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August 18 2014 2 18 /08 /August /2014 14:31


All chicken have mites, which is why they dust themselves but the warm weather multiplies them. These mites feed off the chickens blood supply, making your chickens anaemic and if left untreated die.  


The total kill ready to use solution containing pemethrin 0.23%, tetramthrin 0.023%, benzalkonium chloride even if sprayed directly onto the mites does not kill them. I have found that ant killer spray kills red mites and other crawling insects dead and stops them coming back.


I remove all bedding and shut the chicken out of the house while I spray and until the house is dry. During this summer months I have only had to do this twice.



I also dust my chickens every 6 weeks with total mite kill powder which contains diatomaceous earth, and use a mite recovery tonic in the water post any infestations. 

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May 12 2013 1 12 /05 /May /2013 08:13


Duck eggs have a gestation period of 28 days. As with chicken eggs it is a good idea to mark X and O turn on either side to ensure a full 180̊ turn, if hatching in an incubator.  Eggs should be turned 3 -5 times a day (ending up on opposite side than the previous side the night before). Eggs should be candled on day 10 due to longer gestation period than chickens. Look for clears, blood rings. Stop turning day 25 for lockdown and increase the humidity.

Once hatched require warmth from a brooder lamp and a quiet environment. Try not to handle the ducklings too much.

Put a drinking bowl inside the brooder. Use a very shallow bowl that enables the ducklings to dip in their beaks, but not their entire heads. Ducklings like to be able to clear their nostrils as they drink, but if you give them access to deeper water they might climb in and drown.

If you fear the bowl you have is a little too deep, line the bottom with pebbles or marbles to make it safer, or cover with wide chicken wire so that the ducklings can get their heads into the water but not their body. Change the water every day to make sure the ducklings don't get sick from drinking dirty water.

Ducklings don't eat for the first twenty-four hours after they hatch, since they're still absorbing nutrients from the yolk inside the egg they hatched from. After that, they graduate to starter crumbs, tiny pellets of duck food available at feed supply stores. Buy a plastic feeder, fill it up, and place it in the brooder. Add water to food to help them swallow it. Weak ducklings may need a little sugar in the water to give them energy.

Very weak or sick ducklings may need a little extra yolk nutrition before they're ready for starter crumbs. Feed them a bit of mashed duck egg yolk until they become more interested in the starter crumbs.

After about ten days, ducklings are ready for grower's pellets, which are the same as the starter crumbs, only bigger.

When the ducklings become adults, after about 16 weeks, they're ready for adult duck food and thinly cut fruits and vegetables as a snack.

Help the ducklings swim. Ducks love to swim, and they'll start as soon as the first day after they hatch if you let them. Do not let them swim unattended. Baby ducks are covered with down, which isn't waterproof, and their bodies are still too fragile to cope with swimming alone at this stage.

Make a little swimming pool out of a paint roller tray. The slope in the tray creates a little ramp to help the ducklings get in and out safely.

Don't let the ducklings swim too long, or they'll get chilled. When they're done swimming, dry them off gently and place them back in the brooder so they can warm up. Full feathers should be in place by 9-12 weeks of age.

Once the ducks are too big for the brooder, move them to a large pen. Feed them adult duck feed and let them spend their days swimming and splashing in a pond. Make sure to bring them back into their shelter at night to keep them safe from predators. Be aware that older adult ducks that may share the same pond or water source may try to drown or kill the younger ducks.  

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April 10 2013 4 10 /04 /April /2013 14:44


To ensure a turkey for Christmas dinner set eggs during April. Turkey eggs take approximately 28 days to hatch (stop turning them on day 25 of incubation). When we stop turning the eggs, we increase the humidity to 60 to 70 percent. Due to longer incubation period to that of chickens, turkey eggs should be candled at 10 days. As with chicken eggs you are looking for ‘clears’ (unfertilised eggs should be discarded), ‘blood rings’ (infected eggs should be discarded), those with moving embryos. You may wish to candle again before ‘lock down’ (stop turning) to ensure your embryos are maturing.

