coopandthegang

The Adventures Of Coop & The Gang

Going Commando December 31, 2011

Filed under: Keeping Chickwans — Coop & The Gang @ 3:00 pm
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It appears Mave is in full moult. From the odd feather here & there to a hen house scene that made me wonder if a fox or cat had got in. Had I not seen three chickens jump out with the shake of the feeder I would have started digging around in the sawdust for remains.

An alarming amount of feathers have come off Mave, a few nights she perched alone with feathers scattered around…neither part unusual for the moult, its likened to a human having the flu…don’t touch me, don’t even look at me! Pin feathers are soft and full of blood so can be very sore when ruffled or even touched. Maves always snuggled in the middle as top hen. A little worried lice were back…I wanted to wake her & bring her in. My better half persuaded me to let her sleep.

I bought her in, a guide of the house under my arm & then an inspection from my lap. Phew, no lice but a hand full of feathers so a handful of corn on the blanket & some chatter proved she was in fine spirits, good colour, clear eyes & nose. Back to Coop with a full tum.

Every morning we have a hen house full of Maves beautiful downy vent feathers . But she’s still first to the feeder & to stick her beak out of coop to inspect the forecast.

Having read some of the forums & sought some chicken club advice some extra high protein and energy treats purchased in the hope that extra protein would help Mave replenish her feathers a little quicker. We fed Mave in isolation for a week to ensure she was getting fair feed on the days I wasn’t home during the week. At the weekends three bowls, 10 minutes each, no hanging around eat it or lose it!

Mave seems to have come through the worst now, she’s a completely different colour around her neck,  her crop and wattle are still pale but she’s in fine spirits. Meanwhile Im still collecting the feathers & find myself dipping my hand in to the downy fuffly lovelyness. Maybe I’ll use them as a filling for something, waste not want not.

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November Bits & Bobs November 20, 2011

 

Not a groundbreaking week for Coop & The Gang but some exciting news has lead to thoughts of pastures new & a better life for my lovely little ladies. Got my sights on a grand design with a garden focused round them.

I’ve safely boxed 12 eggs for Stir Up Sunday, the Sunday next before advent where the girls will be contributing to the preparation of the families Christmas pudding.

With this in mind they’ve had some nice treats to say thank you, mixed corn, meal worms & a peanut butter mess to keep energy levels up. It seems to be working, Im happy to announce we’re lice free & have been for a few weeks. Mave has bulked back up & dusting is on the maintenace routine for every 6 to 8 weeks in a hope we can keep them at bay over the winter weeks.

 

 

 

We’ve had fun with feeders again this week, now that is a post I do need to sit down & write. Two nights I’ve come home to the top very much unattached from the bottom. What now I’ve tried them all?

With the modifications which have happened to Coop following the last clean, the ramp has been removed for health & safety reasons. The part attaching the ramp to the hen house gets a fair amount of abuse from poo as its within aiming distance of the favoured perch & very well trampled by pooey feet.

As a result when brushed with a stiff brush part of it came away! Oh no, I broke Coop, help help help! I scurried the girls away, what if they got a toe caught, or a beak….its shiney! I found a screwdriver, took a big deep breath and tried with all my might. Phew, it came off and not such  bad thing, it needed a good clean.

What will the girls do? Can I get a box, do they need some stairs. Well the answer is no, before I’d got the removable base back in Coop Doris had hoped up and said hello. As the week has gone on it appears the girls are very capable & seemingly enjoying jumping to & from the hen house. In the morning they get points for dismount and do appear to be trianing for the olympics, Flo bunny hops down as the first awake she has no one to step on, Mave takes a little back step and then gives her best jump. Doris as the last up has to take a good run up, part avoid a feeder and either Florence or Mave, we did get a little cute wing and leg kick from her this morning. Aww.

But without the ramp there is more space in Coop so we have introduced the outside feeder I was saving for pastures new but what they hey. Its up on legs with rain hat purchased from the CLA game fair this year for a steal. Its only day two but its still intact…baby steps,baby steps. But its still clean & not pooped in….rare!

Tonight  its going to end up in every possible part it comes down to & covered in poo now I’ve said this. Oh well.

 

Long Stretch To Winter October 1, 2011

Well don’t I feel a little bit of a fraud writing this on the 1st October with crop trousers and a t-shirt on with the back door open, the gang out mooching and sunbathing but this week I really thought the long stretch to winter was on its way.

The icey feel of the poop coop scooper in my hand, the morning feed at 6:40am when they didn’t get up, the 9pm get homes and they’re all ready asleep and the final blow on Thursday, no eggs. Not a single one.

