New to chickens - what else do I need?

spider

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I'm very excited as I've just placed an order for 3 ex-bats with the rescue organisation. I've got coop and run sorted, have ordered the recommended starter pack of food, and will pick up some bedding. What else do I actually need? I'm a bit overwhelmed by all the products available. They should have access to grit? How often do they need worming? Does the coop need disinfecting or will a good hose down do the job? Its plastic. And do you treat for mites all the time or just when you think there is a problem? Do they need supplements in food and water?
Thanks in advance.
 

Clodagh

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You need a drinker and feeder.
If you don't intend to let them free range they will need grit, mixed grit is best and if I feed it it goes in a hook on cup as they don't use a lot.
Worm twice a year, again if they are limited in their range. Flubenvet is the only one that works. (I worm once a year).
Hose down should do if plastic, if you need to scrub pooey bits use washing up liquid. Poultry Shield is just WUL!
I only treat for mites in warm weather, unless I find a problem.
Don't use bedding throughout, mites love it, use newspaper or empty feed bags split open, much easier to change.
Only use bedding in the nest box, and I do mix a bit of mite powder in with the auboise.

And congratulations and welcome to a new addiction!
 

zigzag

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Following this as thinking of getting chickens, the bright coloured plastic hen houses done by the firm named after an egg dish ( don't want o advertise lol) are they any good?
 

jrp204

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Feed a layers mash or pellet, they have the right protein for good egg production, they also contain grit so you don't have to supply that. Avoid feeding scraps, if you fill them with rubbish they won't get the protein they need. Worm them every 6 months. Leave them access to food and water all the time.
 

paddi22

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Following this as thinking of getting chickens, the bright coloured plastic hen houses done by the firm named after an egg dish ( don't want o advertise lol) are they any good?
we have a few different coops for our lot and the eglus you mention are definitely the easiest to manage and clean. more expensive but well worth the money. we have the small one and its about 8 years old now and still works perfectly. Way less maintenance and repair than the wood ones.
 

Honey08

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My aunty has the plastic one. Very small. But easy to use.

Our ex bats didn't work out the water drinker, we just give them a bowl of water and it's also easier to clean. Old gutters make superb feed troughs too.

We worm once or twice a year. Have a tub of grit out 24/7. Feed layers pellets/mash am and some mixed corn pm. We spray the coop (ours is wood) with Kill Mite once a month, and I put red mite and lice powder (two different tubs) in their nest box straw once a month too. Particularly in summer months.

Never under estimate how good a fox will be at getting in a pen - have it dug into the ground if poss and as high as poss. Don't let an ex batt free range for a good while unless you're around, they take a while to adjust.

Finally, either find a good avian vet or learn how to put them out of their misery (or someone who would). Now and again the ex batts get complications from their systems being over worked in the cage systems.

Enjoy them though, they're lovely and so rewarding.
 

spider

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Thank you for all the great advice. My bright plastic hen house arrived today! And I can collect the hens in 2 weeks. So I am nearly all set. I can imagine it might be an addiction!
 

Hepsibah

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Avoid feeding them scraps? :confused3: One of the pleasures of poultry keeping in my experience is feeding them scraps, they love them. Spaghetti, rice, greens, bits of bread and apple cores - they come running. And I still get more eggs from my chooks than I can easily eat. :D
 

Nudibranch

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Dont forget a bag of mealworms to befriend/bribe/train them...like chocolate for hens and a surefire way to get them back in their coop when they've been free ranging :)

You can buy layers pellets which contain wormer, just feed for 7 days every few months. No need to stop eating the eggs either. And yes, a second run is essential because you WILL become addicted!
 

Clodagh

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I still feed mealworms to m hens but DEFRA recommend that you don't any more, because they are from China and contain nasties. But as Nudibranch said, there is nothing like them to make a chicken do what you want!
 

JillA

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Mine LOVE soaked cat kibble - I just have to take care not to get chicken flavour. Cheaper than mealworms and while I'm sure there are nasties what's good for the cats............
 

D66

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Dont forget a bag of mealworms to befriend/bribe/train them...like chocolate for hens and a surefire way to get them back in their coop when they've been free ranging :)

You can buy layers pellets which contain wormer, just feed for 7 days every few months. No need to stop eating the eggs either. And yes, a second run is essential because you WILL become addicted!
Who does the layers pellets with wormer in? That sounds good. :)
You can also give them chicken tonic powder in a little natural yoghurt.
 

Hepsibah

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Nasties there may be but have you seen what chickens will eat?? I've seen them eat (in no particular order) Dog poop, a mouse, a frog and each other. :eek3:
 

Snowy Celandine

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I belong to 'Chicken Club' and although the first rule of Chicken Club is obviously not to mention Chicken Club, I will break the rule to discuss feeding scraps. My vet keeps birds (and runs the club) and she invited a speaker who was a bird vet and who told us under no circumstances to feed scraps. I think the reason was that we might pass nasties to the birds rather than the other way round. She said that food from our kitchens was not safe for our birds. I do feed mine mealworms though because they are like crack cocaine to chickens and ducks, although the geese won't touch them.
 

