In the colder months your hens can spend more time in their run and less time free ranging in your garden, field, or orchard. This can lead to boredom and bad behaviour as chickens need something to occupy their time…
In many ways chickens can be like small children – they like shiny objects, they’re easily distracted, and they can cause mass destruction if they’re not kept entertained.
Luckily keeping your hens occupied doesn’t have to be difficult and unlike small children they won’t be clamouring for the latest toy or games console. In fact, a head of cauliflower could be the best present you could ever give them!
If you’re new to the world of chicken boredom busters or you’re looking for more inspiration here are our top tips for keeping your flock amused:
Fun and healthy!
Any treats that give your poultry something to do and ensure they get all their vitamins and minerals have to be a good thing, right?
Hanging a cabbage or cauliflower from the roof of their enclosure will keep them occupied for hours playing “piñata” and then they can forage for fallen bits of veg when they’re done.
You can also purchase specifically made “treat balls” which are delicious and high in energy to keep hens healthy all year round.
Now we’re not saying that chickens are vain but they do like to check out their reflection from time to time. Lightweight, shatterproof, and plastic mirrors are an inexpensive purchase that can be found in many bargain homeware shops.
Fix the mirror to your run using cable ties and watch your hens pamper and preen!
Chickens love to have a “bird’s eye view” of the world so providing them with outside perches, swings, or stumps to stand on will give them a better look at their surroundings.
Tree stumps, branches, old ladders, and broom handles can all be used to give your hens a multi-level environment.
For something fancy and ready to go you can purchase a chicken swing from the British Hen Welfare Trust shop.
Piles of leaves
This is a great tip for the autumn months when you’ll have an abundance of fallen leaves in your garden. For reasons known only to themselves chickens hate piles so try putting a pile of leaves in their enclosure and see how quickly they start to destroy it!
Chickens love anything new that they can investigate – wooden crates, a plastic rake, an old broom head, or even a tub of mud – will be greatly appreciated by your flock.
As long as the item can’t injure or damage your hens in any way go ahead and let them check it out.
Move things around
If you can easily move your chicken house then try putting it in a new part of the garden. Not only will this give a bit of your garden a rest but it will also allow your hens to explore a new environment.
If you’ve got a permanent poultry enclosure then why not move your flock’s feeder and other accessories to new places? Your chickens will have fun looking for things that have moved and moving things might even reveal worms, bugs, and other edible goodies!
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.
There are 12 different types of duck:
Stiff tail 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
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
Some of the most popular breeds of duck include the Muscovy, the Indian Runner, and the tiny 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Check out the video showing how easy it is to use.
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.
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.
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 or wooden? We’d love to hear your opinion on which material you prefer for your chicken houses.
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.
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”!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Have you got any tips for helping hens to stay cool in the summer? We’d love to hear from you if you do!