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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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!

 

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!

 

The P Word & Essential Maintenance May 22, 2011

Filed under: Keeping Chickwans — Coop & The Gang @ 8:14 am
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Its time to talk about poo, as much as I’d love to tell you my chickwans wear top hats, scarves and waistcoats and take their baskets to town every day, these aren’t chickens from a Beatrix Potter book…They live in Coop in my back garden.

They eat, sleep and drink where they poo and they poo where they eat, sleep and drink! Chickens aren’t naturally clean animals, they go where the fancy takes them, quite literally. But this aside Chickens really are a most rewarding pet for very little maintenance.

A daily and weekly routine is essential but very workable into daily life. It starts when it times to get up, they’re normally very ready to come out of the house and have a snuffle around the garden, all the doors are opened and Coop gets a good airing. A general poo pick is done from the run, the hen house and nest box. Real life chickens do not discriminate in their excrement and it is essential to remove them as a means of stopping any disease in the flock spreading or eggs fouling. Because the Chickwans eat what they want when they want the droppings and chippings are very suitable for adding to your compost and improving your soil quality.

I put the feeder on the lawn to keep them amused and away from the coop a while. Its also a good means of keeping me associated in their minds with food and allows for a good ‘pet’ of the more social hens. I have a brush of the nooks and crannies in the hen house keeping and eye out of chicken mites…which will come, no matter how proficient you are with chicken husbandry. So far, so good for Coop and the Gang but I’m not going to be lazy about it. The feeder and fresh water are placed strategically in the Coop so they’re protected should the weather turn and with sufficient room for the girls to get around.

We all go about our daily lives and regroup of an evening, where during the evening stretch of the legs or after they’ve put themselves to bed I have a good sweep out of the downstairs, remove food and water for the night. Mostly so we don’t attract any other four legged friends. We have a pick out of unnecessaries in the feeder and throw the water on the veggies and the routine starts again the very next day.

Hay for the nest box, straw for the bottom of the run, chippings for the henhouse and grit are topped up whenever required and changed in the weekly clean out alongside a good once over, a brush, a spray and a deep clean of the feeder and water and takes no more than about twenty minutes, its normally a lot quicker when there isn’t someone, who shall remain nameless, shutting you in the coop or taking pictures of you while you’re buried to the waist in the hen house.

A top to toe deep clean, air and repair is to be scheduled every 6 months and we’ve started a list of things we’d like to change and improve about Coop and hope over the summer while the weather is good and the gang can snuffle around the garden to get most of these done.

The gang in the most part are grateful of your efforts and it takes them about 10 minutes to destroy all your hardwork and make it theirs again but they really do fit in around what you can do when, keep the routine and the housekeeping up and your chickens really do reward you ten fold.