Social Media Executive Rosie has been at Omlet for a year, and when she was asked by her managers if she was interested in broadening her chicken knowledge (and to create fun content for Omlet’s social media platforms) with her very own flock, she said yes straight away.
“My partner Max has always wanted chickens – he was so excited when I got this job as he thought it would make me more keen to keep hens. So when they asked me I knew he would be over the moon, and I was right. But I’m of course also really excited!”
How much research have you done so far?
“I read ‘What the Cluck’, Omlet’s chicken keeping book, which was really helpful. I have obviously picked up some knowledge when working with pet content and seeing the chickens at the office. I also manage Omlet’s Facebook Group for chicken keepers, that’s where you get to hear what it’s really like.”
“We set it up a few weekends ago, and we didn’t fight once! To be fair, Max did most of it by himself while I painted the fence, and it was really nice and sunny, but despite being quite a lot of products it was pretty fun actually.
Although ‘flockdown’ is now over and the chickens are allowed to free range we will probably keep them on the run for a bit to get them used to the space and each other.”
Have you decided what chickens you’re getting?
“There’s been a lot of discussion about this, we didn’t completely agree to begin with. But in the end we decided we wanted good layers, and quite big hens rather than bantams, so we went to see someone that breeds Buff Orpingtons, and I think that might be the breed we’ll go for.”
Rosie and Max are not the only ones in the family; they also live with Evie the Sprocker.
“I’m really not sure how she will react, but she’s been very interested in the coop going up. We will slowly try to introduce her to the chickens and hopefully she’ll be alright. She’s quite small, so maybe a big chicken will scare her a bit? We’ll see, but to start with she won’t be allowed into the garden if the chickens are out free ranging.”
What are you most looking forward to about becoming a chicken keeper?
“I really like the thought of having them around in the garden, pottering about. Of course the fresh eggs. My mum is a keen baker, so I’m sure she’ll be happy to have a few! And then I’m just looking forward to seeing Max with them, hopefully it’ll be just like he’s imagined it”.
And is there anything you’re scared of?
“I guess I’m a bit worried they are going to get ill or get some kind of parasites, it’s not nice to see your animals feel bad. But I also know that once you have a pet, making sure they are happy and healthy is not something you see as a problem or a hassle, you just do what you can to look after them in the best possible way.”
We’ll catch up with Rosie again next month when she’s picked up her chickens to hear how they are all getting on!
Sometimes chickens behave in a strange way, and it’s not always easy to figure out if it’s normal chicken behaviour or whether something is wrong. Here are some things your flock might get up to, so you can easily figure out what they are actually up to!
My chicken is rolling around in the flower bed
This is completely normal. Chickens don’t wash themselves with water like you and I, but to get rid of dirt and parasites from their skin and feathers they have dust baths. When doing so, they look for a dry piece of soil or sand. They then lie down and use their wings to flap up the loose dust to let it run between their feathers and “wash” away dirt. It can look a bit strange, almost alarming in some cases, but it’s something they love doing and that is very good for them as well.
My chicken is losing its feathers
Whether or not to worry depends on how your chicken is losing them. All chickens lose their feathers once a year in a process called moulting, where they shed old feathers and grow new ones in a way to keep the plumage strong and healthy. This can look quite messy, and you might find that hens stop laying while moulting. However, this is completely normal and you don’t necessarily have to intervene in any way.
If you notice that your chicken is losing feathers but is not moulting it could be a sign that something is not right, especially if she has got bald patches on her neck or chest. This could either be that she’s picking her own feathers, or that she is being badly bullied by others in the flock. Both of this could indicate that you chickens are stressed or bored, often due to lack of space and stimulation. Inspect the flock as they interact with each other and see if you can notice any feather pecking.
If you find that the feather loss is indeed self-inflicted or caused by another hen, try to give the flock more space and something to keep them busy. Maybe a larger Walk In Chicken Run with a super fun Chicken Perch?
My chicken won’t leave the nest box
If you’ve got a hen who is refusing to leave the nest box, it’s most likely because she’s gone broody. This happens to hens from time to time (to some breeds more often than others), most likely because a maternal instinct has kicked in and she wants to sit on her eggs until they hatch. To her, it doesn’t matter that they aren’t fertilised and will never result in any chicks – she will stay put regardless.
You will probably struggle to move her from the nest box, but put on some gloves and try to get her out to make sure she gets to move around and have some food and water. A hen will most likely snap out of this state after around 21 days, but there are ways to break the broodiness and prevent it happening again. You can read more about it in this previous blog post about broody hens.
My chickens seem to be bullying another hen
Unfortunately this can also be seen as normal chicken behaviour. Chickens in a flock need to establish a pecking order to decide who is top hen, and this is often decided through some rather unfriendly pecking and flighting.
If you have just introduced some new chickens or if the flock is new, you will likely see some quarrelling for a week or so. As long as no one is getting seriously injured, you’re best off staying out of it. If your hens however have been living together for a while and you still find that the other hens are picking on a specific individual you might have to interfere, as this will be stressful for the whole flock.
It’s always best to separate the main bully. Keep her elsewhere for a few days, and then slowly reintroduce her to the flock. In some cases a rearrangement in the pecking order can solve things.
My chicken is eating its eggs
This is not normal chicken behaviour. It’s not necessarily bad for your chickens’ health if they get into the habit of eating their eggs, but not only is it annoying for you to miss out on delicious eggs, it could also be a sign that something is not right.
The cause of this behaviour could be that your hens are dehydrated or vitamin deficient, or that they are stressed or anxious. It could also be that they feel the nesting box isn’t safe or comfortable enough. The nesting box in the Eglu Cube Large Chicken Coop is a good example of what chickens like when laying. Its’ dark, deep and private, and up to three hens can nest at the same time.
Keep on top of egg collection and keep an eye on your chickens to make sure they are otherwise happy, and they should hopefully snap out of the habit before too long.
My chicken is panting
Chicken have no sweat glands, so like dogs they drive off body heat by panting. This is normal chicken behaviour and just a way for your hens to stay cool, so unless the panting is excessive and you have made sure she has access to shade and plenty of water, it’s not necessarily something to worry about.
That being said, panting can also be a sign of stress or breathing problems, so if it’s not warm outside or your chicken is panting more than you think is normal, you should definitely check for other symptoms, and potentially take her to the vet for a check up.
My chicken has stopped laying
Again, it depends on a few different things, mainly the age of your chicken, the time of year, and your hens’ general health. It’s normal for most chickens to stop laying over the winter, as egg laying is strongly linked to hours of sunlight. They will also stop laying when moulting, or if something has interrupted their routine.
Again it’s useful to take a step back and see how your chickens are doing. Carry out a health check to make sure they are not ill or have parasites, check that they are getting enough good quality feed, and make sure there isn’t anything in or around the coop that is making them stressed or anxious.
It should also be said that hens only have a predefined number of eggs in them, so if your hen is getting older it’s completely normal for her production to slow down and eventually stop. This is particularly common for ex-battery hens who have been laying intensely for the first 18 months of her life. You can read more about why chickens might not lay in this blog post.
We hope that was helpful. If you have any other questions about normal chicken behaviour, comment below and we will follow up with another post! You will also find lots of other Omlet blog posts that go into more detail about the behaviour we’ve mentioned here, so check it out to learn more!
No, not those chicken wings. If you’re looking for a recipe or a greasy takeout, you’re in the wrong place. We’re taking a look at everything you need to know about chicken wings, actual chickens’ wings, and answering some common questions.
Can chickens fly?
Yes, and no. Chicken should technically be able to fly, they have strong wings, large feathers and hollow bones that makes the body lighter. The ancestors of today’s chickens, the red jungle fowl, escaped land based predators by flying up into trees. Having said that, not even they were able to fly longer distances, as they didn’t have the endurance.
When chickens were domesticated, and later on selectively bred to produce more eggs and more meat, their muscles grew, and most backyard chickens today have too big a body for the wings to hold them. So while you might see lighter chicken breeds flapping their wings to get up onto their perches, garden chairs and low hanging branches, they would struggle to get very far.
Do chickens want to fly?
In general, if your chickens have enough enrichment and feel happy with their coop and run, they will have very little interest in flying. Make sure they have opportunities to carry out all their natural behaviours, like perching and pecking, and that they have ample space to move around.
While chickens are more or less flightless birds, they still use their wings for other purposes . As we mentioned, the wings help chickens jump, sometimes impressively high, and they are also useful for balance when getting down from an elevated space.
Chickens also use their wings for mating, to regulate body temperature, and to scare off predators. Mother hens also shelter their young under their wings to keep them warm, and to hide them from external threats.
Should l clip my chickens’ wings?
This is a commonly discussed topic among chicken keepers. While clipping a chicken’s wings doesn’t cause them any pain (as long as you do it right), some people still think chickens should have the opportunity to fly, however limited. This is as it gives them a possibility to escape potential danger.
Other chicken keepers argue that clipping the wings and stopping a particularly flighty hen from escaping the enclosure and running into the neighbours’ garden or out onto the road is actually the safer option.
Whether you want to clip your chickens’ wings is up to you, and depends a bit on your circumstances, but if you do decide to, you will need to make sure you do it right.
How do I clip my chickens’ wings?
All you need is a sharp pair of scissors, and ideally an extra set of hands to hold the chicken.
Extend the wing fully
Identify where the primary flight feathers meet the covert feathering. This should be a pretty obvious line.
Only cut the primary feathers, and be very careful you don’t cut the body of the wing itself. This is normally about 10 feathers.
Never cut growing feathers with a dark quill, these are growing feathers that will bleed if cut. You only need to clip one wing, as this will make the hen unbalanced, and unable to lift very high.
Watch this video to get a full understanding of how to properly clip your chickens’ wings!
