A Beginners Guide....

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A Beginners Guide....

Post by Tiglett »

Hi everyone.
Following the extremely useful post about what to keep in stock for poultry keeping I wondered if you all could contribute to a post about what newbies should expect for the first few weeks whilst they all settle in? I've had my girls 8 days now and I ask as the range of multicoloured/textured poo is frankly staggering - what is normal and what isn't?
Feeding - how much you'd expect them to get through in pellets a day per hen?
Behaviour - how much time they spend in the coop whilst they settle in?
Noises - A head's up on basic chicken speak?
Diatom - do people puff it round the house after it's cleaned, into the nest boxes, dust the chickens themselves?
Etc, etc.
Obviously for newbies like me the list of questions is endless, can the more experienced amongst enlighten the newer folk as to your experiences in your early days and the worries you had and after time learnt to know what was normal and what wasn't.
Thanks in advance.
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Re: A Beginners Guide....

Post by chrismahon »

Assorted poos are fine while they settle in. Green is the danger colour, usually, because some normal poos contain green traces. Green is sign of an infection or being on antibiotics. If they eat a lot of cabbage though the poos will go green. Smaller poos will become less frequent huge poos about a week before they lay, same time as the comb reddens.
For large fowl 100g of feed rising to 150g when laying. I feed ours on growers pellets until the first lays, then switch to layers pellets for the increased Calcium they need for shells. Switching over to layers before 16 weeks old carries a significant risk of liver damage.
We don't use Diatom as all our houses are creosoted inside.
Chicken speak -you'll soon learn that if you are receptive to it. Hens have a limited range and cockerels complete the language. Sometimes the top hen will make some cockerel noises -'danger' (in varying degrees)and 'call to food'. All breeds speak a slightly different language but it's universally recognised.

Hope that helps Tiglett.
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Re: A Beginners Guide....

Post by Chuck »

Get to know the hens & let them get to know you but don't force yourself on them, let them come to you. Once you get to recognise and understand what's healthy, you will quickly pick up on when something is wrong. Observe them and you will also learn their language. More often than not, no need to dive in as chicken like us, have off days & can look lethargic one day and boucing around the next. Don't get hung up on colour and consistency of droppings as there is a huge variation in what is the normal range. They need a good basic routine which varies with the season but there's loads of scope for letting them out in the garden for a change though they will wreck it very quickly.
Don't mollycoddle them in winter as they can stand the cold very well and their house needs good ventilation. Don't pander to their every whim and don't give too much fattening feed. They need a constant supply of mixed grit put in a pot so they can help themselves. If you feed layers feed, there is no need for any additves as vitamins and minerals are included.
One of the biggest problems new keepers have to contend with nowadays is the vast amount of, often conflicting, advice that is available.
If you are willing to go that extra mile for your poultry - make sure you're going in the right direction !
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Re: A Beginners Guide....

Post by Stapfam »

I used to have one of the tray feeders and they can very easily be turned over- wasting food in the process. Last year I got a hopper and they can't turn it over as it hangs from a chain from a roof strut. I used to think that they wasted a lot of mash and turned over to pellets. Not certain that is the case now but mine do prefer mash and eat more of it. A hopper of pellets will last 2 days whereas they can go through mash in one day.

Same with water. When fully laying they will go through more water each day so Check the hoppers several times a day and if necessary get another water hopper.
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Re: A Beginners Guide....

Post by Marigold »

As for diatom, mix it into their dustbath, along with the sand, dry earth, possibly woodash from a garden fire, and let them dust themselves when they dustbathe. aim to keep yuor new coop redmite-free by sprinkling redmite powder in all the joins and nooks and crannies. Also mix in with the woodshavings or whatever you use in the nestboxes. You can use diatom in the coop but actual redmite powder has added insecticide and smells nice as well. Don't obsess over redmite, many people never get any, just keep watch in case an infestation develops, easier to deal with in the early stages, hard to eradicate if it is allowed to develop.

Make sure they always have the choice of shade in hot weather, and shelter from rain and wind in inclement conditions, ie fix something round or across the side(s) of the run where the sun will shine or the rain and wind will blow in on them. Chickens hate windy, damp conditions and almost always choose shade over sun when the weather is at all warm.

