coopandthegang

The Adventures Of Coop & The Gang

Oh Baby Its Cold Outside January 22, 2012

Well it appears winter has arrived, with the signs of a hard frost not cleared by the dusk of the day drawing in and the first frozen drinker of the year.

This morning was a bit of a palaver, everyone keen and eager to rise and then one feel of the bitter chill in the air the girls were less than impressed. On discovery of the frozen water trough I headed up the garden to get the replacement bought earlier in the year in anticipation. At which point the girls duly squawked and followed, with tiny little quick footsteps as if to say I don’t like this but I know you’ve got corn so gimmie. They endured for as long as they could and it was straight back to Coop, they all snuggled up in the far corner which is sealed on both sides, at which point they had fresh food and water so I retired back to bed to warm my hands and toes.

As I suffer with Raynauds which is likened to being allergic to the cold more specifically a change in temperature I am very aware of how miserable it is to be cold. Are the Chickens likely to be cold? There is a little part of me that thinks the answer is yes but in reality you don’t need to worry about your hens being cold, they’ll be fine!

When I looked at preparation for the winter months earlier in the year, I looked at the possibility of a day light bulb to increase egg production but decided against it on the basis of a more natural approach but I also looked at heat pads to underneath the drinkers, the big problem I found is that those available on the market are round and our drinker is a oblong trough. They’re relatively simple and ensure chickens have fresh running water at all times; it may be a vital move if the weather continues to descend.

Coop has been inspected for drafts and the ventilation option changed over to winter at the rear of coop, as the sun came up the girls warmed up and came out to play, dust bathing and playing with their treat dispensing ball filled with meal worms and corn for some essential before bed fat.

We are lucky have chosen hardy and sturdy birds more by luck than judgement and our only immediate cold weather defence is Vaseline. Any bird with a large wattle or comb could benefit with an application to help prevent frostbite on exposed and sensitive areas, a little hat and gloves if you please.

Some chicken breeds will require more attention in the cold some of the more ornate breeds… anything with some exposed flesh or light feather. So glad I didn’t acquire the three frizzles on sale at the last Open Farm Sunday at my friend’s farm they would need a heat pad and a blanket. Although that said, our hen house is quite large and my birds are but three, seems like a rather good excuse to acquire one or two more. Or perhaps just a heat lamp!

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It Never Rains It Pours January 1, 2012

What a December its been for weather, not the normal mizzle and drizzle for this time of year, all together quite pleasant and mild, but when the rains it blows a hoolie out there.

I don’t remember the garden being this wet last year but as I keep reminding myself I had no reason to go out into the garden this time last year & can well believe I just didn’t. Following the flooding of the garage from the rains earlier in the year we had it flushed and surprise the surprise the run off appear right in front of coop, typical.

The Chickens were the first to complain, Mave more so than her usual disapproval of the weather. They’re a funny bunch and a little rain doesn’t normally put them off but this was a storm of epic proportions, If they could save a third on their car insurance they two would have bought chest waders with the savings.

One evening I came home to three puddles in coop and the starts of a full flowing river. Eek. They were all in the hen house, mud up to their knees looking less than impressed. I’d not been doing the morning feeds as he indoors had been working from home, I was informed that three puddles and a river by torch light was much better than it looked this morning in the real day light. Right battle plan.

We head to the trade store…15 slabs, 7 bags of pea shingle and some little miniature fence later and we’ve had some idea of building a patio in the dark by torch light while the girls are asleep. We slid coop up the garden, pegged out the area with the miniature fence, filled with pea shingle and laid three slabs deep by five slabs wide & lifted Coop & The Gang back in situ within two hours, in the dark by torch light.

Considering it was in the dark and wonky as you like we were relatively impressed with our efforts even more so in the day light when it’s settled quite well and turned out not so bad.

The morning after however, no one seemed very impressed with us at all. It took Flo and Doris ten minutes to come downstairs and Mave wasn’t coming out at all. She took one look turned tail and headed straight back into the hen house. Oh no…not even some scattered corn was getting her down, I fed her in the hen house so at least she had eaten and left for work. By the end of the day she had come down and filled her tummy but she was not impressed.

Following a covering of straw and some regular corn smatterings to keep them turning the straw they seem to have come round to the idea, a nice way of keeping their nails and beaks in check, nice to be able to give them the run of the garden for earth snufflings and at least it stops me fretting when the heavens do open.

 

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.

 

Coop du jour October 29, 2011

A funny couple of weeks for Coop & The Gang, we’ve had thick frost on the hen house, soggy feet, scratching, pecking & the odd tantrum & thats just Coop & me.

We’re still not lice free with top hen Mave still carrying, with colder nights & more snuggling she’s passing them back round the hen house nicely. No eggs on Flo & Doris, but a three day dust down routine started. A little more reading, some feathers plucked & scrapped & two handed we were through all the girls relatively quickly & pain free.

