Thursday, 24 October 2013

Autumn Thoughts on Chicken Care

I headed down to the local town this last weekend, where they are filming a new adaptation of Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd in front of the beautiful town Abbey, to have a look as the town was transported back in time. With my wellies on and the peak of my cap pulled down down to beyond my nose I braved the weather. Walking home and feeling a sudden childish liberating urge to jump into a puddle, I quickly paid the price, as the depth of the puddle far surpassed the height of my wellies, forcing me to continue home with soggy toes.

Luckily my three hens avoided all these problems last weekend due to some added protection, done during the standard Saturday morning chicken chores and hen house clean. As well as the usual cleaning out of the old bedding and the weekly regimen of red mite treatment, I also gave the small chicken shelter that I have within my larger run, a once over. As well as being somewhere dry for the hens to hang, the shelter is where I store my poultry feeder and drinker during these wetter months, so it is vital that it will stay dry when in there. Wet feed is wasted feed, so I always triple check that it will avoid getting damp within the shelter and of course once within the shelter the chances of the feeder getting blown over are taken away.  

Secondly, one of my hens is persisting in her moult at the moment. As feathers are made of protein, I have been making sure over the last month or so to keep her diet nutritional. As such they all get a healthy serving of mealworms (the perfect source of protein for a bird) as an afternoon treat. The moult is an annual occurrence, lasting around a fortnight and often disturbs egg laying. The uneven nature of a moult can leave your girls looking straggly, but with plenty of protein and a bit of a rest, they'll soon be full feathered again and laying as normal. 

Lastly, I got some extra woodchips put down in the run. It doesn't take much rain to turn a poultry pen in to a quagmire of mud, so I always like to put down a thicker layer down to keep my girls high and dry and out of the mud. Made from hardwood (not bark, which will quickly turn to mush in the rain), the new layer of woodchip will sit happily in my run over the winter creating a protective layer for my girls and keeping them from the mud. If needs be I can also wash the woodchips down with a disinfectant or just turn the hose on them, although if the weather persists like the weekend, it would seem unnecessary. As winter goes on I will occasionally top up of the run with a bag of woodchip here or there, if it looks like it needs it.

These three little Autumn jobs meant that when I got home on Sunday (soaked to the skin and with sodden feet) and squelched down the garden path to check on my three chickens, having  feared for Huey, Louie and Dewie in the monsoon of water falling from the sky, I found three very dry and happy hens sitting in their shelter and enjoying a light afternoon luncheon of mealworms. 

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