Broiler growers producing chicken under the RSPCA Assured label (previously branded Freedom Food) are to be banned from thinning their flocks from 1 Januar
FSA says 15% of samples tested this year had high levels of potentially lethal bacteria, down from 22% last year but still double the target
With the promise of a harsh winter around the corner it’s worth reminding ourselves of some of these handy hints and tips
Originally posted on ChickenStreet:
Winter for any animal can present its challenges and it’s no different for chickens and the keepers of chickens. Providing the optimum conditions for your flock is essential and whilst they may not be laying at this point of the year effort still needs to be invested in their upkeep so they can start the new laying period in prime condition. Here’s 10 tips to help when you are out and about with your flock
1. Ventilation in the house is essential for your poultry throughout the year so don’t be tempted to block up every hole in the house in the belief it will keep the birds warm when the wild weather comes along.
2. Bedding and litter should be of an adequate depth to provide a level of insulation but don’t be tempted to stuff the house full of straw thinking it will create a cosy house.
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Yep, you read that correctly.
Some years ago I wrote an article about this new-fangled plastic poultry house I just been sent to try out. I recall at the time thinking there was potential in the idea, there were limitations too, however I could see the value in using them particular for the back garden keeper with a flock of 3 or 4 birds. It was quite an innovation though all the same and warranted a closer look
Time has passed by and this year I decided to pull together the top four most well-known manufacturers (and their entry level sized housing) and have put them through their paces in a 6 month long trial. (Since my original encounter with recycled plastic housing there are more and more players emerging so now seemed a good time)
At the time of blogging I’ve just heard that we could well be in for a really hard winter and as such I intend to keep the trial running until next spring so I can genuinely comment on their respective performances should the weather really turn hence I’ll be release this gradually as I don’t want to jump to any conclusions, so to speak.
You might be wondering why now and why little plastic houses? Well I have been and quite be very vocal about the mass produced b*ll*cks housing that’s flooded the market over the last decade; most of it genuinely is rubbish and so frequently results in a negative experience for the keeper and often in welfare issues for the birds. Sure, you pays your money and makes your choice but by the same measure I’m a Yorkshireman and, despite that idiot David Camerons comments about us, I will say we hail from the ‘short arms and deep pockets side of things’ and will avoid excessive spending where possible. As a result though I’ve been quite keen to find out if the advantages of plastic really do mean the price tag is worth it, particularly as I’m frequently asked “what about plastic houses?”
The Runners and Riders
Just so we are straight on one thing, I’m not claiming plastic is the way forward just yet. If you want housing for more than 8 to 10 birds you would be better off with wood; it’s cheaper, easier to customise and easily repairable. Plus if, like me, you have multiple coops of breeders and growers then affordability and practicality will drive you down the wood route no matter what any cash rich hobbyist will claim.
This is about the one or two coop backyarder who is keeping chickens for a few eggs and the enjoyment and therefore is willing to make the investment in their housing as a balance against reduced ongoing maintenance costs. It’s because of this that at the end of the day it’s precisely why plastic beats wood hands down on these little houses. Zero ongoing maintenance and cleaning that can involve 30minutes, a pressure hose and an old bath towel even in the depths of winter. Add on the fact that purchasing one second hand has a massively reduced risk of bring pests or disease into your little flock you can perhaps start to see it makes sense.
So who are the runners and riders? They are
the Eglu Go UP from Omlet,
the Green Frog Designs Chicken House,
the PetzPodz Chicken Pod,
and finally the Solway Recycling Eco Hen Loft.
The price of each can depend to an extent upon the optional extras but in many respects they all land within £100 of each other when bought new other than the Solway house which tends towards the most cost effective end of the market (however doesn’t come with a run option.)
Check back soon when you’ll find out who fairs best in the field trials on the Welsh/Shropshire borders against a set of criteria that I think will sort out the wheat from the chaff.
Food Standards Agency says its focus is on reducing levels of the bug rather than focusing on farming methods
It is reporting like the article below that really does annoy me somewhat.
Firstly there is no law stating they have to be destroyed at 72 weeks (you wouldn’t be able to rehome them if there was) .
Secondly, the destruction (or depletion as it’s referred to) is simply because the hens are no longer as profitable for the farm to keep. This is because the farm has bought into the egg production process of importing stock, using it at its prime then destroying it at 72 weeks and replacing it. This is the cheapest process that maximises profits.
The article could at least be honest in reporting the story rather inferring people who didn’t turn up to the farm are heartless or in some way at fault or to blame for the already prescribed destruction of the chickens on the farm.
How about, “every year 24,000 hens arrive at a farm to produce eggs and then be slaughtered at 72 weeks of age because they are no longer at their peak of egg production. You can save them from this fate by NOT BUYING THOSE EGGS.” ? I doubt that would sell many papers though would it?
