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Inevitably, people ask questions whether they are experienced poultry keepers, beginners or simply interested.




Below are a range of those that we are asked most often. If you don't see or find what you are looking for, then please do not hesitate to contact us.



VACCINATION

We vaccinate our poultry stock against a variety of unpleasant infections, starting with that for Marek's disease as the chicks hatch and before they leave the hatching area.

This programme is essential with so many birds at the site, if we are to hand over to you, good quality and healthy birds.

We vaccinate against the following before the chicks are 8 weeks old:
* Mareks
* Gumboro
* Infectious Bronchitis
* Mycoplasma
* Newcastle Disease (Fowl Pest)


DISEASES

We are not vets or qualified to give definitive advice on veterinary matters. Information and advice we give is based on our experience. For qualified advice, you must contact your vet.

Many of the common infections can be avoided with good husbandry. Keep litter clean, have plenty of ventilation (but not draughts) in the house, don't let the birds become bored.

Look at your birds each day for tell-tale signs such as runny noses, wheeziness, frothy eyes, limping, runny bums, general posture and so on - common sense items that you might look for in children.

However, with chickens, it is preferable to act straight away rather than leaving it 'to see what happens'. Check as well for lice, mites and other parasites.


EGGS

These birds are the best layers: (colour varieties of breeds may vary)
* Columbian Blacktail: up to 300 eggs a year.
* Rhode Island Red: up to 260 eggs a year.
* Sussex: up to 260 eggs a year.
* Leghorn: up to 240 eggs a year.
* Maran: up to 200 eggs a year.
* Wyandotte: up to 200 eggs a year.
* Dorking: up to 190 eggs a year.
* Orpington: up to 190 eggs a year.
* Barnevelder: up to 180 eggs a year.
* Faverolles: up to 180 eggs a year.

Which birds lay which colour:
* Brown: Barnevelder, Maran and Columbian Blacktail.
* White: Dorking and Poland.
* Blue: Cream Legbar and Aracauna.
* Cream:Wyandotte, Sussex and Cochin.


HOUSING

Good housing for your birds is very important for their health, well-being and security. This guidance is for large fowl; bantams require about half as much.

Size: birds need an absolute minimum of 1 square foot each. A 4' x 3' house is the absolute minimum for 12 birds. But not so large that they cannot keep warm enough in winter. Birds will also want somewhere to be when the weather is nasty, so more room or outside shelter may be required. When deciding about house size, think seriously about the maximum size you want your flock to be and buy a house with that number in mind. It will save you a lot of money, time and effort in the long run.

Ventilation: the more ventilation without draughts the better. Insufficient ventilation can lead to infections and a sickly flock. Ideally the ventilation should be higher than the perching birds.

Perches: allow at least 12" per bird. Square timber should have the top edges rounded so that the birds are comfortable. Height is also important - too high and the birds can bruise their feet when jumping down and get an infection called Bumble Foot. Guides suggest a maximum height of 2', but this will need to be less for heavier birds. To reduce the chances of birds roosting in and fouling nest boxes, the perches should be higher than the nest boxes.

Access: do think of youself as the chickens won't clean their own mess! How easy is it to get at the inside either to clean, reach sick, injured or dead birds or collect eggs that are not in the boxes?

Siting: houses might benefit from being on a solid base such as concrete or slabs. Open bottom types can be put on bricks or concrete blocks. This can protect the floor from being in permanent contact with wet ground and also discourage vermin. Which way does the prevailing wind come from? The birds won't appreciate it blowing in through the open pop hole.


COCKERELS

You do not have to have a cockerel unless you want to breed from your hens. The hens will lay eggs anyway. Some people prefer not to have a cockerel if they are going to eat the eggs, but fertilized eggs taste just the same as unfertilized ones. You might see a minute mark in the fertilized ones.

A cockerel will always be the top bird in the pecking order and some people feel that this helps to have a more settled flock. Cockerels certainly look after their girls, keeping an eye open for danger, settling disputes and even on occasions sacrificing themselves.

Noisy cockerels can be a source of friction with neighbours. Some love to hear them, others object to the early morning (pre-dawn) wake-up call. If you have neighbours it is always advisable to talk with them and ask first. Some cockerels are louder than others.

Cockerels defend their territory and hens, so introducing a new cockerel can always be a risk. There are ways to introduce extra cockerels that might reduce the aggravation, but the cocks will still need to sort out who is top bird. However, cockerels that are brought up together are less likely to fight seriously.
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