Poultry Keeping Tips
I remember when I first started thinking about keeping poultry. I read every single book I could find in the library and even though they were great, sometimes it can put you off taking that first step. I thought it may help if I wrote a few basic steps to keeping poultry. This is in no way meant to be an ultimate guide but thought it might help you get started.
The first step in keeping poultry is to get the right products from the beginning. Poultry are excellent pets and easy to look after but you do need the right products. I have tried and tested lots of products over the years and made lots of mistakes - so you don't need to!
I would like to point out that this advice is given as 'in my opinion' it is based on my own experience with hens and should not be construed as fact. If you are ever unsure on the health of your hens I would recommend seeking the advice of a qualified Vet.
Housing & Shelter
Poultry can be kept in all sorts of houses, from rabbit hutches to sheds. It does not need to be an expensive tailor made house although they are very nice! Generally, with poultry houses you get what you pay for.
They must be waterproof and windproof and offer plenty of space for the size of bird you are keeping. As a general rule I would calculate the square footage of the shed / house and divide by 1.5 and that is how many good sized hybrids you could keep.
i.e. 3ftx4 ft house = 12 sqft = 8 hens.
Obviously little bantams need less space and larger birds may need more.
Never rely on what that manufacturers claim as often this is often misleading. Buy bigger than you think you may need as you will always end up getting more hens as time goes on!
I sell a variety of houses that I can confidently recommend for hobby keepers. All of these houses have been tried and tested by us. For me my main priority is ease of cleaning and also creating a healthy environment for my birds. My wooden poultry houses have sides that come off completely making cleaning out a breeze! Lets face it none of us like to clean out the houses so we need to make it as easy as possible on ourselves.
Try to ensure there is somewhere the birds can shelter from the sun / rain during the day. A simple covered area provides all the birds will need - Quite often they will choose to create a dust bath in this area. You can mix some louse powder or diatom powder into the earth which will help treat the birds at the same time as dust bathing. Dust bathing is a birds natural way of ridding themselves of mites.
Feed & Water
Poultry Feed - we always feed our birds on Fancy Feed Poultry Feed. We have found their range of poultry feeds to be the very best quality feed that we can give to our birds. We have never once had any issues with their feed and many owners of birds have commented after their birds have been in boarding with us they have noticed a change in the quality of eggs when they get home.
We recommend to feed Layers Pellts ad lib - that is unrestricted out of a poultry feeder. We recommend to also add poultry grit to their feed - this acts as the poultry teeth to help grind the feed up before passing through to digestion.
Small amounts of Mixed corn can also be fed but don't go overboard as it can increase the birds weight and then they may develop other health complications.
Clean fresh water is an absolute priority for keeping birds in good health. I always add a small amount of Apple Cider Vinegar to my drinkers I find it keeps the drinkers slime free, algae free and also claims to have health properties for the birds. Don't add Apple Cider Vinegar to metal containers - only to plastic as it will corrode the metal. You can also add a few cloves are garlic which offers natural antibacterial properties. Water should be changed daily and it is really important in very cold weather that you check several times a day to ensure it has not frozen solid. Please when buying water containers avoid the ones that just push on (they are red bottomed) they are cheap - which is good but I find that the plastic splits when you pull the base off to refill..... very expensive in the long term. It is better to use a water container that has a twist on twist off locking system
Lice & Mites
Definitely the number one cause of health problems in poultry. You must be prepared to deal with them! The key is in prevention rather than cure. No-one can stop birds getting lice or mites. They are carried from bird to bird and can arrive on the back of wild birds. Regular use of Louse powder will keep most lice and mites away. Various products are available on the market to spray the houses with when cleaning them out weekly. Be vigilant all the year around and if you spot anything, treat quickly or they can get out of control.
Birds should be wormed regularly - How regularly depends on a number of factors. Some wormers are more of a preventative than a wormer so need to be used monthly. Whereas some will clear the bird of worms if they are carrying them. If your birds are confined to a small area they have more chance of picking up a worm burden we would therefore recommend worming more frequently (every 2-3 months.) If they have access to fresh pasture that is regularly mowed and clippings taken away then worming every 6 months may be sufficient.
We use Flubenvet which is a powder that needs mixing in the birds feed.
To prepare - First of all measure out how much feed a pen is going to eat in a week and then weigh it. Add a small amount of kitchen oil (vegetable / Olive oil etc) and mix until just very very lightly coated. You then measure the amount of Flubenvet you need for that quantity and mix. The oil allows the powder to stick to the pellets otherwise it all drops to the bottom of the feeder and not in the birds mouth! There is no egg withdrawl.
If you want a natural 'wormer' then Verm-x for poultry can be used. Vermex involves mixing a measured amount of pellets in with the poultry feed - the idea being that the birds that weigh more will eat more so they get the correct dosage. The product also comes in a liquid form which can also be added to the water, but you do need to ensure that they can only drink from the water containers and no other 'untreated water' otherwise they will not receive the correct dosage. Verm-x is used every month as a preventative - it is not guaranteed to be able to remove existing worms - just to prevent them. Again no egg withdrawl.
Daily & Weekly Routine
Check feed and water.
Let birds out.
Watch them for a couple of minutes and check their behaviour – (normally over a cup of tea!)
Mid / late afternoon.
You can offer a treat perhaps a small handful of corn – only offer enough that they can eat in a few minutes otherwise will become overweight / egg production will drop / shells can become misshaped.
Collect your eggs
Lock birds up for night
Clean coop out and spray with Smite Liquid to protect from mites / lice and also to keep disinfected.
Ideally allow coop to dry and then replace bedding with new.
As an extra safeguard can add Smite Powder in to nooks and crannies for mite prevention.
If very cold damp weather, instead of using Smite Liquid you may prefer to use a dry disinfectant such as Coop Care.
Wash out drinkers with Smite Liquid, rinse well and fill with fresh water.
Recommended Health Care Essentials
These are my key health care essential items that I could not live without.
Apple Cider Vinegar - to help with sniffles and boost immune system.
Smite Liquid - used everytime the house is cleaned out and also used on the drinkers. Will kill redmite that come into contact with the smite liquid
Smite / Louse Powder - sprinkle in the house in the nooks - any red mite passing over will be killed - long term effectiveness (repeat after cleaning the house)
Flubenvet - My recommended wormer.
Stop Peck - spray on new birds and also when bossiness is getting out of control. If all else fails BUMPA BIT.
Sudocrem - for scaley leg or bites etc
Vaseline - to protect the combs in the winter from frostbite
Poultry Care / Coop Care - dry disinfectants to sanitise the grass (poultry care) or Coop (coop care). Helping to reduce all harmful bacteria.