Chicken in a Bucket

chickens dust bathing Ok, it’s actually chickens in a garden trug, not a bucket. I just couldn’t resist the blog title. The muddy young pullets taking a dust bath are the chicks my broody ex battery hen adopted in June. Oh how they have grown. They are Lohmann Browns, a sex link hybrid commonly found in commercial egg farms (all types of management ie caged, barn and free range) for their high egg production.

brown chickenFirst up we have Binky, she appears to be the boss of the group and started laying super early at 15 weeks old. She’s a deep glossy brown and very vocal. Oh and she likes her food. Greedy she is.

garden trugBinky and her ‘sisters’ broke out of their shells in a hatchery supplying pullets to caged farm systems, at 2 days old they came home with me in a tatty shoe box and I tucked them up safe and warm in the soft feathers of a broody hen.

Pictured below is Cheska, the blonde bombshell of the group. She’s a light buff colour that I’ve seen only once before in ex battery hens I re-home. She’s quite stocky with a shorter neck and smaller head than her sisters, not quite Buff Orpington stature but similarities are there.

garden trugMillie is laying too, her big head-gear an indication. She’s heavily patterned across her back and quite leggy ( anyone spot the name theme going on here yet?).

garden trugLast up we have Phoebe-Lettice, I just call her Phoebe. She’s very fond of my shoulder or the top of my head and hitches a ride every morning as I drink my morning tea.

garden henNow that they’re all grown up their mum doesn’t wish to roam with or raise them anymore, she prefers her own company as she did before going broody. I’m grateful for the experience of watching the chicks learn from her; how to eat crumb, scratch the ground, bathe in the dirt and catch flying insects mid-air. How she called them when she sensed danger and how they disappeared in lightning speed into her feathers for safety, their little faces peeking through her feathers to see if it was safe to come out. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.

hen and chicksPumpkin did a fantastic job of raising them, I could see how much she enjoyed the role of being a mother. I’m happy she had the opportunity to fulfil yet more of her natural instincts, strong buried instincts denied to her throughout her time as a caged laying hen.

Chicken Health – Droppings

Keeping chickens in the garden is rewarding and can be educational too if you have young children helping with their day-to-day needs. But, as with all animals, from time to time chickens can become ill. Apart from the classic signs that a chicken is unwell – fluffed up feathers, hunched posture, eyes closed etc you may be surprised to hear that chicken droppings can reveal quite a bit about their current health. So, the next time you check on your flock take time to inspect their droppings.

I realise this may sound unpleasant but believe me you could identify a potential health problem just by recognising what an abnormal chicken dropping looks like. You should also get to know what healthy droppings look like too, they come in an array of colours and textures. Try inspecting droppings as part of your daily routine, this way you will get to know your flock (and their poo) a little better!

Examples of healthy droppings:

Examples of problem droppings:

 I will add photos of interest to this post as they occur. All the above photos were taken by me and produced by my chickens. Just as a pointer, droppings to be concerned about are as follows:

Vivid yellow, frothy, green, runny, mainly white or clear runny, bright red blood (not to be confused with normal shedding of gut lining) and regular droppings containing visible undigested grain/food.

If I find a dodgy dropping I keep a good eye on the hens for signs of ill-health, if I do suspect there may be a problem or if I just want to put my mind at ease I contact Retfords Poultry Ltd. They provide a faecal testing service to check for presence of parasites and bacteria. Using this service literally saved one of my hens from certain death. It’s so easy to use, just pop the suspect dropping into a suitable container (screw top lid may be advisable!) and post it off with a covering note. Most good avian vets can also provide this service.

Chickens tend to show the same symptoms/characteristics for many different illnesses, even normal ‘egg issues’ such as soft-shelled eggs can make them appear unwell and give you cause for concern. Being able to identify an abnormal chicken dropping is handy knowledge to have.

Happy poopy peeking :)