Tuesday, 29 April 2014

My Hen is Laying Deformed Thin Shelled Eggs, What Can I Do?

With the passing of the Easter weekend, it's possible you spent more of your time eating chocolate eggs as opposed to real ones. Personally my Easter egg eating consisted of watching my two younger nieces destroying a bowl of Mini Eggs (of which I was allowed none), having to purchase my own egg and finally an ill conceived idea, regarding a deep fat fryer and a Creme Egg.

Quail Eggs
Quail Eggs from the FSF Quail
Now that all the debauched chocolate eating madness is over, you are more likely to be enjoying an omelette, but we have had a few phone calls over the last few days regarding deformed or abnormal eggs.

A soft shell egg is something that you will encounter while keeping chickens, in fact new layers or old hens coming off lay often lay a soft shell egg. If it is infrequent then there is really nothing to worry about, however if it is a frequent and repeated it is most likely a sign of calcium deficiency in your hens. If this is the case, then you will need to feed your girls more oyster shell grit (a great source of calcium) or check that the layers pellets that they are getting is of a good quality. Equally Cal-Boost, a concentrated mixture of calcium and vitamin D3, which when added to a hens drinking water helps improve egg shell quality, thickness and strength. It's also excellent for aiding with shell fractures and hairline cracks or rough textured shells.

Similarly, disease, such as infectious bronchitis, can result in a soft shelled egg. A trip to the vet can often cure this, however if you are producing eggs for breeding, then the ones from the infected hen should obviously not be used.

Cock Egg at Flyte so Fancy
A Wind or Cock Egg
When a hen first starts to lay, they can often produce strangely shaped or odd eggs. Equally as a hen reaches the end of her egg cycle, her egg shells can become thin and lighter in colour and as the shell is weaker can be misshapen. The most common form of a deformed egg is for it to have a thicker band around the middle, this is formed when a sudden shock to the hen causes the egg to stop and extra layers of calcium are deposited before it continues on. These eggs are still fine for eating, but should not be used for hatching.

Chickens can also lay wind or cock eggs, which are very small eggs with nothing but egg whites inside, when no yolk has been released. The opposite is a double yoker, where in the reverse, too many yolks have been released into one egg. Neither can be used for hatching.

There are a few other reasons why a hen might not be laying an egg. Are your chickens getting enough day light. While they like to nest somewhere dark for laying an egg, they need plenty of daylight to get going. We recently spoke to a customer who was having terrible trouble with her hens not laying. After putting our thinking caps on it transpired that the customer had covered her pen in a black sheet roofing, taking the light levels down to almost nothing, hence her hens wern't laying. If you are going to cover your pen with a protective roofing then make sure it is a translucent one, so you have the best of both worlds.

A silly point, but worth making, is your bird actually hen. Through ignorance or deception of the breeder you are purchasing from, you may have been sold a cockerel as a hen. Finally diet, a chickens diet needs to be closely regimented. If a hen is fed too much or things that are bad for them, for example excessive levels of protein through too many mealworms, it can quickly result in them becoming obese and no longer laying. A healthy diet is important for healthy eggs.

Hens in the Field at Flyte so Fancy

I hope that this has been helpful to anyone who might of come across a weird shaped egg in their nest box and as always if you have any questions leave a comment or give us a ring on 01300 345229.

Thanks for Reading

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Flyte so Fancy Chicken Blog Birthday!

This Sunday 26th April will mark a prodigious poultry milestone. An anniversary of epic proportions. A landmark that will long be spoken of in the Annals of Flyte so Fancy history. An occasion that will no doubt.....

Well I might have somewhat given myself over to hyperbole now. However, this Sunday does indeed mark one year of my tenure as the Flyte so Fancy Blogger. During that year I have spent my time making a nuisance of myself in the workshop, getting in the way of the ever busy despatch department and (hopefully) compiling some useful hints and tips about chickens for both myself and all other chicken keepers. So, as a celebration of my blogs first birthday, I skimmed through and plucked out some of my favourite misadventures and fact finding missions.

Flyte so Fancy Chickens Free Ranging
Chickens on a Sunny Day
All the way back in May 2013 I headed onto the lawn with Operations Manager Rich to get some new Junior Protection Pen Instructions finished, before the next black cloud stopped above FSF HQ. The Junior Protection Pen Pen is the smaller version of our incredibly popular Poultry Protection Pen and is perfect for those with an economy of space, while still standing 6' 2" inches high it is high enough for you to join your flock inside. Having got the Junior Protection Pen up before the sun disappeared behind the next cloud, some of our dedicated feathered testers were popped safely inside and I returned to the office.

