Post holiday behavioural changes

The place to discuss everything else to do with chickens.

Moderators: Marigold, victorias poultry

Post Reply
User avatar
Tweetypie
Full Member
Posts: 408
Joined: Sun May 13, 2018 8:44 am

Post holiday behavioural changes

Post by Tweetypie » Sun Oct 27, 2019 10:01 am

Since my hens came back from their 10 day break with another hen keeper, whilst hubby and me were on holiday, they have not been the same. This is not the same hen hotel I usually send them to, as she was unavailable on those dates.

They have been home now for almost 2 weeks. They are all in a moult. Whilst away, they laid 6 eggs in total between them. Since being back, there has been 2 eggs laid during the past two days.

My question is not about eggs, but their behaviour. They have started sleeping in the nest box, rather than on the perch and consequently their backsides are dirty through sleeping in their own crap. The 2 eggs were laid on the floor in the aubiose. They have hardly touched their food, too, which is very unusual. I sent them away with their own food to ensure they had familiarity and the right nutrients. Im giving them greens in the afternoon as treats.

They were all wormed a few months ago and I also wonder if I should worm them again, as the place they stayed was a small back yard where other hens and poultry had been. They all seem happy now and all still have red combs.

I don''t know how to break this habit of them sleeping in the nest box and laying on the floor, other than somehow blocking it off at night and unblocking it in the morning. I also wonder why they would do this in the first place, as with the previous hen keeper, I had no issues when they got home. Any advice appreciated. :)
If people are talking behind your back, then just fart. :-)10
User avatar
Marigold
Moderator
Posts: 6274
Joined: Sat Apr 30, 2011 6:27 pm

Re: Post holiday behavioural changes

Post by Marigold » Sun Oct 27, 2019 1:48 pm

For a hen, moving home is a big trauma, even if they're going to somewhere that caters for all their needs, and it sounds as if this hen hotel wasn't up to your previous standards. And then, just as they're getting used to changed routines and a different place, they get another car journey, and come back to a place they did know once, but have been separated from and feel sort of dislocated. Hens are very territorial, and as we all know when we add new ones to the run, they can take a long time to settle down. I'd imagine their reaction was a combination of difficulties where they were staying, plus the time of year when they would be facing hormonal challenges anyway.

Moult at this of year is normal, of course, but moving home whilst coping with it may have increased their stress levels and thus brought it on somewhat more severely. It's normal for egg production to slow right down or stop during the moult, because they have to use their protein stores to grow new plumage, and also to keep warm when the weather is getting colder and their insulation is reduced. Extra protein will help - at this time of year I go over to a big plate of warm mash in the afternoons, made from pellets, mixed corn and maybe tasty high-protein extras such as sunflower seeds, plus I add Nettex mineral powder to help with feather and calcium deficiency, mixed to a crumbly texture with hot water. It disappears in a flash.

If only we could explain to them what was going on, and that they just had to put up with it for a while, life would be easier for them and for us. The best option, of course, is to find someone who could come in to your garden and provide basic daily care, food, water and a bit of a clean-up, in return for eggs if any, or other suitable rewards. i'm lucky in having a 16-year-old girl who lives near me, who does this for mine for £20.00 a week, very reliable with parental backups if needed. And she has a younger sister waiting in the wings for when Katie goes to uni in a year or two.

Of course they are at risk of getting worms or other infections if farmed out where other unknown birds have been kept, and I would definitely worm them immediately and thoroughly. It's good to do this before the winter as it will help them in any case. and watch out for any signs of bacterial infection, which is a bigger worry than worms as it's difficult to overcome. It's common for any hens to go down to infections they might otherwise have overcome if they've been under stress and in a new environment with a different set of bacteria.

re sleeping in the nest boxes - when you do your afternoon check-up, put a large upturned plastic flower pot in each nestbox overnight, and remove it next morning as early as you can, before they want to go in to lay. Alternatively, go down soon after roosting time and move them out of the boxes on to the perches. It may take a while to break the habit, which I expect they got into whilst away at the sitters. The only way to cope with them laying on the dirty floor is to get down there early enough to pick out the overnight poo before they lay, and preferably to line the floor with newspaper or similar non-cosy flat stuff, whilst making the nest boxes nice and comfy by comparison, once the flower pots have been removed for the day.
User avatar
Tweetypie
Full Member
Posts: 408
Joined: Sun May 13, 2018 8:44 am

