If you subscribe to this blog, follow me on twitter or have bumped into me when I’m out and about then you might know I write for the poultry press & magazines. It was one of the magazines, namely Your Chickens, that approached me recently about working with them to put together a mini pocket guide on keeping chickens. I’m pleased to say the final product is now available… and best of all it’s completely free!
Simply click on this link and you will be taken to the full online version where you can flick through the booklet at your leisure.
Hard copies are available however you’ll need to visit the Your Chickens stand at this years Pet Show at Stoneleigh to grab your copy
I often get asked about how and when to clip the wings of chickens. I usually answer with a question… “why do you want to clip your chickens wings”. Its not a requirement to clip their wings and only really needs doing if you have a bird or birds that persistently clear boundaries and head off to the neighbours garden, or your veg plot.
Some breeds of chicken are reasonable flyers over a short distance, others are very good jumpers, and in both cases the clipping of wings can help reduce the amount of lift they get from frantically flapping.
Points to note though, despite clipping some birds will potentially still manage to get sufficient lift or can jump powerfully enough to clear the boundary. Wing clipping is not therefore a fix-all and some sort of netting over the run might be required.
Wing clipping is simple enough, but far simpler if you have an extra pair of hands to hold the bird. All you need do is take a pair of scissors and cut off the primary feathers ON ONE WING ONLY! This will serve to unbalance the bird and hopefully reduce the height they can gain. The image below shows the cut line in red. Note when you are holding the wing, the primary feathers are not seen when the birds wing is closed, therefore cutting them doesn’t effect the look of the bird when it is at rest.
In terms of when to cut them, do it when the feathers are fully grown and only do it on mature birds. Don’t cut the feathers whilst they are still growing.
The feathers of course will remain cut until the bird moults, at which point new primary feathers will grow. Once they are fully grown then you can clip them again but by that time the bird may have got out of the habit of ranging a bit too far!
Late summer, early autumn sees the onset of the annual moult for chickens. If you are a first time keeper this can appear rather alarming when first encountered especially in some breeds who seem to literally drop all their feathers overnight. This dramatic transformation into an oven ready bird can send the uninitiated keeper into a panic, but worry not, it’s a perfectly natural occurrence in poultry over one year old. Hens hatched during the spring of that year will not usually moult until the following autumn but for those in their second year or beyond there is the need to replace their weather worn feathers before the winter.
When a hen goes into moult it will inevitably stop laying transferring its energies into feather regrowth. In younger birds this moult can take around 6 weeks to complete where upon the hen may start to lay again however in older birds the moult can take a number of months to complete fully. The two birds in the image are from the very same hatch, the one on the left is half way through her moult, the one on the right has completed hers.
During the moult be sure to provide a good balanced diet, fresh water, greens and a vitamin supplement can help them through what is a rather stressful period. Also be sure to provide them with dry draught free places to shelter, with the loss of their ‘clothes’ the hen will be sure to appreciate the benefit.