Negleted chickens, or am i being to soft?

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Steve_789
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Negleted chickens, or am i being to soft?

Post by Steve_789 » Fri Jan 17, 2020 12:12 pm

Hi folks,

I hope this is the right forum to ask this, as this doesn't seem to fit into any specific category!

I'm a trustee of a walled garden that's had chickens since day 1 almost 30yrs ago. However last year there was a change with just "who" owned the chickens, before it was one of the staff and they got the money from the eggs, now their officially the gardens chickens with any any egg money going to the garden, the same member of staff agreed to carry on looking after them. Before last year there was plenty of coops and shelter and no reason to question how they were looked after, however this year i've been slightly concerned, and since around october, i've been seriously concerned that there not being looked after correctly. I'm not really a chicken person, although i've looked after animals my entire life, including the normal hamsters and rabbits etc, just never chickens.

So, we have 16 chickens of various breeds (which breeds i have no idea!), the first picture shows them. They all seem healthy enough, although to be honest i wouldn't know if they were ill and i've not picked any of em up and had a good look etc. We have also 8 Muscovy ducks we got last year as well, not that concerned about them, the adults cant fly (youngsters can) but they have full access to the entire walled garden (5 acres), although they do come down to the chickens at feeding time and join in, which factors into my first worry ... are the chickens being fed enough.

At the moment i dont know "exact" quantities, other than 2 25kg bags of "mixed poultry corn" lasted the entirety of december, with 2 new bags being brought last week, also a bag of what i've been told are laying pellets was brought as well. As i mentioned i don't know the exact quantities the chickens are given,but it wont be any more than one of large 1kg yogurt pots a day (1kg when filled with yogut that is!) and it may well be less. There is a proper feeder, although its never used as "the rats eat it all", although i've never seen a rat, or evidence of rats down there, we do have mice elsewhere in the garden though so it may be a perfectly valid reason. They also have no separate grit supply, which i've seen they need access to, we do have gravel paths around them and they can get out of their area (no issues with that btw), so maybe they get out, eat some gravel, then go back in? The only dirt baths they have access to is what they can get in the area they have, fine during summer, but its mostly all mud during winter.

My 2nd worry is water, now they do have it, its always dirty, but its always full (and i've been making a point of going down and replacing it every few days when i'm in) and i've seen them drink from it, but is that only because its that or nothing?? We do have a proper metal watering station i've been thinking of hanging so it actually works properly but the staff member in charge certainly never uses it and has actually mentioned scrapping it "because its useless", which its not, its in full working order and not even rusty.

My 3rd worry is the coop, its just horrible and, i think, far to small, it also leaks. I actually took a look in it back in october and it very obviously hadn't been mucked out for months and months, so i cleaned it all out, fresh bedding down (from the available bedding, pine shavings at best guess) etc, then took another look in last week, it very obviously hadn't been done since. Now i think the staff member has noticed i've been taken more interest in the chickens welfare as he mucked it all out on monday, however he'd also moved all the bedding from the nice dry shed into a wheelie bin, and it was sodden, i could wring it out in my hands, and he put THAT into the coop!! I took a look in the other day later afternoon and whilst all the chickens had gone in there and started to roost, it looked very cramped. I also sat down there on tuesday when it was raining hard to see where they'd take shelter, the 6 big ones all went into the coop and all the others took shelter UNDER the other shed, where they've made a little cave for themselves. Now i've heard they may like this but i took a look under and the first thing that hits you is the smell of all the poo, so it cant be that good for them surely? The only other shelter in their area is a crab apple tree and long grasses, which they were all huddled between last week when it was windy.

As for run space, no issues there, there's plenty, its a big plot so no worrys in regards to that! Also being a walled garden predators are thankfully not an issue.

One thing i also noticed last year is that we got little to no eggs last year, where as the year before we had loads. Now after looking around on the web i can only think of a few reasons for that, 1 - their not being fed correctly, 2 - the coop was to bad to go in so they hid under the hedge to lay, 3 - the staff member swiped all the eggs for themselves (i wouldn't put it past them to be honest..). All the chickens, with the possible exception of the 6 biggest, are all within 3 years old, with some being born last year, so from what i can tell we should still be getting a good amount of eggs.

So i guess my question is this, is it just a case of "well its not ideal, but if the chickens are happy and healthy then there's no issues", or are they being neglected and instant action is required?? I do intend on taking this to the manager but i want to be sure of any issues first.

