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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.

Posted on 4 June 2018 in Chicken Chat and tagged under , , , , ,

Chickens can be messy creatures, but they don’t have to damage your garden – this week we’ll be discussing how you can protect your garden and keep your chickens happy.

Most poultry keepers accept that if they want to have chickens then they’re going to have to sacrifice a perfect garden. However, poultry and plants can live harmoniously together – you just have to know how to do it!

Not every method will work for every chicken, some are definitely more determined than others to eat things they shouldn’t!  Chicken proofing your garden is more trial and error than a hard and fast method that suits everyone.

chicken in the garden

Here’s our quick guide on how to chicken proof your garden so you can keep your plants beautiful and your poultry happy:

Think about the space you have

The most common reason for chickens ruining a garden is having too many chickens in not enough space. Realistically small gardens can accommodate three to five chickens before a trashed garden becomes inevitable. Larger outdoor spaces could fit between five and eight chickens and still maintain a respectable looking garden.

Think carefully about the size of your garden, the number of chickens you want, and whether you intend to let them free range or keep them in a purpose built run before you bring your hens home.

little braxted chicken ark 2

Bulk buy the chicken wire

Even if your chickens have enough space they might still take the occasional nibble of your prize plants. Invest in some chicken wire and create a low wire fence to keep peckish hens away from your greenery.

If chicken wire isn’t strong enough for your persistent hens then try hardware cloth which has smaller holes and can be used as ground covers to protect seedlings or low growing plants.

Use rocks for protection

A hungry hen will easily push or scratch small stones out of the way to get at a tasty looking plant, so using large rocks or bricks around the base of the plant will make them harder to reach.

You might find this method especially useful if you have recently planted pots or containers.

Give them plants of their very own

Robust shrubs and bushes will give your chickens somewhere to scratch around and hide, drawing them away from more delicate plants. The exact type of bush you choose is up to you but having an evergreen in your garden will give hens somewhere to go all year around.

Move their house regularly

If you have a moveable house then rotate it around your garden regularly. This will give damaged areas of your garden a chance to recover and provide your hens with an interesting new view every few weeks.

painted chicken house

Have a purpose built run/enclosure

If your hens aren’t going to free range, or you only want to let them out at certain times, invest in a high quality purpose built run or enclosure. They’ll have enough to room scratch around, bathe, and snack on bugs and the rest of your garden will be protected.

enclosed run onduline roof

Posted on 30 May 2018 in Chicken Chat, Waterfowl and tagged under , ,

If you like to have a few projects going to keep you busy and you fancy yourself as a bit of a DIY whiz then you’re going to love these poultry related DIY projects we’ve found.

Just like humans, chickens are always looking for something new and exciting to keep them entertained so they’re sure to be grateful for all your hard work. It’s time to dig out that tool kit and get yourself down to B&Q!

Wine bottle grit dispenser

We love this wine bottle grit/oyster shell dispenser. Not only will you be doing something good for your hens but you’ll also be doing something good for the environment by recycling your old wine bottles.

This project is fantastic if you like to recycle as you can also use any piece of timber and an old tuna tin!

Get the full step-by-step instructions from Fresh Eggs Daily.

grit dispenser for chickens

Chicken swing

If you fancy something a little more ambitious and you think your chickens are lacking entertainment then why not treat them to a homemade chicken swing?

The beauty of this project is you use any materials you have to hand so you won’t need to spend money buying special materials or a specific type of wood.

Attainable Sustainable has full chicken swing instructions – including pictures – if you want to try your hand at the ultimate chicken entertainment project.

DIY chicken swing

Duck pond

Although ducks don’t need a vast expanse of water to be happy they do enjoy having a decent pond to splash around in. If a plastic tub or child’s paddling pool isn’t cutting it you could always build a more permanent solution.

Tyrant Farm’s tutorial has everything you need to know about building a duck pond and DIY biofilter that will keep your webbed footed friends amused for hours on end.

DIY duck pond

Pond filter and shower

If you’re considering simply revamping your duck pond, rather than a bigger project like the one above, then setting up a decent filtration system would benefit both you and your birds. Plus, who wouldn’t want a duck shower?!

Again, this project can be completed using things you have sat around at home, so you shouldn’t need to buy anything except the filter.

Get the full instructions, plus advice and tips for design and build, here.