Starving out” is a common problem with turkeys; they will literally starve to death right in front of a full feeder. Keep an eye open for the one that gets pushed away from the feed or water, or hangs back while the others are eating. Watch for any poults that are lagging behind as they start growing. I hatch some chicken eggs with the turkey eggs; the chicks will hatch about a week before the poults, this will allow for the size difference. When the poults hatch the chicks will be experienced with eating and drinking in the brooder, and the poults will follow them around and learn from the chicks. Remove the chicks as soon as the poults are eating and drinking well.

Overcrowding can also be a problem because turkey poults are twice as large as chicks and grow fast — they need plenty of room. Crowding makes it more likely for a poult to get pushed away from the feed and starve out. The smaller ones can also get trampled or smothered. Too many in a small area can make it more humid and cause respiratory problems.

After the poults are about 3 weeks old add clean, fresh sand to the brooder box. The sand is easy to clean: You can scoop it as you would cat litter, and it drains well so the area around the water will stay dry.

We also add a roost when the poults are about 3 weeks old. Getting the poults started roosting early will save you the trouble of trying to teach them later, and they will be warmer on the roost than on the ground. Don’t  be tempted to raise the perch too high as turkeys will break their legs due to their weight if raised too high.

Use hanging and waterers this allows them to be height adjusted as the poults grow.

Turkeys need high protein feed in order to thrive.

As the poults grow, raise the heat source in the brooder and move the poults to a larger brooder as necessary. Allow the poults to tell you what temperature the brooder should be, too cold huddled together, too hot panting. The aim being, getting poults accustomed to the outside temperature. The colder it is outside the longer you will need to brood them.

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January 16 2013 4 16 /01 /January /2013 14:29

5426587493_e9a66baa4a.jpgHybrid chickens will come into lay between 18 - 22 weeks of age. This is called POL, Point of Lay. Pure breed chickens may start a little later that this. An easy way to identify that a chicken is at or reaching this stage is that she has a good sized, red comb which is soft and warm to the touch. Laying hens will also have erect tails. A more technical way is to pick her up and feel for pelvic bones which should be about 5cms or the width of three fingers apart. Her vent should be soft and moist and her abdomen soft and pliable. You can also test the distance from the breast bone and the pelvic bones, which should be four fingers.

Hens may take a day or so searching out a suitable nesting spot. She may visit several sites before choosing one. If a cockerel is present he may suggest and prepare sites himself. The hen may prepare her nest be moving hay or straw with her beak and hollow out the spot. She may sit for a while and then announce that she has laid when infact she hasn’t.

An eggs is formed in about 25 hours. The yolk of the egg is formed in the ovary and when released travels down the oviduct where albumin is added. The eggs is moved down by peristalsis where is receives the shell membrane. It stays in the uterus for about 20 hours where more albumin and calcium is added. The eggs is laid with the small end coming out first. The hen will do this whist standing. The eggshell is porous (perforated with tiny holes) therefore handling eggs with unwashed hands may transmit bacteria into the egg.

A pure breed hen will lay 20 or so eggs, this is called a clutch and then she will stop laying for several days. Available daylight plays an important role in egg production. In January and February a hen will lay every two or three days. In April and May they will lay every day, with one day off a week…her day of rest!!!. In August and September, as the days become shorter and she comes into moult she will lay less and less.



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November 6 2012 3 06 /11 /November /2012 12:51

Snow-chickens.jpgAs the colder weather draws in, a chicken keeper has the dilemma as to whether to insulate the chicken coop, or not. Unless you are living at the Arctic, chickens can tolerate pretty cold temperatures. Each hen comes with its own built in feather quilt. Extra heating is only needed for young birds that are not fully feathered or possibly ex battery hens until they feather up. Provided they have plenty of straw they will all huddle together to keep warm. If you insulate the coop with polystyrene any crack or gap could be a place that red mite would get in, birds will peck at the insulation and come June you are going to have a hot stinky chicken coop.  