I knew this day would come, at first suggestions of local neighbour thievery sprang to both our minds, following cat scarergate anything round here is possible, but after checking the house and the garage for smashed egg stains that seemed highly unlikely, if you were going to steal eggs and think you were going to get away with it you’d steal one from the three every day not all of them. Thievery a side it really is getting to that time of year

Chickens, like humans, don’t come to any harm in the cooler months unless there is long periods of sub zero temperatures and to them it’s not cold till its sub zero but winter in the coop often means a decrease in egg production and cold grumpy chickwans.

A Chickens ability to lay is down to the pineal gland, which operates based on daylight, a decrease in daylight means a limited ability to lay. To keep up egg production over the winters months then incandescent bulbs are ideal for keeping birds in lay but as eggs are not vital to the functioning of the gang in this family I think we’ll wing our first winter together and see how we get on just as we are.

It’s the keeping warm bit I’m more worried about since the outbreak…and constant louse problem with have with Mave, all straw and hay has been on ban and with the problem under control rather than gone I am reluctant to start filling the coop up.

Coop has the necessary roost space for all our birds to fluff their feathers up and have a snuggle, I am looking forward to attempting to make them warm porridge with layers mash and we have plenty of water receptacles to swap in and out should the ice bite.

We’ll put some thought to the deep litter method if we’ve moved, its essentially composting in the coop while the chickens are in there but from reading the forums does generate some heat that might just keep the wind from whistling.

We’ll see, bring it on. I may get some saddles and knit some bobble hats!

 

Turning Chicken Poo Into Something Useful…Hopefully! August 27, 2011

I hate to say it but the girls are struggling, the temperature has dropped and the weather is less than their favourite and Mave bless her is doing her best to sunbathe when the sun does come out but Doris and Flo are snuffling under bushes and garden furniture to dodge the showers

Sunbathing Mave

I’m glad when I’m at work they are coop bound when its raining, there is nothing more sad looking than a wet chicken who smells a bit and at least I know they are dry and have somewhere warm to gather and are more likely to gather in a small space if they need to. As hardy as they are, I can’t imagine they enjoy standing around getting wet. It doesn’t help they are positioned in the soggy part of the garden, post drain problems we now believe the soak away operates at that end and it so green and secluded and lush for a reason. Not too hot, not too cold but definitely a bit boggy en route to Coop.

There is always one thing I don’t like about wet weather and chickens and that is most definitely the smell. There is no avoiding it and maybe when the weather is nicer I just see the chickens as nothing but darling, poo aside but they really smell chickenney when its damp.

While I’m pleased our chickens fertilise that patch of the garden, there is a requirement to dig the top inches of erm…debris out of the chicken coop and there is a lot of ancillary waste from bedding, daily poo pick and general muck. We rent and pocket garden in pots so we aren’t currently in a position to fully utilise the by products we find. It gets bagged and boxed and for the most part deposited at the local tip or in our brown waste bin. Granted in the 4 months they’ve been here we’ve only made one visit.

Doris: Wheres that Slug gone?

Chicken waste is excellent fertiliser, free and plentiful even in a flock of three. There are a number of choices, you can sling it, use it and add in lime to balance the acidity which isn’t practical in the potted garden. I’ll hold my hands that we have gone with the first option, due to space and our desire to live as portably as possible so as soon as life allows we are out of here, as relatively deposit proof as possible. I already plan to move the chickens first, grass the area and turf if we have to. Funds are being saved.

However this week I’ve come to find a third option which might suit our current situation. We have somewhat of a chicken club at work, our CEO, MD, our lead tender writer, head of marketing and my good self in finance all keep hens and ducks in our  various capacities, we share articles, hints, tips and keep the office in eggs. I had posed the question of waste in a confined space and it was suggested with try Garlic Powder and Bokashi Bran an instant way of neutralising droppings by the use of micro-organisms.  It sounded weird and it sounded ideal.

A quick read around and it appears that a mixture of garlic power and Bokashi Bran may solve all our problems. The garlic powder is highly rated on the forums as a good way to help reduce the smell of chicken poo and the Bokashi while high in fibre and weird little bug things will mean I can chuck it straight on the plants and if mixed myself the Bokashi can also be added to the hen house under the perches as an added oomph…the toilet block under the seat if

Snuffling Flo

you wish

I am hopeful this will help with the smell of the hen house on damp mornings. I don’t know if the chickens know how bad they smell, but if they do I’m sure it’ll bring a smile to their faces to.

So now I am off the source some Bokashi…the garlic powder can be added to the next smallholders shop in the mean time I just have to hope the chickwans chose to eat the food rather than use it as another excuse to redecorate the floor of the coop.

Wish us luck.

 

Eggs Glorious Eggs August 21, 2011

Well I’ve got one in ear on the hob listening out for the potatoes from the garden to come to the boil and the other ear on the back door in case we have an invasion of the miniature beasts of burden. The girls are out and about, pooing and sunbathing only really bothering to move about for food and water oh and some chair acrobatics. I say move about for food but really all I mean is strain the necks to grab a ripe tomato from the plant they are enjoying some dappled shade from.