Re: Post holiday behavioural changes

Post by Tweetypie » Sun Oct 27, 2019 7:53 pm

Thank you Marigold, I have just picked up your post and will try putting them on their perch at dusk, starting tomorrow. That's a great idea. I also took out some of the aubiose which is on the coop floor, as it's quite deep, so they might be laying there as previously I only had it around the edges where they poo.
They have had some broccoli and cabbage as normal, but I also had some melon left over, so gave them the middle bit with the seeds. They're a bit off maize at the moment, having previously had an abundant supply I "acquired" from a neighbouring field ;-)
I don't know anyone in our village, but next time I will check in advance that my usual lady will be available. They are always seem happy when they have come back from hers. You are very lucky to have reliable people around you., although my regular lady is excellent.
I do want to break their habit of sleeping in the nest, so that's the first thing on the agenda. Watch this space :-)
If people are talking behind your back, then just fart. :-)10
dianefairhall
Forum Contributor / Grower
Posts: 89
Joined: Tue Feb 28, 2012 7:26 pm

Re: Post holiday behavioural changes

Post by dianefairhall » Sun Oct 27, 2019 11:01 pm

Very interesting and useful as we are going away for a week on 1 November. We have asked our neighbours if their two boys would like to do the biz with the girls and they have agreed and to provide backup if the lads are too busy looking after the sheep!
User avatar
Marigold
Moderator
Posts: 6274
Joined: Sat Apr 30, 2011 6:27 pm

Re: Post holiday behavioural changes

Post by Marigold » Sun Oct 27, 2019 11:07 pm

Have the boys round first for a training session, Diane, and show them exactly what you want them to do - and write it all down for them to check. Include your contact details and the vet's telephone number. The first time Katie looked after mine, one of them had a bad prolapse so Katie's Mum kindly took her to the vet to be PTS. It didn't put her off, and she's now done another 3 years in charge when we go away. Nothing much ever seems to go wrong, - except when it's a really bad time for it to happen!
dianefairhall
Forum Contributor / Grower
Posts: 89
Joined: Tue Feb 28, 2012 7:26 pm

Re: Post holiday behavioural changes

Post by dianefairhall » Mon Oct 28, 2019 12:49 am

Thank you, Marigold, very useful advice. The lads just live across the road and they're a crofting family so they know where the vets is. The girls haven't started laying yet so they just need to be fed and watered, but leaving something written down is a good idea.
User avatar
Marigold
Moderator
Posts: 6274
Joined: Sat Apr 30, 2011 6:27 pm

Re: Post holiday behavioural changes

Post by Marigold » Mon Oct 28, 2019 8:21 am

That sounds good all round - the lads will enjoy the job, they'll earn some useful pocket money, the chickens won't notice the difference, and you'll be able to enjoy your break!
User avatar
Hen-Gen
Full Member
Posts: 602
Joined: Mon May 15, 2017 5:12 pm

Re: Post holiday behavioural changes

Post by Hen-Gen » Mon Oct 28, 2019 11:23 am

Just one question Tweetypie. Are the perches higher than the nest boxes? Sorry if this seems an obvious question but hens invariably go to the highest place they can to sleep.
A cottage on an island in the eye of the storm
User avatar
Tweetypie
Full Member
Posts: 408
Joined: Sun May 13, 2018 8:44 am

Re: Post holiday behavioural changes

Post by Tweetypie » Sun Nov 03, 2019 10:29 am

Hen-Gen wrote:
Mon Oct 28, 2019 11:23 am
Just one question Tweetypie. Are the perches higher than the nest boxes? Sorry if this seems an obvious question but hens invariably go to the highest place they can to sleep.
Hi Hen-Gen - sorry for late reply - the nest box is lower than the perch. Ive been blocking off the nestbox at night and OH has whizzed out earlyish in the morning to ensure its free for them to use. I will do it a couple more days and then see what happens when it's left unblocked. They are all looking much better now their feathers are growing back and I am getting a couple of eggs every couple of days, too. :)
If people are talking behind your back, then just fart. :-)10
Post Reply

Return to “Any Other Discussion About Chickens”