Chickens are unfortunately prone to getting respiratory problems from dusty bedding. Inhaled dust goes into the caudal air sac and small lung as well as into the crannial air sac. If birds are kept for too long with inadequate ventilation or in a dusty environment, their breathing will be laboured and will 'rattle'. This will soon cause infection in the respiratory system. Providing sufficient ventillation in a chicken house is very important but also, what you use on the floor of your hen house is surprisingly important. Using dust extracted wood shavings is the most popular choice – a recent survey on our poultry forum showed 61% of people that voted were using wood shavings, 17% were using straw and 13% were using other bedding materials such as Hemcore.
The Brinsea Hatchmaker is a still air incubator that can take around 40 eggs but is also a popular choice with poultry breeders to be used as a separate hatcher for hatching eggs. When used as a hatcher, it is possible to keep one incubator running continuously, adding eggs in small batches as they are laid, then a few days before the hatch, transfer them into the hatcher which is maintained at the high humidity required for the hatch, keeping the incubator clean and topped up with more eggs. Once eggs have hatched, it can be cleaned and sterilised using an incubation disinfectant solution and re-heated ready for the next batch of hatching eggs.
Around this time of year, many hens that are kept in a flock with a cockerel start to look bare on their backs having lost feathers from his constant attention. Small flocks suffer the most but even in a large flock, a cock will have his favourites who are no doubt the birds who have lost the most feathers!
To protect hens backs and give feathers a chance to re-grow, poultry saddles can be used which are usually made out of a tough material that protect the back but still allow the cock bird to tread the hen successfully.
I have traditionally wormed my birds using Flubenvet wormer, however recently, I decided to try Verm-X for internal parasite control with some of my birds and have been very pleased with their overall health.
Verm-X is gentle on the digestive system and (updated 2012) is currently sold as "Natural Control of Intestinal Hygiene". The makers cannot call it “anthelmintic” or “wormer” since it is not a licensed medicine but classified as a herbal product. It is ideal if, like me you would prefer to try a more organic approach with your birds since it is approved for use with Organic farming methods being a 100% herbal product.
Electronic Doorkeepers are becoming more popular to lock up chickens after dark. Jane is a poultry keeper living in North Carolina who installed a VSB door opener to keep her chickens safe from Raccoons and provided this review for us.
Here's a problem with having chickens: they want to go in their house at nightfall and not a minute sooner. Tuesday, nightfall was about 7:21 pm. I had to be directing the Triangle Jewish Chorale at 7:30.
After nightfall though, the Raccoon comes - I know because he gnawed the feeder off its string and unscrewed the wing-nut again, and hauled the whole thing off into the field. He would happily bite the heads off sleeping chickens.
Ecobed from Earthly Enterprises is a new kind of poultry bedding that is made from chopped cardboard. What you get are clean squares of cardboard about 15mm square that are free of ink or print. There are a number of factors to consider with poultry bedding, it must be absorbent, and non-toxic to the birds, but most importantly free of dust since chickens are prone to respiratory problems.
Icame across 'The Broody Box Company' at the National Poultry Show in December 2008 and thought it was rather a good idea for rearing a small number of chicks. If hatching chicks using an incubator, the broody box can be used to replace the broody hen that would normally keep the chicks safe and warm. The box houses the chicks and has a small exercise run to allow them to leave the heated area from time to time as they would in nature which allows them to develop in a very natural way.