Below you will find the answers to a selection of questions we are often asked. If you still can't find the answer to your question we're on hand to provide you with all the help and advice you need. Just fill in the form below and we will drop you an email.
Answer: If your girls are over 18 weeks old, then they will need layers feed of some sort. This comes in either pellets, mash/meal or crumbs; the form that you use is entirely up to your personal preference. Personally, I alternate between pellets and crumbs to give them some variety, and use the Smallholder Range - they also make the Allen & Page organic range if you prefer to farm organically.
If you have ex-battery hens then you might like to feed them on their BHWT ex-batts feed - this contains extra nutrients to support their unique needs.
There are various supplements that you can add to the feed for various benefits; garlic powder for general health, Bokashi Bran for improved digestion and limestone flour for harder egg shells for example.
I always add a tonic to their water though - that really keeps them in tip-top condition and ensures a steady flow of good quality, hard-shelled eggs. One good piece of advice is to always use good quality products such as those from Net Tex, NAF and The Smallholder Group - you will reap the benefits. What you put into your hen is exactly what you’ll get out!back to top
Answer: The number of hens you can keep is mostly restricted by the size of the run and the amount of time when they can free range. The accepted norm is to allow a square metre of run space per bird, and always be aware that overcrowding will lead to pecking and bullying. Chickens will always squash up at night and you can fit quite a few into a house that size, so the size of the house isn't as crucial as the size of the run. As a guide the hen will take up a hand span width on the perch at night.back to top
Answer: Glad to hear that you've rescued some ex-batts!
Unfortunately, the enforced laying that was part of their previous life often causes them to have egg-tackle problems in later life. Shell gland exhaustion/problems are quite common I'm afraid.
You're doing the right thing with the supplements, may I make a suggestion though? Add a light drizzle of cod liver oil (NAF makes a good one) to their pellets; the vitamin D in this will increase their absorption of calcium. You may also find that Limestone Flour is easier for them to absorb calcium from than oyster shell.
They may like the new Ex-batt BHWT crumbs made by the Smallholder group - these are slightly less powdery than mash and packed full of goodies to boost an ex-batt girl. I suspect that these may only help a little, as the problem is more mechanical. Ex-batts are the most rewarding of hens to own, but unfortunately, you have to be prepared for the baggage that they come with. I hope that they improve and continue to lay for a while longer.back to top
Answer: It's unusual for hens to moult at this time of year, so there could be one of a few causes:
To encourage the bald hens to re-feather, you will need to up the amount of protein in their diet. Live or dried mealworms are excellent for this, as is the new Smallholder's ex-batts feed.
I hope that this helps you.back to top
Answer: I am glad to hear that she has been wormed recently as that's my first suggestion for a hen with a runny bum; did you repeat the dose a week later? You need to do this for it to be effective. Chickens eat so much rubbish when they free range that it's surprising they don't have more tummy problems!
Normal chicken poo should be firm and brown with a white cap, every 7th poo or so will be yellow and frothy - this is a caecal gland emptying. Your description of her faeces sounds as if she has some sort of digestive upset, so before spending time and money on a vet I'd suggest the following, to correct the balance of bacteria in her gut:
A few days on this regime usually sorts out any problems, but if she's not right then a visit to the vet, with a faecal sample will be necessary.
The best Apple Cider Vinegar to use is the 'live' one sold by horse feed suppliers rather than the sort you buy from the supermarket, which has been pasteurised.
A 3 year old hen is doing very well and I hope that she enjoys a long and happy retirement with you. Once she is feeling better, may I suggest a high protein diet with lots of live meal worms, she will also benefit tremendously from using Life-Guard tonic in her water every day.back to top
Answer: As long as you get them all at the same time then they will sort themselves out, whether you have 5 of the same breed or all mixed they will sort out the pecking order themselves. Whoever is boss the first day may not be boss the next day, it’s best to leave them to sort it out between them. If you have one particularly dominant pullet and she is causing real trouble then we will always replace her within the first week.back to top
Answer:The mite and lice situation is particularly bad this year - the warm damp spring (and summer!) has meant that wild birds are infested and bringing them into the garden to affect your flock too. Unfortunately, those with wooden housing are particularly badly affected, and because the housing has more nooks and crannies, it is harder to eradicate.
You are doing all the right things, but I wonder whether you are repeating any treatment a week later so as to break the mite lifecycle:
The mites will make your birds anaemic, will slow down their egg production and can even kill them so make sure that they get plenty of protein (meal worms are good for this) and add some sort of tonic to their water.back to top
Answer: Scaly leg is caused by mites, which are transferred by wild birds, they burrow under the chicken's leg scales and cause a lot of irritation. The scales will lift away from the leg, take on a pearly sheen, and you will see a thick, crusty exude under the scales.
There are a lot of old fashioned remedies for this, but by far the most effective is to use Johnson's Anti-Mite Spray (available from pet shops, not licensed for use on poultry in the UK, but recommended by most vets). Spray your bird's legs twice, a week apart to break the life cycle of the mites.
Please note that the active ingredient in the spray is toxic to cats. Vets will recommend egg withdrawal of a week after treatment. There is also a new Net Tex product out which is good at killing the mite and softening the scales.
The scales will remain raised until the bird moults them off; please don't be tempted to pick at them as this will cause a wound and soreness. The legs will improve, but never look pristine again.
Mite infestations can leave your bird anaemic, so I'd recommend adding some sort of tonic to their water.back to top