Poultry Pages Newsletter August 2012
Dear Chicken Arks
Dear Dear Welcome back to the Poultry Keepers’ Newsletter. In April’s Newsletter Joy (Joyful from out forums) stepped in and wrote about broody hens and how to hatch and raise chickens. Joy has also kindly this month written a further newsletter all about animals and children and poultry and her experience of these together. Our Forums: http://chat.allotment.org.uk/index.php
Dogs and Cats
Dogs and cats can and will kill or injure a chicken even if they don’t mean to. It’s part of their natural instinct. So if you have birds it is up to you to find ways to prevent this happening.
We didn’t want a cat, he just appeared one day and, after asking around, it turns out he and his sister are feral cats from a farm nearby and that they were pleased he was safe and that we could keep him if we wished. So we fed him and here he has stayed. He has never been bothered by our larger girls, but then we had some chicks hatch. The chicks that were enclosed in a run were safe, but the free ranging chicks had to be protected. The best way we found with this was to sit outside with an empty washing up bottle filled with plain water.
Every time the cat came close to the chicks we squirted him! This didn’t harm him but gave him enough of a shock that within a few hours he decided that the chicks were off the menu. He now sits outside on the lawn protecting them from any mice that have the nerve to stray nearby (he then feeds the mice to the big girls who love to eat them – yuk!). Cats being highly intelligent creatures don’t take much training but dogs on the other hand are a different thing altogether.
We have 3 dogs – 2 are giant breed adults and the third is now just 6 months old and we have had her since she was tiny at 7 weeks old. She is a terrier cross and very quick – so quick in fact that the chickens don’t get the chance to fly away (none of my hens have their wings clipped).
This little pup can crawl along on her belly stalking the birds then just run and pounce. Sadly I have to report that she has caught and killed a couple of the hens even after stern warnings and lead training – it seems to be just in her nature.
Now we could go down 2 routes – one would be to keep her on a lead all the time and try to remove this instinct (which we did try for 3 months to no avail) or to construct a run for the hens to be safe in. We chose the second option and have built a run not only because of the pup but also because we have had our 3rd mink attack.
Since putting up the run puppy dog has been allowed out and after her initial race around the walk in run she finally twigged that she couldn’t get to the birds and doesn’t now bother going anywhere near them. We know our training methods worked as we managed to stop the other 2 dogs when they were pups from chasing the birds but couldn’t stop little Rosie – sadly it seems not all dogs are safe around our chickens. You will have to decide if your dog is as every dog is an individual.
Now we come to children. My two are grown up and don’t live at home, have no interest in my chickens but still like the free eggs. I know a lot of you first get chickens as a nice way to show young children where eggs come from (strangely enough when some children are asked they reply that they just come out of an eggbox off the supermarket shelf!) and also to teach children the way to care for a pet.
First of all chickens do make fantastic pets and it is amazing how quickly you get attached to them. It doesn’t take long to realise that they all have their own personalities.
You must first stress the importance of cleanliness making sure that you have hand sanitizer close by to use before and after handling any chicken (as you would with any animal). My run has a pump action one tie wrapped to the door post so that I don’t forget.
For the first time of handling you need to make sure your child is sitting quietly and calmly (after cleaning their hands) then let them first of all stroke the chicken. When they are used to this and still being quiet you can then gently place the chicken on their knee. Show them how to hold the hen so that her wings can’t flap as this can injure both the hen and your child.
Don’t let your child get their face too close to the hens face – hens love to peck at bright shiny things and eyes can be very tempting to a hen. Once the hen and child are calm you can let the child hold the hen with one hand and stroke with the other.
You can let children feed their chickens with a little bit of treat feed such as sunflower hearts, meal worms or mixed corn. This can be quite a shock for a child so warn them about how it will feel – take your thumb and forefinger and mimic a bird pecking by jabbing away on their open palm. Stress to the child that they must not squeal and that the chicken doesn’t mean to hurt them. Let them hold their hand flat and call the bird over – after a very short while both will be used to each other.
One of the greatest joys is to see a child’s face when they look into the nest box and find a freshly laid egg, so get them to clean their hands again and take them to have a look. If the egg is really newly laid it should still be warm and if rubbed the colour may come off (except with Araucanas whose blue colour goes right through the shells rather than being laid on last thing like all other chickens).
You should find a very willing helper for cleaning out your hens when they realise just how much fun chicken keeping can be, so perhaps a set of old clothes and wellingtons could be kept just for this purpose although no doubt they will want to spend most of their time just stroking and feeding the chickens leaving the hard work to you.
There’s an articles about keeping chickens and other poultry safe from larger predators you might like Larger Predators and Thieves by the late Katie Thear http://poultry.allotment.org.uk/advice/protecting-the-flock/larger-predators along with an article about dogs and chickens (including a video) here: Pet Dog Problems http://poultry.allotment.org.uk/advice/keeping-chickens-at-home/pet-dog-problems
Back Garden Chickens and Other Poultry
Our Back Garden Chicken book http://www.allotment.org.uk/shop/our-books/backgarden-chickens
contains lots of information on how to start with chicken keeping as well as information of chicken keeping with young children and with family pets.
For those who have already bought the book we really hope you love it, and if you do we’d be grateful for a huge favour…. Please could you pop onto Amazon and let other readers know how much you liked it by either clicking their like button (takes 10 seconds) or if you have the time pop us a review on there, it will be very much appreciated.
Thanks for reading,
The Poultry Pages, Fron Dirion, Clogwyn Melyn, Penygroes, Gwynedd, LL54 6PT, UK
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