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the_martian

Newbie with hen problems seeks advice

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We've had 4 goldlines since september last year and so far they have been simple to look after and rewarding to keep, but I think now we've got our first two problems. I 've been reading the FAQs and have got a plan of action, but I'd like to know if I'm on the right lines. The 4 girls are in an eglu cube most of the time, but occasionally I set up a wire extension which doubles the amount of room they've got and let them out in that for the day. The eglu is in the same position all the time (we used to move it, but found that the grass was disappearing rapidly) and is cleaned out and disinfected once week. I occasionally dig out the ground underneath the eglu. The girls are fed layers pellets but get treats of leftover veg, corn, raisins etc and I give them weeds from the garden or bark chippings to play with.

 

Our problems:

1) Two of the birds are getting pecked - nothing too serious at the moment, but I'd like to nip it in the bud.

2) One bird has laid soft, broken eggs for the last 4 days running. We've had a few softies before, but not this many on the trot. I also think we may have the start of an egg-eating problem as a result of the softies.

 

I suspect that the hen are bored and I've read that by feeding pellets they can get their food so quickly that they then get bored. The book suggested feeding layers mash instead as that takes longer for them to get full. So I thought I'd put a smaller amount of pellets in and put mash in instead (I've got 2 feeders, so I can keep the food separate). Does that sound reasonable? I have got some anti-peck spray and will be applying that as well.

 

I've also been reading that hens that free range or are kept on litter are more susceptible to worms and I'm wondering if thats the problem with our softie layer. I haven't wormed the hens before (due to ignorance on my part) so I plan to get some flubenvet. I'm also thinking that I should move the cube to a new patch of ground and put up with losing the grass. Its just that the current location is really good as it gives them shelter on two sides. I think I know which hen is having the problem as she didnt lay this morning and has a mucky bottom (none of the others do).

 

Sorry that was such a long post. Thankyou if you've read this far and any comments will be welcome.

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Not sure about the possible worm problem but regular worming is essential. Could the soft shell be due to a lack of calcium? Do you give them any sort of grit/soluble calcium supplements? If you have a look at the 'plucking has gone too far' post you will see it goes onto discuss chicken 'in-eglu' entertainment :D

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Hello, keeping them in one place is fine but you just need to put down something to keep the soil sweet. StalosanF is one of the poultry disinfectants and will kill worm eggs. Its a powder so you can chuck a handful a square metre down when cleaning out. There are others. Or you can use garden lime and rake/dig it in. I don't know how much you use. :?

 

Sounds like you are looking after them really well. Have you got a dustbath that gives them something to do and branches or perches in the run helps.

 

You say they are getting pecked, perhaps they are just resorting the pecking order and it will pass or are they pulling feathers. If so it may be worth trying some antipecking spray :?

 

Soft eggs happen sometimes especially if they have had a lot of extras so it may help to give a few days of extra calcium and a dollop of cod liver oil in food. It could just be due to a few worms and will pass when you've treated them.

 

Hope that helps a bit. :D

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Thanks for the replies. I like the idea of ping pong balls in water and I've seen some pictures of people who hang weeds for the chooks to peck at, so I think I'll do that as well (rather than just putting them on the floor). The comment about stalosanf looks good, so I'll have a go at that. I did used to add ground up egg shells to their food, but hadnt done recently as I've been putting grit in a pot for them. I dont know if they use it - they stand in the pot and scatter the stuff about :roll: . I was surprised at how big the grit is - about the size of small peas. I think I'll start adding ground up shells again as well as the grit.

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Hi, sounds to me like your being very proactive in all you've said so far.

 

For interest, I tie up carrot tops, broccoli/cauliflour stalks from string to run bars at just over head height (they seem to get more out of it jumping a bit). Also dust bath, some perches (maybe just a tree branch pushed through the bars to jump on). You can also get those metal food balls from pet shops that you can stuff with lettuce or cabbage to peck at and roll around or even hang up. May not stop the pecking problem but will give them something else to think about for a while.

 

Softies – sometimes this is just a blip that will sort itself out. However, I would suggest worming them just in case. I didn’t worm mine in the first 9 months I had them as I’d never seen worm evidence. Bought some Flubenvet as I was experiencing loss in egg production, wormed them, and to my horror found dead worms in their poo. Now I worm every 3/4 months regardless. Also, you can buy Limestone Flour (from horse supply shops) and put in a spoonful a day with their feed. This extra calcium will help harden their shells.

 

Good luck.

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Thanks for the idea of a dustbath - I'll set one up in the cube and see what happens. I did try hanging brocolli up a while ago but they were just confused by it. Perhaps they were too young then and couldnt figure it - I''ll try again now they're older and wiser ( wiser :lol: )

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