Most of us have a fixed run for our chickens and -most- of the time, it's a little smaller than we would like or it's a little over stocked for the ground we have. Chickens scratch as they forage and most grass runs will turn into mud in a month or so, even in the warmer months when the grass is growing.
It's all very well having your birds secured in a predator proof run, but if they don't have grass to graze or areas to forage, they are missing out.
If you let your hens out into your garden, you can see just how much they love foraging. But this comes at a cost... soil gets scatched onto paths, plants get pecked and scratched up, bowls of dirt appear where hens bathe in their dust baths, not to mention the little packages that are spread far and wide!
I tested the chicken netting from Omlet to keep 3 hens in but as I built their new 'portable' run came up with a number of other potential uses for this netting...
The Red Top Fly Trap was something I discovered a couple of years ago and now buy half a dozen of these every year to control the number of flies around the garden and my poultry pens and houses that are spread across an acre of land.
Living in the countryside next to fields where livestock are kept and having slowly increased the number of chickens I keep over the years, I have noticed quite a lot of flies around which I believe have been helped by the constant supply of manure around the place.
The Rcom 20 is available in three different models. The standard model (around £260), the PRO model (around £369) and the PRO USB model (around £400) which comes with PC software and a USB connection, the USB version comes with 3 egg trays - one for large Goose sized hatching eggs, one for chicken or duck hatching eggs and one for small eggs such as quail hatching eggs. The model I have reviewed here is the top of the range PRO USB version for up to 20 chicken / duck hatching eggs. It has a top of the range price tag too.
So is it really worth it?
I took delivery of a large box of feeders from BEC and have been testing them for the last 4 months in a variety of ways. These feeders are sturdy, robust plastic feeders that are manufacturerd in the UK and are certainly built to last.
They can have rain hats fitted to them and I tested them with both chickens, ducks of various ages from 5 weeks to adults and varied the locations of the feeders from brooder box to covered and non covered field runs.
After having used 2 VSB Automatic Pop Hole Openers and having just bought a third, for another hen house, I thought it was about time I wrote a review!
I first bought a VSB door opener made by AXT Electronic about 4 years ago. If you are not familiar with these devices, let me give you a little bit of background information about what they can do and how they work.
I was fortunate enough to borrow one of the excellent RCOM King Suro incubators from Interhatch to write a review for a distributor when it first came onto the market at the end of 2009. This gave me an opportunity to put the Suro through its paces for a few months at home.
I frequently get asked about this incubator so I thought it was about time I shared some of my experiences and my views on it here with you.
I came across Happy Tummy at the National Poultry Show 2010 where I met Dr. Keith Foster, a retired Scientist who used to work with fullerenes (any molecule composed entirely of carbon). With his knowledge of carbon, he developed Happy Tummy, a feed additive for animals such as horses, cats, dogs and hens.
Happy Tummy is produced from a natural hard wood charcoal that is highly beneficial to chickens and other animals. Classed as a feed additive (not a medicine), it adds nothing to the body since charcoal is neither absorbed nor metabolized, so it performs no medicinal function. Charcoal simply captures a wide range of toxins (there are over 4000 known) by adsorbing them (To adsorb is a process in which a substance attracts particles and binds them to the surface) and carrying them out of the animal's system in the normal way. Just one teaspoonful of charcoal has a surface area of greater than 10,000 square feet which is why charcoal can adsorb such large amounts of poisons effectively.
Feeding chickens is a straight forward task and there are of course a number of different feeders available for the poultry keeper, whatever the flock size. The challenge soon becomes ensuring that your chickens are the ones getting the food and not the local squirrel, crow, rook, pigeon, rat or mouse population!
Poultry feed is expensive and even a modest amount of feed being wasted daily will soon add up over the course of a month, not to mention the associated risk of disease when rats or wild birds are involved.
I have used many different feeders over the years but have never tried a Grandpa's Feeder so was very pleased to have the opportunity to try one out on one of my runs of Light Sussex. Grandpa's Feeders were developed in New Zealand in 1995 and have been sold there ever since. They are now available here in the UK and sold via the Grandpa's Feeders Website. They work on a simple idea: A rat weighs around 300g, wild birds such as crows even less and the lid of the feeder will only open with a weight greater than about 500g so a chicken can open the feeder to eat but the others cannot!
Until recently I have always had wooden coops but I have often toyed with the idea of a plastic coop as I had heard great things about their cleanability and freedom from red mite. So when I was offered the chance for my girls to trial a new plastic coop designed specifically for ex-batts, I jumped at the chance.
The cluckbuddy coop is made in Britain out of recycled plastic. Two definite ticks in the environmentally friendly box. It is made by CluckBuddy a company of impressively focussed and motivated designers who have spent a great deal of time and effort perfecting this coop so it meets the needs of that most precious of hens; the ex-battery hen.
Ihave built a number of different nest boxes over my years as a poultry keeper, some more successful than others. Too small and they won't use them or you will get broken eggs, too big and they won't use them or they will scatter the eggs, too high and they will roost in them, the list goes on. All of them have had red mite take up residence in the cracks at some point and most of them have had broken eggs in them where a clumsy chicken has trodden on a slightly thinner shelled egg or two. Broken eggs can be a real problem in the coop since the birds soon get a taste for them, which leads to chickens breaking and eating eggs, a vice which can be difficult to stop.