Long Legged Hobby Hen Houses
Phillipa Forrester at RHS Hampton Court 2013
Throughout the summer of 2013 the blog repeatedly turned its attention to the building, preparation and decorating of six very special Long Legged Hobby Hen Houses by six celebrities, that went on to be displayed at the RHS Royal Hampton Court Show and the RHS Tatton Park Show. With the likes of BHWT supporters Kate Humble, Phillipa Forrester and Deborah Meaden all giving it a go, some Flyte so Fancy Hen Houses received some truly unique style.

In July 2013 after talking to a customer who was worried about her three bantams catching intestinal worms, the blog looked at the issue of poultry worms and put together an information blog about identifying, curing and preventing this particular problem. Which earned a second phone call from the same customer thanking us for being so helpful, something which brought a smile to this particular bloggers face.

Similarly in August 2013 the blog turned its attention to the common poultry pest to plague chicken keepers, Red Mite. Sitting down with Phill and Anne, the blog put together a list of Top Tips for Getting Rid of Red Mite. From Anne's handy hint of putting Vaseline on the end of the perch to help identify to if your girls are suffering, through to a simple picture of what red mite actually look like, it was a blog entry that garnered some great feed back from our FSF customers who found it useful.

Gypsy Hen House
Gypsy Daydream Hen House
Another favourite blog entry of mine, is from way back in September 2013 when the blog looked at some of my personal favourite painted and decorated hen houses. From the intricate art work of the Gypsy Daydream Hen Houses, to the simple two tone of an Annie's Coop we had on display, adding a dab of paint to a Flyte so Fancy Chicken Coop can really enhance the style of your hen house and add a splash of colour to the garden.

Finally in the last few weeks the Flyte so Fancy Blog has been all about Incubating, Hatching and Rearing chicks, spurred on by the arrivals of some Heinz 57 chicks, Silver Hamburgs and soon to be hatched baby ducklings to the FSF Team. With hints and tips on getting the best results, questions and answers and particularly cute pictures of fluffy chicks.

FSF Team Members
In the last year the Flyte so Fancy Chicken Blog has wandered through such important subjects as the changing rules EU rules in Mealworms to help customers understand what was going on, covered everything from poultry bedding to most recently, automatic chicken house door openers and much, much, much more besides. From wild birds to woodchip the blog has always worked hard to be interesting, informative and most importantly amusing,  and I would like to take the opportunity to thank you very much for reading for the last year.

Thanks for Reading

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Automatic Chicken Door Openers: A Comparison

I have written before in the Blog and in our Bi-monthly Newsletters, of a continuing and deepening love affair between myself and my bed. Somewhere between the giant fluffy sheep of pillows, a duvet thick enough to send a bear into hibernation and the ability to lay like a starfish, a love affair with sleep has blossomed. The enabler in this secret tryst with Morpheus, is my Automatic Chicken Coop Door Opener, the savior of my Sunday morning slumbers and a vigilant guard over my flock throughout the week.

Chicken House Door Openers
VSB & ChickenGuard Auto Door Units
Flyte so Fancy has two Automatic Chicken Door Openers available, the well known and established VSB Automatic Door, and the highly functional ChickenGuard Auto Door, that has been around for about a year and half now. The Blogs attention has turned to these units this week for a comparison, to help you decide which might be more useful for you.

Can I put the Auto Door Opener Unit internally?

If you're looking to keep the aesthetic of your hen house, you may want to put the auto door internally on your coop. The VSB unit, thanks to a light sensor cable, can be placed internally, keeping the smart look of your hen house and hiding the whole set up inside. Due to the nature and functionality of the ChickenGuard, it has to be placed on the outside of your coop.

Can I get the Auto Door to open via light or by a timer?

Both the VSB and the ChickenGuard can work off either ambient light or via a timer for opening and closing. However, the VSB can either work off light or a timer and it is an addition to the unit, while the ChickenGuard has a built in timer and due to its increased functionality you can set it to open on the light sensor and close on the timer, or vice versa, however you wish.

If my hens are in before it gets dark can I close up the unit early?

You cannot do this with the VSB unit, but the ChickenGuard does come with override buttons that allows you to open and close the door, the unit then reverts to opening and closing as previously set.

What sort of warranty do the Auto Chicken Doors come with?

The VSB Automatic Door comes with a three year warranty, while the ChickenGuard Door has a two year warranty.

Can I have one of these Auto Doors fitted to my chicken coop?

