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majorbloodnock

Things I wish I'd known before my first hens

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I thought it might be both a useful and fun exercise to list some of the hints and wrinkles we've all picked up about chicken keeping. It's not intended as a definitive educational list, but more a dip into the Eureka moments of experience.

For me:

  • Mistrust any advertising literature using pictures showing expanses of green grass. Wherever you put your chickens, it'll stay like that for a week at most.
  • Forget trying to make the hens' home perfect; they'll ignore most of your efforts. If they've got plenty of food and water, somewhere to sleep and lay eggs, a reasonable amount of room to grub around and are safe from predators, everything else is just about satisfying you, not your chickens.
  • Take a look at your girls. They are the best barometer of whether or not you're doing things right, and it's easy to spot a happy chicken. You wouldn't beat yourself up for being a bad parent just because your child caught a cold, so no need to be hard on yourself if you find out one of your hens needs worming; if they're happy, you're doing fine and any problems are just incidental stuff to deal with.
  • Before you buy anything for your girls, mentally picture added rain and/or snow. If your hen house is open to the elements, sooner or later you'll need to clean it out whilst it's raining. If you need to kneel down to reach inside a run, sooner or later you'll need to do that in the wet grass or mud. If your food container doesn't have a lid, it will sooner or later fill up with water. If your enclosure doesn't have any kind of roof, sooner or later your hens will retreat into the hen house rather than get wet. Having made that mental picture, readjust your plans to make life easier for yourself and your hens; a bit of strategically placed tarpaulin or corrugated roof can make all the difference.
  • Forget trying to keep vermin out of your hens' enclosure. Instead, be as inventive as you like in avoiding spillage or access to the hens' food. When it comes to pests, prevention is far better than cure.
  • Foxes. No anti-fox protection is overkill. All the stories about how cunning a fox can be are true.
  • Any of your neighbours who've had any experience with chickens will immediately become experts.
  • Any of your neighbours thinking about getting chickens will immediately assume you're an expert.
  • No matter how busy your day, you will find you waste some of it just standing watching your hens.
  • If you didn't like omelettes before, you soon will.

Anyone else for any little nuggets?

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Trust your instincts! After a while with chickens you learn their little tells is something is not right. I learnt this the hard way over the last few days after my cockerel became lethargic at the end of last week.

I brought him in over the weekend to keep an eye on him and to make crop checks easier. As I suspected, crop not emptying and after much trying it would not improve. Straight to the vets Monday and, despite my own niggling doubts, was convinced a crop emptying was all that was needed and he was fine otherwise. So a large bill and a few hours later I brought him home with very little aftercare instructions or advice. By the next morning he had collapsed and died shortly after. Needless to say I was not impressed and wish I had stuck to my guns treating him at home and culling myself if I thought he was suffering/not improving. 

It is very easy to doubt yourself and my recent experience has taught me to trust my own judgement and knowledge of my flock!

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I wish I'd known that I'd added the chicken equivalent of Houdini to the flock. To cut a very long story short, I certainly hadn't thought that I'd be crawling under a huge bush in my over-the-road neighbour's front garden whilst a passing postie, lad on a bicycle, lady with a small and excitable Westie (whose mad yapping was just winding the poor hen up but I was too far under the bush to tell her that she was surplus to requirements - good job too as I certainly wouldn't have done so politely) and aforesaid neighbour with two tennis bats (possibly a frustrated jumbo jet parker) all tried to 'help' get Korma back. 

I wish I'd known that I should have clipped their wings as soon as I'd got them home. I hated doing it....it felt really quite savage the first few times and I never got used to it!

 

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I wish I’d known that I would not be happy with just 4 and so I should’ve saved up and bought a bigger house and run in the first place.

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These are brilliant, keep them coming... reminds me of the Baz Luhrmann Sunscreen Song :)

I will have to have a think about mine - they've been a lifetime in the making.

8 hours ago, rachel84 said:

Trust your instincts! After a while with chickens you learn their little tells is something is not right. I learnt this the hard way over the last few days after my cockerel became lethargic at the end of last week................................. Needless to say I was not impressed and wish I had stuck to my guns treating him at home and culling myself if I thought he was suffering/not improving. 

It is very easy to doubt yourself and my recent experience has taught me to trust my own judgement and knowledge of my flock!

