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Posted on 17 July 2017 in Chicken Chat and tagged under , , , ,

We all love a treat from time to time and your chickens are no exception to this rule. Occasional treats are a great way to bond with your birds and they can be useful if you’re trying to help them beat the heat this summer.

As a general rule you shouldn’t give chickens treats when it’s hot as digestion promotes increased internal body temperature. However, frozen and cooling foods can be particularly welcome when the weather hots up.

Here’s a quick list of frozen treats that will help them keep cool:

Frozen mint ice cubes – it’s long been known that mint has cooling properties both for humans and animals. Freezing chopped up mint leaves in an ice cube tray and giving them to your hens will give them something to do and help them cool down. You can also add extras such as peas and diced strawberry to the ice cubes for an additional treat.

Frozen berries – try throwing a handful of frozen berries into a bucket of cool water and watch your hens go mad for them!

Frozen fruit smoothie – if a frozen fruit smoothie sounds delicious to you then it probably will to your hens as well. Including a bit of natural yoghurt can also help your hens’ digestion.

Frozen watermelon – you can cube it, slice it, or cut it into quarters, then put it in the freeze until frozen and give to your flock as a fruity frozen snack.

Frozen veg – vegetables such as sweetcorn makes a great frozen treat. Freeze it in a muffin tin and put a few portions out in the morning to keep your hens occupied throughout the day.

Remember, treats alone won’t keep your hens cool so you’ll need to take other measures to ensure your hens are happy and healthy in the heat. Here’s a little reminder of some of the tips we gave you a few weeks ago:

Provide as much clean, fresh water as you possibly can, especially in shady spots where your hens will hide in the hottest part of the day.

Increase ventilation in the coop by opening all doors and windows. You may also want to leave the chicken house windows open overnight if it’s safe to do so.

Create some shade using tarpaulin, patio umbrellas, wind breaks, and ornamental plants in pots.

Keep bedding in the chicken house to minimum – save the deep littering for the winter!

Give your hens a shallow paddling pool so they can cool their feet and avoid the hot earth.

Make sure your chickens have a shaded area to dust bathe in. Not only do they do this to keep clean, but it also helps them to keep cool.

Have you got any tips for helping hens to stay cool in the summer? We’d love to hear from you if you do!

Photo credits: Pets4Homes and Pinterest

Posted on 10 July 2017 in Waterfowl and tagged under , , ,

When it comes to choosing housing for ducks the same basic principles to choosing a chicken house apply. However, there are a few differences between chickens and ducks that mean you’ll need to buy a house specifically designed for ducks.

You’ll get what you pay for

First things first, buy a quality house. We all like a bargain but when you realise you’re replacing your cheap house every few years you’ll wish you’d spent a little bit more money.

Generally speaking you can expect to pay around £150 – £300 for a high quality duck house. Obviously you might find yourself shopping during sale periods and get a cheaper house, but be prepared to increase your budget for a better house.

Appearance isn’t everything

Your ducks won’t care what their house looks like so you can have a duck house that is as simple or as elaborate as you like. As a bare minimum the house needs to provide your ducks with adequate shelter from the elements and as much protection from predators as possible.

When choosing a duck house, you’ll need to ask yourself the following questions:

Is the house easily moveable?
Does it provide good ventilation?
It is quick to clean and simple to maintain?
Does it provide a high standard of welfare? Consider space per duck, nest boxes, doorways etc.
Is it made of top quality materials?
If you can answer “yes” to all of these questions then you should have a house that is practical, safe, and that will have a long working life.

The exits are here, here, and here

Ducks have a tendency to rush out of the house as a group in the mornings and they aren’t very good at forming an orderly queue! This means that you’ll need to choose a house with a wide enough door to prevent injuries when entering or exiting the house.

You’ll also need to provide your ducks with a ramp if the house isn’t at floor level. They can’t negotiate steps or ladders like chickens can so giving them a ramp into their house ensures they can get in and out safely.

Runs and enclosures

If you don’t have the space, or you don’t want to let your ducks have access to your whole garden, you’ll also have to think about the run or enclosure they’ll be in.

How big the run is depends entirely on how much space you have but the bigger the better. They’ll need room to waddle around, forage for food, stretch their wings, and of course, room for their pond.

You could choose a single unit run and house, like this bantam duck ark designed especially for small breeds, or you could opt for a large enclosure that contains their house. As long as the house is safe, and as predator proof as possible, your ducks will be happy.

If you’re struggling to find a duck house that suits your needs you could also look into bespoke options.

Posted on 3 July 2017 in Waterfowl and tagged under , , ,

Keeping chickens has undoubtedly become extremely popular in recent years but that isn’t the only option if you want some feathered friends to share your garden…have you thought about ducks?

Here are our top reasons why keeping ducks could be the best thing you ever do:

Delicious eggs all year around
As tasty as chicken eggs are, duck eggs are usually richer and creamier, which is why they’re so popular with bakers. Plus, their eggs are bigger, containing even more nutrients and goodness than chicken eggs.

Ducks also lay all year around, unlike chickens that stop in the winter, so you won’t need to buy eggs even in December.

They’re cheap to keep
Once you’ve had the initial outlay of a suitable duck house and other equipment you’ll need, ducks are incredibly cheap to keep.

Depending on how many birds you have, one bag of feed could last you for weeks and they’re experts at finding their own food in the garden.

In fact, if you’re looking for free pest control, then a couple of ducks could be the answer.

Ducks are made of tough stuff
For some reason, and I’m not enough of an expert to know why, ducks are generally less susceptible to disease and infection than chickens. They cope well in extreme weather conditions and if they do become ill, they usually recover fairly quickly with minimal human assistance.

Your neighbours won’t notice you have them!
Although most female ducks do make the classic “quack” noise they only do this when startled or frightened. The majority of the time ducks are silent or make quiet noises.

If you’re worried your neighbours won’t like the cackles and squawking that hens make, then duck might be a better choice.

They don’t need that much water
Many people think you need a lake, or at least a large pond, in order to keep ducks but depending on which breed you keep that isn’t always the case. In fact, Indian Runner ducks are reportedly happy as long as they have enough water to dunk their heads in, although we’d recommend giving them more.

A child’s paddling pool, a sawn in half barrel or an old bath tub can all make suitable “ponds” for backyard ducks. As long as the water is deep enough for them to get their whole head under then your ducks will be happy.

Ducks make friends more quickly
Many poultry keepers can’t resist adding to their flock after a while and this can cause disruptions to the pecking order. However, ducks seem to accept new additions to their group more calmly than chickens so if you think you’re likely to expand your brood, ducks are a more tranquil option.

Ducks have great personalities
If you talk to anyone who keeps ducks, they’ll tell you all about their ducks individual personalities. Different breeds also have different personality traits, so it’s worth doing your research before starting your flock.

They make loyal friends
Dogs might be mans’ best friend but ducks come in at a close second. Sometimes it can take them a while to trust you, but once they’ve imprinted on you and see you as part of the flock, you’ll have a friend for life.

If you’ve been convinced that ducks are a great idea then it’s time to get shopping for the duck house of your dreams!

Photo credit: Ziwani Poultry, Pinterest, Wikipedia

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