Do the wings grow back?
Yes, when the hens moult they gradually lose their feathers, and grow new ones. These will grow to full length, even if you clipped the old feathers. Backyard hens (and roosters) moult once, or maybe twice, a year, so that is how often you will need to cut the feathers if you want to stop your birds from flapping over the fence.
What are wing claws?
Wing claws are small curved claws that stick out from the last joint of the wing. This is a trait left over from when the birds needed to climb up trees and then glide down the stems, and were possibly also used in fights.
As the birds have evolved to no longer need these claws, they have grown much smaller, and on many hens they are not visible.
Considering hatching chicken eggs? Well, you’re in for an exciting time! Hatching eggs is an unforgettable experience for any chicken keeper but before you begin, here is the hatching eggs 101 guide to ensure that you and your chicks get off to the best start!
Why Should I Hatch Eggs?
First and foremost, chickens make for fantastic pets. In fact, this month we’re telling you all about why chickens are so great! Have a read of our Chicken Keeping Mythsblog that will set straight facts from fiction when it comes to getting chickens.
As well as this, hatching eggs is an incredibly rewarding experience. From incubating eggs to seeing your chicks hatch, and then going on to flourish as adult chickens. You really do witness life from its very beginning!
Can I Hatch Supermarket Eggs?
Here we have a very common egg hatching myth… or, is it? We’ve all heard a story from a friend of a friend who has supposedly hatched a supermarket egg. And whilst the prospect of this seems rather exciting, the reality is that is a highly unlikely event.
For an egg to hatch it must be fertilised, and fertile eggs are hardly found in our supermarket aisles. For an egg to be fertilised, the hen must have had access to a male chicken. This does not occur for most chickens that produce eggs for our supermarkets. However, you may find that if you shop for eggs at a farm shop where hens have had interaction with a cockerel, the eggs you pick up could, in fact, be fertile. This still doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to hatch chicks, though, as the conditions in which the eggs are contained also plays a role in the development from egg to chick. For example, being refrigerated or the humidity levels being unsuitable, will stunt this development. So if you’re looking to hatch chicks, supermarket eggs is probably not the way to go.”
Where Do I Get the Eggs?
One good place to start on your egg hunt is by contacting a reliable chicken breeder. It’s important to note that whilst a chicken breeder can be confident that the eggs they’re selling are fertilised, this still doesn’t mean a 100% guarantee. Therefore choosing an experienced breeder will give you the best chance. The method most breeders will use to see if an egg is fertilised is called candling. This is whereby an egg is very literally held up to a warm candle. If the egg appears to be opaque when candled, then it is most likely fertilised.
Alternatively, you can also buy fertilised eggs online from websites such as eBay, Craigslist, or browse chicken keeping forums. Again, always buy from sellers with a good reputation. If you’re unsure of what chicken breed is right for you, have a read of ourChicken Breed Guide to find your perfect fit!
Regardless of whether you obtain your eggs from a breeder, farmer, or via an online community, if you can, opt for a local breeder or farmer over having your eggs shipped to you. This is because shipped eggs have reduced hatch rates. This is mainly due to conditions such as excessive shaking/poor handling or the temperature they have travelled at.
What Do I Need?
Hatching eggs doesn’t have to be complicated! If you’re new to the incubation process, it might initially seem a little daunting trying to work out how you can take your eggs to baby chicks! Fortunately, Omlet has everything you need to guide you on along the hatching process. Other than of course fertile eggs, you’ll only need an egg carton, water, and most importantly an egg incubator to begin.
Asmaller chicken egg incubator like the Brinsea Mini II Advance is ideal for beginners. It can hatch up to 7 chicken eggs and is fitted with a digital alarm and countdown to hatch day system.
If you’re looking to hatch more eggs, theBrinsea Ovation 28 EX incubator is great, with space for up to 28 chicken eggs, along with a range of advanced features like automatic egg turning and an incubator temperature alarm. The egg incubator also has an automatic humidity control feature, and with two of the leading causes of hatching failure being incorrect temperature and humidity levels, it’s helpful to be able to keep track of this. The optimal temperature for hatching chicks is 37.5 degrees Celsius, but for a more in-depth guide on what temperature and humidity levels should be throughout the process, take a look at ourStep by Step Guide to Hatching Chicks blog, which will take you through a daily routine towards hatching eggs.
How Long Will it Take?
The incubation period for chicken eggs is usually 21 days. This being said, some eggs may hatch slightly before or after this period. Approximately between 25-50% of eggs, however, might not make it to hatch day for various reasons. Some are due to the incubation process, whilst others are out of your control. For example, a genetic problem with the embryo.
Alternatively, you can let a hen do the work and put fertilised eggs under a broody hen. However, if that’s not possible for you, hatching artificially is a great option!
What Happens When the Eggs Are Hatched?
It’s day 21 and the big hatch day has arrived! The first sign of hatching you’ll notice is known as pipping. This is when your chick will break a small hole in its shell. The next stage is called zipping! During this stage, your chick will start turning inside its shell, before making a full breakthrough! At this time, keep a close eye on your eggs, as the zipping process can be as quick as 30 minutes!
As previously mentioned, however, some eggs take a bit longer to make an appearance than others. Therefore, you should avoid removing any chicks that have already hatched from their incubator too soon. This could hugely disturb the environment for any other remaining eggs that are left hatch. You should wait up to 12 hours before considering assisting with hatching as a last resort. Chicks can go 3 days without food or water, so do not be in a rush to help with hatching, therefore disturbing your chicks, if this is not completely necessary. Before you then go on to remove any remaining eggs inside the incubator that have not hatched, wait until day 25 just to be safe.
Before deciding on hatching eggs, it’s a good idea to know what your plan is should the result be a male chick/s. In the world of egg production, male baby chicks are considered a by-product of the industry. Therefore, in many circumstances and are, therefore, discarded at an early stage of their lives.
Ultimately, many chicken keepers decide on keeping only female chickens, or hens. This is because cockerels, which you might have heard being called roosters, can have their downsides. For one, they don’t produce eggs! However, this doesn’t mean a cockerel won’t slot into your life perfectly, depending on why you want to keep chickens. Have a read of our guideEverything You Need To Know About Keeping Roosters, which will help you to decide on whether one of these beautiful birds is right for you.
Something worth noting here is that it can be difficult to sex chicks until they are slightly older. It’s not usually until between weeks 5-9 when they’ll start showing these determining differences. For more information on this subject, read our blog How to Tell a Cockerel From a Hen.
If you decide that having male chickens is not for you, then you do have the option to sell them. Just because a male chicken might not be rightfor you, they might be for someone else. Asking around on websites such as Craigslist or Facebook is a good place to begin.
Now, we all know how cute baby chicks are! However, let’s not forget that after you hatch chicken eggs, these fluffy yellow birds will soon of course be fully grown chickens. Once your chicks are adults, Omlet has just what you need to provide your birds with the best life they can have! Keep them happy and healthy with a range ofOmlet chicken keeping products including theOmlet Eglu Chicken Coop which hens can move into from 12 weeks old!
What’s stopping people from getting chickens? Today we’re busting some chicken keeping myths to ensure no one is staying away from these wonderful pets for the wrong reasons. Perfect to read up on if you’re trying to persuade a hen-hesitant friend, partner or parent!
Chickens themselves are actually quite cleanly animals and will regularly carry out dust baths to get rid of any dirt in their plumage. Sure, they do get muddy feet sometimes, but it’s nothing that will smell.
What smells is droppings and dirt that gets stuck in the coop, so if you carry out regular coop cleans you will never have to worry about unpleasant odours. With an easy clean chicken coop like the Eglus, getting your chickens’ home sparkly clean and fresh smelling will take you minutes!
You need a rooster to get eggs
Nope, not at all. Chickens will lay the same number of eggs whether there’s a rooster in the flock or not. However, cockerels are of course necessary if you want fertilised eggs for chicks.
Chickens take a lot of time
Chickens, like all other animals, will take some time and commitment, but in comparison to most other pets they are incredibly self-sufficient. On a daily basis you will need to let them out of the coop, fill up their food and water and give them a quick health check. Other than that they will happily peck around in the garden by themselves.
You will of course also have to keep their home nice and clean, but that is made quick and simple with an easy clean chicken coop, like Omlet’s Eglus. If you want to optimise chicken keeping even more, you can invest in an Automatic Chicken Coop Door that will let your flock out in the morning and tuck them up at night when they’ve returned to the coop.
Chickens destroy your garden
This depends a bit on what chickens you have and how many, but yes, it’s true that a flock of hens cooped up on a small area might do some damage to your lawn. There are three ways to go about this.
Let your hens free range as much as possible – over a larger area their pecking will barely be noticeable.
Get a portable chicken coop which you can move around the garden as often as you like. If you move it a few times every week, your chickens won’t have time to ruin the grass.
Create a hen specific part of the garden, with a larger Walk in Chicken run or chicken fencing. That way, even if the hens do scratch up some of the grass, you can decide where they do it.
Chicken manure is too strong to use in the garden
Quite the opposite! Chicken manure is one of the best fertilisers there is, and having a steady stream of it coming from your coop will have a hugely positive impact on your garden. That being said, you should always compost chicken droppings before using it on your flowers or vegetables. Because it is so strong and powerful, fresh manure might actually burn your crop.
Chickens need a lot of space
Obviously the space you need depends on the size of flock you’re planning on, but in general most chickens will be happy in the average sized garden.
Ideally the space where you’re keeping your chickens should be fenced off, to prevent them wandering into the neighbour’s garden and laying any precious eggs there.
Grass isn’t essential either, if you haven’t got a big lawn. A layer of wood chippings to rummage about in will provide your hens with something to scratch on, and wood chippings have the right type of surface underfoot.
