The Adventures Of Coop & The Gang

Food, Feeders & Fuss August 6, 2011

Food & feeders have somewhat been much subject of debate for Coop & the Gang, which considering chickens don’t have a sense of taste, only smell, tickles me. Chickens a lot like humans don’t really have a daily limit, it depends on whether they are free range or not, what time of the year it is, whether its hot or cold, how long the days are etc.

On the scale of effort required to keep a pet, chickens are low maintenance and cheap to run. In the time we have had our chickens back in May we’ve bought one set of sawdust and a bag of hay and have just started our second bag of feed. Both we get from a local small holders store vat free for just over £15.

Laying hens typically need 130-160g of Layers Pellets, 15-20g corn and access to 500ml clean water to exist. The general advice with any pet would surely be don’t get them before you know what to feed them but the world of chicken feed is quite diverse and someone always recommend something different.

There is crumb, pellets, mash, scraps, mixed corn as the more substantial meals and lots of subtle additions such as spice, vinegar, apple and grass for extra nutrients, then there is treats. Chickens have quite a complex digestive system and the one thing they require no matter what you feed them is grit. Chickens don’t have teeth so the grit is held in the gizzard to help grind the food.

As we purchased Coop and the Gang at point of lay we started them on layers pellets, which ideally should be fed about 3 weeks before your chickens start to lay roughly between 17 to 24 weeks, layers pellets are easily available from most garden centres and pet shops. They also contain a consistent amount of everything a hen requires, essential oils, acids, calcium and phosphorus squished into nice neat a tic tac sized pellet. Very easy to administer and store with the added bonus that no hen can selectively feed. Like all animals they do pick out the bits they like in favour of those that they don’t.

Layers Mash is essentially the same feed but in a different form, they can be fed from the same time, it can be fed dry or wet in cold or warm water to create a porridge. It takes longer to consume so for plucky hens it is a great distraction and ideal to keep them occupied. It also has the potentially to be messy and dusty, wet or dry!

We tried them on crumb while worming and I believe when worming I will always use crumb but this is a personal choice based on nothing more our experience it didn’t come recommended it was just a convenient vehicle to assist in worming a sad hen.

Chick crumb is a complementary feed for chicks, rich in oils and proteins with fibre and ash, a good first food source. Its typically fed between 6 to 8 weeks old at which point they should move to growers pellets.

Feed can be changed as often as you like, but it is important to do it gradually over time by mixing feeds in increasing quantities over a week or two before moving soley to the new feed. This allows the hens digestive system to catch up and get used to the new feed and for the hen to get used to the new feed, with the whole no taste buds they are reliant on size and texture as a means of knowing if it something they can eat or not but this to will come with time.

We’ve tried it all and I think with Coop and the Gang variety is key, I think I am a little over worried about our top hen Mave, she’s still not over the lice and we’re still dusting but she is cheerier and having seen her struggle with her beak I thought we should look to alternative foods to give her a fair chance. Today we got 20kg mash to give a go in a mix with pellets so that all hens have easy access disabled beak or no disabled beak!

I am looking forward to mash being on the menu for the hens over the winter as it can be mixed with warm water to help keep the chickens warm in deepest darkest winter and ssh but between me and you I am looking forward to seeing them in the snow!


Soft Eggs, Rubber Chickens? May 28, 2011

Filed under: Keeping Chickwans — Coop & The Gang @ 10:41 am
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Yesterday I couldn’t have been more excited and I was very nearly late for work. It started out with a missing hen, our Flo…I thought maybe she had just had enough and didn’t want to play with the girls that morning but I had to check she was okay. I slowly opened the door and had a peek to find her on the nest box! The nest box, our Flo putting some serious consideration into laying an egg. I hurried to work and thought I’ll run home at lunch time and run back to work, I thought better of it. But I’ve never been so pleased to get home and look in the next box, a tiny bantam sized pale egg like none we have ever seen before. I’ve never felt so proud.

Needless to say they all got spoilt, I was so pleased Flo was happy! They got to snuffle around the garden, they were fed copious amounts of corn from my favourite perch on the back door and we all had a lovely evening.

Today I’ve paid for my indulgence. As it’s the weekend I was a little less keen to get out of bed and I wanted an extra chapter of my book so the start to the day was delayed, I could hear the normal clucking and cooing & thought all would be forgiven. I opened the hen house and they appeared one by one the garden was theirs to stretch their legs while I gave Coop a once over. I opened the external door to the hen house and to my delight, an egg! A lovely pale small egg. I wanted to see if it was warm, I reached my hand in and it was soft.

A soft egg.

I don’t have rubber chickwans so why am I getting rubber eggs?

A little investigation and I could see a yolk hiding between the wood shavings. I start to panic, all the hens seem in good spirits chasing each other around, generally get in the way, no one looks sickly. Everyone is eating and drinking as part of the routine. I get some corn out and we sit by the back step and I give them all a thorough inspection just to satisfy my confuddled mind that they aren’t rubber.

It turns out that it is in fact quote common for hens to lay the odd soft shelled egg. I immediately thought lack of calcium but they have good grit available whenever they need. Glen placed the egg gently in my hands…weird. Pale, almost translucent and the skin is oddly like a balloon, you can manipulate the egg between you fingers and it really does feel very rubbery and powdery, like someone rolled it in flour.

Its likely to have happened for a number of reasons, because we found one complete egg and one clearly split egg with only the yolk remaining in tact its likely someone by sheer magic had two eggs on the go, it didn’t turn into a double yolker and in doing so there wasn’t enough energy and nutrients to ensure two hard shelled eggs so we had two soft shelled eggs fall out as it were in the night as they were under the favoured perch.

Still its possible someone in our flock is defunct in something. I think someone’s lacking protein…in the week of mixed corn being heavily on the menu and a lack of sunshine on their backs, protein will have been lacking with only about 10% protein in mixed corn with 18% available in the layers pellets we keep them on. But whose is going to eat layers pellets when they know if they fuss around my feet my heart will melt and they’ll get corn if they so much as look at me with the cute tilty head thing.

I’m confident that no ones unwell, but I will certainly be keeping an eye out for anymore and wouldn’t think twice and booking an appointment with a poultry proficient veterinarian. So we’ll keep them on pellets only for a week with a once a week treat of corn, find other ways of having fun together and watch this space.