Solo chicken dusting was much less successful, thoughts of ‘you only cost me £15’, ‘you dumb bird’ & the classic Dr Cox ‘help me to help you’.  Scratched, abused & somewhat later than planned we were all having a strop & not talking to each other. More tomorrow & we’ll check the state of play.

Chicken club at work has lost a member with them on to pastures new, but promises of advice from a friend at football club may give a vitamin dosage that will help Mave keep strong & bug free through the winter months. I’m finding it useful to learn from others, we swap tips, advice, articles & CEOs wife sends him with the hen welfare magazines for me to read. His bantum is currently on eggs, his cockrel very proud. One day, this too will be mine.

We’re still in egg & fine spirits, just a missed day following my girls facing their own mortality with their ghostly appearence. I’ve treated them to some fattier treats this week including meal worms & I’ve never been so popular.

My girls have fulfilled a life long fantasy, when Im out with them they follow me around like Im mummy, they’re so funny looking but I love them.

 

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!

 

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.

 

Lice: A Parents Worst Nightmare July 10, 2011

Lice. Every parent’s worst nightmare. You think you’ve been unhygienic, you think you’ve been unclean. The fact is, Chickens not unlike small human baby children play with, on and near things that you don’t necessarily know what they’ve played with, on or near.

It all started with a tweet in which I requested my dearly beloved to check on our top hen Mave as she’d not laid in two days and just seem a bit sad. Turns out he ignored my tweet, I did my gym session and came home to a pretty fed up hen. She’d been off for a while and non of them were particularly speedy to roost of and evening and Mave wasn’t particularly fussed about getting up in the morning either.

A quick scoop of Mavis and an over all inspection didn’t yield much. A duff beak, wonky legs, good comb and wattle and nothing out of the normal. Then someone decided to back fluff the chicken & she was crawling. Luckily it wasn’t me or I may well have dropped her there and then.

As the hen is returned safely to the ground and the panic sets in, we look over coop, turning bedding, looking in corners, taking out the perches all the while trying to ignore the skin crawling I’ve definitely got them eww gross feeling we both had.

On inspection of coop, it wasn’t red mite, phew. But oh, what was it? I never bought the Haynes Manual for my car, but I bought it for the chicken. Quickly quickly find the page, find the page.

Ahh Menopon Gallinae, the common chicken louse. They fitted the description, small, yellowygreyish in colour and quickly scurry away from light. A quick google search on chicken lice will mean you see all you need to see, or alternatively you can come round and I can show you from baby louse or big gross louse.

Chicken Lice are not life threatening, they feed of dead skin and feather debris on a bird, they do irritate, hence the grumps in the flock and if found in big enough numbers can hamper a chickens ability to deal with day to day bothers of being a chicken. It also means they’re more reluctant to roost and get lethargic. You couldn’t have described Maves change in character more to a T.

Bums. Panic set in again, boy is already at this point removing bedding and I am just wandering around the garden at 7.40pm trying to work out what I can get from where. It took me a while to get to the answer, nothing till tomorrow. We agree there is no point changing bedding till we’ve deloused the birds and we can’t delouse the birds till tomorrow. Lets just be nice to them and go away.

Bugger. Grumpy chickwan explained. Crawling in lice. Beak clipped as a chick means she can’t keep them at bay, gah. Feel bad.

The treatment for chicken lice, is delousing powder which is as glamorous as it sounds. Our local farm and country store opens at 8am, so that was my first pit stop. Two canisters of powder and some ground sanitizer. Turns out we weren’t the only ones struggling with lice and warm damp conditions are meaning a lot of people are struggling to get rid. There is something comforting in knowing its not just you.

Everything in coop had to go, keep them on dust free wood shavings only and a through deep clean with a different cleaner. For our week to week clean and sprays we normally use Poultry Shield, a multipurpose cleaner, organic mater killer and odour neutraliser, but for this one we decided to bring out the big guns. Total Mite Kill…a multi action cleaner with added insecticides…smells like lavender.

In the rain we bagged, scraped and brushed coop. No place left to hide. Then to the birds. Have you ever tried antiquing a chicken? I defy you to succeed antiquing a wet chicken who knows your game. Doris just sulked, she stood out in the rain with her wings out and her head down.

All the tips about laying a chicken on its back and holding legs and keeping head and beak out of the way with one hand were near on impossible for coop and the gang. Plonk the gang member of the table, use all four hands and be prepared to wash your clothes.

The lice aren’t gone and we’re powdering every 3-4 days, bedding change and clean out weekly but spirits have improved and egg production is back up. Once we’re deloused we’ll powder every 6 weeks as the old sayings are the best…prevention is better than cure.