Chickens are noisy
You don’t need to worry about this one. Chickens make noises, some breeds more than others, but it’s a pleasant clucking and purring even the grumpiest of neighbours won’t object to. Cockerels are a different kettle of fish, they can be pretty loud, but as you’ve already found out, you’ll be fine having only hens.
Chickens will attract rats
Chickens themselves will not attract rodents to your garden, mice and rats are in fact often scared of chickens and their sharp beaks. The problem here is the food; chicken feed and corn left on the ground can be difficult for pests to resist. You can prevent them from getting interested in your chickens’ home by keeping feed in airtight containers and giving your flock snacks in treat holders and peck toys that are more difficult for other animals to get to. We’ve written a whole other blog about how to keep rats away from your chicken coop.
Omlet’s innovative chicken Autodoor is the must have accessory for any chicken keeper! The automatic chicken coop door has been designed to make letting chickens in and out of the coop safe and convenient for both pet and owner. Here’s 8 things chicken keepers love about the Autodoor!
1. Lets chickens out and closes to secure them in
The Autodoor is battery powered, using a light sensor or timer to give chicken keepers full control over when their chickens should be in and out of the coop or run. The door offers maximum security when chickens are being kept inside, and simply lets them out as you decide. This means that there is no need to rush out of bed on early summer mornings to let the chickens out. On dark winter evenings, chicken keepers can be sure their flock is safely tucked up in the coop if they have to stay late at work.
2. Choose from three settings
Chicken keepers can use the chicken Autodoor to fit around their lifestyle with three unique settings. By choosing the light setting, your Autodoor can be automated to close at dusk and open at dawn. The feature naturally follows the seasons, so that chicken keepers needn’t worry about adjusting this setting throughout the year. The time setting allows users to choose an exact time for the door to open and close, whilst the manual setting gives chicken keepers the option to control the door however they wish.
3. Easy to use!
Another thing that chicken keepers love about the Autodoor is how easy it is to use, regardless of how good (or bad!) your DIY skills are! The Autodoor comes with everything chicken keepers need in one place, making assembling your door as simple as can be. Who said chicken keeping had to be complicated?!
4. Built-in safety sensors
Because of the Autodoor’s built-in safety sensors, there’s no potential risk of the door accidentally shutting in on any chickens or obstructions. Should a chicken or any other obstruction be in the way of the door as it goes to shut, then the sensors will simply open the Autodoor again, allowing your chicken to move before it tries to close again.
5. Works in all weathers
Having been put through exhaustive testing, the Autodoor can withstand even the most extreme weather conditions from as low as -20°C! Furthermore, the Autodoor LCD control panel has been designed with triple weather-proof casing, making the Autodoor an incredibly durable product.
6. Improves insulation
Chicken keepers know the importance of insulation when it comes to their chickens’ coop. This is why the Autodoor has been engineered to improve this. Since the automatic door can be used to upgrade virtually any chicken coop, even wooden chicken coops that are traditionally more difficult to keep well insulated over Eglu Chicken Coops, can still benefit from having the Autodoor.
7. Closes horizontally
Traditional chicken coop door models often use a string or a pulley system that lifts vertically, giving cunning predators the opportunity to access your chickens’ coop or run using strength. Something that makes the Autodoor so different and a reason why chicken keepers love the product, is that it closes horizontally, meaning that you can be assured that your flock will remain safe and sound!
8. Battery powered or the option to be plugged in
Another one of the 8 things chicken keepers love about the Autodoor is that it can either be powered by battery or plugged into the mains using the 12V Power Adaptor for the Automatic Chicken Coop Door, giving chicken keepers flexibility to set up their Autodoor as they would like!
It’s that time of year again when we say goodbye to summer and welcome in the cooler, shorter days of autumn. For many pet owners, summer is a great opportunity to spend quality time with our animals, playing outdoors and enjoying the warmer weather. However, the change in season doesn’t have to mean that the fun has to stop!
It’s fundamental that you continue to keep your pets exercised throughout the year, and animal runs are great for this, giving your furry friends the freedom to roam within a safe and confined environment. Omlet supply a range ofchicken runs, rabbit runs and guinea pig runs, which are all predator resistant, so you needn’t have any concerns about safety in their run this autumn. Although runs are fantastic for providing your animals with more space, adding a few extras over the next coming months can help to keep both you and your pet/s entertained. Here are our top tips on what you can do to make your runs more fun this autumn.
For Guinea Pig and Rabbit Runs
Set Up a Vegetable Hunt
Cavies and rabbits love their fresh veg, so why not make a game out of it! You can try hiding their favourite pieces of veg around the run and have them go off to find it. This game will not only be an opportunity for you to spend some quality time outside with your pet, but they get to join in with the Halloween festivities of a scavenger hunt this autumn as well!
Get a Play Tunnel
Play tunnels for guinea pigs or rabbits can be attached run to give them a new way to exercise, designed with the natural behaviour of these two animals in mind. In the wild, both guinea pigs and rabbits would live in burrows, a hole which they dig to take temporary refuge underground. Watch as your piggy or rabbit has fun bouncing around, in and out of their tunnel.
Use a Shelter
Shelters can be a great addition to your run this season. The Omlet Zippi Shelters for rabbitsand guinea pigs are weatherproof, meaning that your pet will be protected from the elements of wind and rain. Both species have a natural desire to seek a hiding space in a hole, so you can be assured that they are having fun, whilst feeling safe. Furthermore, the Omlet play tunnels have connector rings, which mean these can easily be attached to the Zippi Shelters, creating a fun maze for your furry friends!
Guinea Pig and Rabbit Toys
Who said toys were just for cats and dogs? Try giving anew toy to your small animal, which will help to bust their boredom this season. Toys for guinea pigs and rabbits can simply be hung up in their run and will keep them active, engaged, and curious.
For Chicken Runs
Chickens can have toys too! A bored chicken can lead to flock bullying, so at this time of year it’s even more important to keep your chickens entertained. Naturally, as the weather drops, these animals get increasingly restless, with less grass and weeds for them to forage on, as they enjoyed over summer. A chicken peck toy is one option to keep your flock happy, also providing them with mental stimulation.
Make Use of Your Autumn Leaves
The fallen leaves of autumn in your garden may not mean anything to us but they can actually be a great source of entertainment for your chickens. Build up a pile of crisp autumnal leaves in your chickens’ run, and watch them have endless hours of fun pecking. You can even add some sunflower seeds to your pile to have your flock hunt for.
Get a Chicken Swing
A chicken swing is another way to make your chickens’ run more fun. The Omlet Chicken Swing will have your chicken in their element, as they get to grips with their new toy. Not only will this run accessory provide them with plenty of entertainment, you’ll have just as much fun watching them hop on and off and swing back and forth.
Hopefully after a bit of guidance, you’ll have a few new ideas on how you can make your pets’ run more enjoyable this season!
Giving your Eglu Coop a clean won’t take you long! It’s soon coming up to that time of year when your chicken coop is probably looking a bit worse for wear.
Don’t put it off any longer – time for the annual chicken coop clean! If you have a wooden chicken coop, you might think you have to block out the whole day for this task, but if you’re lucky enough to own an Eglu Chicken Coop, you’ll be done before the family notices you have gone outside.
Let us talk you through just how easy it is to clean an Eglu Chicken Coop!
1 – Empty the droppings tray
All Eglu Chicken Coops have a slide out dropping tray where all your chickens’ waste lands when they are roosting at night. Just take out the tray, empty it on your compost heap (it will make great fertiliser next year!) and hose or wipe down the tray to make it sparkling clean again!
2 – Take out and clean all removable parts
Once the tray is clean, leave it to one side and remove all other loose parts of your Eglu. The back panel, the roosting bars and nesting box can all be taken out for cleaning. If you have an Eglu Cube, you can also take out the partition between the egg box and the roosting space.
Feeders, drinkers, any chicken treat toys or other accessories should also be taken off for a refreshing wash and remove chicken perches from your run.
Give all of these a thorough clean. If you have a pressure washer you can just lay them out on the lawn or on your patio and spray them clean, but it’s just as easy with a garden hose or simply a bucket of water and a soft cloth.
3 – Hose and wipe smooth surfaces
While all loose parts are out, give the inside of the coop a wash as well. Because all the surfaces of the Eglu Plastic Chicken Coops are smooth, and there are no inconvenient nooks and crannies like you would find in a wooden coop, you will be able to easily find any dirt and quickly remove it.
Thanks to the hard wearing, durable materials of the coops, you are not weakening the coop by scrubbing and cleaning it, and as nothing is absorbed by the plastic, you don’t have to use any strong chemicals to get the coop clean. In most cases warm, soapy water will be enough, but if you’ve got some tough stains you can spray on a pet-safe disinfectant.
If you have wheels on your Eglu Coop, and it’s not attached to a larger structure, this is the perfect time to move it to a different place in the garden. Maybe you want to use another part of the garden to save the grass from getting too pecked?
The dropping tray and wipeable roosting bars keeps your Eglu looking fresh for longer.
5 – Leave to dry
You should always let the coop dry before you let your chickens back in again, damp environments are really bad for chickens’ respiratory systems. With wooden coops, you’re looking at at least a few hours before the coop is dry again, but with the Eglus, and maybe a bit of help from the sun, the hens can start using the coop in no time. If you want to speed up the process you can even dry all the components with a towel before you reassemble.
6 – Get everything ready
Last bit is to put some new, fresh bedding in the nest box, refill the feeder and drinker and put all accessories back. If you want to give your chickens a bit of extra protection, this is also a good time to sprinkle some mite powder around the roosting bars to prevent any pesky pests from attacking your hens at night.