DIY duck pond and filter

Posted on 23 May 2018 in Waterfowl and tagged under , , , ,

Ducks are fascinating birds and one of our favourites. If you don’t already keep them, they make a great alternative to chickens, and you can also keep them in addition to your existing poultry.

muscovy ducks

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a pond or lake for ducks to be happy. You simply need to provide them with a water source deep enough for them to get their heads under, as this is important for their health.

Here are our top 10 facts about ducks:

  1. All types of duck are part of the Anatidae family of birds and ducks are found across the world in all continents except Antarctica.
  2. Ducks are precocial which means that within hours of hatching ducklings are covered in down and able to walk and leave the nest.
  3. Ducks are omnivorous and opportunistic so they’ll eat everything from plants to crustaceans if they can find them.
  4. Duck quacks do echo!
  5. There are over 40 breeds of domestic duck throughout the world.
  6. The estimated number of ducks is thought to be 1.1 billion – with two thirds of those ducks being in China.
  7. Ducks have been domesticated as pets and farm animals for over 500 years.
  8. All domestic ducks are descended either from the Mallard or Muscovy breeds.
  9. Ducks don’t just quack – their verbal communications range from squeaking to whistling and growling.
  10. Although most duck species are monogamous for the breeding season they don’t mate for life.

 

ducks

Posted on 15 May 2018 in Chicken Chat and tagged under , , ,

If you’re still on the fence about chicken keeping, or you know someone who is, there might be hidden benefits of poultry keeping that you haven’t considered.

Here are our top benefits of keeping chickens:

  1. You’ll have a better diet

Chickens that are allowed to free range and eat a wide variety of plants and bugs produce healthier eggs – fact. Your hen’s eggs will contains higher amounts of Vitamins A, D, and E, they’ll have less saturated fats and cholesterol, and more Omega-3 fats.

  1. You’ll be doing chicken welfare a favour

If you have your own eggs at home you won’t need to buy eggs, therefore you won’t be financially supporting chicken factory farms. Of course, buying free range eggs are a solution but the definition of “free range” isn’t always what it seems.

  1. You’ll be doing your bit for the environment

Chickens love to eat weeds and protein packed bugs so you won’t need to use chemical bug sprays or weed killer. Their waste also makes great fertiliser so your plants will look wonderful without any chemical intervention.

  1. They’ll improve your soil

If you’re a keen gardener having chickens scratching over tired looking flower beds will improve your soil no end. Put a layer of compost on your beds and they’ll be more than happy to mix it in with the soil!

chicken in the garden

  1. You’ll get outside more

Fitting exercise into a busy working week can be hard but keeping chickens means you’ll have to spend a certain amount of time each week in the garden. Moving feed sacks and bales of bedding is also a good cardiovascular workout.

  1. Chickens are a natural antidepressant

When you stroke a pet a stress reducing chemical called Oxytocin in released leaving you feeling calmer, and more contented. The calming effect of chickens on a persons’ mental state can be so strong they have even been used as therapy animals.

  1. You could prevent extinction of heritage breeds

The commercial farming of chickens has meant that many breeds are no longer kept and are now facing extinction. Getting involved in keeping rare, heritage chicken breeds means that their genes are preserved and valuable genetic material isn’t lost.

Buff Orpington

Posted on 13 May 2018 in Chicken Chat and tagged under , ,

It’s pretty safe to say we love chickens and there are millions of other people all over the world that love their chickens too. Today, we’re looking at the top reasons to start keeping chickens.

  1. Fresh eggs!

This is probably the top reason that people start keeping chickens and having a daily supply of fresh eggs is certainly a good enough reason for us.

Not only will you get the satisfaction of collecting your own eggs, but you’ll also know exactly what went into making them. You are what you eat after all!

eggs

  1. Chickens are educational

Keeping chickens in your back garden is a great way to teach your children a little bit more about where their food comes from.

Having any pet is a valuable lesson in respecting and caring for animals but having a pet that gives you a tasty treat back in return for your love and dedication is even better.

  1. Your garden will be bug free

If you let your chickens free range you’ll be amazed at how quickly they get rid of all the bugs in your garden.

Worms, slugs, beetles, flies, snails, and spiders all make a tasty snack for hens so you’ll be provided with free pest control all year around.

  1. Chickens are low maintenance

Most common breeds of chicken are hardy, easy to care for, and low maintenance making them an ideal pet.

