26 January 2015

The slippery slope of hen keeping

This video will make you laugh! It's about the slippery slope of falling in love with chickens.

The greatest hazard is not what you'd expect.... The hazards of backyard hens (2 min 35 sec).

15 January 2015

Shade and water for chickens in summer

Like you and me, in the current summer heat my chickens are loving the shade. Much as they love sunny spots to dust bathe in for much of the year, leafy trees become incredibly important when the temperature soars.

So, when you're siting your chicken run, do think about shade in summer. Giving chickens access to trees growing in front of a north-facing fence or building is ideal. The sun is overhead about now, so the trees provide plenty of shade. But in winter, when the sun is low, it will slant under the trees to provide warmth. Plus it will dry out the ground and lessen the mud problem that chicken runs often develop in winter.

If trees aren't an option, consider a shade sail, a sheet of plywood or anything else you can muster up. Anything but direct sun, please!

Drinking water is absolutely vital, too, and like us chickens drink a lot more when the weather is hot. They really can't survive without water: it's important to make this clear to chicken-minders when you go on holiday.

I like a hanging drinker with a bulge that stops falling in the water. If it's hanging it can't be knocked over, and if it's positioned high enough it won't have straw or dirt kicked into it. Try to keep it out of direct sun so it stays cool.

My favourite water tip is to add just a dash of cider vinegar to the water. I only started doing this about a year ago, just with the cheap supermarket DYC version, and quickly realised that it almost completely stopped the water going green in the heat. Wonderful! The vinegar is also said to do good things for chickens' digestive health. I haven't noticed any difference, but then they were healthy to start with. (Except the one that died, oops - that was post-vinegar.)

Hopefully the care you give your birds is rewarding you in the form of many eggs! These long summer days are great for egg production, and the egg section of our fridge is overflowing. Quiche time, I think.

13 January 2015

The dead chicken that keeps on giving

Proof that chickens keep on giving even after death. This ravishing chest-high peony poppy is growing on the burial mound of my old black Orpington. There's a healthy young passionfruit vine snaking its way up behind it, too.