These Automatic Doors work vertically like a portcullis, so if you want to fit one to your coop, you need the height of the door doubled and then a bit extra for positioning the Auto Door Unit above. Here at Flyte so Fancy we do specialised internal (where possible) and external VSB kits for all of our houses that are compatible. If ordering a VSB or Chickenguard at the same time as your Flyte so Fancy Hen House, then we will fit it for you free of charge. These are;

Free Fitting of Door Units to Your Hen House
FSF House Kits Fitted in our Workshop
Flyte so Fancy Aviary
Maggie's Six Hen House
Maggie's Dozen Hen House
Maggie's 24 Hen House
The Dorset Stroller
The Dorset Ranger
Haven Hen House
Handy Hen House
Hobby Hen House
Granary Hen House

ChickenGuard Automatic Door Units have to fixed externally and so will only be compatible with hen houses where there is room vertically to fit one.

Will the Automatic Door Opener work with my chicken coop door?

Both units only work using a vertical sliding door. The lightweight sliding pop-hole doors are a sturdy and secure door of the right weight. These aluminium doors are preferable to thin timber doors which can easily warp and then stick in their runners, which it turn can lead to your unit not functioning correctlty. Some of our kits for our larger hen houses come with specially made timber doors, thick enough not to warp and light enough to be lifted easily. Any door needs to be of the right weight for the specific unit that you are using.

Does a VSB or ChickenGuard need any special tools or an advanced doctorate in engineering to be fitted?

Here at Flyte so Fancy we have compiled easy to follow, fool proof instructions for fitting, programming and setting both the VSB Auto Door Opener and ChickenGuard, available to view on the website at the bottom of the product page or by clicking HERE for the VSB Unit or HERE for the ChickenGuard. Of course, if you order your Auto Door Opener at the same time as you order your Flyte so Fancy Hen House everything will all ready be up and running (fitted free of charge). We are also always on the end of the phone if you have any problems and willing to help with anyone scratching their head.

The two Automatic Chicken Door Openers available from Flyte so Fancy both have their merits and there is a unit suitable for all, making sure that a Sunday morning slumber or that your hens are safe and sound both day and night.

Thanks for Reading

Friday, 11 April 2014

5 Top Tips on Incubation, Rearing and Hatching Chicks

Every Tuesday and Thursday the slow trudge of Flyte so Fancy's resident chicken whisper (Rob the Gardener) can be seen, toing and froing with his wheelbarrow between the compost heap and the poultry paddock. He certainly has the love of his various charges here at FSF, from the Gold Sebrights and Silver Spangled Hamburgs up by the shop, down to the ducks, geese, guinea fowl and chickens in the field, the arrival of Rob always causes great commotion and excitement.

Newly hatched chicks at Flyte so Fancy
The FSF Chicken Paddock
I joined Rob on Tuesday in his toing and froing, for a chance to meet all the newly hatched arrivals and soon to be fully fledged members of the FSF Team. As we stopped by the day-old Gold Sebright chicks before moving down to the chicken field to give the Heinz 57, and slightly older Silver Hamburgs, a check up I took the opportunity to ask Rob for some of his top tips for successful incubation, Rearing and Hatching.

  1. "Always use fresh fertile eggs. It sounds like a silly thing to say, but I have known people use stale eggs, infertile eggs and a lovely old lady who once put a selection of supermarket "free range eggs " under a hen hoping for some chicks".
  2. "I've always found it easier to use a hen. There is nothing wrong with incubation, but you will need all the paraphernalia that goes with it, heat lamps etc. Stick some eggs under mummy hen and she will do all the work for you". 
  3. "In the first couple of days feed them a little boiled egg, great for giving them a much needed protein boost. While hatching they will have absorbed the last of the energy from the egg yolk, so this is just a continuation of this, then get them onto a real top quality chick crumb, with at least 17% protein levels". 
  4. "I always like getting my chicks out onto grass as soon as possible. But make sure that they are well protected. A fluffy little chick is a perfect bite sized meal for rats, let alone larger predators or even crows and sparrow hawks, so make sure that they are in a good strong coop, that can't be burrowed or broken into".
  5. "If you're planning on introducing them into a larger flock later on, make sure that the current flock can see the chicks as they grow, this will avoid bullying when they are all put in together. Just because a hen sat broody doesn't mean she will continue that motherly affection afterwards and two cockerels in a small flock will always fight, regardless of a father and son relationship".
Incubating and Rearing at Flyte so Fancy
One of our Heinz 57 Chicks
Finishing our tour and check up of all the young chicks, Rob took me over to one last chicken coop, where a broody hen has just started sitting on some duck eggs that the chicken whisperer put under her. So, in a few more weeks, hopefully we'll have some ducklings doing laps of the pond.

