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Two Chickens In Need Of Good Home - 1 Girl, 1 Boy ~*VERY pretty!*~
posted by Scarlet, 24 November 2008, 8:01pm

Chicken tips

Photos Of Our Chickens
posted by Scarlet, 28 October 2006, 4:31pm

There isn't really a page to add photos of Milly, Tilly, Penny and Eva, so i thought i would just add them here!

click here to view them!

Give your chickens a life worth living...
Posted by Scarlet


You basically have three main options, and there are good things and bad things about them all:

  1. Totally free-range chickens

  2. Free range hens in a BIG coop!

  3. Chicken Tractors

Totally Free-range Chickens

Okay, the good thing about this is that... well they have lots of room to roam free! All you need is a big hut/shed, and you lock the chickens in it at night and set them free during the day. It's nice to look out of the window and see your chickens having a good old scrat in the garden... although this soon leads to a grass-less, messy and chicken poop-filled garden! Oh, and thereís always the possibility the crafty blighters will find a way to escape, as well... has happened to me many a time ;) !

Other bad things are: your chickens come into contact with the wild birds that are trying to scavenge your chicken's food. This may not seem dangerous, and usually isn't HOWEVER, there are many illnesses that can be contracted from wild birds. With our chickens, when they were free range, this didn't get any more serious than a few sparrows passing on the *evil* red mites - but colds, pests and other illnesses can be passed on from wild birds.

Another bad aspect is the smell and noise of your chickens *will* attract predators, even in the day time. Usually it's nothing more harmful than a cat, but I've heard stories about dogs, foxes and even hawks attacking and killing chickens in broad daylight, so beware: you have been warned!

Free Range hens in a BIG coop!

I personally think this is the best option - probably because this is the one we use :p

But think about it - they are protected from, not only wild birds but also predators. They can't escape and, as long as you give them the most spacious coop you can afford/make, they will still enjoy scratching about in the dirt, flying, flapping and dust bathing. Also, because the chickens are in a large, controlled space, it will be easier to dig the mud out and refill it - although if they are scratching a lot, you may not even have to do this, unless it turns into a quagmire and stinks! If the soil is hard and there is no loose dirt for the chickens to scratch in, feel free to add some straw or sawdust.

The coop should be as large as possible, and tall enough for them to fly in. You can add branches, rocks, chairs... whatever you want that they can use to fly up to and perch on. There should be a 'house' in there with perches inside for them to roost on, and a small private section where they can go to lay eggs - keep in mind the house should be easy to access for cleaning and egg collection.

Many pet shops sell large enclosures (or dog kennels) that are suitable for chickens, and there is even more choice online. Choose a nice one, the nicest you can afford - after all, aren't your chickens worth it?

Chicken Tractors

Some people think this is a good idea, but in my opinion chicken tractors tend to be very small, and don't usually have a separate section for dust bathing - and chickens like their space ;)

However, many people see these as a brilliant idea. They are small chicken coops, basically, usually with wheels attatched. The idea is that you leave the tractor (and therefore the chickens) into the same place for a few days to a few weeks and then, when the patch of land they are currently living on starts to get tired, you move the chicken tractor and the chickens to a new section of land, whilst the other patch has chance to rest and regain nutrients - hope that makes sense!

The Pecking Order

You may have heard people talking about the pecking order and not really understand what it is, but don't worry. Here I'll explain it nice and simply so anybody can understand!!!

So here it is in a nutshell: In your family of chickens, there is an order called the pecking order. This means that one hen thinks it is the boss of all the others, and then each of the chickens has a status within the pecking order; and one poor sod is right at the bottom. This is usually nothing to worry about.

Being at the top of the pecking order means that Tilly gets first dibs on the food, she's the first to bed and the first to get up. It's her duty to tell the other chickens when there's danger, and when you give your chickens treats she'll be the first to eat and, if another chicken lower down in the pecking order tries to eat some, the top boss may give them a sharp peck and a scolding. Being at the bottom of the pecking order means that the chicken has to wait before they get a chance to eat or drink, and they usually get the worst roost at night!

