Avian Flu Prevention Zone – 2018

The latest situation on the Avian Flu outbreak in the UK is that DEFRA have announced a UK wide Prevention Zone from January 18th 2018 for anyone who keeps poultry or captive birds.

This means that:

If you keep poultry you must, by law, follow specific disease prevention measures. These apply to all keepers of birds, regardless of flock size, or if your birds are pets. These are designed to reduce the risk of infection from wild birds.

If you keep birds then you can continue to allow your birds outdoors into fenced areas, but only if these areas meet certain conditions including:

  • you have made the areas unattractive to wild birds, for example by netting ponds, and by removing wild bird food sources
  • you have taken action to reduce any existing contamination, such as cleansing and disinfecting concrete areas, and fencing off wet or boggy areas
  • you have assessed the risk of birds coming into contact with wild birds or contamination from them

If you keep more than 500 birds, you must take some extra biosecurity measures. They include identifying clearly defined areas where access by non-essential people and vehicles is restricted, and cleaning and disinfecting vehicles, equipment and footwear.

DEFRA gives the following biosecurity advice to all poultry keepers in order to reduce the risk of the disease spreading and contaminating UK flocks:

  • minimise movement in and out of bird enclosures
  • clean footwear before and after visiting birds, using a Defra approved disinfectant at entrances and exits
  • clean and disinfect vehicles and equipment that have come into contact with poultry
  • keep areas where birds live clean and tidy, and regularly disinfect hard surfaces such as paths and walkways
  • humanely control rats and mice
  • place birds’ food and water in fully enclosed areas protected from wild birds, and remove any spilled feed regularly
  • keep birds separate from wildlife and wild waterfowl by putting suitable fencing around outdoor areas they access
  • keep a close watch on birds for any signs of disease and report any very sick birds or unexplained deaths to your vet

Whether you keep just a few birds as pets or have a much larger flock, good biosecurity is essential for maintaining their health and happiness.

You can register with DEFRA in order to be kept up to date on the Avian Flu situation. If you have 50 or more birds, you should register with DEFRA within one month of their arrival. More information can be found here.

This handy poster gives simple advice for all poultry keepers. It may be worth printing a few copies and giving them to other local poultry keeping friends and family.

 

Why Won’t My Hens Perch?

We recently received an email from one of our customers asking if we had any advice for her as her hens were no longer using the perches in their hen house.

We turned to you, our fantastically knowledgeable Facebook and Twitter followers, to see if you had any advice on encouraging chickens to use their perch. Here’s what you said:

 

“Are they ex-bat hens? If so, they probably won’t perch but will snuggle up in the nest boxes. None of our ex-bats have ever perched!”
“Mine don’t perch, they are ex bats. They did perch in their old house but the perches were only a couple of inches off the floor. They seem perfectly happy on the floor/ in the nest boxes so no worries here.”
chickens perch
“The hen might not know about perching, so pick up the hen, hover her over the perch then let her feet go on it and slowly take your hands away and let her settle? Just an idea.”
“Borrow a hen from a friend that does perch.”
“Block the nest box till morning, nest boxes are for laying not for sleeping!”
chicks perch
We thought your advice was great and our customer decided to try a lower perch, so we shipped one off immediately. Thank you to every one who took the time to reply and make suggestions to solve the perching problem.

Going on Holiday? What To Do with Your Hens

It’s the time of year when you’re starting to think about your summer holiday and where you’d like to go for some much needed R&R.

chicken in a holiday suitcase

Whether you’re looking for fun in the sun or you prefer to find some summer snow there are plenty of options for the adventurous traveller.

However, if you have chickens you’ll also need to consider who’s going to care for them whilst you’re away. Luckily there are a variety of options and your hens will probably enjoy their summer holiday as much as you enjoy yours.

Here are some ideas that will make sure your hens are looked after and your holiday can go without a hitch.

Helpful Neighbours, Friends and Family

You’ll usually find that neighbours, friends, and family are willing to help look after hens – particularly with the promise of free eggs!

Remember to leave them with enough food and clear instructions about what’s expected of them. It might also be a good idea to give them a number of a chicken friendly vet or fellow chicken keeper in case they’re worried about one of the flock.

Automated Equipment

This can be a good option if you’re only going away for an evening or weekend and your hens have a secure enclosure. This option might also work for you if you can only arrange for someone to visit once per day.

You can purchase automatic pop holes and feeders that will make sure your chickens are secure and fed. A large water drinker should be adequate for a day until your chicken sitter can visit and top it up.

Other chicken Keepers

It’s always good to get friendly with other chicken keepers as you can share chicken sitting duties between you. if you’re going away for more than a week try organising a rota between your other chicken keeping friends so you’re not leaving one person with the responsibility of keeping your hens happy.

Holidays for Hens

If you’re going away, why shouldn’t your hens? There are companies all across the UK which offer 5* accommodation for your feathered companions so they can live in luxury whilst you’re away.

chickens with holiday suitcases

Here are just some, with a few words about what they can offer your flock:

Animal Aunts Ltd.

