How to look after your chickens this summer
Chickens are sensitive to heat so make sure that your chickens have plenty of clean cool water this summer.
What's too hot?
Check your chickens on hot days. If temperatures reach 30 degrees then there are some signs you can look for to tell if your hens need some help cooling down which are:
- Looking lethargic or not moving around
- Spreading their wings out from their body
- Pale or discoloured comb and wattles
What can I do to help them?
Always have fresh clean water & keep it in the shade so it doesn't heat up.
If your hens are showing the signs above in the heat then you can gently dip them into a bucket of cool water to cool them down.
Make sure your hen coop is in the shade over the summer months if possible. If you have an Outpost Hen House you can simply tow it to a shady spot for the summer months.
How to deal with a Broody Hen
When a hen is broody it will sit on the eggs in the nest box to try and hatch the eggs. If you're not intending them to be mothers then this can be a bit of a nuisance.
- Broody hens can be grumpy and aggressive if you try and take the eggs.
- Broody hens will sit in their nest virtually all day
- Broody hens will eat less and put their own health at risk while they concentrate on hatching eggs
What can you do to stop them?
Put the broody hen in a wire pet cage in a well lit location - it sounds mean but it will help them calm down and is one of the most proven methods. The wire cage means they can't sit like they would in a nest. Make sure they have plenty of food and water in the cage. How long? This depends on your hens and how long they've been broody for. Let them out daily & see if they try to run back to the nest box - if they do then put them back in the cage. If they've been broody for a couple of days before you put them in a cage then it may take about a week to get them back to normal.
Do my chickens need Oyster Shell Grit?
Oyster shell contains high levels of calcium which is important to a laying birds diet to ensure good quality egg shell production and muscle development. Grit also aids in food digestion.
When Oyster Shell Grit is eaten by your hens, it is held in the crop, in turn grinding whole grains, seeds or even kitchen scraps etc, making the digestion of their feed easier, therefore better feed conversion to help meet nutritional needs. Along with the slow release of calcium into the birds system.
Oyster Shell Grit is essential for non free ranging chooks that are unable to source their own grit. Also essential for poultry on whole grain diets. Ideal for all aviary birds and Hens.
Why are my hens not laying eggs?
Collecting eggs from the nest boxes is one of the great joys of backyard chicken keeping and when the yield from the nest boxes isn’t what we expect, it can be disappointing, and at times, cause for concern. The following are the most common causes of a drop in egg production in backyard flocks with solutions where possible.
Decreased lighting conditions, Molting, Stress or or change, Broodiness, Disease, illness or parasites, Egg hiding, Egg eating chickens, Age, Predator theft, Nutrition imbalance, Water deprivation.
Fluctuations in egg production can be caused by a myriad of physical, behavioral, environmental and emotional triggers, some requiring remedial action and others, no cause for alarm.
Decreased lighting conditions
Light triggers a hen’s pituitary gland to produce eggs. Regular egg-laying requires 14 to 16 hours of light and decreased daylight hours in autumn and winter can cause a drop in or stop to egg production. Supplemental light can be added to the coop to encourage egg-laying with no detrimental effects to the hen despite myths to the contrary.
Molting is the natural process of feather shedding and re-growth. Hens divert protein and energy away from egg production to concentrate on feather growth. Supplementing a hen’s diet with extra protein during a molt can aid in feather growth and egg production.
Stress and Change
Hens are extremely sensitive to stress and typically respond to it by putting the brakes on egg-laying. They particularly dislike change, which is a major cause of stress and decline in egg-laying. Any one of the following can adversely affect egg production: changes in feed, changes in coop layout, moving to a different farm or coop, adding or losing flock members, annoyance from a well-intentioned child, a fright from a predator, irritation from internal parasites (worms, coccidia) or external parasites,(lice, mites, rodents) violent weather, barking dogs and high heat.
A broody hen in the coop can affect a flock’s egg production. Not only does she stop laying eggs; the mere sight of her sitting on a nest can inspire a chain reaction of hens to brood, resulting in fewer eggs overall. Broodies should be broken properly or permitted to hatch eggs in a location away from the nest boxes to ensure a prompt return to egg-laying and to preserve their health.
Disease, Illness and Parasites
Hens that are ill or have parasites such as worms, mites or lice, do not perform optimally. Taken in conjunction with flock history and any other symptoms, a drop in egg production can indicate that hens are sick or suffering from a parasite infestation. For example: if a drop in egg production follows the addition of new chickens to the flock and no other physical symptoms are noted, a communicable disease or parasite should be suspected and investigated further.
Free-range or pasture-raised hens may fall into the unwelcome habit of laying eggs outside the coop in secluded locations. Hens have been known to disappear for weeks, secretly brood eggs and return to the flock with baby chicks in tow! Coop training ordinarily eliminates the problem of egg-hiding.
Everyone loves fresh eggs, and chickens are no exception. Hens often start eating eggs when they discover a broken egg in a nest box. Once a chicken gets the taste of this high-protein, nutritious snack, it becomes difficult to deter intentional egg breaking and eating. Much more on addressing this problem behavior here.
After two years, a hen’s production naturally declines. An aging flock will naturally produce fewer eggs after its first two years. Nothing can reverse this process.
Various predators can be responsible for egg theft including: rats, opossums and ferrets. Coops should be secured to ensure that nocturnal predators cannot gain access to the birds at night when they are most vulnerable.
The wrong feed, too many snacks/treats, overcrowding, mixing commercial layer feed with scratch/cracked corn/oats, etc. & being physically prevented from getting to the feeders by another flock member can all lead to nutritional deficiencies, which can result in a drop in egg production.
Access to clean, fresh, cool water at all times is imperative to the formation of eggs. Egg production will suffer if a hen’s access is limited physically (frozen or too far away) restricted (prevented from reaching it by another chicken) or unpalatable (dirty/medicated/warm). The installation of a poultry nipple waterer can solve most water-related problems.
Tips for storing your eggs
Refrigerate your Eggs to make them keep longer
Eggs don’t need to be refrigerated, but one day out on the counter at room temperature is equivalent to about a week in the refrigerator, so if you aren’t planning to eat them for a while, refrigerate the eggs — they’ll keep about seven times longer.
Don't wash your eggs they'll last longer
As a general rule, eggs should not be washed immediately after they’ve been collected. Eggs exit hens with protective blooms on the surface of their shells that keep out air and bacteria. You must leave the bloom intact in order to keep your eggs fresh.
Unwashed eggs will last at least two weeks unrefrigerated and three months or more in the refrigerator. Washed eggs will last at least two months in the refrigerator but won’t taste as fresh as unwashed eggs of the same age.
Storing your eggs
Store eggs with the pointy end down and the blunt end up. The air sac in the blunt end helps keep additional moisture from being lost. Because eggshells are porous and will absorb odors, they should be stored in a carton or covered container. A bowl with plastic wrap over the top works fine for fresh egg storage in a pinch.