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Beginners guide to keeping

 

Cleaning

Regular cleaning and disinfection of your chicken shed is important to keep down the levels of harmful parasites, bacteria and viruses which can cause disease in both your birds and your family. Ideally, your shed should be cleaned and disinfected on a monthly basis. The protocol for cleaning and disinfection is outlined below:

  • Remove all of the bedding (either compost it or burn it (especially if you have a Red Mite problem)
  • Next, wash the coop using a suitable detergent, such as Chicken Vet Poultry Shield. Many disinfectants are inactivated by dirt and grime so it is important to use a detergent to remove it, allowing your disinfectant to work properly.
  • Remember to remove the perches and nest boxes and to wash all those areas where red mites may hide
  • Let the shed dry before applying a disinfectant. Applying, to a wet surface only dilutes the disinfectant so it, does not have the required strength to kill bugs.
  • Next, dilute an appropriate disinfectant to the correct concentration. We recommend Interkokask to destory most bacteria, viruses and fungi,   if you want to destroy coccidiosis you must ensure you choose a product licensed to destroy the coccidial oocysts such as Bi-OO-Cyst or Interkokask.
  • Apply the disinfectant at the correct volume/dilution per square meter.
  • Leave the disinfectant to dry for the required amount of time
  • Re-bed the shed using fresh bedding (dust extracted shavings are best).
  • Don’t forget to clean and disinfect the drinkers and feeders also, use Rhodasept for this.
 

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Feeding

Chicks feeding

For most people the idea of feeding chickens conjures up images of people sprinkling handfuls of fresh grain on the range with the odd mealy worm added for good measure.

However, whilst your birds may enjoy this it is not, necessarily the best thing for them.

The average laying chicken requires between 120g and 150g of food per day with slightly more during cold weather and slightly less during the summer. Chickens not in lay need around 25g of feed per kilogram of bodyweight per day.

Next, comes the question of what to feed your birds? Commercial mash or pellets designed for chickens are perfectly balanced and will provide all the necessary nutrients for your chickens without any additional foodstuffs being given.

Always make sure that the feed is in date, as once past its sell by date, the vitamins and minerals will have broken down and be of no use to your bird.

It is worth buying an appropriate sized sack of feed for your flock to ensure the sack does not last more than a few weeks.

Check the feed has not become stale, mouldy or damp as mouldy feed can harbour fungi which produce harmful toxins that can damage the digestive and nervous systems of your birds. Adding Digesti-health to your birds feed daily can help absorb any fungal toxins; it contains Biomos which absorbs toxins.

We all like to treat our pets but as you would with your cat and dog, you need to be treat-wise with your chickens to prevent obesity. A handful of mixed corn in the afternoon or the odd mealy worm makes good treats. Kitchen scraps can be harmful to birds causing sour crop and diarrhoea and so we do not recommend feeding kitchen scraps to your chickens- especially bread!

Always feed your birds from a feeder and not on the ground or out in the run. Feeding birds outside attracts wild birds and rodents,  potential carriers of disease.

Try not to change your bird’s diet or the brand of feed suddenly as this can lead to a digestive upset in your bird and be the cause of diarrhoea.

Feeding old or inappropriate feed to your birds can lead to the deficiencies listed below:

Vitamin A deficiency will lead to:

  • your chicken being more vulnerable to skin, respiratory tract and kidney infection
  • poor hatchability
  • poor growth
  • poor eyesight
  • nervous system problems

Vitamin D deficiency will lead to:

  • brittle, deformed bones
  • brittle egg shells
  • poor hatchability

Vitamin E deficiency will lead to:

  • nervous system problems in chicks (crazy chick disease)
  • muscle weakness

Vitamin K deficiency will lead to:

  • blood clotting problems and minor cuts can allow birds to bleed to death

Vitamin B1(Thiamine) deficiency will:

  • cause poor growth
  • nervous signs

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) deficiency will:

  • lead to curly toe paralysis in chicks
  • cause clubbed down feather

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) deficiency will lead to:

  •  poor growth

Niacin deficiency:

  • will cause poor feathering and poor growth

Pantothenic Acid deficiency will cause:

  • poor hatchability
  • poor growth
  • poor feather quality
  • rough skin

Biotin deficiency will cause:

  • poor growth
  • skin problems

Folic Acid deficiency will cause:

  • poor growth
  • poor appetite
  • deformed legs and slipped tendons
  • diarrhoea

Vitamin B12 deficiency will cause:

  • poor hatchability

Choline deficiency will cause:

  • poor growth
  • poor hatchability
  • can contribute to fatty deposits in the birds liver
  • lameness

Calcium and Phosphorous are needed to form healthy bones and egg shells. Any deficiency or imbalance between the two can lead to brittle bones and egg shells.

Zinc deficiency can lead to poor growth, poor hatchability and skin problems.

Manganese deficiency can lead to poor growth and limb deformities.

Selenium deficiency can lead to nervous system problems and muscle weakness.

 

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Water

Chicks drinking

Like all animals, chickens require a daily supply of fresh drinking water. However, as pet owners we are not used to giving water to animals producing food for humans (eggs). All animals including chickens will drink roughly 50ml of water per kilogram of body weight every day. This would mean that the average chicken weighing 2 kg should drink 100ml of water per day. Please remember that birds in lay require an additional 100ml/day to produce an egg meaning most laying hens need roughly 200ml/day.

In warm weather this need will increase and in cold weather the requirement will fall.

Always ensure that your birds are given fresh water daily and that ideally weekly their drinkers are washed with a suitable disinfectant such as Rhodasept once a week.

There are several drinkers available, most people use either water towers or having a tray like drinker. The towers are better as the chickens cannot walk in them and contaminate the water.

Ideally the drinkers should be the height of the back of your smallest bird because chickens love to scratch bedding in to their water.

The area around the drinker can become damp so the litter in this area may need to be replaced frequently. Never leave this wet litter as it can provide an ideal breeding ground for bacteria as well as potentially causing ulcers to form on the feet of your birds.

You can use Chicken Vet Dri Bed in such areas as this powder absorbs dampness and also contains a disinfectant to deal with bacteria.

 

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