“We arrange for Aunts to live in our client’s home when they go away, to look after everything they hold dear. Their home is kept clean and tidy, plants watered and garden kept ticking over. Meanwhile all animals large and small will be looked after to their normal routine.

Chickens will be let out early morning and locked safely away in the evenings (unless they have automatic door closers and electric fences which is how we have ours here at HQ). All animals will be fed and watered, loved and tended as if they were our own, dogs will be walked, horses exercised if necessary, Animal Aunts have looked after any property, any animal, anywhere for 30 years.”

www.animalaunts.co.uk

The Hen Hotel

“I am Hilary, a retired teacher with many years experience of poultry as a hobby and I have been potty about chickens for many years. I’ve kept them as pets both in France and in the UK. I have a great deal of knowledge about caring for the birds.  I know how important it is to keep them disease free and the steps to take at the first sign of problems.  I hold regular courses on chicken care.

I constantly protect all our friends from red mite, I keep their feathers glossy by good food and care – I give them treats every day and of course, cuddles for the poultry guests that want them.”

www.the-hen-hotel.co.u 

The Chicken Hotel

“A new and exciting hotel in Helston (Cornwall) exclusively for our feathered friends!

Want chickens but don’t know what you’d do if you went away for a weekend or on holiday? Well you can let your chickens have a short holiday break in The Chicken Hotel!

We offer an economical chicken boarding service similar to a cattery or kennels. We now offer accommodation to ducks on an equal opportunities basis.”

www.thechickenhotel.co.uk

 

  

N.B – Jim Vyse Arks does not endorse any of these hen sitting companies – although we’re sure they’re all very lovely!

 

Photo credits: Backyard Chickens, Countryside Network

Summer Treats for Your Hot Chicks!

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.

chickens in the grass

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.

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. 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.

chickens drinking

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 

How to Spring Clean Your Chicken House

The weather has warmed up and that means it’s the perfect time to get outside and give your chicken house a really good scrub. Sunny days make it easy to dry out damp houses and your flock won’t mind being outside in the sunshine whilst you’re giving their coop a spring clean.

chicken coop cleaning tools

Here are our does and don’ts for a chicken house that’s clean as a whistle:

Do get your gloves on

Of course putting your marigolds on before you start cleaning your house will stop your hands getting dirty, but it will also keep you safe from the bacteria in the coop and the chemicals in the disinfectant.

Don’t skimp on the elbow grease

Even though a well ventilated chicken house should help keep the bacteria to a minimum, all chicken houses will still benefit from a good scrub a few times a year. Use a small brush to get the dirt out of the nooks and crannies. Then use disinfectant spray or powder to keep bugs and bacteria at bay.

Do recycle your newspapers

Our houses are designed with an easy clean floor but you can make cleaning even easier by recycling your old newspapers and using them to line the floor before putting bedding on top.

When you need to clean the house simply roll the newspaper up and take all the dirty bedding with it. This method is also good for minimising the mess made when cleaning your chicken house – perfect if you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to rake up the mess from your garden.

Do have a quick clean daily

Whilst you might not full time to do a full clean daily it’s worth spending a few minutes removing faeces and any very dirty bedding every day. It will make doing a full clean an easier task and reduce the risk of bacteria build up.

Don’t forget feeders and drinkers

If you’re going to be giving your chicken house a full clean it’s a good idea to also clean and disinfect their feeders and drinkers. Give everything a thorough scrub and soak before refilling with fresh food and water.

chicken feeders and waterers

Don’t use hay as bedding

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – hay is not a suitable bedding material for chickens. Damp hay releases fungal spores, especially when your hens scratch around in it, and this can cause a respiratory disease called aspergillosis.

Do fix it if it’s broke

Make sure to set some time aside to carry out any maintenance jobs on your chicken house every time you give it a deep clean. Patch any holes, oil squeaky doors, and replace any pecked perches. You could even give it a fresh lick of paint!

Don’t forget outside too

If you keep your flock in a run or enclosure then don’t forget to tidy that up as well. You can hose large concrete runs, rake runs on grass or wood chippings, and if you have a movable run simply rotate it to a new patch of grass.

Do get into a routine

Giving your hen house a weekly or fortnightly deep clean will prolong its working life and make sure your hens stay healthy. Pencil the time into your diary and make yourself a checklist so you don’t forget any important cleaning tasks.

chicken and egg notepad

 

Photo credits: Hen Cam, Read My Chicken Scratch, Etsy

Keep Your Hot Chicks Cool this Summer

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 sun does come out this summer, 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 tarpaulin, old patio umbrellas, or even plastic table cloths.

jim vyse chicken shelter

A Jim Vyse Chicken Shelter

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.

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.

chicken dust bath

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.

chickens in a swimming pool

Don’t try this at home!