Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Keeping Quail

Living with us here at FSF HQ, we have chickens, ducks, geese, guinea fowl, swallows, martins in our barn the occasional woodpecker stopping by and SBB's. We have not had as part of our flock for some years now Quail, however in the last month or so, we have had four Quail come to join us here at FSF HQ.

Egg Boxes for QuailBeing such a tiny bird, they do not need the largest of spaces, making them a great bird for people with limited room. They are however, perhaps rather unexpectedly, reasonable flyers so cannot be kept on a free range basis, but in an enclosure. We have set our new arrivals up here in the run of our display Long Legged Maggie's Dozen with a 9ft run, with their own smaller house underneath the larger, this gives them plenty of room to roam around all day. As quail are so small it is a good idea to put a timber skirting around the bottom of their enclosed area, or equally to make sure there are plenty of sheltered spots to keep them out of the wind and rain; a necessary for such a small bird with the climate our country has. You may find that if
you put your quail in a run or house with your hens, that they will be bullied by the much larger hens and beaten around, having their own space is always better. If you are thinking of getting some quail you will need to get some specialist quail feed. Higher in protein than normal poultry layers pellets, around 24%, this is the optimum feed for quail. They are prodigious egg producers as well, laying around 300 of their distinctive dabbled coloured eggs a year. So, once they are laying, some specialist quail egg boxes, designed for the much smaller eggs quail produce, are going to be in order. If you are interested in knowing more about quail, have a read of Katie Thear's book 'Keeping Quail', really the best book out there and filled with everything you could ever want to know about these unique little birds.

Quail in the backgarden

Now that they are firmly ensconced here as part of our FSF flock and ready to settle down into a life of luxury and leisure, they are truly happy. If you are calling in to our shop at any point, as you walk down from the car park to the barn, you will pass these little brown birds. However you might have to look hard for them, their mottled brown feathering on top of the woodchip make them almost invisible, as they zip back and forth around their run.

When we were first in conversation with Country Living Magazine and the Royal Horticultural Society about donating some of our beautiful hen houses to the RHS Hampton Court Palace Show and RHS Tatton Park Show; with the coops then going onto ebay to be sold to aid two worthy charities, the excitement was palpable.

Now with the closing of Tatton Park Show 2013 on the 28th July; after what seems the whole of the north (with not a flat cap in sight) flooded o'er hill and dale to visit the event, that excitement is subsiding. The displaying of the six hen houses decorated by celebrities such as Kate Humble and Deborah Meaden (as you are all now fully aware I am sure after my numerous blogs) received a paramount level of enthusiasm, admiration and interest. The amount raised by their auction on ebay, was merely the cherry on top of the cake, with a staggering £2046.55 going to two great charities; the RHS School Garden Scheme and Country Living's choice of the Addington Fund which supports British farmers, the whole enterprise has been brilliant and I wouldn't hesitate, in labeling the whole exploit a resounding success.

Hobby Hen House RHS Tatton Park Show 2013

Friday, 26 July 2013

Poultry Worms: Identifying, Curing and Preventing

Here at Flyte so Fancy HQ we have been speaking to many people over  this last few weeks of warm weather, regarding problems that all seem to come back to the issue of poultry worms. While not one of the nicest aspects of chicken keeping, it should just be regarded as one of those things that comes with chicken keeping.

If your hen has mucky tail feathers the first idea that springs to mind is that your chicken has worms, which can happen even if they are regularly wormed. There are three main types of worms that can affect poultry; Roundworms, Gapeworms and Tapeworms. Roundworms are the most common, looking like spaghetti and living in the birds intestine. Gapeworms are a type of roundworm that attach themselves to the throat of the chicken and impair their breathing. Tapeworms are less common and attach themselves to the intestine wall by burying their heads into the lining of the wall. 

Worms are regularly spread by intermediate carriers, like slugs and snails that free ranging hens will snatch up as a tasty treat. The signs that a hen might be experiencing a problem with worms are fairly easy to see. Firstly, check the droppings of your birds. Healthy chicken droppings should be firm, rounded and of two sections.

If the droppings are of a green colour it could be that your hen doesn't have worms but a dietary imbalance. If this is the case, you should ask yourself, do I fed my hens too many greens as treats? Whilst they go mad for fruit and veg, their diet should be mainly a layers pellets with a small tidbit of something tastier at the end of the day, too many greens can give them diarrhoea. A black or runny dropping could be a dietary deficiency again and it is worth revisiting their daily diet.