I’m an avid gardener; in fact I’ve been gardening both in terms of flowers, fruit and vegetables since I fell out of a pram, I’m not a precious gardener though who needs everything in rows unless it’s in my vegetable plot. Call me old fashioned but I like my onions to all be in one place, spuds somewhere else and carrots as a collective rather than scattered everywhere. On the other hand I don’t mind organised chaos taking place in the rest of the borders (or the naturalistic planting look as it could be called).
To me a garden is simply an outdoor room and like indoor rooms it should never be static.Instead it should evolve as you and your life evolves. I have a pond for example, I spend many hours sitting near it and watching the wildlife make use of it, be it the frogs in the spring, the dragonflies in summer or (without fail every year) the grey wagtails in the autumn. I gain an immense amount of pleasure from my garden and from the flora and fauna within in it so why then would I put a flock of chickens in there; especially given one of the frequently said things about chickens and gardens it is that they don’t mix? Well this isn’t an untrue statement but then by the same measure it’s true to say children and gardens don’t mix, or dogs and gardens don’t mix.
A good garden is one where thought and design have been applied according to its use – take the pond I mentioned earlier, 15 years ago I would never have had an open pond in my garden. Why? I had 3 children under 4yrs old and the effort of keeping them out of the pond would have no doubt taken a lot of the joy out of having one in the first place.
Many of us have or have had children and or dogs romping around the garden and we’ve made compensations to allow for it, and so by the same measure it’s not impossible to have chickens in the garden, and for that mix to be enjoyable and beneficial for both the gardener and the flock; you just need to plan and design accordingly.
For many people keeping a backyard flock is synonymous with providing higher welfare and thus being secure in the knowledge that the eggs you are collecting are not from a factory farmed source. The trouble is though that keeping the three of them ‘cooped up’ in a run 3 metres by 3 metres is in fact a stock density greater than that of a commercial free range flock. In other words they have less space per bird, so if better welfare is a motivation for you keeping chickens then you may need to reconsider the space you allow them, or look to giving them a bit more of the garden.
Free ranging invariably results in happier, healthier chickens in so much that their lifestyle will be much more akin to their natural habitat. In fact there’s many a ‘jungle of a garden’ out there which would make a perfect haunt for a flock of hens. In fact anyone who has observed a hen that’s escaped from a fixed run will have witnessed the vigour and energy in their behaviour (and the fact they will continue to try and escape to experience it all over again!).
For me I use chickens as helpers because for all their ‘misplaced enthusiasm’ in the garden, they are in fact quite useful. They help in the control of pests, eat weeds, mow the lawn, compost green waste and improve soil condition. As a collective they quite possibly do the work of one person in the garden throughout the year and lay fantastic healthy eggs too. I won’t wax lyrical though and claim they are no problem at all as I do need to control where they go and protect some plants and crops from the attentions, but compared to the benefits they deliver coupled with beauty and movement they bring to the look of the garden, it’s worth it.
Keep the flock size appropriate for the space you have. A 25m2 to 35m2 garden space would suit 5 average sized chickens which in turn should easily keep the average family in eggs with sufficient surplus to sell and cover upkeep costs
Your garden is an ecosystem which the balance of, to many extents, is under your control, and if that ecosystem is to remain healthy then you need to observe and understand the way it works. Adding an appropriately sized flock of chickens introduces another aspect to the ecosystem but one which is most definitely within your control and under your management. Making sure the flock compliments and contributes towards the balance of the garden is key and stocking too heavily or ranging too intensively will lead to problems, so take your time and you will find chickens and gardens can mix.
I found this via a Farmers Weekly article and whilst it’s not something that is likely to be needed by small backyard keepers, it is worth remembering that we should ALL practice good biosecurity.
A sneaky bit of bowling news in and amongst the poultry….
Originally posted on Whittington Cricket & Bowling Club:
Sunday 9th August, the sun was shining and the green was like glass. It looked likely that a yard wood would be a good one as the Family Cup kicked off. (Unseeded doubles with the only proviso being “you ‘ad to be family”)
The prelims saw new club members Ryan and Anna earn a worthy 13 against equally new Mike and Anitas 21. Ray and daughter Elly reached 21 first against Roger and Peter, whereas the Humphreys husband and wife partnership of Graham and Helen saw off Grandad and Grandson Brian and Daniel to 16. Wenna and Ian Chalmers fought hard against Ju and Rainey in a Mr & Mrs match but, despite a brave come back from 20-8 down, the Chalmers ran short on luck losing to 19 in the end.
With the next round starting (and those who had a bye taking to the green) the clever money…
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