Depending on how thorough you’ve been with your weekly cleans, to give your Eglu chicken coop a clean should not take you longer than half an hour. Your coop will look even better in the garden, and your flock will really appreciate all your hard work!
The Omlet Eglu Go UP Raised Chicken Coop will keep your hens safe all year round!
One of the main reasons why people get chickens is, of course, for the freshly laid eggs! Waking up to find eggs in the morning is one of the biggest joys of being a chicken keeper, and you’ll rarely ever be in short supply because of how frequently hens lay! Whilst factors such as age, the time of year, and illness can affect how often your chickens produce eggs, you can generally expect a happy and healthy hen to lay an egg for you every day. If you notice that your chicken is not laying at all however, you may in fact have a cockerel! Have a read of our previous blog How to Tell a Cockerel From a Hen to find out more on this topic. So, what exactly do you do after you find your hen has laid an egg, and how long can chicken eggs stay in the coop for?
So, How Long Can Chicken Eggs Stay in the Coop?
Ideally, a freshly laid egg should be collected from your chicken coop nesting box as soon as possible and you should not leave eggs in the coop overnight if you can help it. Whilst it’s true that eggs should not be left in the coop for a prolonged period because it makes them susceptible to becoming contaminated with salmonella bacteria, it’s not solely for this reason. In fact, eggs can actually be left in the coop for 4-5 weeks and still be fresh to eat. This is because unwashed eggs have a protective bloom, or cuticle, which naturally prevents bacteria from the outside of the egg from entering inside. When you wash eggs, this bloom is then also washed away. Therefore, you do not have to wash fresh eggs unless soiled.
Why Should Chicken Eggs Not Be Left in the Coop for Too Long?
One of the other main reasons why you should not leave eggs in the coop for too long is because of the risk of your chickens eating their own eggs. Although it might sound like peculiar behaviour, the longer you leave your chickens’ eggs in the coop, the more time they have to break them and begin feasting! You can read more about this topic in a previous blog where we spoke aboutwhy some chickens do this and what you can do to stop this behaviour. Furthermore, the smell of broken eggs attracts predators such as racoons and rats, who could also be stealing your hens’ eggs to eat.
Collecting eggs frequently will also help you to prevent your hens from going broody. A broody hen will sit on her egg all day, every day for up to 21 days, if not broken. This could prove an issue as you still need to ensure your hen is provided with adequate food and water, which of course will be difficult with a chicken that won’t move!
Fortunately, the Omlet Eglu Go UP Raised Chicken Coop has been designed to make it simple for chicken keepers to collect eggs. The easy to clean roosting bars and nesting box, along with a large and accessible back door, make for enjoyable and effortless egg collecting. All Omlet chicken coops are also predator resistant, so you can be assured that not only will your hens remain safe, but their eggs from being stolen too!
How To Tell if an Egg Has Gone Bad
It can be tricky to keep track of how fresh your eggs are if you’re unsure of how long they’ve been sitting in your hen’s nest box, or your egg basket if you have already collected them. Luckily, there are a few methods out there that can help you tell whether your eggs are still good to eat.
The Visual Test
First and foremost, you can carry out a visual inspection of your egg. Start by having a check of the shell, which should appear undamaged if your egg is still good to eat. Signs to look out for include any slime or cracks on the shell, as well as a powdery feel. Should you notice any of these, then your eggs could either be mouldy or contain bacteria and are therefore unsafe to eat. If the shell of your egg appears to be normal but you’re still dubious, crack the egg open. If any of the insides of your egg is unusually discoloured i.e. are pink or green, then your egg has gone bad and should not be consumed.
The Smell Test
Next, is the smell test. When you crack open a fresh egg, it should not smell. An egg that has gone off, however, will have a distinct, foul odour, similar to a “stink bomb”. In some circumstances where an egg has gone really bad, you may even be able to smell it before even cracking its shell open!
The Float Test
Another way you can tell how old your eggs are is by conducting the float test, which measures the air pocket of your egg. The amount of air inside an egg is an indication of its age, and the more air inside means the older it is. All you have to do for this one is to fill up a bowl or glass with water, which you should then place your suspected egg/s into. If your egg floats, then your egg has gone off, but if your egg sinks, then it’s still fresh!
To ensure optimum freshness and reduce waste, it’s a good idea to use an chicken egg marking date stamp after collecting your chickens’ eggs from their coop. Simply mark your eggs with food-grade ink with the date of lay as an easy way to keep a record of your hens’ eggs.
How Often Should You Collect Chicken Eggs?
Collecting fresh eggs from the coop should be done at least once a day, and if possible, twice. Egg-laying times can differ from hen to hen but generally speaking, most will lay by the late morning, so it’s best to do the first collection around this time. If you are doing a second collection of the day, check for any more fresh eggs later in the evening. However, there are specific circumstances that mean as a chicken keeper, you may have to occasionally collect eggs more often.
If you’re experiencing that your chickens are eating their own eggs, for example, you should check their nesting box four times a day and collect any new or previously missed eggs. If this helps to break the habit, you’ll be able to resume your usual collecting regime after a few days. As well as this, the time of year may also impact how often you should collect eggs, as we will discuss below.
How Long Can Eggs Stay in the Coop in Warmer Weather?
The answer to how long you can keep fresh eggs in the coop before storing them inside is dependent on the climate of where you keep your chickens. The outside climate, in turn, affects the temperature of your coop, especially those made of wood.The warmer the temperature, the easier your eggs can spoil. If you’re experiencing particularly hot weather, if left in the coop, your eggs will start going bad more so at 3 weeks as opposed to 4.
Can the Type of Chicken Coop Affect How Long Eggs Can Stay in the Coop?
When it comes to keeping chickens, deciding which coop to get is one of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make. Whilst your hens’ eggs hopefully won’t be in the nesting box for too long, it’s wise to consider how you can maximise keeping your eggs fresh for longer by choosing a suitable coop. Both wooden and plastic chicken coops have their advantages and disadvantages, however, in terms of practicality, plastic chicken coops definitely take the lead.
Plastic Chicken Coops
Plastic chicken coops such as the Omlet Eglu Cube Large Chicken Coop and Run, Eglu Go Chicken Coop, and Eglu Go UP Raised Chicken Coop have excellent ventilation systems, which mean your chickens (and their eggs) will remain cool in warm weather, and not freeze in cold weather. Another overarching advantage of plastic chicken coops is the potential issue with red mite, a parasitic mite that can infest your chickens’ coop and suck their blood! Whilst red mite can be treated, prevention is always better than the cure. Plastic chicken coops make it very difficult for red mites to live in, as opposed to wooden coops where mites love to get stuck in.
Concerning how this will affect your eggs, is that a red mite infestation could mean your hens will completely stop laying altogether, and if they are still producing eggs, you may notice red spots on the shell. These are squashed red mites, which now mean your eggs are inedible.
Wooden Chicken Coops
The main advantage of wooden chicken coops is their traditional appearance. An issue with wooden chicken coops is that wood is not a very good thermal insulator. What this means is that when the weather warms up outside, the temperature inside of your coop will quickly increase too.
What Can You do to Make your Chickens’ Eggs Better
Your chickens’ general health goes hand in hand with the quality and quantity of eggs they produce. Therefore, as a chicken keeper, it’s fundamental to remain responsible for their wellbeing to not only prevent illness but to also ensure they continue to lay tasty eggs! If you’re struggling to tell which of your chickens are laying, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to find out.
In our previous blog8 Ways To Make Your Chickens Lay More Eggs, we discussed the importance of feeding your hens a good quality feed. If you’re unsure of what to look out for, a good feed should be made up of between 16-20% protein, depending on the age of your chickens. Additionally, chickens should regularly be fed plenty of calcium, often in the form of oyster shells. You can also use a natural supplement chicken eggshell improver if your hen’s eggshells feel particularly soft or weak.
Putting Eggs in the Fridge to Last Longer, Does it Work?
When we think about keeping food, particularly animal products, fresh, we all acknowledge the importance of storing these products in a fridge (or freezer). When it comes to supermarket eggs, in the UK and the rest of Europe, eggs are typically not refrigerated, whereas, in the US, they are! So what about the freshly laid eggs from our backyard hens? Well, the answer to this question still remains largely unanswered by the chicken keeping community, with are arguments on both sides as to which way will make your eggs last the longest. You can read more about this on a previous blog we wrote on storing chicken eggs.However, the rule of thumb is that you should store eggs below 20°C (room temperature) once they have been collected. So whether this is in or out of the fridge in a basket, box, or chicken egg skelter, is your choice!
Although it might seem like a simple question, there’s really no simple, “one size fits all” answer to how long you can keep your hens’ eggs in the coop! In summary, you should collect eggs at least once a day, regardless of the time of year. Just be mindful of factors such as the weather that could make your eggs spoil sooner, and act accordingly by collecting more frequently. And if in doubt, go ahead and test the various methods to help you determine if your egg is good to eat!
Are you considering incubating some of your chicken’s eggs? Or maybe you’ve even already welcomed in some newly-hatched chicks and have been left wondering how exactly you can tell which sex they are?!
Whilst both are chickens, a cockerel, also known as a rooster depending on where you’re from, is a male, and a hen is a female. When it comes to chicks, you may be familiar with the term ‘pullet’, which is the name given to a hen who is from the current year’s breeding. You may find it useful to take a look at theOmlet Chicken Glossary and ourblog on how to tell the age of your chickens to find out some further information on this subject.
So, now we have established what both are, we can look into what the physical and behavioural differences are between them. It’s worth noting that most of these differences won’t be immediately identifiable upon hatching, and may slightly vary from breed to breed. However, later in this blog we’ll look more at the weekly development of chicks, and at which stage you will be able to tell a cockerel from a hen.
