Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Broodyville - What on earth is that!!

One of our lovely customers contacted us today to say  """I was wondering if you’d be able to help. One of the chickens seems to be suffering a little. She has been sitting on her eggs waiting for them to hatch and is not wanting to walk around at all, resulting in her eating very little and loosing feathers. She has also stopped laying eggs which I believe is very serious. I am not sure what to do, should get a vet out to look at her?"""

How do you know if your chicken is broody? This is classic broody behaviour. She will be flattened, fluffed up, she will squeal if you go near her, she may even turn into chickzilla and try to peck you. She will go mental if you remove her from the nest box and making a "clocking" noise. The other previously mild mannered coop mates will turn on her especially if she is not a high ranking chicken. She apparently has ideas above her station. A Broody hen is to be cherished and you can see from the pictures here our India who is an Improved Indian Game is a perfect Broody, she had a brood of 20 (mostly duped her into adoptees) which she devotedly looked after day and night for 6 weeks until we gave her the time off. Normally a broody will carry on for about 8 weeks when all of a sudden she will say, "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH - PACK YOUR BAGS AND FIND YOUR OWN FOOD" she will then have nothing more to do with them. Not very different from what we do but we have to wait 18 LONG years to get to do that.

We took these pictures of India last time she was broody and she managed to cram them all into such a tiny space which was really funny to see. She thought she was safest in there and she insisted that they all join her. When they were hatchlings she had plenty of room, but they gain weight quickly and at 3 weeks as in these pictures they cram in like sardines. We put her in her own proper coop after this so she could get some "me" space.

This is what happens when you let your broody follow what Mother Nature has planned for her. The alternative is what? What if you don't have the room? She wont be laying any eggs and is upsetting the harmony of the coop and pinching the others eggs so she can sit on them.

The term here is to "break" the broody or break the broody cycle. She will lay a load of eggs and then stop and sit. She has an incredible urge to sit and will sit on anything including golf balls and similar egg sized balls. She will not like to be taken off the nest, but moved she must be. The easiest and "almost" kindest way of doing it is to prevent her getting access to anywhere she can sit in comfort or make a nest. This includes preventing her getting her in the coop, or anywhere she can make a scrape to nest in. If she cant get into her normal nest she will seek out an alternative. She will go nuts trying to find her way back in and she will pace up and down trying every weak spot she can find. She may be diverted with a bit of bribery for a while but she will resume the pacing soon after. She may do this for 2 days and then she may just be broken. She can go into the coop at night for safety unless you have somewhere else she can go but you have to turf her out in the morning. Very determined broodies sometimes take an extra day. You can test her to see if she goes straight back on the nest. If she doesn't return to her broody behaviour she can rejoin her coop mates. I normally shut my broodies out of the run. They can see the others but cannot nest.

I have tried all the other "methods" such as dunking them in cold water, and hoping they will give up naturally. Take it from me they wont give up until they have lost loads of condition and dunking actually quite awful. It is a real shock to them and it doesn't work. You can also put them in a dog crate to make them uncomfortable which does work but is worse than my method. They cant run around and is more like entrapment. Either way depriving a broody of her nesting instinct is like trying to plait fog - its impossible.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Bananas a go go

I have just looked at the fruit bowl. I know fruit is good for you and we all have to have our 5 or is it 7 a day or whatever these days so we can be good to ourselves, but I have just noticed that my bananas (not my mental condition - my fruit) have started to slither off the worktop by themselves. I have been promising myself that I will save that browning banana for a banana and walnut loaf cake. Tomorrow I will try to make that loaf before it finally hits the floor having undressed itself of its skin. The race is on folks.

Men versus Women - in chicken terms that is

Further evidence of bonkers chicken lady. Hattie has just had a bath
During my time as a chicken breeder, I always ask my lovely customers, do you know how to pick up a chicken as I like to send everyone away with a way of picking their birds up so they don't cause them stress or injury. I have been very surprised at the result. The answer is usually a no. Even people who have had chickens for ages usually say no, so I am making a point of putting them right. It's my duty for the care of the chicken right? I then explain the intricacies of how you hold your hands, and where the bird goes and how you get the bird from the floor to your hands without scaring them half to death. This is following by some cooing and stroking. During these training sessions I have been pleased to note that although the men are braver initially in picking the chicken up, it is the women who know what to do with their hands. While I am doing this, I treat my customers to some chicken talk which obviously makes me sound completely nuts but is not too way off the mark actually. But before they go, they see how effective it is and they start talking chicken themselves. I then feel happy that not only have I converted a previously sane person, into one who quite naturally wants to talk chicken to relax their birds. I have created a human flock for the newly adopted chicken to live happily with. Every one's a winner.

WARNING....chicken keeping is addictive and likely to make you talk funny......but only in the privacy of the chicken run!!!!

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Gordon has gone

This should be a sad message judging by the title, but it isnt. Gordon has flown the coop onto pastures new. He has been adopted by a lovely family in Tarporley in Cheshire to keep her garden girls company and in good order. Anyone who thinks that a cock bird is aggressive has not been near to a hand reared bird. Soft as a brush he was. We will miss him I think and my own gang of garden girls are having to find their own goodies. We dont hear the excited calling of Gordon now as he announces that he has found some tasty morsel for the girls to eat. I think it was part of his wooing tactics, "look what I have found girls" then WHAM "you werent expecting that now were you?". A bit crude, but I think the girls fell for it most of the time. I think he was more of a pie and pint sort of bird rather than a crooning latin lover. So efficient was he at finding the worms etc, that he ate very little himself. He took his job as "provider" very seriously indeed. He was not head chicken, that accolade was earned by Isla who was a bit too quick for Gordon in the wooing department. Gordon was quite low down the pecking order as we had a hard time trying to encourage him to eat. He always looked away when the girls were feeding which is exactly what a lowly chicken will do when faced with a heirarchy of high ranking hens. When we brought him in overnight (to spare the neighbours) his crop was virtually empty so he had a good feed up of his favourite grapes and corn and pellets so at least he could keep his strength up for the long round of servicing of his harem which he was absolutely dedicated to. Every 10 minutes, now that takes some doing. Not many males can claim that sort of prowess I think. I really hope Gordon is enjoying his newfound harem and is appreciating a semi retirement.