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Posted on 2 December 2019 in Waterfowl and tagged under , ,

Duck keeping has really taken off and ducks are becoming increasingly popular pets. They make a great addition or alternative to having chickens. But how much do you really know about your webbed footed friends?

Here are some great facts about ducks to get you up to speed:

Ducks can be found both on fresh water and sea water.

mandarin duck

There are 12 different types of duck:

Dabbling ducks

Diving ducks

Eider ducks

Goldeneye ducks

Merganser ducks

Perching ducks

Scoter ducks

Sea-ducks

Stiff tail ducks

Teal

Whistling ducks

Domestic ducks

indian runner ducks

Ducks don’t have teeth, but they do have a comb-like structure along the edge of their beaks called “pectin”

Diving ducks and sea ducks are heavier than other types of duck to help them dive deeper

Whistling ducks have longer legs than other types and, as their name suggests, make a high pitched whistle

Perching ducks have claws to enable them to grip branches in the wooded areas where they nest

diving duck

The governing bodies for duck breed standards include:

The Poultry Club of Great Britain

The American Poultry Association

The Australian Poultry Standards

The European Association of Poultry, Pigeon, and Rabbit Breeders

muscovy duck trio

Some of the most popular breeds of duck include the Muscovy, the Indian Runner, and the tiny Call duck.

 

call duck

When people first start keeping chickens they usually choose breeds that they can easily source and are fairly cheap to buy. Hybrid breeds are a popular choice and often people will pick the same breed as the person who inspired them to keep chickens in the first place has.

However, as any poultry keeper will tell you, chicken keeping is an addictive hobby and it probably won’t be long before you’re looking to add to your flock!

Your average breed of chicken will lay brown eggs, ranging from a pale tan right through to a dark brown. But there are many other colours, in fact depending on the breeds you keep you could have a whole rainbow of eggs.

So, here are the best breeds of chicken if you want coloured eggs:

Ameraucana – blue eggs

You can now get the brilliant blue eggs that this bird lays in your local Tesco, but where’s the fun in that?

The Ameraucana is one of only three breeds that lay blue eggs (Cream Legbar and Araucana are the others) but blue egg laying chickens are reasonably popular so you shouldn’t have trouble finding them.

The breed was first developed in the 1970s in America and is an attractive breed with a “beard”. They’ll lay around 250 eggs per year so you’ll never run out of blue eggs!

ameraucana chicken eggs

Andalusian – white eggs

If you’re looking for pearly white eggs then the striking looking Andalusian is the breed for you.

Originating from Spain this breed is calm and active, so they prefer to free range and are good foragers.

They’ll lay around 160 eggs per year and usually continue to lay through the winter and blue-bred White hens are said to lay the biggest eggs.

Andalusian chicken eggs

Olive Egger – green eggs

This is more of a variety of chicken than a breed that were developed when birds containing the “blue egg gene” were crossed with a “brown egg gene” bird.

Olive Eggers produce green eggs that can range from having more of a blue tinge to more of a brown tinge as a result of the crossed colours. The birds themselves are bearded and don’t look dissimilar to the Araucana, Ameraucana, and Easter Egger which has led to some confusion among even the most expert chicken keepers.

olive egger chicken eggs

Black Copper Maran – chocolate brown eggs

For a truly dark brown egg the Black Copper Maran is an ideal choice.

The breed is active, likes to forage, and prefers to free range or have a larger enclosure. They are also good in colder climates and a hardy breed so they’re perfect if you’re new to keeping chickens.

Their chocolate brown eggs are so popular that some unscrupulous breeders will sell birds called “Black Copper Marans” but if they don’t produce dark brown eggs they aren’t from a pure strain of the breed.

black copper maran chicken eggs

Plymouth Rock – pink eggs

If you want a hen that will lay you eggs with a pinky tinge then the Plymouth Rock is a great bird.

They’re one of the oldest and most popular breeds of chicken so you shouldn’t find it hard to purchase a few. They come in a variety of colours and should continue to lay throughout the winter, although produce will slow down.

plymouth rock chicken egg

Posted on 2 June 2019 in Guest Posts and tagged under , , ,

The lovely Leslie from Electric Fencing Direct has sent us this wonderful piece all about their fabulous Hot Gates. Read on to discover why they’re a must have product for poultry keepers.

