Tuesday, 15 March 2016

What Do I Need to Care for Ex-Battery Hens?

The British Hen Welfare Trust held a re-homing day in Sturminter Newton, about eight miles from Flyte so Fancy HQ, over the weekend. Being so close we had visits from poultry keepers coming to our shop to pick up bits n' bobs for their new ladies. Equally some asked for advice on how to treat and help their new charges.

It is remarkable with ex-battery hen's how, with proper food, room to spread their wings and a little TLC, quickly your hens will be back to health. Even the most wretched and naked looking hen, will re-feather and be charging around your garden again in no time.

Flyte so Fancy Chicken Coops
Maggie's Six Hen House
This week's Blog features three key items for getting your new Ex-Bat's fighting fit again.

Cal-Boost Poultry Calcium Liquid

When you get your ex-batt hen it will be retiring from a job that required it to lay as many eggs as possible, every day, day after day, all year long. Understandably, the poor girls are tired. But this intensive egg laying can also lead to a calcium deficiency in the bird. As I'm sure your aware, egg shells are made from calcium and a calcium deficiency in the bird can lead to weak shelled and deformed eggs. It is also to be remembered that a hens physiology means it will use calcium from its skeleton to make shells for its eggs, thereby weakening its bones.

Cal-Boost Poultry Calcium Liquid is a concentrated calcium and mineral supplement (with additional vitamin D3) which when added to drinking water helps improve egg shell quality and thickness. The tonic is so concentrated it only requires two drops per litre of water. Ideal for tired ex-bat's when you administer this to the birds you will not see results immediately. The hens need to re-build the levels of calcium in their bones before they move on to laying good shelled eggs.

Smallholder Layers Crumble

The diet of a battery hen isn't spectacular. Most will have been fed a dry mash or similar during their working life. As such they often look under-fed and in a sorry state when you pick them up and take them to their new home.

Smallholder Free Range Layers Crumble is the perfect bridge feed for giving to your ex-batt's as you move them onto a more standard feed like Layers Pellets. As a crumble the feed is more similar to what ex-bat's are used to, however it also has the high level of protein (16%) and other essential nutrients and oils to get your new hens back up to scratch. It is remarkable when given a high quality feed, how quickly a hen will re-feather and look brighter and alert.

Flyte so Fancy Timber Hen Houses
Hobby Hen Houses

Part of being an ex-battery hen is the lack of space, being all cooped up (pardon the pun) within their coops. As part of their retirement, make sure that you get a house that provides the number of hens you rescue, adequate space to live happily.

Flyte so Fancy Hen Houses and runs are built within DEFRA guidelines to create happy hens living in healthy houses. With more that recommended perch space inside the coop and plenty of room in the runs too, there is enough room to stretch your feathers. The Maggie's Six Hen House and Hobby Hen House are ideal starter homes, providing everything a poultry keeper needs to easily keep the coop clean and the birds happy.

If you have any questions about keeping ex-battery hens why not leave a comment below, or call 01300 345229 to talk to a member of the Flyte so Fancy team.

Thanks for Reading

Friday, 4 March 2016

How To Naturally Hatch Chicks

Last spring, here at Flyte so Fancy HQ, we quite purposefully went out of our way to hatch more of the bosses favourite, Gold Laced Hamburgs. Usually we let the poultry paddock sort itself out and we end up with all manner of gorgeous Heinz 57 chicks and chickens. We achieved our aim of hatching more Hamburg chicks by using broody hens in our field.

Flyte so Fancy Chicken Blog
A Broody Hen
Each year we have several hens that go broody and settle down on a clutch of eggs, so we use them to our advantage. Some birds are more prone to going broody than others, Orpington's can be broody all summer long, and natural hatching under a hen really is ideal.

To begin with you shall need a Broody Coop or box lined with Hempbed-E or chopped bedding. Hens will be quite happy sitting on their nests, but make sure that you do not completely remove her from the rest of the flock, they should still be able to see each other. If you're putting your hen in a box make sure that it at least 40cm square. Don't be tempted to sit two hens next to each other, they will just try to steal each others eggs, ruining both nests.

Never put the eggs you want to hatch under the broody hen straight away. Put a few extra unimportant eggs under her to begin with to make sure that she has gone completely broody and not just going through a phase. Once you are sure that she is sitting tight, put the eggs you wish to incubate underneath her, removing the others. Doing this at night is usually better, when she is asleep.

Rearing and Incubating chicks the natural way
Chicks and Mother Hen in a Broody Coop
The broody hen should be taken off her nest each day to allow her to eat, drink and poop. Do this as part of a routine at the same time each day to avoid stressing your broody hen. Eggs take twenty-ones day to incubate and in the final three days you should try not to disturb your hen. Move feed and water to within her reach (but out of reach of the chicks) and let her be.

As tempting as it is to take a peek, leave your hen and chicks alone during the actual hatching. Disturbing them will just stress them out, the mother in particular. When the hatching is finished remove the empty shells and any unhatched eggs. The chicks will require water, a shallow dish with pebbles into prevent drowning is best, and chick crumbs in a feeder.

If you have any questions about the naturally hatching chicks leave a comment below or phone us on 01300 345229 to speak to a member of the Flyte so Fancy team. Equally have a look at our information page A Basic Guide to Incubation and Chick Rearing for more information on hatching chicks and rearing them.

Thanks for Reading