5 Easy Ways to Tell Physical Difference Between a Cockerel and a Hen
When we look at determining the sex of a chicken, this is called sexing. One way to do this is by looking at their feathers, their hackle feathers in particular. Hackle feathers are the type of feathers that you’ll find around a chicken’s neck, with the appearance differing between males and females. Something you’ll notice is that male chickens have long, pointy, and thin hackles, which stand up. This is so that they can make themselves appear bigger when they are facing an opponent. Female hackles, on the other hand, are smaller, rounder, and softer.
Do They Have a Cockerel Tail?
Looking at the tail feathers of your birds is another way to distinguish between a male and female chicken.
Saddle feathers are a type of tail feather, which extend on from a chicken’s back and actually sit in front of the tail. Whilst both hens and cockerels have saddle feathers, with female chickens, these are rounder than the saddle feathers of male chickens, which are not only longer, but also more pointed.
Next we have sickle feathers, which hens do not have. These are the long, arched feathers which you find sticking out from a rooster’s tail.
Feet and Legs
Roosters tend to have sturdier, thicker legs, which are actually to serve the purpose of fighting when they need to defend their flock. We’ll look at behavioural differences more later on in the blog.
Spur growth, a part of the leg bone which resembles a horn, could also be another indication of whether you have a rooster or a hen. These are found on the back of chickens’ feet, and whilst not exclusively being a physical attribute of male chickens, these are a lot more common to find on roosters as opposed to hens. The spurs on a male chicken can be inches long and are sharper than those you’d see on a female, should she have any growth at all.
Combs and Wattles
Hens and roosters both have combs and wattles, with the comb being located at the top of a chicken’s head, and the wattles hanging below their chin. The appearance of a chicken’s comb and wattle will differ between breeds, however generally speaking, you can sex a chick by looking at their comb. This is because whilst hens and roosters have red combs, a hen’s comb is not as bright or large as a rooster’s, which is vibrant and will feel waxy to touch.
When it comes to wattles, hens’ are smaller in size than the wattle you’ll see on a rooster. Just as the comb, a rooster’s wattle will also be brighter in colour than a hen’s.
Are They Laying Eggs?
Egg laying is one sure way to know whether you have a male or female chicken! If you notice that your chicken is laying eggs, regardless of whether their other physical or behavioural traits have said otherwise, then your chicken is most definitely a hen!
What are the Behavioural Differences Between a Hen and a Cockerel?
Cockerel vs. Hen Behaviour
We’ve looked at the physical difference between hens and cockerels, but what are the different behavioural traits that will help you to sex your chickens?
One big difference is vocalisations, or how your chickens communicate via the sounds they make. Cockerels are notorious for their usually very noisy cock-a-doodle-doo crow! They begin to crow at around five months old, or when they have matured, and do so for a number of reasons. This can be to announce their dominant presence, to mark their territory, or even as a mating ritual.
Whilst it’s definitely not impossible for a hen to crow, it’s a lot less common, and should they do so, it’s often a lot quieter as well. If a female chicken does begin to crow, this is usually because they are at top of the pecking order or will occur in the absence of a rooster in the flock when you previously had one.
You may also notice differences in the levels of aggression between cockerels and hens. Unfortunately, bullying amongst chickens is not that uncommon and can happen for a multitude of reasons. Whilst this behaviour is not exclusive to male chickens, roosters are said to always have an eye out for danger, ready to fight to protect their flock. Usually being top of the pecking order, roosters like to assert their dominance by fighting with other roosters to try and show who’s boss! You canread more about aggressive behaviour with cockerels in our previous post. As with the other physical differences pointed out, how aggressive your chickens are can also depend on their breed. Certain breeds such as the Asil, Modern Game, and Old English Game for example, all rank top of the list of some of the least friendly chicken breeds!
From What Age Can You Tell The Difference Between a Hen and a Cockerel?
We have now established what the main physical and behavioural differences are between the two, but at which age can we start to tell a cockerel from a hen?
For the vast majority of chicken breeds, you will not able to tell their sex from when they have been hatched or even during the first week. The exception to this rule is with auto-sex breeds, who can be sexed just by looking at their colouring within their very first few days. An example of this is the Purebred Cuckoo Maran breed, whereby male chicks usually are an overall lighter colour than females and have a larger and paler spot on their heads than females do.
Similarly, sex links are also an exception. Sex links however, are crossbred chickens as opposed to pure bred auto-sex breeds. In this circumstance, a breeder will mix one specific chicken breed with another to create chicks that will hatch as different colours, based on their sex. This again, will mean that it is possible to be able to tell a rooster from a hen at a very early point i.e. from when they hatch. An example of this is the Red Sex Link, a cross between the Rhode Island Red male with either a White Plymouth Rock, Delaware, Rhode Island White, or Silver Laced Wyandotte female, which produce red hens and white roosters.
Between weeks 5 and 8 in particular, is when chicks start to develop features that will make it easier for you to determine their sex. At this point you’ll notice changes in their physical appearance, such as with their combs. As we mentioned, male chickens generally have a redder comb, and it is at this stage between weeks 5 and 8 where this will begin to show. This being said, at this stage this is not always an entirely accurate method of sexing.
Another physical difference between these weeks is the legs of male chicks will likely start looking chunkier than females’.
When looking at rooster vs hen behaviour between these weeks, you may also notice that male chicks will begin ‘strutting’ i.e. standing up straight, walking in an exaggerated manner, and sticking their chest out.
In regard to the differences between male and female chicks during these pivotal weeks, it is around week 12 when the pointy hackle feathers (adult neck feathers) will really begin to stand out on roosters. The same goes for the growth of sickle feathers for male chicks, which even at full maturity, hens do not have.
Whilst crowing can begin at a slightly earlier stage, it is usually around the 12 week mark as well when a chicken first does so. Crowing is a behaviour that is generally more associated with male chickens, however as pointed out, this can occasionally happen for hens too.
Additionally, you may notice your female chick beginning to squat. Although most hens will not begin laying until the next coming weeks, this behaviour indicates that she could be getting ready to lay soon, but not just yet!
Now that we’re at weeks 16 to 20 your chickens will be maturing into adulthood! If you have struggled to establish the sex of your chicken by this point, you’ll definitely know, should your chicken start laying eggs between these weeks. This is the most failproof way of determining the sex of your chicken!
Can Hens Turn Into Cockerels?
As bizarre as this question may sound, there have been a number of documented cases of chicken keepers claiming that their chickens have changed sex! From the offset, the answer to this question is no – hens most definitely cannot genetically turn into cockerels, nor can cockerels turn into hens.
However, what can occur in very rare circumstances, is when a hen takes on the characteristics of a cockerel as a result of complications with her ovaries. Hens are born with two ovaries – the left organ is responsible for producing eggs and estrogen, whilst the right, on the other hand, becomes dormant when a chick is hatched. Should the female chicken encounter a medical issue such as an ovarian cyst, testosterone levels will begin to rise, and the left ovary can shrink, which causes the development of an avo-testis. At this point, your hen will stop laying eggs and can even take on the appearance of a male chicken such as a more established comb and wattle!
So, now you know all about the differences between a cockerel and a hen! If you’re new to chicken keeping altogether, or you’re considering incubating some of your chicken’s eggs take a look at theIncubation and rearing equipment.
You’ve come to the right place if you’re getting a gift for the chicken keeper in your life! The Omlet shop is, as always, packed with practical and fun things for all hens and their owners.
One of the greatest gifts you can give your chickens this winter is some proper fun! We have got plenty of engaging hentertainment that will have your hens clucking with excitement.
The Poppy and Pendant Peck Toys release feed, treats or grit as your chickens go in for a peck, so will add both stimulation and snacks in times when there are not as many bugs to dig out of the flower beds.
Or why not make your chicken run more of a play park with the amazing Chicken Swing? Perching comes natural to hens, and adding an element of movement will add some extra excitement to their day.
Omlet’s Automatic Chicken Coop Door makes life for chicken keepers just that little bit easier, and will go down a treat with tech lovers! The door can be programmed to open and close automatically at certain times of day, or chosen levels of daylight, so that the chickens will be safely tucked in as soon as the sun goes down, even if their owners are still at work. The Autodoor can also be fitted to any wooden coop or run, so makes a great gift for all proud (but busy) chicken owners.
Whether you want to stop your chickens from wandering out on the road or keep them out of your vegetable patch, the Omlet Chicken Fencing is a great addition to any backyard chicken keeper’s setup. The high fencing come with poles that you just push into the lawn, so you can move or adjust the flock’s roaming space at any time.
The fencing has reflective guy ropes to make them easier to spot when you go to put your hens to bed after work, and the gate is super quick to maneuver for easy access.
Lucky chicken keepers will have more eggs than they can eat in a day, so will need a way of storing them. Egg skelters allow you to keep your hens’ beautiful eggs on display in the kitchen, and will make it easy to know in which order to crack them open, as new eggs can simply be added at the top as they come in fresh from the coop.
Terms and conditions 20% off is valid from 28/10/21 until midnight on 31/10/21. 20% off applies to The Chicken Swing, Omlet Chicken Perches 1m and 2m, Pendant and Poppy Peck Toys, and Caddi Treat Holders only. Excludes twin packs, and all other chicken accessories. Offer is limited to 2 of each product 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.
Hattie Garlick is a writer and first-time chicken keeper who welcomed two Pekin Bantams into her Norfolk home during the third lockdown. How would they fit into a family life that already included two children, one cat, a goldfish, and a dog of very little brain? Read on to find out…
It’s quite likely that, over the past twelve months, you discovered the stress-relieving properties of baking. Across the developed world, Google searches for bread recipes hit an all-time high. While everyone else was finding solace in sourdough, though, my sanity was being saved by soufflé.
