any felt or fabric parts and carefully clean perches, feeders and drinkers and other loose objects in the coop. Make sure that you get rid of all bedding that might have been infested.
If you can still see mites crawling out of crevices in the wood when the coop is drying, try hosing the coop and all loose parts down with a pressure washer. Leave to dry for 10-15 minutes and blast it over again to get rid of even more mites. Repeat until there are very few mites emerging after every wash.
Still not completely clear of mites? Time for the anti-mite products. Mix a mite specific concentrate with water using the manufacturer’s guidelines and apply this to the coop. Go heavy on areas where it is likely that the mites are hiding (corners and end of perches are particularly affected areas), but it is important that you treat the whole coop. When the wood is completely dry, apply plenty of red mite powder on your chickens, their bedding and their dust bath before you let them back into the coop.
In summer you will need to re-apply the powder every few days, and it in many cases getting ahead of the mites will mean deep cleaning the coop with detergents on several occasions over a period of two weeks. When autumn comes the mites become dormant and will not feed on your chickens, but they are unfortunately likely to reappear when the temperature rises again in spring.
Preventing Red Mite Infestations
When it comes to red mites, prevention will always be better than cure, and one of the few things you can actually do to keep these little creatures from hurting your chickens is to have a coop that doesn’t make life easy for them.
The smooth plastic surfaces of the Eglu chicken coop leaves very little space for the mites to hide. There are no corners or gaps that you won’t be able to reach with a hose or a pressure washer, which means that one deep clean of the Eglu should get rid of all dust, dirt and possible pests. By cleaning your Eglu on a regular basis you prevent red mites from ever becoming a problem for you and your hens, and you won’t have to spend all that time and money cleaning and disinfecting that you would if you had a more traditional coop.
The Eglu chicken coops have over the last 15 years been the solution for a lot of people who have tired of constantly trying to get rid of red mites from their wooden coops. Here are some of the things current Eglu owners have told us about battling red mites:
“I’ve thought about having an Eglu for two years but this summer’s red mite infestation was too much. I hate using chemicals/insecticides around my hens so I took the plunge and I’m really pleased.”Sue
“After having some terrible experiences with mites we decided enough is enough and time to buy a “mite free eglu” as advertised. We have been slightly put off by the price previously but now I wish I had one from the start! I couldn’t rate the omlet eglu cube any higher! What used to take 2 hours to clean and scrub a chicken coop now takes 10 minutes! We have not had any lice infestations since having the cube I absolutely love it and so do our chickens, just wish we had bought one sooner!”Amie
“The most important feature to me is the hygienic, easy clean & wash nature of all the surfaces. I would never buy a wooden house again having struggled with mites which hid in all the joints and gaps of the boards. There is nowhere for the mites to hide on the Eglu and cleaning is quick and easy. I’m certain that there isn’t a better house available for healthy hens.”Neil
Does the thought of mites make you itch? Watch our video about two neighbours having very different chicken keeping experiences, showing some of the struggles that chicken owners with mite-infested coops are faced with:
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.
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…