And follow all of Chuck's advice about a sensible, commonsense routine and feeding plan - enjoy your hens but remember they are hardy outdoor birds which need to be kept fit and not pampered with unsuitable foodstuffs and 'extras' if they are to lay well and live healthy lives.
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Re: A Beginners Guide....

Post by Philcott »

Chuck wrote: One of the biggest problems new keepers have to contend with nowadays is the vast amount of, often conflicting, advice that is available.
Oh so true! We all have different ways, and what works for one doesn't always work for someone else.

I think the basics have been covered very well in the above posts! :-)08
Breed Registrar for Autosexing Poultry on behalf of the Rare Poultry Society.
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Re: A Beginners Guide....

Post by dinosaw »

Don't get too concerned about what weight of pellets/mash they are eating as it depends on what else is available for them to eat especially if allowed to free range, my hybrids could get through as little as 60g per day during their first weeks. Be careful with diatom, make sure you don't breathe the stuff in. If you are keeping your chickens in a confined run then mash can be a better feed alternative to pellets despite the mess caused as it can help to keep them occupied for longer and avoid problems associated with boredom. You will know when they are about to come into lay as they will start to crouch down when you approach them, which can provide an easy opportunity to pick them up to check them over, but don't overdo it, once a week is easily enough for checking your birds.
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Re: A Beginners Guide....

Post by foxy »

Have stickied this thread,(thank you Tiglett...) to keep it on top, I am sure that all the new poultry keepers this spring will appreciate some of the members words of wisdom here experienced or not :D :D
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Re: A Beginners Guide....

Post by BabyBantam »

My notes (as a beginner)
Poos - worse than newborn baby! anything from yellow to white topped mass bigger than an egg, to a slimy blob of black tar-like slop. Normal whatever that is, is loads of solid blobs with a white sprinkle on top (you can pick up easily with your hand), with a 'fizzy' pile of froth like something off Master chef ;) every dozon or so
Feeding - Depends on each bird and size of bird. When you pick the bird up, you will feel their 'hard' breastbone sticking out - Don't panic. If the bird 'feels' solid/heavy, they are usually eating enough. Feed pellets or mash in the morning (make sure they have enough daily not to run out), but remove at night to stop vermin. If they are out in the garden/free ranging, the pellet consumption will go down in favour of all those tasty bugs and worms
Behaviour - Put them in their house with food & water for the first 24 hours. If they are in a fixed and permenant run, I'm not sure you need to keep them in there for so long as they will naturally try to find a perch as night falls anyway and you can alway chivy them up if you need to. Don't let them free range until you're sure they all know where home is - took me 3 days... not sure if you have ex bats though.They will move in & out of the house all day & can spend all day indoors if it's raining. They will move around together, although they stray a bit & bimble off to lay eggs whenever they are ready. Only worry if one is huddled in a corner by itself, or doesn't seem chirpy & looks like it's got no neck.
Noises - My bantams usually go "bop bop bop" when happy, but next doors ex bats 'purr' like a cat (amazing to hear). They also chat to each other constantly and the alarm call is loud, clear and once one starts, they all pick up on it for a few minutes - anything from a cat, your neighbour opening a window to an aeroplane can set them off.
Pest Control - Use Diatom on houses, in dust baths and on chooks (remember to dust it around before as well as after the chooks arrive). Also use lice powder (as noted for diatom). Worm them with Flubenvet quarterly (vermex does NOT work), and personally, I would recomend getting Ivermectin off the vet (licenced for parrots & pigeons) if you have pekins or are not very good at handling your birds. It kills everything ON the bird, so remember to treat the house too.
MOST IMPORTANT!!!!! This forum has been a godsend, nothing is too silly to ask and the help received has got me through some tough times. DONT forget to use it :)
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Re: A Beginners Guide....

Post by cuwiar »

BabyBantam wrote: MOST IMPORTANT!!!!! This forum has been a godsend, nothing is too silly to ask and the help received has got me through some tough times. DONT forget to use it :)

Brilliant post :D
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