So right Rachel - I see this time and again. Just recently a lovely lady I know, who came on one of my courses, had a bird with a blocked crop, she took it to a vet and came away £500 lighter and chicken not improved. We met and came up with a treatment plan, and she did brilliantly, and trusting her instincts. Said Hen is now doing very well and her crop issue has cleared up. Your instincts are always better than you think. Where chickens are concerned, there is an awful lot that you can deal with at home, but definitely things which really MUST go to the vet.

Would any of you mind if I shared some of these? I will credit you of course, but they are just fab.

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Posted (edited)

I think that my addition/ advice would be:

Don't beat yourself up if you miss a sign or symptom; chickens are very good at hiding their ailments, treat what you can see and get them to a vet if it's something you can't deal with at home. be vigilant - the better that you know your flock, the more chance you have of catching something before it escalates

 

9 hours ago, majorbloodnock said:

At the risk of stating the obvious, they’re in the public domain already. Help yourself.

Thanks you all - it's just polite to ask.

Edited by The Dogmother

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11 minutes ago, The Dogmother said:

Thanks you all - it's just polite to ask.

It is indeed, and I've never known you to do otherwise.

Strange how I'm happy for many things to be taken for granted until someone actually does. Thanks for not doing so.

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10 hours ago, majorbloodnock said:

At the risk of stating the obvious, they’re in the public domain already. Help yourself.

Same here!

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Adding to the list....

  • Most of us think of the enjoyment of keeping chickens when we start out on this path; chickens can be very endearing creatures. However, they can also be downright cruel to each other and display in spades unadulterated selfishness and regular doses of bullying. Both of these can be managed and/or mitigated, but accept that chicken keeping is not all good times and remember it when the responsibility you took on is wearing a bit heavy.
  • We all like the idea of free eggs on tap. We all of us deem "free" to be exclusive of the cost of the henhouse, the feeder, the drinker, the food, the run, the medications, the bedding and the myriad other things associated with chicken keeping. Except when going into egg production on a commercial scale, we'll never most of us break even. But we'll think we have.

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6 hours ago, majorbloodnock said:

Most of us think of the enjoyment of keeping chickens when we start out on this path; chickens can be very endearing creatures. However, they can also be downright cruel to each other and display in spades unadulterated selfishness and regular doses of bullying. Both of these can be managed and/or mitigated, but accept that chicken keeping is not all good times and remember it when the responsibility you took on is wearing a bit heavy.

I think tagging on to this is to not impose our own views of society on to the chickens! I remember being horrified at how they treat each other originally but it is their way and how they have evolved to keep order. Having said that, it doesn't stop me from sneaking an extra treat to the lowly bottom of the pecking order chook 😂

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The best thing for the coop floor is newspaper. It's free and allows easy daily inspection of overnight poos; the best/first indicator of impending illness.

Fancy drinkers are unnecessary. A plant pot base is easy to fill, clean and empty. Allows chickens to stand in it to cool down, easy addition of ice in Summer and easily emptied and refilled in Winter to stop freezing. They do need a good sized run though.

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I wish I realised about the flies...

It has taken me quite some years to find a good solution which works. But as I have a small garden, I do need to keep on top of it.

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I wish I had known how manipulative these little beasties can be!  

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On 7/18/2020 at 10:46 AM, Cat tails said:

I wish I realised about the flies...

It has taken me quite some years to find a good solution which works. But as I have a small garden, I do need to keep on top of it.

Me too! And only had them one day!!

Please could I ask what solution you have that works? Many thanks :)

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I buy this (see picture). It contains pheromones which only attract flies and nothing else. Add a few teaspoons to a 500 mL PET bottle of any kind, add some luke warm water and then hang it up in a wasp cap. I have two in the garden at all times as on some days they fill up fast.

Hang them up in the sun, but definitely not too close to your seating area as it really does reek... when full, just screw the cap back on and toss it in de bin.

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I wonder if that, or similar is available over here. I am sitting typing whilst being dive bombed by two flies........even though we have a mega zapper plugged in they just won't throw themselves onto it!

Sorry; going of topic there!

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I also wish I'd known how many people would be after chicken poo and that I should have kept it all and rotted it down fr future use.

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32 minutes ago, soapdragon said:

I wonder if that, or similar is available over here. I am sitting typing whilst being dive bombed by two flies........even though we have a mega zapper plugged in they just won't throw themselves onto it!

Sorry; going of topic there!

Red Top traps use the same stuff, but are single use only. And filled way too fast for the price.

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