Thanks in advance

Steve

Higher resolution images of main things if wanted

Flock - https://www.dropbox.com/s/icgc4zv3ubdr7 ... k.JPG?dl=0
Main feed bag - https://www.dropbox.com/s/i5vhlgt4cv2zw ... d.JPG?dl=0
Main feed - https://www.dropbox.com/s/ez0wazx0j6txb ... 2.JPG?dl=0
Water - https://www.dropbox.com/s/jt63dzynw2y6t ... t.JPG?dl=0
Coop outer - https://www.dropbox.com/s/q1og1lor9u4y9 ... r.JPG?dl=0
Coop inner - https://www.dropbox.com/s/5x6y12c56j3gt ... r.JPG?dl=0
Under shed - https://www.dropbox.com/s/vw5w4u7espb36 ... r.JPG?dl=0
Shelter spot - https://www.dropbox.com/s/3436tbi7cwulf ... t.JPG?dl=0
Full run - https://www.dropbox.com/s/br98tlmk22jud ... n.JPG?dl=0
Attachments
hens_flock.JPG
entire flock, ducks included
hens_flock.JPG (91.94 KiB) Viewed 251 times
bigyetiman
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Re: Negleted chickens, or am i being to soft?

Post by bigyetiman » Fri Jan 17, 2020 2:55 pm

As you have experience of other animals, I think you instinctively know when there is a problem and worry. The flock look ok from the pictures. obviously the older hens won't lay as well, they are most productive the first 18 months.
The coop sounds pretty dire and if the smell of ammonia is hitting you just think what it is doing for the hens airways having to breathe that in not to mention burning their feet if they have to stand in it and who wants to sleep take shelter in a leaky bedroom ? it is also highly likely it is full of red mite and hens will choose to sleep else where rather than be feasted upon in the night
Sodden bedding brings with it mould and other respiratory problems.
A laying hybrid eats about 120-140g of layers pellets a day, and like clean water it should be ideally away from where rodents other wildlife can get at it and spread disease. You don't want to be spending money on rat feeding. A lot of us don't see rats, but you see the evidence of gnawing at things.
They do need shelter as well from sun as well as wind/rain.
it is a tricky one for you, it seems it may be a case of people not being familiar with looking after hens and their needs or just not the time.
It is nice that you obviously care and are willing to take responsibility for them
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Re: Negleted chickens, or am i being to soft?

Post by MrsBiscuit » Fri Jan 17, 2020 3:48 pm

Hi Steve and welcome to the forum, we are a friendly bunch and you will find lots of experience on here, not just about chickens and other fowl!

I've had a good look through your post and pictures, and firstly congratulations on taking the birds' welfare seriously. I can't comment on the ducks as I have never kept them, so all my meandering is to do with the chooks only.

Your birds look an interesting mix. On a general scan from a distance I can spot a black orpington (extreme right) and possibly another one lurking towards the back with her bottom towards the cockeral at the back extreme right, the other bird at the back looks like a boy, but I can't quite see. The two white birds look like Coronation Sussex to me. The 3 large fluffy ones might be brahma if they have feathery legs, or cochin, if not. Anyway all these are what we called pure breeds, they are old fashioned and tend to have longer lifespans than hybrids, which are bred to produce more eggs but tend to live shorter lives.

On average, a good rule of thumb is 4oz of food per bird per day. They should be fed layers pellets as the norm, with the use of grain only as a treat (like to attract them home). You can get layer's mash but its more faff. Layers pellets are a balanced diet and the cockerals can eat it too. The lack of a balanced diet is probably why you have few eggs, plus they probably need worming given everything else you have outlined about their care. Grain makes them fat not productive! If you had chicks or youngsters then you'd need grower's pellets too, but you don't so no worries there. I'd get a few feeders (all sorts available) so there is no competition for feed. Rats can be a problem, so it pays to use something that is rodent proof and/or take the food in at night (birds don't eat overnight). It is usual to provide grit in a pot, it aids digestion. However, my birds never used it, as they found enough on the range, and the same is probably true of your flock as they have a huge range and gravel.

Birds should have access to clean fresh water. The gravity drinker I saw looks perfect, as you don't need to fill it everyday (depending) but again I'd get more than one. Plastic ones are perfectly adequate, and cheaper, but often smaller. Its not the end of the world if they are sometimes drinking dirty water, its inevitable. However, one should be striving to do what is best for them, within reason, in my view, and that includes clean water.

Overall, obviously we can't see the birds close enough to tell if they look healthy.

