Thursday, 31 July 2014

Chickens and Hot Weather

It has been hot here at Flyte so Fancy HQ for roughly a fortnight now. Now, don't think I am complaining for one second. Summer in Dorset is a wonderful thing, but whilst I am able to placate the staff rumblings and mumblings with ice lollies and ice creams each afternoon, keeping the feathered flock at FSF cool and calm during this heat is a lot harder.

Chickens Water Feeders
Chickens and Ducks using one of many Poultry Drinkers
Their are two ways to keep a hen cool. Firstly shade and secondly plenty of fresh water. As I'm sure many of you know, chickens do not have sweat glands so when it comes to keeping cool for a hen, the task is a bit more difficult. When the weather is hot, you will see your flock being more active in the mornings and evenings and retreating out of the sun during the rest of the day. You might see your hen basking in the sunshine, laying in a sunny spot with a wing splayed and soaking up some rays, they're just enjoying the weather, but it is vital to make sure that you have somewhere for them to stay out of the heat, for a siesta.

Providing shade for hens in hot weather
A Chicken Shelter to give our Girls some Shade
Chicken Shelters have many functions and are often thought of as primarily keeping the rain off your girls during the long cold British winters. They do however equally serve the dual purpose of providing a cool shady spot for your hens to get out of the harsh summer sun. The inability to sweat means that one of the best ways for a hen to stay cool is to retreat into a cool dark spot. If you don't have room for a separate chicken shelter in your poultry pen or run, having a long legged hen house provides a place, in a similar manner, for chickens to retreat to during the midday hour.

Poultry Drinkers
Bucket Drinkers are Ideal for Ducks
Having a good supply of water for your hens is important too. While the FSF ducks and geese are happy to continually launch themselves into the pond for a cooling off, with the exception of our swimming chicken, the chickens and guinea fowl need plenty of water throughout the hot weather. We have a variety of poultry drinkers in the field, from lying bucket drinkers and honeypot drinkers whose contained drums help keep water fresh, through to troughs and some of the smaller Combo drinkers for our growing chicks. We have also made sure that their are enough poultry drinkers, with plenty of capacity to ensure that all of our flock can get a drink and that they don't run out mid way through the day. If you're wondering which drinker might be best suited for you, have a look at OUR VIDEO, as Boss Phill talks through some of the selection available and highlights some of the best bits of each.

Short of following your chickens around with a fan and a nice mixed corn ice lolly, providing plenty of shelter and water for them is the best way to see them through this hot summer were having. If you have any questions, or even your own suggestion on keeping hens cool, why not leave a comment below.

Thanks for Reading

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Flystrike - What to Watch Out For

In the last week we had a phone call from a lady who had gone to pick up her hen only to discover she was carrying a disgusting handful of maggots. Obviously horrified she quickly gave us a call to find out what had befouled her prize hen.

Over the last year and a bit the Flyte so Fancy Blog has tried to cover all aspects, joys and tribulations of keeping chickens. From the hatching of new team members in the poultry paddock through to dealing with issues like red mite and poultry worms. However, I must admit when it comes to our Blog topic this week I find myself feeling somewhat squeamish.

Flystrike is a particularly nasty, however I will stress fairly rare, affliction that sees a fly laying it's eggs within a hen, with the result that the hen is eaten by maggots from the inside out. Yuck! It's scientific name is Myiasis, however flystrike or flyblown is how it is more commonly known. Flies are attracted to exposed tissue, but it can also be through strong odours like a messy chicken coop that reeks of droppings, open wounds or sores and even cuts and scrapes.

How do i cure flystrike in a hen?
One of the problems of flystrike is that it can happen very quickly. Within twelve hours of a fly laying its eggs, maggots can emerge and start eating your bird. This is obviously not a nice experience for your hens and can be fatal if not dealt with.

To help prevent flystrike

  • Keep your hens bottoms clean. If they are messy give them a bath. Pasty vent in particular can be a great attraction to flies.
  • Keep your coop clean. Poultry disinfectants and Diatomaceous Earth liberally used will keep the hen house fresh. While Flyte Coop and Run Sanitiser or Stalosan will soak up any moisture within your coop. 
  • Hang Red Top Fly Traps around your chicken coop. The Red Top Fly Trap effectively catch and contains flies using a non-chemical lure. Lasting up to twelve weeks it drastically reduces the problems caused by flies. They should ideally be placed roughly 15m from your hen house to keep flies well away from the vicinity and you will also wish to place it away from your home as it really does smell quite horrid when it begins to fill with flies.
  • Some fresh herbs, like lavender and basil can help deter hens. 
If your hens are already suffering 
  • Remove all of the maggots as quickly as possible.
  • Clean the wound using Iodine from the chemist and if the attack is particularly bad a trip to the vets might be necessary. Equally for cleaning the wound an antibacterial spray or wound powder will help and always something handy to have on the shelf. 
Poultry Paddock - Free Ranging Hens
One of the Flyte so Fancy Flock
A nasty affliction to befall any chicken, whilst rare, it is equally easy to avoid by keeping your hen house in a clean and sanitary condition. As with most chicken related infliction's prevention is better than cure.  If you have any questions why not leave a comment below or give us a ring on 01300 345229. 