Yellow coloured droppings which will normally stick to their tail feathers, could mean that your hens diet is very rich in corn or maize, however it far more likely that it is actually a sign of intestinal worms. Birds with messy back quarters will need cleaning up quickly. Get a tub  of warm soapy water ready and immerse the hens backside, letting it soak so that the matter begins to break up. Then (and I recommend wearing gloves) loosen the mess from the back of the bird. After a rinse off it is best to let them dry naturally, so doing it on a cold day isn't advisable. 

There are treatments available for getting rid of worms, however with most things in chicken keeping, prevention will always top the cure. Leaving hens on the same area of ground over a long period of time is a primary cause of worms in a flock and there are a range of disinfectants available for this problem.

Net-Tex Ground Sanitiser Powder can be sprinkled on the ground and will kill worms from the larvae stage to fully grown. Another great preventative against internal worms is the use of a gut conditioner. A natural and safe liquid that you simply add to their drinking water, this herbal product maintains a healthy digestive system. It will help expel internal parasites to keep your hens healthy, worm free and maintaining a good gut. VermX Pellets or Liquid is another very popular brand of gut treatment, which if used regularly, can keep the problem in check.

It should be noted that if you suspect your birds are suffering from a worm infestation, or appear to have gapeworm, then we suggest a vet consultation or the use of Flubenvet, which is a prescribed anthelmintic for the treatment of worms in poultry. 


Worms are an unfortunate part of keeping chickens, it is important to get rid of and prevent internal worms to have happy healthy hens. Herbal gut conditioners should be used on a regular monthly basis to be at their most effective against worms.Vigilance and having a few essential products in your cupboard is everything you need to keep your flock free of worms and in tip-top shape. 

If you are unsure about which product to use or you need some help, please call 01300 345229 and speak to a member of our team.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Celebrity Hen Houses arrive at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Show 2013

After what seems like an eternity of waiting since we were first contacted by Country Living Magazine about their exciting collaboration with the Royal Horticultural Society for the Hampton Court Palace and Tatton Park shows; one of the countries preeminent flower shows finally arrived.

When July 8th finally rolled around I was to be found sat quietly at my desk, unable to sit still as I waited for the first photos of the event to arrive back at FSF HQ. It was perhaps in vain that I tried to focus on the work in front of me.

Flyte so fancy is immeasurably proud of the quality and care that goes into all our houses. The use of Joinery grade timber, a selection of the best materials for the fittings and precision down to the smallest millimetre, all result in something that we have no compunction in putting our name on. Talking to Phill and Anne a few days ago about the upcoming show, Phill had nothing but joy to express about being chosen to participate in this collaboration; "I really can't think of enough adjectives to describe how happy we are to have our long legged hobby hen houses in this display and how excited to see what unique personal touches the six celebrities will bring to their houses."

Luckily my excitement and expectation was not misplaced as the photos from the Hampton Court Palace Show Press Day came through. My eyes were quickly drawn to the exuberant colours of Nikki Tibbles design, before focusing on the soft colouring of Philippa Forrester's hen house and ending on the clever design of Kate Humbles chicken coop window boxes (specially made for her by Phill, no favouritism of course).

Philippa Forrester, David Domoney and Sophie Conran all painted their houses in an individual way. Philippa Forrester's subtle shades and endearing poems on both sides highlight someone with a true passion for poultry.

David Domoney's (the gardeners gardener) fun egg decoration is an hilarious and cheerful design that really stands out and a clear centre piece for any sort of garden.

Sophie Conran's stencil style fabric print on the roof of her Hobby hen house is a striking and pretty design that I shall be attempting on my own Annie's Ark as soon as I can get the paint and a helper with a steadier hand than my own.

Nikki Tibbles flower decorated hen house is hard to look away from and would provide blooms in the garden year around for any chicken to enjoy. Secretly my favourite, it had drawn many comments of admiration for one of the countries top florists.

Kate Humbles window boxes of delight, make the chicken coop a one stop shop for fruit (yes those are strawberries either side of the pop hole) veg, flowers and eggs.

Deborah Meaden's Dragons Den orientated coop is a hen house with a lot of humour, especially on the boards around the pop hole and topped with two regal dragons on the roof.

Each one of these coops was an individual masterpiece, that we would all love to have in our gardens and all proceeds from the auction of them went to the RHS Campaign for School Gardening and Country Livings charity the Addington Fund which supports British farming. 

Talking to Anne as we were looking through the photos (incidentally her favourite being Deborah Meaden's Dragons Den design, she says its because they're both "business savvy women"; I think it's because of the Dragons on the roof personally) we both agreed that the whole event had been a triumph and decided that we've actually run out of superlative synonyms to describe the whole thing. We were however, as excited to see the houses go to the RHS Tatton Park Show on the 25th July and to hear the same great feedback from everyone who clapped eyes on these six very special hen houses.

Hopefully, sharing these photos with you has inspired you to try some custom painting of your own.  

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.