Soufflé is a chicken. She and her sister, Einstein, arrived in our garden in the middle of the third lockdown. The children fancied more pets, I drew the line at parrots, and my husband and I thought that hens might at least earn their keep in fresh eggs. That, really, was the extent of their appeal on the day we collected them from a local smallholding. I did not envision then saving me a fortune in therapy bills too.
Yet as the days stretched on, I found myself drawn out of the house, into the garden and standing beside their run. There was, I realised, something gently mesmeric about their movements.
Carri Westgarth, senior lecturer in human-animal interaction at the University of Liverpool, has conducted research to show that watching a dog run is a significant stress reliever. Their unbridled joy rubs off. Watching a chicken potter and peck about is a lot less dramatic. It seems to soften, not sharpen, my emotional state. And during the pandemic, as my nerves frayed and worries jangled, that soft-focus was exactly what I needed.
Maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised at the girls’ therapeutic influence. Chickens are now widely used as therapy animals in the US and Canada. Here in the UK, a charity called Henpower has introduced hen keeping into more than 40 care homes. A year-long study by Northumbria University found it measurably improved the health and wellbeing of residents while reducing depression and loneliness.
A couple of months after Soufflé and Einstein moved in, I can absolutely understand why. While my daughter thinks they are unimaginably cute, it is harder to anthropomorphize a chicken than a dog or cat. They belong to a whole different animal group to us, after all. They are like the ultimate no-strings relationship: providing the comfort of company without any emotional baggage. Soufflé and Einstein are totally oblivious to my worries about Brexit and R-rates, which are after all totally irrelevant to them. They couldn’t give a cluck.
They need me just enough to propel me into putting my boots on and stomping into the fresh air, first thing in the morning, to open the door of their Eglu Cube. This, I’ve discovered gives me a far more positive perspective on the day than my old lockdown routine – slumping in front of the laptop, in pajamas, till lunch. Beyond that, they really couldn’t care much whether they see me or not. And after months spent listening to the word “muuuuuuuuuuum” bouncing off the walls around the clock, I could not be more thankful to them for this.
We were however, right about one thing when we first decided to bring hens into our home. Fresh eggs in the morning are a real boon at breakfast time. They’re also, however, a great mood-booster in febrile times. It just feels good to reach into the hay and pull out a tiny, tangible, warm-to-the-touch miracle.
Elise Pulbrook is an Australian chef, baker, Australian Masterchef 2021 semi finalist and, as of recently, – chicken keeper! She’s sharing one of her favourite ways of using those lovely fresh eggs on the Omlet blog, a scrumptious asparagus, leek and pea frittata!
My favourite egg recipe of all time is my Zia Maria’s asparagus frittata. I’ve changed her recipe slightly, adding leek and peas. Sometimes Zia Maria adds chopped boiled potato. At the start of Spring, there has never been a shortage of asparagus in my family. Koo Wee Rup is Victoria’s asparagus country and my large Italian family has roots there. Zio Frank would bring at least one large polystyrene box of asparagus down to Melbourne every year for his sisters to divide amongst themselves.
This is a recipe I make as soon as sweet stems of asparagus come into season. To make this with my own chicken’s eggs is deeply satisfying! This is a thin frittata that is flourless and it is often referred to as an omelet within my family.
200g chopped leek
200g chopped asparagus, woody ends removed
200g baby peas
10g chopped garlic, approximately 2 cloves
230g whisked egg, approximately 4 large eggs
30g fresh chopped parsley
2 -3 pinches of salt, or to taste (every salt is slightly different in its saltiness, know your salt!)
1 tsp chilli flakes, or to taste (some chilli flakes are hotter than others!)
1-2 pinches dried oregano or zaatar
40g grated pecorino cheese, or enough to cover the surface of your omelet
Light olive oil for frying (at least 100ml, remember to be generous with your olive oil and cook like an Italian!)
1 – Heat a large well-seasoned cast iron pan or non stick fry pan. If using a 30cm fry pan, the quantities in the ingredient list will allow you to make two omelets. I have used a 35cm cast iron skillet for the frittata pictured. A rule of thumb for the success of many recipes is to choose the appropriate pan for the task at hand.
2 – Add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil to your pan and begin to sweat your leek over a medium heat. Add two pinches of salt to help extract moisture from your leek and accelerate its cooking time. When your leek has softened and tastes sweet, add your garlic. Allow the garlic to soften and perfume the oil. Next, add your asparagus. Allow the asparagus to fry by slightly increasing the heat of your pan and allowing it to sizzle. Stir occasionally, avoiding any browning. We are aiming for a tender ‘just cooked’ asparagus with a slight crunch and bright sweetness. Add the peas and allow them to blister into radiant green jewels. The peas will only need a moment or two. If using frozen peas, you’re essentially just defrosting them in the pan. Taste the vegetables and, if they are all beautifully tender, remove them from the heat and into a large bowl.
3 – Mix the vegetables with the whisked egg, parsley, chilli flakes, a pinch of oregano and a pinch of salt.
4 – Wipe out your pan, bring to a medium-high heat and then add a generous 5mm layer of olive oil. Don’t allow your oil to smoke but do allow it to be hot enough for your frittata to sizzle once poured into the pan. Once you do pour your frittata mixture into the pan, flatten it out quickly using a spatula, pushing the mixture completely and evenly cover the surface area of your pan. Sprinkle over the grated cheese and the remainder of your oregano.
5 – Turn on the grill function of your oven to preheat while you are waiting for the edges of your frittata to start to brown. Check the bottom of your frittata by using a spatula to peek underneath. Once it has begun to brown, transfer the pan to the oven and leave to grill until the cheese on top has melted and begun to brown. Remove from the grill.
6 – Serve cut into squares as part of an antipasti selection or wedged between buttered sliced bread for lunch. Enjoy!
Established in 1996, World Egg Day falls on the second Friday in October, meaning that this year we get to celebrate on the 8th of the month. If it’s your first time celebrating, take a look atthese recipes for some inspiration on how you can make some protein-packed meals with your eggs, or how about partaking in local events or competitions like an egg and spoon race.
So, with World Egg Day just round the corner, it wouldn’t be right for us at Omlet to miss out on the opportunity to share some fascinating facts!
You Can Predict a Hen’s Egg Colour by Looking in Their Earlobes
You can usually tell if a chicken will lay brown eggs if they have red earlobes. Hens who will lay white eggs will probably have white earlobes. There are, of course, some exceptions to this but test it for yourself by taking a look at your chickens!
Hens Turn Their Eggs Nearly 50 Times a Day
A hen will turn their eggs nearly 50 times in one day when waiting for them to hatch. This is so that they can keep the embryo positioned properly, preventing the yolk from sticking to the side.
You Can Find Out Whether an Egg is Raw or Hard-Boiled by Spinning it
You can try this out as a fun activity by boiling some eggs and leaving others raw to test your friends and family. If your egg spins easily, this means that it has been hard-boiled. However, if it wobbles, it is raw. The science behind this is that a hard-boiled egg will spin easily because its centre of gravity is fixed, whereas with a raw egg the centre of gravity changes, as the liquid inside the egg moves about.
Some Chickens Produce Blue and Pink Eggs!
If you thought chickens only laid brown and white eggs, you were wrong! Who said that Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham was just a fictional story?! Several chicken breeds such as the Araucanian are known to naturally lay blue, green, and pink eggs!
The Furthest Distance That an Egg Has Been Thrown and Caught is 98.51m
There are a number of world records when it comes to eggs. In 1978 Johnny Dell Foley threw a hen’s egg a very impressive 98.51m to Keith Thomas in Texas, USA, without breaking it. That’s nearly the distance of a 100m sprint!
The Most Omelettes Made in 30 Minutes is 427!
Here’s another egg related world record for you. In 1990, Howard Helmer made a whopping 427 two-egg omelettes in the short space of 30 minutes! The record still hasn’t been beaten to this day.
Eggs Are One Food That Naturally Contain Vitamin D
Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin” is key to the functionality of our bodies, playing a key role in supporting our immune systems. Very few foods naturally contain vitamin d, however egg yolks are an exception here, being a great source of it.
The Average Person Consumes 173 Eggs a Year
This means that around the world, approximately 1.2 trillion eggs are produced for eating every year. A bonus fact: in Chinese households, the average person eats roughly 300 eggs per year. That’s a whole lot of eggs!
It Takes a Hen Between 24 and 26 Hours to Produce One Egg
Hens tend to take between 24 and 26 hours to produce and lay one egg, around 20 of these being just to form the shell. Following this, it takes a further 15 to 30 minutes for the process to start all over again.
With 2021 being the 25th anniversary of the event, you can really go all out this year, with celebrations happening around the world. Hopefully these fun facts will have given you some inspiration to maybe take on a world record yourself!
Ever cleaned your pets’ run and found old bits of moldy cabbage or soggy feed that is nearly impossible to pick out of the grass? There is an easy way of keeping your pets’ treats fresh for longer, while also improving run cleanliness AND keeping your animals entertained!
The Caddi can be hung at any height from all pet runs, trees or other structures in your backyard or garden. It’s super easy to fill with whatever you want to give your pets, be it bits of fruit, or fresh hay.
At the moment you will get 50% off Caddi Treat Holdersfor chickens, rabbits and guinea pigs when you sign up to the Omlet newsletter. Take this opportunity to make your pets’ run funner and more hygienic than ever before!
4 reasons Caddi will improve your pets’ run:
Improves run cleanliness
All pets will be happier if their living quarters are tidy and clean, but it’s also important for their health that both their coop or hutch and run are kept hygienic. Moldy food left on the damp ground can make a chicken, rabbit or guinea pig very ill, so having a Caddi to keep it in will make it much easier for you to spot anything that’s gone off, and to remove it in a second.