 

The Hot Gate

Hello sunshine in East Lothian and its welcomed by the singing of the birds and clucking of hens. After what feels like a long wet windy winter how is the your ground around your poultry netting gate? Churned up like a Clydesdale has ploughed through?? I bet it is and for those of you thinking no my ground is fine is it because you already have the lovely convenient HOT GATE?

What can a Hot Gate do for you?

Well let me tell you a wee bit about the HOT GATE and why I think it is a good investment; and can be added at any time.

The hot gate can be attached to any of our poultry nets it simply ties onto the existing netting and provides easy access into your netting enclosure without having to turn off the power or get zapped.

If you have a bucket of water in one hand and feed in the other you have trudged across the paddock/garden and realised that you have left the electric on……do not fear you can open the hot gate with one hand and in you go. All because the hot gate has an insulated handle.  It makes it quicker and easier to get on with your day to day job of collecting eggs and cleaning out.

Video

Check out the video showing how easy it is to use.

Video

Hot Gate Components

When you buy the HOTGATE you will receive the following ;

1 x 19mm gate post with out prong that fits into dock (with handle on the top)

1 x 19mm double pronged post for dock (with handle on the top)

1 x 12mm double pronged post at other side of netting gate

1 x 1.25m close mesh green netting 1.2m high we also she the 1.10 meter tall hot gate)

2 x insulated gate handles – attached to posts at the top

1 x dock

2 x galvanised pegs for dock

6 x tie wraps

 Opening Length: 1.25m. Colour: Green.

In essence you are making your life easier, keeping the ground well intact and adding 1.25m to the fence line. Happy Days.

 

Posted on 23 July 2018 in Chicken Housing and tagged under , ,

You’ll see from our website of which type we’re more fond but this is an important debate in the poultry keeping world so we’re going to discuss the pros and cons of each material.

Fantastic plastic or wonderful wood – the debate between poultry keepers continues on a yearly basis and there are strong supporters on both sides. 

Remember, which ever style of house you choose it’s important to make sure you buy a good quality house that gives your chickens the space, comfort, and security that they need to stay happy and healthy.

Let’s take a look at wooden chicken houses first:

Wooden chicken houses

Wooden houses are obviously more traditional and some poultry keepers would say prettier too. A high quality wooden chicken house will robust, practical, and less likely to blow away in a storm than a plastic coop.

One of the most common complaints about plastic chicken houses is that they aren’t breathable and reports of condensation are frequent. You won’t get this problem with a wooden design as wood is naturally breathable.

If you have specific needs you’ll also find that a wooden house is more flexible as they can be built to order. In fact, our own bespoke order service is very popular with our customers!

Customisation in terms of colour is also easier when you have a wooden house. You can paint them any colour you like and if you change your mind you can sand the paint off and start again, or simply paint over the original colour.

painted chicken house

And now for the plastic chicken houses:

Plastic chicken houses

In recent years plastic houses have become increasingly popular, especially with urban chicken keepers and school or college poultry projects. The bright colours make them popular with children and removable lids make it quick and simple to collect your delicious eggs.

They’re also easy to clean, give a contemporary look to your outdoor space, and can be cheaper to buy and maintain than their wooden counterparts.

Plastic coop fans often tell you that the biggest plus point of having a plastic chicken house is that the risk of pesky red mite is removed.

However, if you think that a plastic hen house will make your flock red mite proof, unfortunately you’re wrong. Red mite can not only live on the bird but it can also live in the cracks of the house, hiding from prying human eyes.

Lurking in the cracks allows the red mite to sneak out at night and feast on your flocks’ blood whilst they sleep so the truth of the matter is that a plastic house isn’t always a red mite free house.

plastic chicken house

Plastic or wooden? We’d love to hear your opinion on which material you prefer for your chicken houses.

Posted on 16 July 2018 in Chicken Chat and tagged under , ,

The benefits of keeping chickens are widely known, but these benefits can be even more miraculous when you take up the hobby later in life.

