Friday, 5 July 2013

The Red Army

As the count down to the start of the first RHS Show at Hampton Court Palace (8th July for your calendars) gets ever closer to zero hour; we've gone through the initial excitement of being asked to join in this collaboration with Country Living Magazine and the Royal Horticultural Society, on to the nervous feelings of agitation at making sure that everything is perfect, to catching our second wind of enthusiasm. As you can tell its been quite a roller coaster of emotions here at FSF HQ the last few weeks. The appearance of a beautifully decorated Hobby Duck house on the lawn, done to the same decoration as a Gypsy Daydream certainly added to the anticipation, but everything soon settled down and we were back to focusing on the here and now of chicken keeping.

We are not sure if it is due to the cooler climate that we have had until the last few weeks or if they are merely having a month long lie in; but we are now hearing of red mite swarms up and down the country from our customers. With the arrival of a new batch of Sebrights due around lunchtime, our "chicken whisperer" Rob took the opportunity to prepare their coop. Rob, not known for doing anything in half measures, shut up the house tight and let off one of the Midi Chicken House Fumers within just to make sure there is nothing lingering in the nooks and crannies. Taking about two hours to fumigate the house, it is an insecticidal fume generator for amateur use in chicken coops and particularly useful against red mite.

While that was fuming, the other hen houses were thoroughly cleaned out with Poultry Shield (currently on a ridiculously good offer by the way) as they are at FSF HQ once a week. Poultry Shield works by removing the layer of organic matter from the coop that the hens like to live in and is widely regarded as one of the best non-chemical chicken house cleaners available. With the cleaning done and a fresh layer of FSF HempBed-E scattered on the floor and in the nestboxes (which in itself also has anti-mite properties due to it being washed through with eucalyptus), Rob then put a good covering of Diatom powder, which has residual mite control properties, throughout the hen house.

After working his way through all the coops giving them the same thorough weekly cleaning, Rob returned to the Sebright's coop (armed with a little treat for the new members of the FSF flock, who had arrived while he was off cleaning the rest of the coops and were enjoying a snooze on the Aviary 8's day perches) to remove the Midi Fumer, then put new bedding and Diatom into the house. Lastly he scooped up the hens and ruffled some Diatom through their feathers and also put some generous handfuls into the dust bath.

Everybody can, regardless of whether their hen house is plastic or wood, get red mite. However, following his regime of cleaning the houses every six days will make sure that our red mite preventatives are breaking the seven day egg to adult cycle. One of the best signs that you might have Red Mites in your chicken coop is your hens reluctance to go into their house at night, a good indicator that there are red mite inside waiting to feast on them.The best time to spot Red Mite is in the mornings after they have spent a vampiric night, they will be full of blood which gives them their distinctive red colour, making them easier to see. You will find the mite in the corners of your hen house, around perches and in any cracks or crevices where they can easily hide.

Holstering his Ready to Use Poultry Shield and loading up his wheelbarrow, this man with no name walked off into the sunset, with the appreciative clucking of ebullient Gold Laced Sebrights trailing on the summers breeze.

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