But dinner consists of our own potatoes, green beans and quiche made from a lovely contribution from the girls, bacon from a local piggy, onions from the in laws and pastry made by my own fair hands on the living room floor, the only space big enough, with all local ingredients.

There isn’t a lot in this household that we won’t eat, but surprisingly we are a one egg eating household. Despite this, someone is eyeing up Doris up for Christmas…which in the true sense of pocket farming should be the ultimate goal, but she has a face and a name and I love her too much for all that.

But what do you do with so many eggs? With three a day coming in most days without fail we have set up a relatively friendly egg exchange…I’ve had rhubarb, green beans, courgettes, eggs box a plenty and the offer of money.

There is a lot said about fresh free range eggs and when you hold a fresh warm egg in your hand there is nothing more exciting than the thought of its bright orange yolk and its subtle depth of flavour oh and the tiny bit of relief when a little bedraggled chick hasn’t fallen out.

As with everything home grown you take your time and give it a little more love on the search of perfection, it’s the same with eggs, the yolks range from a beautiful sunny yellow to a deeper orange following the days they’ve snuffled around the garden and guzzled on their favourite treats. The whites are firmer and hold their shape significantly more to their shop bought counterparts.

We scramble, we fry and we boil, but the firm family favourite is pavlova… egg whites from 3 large eggs lovingly hand whisked with 6oz (175g) cast sugar, no room of fancy gadgets in our pocket kitchen, until stiff and baked in the oven for an hour on 140 then left to go stone cold in the oven. In this time we lovingly use the left over yolks with two other whole eggs, a spot of milk and a filling of your choice encased in pastry and you have a beautifully rich no left overs beautiful quiche. My favourite use of half a dozen and I am sure the girls would approve of the use of two days hard work.

How do you eat yours?

 

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!

 

Wiggly Worms July 31, 2011

So, all quiet with Coop & the Gang. One last dusting with powder & hopefully that’s it for chicken louse for this year. It seems they’ll be back but at least next time we’ll know what to do and know the signs.

The Gang have cheered up and normally has resumed, Mave is up to her aerobatic tricks, being cheeky and generally bullying around. Doris is dust bathing daily and Flo is starting to come into her own, braving a leap to the knee for treats, but I think she knows she’ll always get a back hander from me if she doesn’t look like she wants to join in.

From Ectoparasites to Endoparasites. In our period of discomfort in the gang we noticed a lot of odd poo, chickens poo a lot but its horrific when its not quite the consistency you’re used to.We decided it was a good time to consider worming the Gang as defences with the louse were likely to be low.

There is no truer saying that prevention is always better than cure, but lets face it if there is something on the market to help you out you’d be a fool not to take it. Its important to worm poultry regularly but alongside that managing the hen house and coop alongside that goes along way. Keep things clean, dry and using your common sense can prevent the heartache of a poorly bird, worms can destroy the digestive system of a chicken and indeed in turn the chicken itself. & If your birds get worms, they’ll cost you a fortune to feed and laying may be reduced.

Oddly there is only licensed chemical wormer on the market, Flubenvet, its mixed with feed in a daft ratio, but comes with a handy scooper and whoever you purchase it from will require your name and address. There are plenty of other products out there for other animals that research on the internet has seen that Vets will offer but they’ve not been licensed for poultry and the herbal alternatives appear to only reduce worm numbers rather than remove worms completely.

As this is our first flock we’re doing the best we can first time, so a trip to the farm store and £18+Vat later I was the proud owner of Flubenvet. Now what the hell do I do? Its a white powder and feed them bulky food? Layers pellets were not the answer. So you run to the local petshop and find a suitable alternative feed, conveniently in 3Kg doses so you can mix half the scoop in and know they’re getting the right amount.

You end up with chickcrumb, designed for pullets…6-8 weeks is the latest they should be on crumb, but you’re babies are sicky and you still like to eat rusks so its okay. I lined up my three varying sized Tupperware to mix the half scoop into a small amount, mix into the next Tupperware with the larger amount and then finally into the big one for a good old shake about. I sterilised our second feeder so we started a fresh and the girls knew I meant business.

It went down a storm. Mave had her beak clipped as a chick to mark she was trouble, its still not fully regrown, its getting stronger and we’re on the right track but she does find it harder than the other two to eat, clean and drink with the disadvantage. But they loved it, no fuss at breakfast, no kicking the feeder about and no pooing in it! Hurrah.

This continued for 7 days, on Flubenvet there needs to be no withdraw from eggs which is handy as there is nothing more heartbreaking than seeing good eggs go to waste, it brings a tear to the eye. The flock seem happier and I am please we tried it. Its recommended to rework in 6 months time, so I’ll make a note in the diary to do it all again then.

In the mean time, its back to pellets…and the girls aren’t overly impressed. But that’s another blog for another day.