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Posted on 13 March 2018 in Other Poultry and tagged under , , ,

Keeping turkey as pets is becoming increasingly popular, and if you’ve ever spent any time with these magnificent birds then you won’t struggle to see why.

They can be noisy, especially adult male birds (stags), which is something to consider if you live in close proximity to neighbours who wouldn’t be as enamoured with your new pets as you are.

These impressive birds are very majestic looking, particularly stags in full summer plumage, and hens have surprisingly pretty heads for big birds.

Although turkey eggs are not commonly found in the shops, they make a wonderful alternative to chicken or duck eggs and can easily be swapped in when cooking. Personally, our favourite way of eating them is scrambled!

Original old breeds of turkey, not commercial hybrids, are fairly hardy birds. However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t need shelter from the elements, and of course you’ll need to offer them protection from predators overnight.

If you’re considering buying your first turkeys then there are a few things you’ll need to bear in mind when thinking about their housing.

The great outdoors

Turkeys, unlike some other breeds of poultry, prefer to spend as much of their time as possible living outside. This means that a secure, good sized poultry pen, is a must have for any turkey keeper.

Turkeys also like to spend a considerable amount of time grazing, grass makes up around 50% of their diet, so the pen is best located on pasture. They’ll need a covered roosting area and it is best to purchase housing designed specifically for turkey keeping, rather than modifying chicken housing.

Electric fence around the perimeter of the house, pen, and pasture will help to deter predators.

Home sweet home

For a trio of turkeys, usually a stag and two hens, housing of 8ft x 6ft should be plenty big enough.

If you’re thinking of keeping a few more, up to six, then a 12ft x 8ft house will give them ample room overnight.

Of course, the more space the better, and you may prefer a walk-in shed style design for easy cleaning, egg collection, and increased ventilation.

Your turkeys will be able to live outside during the day from around 8-12 weeks of age. If you already keep chickens then a single turkey should happily live with them. However, turkeys are always happiest when they have companions of the same species.

Ideally any turkey housing should be moveable, skids or wheels make moving housing easy, to prevent a build-up of manure and allow for thorough cleaning.

The roosts/perches ought to be built all at the same height to prevent your turkeys fighting over the top spot. Lightweight metal or fibreglass roof panels will provide protection from the elements.

For young birds (under 5-6 months) a bale of straw will provide hours of entertainment and a suitable night-time resting place until a purpose built perch is added into the house.

As we said above, turkeys love to graze, so they’ll need access to pasture outside of their pen. Remember that turkeys can, and will fly, meaning that fencing will need to be at least 4ft high.

You might also want to consider netting over your fence to provide extra protection and prevent your turkeys roosting in neighbouring trees!

Posted on 3 March 2018 in Waterfowl and tagged under , , ,

Keeping chickens has undoubtedly become popular in recent years, but that isn’t the only option if you want some feathered friends to share your garden, and we love ducks just as much as we love chickens.

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 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 supplementing their diet with things they find in the garden. In fact, if you’re looking for chemical free pest control, a couple of ducks could be the answer!

Ducks are made of tough stuff
Ducks are extremely hardy and generally less susceptible to disease and infection than chickens. They cope well in harsh 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, ducks might be a better choice. Just avoid the infamously loud Call ducks!

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 are very sociable
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’re expecting to expand your brood, ducks are a more likely to welcome them with open wings.

Ducks have great personalities
If you talk to anyone who keeps ducks they’ll tell you all about their 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 group, you’ll have a friend for life.

Posted on 2 March 2018 in Chicken Chat and tagged under , , , ,

Chickens are usually fairly hardy creatures and shouldn’t require a lot of human intervention to continue to thrive in the winter months. However, as temperatures drop and snow falls across the country there some things you can do to make your flock more comfortable this winter.

Like many poultry keepers you might find that your birds shut up shop in the winter and don’t lay eggs. This is perfectly normal so unless your chicken looks unwell you don’t need to worry.

Although your chickens might not be giving you anything in return for your hard work it’s important not to let care standards drop in the winter. Keeping them in tip top condition will ensure that they start their new laying period raring to go.

So, here’s how to look after chickens in the snow:

Housing

Generally speaking chickens don’t mind the cold, what they do mind however is draughts, wind, and rain – particularly if they haven’t got any shelter.

Houses should be waterproof, draught free, and with ventilation above head height. Ventilation is vital, as tempting as it can be to block all ventilation holes this can cause frostbite as any moisture in the coop freezes over night.

If your chicken house is usually in an exposed area of the garden it might also be worth trying to find a more protected place for it to live in the winter.

A thicker layer of bedding will also make your birds happy but remember the house still needs to be cleaned out regularly to prevent mould, bacteria, and fungal growth making your birds sick.

How often should your clean your chickens out?

We recommend at least a weekly deep clean that involves removing all bedding, allowing the house to air, and checking for any general wear and tear.

If you do have quite a thick covering of snow you might find your chickens prefer to stay indoors rather than get cold feet. If they do opt to stay in their coop then you will need to clean it more often.

Water worries

Providing your flock with fresh, clean water will probably be your biggest challenge during snowy weather. Drinkers tend to freeze or fill up with snow quickly so you’ll need to think of a solution to the problem before it happens.

Here are our top tips:

On very cold days check the water as many times as you can throughout the day

Remove drinkers at night and empty the water – it’s easier to refill a drinker daily than to defrost one

Move the drinker to a more sheltered spot

You may also want to consider investing in a heated drinker if you live in a part of the UK that is prone to extremely cold weather and snow.

Food for thought

In terms of feed your flock shouldn’t need anything different – although you may want to feed them more. They’ll also appreciate a warm mash on colder days and a few handfuls of corn before bedtime to keep them warm overnight.

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