Whether you're new to keeping hens or haven't kept any for a while and want to refresh your memory, have a look at the frequently asked questions and answers below or take a look at some of the more detailed articles which are listed on the left hand side of this page.
If you have any questions, just give us a call on 01363 82795.
What should I feed my hens?
Layers pellets or mash should be provided freely to hens during the day along with a fresh supply of water. They are a mixture of wheat, barley, oat and maize. Chickens will eat roughly 100-150g of food a day and on a hot day a chicken can drink up to 500mL of water.
Chickens really enjoy having a handful of corn scattered outside in their run as a treat but it is better to let them fill up on pellets/mash in the morning and let them have treats in the afternoon. They also love greens and kitchen scraps, but don’t give them potato peelings without cooking them first.
Hens require flint grit and soluble oyster shell grit to keep them healthy. The flint grit is to help them break down food in their gizzard and the oyster shell grit is to provide calcium so that the hens provide good strong egg shells.
What should I use as bedding?
We recommend shavings in the house (as it’s much easier to clean out than straw) and straw in the nest box as it stays nice and fluffy. Never use hay as it can go mouldy very quickly and cause respiratory problems.
What do I do with my chickens when I get them home?
So that your chicken can get used to their new home, it’s best to keep them shut in their house for the first day and night. If the house is not very roomy (simply housing a nest box and a perch) and it’s early in the day, put them into the house for 2/3 hours before letting them out into the run.
If it’s later in the day, it’s fine to keep them in the house overnight and let them out into the run in the morning.
If you plan to let them free range, it’s best to keep them restricted to the house and the run for 4 to 5 days to make sure they know where to return to roost.
If you can’t chase them into the run, it might be worth putting a torch in their house as they are often drawn to the light at night.
How do I introduce new chickens to an established group?
Put your new birds in the house once the old birds are outside and let the old birds back in the house when the new birds are already in the house and roosting.
Open the house up as normal in the morning. Chickens always have to establish a pecking order, keep an eye on your hens for the first few days and once the pecking order is established, they should get along fine together. It is a good idea to offer an extra feeder and drinker in the run.
How often should I clean my chickens' house out?
Even if you regularly clean your chicken house it is really important that you thoroughly clean out your hens’ house every 2 to 3 months. After doing the usual clean, take out all the detachable parts (roosting bars, nest boxes etc) and scrub with a suitable disinfectant from a pet shop. Allow everything to dry in the sunlight and, once dry, give the house a good dusting with mite powder.
Will my hens need worming and treating for lice and mites?
Yes. Apple Cider Vinegar is a great natural wormer, it’s cheap and easy and you put it in their water (10mL per litre of water). It’s also a great tonic and keeps them in good feather and laying well.
We recommend you dust your hens with lice and mite powder every couple of months as a precaution to ensure that your hens stay parasite free. Dust the hens and the house on the same day. Dust once a month in the summer.
What should I do if I think my chicken is unwell?
Check her over for lice and mites and check her muck for worms and treat if necessary. Check her crop for crop issues. If it's not one of those, separate the hen from the flock and give her fresh food and water with cider vinegar in it. She may be getting bullied and not have easy access to the food and water. Sometimes they will perk up when they've been separated from the others.
If that doesn't help, please give us a call. We should be able to offer some advice from our years of poultry experience. If not, we can find out for you.
Your chickens clean themselves by having a dustbath. If they are not free rangers, provide them with a large plant pot or tray of sandy earth to bathe in. If you find your chickens’ favourite spot (usually under a shrub but it can be in the middle of the lawn), you can dust their lice powder into it to save you the job of dusting the chicken direct.
Chicken manure is great stuff when mixed into compost but will burn the plants if put straight onto them.
You don’t want your hens to sleep in the nest boxes because they will make it mucky. Teach them to sleep on the perch by putting them on the perch once it gets dark. A few nights in a row should do it.
If your cheeky chicken has been laying eggs behind a bush and you come across them but are unsure how old the eggs are - fresh eggs sink in water and rotten eggs float! To stop your hen laying eggs outside, keep them inside until midday, by which time they should have laid in the next box in the house and is usually a sufficient reminder of where you want them to lay!