Reduces food waste
Food, treats or hay that is left on the ground on the run will go off very quickly, especially at this time of year when temperatures can vary dramatically between day and night and there is likely to be more rainy days. With the Caddi, the treats you leave your pets will keep fresher for longer as they won’t come into contact with the wet ground. They will also be kept dryer thanks to the waterproof top.
Keeps pests away
Sometimes with the change of the season, there will be less food available for wild animals like rodents and small birds, and they are likely to approach your garden and your pets’ home in search for tasty morsels. By putting feed, hay or vegetables in the Caddi rather than scattering on the ground, you are making things more difficult for uninvited visitors!
Yummier tasting treats
As the treats, veg or hay you are giving your pets are kept contained in one place and won’t get stepped on by muddy feet, they will be crunchier, cleaner and better tasting. As the swinging motion of the Caddi offers stimulation and entertainment, your pets will truly enjoy snack-time!
Buy now and get 50% off when you sign up for the Omlet newsletter!
Terms and conditions: This promotion is only valid from 28/09/21 – midnight on 03/10/21. 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 Caddi Treat Holders only. The offer does not apply to Twin Packs, Twin Pack with Peck Toys or packs with Feldy Chicken Pecker Balls. Excludes all other chicken accessories. Offer is limited to 2 Caddis 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.
It’s often hard to tell if a hen is laying. Hens do not produce the same number of eggs each week throughout the year, and there may be health- and environment-related changes to egg production, too.
It’s useful to know when a hen stops laying, as you can then give her a quick health check to identify the cause of the interruption. But how do you tell which chicken is not laying eggs? In a coup of six hens, in which the daily average number of eggs is five, it’s not immediately obvious which hens are laying.
Seven signs that a hen has stopped laying
1. Age. This is the most obvious cause of a drop in egg production. Over her egg-laying years, a hen’s production will tail off. This is natural, and it does not mean the chicken has reached the end of its usefulness. All hens play a part in the social order of a coup, and a bird reaching the end of its egg-laying life will still be as feisty, active and lovable as the younger birds – and she’ll still lay the occasional egg.
2. Moulting. This occurs every year once a hen is 18 months old (although younger birds may shed feathers, too). The signs are very clear – lots of feathers lying in the coop, and bare patches appearing on the hen. During this time, chickens need to produce lots of new feathers, which is a physically demanding process. Consequently, egg-laying is reduced, and sometimes there will be several days without an egg. The moult tends to occur in the autumn, but it depends on when the hen first started laying. Moulting takes 8 to 12 weeks, occasionally longer.
3. Vent. A dry vent – the hole through which the hen lays her eggs – is a sign of no production. In a hen that is still laying, the vent will be moist.
4. Abdomen. If the area below the breast bone is hard, it means the hen is not laying eggs.
5. Comb and wattles. A healthy laying hen tends to have bright red comb and wattles. These become duller when she is about to lay, but turn bright red again once she has laid the egg. If the comb and wattles are pale or dull looking all the time, it could be a sign of illness.
6. The food dye test. If you put a small dab of food colouring on a hen’s vent, the colour will be transferred to the egg. The colour that fails to appear tells you who the non-layer is. This is only practical in smaller flocks, though, given the limited palette of food colourings…
7. No eggs. This isn’t as silly as it sounds! If you only have a few hens, and they are different breeds, you will often come to recognise which eggs are produced by which hen. In this case, the sudden disappearance of one particular egg-type will tell you who’s not laying.
Five reasons why hens stop laying eggs
1. Temperature and sunlight. Seasonal factors play a part in egg production. As the daylight hours lessen in autumn and winter, hens tend to lay fewer eggs. In the depths of winter, the low temperature becomes the cause, as a hen needs all her energy to produce body heat. With her resources diverted to this essential function, egg-laying is put on hold.
2. Stress. Any form of stress will tend to interrupt or stop egg production. Stress can be brought on by several things, including parasites, bullying, injuries and fear (of noisy dogs, for example).
3. Diet. Poor diet can impact egg production, too. If a hen is laying, she needs all the essential nutrients – not just calcium – to produce eggs. Top-quality layer’s pellets will contain everything the hen needs. A hen that fills up on treats before filling up on pellets may become malnourished and stop laying. It’s a good idea to let the chickens feed on their pellets first thing in the morning and last thing at night, and only offer corn and treats in the middle of the day.
4. Broodiness. A broody hen – that is, a hen who has decided to sit on her eggs in an attempt to hatch them – will stop laying. There are several ways of discouraging broodiness, but some hen breeds are more prone to it than others. If all attempts to dissuade her from leaving the nesting box, you have the consolation that after 21 days – the time it would take for a fertilised chicken egg to hatch – the hen’s self-inflicted ordeal will be over and she will resume normal life – including egg-laying.
5. Change of routine. If you move the hen house or introduce new birds to the flock, or if one of the hens dies, the birds’ routine and pecking order will be interrupted. This often causes them to stop laying for a short time, until their social lives settle down again.
Four ways to encouraging laying
1. Comfy coop. The first thing to do is to make sure the hens’ environment is adequately equipped and comfortable. Check for red mites, as an infestation of these nocturnal parasites can stop egg production. Reduce drafts and make sure there is no bullying going on – often a sign of an overcrowded hen house.
2. Light. Some chicken keepers install lights in the coop to encourage laying in the colder months of the year. However, bear in mind that a chicken can only lay a finite number of eggs in its lifetime. If she’s naturally programmed to lay 1,000 eggs, encouraging her to lay regularly throughout the winter will simply reduce her laying life.
3. Eggs. If an apparently healthy hen isn’t laying, she can be encouraged by leaving eggs in the nesting box, or placing rubber ones, or even golf balls, in the spot where she is supposed to lay. The sight and feel of these will encourage her laying instincts.
4. Reduce stress. Discourage dogs from disturbing the hens, and make your run and coop are as predator-proof as possible. Equally important, make sure the run isn’t overcrowded, and provide enough roosting space in the coop for all the hens to rest comfortably.
If your hens are free-ranging, they will sometimes lay an egg in a quiet corner of the backyard. This can become habit-forming, and if she’s doing it in secret, you may reach the incorrect conclusion that the hen isn’t laying.
A healthy hen who does not appear to be laying may be the victim of egg sabotage. A predator, a human thief or an egg-eating chicken might be removing the evidence of her labors. The best way of preventing this is to encourage your hen back to the nest box for laying. In crowded coops, a hen will sometimes seek an alternative laying place if the boxes are all full when she feels the urge to lay.
As a hen ages, she will produce fewer eggs. If you are uncertain of the age of your chickens, there is a simple test you can conduct that might sometimes give you a clue. Place your hand gently on a hen’s back. If she immediately squats down, it means she is still fertile and therefore producing eggs. Hens squat when they are mating, and it is an automatic response.
Although egg production drops as a hen ages, it will often continue throughout her life. The occasional egg from an old hen always reminds you what a wonderful friend she’s been throughout your long time together!
Your chickens’ coop should be a space for your flock to eat, drink, lay eggs, and sleep. It should also be a place for your chickens to feel safe and be protected from the outside elements or any danger. However, sometimes chickens may suddenly decide that they do not want to go into their coop at night, which can be for a number of reasons. Here are some explanations as to why this could be happening.
A Broody Hen
Hens can get broody, regardless of if you have a rooster. Although many hens will decide to stay in the nest of their coop so that they can sit on their eggs, others like to search for a quiet space away from the coop, which can mean remaining outside the coop all night.
Moving a broody hen can be highly stressful for them, so should you decide that it’s best to move your hen inside the coop, due to safety concerns, you need to take great care when doing so. One way to start is by collecting your hen’s eggs regularly (twice a day). Be sure to wear leather gloves when doing so, as a broody hen is likely to be aggressive around you as they are very protective of their eggs. You’ll also want to reduce the light supply when you move her, as the moving process situation will be less traumatic in the dark.
Predators such as foxes, cats, rats, and badgers could be one reason as to why your chickens have stopped going inside the coop at night. These animals will spook your flock, with smaller predators such as badgers having the potential to gain access inside the coop by climbing over the fencing, or squeezing through small openings in the coop’s wiring.
Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to deter these animals and have your chickens back in their coop every night. One option is to get a motion sensitive light installed, which will scare off any unwanted guests. Alternatively, take a look at the Omlet chicken coop range. All of the Omlet coops are predator resistant, which will reassure you that your chickens will be safe from any night time visitors. With anti-tunnel skirts that lie flat on the ground, and heavy duty steel weld mesh, these features will help to prevent animals from digging in. You can also purchase the Omlet automatic coop door which shuts your chickens away in their coop at night to keep your flock secure, enclosing them until the time you set for the door to open in the morning.
An Overcrowded Coop
Chickens need their own personal space, hence why many chickens are also kept free range. Not only is overcrowding an unpleasant experience for chickens, causing them to avoid the coop at night, it can also lead to further complications such as the build up of ammonia and an increase in disease. The solution? The more space the better! For size reference, the Omlet Large Eglu Cube chicken coop can comfortably accommodate six large hens or up to ten bantams.
Tensions Amongst Your Chickens
Unfortunately, bullying amongst chickens happens, and isn’t actually too uncommon of a problem. Chickens naturally create a pecking order, whereby the flock will establish themselves in a social hierarchy of strongest to weakest chicken. However, if aggressive behaviour continues after the head rooster, or the dominant hen in their absence, has found their way to the top of the ladder, you may be dealing with a bully. Common signs are missing feathers from a chicken’s back, unusual weight loss, reduced egg production, or blood from where the victim has been pecked, all of which could lead to a chicken/s refusing to go into their coop at night.
