Hen help and FAQ

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. 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 love green veg such as broccoli or spinach. Please do not feed them kitchen scraps or potato peelings.


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. This is best scattered on the floor rather than putting it in their feed bowl.


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 chickens can get used to their new home, it’s best to put them straight into the house (not the run) 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 for the remainder of the day and let them out into the run in the morning. The reason for shutting them in the house is because it will teach them where they need to come home to roost and also allow them to get used to each other but with it being dark in the house, they are unlikely to fight.


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.


How do I introduce new chickens to an established group?

As mentioned above, put your new birds in the house (not in the run) for a couple of hours (if it's morning) or for the rest of the day (if it's late afternoon) upon their arrival. Keep the old hens separate, if possible. If you get your new hens early in the day, let the new hens into the run after a couple of hours and put the old hens out in the garden so that they can meet each other but can't fight. Only let the old hens into the hen house once the new birds have gone to roost.


If you have collected the new hens later on in the day and are going to keep them in the house until morning, just let the old birds back in the house once the new birds are 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 until the pecking order is settled.


How often should I clean my chickens' house out? 

Everyone does this differently; some peope 'poo pick' every day or so and some people have a full clean out every couple of weeks. However you do it, it is really important that you thoroughly clean out your hens’ house at least once a month. After doing the usual clean, take out all the detachable parts (roosting bars, nest boxes etc) and pressure wash the house or scrub with a suitable disinfectant. Allow everything to dry in the sunlight and, once dry, give the house a good dusting with mite powder before putting bedding back. 


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. Apple Cider Vinegar keeps the worms at bay by keeping the gut acidic. It is unlikely for most 'back garden' hens to actually catch worms but if they do, we recommend treating them with flubenvet every six months, to ensure they don't get reinfected by worms on the land.


We recommend you dust your hens with lice and mite powder as a precaution to ensure that your hens stay parasite free as these parasites are brought in by the wild birds. Dust the hens and the house on the same day. Dust once a month in the summer and once every two months in the winter.


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 (impacted crop or sourcrop). 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.


And finally...

Your chickens clean themselves by having a dustbath. If they are not free rangers, provide them with a large high sided plant pot or tray of sandy earth to bathe in. You can use sharp sand, ash from the fire, soil or something similar for the dust bath. 


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 enough that they can't see to get down. 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!

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