Usually as long as your flock has food, water, exercise, and a clean shelter they’ll be happy. Of course, how fancy you want to make your chicken house is up to you!

bespoke chicken house and run

  1. You’ll get free fertiliser

Whether you let or hens free range or not you’ll still have an abundance of glorious free fertiliser that your plants will love.

The high nitrogen content of chicken poo means that it turns into brilliant compost so put it on your flower beds and just wait for your plants to thrive.

  1. Chickens enhance any garden

Even the plainest breed of chicken is beautiful and there are plenty of ornamental breeds if you want something really spectacular.

  1. Chickens are entertaining

In return for as little as 15 minutes per day of your time you’ll get hours of entertainment back.

You’ll soon learn that each chicken has her own personality and all of the different breeds have their own character traits.

chicken joke

Keeping chickens is a fantastic pastime, one that people have flocked to in recent years, and chickens could make a fantastic addition to your garden and your family.

Here are the most common questions people that are new to chicken keeping ask:

#1 – Do I need permission to keep chickens?

If you live in the UK then you shouldn’t need permission to keep chickens. However, some old houses have bans on keeping chickens so it’s important to check the deeds to your house first.

You might also want to phone your local Environmental Health Officer just to cover all bases. And of course, asking your neighbours if they mind is the polite thing to do!

#2 – What do chickens eat?

Chickens are omnivorous which means that they’ll eat pretty much anything! The majority of your hens’ diet should be made up from a commercial pellet or layers mash which you can buy at your local feed merchants and some pet shops.

You’ll also find your hens look for their own food including grass, worms, and bugs.

#3 – How much do chickens eat?

The exact answer to this question depends entirely on the number of birds you keep and their age, sex, and breed but here’s a rough guide:

  • Laying hens = 4/6 ounces of food per day
  • Bantams = 2/3 ounces of food per day

Larger breeds, such as the Buff Orpington or Jersey Giant, need more feed and all chickens will need an increased food intake during the colder winter months. Chicken keepers usually make sure food is available at all times so that hens can help themselves throughout the day.

#4 – How do I put my chickens to bed?

Chickens usually put themselves to bed at dusk, although this doesn’t always mean they’ll go to bed in their hen house!

For the first few weeks you may need to herd them in at “bedtime” or lay a trail of food to the chicken house door for them to follow. Chickens are creatures of habit and it shouldn’t take them long to get into a routine.

If you keep your chickens in a run then you could also try not letting them free range for a couple of weeks. After this point they should know where “home” is and put themselves to bed without you needing to get involved.

raised chicken house

#5 – How long do chickens live?

This varies from breed to breed and of course depends on whether your chicken is injured or becomes ill. Generally a healthy bird will live for between eight to 15 years, although chickens have been known to live for as long as 20 years.

#6 – How many eggs will my chickens lay?

Again, this depends entirely on the breed and age of your chickens. Commercial hybrids, such as the Warren, could lay 320 in a year. Pure bred or rare breeds tend to lay fewer eggs.

You’ll also find that hens lay fewer eggs as they get older but most breeds are fairly productive layers during their first laying year.

eggs

#7 – Do I need a cockerel to get eggs?

No, and your neighbours would probably appreciate it if you didn’t! You’ll only need a cockerel if you want to start breeding your chickens and need fertilised eggs.

#8 –  What do I do if one of my chickens is ill?

Because chickens are prey animals they don’t usually start to look ill until it is quite serious. This means that if one of your flock does become ill you’ll need to act quite quickly.

Remove the ill bird from the flock, place it in a warm, quiet place with food and water, and watch for any changes. If your hen doesn’t improve then consult a chicken friendly vet – finding one can be a challenge, so it’s worth sourcing a good vet before you purchase your chickens.

#9 – What do I do with my hens if I go on holiday?

The easiest option is to make friends with another chicken keeper and take it in turns to look after each other’s flocks when you go away. Another option that is gaining popularity is to send your chickens on a “hen holiday” where they’ll be cared for until you return.

A quick internet search should turn up a company that is local to you.

chickens on suitcases

#10 – How big does my chicken house need to be?

This is another question that entirely depends on the number of birds you have and their breed. As a general rule your run or enclosure should provide 2/3 square feet per bird. If your birds aren’t going to free range then you should look at an enclosure that gives them 10 square feet per bird.

 

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