The coop doesn't look too small to me, but see what everyone else thinks, its hard to judge the scale. Are the ducks in there at night too? Most people prefer their chicken to roost (and maybe someone has a comment on the roosting bars) but I know mine don't (orpingtons). I wouldn't be too put off by the green mould, I'm afraid that gets to be inevitable on wooden structures after several years, although many of us do paint/creosote to try to keep it at bay. However a good clean would help in warmer weather. I would block up any holes to stop rain coming in, but houses do need ventilation, ideally small holes up near the eaves so the birds are not in a draft. Wet birds in a draughty house is a recipe for disaster.

The bedding should never be wet, its also a recipe for disaster. There are many bedding types, I use aubiose (shavings) and poo pick regularly and do a deep clean every 3-4 weeks, depending on the need to do it. Birds should not be in an environment smelling of ammonia, its dangerous for their health (birds get respiratory infections very easily, it often weakens them and indirectly leads to something worse), although at least in this instance its in the open air, not a coop.

Provision of shelter would be another basic requirement in my book, so I'd look into that as a priority, even if they don't always use it. It may be you get a 2nd coop, or a covered aviary, something you can use to keep them safe as well as dry. I urge you not to feel they are safe from predators just because they are in a walled garden. Foxes are excellent climbers.

My thoughts would be that their bedding/housing needs sorting out immediately so they are clean and dry, and their feeding needs sorting out so you get eggs and they are healthier. Birds love mixed grain, but it encourages fatty deposits, and can shorten life, so whilst they probably love it, its not in their best interests! They also need a once over to check for things like respiratory issues, worms, lice and mites, and easy to spot/treat problems like scaly leg.

I hope this doesn't sound too daunting. It is a 'job' to look after a largish flock like that, a bit time consuming, so you should be given the time to do it, but its tremendously rewarding. They look like a lovely bunch, all the colours, shapes and sizes, and personalities.

Do come back with more questions, I'm sure everyone else will pitch in with more ideas, encouragement and feedback to help you. Good Luck!
bigyetiman
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Re: Negleted chickens, or am i being to soft?

Post by bigyetiman » Fri Jan 17, 2020 5:03 pm

Couldn't have put it better Mrs Biscuit. I agree you definitely need more than one drinker, always handy to have a few spares of feeders and drinkers, any malfunctions always happen when the local supplier is closed. It can be useful to raise the drinker just putting on bricks helps keep mud out when they scratch near it. Mine this week have found the perfect water, a nice mucky puddle :lol: :lol:
One thing about them once you have sorted out any initial problems, if you keep them clean by poo picking and a general tidy up every day, a big deep clean monthly isn't too onerous looking after them is very rewarding and great fun. We are all here to help. Lots of advice on the various sections and pics of peoples coops and run set ups and all sorts of useful ideas and tips.
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LadyA
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Re: Negleted chickens, or am i being to soft?

Post by LadyA » Fri Jan 17, 2020 6:47 pm

Definitely the coop and shelter needs sorting out. I've noticed over the years I've had chickens, that they definitely lay better if their coop, bedding and nest boxes are clean and dry.

The mixed grain, my six get a very small handful between them, twice a day. If the weather is very cold and wet, then I might give them a bit extra. They have a treadle feeder, so they eat pellets as they want them. And they are free ranging all day, so they do forage quite a bit of their feed.
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LadyA
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Re: Negleted chickens, or am i being to soft?

Post by LadyA » Fri Jan 17, 2020 6:51 pm

I don't think there's an issue with the "shelter spot". My hens tend to congregate down n a clump of willows. Every batch of chickens I've ever had, has made a sort of "den" down there. They have shelter from wind, and in Summer, it's nice and shady.

The coop though does need more than cleaning. You can see daylight between some of the timbers. It needs repairs or even replacing.
Lead me not into temptation. I can find the way myself!
Steve_789
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Re: Negleted chickens, or am i being to soft?

Post by Steve_789 » Fri Jan 17, 2020 8:16 pm

thanks for the responses folks, much appreciated!
Your birds look an interesting mix
they really are! I might try and get better photos of each type, i'm pretty such the staff member knows what the breeds are but the manager is away on holiday and i want her to see the real situation, rather than a temporary "improvement", which might well happen if i show "to" much interest, at the moment its all been done cloak and dagger whilst they've not been in.
On average, a good rule of thumb is 4oz of food per bird per day. They should be fed layers pellets as the norm, with the use of grain only as a treat (like to attract them home). You can get layer's mash but its more faff. Layers pellets are a balanced diet and the cockerals can eat it too.
Thats very useful to know, from my experience of re-filling the "hen food" we sell in the kiosk (little bags with about half a handful of feed kids can buy, filled from the same bin their fed from) its always been the mixed grain with no pellets in. So, if my dodgy maths is correct, for 16 birds, they'd be going through about 1.5-2 25kg bags a month in pellets roughly? Although they'll prolly get a bit of food from the run so might eat a little less that birds in a coop and wired run??

