As it gets warmer be Predator Ready
Spring and summer bring sun and the luxury of longer warmer days. It’s a wonderful time for chicken keepers with the hens outside longer, eggs seem to be even tastier and for many there’s the prospect of some beautiful little chicks too. But it is also a time when predators have their young and that means that it can be a dangerous time for your hens if they are not well protected.
So make sure you are ready for the season with a few key tasks and then you can look forward to a long hot summer.
Predator Proof Your Coop
You’ll find more pairs of predators, mothers and kids, at this time of year. That’s an extra mouth to feed. And so they tend to be more “courageous”. That’s not good news for any chicken keeper. So it is imperative that you check that your coop and your run are predator proof.
The most common predators are foxes, raccoons, hawks, owls and possums. Keep your eyes peeled and ask around to find out if there are any active in your area. Then consider how they might attack your flock and set up your coop and run to protect appropriately.
- Secure your coop, checking for even the smallest hole in a corner or roofing
- If you have a run ensure you use hardwire mesh and dig it in so that predators can’t dig under
- You can use lights to scare away predators, but foxes, in urban areas in particular, won’t always be deterred
- You should give everything a monthly check up, but at this time of year make it weekly
And then of course you’ll want to invest in a ChickenGuard, our neat little box that automatically opens the coop door in the morning and shuts it at night. Keeping predators out and letting you get a lie in. See here for all the benefits.
For more detail see our article: “Protecting Your Hens from Foxes”
Take the Opportunity to Spring Clean Your Coop
Take the opportunity of longer, warmer days to give your coop and run a good spring clean. Always try to give your coop a weekly clean, but it is good to give the coop a really good, deep spring clean, after all your girls have been inside rather more over winter.
So remove the perches, droppings boards and the nest-boxes. The nest boxes shouldn’t be dirty, but the eggs are laid in there, so the cleaner the better! Clean any feeders too.
Use a scraper to remove dried on droppings from the house, droppings board and perches. Brush up all the remaining debris. Beware of any piles of grey dust which can be a sign of red mite – see below.
Hopefully the weather is good so leave the coop doors open and let the fresh air into the house. Then add fresh nesting material and a layer of bedding.
Check for the Signs of Red Mite
Red mite (Dermanyssus gallinae) are small parasitic mites that live in your chicken coop and feed off the blood of your chickens at night. They come up time and again as one of the worst things to deal with as a Chicken Keeper.
Red mite are nocturnal, hiding in crevices in the coop during the day then emerge at night to crawl up the bird’s legs, through the feathers and take a feed of blood from your birds. The warmer weather gives red mite the ideal conditions in which to breed and so spring and summer are the most likely time to get an infestation.
Give your coop a good check over in daytime. You are looking out for a sort of grey ash. Lift up perches and examine the ends and any cracks or crevices in the coop. You can check at night too. Take some tissue and rub it along the underside of perches – if there are red mite you’ll get red streaks of blood on the kitchen roll.
If you find any treat the coop and in particular perches to a thorough, complete deep clean. You can get particular products like Poultry Shield and Diatom. These are good for an infestation and also for prevention. It is of course important to repeat processes every 7 days so the mites don’t have a chance to lay and hatch more eggs.
You should also give your hens a dust down. See more about red mite here at the Chicken Vet: http://www.chickenvet.co.uk/health-and-common-diseases/mites-lice/index.aspx
Baby Chicks & Broody Hens
Fertility is at its highest in Spring. It is the ideal time to incubate and hatch your own chicks or to buy some in. You’ll need to get prepared though. There is a tonne of advice online and from local farms and retailers. Or ask around other chicken keepers. (The subject is a bit too big to cover here though).
Springtime also means it is time for broody hens. So after they have started laying they might try hatching. They won’t want their eggs taken away and might prove very stubborn about it. That makes egg collecting a lot harder than normal.
It can still Turn Cold
Finally it is still sunny and warm as I’m writing but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be a cold spell or wet weather to come. So do continue to check the water doesn’t freeze at night, that your hens have shelter in the day and that your girls are warm if you do intend to keep chicks. Then watch out for muddy days as well as warm ones!
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