Some literature advocates installing underfloor heating in the chicken coop, by providing an electric blanket. Issuing hot water bottles at night to each bird as they go to bed. If it has been raining, drying each bird off with a hair drier before putting them into the shed.  Installing an extra radiator circuit to your domestic heating system with rads inside the shed!!!.

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September 29 2012 7 29 /09 /September /2012 15:59


Young chickens moult twice during their first year of life. During the first few weeks of life the soft down feathers are replaced and later young feathers are replaced by adult feathers.

In good health a chicken will moult annually starting during September, which could go on for several months. Feathers die and are replaced; however there may be some delay which results in bald patches as new feathers develop. Moulting takes considerable energy placing the chicken vulnerable to ill health. Hens do not lay and cockerels do not breed during moulting season. Antiparasite treatments should not be used during this time as it may interfere with healthy feather development.

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August 27 2012 2 27 /08 /August /2012 12:10

Laly and Peeks

The first few days of a chicks life is fairly peaceful. They require a warm quiet environment where they can sit or sleep. I tend to provide them with a soft fluffy blanket on a bed of hay and under a red heat lamp. This seems to act as a sufficient replacement for mother hen. Hatchings during the colder months, I also provided a thermostatically controlled heater. My chicks tens to be comfortable at around 30̊c, any hotter and they pant, any colder and they huddle together.  

Food is not wanted for the first few days, as they digest the egg yolk. Following this I give them sieved ‘layers mash’ in a low sterilised dish every 2 hours 7AM – 5PM. Chickens are day time animals which suits me fine!. I give them cooled boiled water with small sterilised stones in it as young unsteady chicks can easily drown or fall asleep in a water receptacle. Chicks will naturally peck at objects and a small stone is a good way of encouraging them to the water bowl. As soon as the chicks are up and mobile I remove the stones.

Cleanliness is the key to healthy chicks, their nest must be cleaned at least daily, paying particular attention to clean water and feed receptacles.

At 4 days there little wings start to develop and they start to flutter. It is now that I am able to determine if they are frizzled or straight winged. At this stage their little combs are all uniformly yellow so there is no way of telling males and females.

I begin to wean them out of the light of the heat lamp at 3 weeks, by now I have normally got another clutch that need it more and they are quite capable of generating body heat by their size and antics. If the weather is cold I will provide them with a hot water bottle under their hay.

At 4 weeks, if the weather permits they are able to go outside during the day. I have adapted a rabbit cage for this purpose. It is under cover, there is a warm sleeping area with hay and I have added some logs and low perches for their amusement as they are now accomplished fliers.

They are now able to tolerate ‘layers mash’ put through the centre of the colander, so that any large pieces are removed. Food can be left out all the time, but their last meal is always 6PM. They will also enjoy some fresh grass, greens and breadcrumbs. Chickens will get most of the nutrients they need from fresh green grass.

It is at this stage when it is possible to determine the boys from the girls. The boy’s combs will begin to turn peach/coral/red and red marks appear on their necks which are the start of wattles.

They will start sleeping at night, but I still bring them inside if the weather is cold.

By 6 weeks saddle feathers begin to develop in females and it resembles a bustle.

At 7 weeks they are able to stay outside all day and night. They will perch in the coop to sleep and we have height adjustable perches so that they can be raised as they grow.

At 8 weeks the males will begin to be sexually interested in his females, perhaps with a little sideways dance or the offering of food.

They are now able to manage corn and you will notice them look like they are yawning or a crow with no sound. This is thought to be them shifting the corn into the crop. Their growth is now beginning to slow and they will only need to be fed twice a day, morning and afternoon.

At 10 weeks the female’s feathers will be more rounded than the males who are more pointed.

At 11 weeks they progress to wanting to dust bath. An unused cat litter tray filled with a mixture of fine soil and sand will suffice. I had read that dust bathing was a social event but was amazed to see the whole family regularly dusting together, it is clearly their favourite past time.