I looked up the treadle feeders (i've never heard of them!) and they look the ideal compromise for my situation, the chickens need to be able to put up possibly not being fed/watered daily and as mentioned my biggest concern with the plastic feeders is mice/rats/other birds etc. I'll have to look more into that.
The coop doesn't look too small to me
I stuck my head in last night and i feel 50/50 about the space, they were all down one end and it did look a little too snug, although they may have just been cold. Think i'm going to have get a proper measurement of the inside space. For ventilation its got a sliding wooden window on the side .... as well all the cracks in the cladding. The ducks, not entirely sure where they sleep to be honest! They have the run of the entire 5 acres so can pretty much pick and choose! Its also why i'm far less worried about them :)
Provision of shelter would be another basic requirement in my book, so I'd look into that as a priority, even if they don't always use it. It may be you get a 2nd coop, or a covered aviary, something you can use to keep them safe as well as dry..


Agreed on the shelter, i was actually thinking of banging something together with the scrap we have in the workshop, raised A frame style sort of thing, just so they have more choice other than under the shed. I'd ideally like to replace the current coop and have a new big one or 2-3 smaller ones, but money will be an issue with that, kinda shocked how expensive some coops are! :-)11
I hope this doesn't sound too daunting. It is a 'job' to look after a largish flock like that, a bit time consuming, so you should be given the time to do it, but its tremendously rewarding. They look like a lovely bunch, all the colours, shapes and sizes, and personalities.


Doesnt sound too daunting at all, i dont mind looking after animals and its a nice break going down there after doing gardening/office stuff. Especially as their personality's are totally different which is fun, the big fluffy ones just slowly walk around and cluck at you with a "whatcha want human?" gaze, whilst the little ones will come up, say hello, then promptly get in the way of whatever it is your trying to do :lol: The hardest thing will be setting it up so it wont mean disaster if their left alone for a few days, which if we had feeders and drinkers set up, wouldn't really be a problem, heck it'd actually make them easier to look after really!
They also need a once over to check for things like respiratory issues, worms, lice and mites, and easy to spot/treat problems like scaly leg.
That should be fun, there not used to being handled! Not that i'd know exactly what i was looking at if i did catch one, research required!
I don't think there's an issue with the "shelter spot". My hens tend to congregate down n a clump of willows. Every batch of chickens I've ever had, has made a sort of "den" down there. They have shelter from wind, and in Summer, it's nice and shady.
Your right, during the spring/summer its not an issue at all and provides them with lovely shade, its more that it was their only shelter, other than under the shed, in their area.

Once again folks, thanks for the help!
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Marigold
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Re: Negleted chickens, or am i being to soft?

Post by Marigold » Tue Jan 21, 2020 9:22 pm

Hi Steve, how's it going? Others have covered all the main points, but I just wanted to say that, early this morning, temperature -2C when I went down to my flock to replace the frozen drinker with liquid water and check they had food, I was worrying about the hens in your garden, possibly hungry and underfed on unsuitable food, with frozen water and nothing to drink. Does the tap freeze up?

I really hope you've managed to talk to the manager and see what can be done for them. Chickens don't have one or two 'meals' like a dog would, for instance; they need continued access to much more food than they're being offered, all the time, and will constantly nibble when they need to, so just throwing a potful of unsuitable mixed corn between them will mean that some are getting much less than they need, and all will be going to roost hungry and therefore cold throughout the long winter nights. As the food supply is inadequate and unsuitable for the chickens, there can't be much left at all if it has to be shared with 8 large muscovy ducks, and there may be issues about the ducks' care as well. The feeders should be available and full all the daylight hours, under cover to keep the feed dry, and could be taken in at dusk, replaced at dawn, if anyone could undertake to do this. Hens can supplement with grass etc when free ranging in Spring but there will be nothing for them in mid-winter.

I totally agree with all that has been said about the filthy housing. It's also highly likely to be infested with redmite, which will emerge when it gets warmer and make their nights miserably painful, even leading to anaemia when a heavy mite attack sucks their blood. If this is so, the best thing would be to burn the shed, mites and all, and replace it.

You say that, previous to the past year, there were plenty of coops and shelter - what happened, where did the coops etc go?

