Birdcare: Poultry

Keeping domestic poultry:

Correctly cared for domestic poultry will live for several years, egg production is likely to be at its peak for about two years. Keeping small groups of domestic hens and ducks has become increasingly popular in recent years. The reward is a ready supply of fresh eggs.
Domestic fowl should be kept in small groups. It is not necessary to have a cockerel or drake unless breeding is intended and, of course, cockerels can be noisy and potentially cause upset to near neighbours.Correctly cared for domestic fowl will live for several years, although efficient egg production is only likely for two years or more.
 

 

Housing:

Domestic hens and ducks can be kept in generally the same manner albeit with one or two notable differences. Whatever the enclosure design it must be sufficient to allow for natural foraging behaviour and be of a sufficient size that the ground does not become a quagmire particularly important in the case of ducks.
Domestic hens in particular can be accommodated in a movable wood and mesh ark attached to a hen house thereby ensuring that any grassed area does not become over-used and avoiding a build-up of parasites and droppings.
Hen houses will need perching of suitable diameter for the birds to roost on at nights but this will not be used by domestic ducks with the exception of Muscovy Ducks. The general floor space in the house should be covered in a reasonably deep layer of clean wood shavings which must be removed and replaced at regular intervals. Clean straw can also be used in addition or instead of wood shavings.
The house should be free from drafts with sufficient ventilation.

Hens will require nesting boxes – one per 3-4 hens- within the construction of the hen house in which to lay their eggs. These should be lined with clean hay and inspected daily for removal of eggs. Domestic ducks will not use such nest boxes and, instead, the eggs will need to be removed from the general floor area of the house.
Regular cleaning of the hen house and run is important and every month a thorough cleaning and disinfecting of the house should be undertaken.
Care should be taken not to disturb fowl at night. Night fright can cause the birds to fly into the cage wire, so be sure to cover the cage at night.

Feeding domestic fowl:

With sufficient space and/or changing of the position of the enclosure, domestic fowl will forage naturally for a proportion of their dietary intake, especially in the spring, summer and early autumn months. However, this natural diet needs to be supplemented with additional vegetable material and more essentially proprietary feeds especially in the winter months and when rearing young birds.

The preferred  Mr. Johnson’s poultry feeds should be fed according to the age and egg-laying status of the birds. Mr Johnson’s mixed corn, chick crumbs and pellets/mash should be offered but in amounts that are always consumed within an hour or so of being fed. Chick crumbs can be fed to chicks from day old to ten weeks & layers mash or pellets from ten weeks old. Ducks find mash difficult to eat with their bills so are better off with pellets.
Can be fed from a seed hopper, trough or suitable container - ensure the feeding container is washed and disinfected regularly to avoid infection.

Mixed corn should be fed as a treat alongside layers pellets or mash and can be scattered on the ground so poultry can forage naturally.

Mineralised grit is needed in order to help birds to successfully grind their food and oyster-shell grit in order to help ensure sufficient calcium levels for good egg production.

A supply of fresh clean water should always be available, ideally from a dispenser to avoid contamination.

Healthy poultry:

Properly cared for domestic fowl are hardy and will live a long and happy life.
Colds - Chilling causes colds. The bird will be listless, with feathers fluffed up and wheezing. Keep in a warm outhouse and consult with your vet if concerned.
Diarrhea - This can be by an excess of green food or, more commonly, moldy or contaminated food, a sudden change in diet or lack of fresh water.
Mites and lice - Usually the red mite, this is a parasite which feeds on birds’ blood, causing itching and weight loss. Mites are easy to destroy with a suitable spray or powder available from your pet shop or vet.
Toenails - Overgrown claws may need to be clipped if they display excessive growth. Care must be taken when cutting nails to avoid cutting the blood vessels and nerves. Consult your vet or pet shop
Parasitic Worms – if kept in contact with the ground your birds will be susceptible to these and they should be treated regularly.