Here are some of the reasons that chickens make brilliant pets to keep when you reach retirement age:

Delicious, nutritious eggs

“Free”, fresh, protein rich eggs are the most obvious reason to keep chickens at home and research has shown that increased protein consumption can aid things such as memory function as our minds and bodies get older.

boiled egg and soldiers

Hens are great gardeners

If you’ve found yourself spending more time in the garden then you’ll be pleased to hear that your hens will be only too happy to help your outdoor space flourish.

They’re a fantastic source of fertiliser, they’ll keep the garden free of pests and weeds, and they enjoy nothing more than scratching around in soil so they’ll aerate and loosen beds ready for planting.

Just remember to use netting to fence off anywhere that doesn’t need their “help”!

chicken in the garden

Chickens are social creatures

Retirement can mean longer periods spent alone at home which can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. As chicken keepers will tell you, you’ll always have companionship and entertainment when you have hens.

The healing powers of hens have been well documented, not least with the “HenPower” project, which has seen thousands of “hensioners” across the UK take up chicken keeping in their own homes and residential homes.

HenPower project

Chicken keeping is easier than you think

Food, water, and a few minutes of your time every day is all it takes for happy hens. Unlike a dog or cat, a chicken is happy to be left to its own devices and of course, you don’t need to walk them!

Automatic doors and wheels can be added to chicken houses to make them secure and easy to move. Grandchildren are usually only too happy to help with tasks such as cleaning, giving an interest to share with the younger generation. 

child and chicken

Posted on 4 July 2018 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 sweetcorn

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. 

  • 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.

swimming chickens

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

Posted on 25 June 2018 in Waterfowl and tagged under , , ,

There are so many different breeds of duck it can be difficult to know which breed would be best for you, especially if you’re new to the world of duck keeping. Ducks come in all different sizes, shapes, and weights and they all have a different purpose.

For example, the Pekin breed is a popular choice for meat production as well as making good pets. On the other hand, Indian Runners are prolific egg layers and make great pets, but don’t expect to get much meat from them!

Ducks are also grouped into different weight categories – Heavy, Medium, Light, and Bantam.

Examples of the weight categories would be:

  • Heavy – Pekin
  • Medium – Cayuga
  • Light – Indian Runner
  • Bantam – Call

Of course, you can keep any breed of duck as a pet, but some are easier to care for than others. Here’s a look at our choice of top duck breeds to keep as pets:

Call Ducks

This tiny bantam breed is a popular choice if you’d like to have ducks but don’t have a lot of space. The breed originates from the Mallard duck and is thought to have come from The Netherlands.

Call Ducks are lively, friendly, and can be very noisy so if you live in a urban area they might not be right for you.

You can expect to your ducks to lay around 100 small eggs per year. Call Ducks are available in a wide range of colours including: White, Mallard, Yellow belly, Chocolate, Magpie, Bibbed, Apricot, and Khaki.

call duck

Pekin Ducks

95% of duck meat consumed in America comes from this breed but they also make fantastic pets and are good layers. Often confused with the Aylesbury breed because of their similar “Jemima Puddle-duck” looks the Pekin is fantastic if you have a larger garden.

They are a Heavy breed of duck and originated in China before spreading around the world. They’ll give you between 80 – 140 large white eggs every year and their calm, friendly nature makes them a great option if you have children.

Pekins like to be active, so they’ll appreciate having a bigger area to explore and their orange bills and legs make them an attractive addition to any outdoor space.

pekin duck

Cayuga Ducks

This striking breed is unmistakable thanks to its iridescent green/black plumage and they are quiet, hardy, and easy to tame. They’ll produce 100 – 150 eggs per year that start with black shells at the beginning of the season and gradually lighten to a light grey/white.

The Cayuga Duck was developed in New York in 1809 after a pair of wild black ducks were caught and bred for their colour. These days they are a rare conservation breed and can be hard to find, but they make worthwhile pets if you’re prepared to search for them.

cayuga duck

Indian Runner Ducks

As well as being prolific egg layers, up to 200 per year, the Indian Runner is probably one of the most popular breeds of pet ducks in the world.