paddi22

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we've chickens for donkeys years and feed them all the scraps from the kitchen (as well as layers pellets) and it's never done any of them any harm. We don't give really high sugar or salt stuff, but they get literally everything else, and we have a gang of ancient ladies still laying away. I know that there is best practice in animal management but in reality ours have consumed 10 years of prawn crackers, take away rice and noodles, chip shop garlic bread, pizza crusts and boxes of unused cereals. We have a at least five who are over 12 years old and still motoring around. They are fairly tough birds! I know this is the equivalent of someone coming on and saying they have a 99 year old granny who smokes daily, drinks like a fish and still runs marathons! But we genuinely have never seen any bad side effects to their crappy diet. Any that die are usually fox related
 

JillA

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My hens are totally free ranging and while they love mixed corn (at least most of it, they leave the little orange bits, anyone know what they are?) they will not eat layers pellets or crumb, I presume that means they have all they need from grass, worms and invertebrates - and cat food. I was pondering the worming question and asked a few friends who had kept free range hens for far longer than me, and without exception they all said they never had.
 

Snowy Celandine

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No, it is like buying horse wormer they just take a name and address down and an suthorised person has to sell it to you.
Thank you. That's great because my vet won't provide a prescription.

JillA, you really should worm your birds. I had stool samples analysed before I wormed mine, a few years ago and there were worms present, albeit in small numbers, despite my regular worming programme.
 

Country_gal

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aww just come across this! Hope you are having fun with your hens! I have just given away a bag of eggs from mine to my office workmates!!!

I grew up with hens and they have all had kitchen scraps!! And have always been healthy and happy! Mine love some veg to peck at they go DAFT for mealwormd! I also sometimes pick up the mealworm or fruit suet blocks for them to keep them amused. I have even seen myself making veg garlands for something to occupy them! Their main food is layers pellets, always have fresh water available and I provide a small bowl of grit for mine thugh they don't bother too much for it (they free range in my back garden and do wonders at keeping the weeds at bay!) When cleaning the coup, their waste is also a wonderful fertiliser! I wouldn't be without my chooks! Love them
 
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I never feed scraps, I worm three times yearly but I have a lot of corvids which carry gapeworm and I lost a few hens to it when I first moved here. They are free range on plenty of grass and they have breeders pellets this time of year plus micronised peas for some extra protein in the winter. I would never feed them cat or dog food but I know people do.

Re scraps from kitchens-SC is correct, obviously its not enforceable but it isn't legal and there are good reasons-not least in my book is encouraging vermin. You can buy salad/greens for them as long as they go straight to your birds, not via your kitchen and I know serious breeders who have separate kitchens for their birds.
 

Casey76

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DEFRA have some, er, interesting, rules when it comes to chickens.

Basically if any food item has been in your kitchen then it cannot be fed to chickens. You can take a cabbage from the supermarket, to your car, to the chickens it is fine. If it makes a stop in the kitchen, then you can't. Especially if you are planning to give away/sell your eggs.

However what people do in practice is often different ;)

In France we are encouraged to give kitchen scraps to hens! - just don't overdo the onions or garlic... onion-y eggs are not pleasant!

Ideally you should have layers mash or pellets (ex-bats are probably going to be more used to mash). Greens are good - cabbage leaves, grass etc. Nettles produce particularly dark yellow/orange yolks :) Next you need grit; grit helps to grind up the food in the gizzard. Then you need oyster shell. They need this to produce good eggshells. Both grit and oyster shell should be freely available and separate from the food. Water, obviously.

I'm sure your rescue organization will tell you all of this - but here is the run down on the special needs of ex-bats (and why I've never recommended them for first time chicken owners...)

Ex-bats (and barn) chickens are very intensively bred and farmed. They start laying at 15-16 weeks of age, and considered spent at 80 weeks. Because they lay so prolifically (280-300 eggs in their first season), this can lead to problems including mineral deficiency (which leads to poor egg shell production, soft shelled or shell-less eggs), prolapses, and sterile or infected egg yolk peritonitis. Feather pecking can be rife and very hard to combat/train out.

Hens in general are prone to stress, and seem to keel over and die for no particular reason (a bit like sheep!)

If you want a regular supply of eggs, then ex-bats are not the chicken for you. You should consider your ex-bats as "hens in retirement" and count any eggs you get as a bonus. (eggs may be infrequent, odd shapes, small, not contain yolks, and have odd/patchy or even missing shells)

As an aside: they only need about 125g of food each per day - fully up-to-weight production reds (the generic name of brown farmyard hens) are going to feel "skinny"; their keel bone should be easily felt, and they should have no/little discernible meat on their breast. Production reds are lean-mean-egg laying machines, and will weigh approx. 1.5kg at maturity. Don't be tempted to overfeed, or "feed them up" fat hens have more problems laying than thin ones. Fat hens are more prone to prolapses and EYP.

Mixed grain/corn should be kept to a minimum (1 tablespoon per hen) as a treat (in the evening to get them in bed is common), as it is like chocolate to children. If there is mixed corn available, they will eat that before the "healthy" layers pellets.

On the other hand, they will have been vaccinated against a wide range of illnesses, so thinks like mycoplasma, coccidiosis, Newcastle or Mareks disease should not be an issue.

Be mindful, that they will have been through a great stress when you bring them home, and they may stay in their coop for 2-3 days before their curiosity gets the better of them. Just leave them be, and they will go exploring soon enough - don't be tempted to force them outside too quickly ;)

Enjoy your new hens :) I cant wait until I get a new batch in!

ETA: whoops cross posted with MOC!
 
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