They should now be wormed with Flubenvet as they will have a worm burden after spending three years on ground which has been in use for poultry for many years, and this weill also pull them down. 16 chickens and 8 ducks could probably get through a 20kilo sack of treated pellets in 7-10 days, which would do the job. The normal dose is as much as each bird wants to eat, depending on individual size and appetite, for 7 days, but an extra day or so would probably be good for them and would do no harm.

Could you clarify how the staff member who is supposed to look after them is employed in the organisation? How did he feel about losing the perk of taking the eggs for himself, and why was this done? If he was redeployed, or sacked, is there anyone more suitable who could take over?

Good luck, you are doing the right thing for these birds and we're all behind you!
Steve_789
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Re: Negleted chickens, or am i being to soft?

Post by Steve_789 » Wed Jan 22, 2020 10:25 pm

Things have progressed a lot :)

I talked to the manager monday afternoon, turns out they were also having concerns but just hadn't looked into it fully yet. Anyway the result was i'm now in charge of the chickens and the staff member was told they were no longer having anything to do with them. The manager also agreed to buying anything we need, so we'll be getting new coops, treadle feeder, extra drinking thing etc, as well as switching to layers pellets for the main food and keeping the mixed corn for the "chicken food" bags we sell for kids, so it really will be a treat for the chickens.

As to work done so far, i spent all day yesterday near enough cleaning out and mending the coop, i've never been more thankful for my proper dust mask and goggles before, it was horrible in there, you could SCRAPE the cobwebs off the walls :shock: I got it as clean as i could short of nuking it from orbit (including spraying it with mite killer) and then added a nice thick layer of bedding, which i'll be "de-pooing" every time i'm in, and fully changing whenever needed.

As i said the manager has said they'd get new coops, now we don't have a lot of money (up to £500/£600 realistically), so, after googling for a while i'm starting to settle on getting 2 of these - https://www.chickencoopsdirect.com/devon-hen-house which seem a good mix between cost vs quality vs looks (last is unfortunately important as we'll have public looking at it).

I was also going to try to make a temporary sheltered area out of old greenhouse hoops and tarp, may turn out the tarp scares them and i'll have to take it down, but we dont have anything "in house" that we could realistically build a shelter from at the moment so would have to scavenge/buy in stuff, which takes time. We'll see how it goes. If anyone knows of any "pre-built" ones that look good and don't cost silly amounts of money just to save me the time of sourcing everything needed and building one? :)

Feed wise i fully cleaned the older feeder and have instructed trusted remaining staff to check its full if i'm not in, sod it if the rats and every bird in the area eats it at the moment. The goal is to get one or two treadle feeders (any recommendations?) and use them, the ducks are getting re-homed so no need to worry about them long term.

Water wise, i've cleaned out the old drinker which the chickens started using within 5 mins of me putting it down, i've also moved it away from the tap so its not in a muddy area. As with the food, i've asked staff to check its full (and not frozen) when i'm not about, i've also left some deep plastic plant trays in the shed should the water be fully frozen so they can just be filled from the (thankfully) insulated tap thats down there so the chickens will have something to drink from.
They should now be wormed with Flubenvet as they will have a worm burden after spending three years on ground which has been in use for poultry for many years, and this weill also pull them down. 16 chickens and 8 ducks could probably get through a 20kilo sack of treated pellets in 7-10 days, which would do the job. The normal dose is as much as each bird wants to eat, depending on individual size and appetite, for 7 days, but an extra day or so would probably be good for them and would do no harm.
Is there anyway to worm without a food mix? I wouldn't really want to put that in a feeder that we leave out, and then say having one of the local birds eating it and possibly getting sick etc etc. Its ok if we cant eat the eggs for a bit, we'd rather have healthy birds :)
You say that, previous to the past year, there were plenty of coops and shelter - what happened, where did the coops etc go?
we've seen where they walked off to, one reason the staff member is no longer involved with the chickens ....

All in all, its all change for the chickens :D
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Tweetypie
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Re: Negleted chickens, or am i being to soft?

Post by Tweetypie » Wed Jan 22, 2020 11:32 pm

GOSH they are expensive... I am sure I didn't pay that much for mine.... this one looks interesting though :D

https://bluewhalesales.co.uk/collection ... -on-wheels

I think Marigold might have something to say, as a large shed might be a better solution for so many hens and might be more manageable to clean. You can easily add your own perches and put some nestboxes in. That's what I would opt to buy and do, if I knew what I know now ;-)
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