The males make attempts at crowing, although this sounds rather like they are being strangled.

Hens start laying eggs at around 5 to 6 months of age but should this fall over the winter months it may be a little later. Basically in chicks that I hatch and raise, I will wait a whole season before they come into lay themselves, but enjoy watching them grow up.  

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August 21 2012 3 21 /08 /August /2012 14:10


Cotton wool and cotton buds for cleaning and applying lotions.

Disposable gloves.


A selection of syringes - for administering treatment.

Parasite treatment.

Flea and louse powder - one for the chicken house and one for the bird.

Nail clippers - for beaks and toenails.

Liquid paraffin - for crusty leg scales.

Petroleum jelly - for combs in the winter.

Antiseptic spray - for wounds.

Vitamin and mineral supplements - for sick birds.

Aloe vera nose and ear cleaning solution.

Surgical spirit - to treat scaly leg.

Antibiotic eye ointment (prescription only)

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June 5 2012 3 05 /06 /June /2012 12:36

Rivercottage logo

Living of the land, rearing livestock, consuming own grown seasonal food, fishing and foraging, being less dependent on the outside world. Self-sufficiency is the new ‘good life’.

With some effort growing your own fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs is easy to do and requires very little space. I grow many of my vegetables in pots and sacks outside and in an unheated greenhouse. Many of my plants are grown from seed, which is cheap as you can get a lot of plants from a packet of seeds.

Hedgerows and public woodland are good food sources, offering Elderflowers, wild berries, blackberries, chestnuts, mushrooms and truffles. Provided you do not remove the whole source no one will complain. You should have a good idea of what you are picking as many berries and mushrooms are not meant for human consumption.

Provided you have patience and a rod, sea or shore fishing can provide a good supply of fish. Mackerel, Bass and Red Mullet are some that can be found in local waters. Marine fisheries prefer that Bass caught under 40cms be returned to the sea to increase in size. Even seaweed is a great food source if you don’t mind a slightly salty taste.

Keeping animals is relatively cheap to do. Chickens, pigs and sheep will enjoy most kitchen scraps and vegetables that are not good for the table. What the animals are fed in will influence what they produce ie; healthy large chickens will produce large eggs.

When you grow and raise your own food you know what has gone into it, no pesticides or supplements. It give you a much better appreciation of food when you have grafted to get it. Anyone can select meat, fish, fruit and vegetables from the supermarket but what is the cost to the environment.

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May 28 2012 2 28 /05 /May /2012 13:47


Silkies - Look at the feathers on the chick's head. Males tend to have feathers that stand upright and curve towards the back, while the female head feathers tend to form in a rounded feather puff.

Look at the comb when it develops within two to three weeks of the chick's birth. The comb is the flap of tissue at the top of the silkie's head, and a male will have a larger comb than a female.

Compare chicks from the same clutch. Males are significantly larger than females, and this can be obvious a few days after hatching. This isn't considered a certain method of sexing though because you may just have a large female or a small male. It's also a poor method if you are trying to compare chicks from two different genetic lines.

Listen for crowing. The chicks will start losing the fluffly feathers around four of five months. At that time a male silkie will start attempting to crow.

Look at the saddle feathers just before the tail and the hackle feathers on the neck. These feathers will be long and sharp on a male and gently rounded on a female.

Pekins - At 4 weeks Peking chicks will start to develop the comb (this is on the top of the head). It may not be visible at first but can be felt with e light touch. The females will be yellow and the males red. In time they will go red but he females will always be smaller than the males. You may also see the deveopment of wattles. Red dashes will start to apprear under the beak. Again both males and females have wattles but he females are smaller. Female chicks tend to feather up more quickly and have bigger tail feathers. 

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  • : Poddington and P
  • Poddington and P
  • : Poddington and P is about life in the country. It includes their creations, the animals they raise, and the plants and produce that they grow in the kitchen garden.
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