Thanks for Reading

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Poultry Predators - A Quick Guide

While the sun shines continues to shine down on our corner of Dorset Elysium, Flyte so Fancy is a buzz with the workshop creating great clouds of saw dust at record speed, the despatch team zipping back and forth with parcels a-plenty and the office team answering all manner of poultry posers. Down in the chicken field the ducklings have taken to the pond, like a duck to water, the new arrival of some Gold Laced Hamburg chicks from the incubator have added to all the usual feathery fun on the poultry paddock

Incubating Chicks
New Chicks to the FSF Field
However, this week I had a rather long conversation with a lady who had just lost one of her much treasured birds to a poultry predator. She was however unsure as to which miscreant had done the deed in broad daylight. After talking through the options and suggesting some ways to help reduce the chances of it happening again, the FSF Blog turned its attention to a quick run down of poultry predators

  • EATS: Adults or Chicks.
  • HUNTING: Day or night really, although it tends to veer towards day time. 
  • SIGNS: Dogs tend to kill as part of playing. A bird which has been killed with little eaten and with bedraggled feathers has probably been subject to a dog attack. 
  • DEFENCES: The best way to stop dogs is to have a strong secure fence or back garden. If you have both chickens and a dog as pets it is unlikely that your own dog will attack your birds, it will most likely just ignore them. Other people are responsible for their own dogs and cannot allow them to just wander into your garden, the law is on your side in this case
  • EATS: Eggs or Chicks.
  • HUNTING: Day.
  • SIGNS: These birds are omnivores and will eat anything. Many people have the problem of them stealing their feed from chicken feeders already. They are known to enter chicken coops and steal eggs right out of nestboxes or to steal chicks. 
  • DEFENCES: An enclosed run is the best option. However the legal Larson trap exploits their territorial instincts to make them stay away. A treadle feeder will seal away your feed from the birds making it less likely to draw them to your garden in the first place, as they are not heavy enough to work the treadle system.
  • EATS: Adults, Chicks and Eggs.
  • HUNTING: Night. 
  • SIGNS: These animals kill their prey by biting the neck, so if they have visited your coop the signs of attack will be to the head of your bird. Usually they will kill several birds at once. If they are eating your eggs often small teeth marks can be seen remaining in the shell. 
  • DEFENCES: These creatures are able to slip through incredibly small gaps, so make sure your girls run is secure and that it uses a small strong weldmesh, preferably inch by half inch. Equally be sure to cover any ventilation gaps with mesh also
  • EATS: Chicks and Eggs.
  • HUNTING: Night, worse in winter as they look for somewhere warm like a chicken coop to seek shelter and food
  • SIGNS: More likely to go after your chicken feed than your actual chickens, rats are opportunistic predators and steal eggs and chicks, if not small birds. They tend to take anything back to their nests but tell tale signs are raided feed, rat droppings near the feed, signs of gnawing and lots of holes and burrows near your hen house
  • DEFENCES: Make sure your coop isn't located right next to somewhere rats would ideally live i.e woodpiles and compost heaps. Keep feed secure and stored in a strong feed bin. A long legged hen house can dissuade them. Finally either get a cat or baited boxes. By law, poisons needs to be in sealed locked containers to avoid other animals getting into them. Also make sure that your bait boxes are located in sensible places, their is no point leaving it in the middle of the lawn, rather position them along rat runs like hedgerows or around areas that they like to nest
  • EATS: Adults and Chicks.
  • HUNTING: Night.
  • SIGNS: Badgers are omnivores and will eat small birds. They don't tend to take the bird away, so often birds are found dead in the morning half eaten. 
  • DEFENCES: Badgers are strong so make sure your chicken coop is sturdy and well constructed. Good diggers, so either electric fencing or no dig skirts for your chicken run can be utilised for keeping these pests out.  
Poultry Protection Pens
Poultry Protection Pens

  • EATS: Chicks.
  • HUNTING: Day.
  • SIGNS: They are often seen hovering overhead before swooping in. A bird of Prey's sharp beak and talons leaves distinct deep, stabbing cuts on a birds body.
  • DEFENCE: An enclosed chicken run is the best defence. Equally the hanging of shiny things, like CD's or plastic bottles can help deter them. 
  • EATS: Adults or Chicks.
  • HUNTING: Active twenty four hours a day, more likely to be at night. 
  • SIGNS: A cat will eat a whole chick, but often leaves the feathers of larger birds. 
  • DEFENCE: Similar to dogs, birds are rarely attacked by your own cat. It is other people's cats coming into your garden which is the issue. Unlike dogs, cats have the right to roam where they like and so it is upto you to keep your birds safe, enclosed in a run or within the limits of your garden. 
  • EATS: Adults, Chicks and Eggs.
  • HUNTING: Usually at either dusk or very early in the morning, however they are becoming a more common sight during the day, especially during cubbing season and in towns
  • SIGNS: Foxes will often kill several birds at once and then carry them away just one or two away with him. Just because you've scared a fox away doesn't mean he wont already have devastated your flock. 
  • DEFENCES: Foxes are adept at digging and climbing. They can scramble over fences or walls up to 6ft high. Equally they are very good at climbing onto a ledge of some sort (bins, a low branch etc) and then leaping over a wall. A good sturdy poultry pen, with strong weldmesh and roofed in is the best defence. Foxes are also exceptional diggers, so a no dig skirt or an anti-fox electric fencing kit, which will stop them tunneling in is a must. 
FSF Ducklings Growing Everyday
Unfortunately for our lovely girls their delicious eggs, and themselves, are just as sought after in the animal kingdom. However, with a little planning and a good sturdy coop and chicken run there is no reason why poultry predators should ever be a cause for continued sleep interrupting worry. For more information on poultry predators have a look at our information page on the website HERE, leave a comment or give us a ring on 01300 345229.

Thanks for Reading