Like I said before: This is not usually anything to worry about!!

You only need to worry if the chicken at the bottom of the pecking order is being seriously deprived of food and water or seriously pecked and wounded. This, however, is rare. It never usually gets this serious, and it usually settles down within a few weeks, so wait at least fourteen days before taking any action (unless the chicken is being viciously attacked and there is blood).

If the chicken is seriously deprived of food or water then try adding more food bowls to the coop (or wherever they spend most their time). Add enough food bowls so there is one food bowl and one water bowl for every two birds, and two bowls (two food bowls and two water containers) if their are three chickens. This way, the runty chicken will be able to run from one food bowl to another without being scolded too much!

If the chicken is being physically hurt then it will need separating until it is fully healed, then separate the coop with mesh so the chickens can see each other but can't physically touch each other. After leaving them like this for one week, try taking away the mesh and seeing what happens. Make sure you are there for when they are re-introduced. If, on their first visit, the chicken attacks the other chicken, pick them both up and hold them so they are facing each other. Seperate them again but, every day, hold them face to face and put them in a strange place (eg. in a room in the house) for perhaps half an hour a day.

However, if one chicken is still behaving aggressively to the other, then it will either have to fend for itself or you will have to release it to another family :(

When you introduce a new chicken to the flock, especially if it's younger than the other, then it will automatically be placed at the bottom of the pecking order (it happened to Milly). The new chicken will be pecked a few times, but leave the new chicken alone (unless it is injured). The aggressive behaviour may last longer when a new chicken is introduced.

Food And Water Bowls

Try clean the food bowls (if you are feeding them wet food: eg. layers mash) every day when the bowls are re-filled. If you are feeding the chickens dry food (eg. pellets or corn) then only clean them when they get dirty. Try clean the water bowl every other day, keeping the water fresh.

I fill food bowls up every day in the morning (usually) and throughout the day the chickens are fed treats. The water bowl gets refilled whenever it is empty or if it just needs a clean.

I have four chickens in my coop, and there is one large water dispensor and at least three food bowls at any given time, and even then Eva may need taking out of the coop just to make sure she is getting enough food. Usually try and make sure that there is one food bowl for every two-three chickens, depending on how the chicken at the bottom of the pecking order seems to be coping.

Handling Your Chickens

It depends what you expect from your chickens, really. If you just want your chickens to be happy when you are around them, filling the food bowls etc. and you just want them for their eggs, then you donít really need to spend any extra time with them, other than giving them treats by hand, gentle stroking and keeping them well fed and watered.

If you want tame chickens, chickens that feel more like humans than pets, then you need to sit in the coop with them and try and gain their trust. Sit quiet and read a book in there a few hours a day, then read it out loud then, after a day of sitting quiet, feed them from your hand. Stroke them, talk to them, lift them onto your lap and feed them to keep them happy and, when you feel that youíre ready, pick them up.

It's not difficult at all, I promise! Put one hand either side of the chickenís body, then bring them in to your chest so they are supported by your own body, and support the birds chest with your other, leaving their legs to dangle. If they flap the first time, donít worry, just put them down and try again on another day.

Having tame chickens that enjoy being picked up and stroked is extremely useful. Milly once escaped when they were free-range. She flew into my next door neighbour's garden, and we thought we'd lost her. My dad wanted to go round and explore the garden, but I just shouted her name (like you with a dog) and she came running, flew onto the wall and then into my arms. It's always reassuring to know that your chickens will come when called, especially if they are in a strange place or they are scared by something!

Grit And Oyster Shells

Chickens need to eat grit to help digest their food. To make sure they are getting enough calcium in their diet you can scatter grit or oyster grit down in their pen or put some in a small food bowl. This will help them lay hard-shelled eggs and is an essential part of their diet. If they lay soft shelled eggs give them this.