Duck Eggs under a Broody Hen
Duckling coming soon to a Broody Hen

Thanks for Reading

Monday, 7 April 2014

5 Questions and Answers about Incubation, Hatching and Rearing

The arrival of many cute little chicks to to the Flyte so Fancy team this last week has turned the blogs attention away from my usual bumbling adventures getting in the way of everyone actually doing some work, towards incubation, hatching and rearing chicks, with five answers to five questions we often get asked here at FSF HQ.
If you have the space to have a hen sit on some eggs then I would personally always choose a natural incubation. Ensure that the hen is definitely broody. You don't want her standing up after a few days and giving up. A broody hen is pretty easy to identify but if you're still not sure put some fake eggs under her and see how she reacts. Using a broody mother hen makes less work for you as she does all the incubating and turning the eggs for you and it also doesn't require a brooder. If she messes near the nest however, make sure to clean it up.


  • What is candling?
If you are incubating your eggs in an artificial incubator, then candling will be part of your routine for the incubation period. Candling takes its name from the old practice of holding an egg up to a candle to check its progress. Nowadays there are better options with candling lamps and torches taking the place of the candle.
  • I'm keeping my chicks warm with a heat lamp, how do I know if it's positioned properly?
The chicks themselves will give you the best indication of this. If they are all gathered in a group like penguins and making lots of noise, then the lamp is too high and they are too cold. If they are sat on the extremities of the lamp then the lamp is too low, they are too hot and they are trying to get out of the way of the heat. By around six weeks old the chicks should have developed enough feathers to keep themselves warm and the lamp can be removed (this of course does depend on the weather). 
  • Why do I have to rotate the eggs in my incubator?
Eggs need to be rotated to keep the air pocket at the blunt end of the egg clear. This air pocket is where the chick emerges from during hatching. Make sure you mark the egg with some sign, or breed and date if you are logging data, so that you can keep track of which way up it is facing and whether it has been rotated on schedule. Turning the eggs allows the embryo to develop properly, if manually turning the eggs you will want to do so a minimum of twice a day. You should turn the eggs through 180 degrees, then next time turn them back through 180 degrees. This is so the "strings" do not wind themselves around the embryo.

  • Which are the best hens to use as broody chickens?
If you are going to go the natural way of incubating a clutch of eggs the best breeds are Cochin's, Orpington's and Silkie's, not only of chicken eggs, but goose, pheasant, quail and even turkey eggs too.

If you have any other questions about incubating or rearing be sure to check out Flyte so Fancy's Information Page on the subject, or give us a call on 01300 345229 and we will try to answer any questions you may have. 

Thanks for Reading

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

From Lambs to Chicks

Followers of our social media pages would have, a few weeks ago, seen that Debbie from the office has been spending her afternoon's helping at a local farm with the lambing season. The photo's she brought in for us raised many an "Ahhhhhh" from the even the gruffest manliest of men from within the workshop. This week at Flyte so Fancy HQ has seen the hatching of our first chicks of the year, guaranteed to draw a similar "Ahhhhh" from the most stoic of carpenters.

Cute Dorset Lambs
Dorset Lambs
The FSF Blog has posted before on the bits and bobs you will need to get ready if your planning on rearing some chicks of your own, from Broody Coop's through to the right sort of feeders and drinkers for chicks. The FSF website also has a fantastic information page all about incubation, hatching and rearing, compiled from the collective wisdom of the bosses many, many, many years (I'll be in trouble with the bosses for putting in one many too many there) of hatching chicks. Of course not everyone has the room for natural rearing and FSF has a great supply of incubators, especially this new Novital All in One.  So, this year as our hatching season starts I thought I'd mainly post some pictures of the cute new recruits to our flock.

Naturally Rearing Chicks
FSF Chicks

Cute Chicks in a Broody Coop
Heinz 57 Chickens

Bedding for Chickens
HempBed-E inside the Broody Coop for Warmth

Hand Rearing Chicks with a Hen
Chicken All-Sorts headed out into the Broody Coop Run

Small Chicken Coop for Rearing Chicks
Protective Mother Hen just out of Shot

Hatching Chicks
Inquisitive Chicks 

Flyte so Fancy Chicken Supplies
New Recruits to the FSF Team

With Gold Hamburg Chicks very soon on the way and a Goose that any day now looks ready to take up residence on her nest and hiss at anyone who comes within a metre of her, we're sure it's going to be another year of cute and fluffy chicks. I haven't even been down to the pond yet to check what the ducks are up to this year!

Thanks for Reading

Flyte Aviary 8
More Team Members Arriving Soon