Originally from the East Indies (Malaya, Java, and Lombok) rather than India these ducks were first known as “Penguin Ducks” because of their upright stance. As they are taller you’ll need to consider a duck house with a higher roof if you want to include Indian Runners in your flock.

They don’t fly, choosing to run instead, and they love foraging and swimming. They are available in around two dozen colours including: White, Fawn, Apricot, Black, Mallard, and Silver.

Indian runner ducks

Muscovy Ducks

This is a Heavy breed of duck and the Drakes are usually twice the size of females. Muscovy Ducks produce 60-140 eggs per year and are well known for going “broody” so if you’re looking to breed ducks this could be a good option for you.

They are unique in that they are the only breed of duck not to originate from the wild Mallard. In fact, they are closely related to a sub group of perching ducks which is why they have sharp claws that allow them to perch comfortably.

Muscovy Ducks, or ‘Scovies as they are known by their fans, are available in nine different colours all of which have a red crest (called caruncles) around their eyes.

Muscovy ducks

Posted on 18 June 2018 in Chicken Chat and tagged under , , , ,

Chickens usually adapt well to varying temperatures and if you live in the UK you won’t often find yourself having to deal with extreme weather conditions. Though, it’s still worth having a few tricks up your sleeve for when the summer sun does come out, no matter how rarely that may be!

For experienced chicken keepers the sight of their hens sunbathing is a happy one. After all, who doesn’t like to top up their tan! However, this can be a surprise to novice chicken keepers, and as much as chickens love to sunbathe, sometimes the heat can get a little much.

Liquid refreshment

Dehydration is a big cause of death in chickens and unfortunately sometimes a chicken is too far gone to be saved. Keep your eyes peeled for any signs of dehydration and know what to do if one of your flock does become ill.

Signs of dehydration include:

  • Lethargy
  • Gasping/panting with their beaks open
  • No interest in food
  • No reaction to stimuli

If you do find a dehydrated hen the best course of action is to move the bird to a cool, dark, quiet place and provide water with electrolytes. You may need to help the bird drink every 10-15 minutes over the next few hours.

Once the bird is drinking by itself you can give it watered down food. You’ll need to keep in for the next 24 hours and provide water and wet food at all times.

To try and make sure your hens stay happy and healthy, here are our top tips to help keep your flock feeling fresh when the weather gets warm:

Chickens love cold drinks too

If you find yourself reaching for an icy cold drink in the summer then why not make one for your hens?

Use the cooling blocks you can get for picnic hampers or freeze water in a small plastic container, then place in a bowl of drinking water. The blocks will keep the water cool all day and provide a refreshing drink for your birds.

Make some shade

Chickens need to be able to get out of the sun to cool themselves down so make sure there are plenty of shady spaces available. You can create shady spots using specially designed shades, tarpaulin, old patio umbrellas, or even plastic table cloths.

chickens in the shade

Don’t feed “heavy” foods

Just like we don’t like to eat big meals when it’s hot chickens don’t either. Foods such as corn take longer to digest, therefore creating a higher body temperature and making your hens hot.

Swap to pellets and try giving treats such as frozen or refrigerated strawberries and watermelon.

frozen sweetcorn

Give them a “bath”

In this case we don’t mean a water bath, we mean a dust bath. Dusting bathing is essential for chickens to stay healthy, especially in hot weather. If your chickens aren’t able to create a dust bath themselves by digging holes in the garden then provide them with a shallow tray or box containing sand.

Add electrolytes to water to combat dehydration

You can buy electrolytes for chickens from most country stores or online chicken supply shops. You would usually use them if you had chicks but in hot weather chickens of all ages can benefit from electrolytes.

Keep their coop cool

All chicken houses should have good ventilation but if possible you should increase this during the summer. Open all of the doors, vents, and windows during the day and if safe to do so, consider leaving vents and windows open at night.

You can also direct the sunlight away from the chicken house by placing a sheet of reflective foil on the house roof in the mornings. You could use the screens usually seen on car dashboards for the same effect.

Let them chill out

Interacting with your chickens will make them excited and run around more so keep interaction to a minimum. If you do need to move them or catch them try to do this first thing in the morning or before they go to bed when it’s cooler.

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