To stop the bullying, and therefore get your chickens back in their coop at night, first try to establish the cause. Common reasons for bullying can be an injured or ill bird, having a large flock, or your chickens being bored. However, should the bullying continue after attempting to resolve what you believe to be the cause of conflict, you can purchase anti-pecking spray, which will discourage feather pecking. Alternatively, separate the bully from the flock. Isolating the bully for a week may mean that they lose their dominant position in the hierarchy once they are reintroduced.
Mites and Parasites in the Coop
Pests are a very common cause for chickens to have stopped going to their coop at night. Red mite in particular is a likely culprit, a parasitic mite that lives inside chicken housing and lays eggs in cracks near nests. They can make your chickens restless at night, as they live inside chicken coops and crawl onto the chickens to feed on their blood as they sleep. Only active during warmer weather, red mites are also more likely to strike wooden coops.
Red mites are not the easiest thing to get rid of, however, one solution is to purchase red mite treatment, which works by immobilising pests with its sticky consistency. Rest assured, it’s also completely safe to use in the chicken feeding area, so you do not have to have any concerns about your flock digesting the product.
Luckily, chickens are creatures of habit, so once you’ve identified the cause, you should be able to get your flock back into the coop at night in no time!
As the days get shorter, you might find that your chickens are not laying as much as they normally do. Egg production is partly regulated by daylight hours, and the more light the chickens see, the more eggs they will lay. Other factors that can affect the production are moulting, broodiness and your hens getting older.
But if you find that you’re collecting significantly less eggs than you did six months or a year ago, there might be some things you can do to encourage your hens to start laying again and get the most eggs possible from your flock. Have a look at our tips below!
1. Choose the right breeds
If eggs are the number one reason you keep chickens, you should make sure you pick hens for your flock that through generations have been bred to lay. Bantams or more decorative breeds like Polish and Silkies generally lay relatively few eggs, as do the larger breeds that were developed for meat.
The ideal egg layer is also hesitant to sit on her eggs, and rarely go broody. Some examples of breeds that lay many eggs are Australorp, Sussex, Rhode Island Red and Leghorns.
2. Give your hens a good quality feed
It’s always important to give your chickens the best possible quality feed you can, but extra important if you want them to produce eggs. A good feed should have a good amount of protein (16-20% depending on the age of your chickens) as well as important vitamins and minerals.
If you feed your chickens treats, they should be kept to a minimum, and be low in fat. Fat or obese chickens will not lay, so make sure they fill up ongood feed, a handful of corn, and maybe some delicious worms from the garden. That should keep your hens happy and healthy, and hopefully laying regularly.
3. Minimise stress
Chickens that experience stress on a daily basis will put all their energy into being constantly on their toes, and will produce no or very few eggs.
Make sure your birds feel safe in their chicken coop and where they are free ranging. A predator resistant coop and run, like the Eglus, will allow your chickens to roost away from any danger. Try to keep cats and dogs away from the area where your chickens are roaming, and let the hens come to you rather than chasing them around the garden.
Generally, hens will also feel most comfortable when you have a clear routine. Let them out of the coop around the same time every day (made super easy with an automatic chicken coop door), feed them the same feed at the same place, and put them to bed when they’ve all returned to the coop.
Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid a certain amount of stress, for example if you’re moving the hens to a new place or are introducing new chickens to your flock. The chickens should return to their normal laying pattern once things have calmed down, but you could experience a few weeks of disturbed laying.
4. Give them plenty of calcium
Chickens need calcium to create strong egg shells. A good feed will contain a fair amount, but you should also provide your laying hens with an additional source, most commonly oyster shell or crushed, baked egg shells.
5. Provide fresh water
A chicken can drink up to a pint of water a day (!), so it’s important to give your flock plenty of fresh, clean water. Chickens will happily drink from muddy puddles and other water sources, but as standing water can contain bacteria and parasites it’s always best to make sure they have plenty of clean water to drink from their drinker.
This is especially important in the warmer months, as a dehydrated chicken will not lay, but also make sure the water doesn’t freeze in winter.
6. Keep parasites at bay
Mites are the number one culprit when it comes to a decreased egg production. They suck blood from the chickens’ legs at night, resulting in the hens being anemic and too tired to lay. Fleas and lice can really annoy chickens and make them stressed, and internal parasites like worms will lower your hens’ immune system and possibly make them very ill.
Get into the habit of checking your chickens over every, or every other, week by picking them up and going through their face, feet and feathers. That way you will be able to spot a potential problem early, and hopefully treat it before it affects your pets and their egg production. You can read more about giving your chickens a health check here.
7. Keep the chicken coop clean
Just like you and I, chickens don’t like sleeping, eating and socialising in mess and dirt. Their idea of cleanliness might look slightly different from ours, but if you want your chickens to be happy and healthy and lay plenty of eggs, you must make sure the coop and the run are tidy and free from poo and dirt.
With a chicken coop like the Eglu Cube, making sure the hens’ home is clean is super easy. Thanks to the wipe down surfaces and the handy pull out dropping tray, it will only take minutes to clean the coop.
Fill the nest boxes with plenty of soft bedding so your hens have somewhere comfortable to lay.
8. Provide more space
Lack of space can lead to a lot of stress for chickens. While roosting they prefer sitting close together in the coop, but during the day it’s important that they have a good amount of space to move around on.
If you chickens aren’t laying, maybe consider giving them a slightly larger run or area to free range on. Or if you have introduced new hens to your flock, it might be time to buy a second coop to house one half of the group.
Chickens, like most animals, have a defined number of eggs in their bodies, and once they have used up their reserves, nothing you do will make them produce more delicious eggs. If you have rescued ex battery hens for example, the rate of egg laying might slow down quite quickly, despite the hens still being young, as they have lived in an environment where they were manipulated to lay as much as possible, as quickly as possible.
It’s also good to remember that chickens are not machines, and their bodies will sometimes just need a rest. This doesn’t mean they will never lay again, so don’t give up on them! After all, as well as eggs, our chickens provide us with plenty of entertainment and companionship, and they deserve to be properly cared for however many eggs they produce.
Unless you know exactly when your hens were born, it is difficult to determine their exact age. We can’t simply ask them how old they are, so we have to make educated guesses based on their looks and behaviour.
Like most animals, a chicken’s looks and behaviour gradually change as they age. It is the visible evidence of these life stages that helps us determine a hen’s age. Young birds are the easiest ones to identify, as chicks do not have a complete set of adult feathers, beginning life with the short-lived fluffy yellow coating called down. They wear this attractive yellow coat for the first week or so of their lives.
After the first couple of weeks, chicks gradually moult their down and small feathers begin to grow to replace it. A baby chicken can be considered a chick until it sheds all its down, which usually takes around 12 weeks.
So, if a chicken still has some down, chances are it is 12 weeks old or less, although some breeds may take a while longer to shed all their baby fluff. But, generally, the more down, the younger the bird.
From chick to pullet
Once a chick has moulted and lost its down, it enters the transitional period between chick-hood and adulthood, the chicken equivalent of teenage years. Hens over the age of 12 weeks are in this phase, and are known as pullets. This period of their lives usually lasts until 20 weeks old, though it can be longer. The name ‘pullet’, though, is generally used for any hen under one year.
Pullets are considered adults when they lay their first eggs, which occurs somewhere between 18 and 25 weeks. Male chickens – cockerels, or roosters – reach adulthood when they start to crow and show an interest in the hens, usually by chasing them. This occurs at around five months old, although some breeds are later developers.
At this point in a chicken’s life, when it has finally become an adult bird, it is hard to pinpoint exactly how old they are. If your hens are not laying eggs yet but have all their adult plumage, they are most likely somewhere between 12 and 20 weeks old. Young hens of this age will tend to have smaller combs than fully adult birds.
From pullet to adult hen
If you are keeping multiple hens, it can be hard to tell if an individual bird has started laying or not. Pullets will have small, dry and pale vents in comparison to hens, and this can be used as a way of telling whether or not they are laying.
During this post-20 week period, both the pullets’ and cockerels’ combs and wattles will gradually become brighter and more pronounced. Birds with less vibrant combs and wattles are most likely to be aged around 12-15 weeks. It is during this prime egg-laying stage of a chicken’s life that their combs and wattles will be at their most vibrant – as a hen ages, it slowly loses the red colour.
Hens increase their body mass as they mature, and most have reached maximum plumes at nine months old.
Signs of an adult chicken
Once your pullet has laid its first egg, and your cockerel has started crowing and harassing the hens, they have reached adulthood. Despite the fact that they are considered adults at this point in their lives, they are still growing (albeit slower) and will reach their final size and weight at around one year.
At this age, hens will usually be laying one egg per day, and the cocks will spend a lot of time chasing the hens. At the age of 18 to 20 weeks, the chickens will have their first feather moult.
Guessing the age of a fully grown chicken that has had its first moult is more challenging. However, there are some features that help us determine their age with reasonable accuracy.
A young cock will have short spurs, a little under 1cm in length. By the time your rooster is two years old, their spurs will have grown and may reach lengths of 2.5cm-3cm.
Hens that lay an average of five to six eggs per week are probably in the first two years of their life
For the first two years of their adult life, both hens and cocks will be in their prime. This manifests in vibrant feather colours, smoother legs than older birds and colourful combs and wattles.
Older hens and roosters
At around the second year of their lives, chickens will enter the second half of their adult lives. It is usual at this time for hens to stop laying daily, and cockerels will start showing less interest in the hens.
During this time, a chicken’s legs will start to get rougher and more scaly, and their combs, wattles and feathers will become less vibrant.
However, although past their prime, at this point in their lives, a chicken will still have around between two and five years left in them, depending on the breed. As they get older, hens will only lay occasionally, and the eggs may be larger than the ones they laid as young birds. However, some breeds continue laying into their fourth year, and some can live up to 10 years or more.