So next time you are wondering where have all the eggs gone ? Hopefully you have some more ideas on why your hens are having a rest from laying... and if you can do something about it or just let nature take it's course !
One of the best pieces of advice we have ever received as chicken farmers is the following: spend time with your flock ! Seems like a romantic suggestion. We've all heard it before: talk to your animals, throw them some feed and watch them scramble to gobble it up with delight! It all sounds cute and slightly twee, but there's a method to the madness. Stick with me here....
If you make a point of regularly spending time with your chickens, you are going to start noticing things... really useful things.
Lots of information can be gained from spending time with your flocks, and the more regularly that is done, the quicker you'll spot issues and be able to help solve them before they become a big problem.
What useful things have we learnt ? (photos in order of points listed)
Through spending time with the flock over years, we can now immediately recognise the following:
Make sure you spend time with your flock at night too. We often go and stand in the coop and listen to the girls. Breathing issues can be quickly spotted and the hen removed immediately for treatment. Night time is a great time to do checks and separate off birds who might be unwell, or take the opportunity to worm them whilst they're beautifully docile.
With knowledge comes power, as they say. By being familiar with sounds and behaviours of your chickens, you can quickly spot a plethora of issues and swiftly move to deal with them. Many losses have been prevented at Poultry Patch due to this familiarity with the flock over many years with many different birds.
So get out there.... set up a seat (we have an upturned bucket we sit on) and enjoy the sights and sounds of your flock. Not only is it fun, it's relaxing AND arms you with knowledge and power at the same time.
Hopefully you now have some useful and fun ideas to help you make the most of your chickens during your extended time at home. There really is no limit to the fun that can be had.
(pictured above)What on earth is going on in my nest boxes? Has someone decided to take up residence in there, hogs the nestbox and then growls at you when you dare to want to collect the eggs that she is hoarding ? Yes ! She's broody and her mothering instinct is so strong she's ready to tear strips off you or give you a beakful of noise at the very least.
Broody hens are a wonderful addition to your flock, but they can also be mightily annoying. They will dominate a nestbox for weeks at a time, only getting up to poop and eat once a day before returning to the nest box. Other hens are often irritated by it and issues can occur.
This is the wonderful aspects of broody hens. It is this dedication to the task of sitting on their eggs that makes them successful mothers. I have one particular hen, a Coronation Sussex cross (pictured above, now lovingly nicknamed "Mumma hen") who is about 3 years old. She has successfully hatched and raised many batches of babies over the years. She's reliable and dedicated. When she goes broody, I am always tempted to give her some fertile eggs. She has also been a successful adoptive mother too, which is another wonderful trait of a good broody hen.
Other hens go broody and have failed to successful raise their young. Some broody hens can sit for weeks on their eggs then unceremoniously kill their young as they hatch. Others are hopeless at remaining sitting and get up too often that their eggs are no longer viable.
I have every type of broody hen in my flock. What I have found over the years is that if you have a good broody hen, fantastic, give her the fertile eggs. If any other hens go broody... it's time for the broody breaker.
I have tried every trick "under the sun" over the years for breaking broodies. Dunk them in a water bath, give them fertile eggs, routinely kick them off the nest several times a day, isolate them into another cage, get them up off the ground for air to circulate under them. I have asked any person with any sort of chicken expertise for their tips and tricks and then have dutifully carried them out... with limited success.
Like all advice and research, occasionally you comes across advice that you find works..... and works again..... and what do you know ? I think this really does work !! :-)
For breaking broodies, I was once told this: isolate the hen, put her in a cage, up off the ground so that air can circulate (yes, heard that one many times), for 4 days or so, with water but NO FOOD.
What! no food? How can I do that ?
I have done it many times over the years. I usually add nutrients to their water though.
I know it might sound cruel, but those of you who have struggled repeatedly with persistent broodies and just had no luck no matter what you've tried. Try it.
None of my hens have suffered ill health as a result.
I find that after the time in isolation, they return to the flock, head straight to the feeder and NOT to the nesting boxes.
Time and time again this has worked for me.
I hope it works for you too.
The recurring question we hear from chicken owners is "why have my chicken stopped laying?". Often this is combined with it being Autumn or Winter time.
At Poultry Patch, it's all about the eggs... creating a fine product that is based in thoughtful chicken keeping that embraces superior health and nutrition of our birds. To say our hens are spoilt is an understatement... but it is informed spoiling, designed to support premium health and well being.
Being a suburban flock, the number of hens we can keep is limited so every egg counts. When the girls decide it's time to stop laying in favour of growing out new feathers (moulting season in Autumn or Winter), motivation is high to find ways to promote feather growth so they can get back to the business of laying those wonderful eggs.
Enter Soldierflies. Very high in protein (42%), this is exactly what hens need to support feather growth and egg laying. Given hens are omnivores, they need proteins like grubs in their lives, especially if they aren't free ranging.
Soldierflies are naturally occurring fly in our environment that many of you will have seen but not realised what they are or what they do. They are a blessing to anyone with a green thumb, anyone interested in composting, or chicken enthusiasts.
They eat food scraps much faster than worms (we have many worm farms too, so love them too!) and the best bit is that they are self-harvesting. This means that when it's time for them to morph into flies, they stop eating and climb to a higher place to complete this process. In a soldierfly farm, this means they climb up the side ramps are directed to fall into a collection bucket ! Empty this bucket into the chook run and watch the girls go crazy for them !
Over the years we have made a few versions of a DIY Solderfly farm here at Poultry Patch, with limited success. Much of it would be attributed to novice knowledge rather than the DIY design.
Eventually we settled on the commercially made BioPod and combined with alot more research and knowledge, trial and error, it's been fantastic.
As can be seen from the photo on the left, there is a ramp on either side for the larvae to self harvest. They crawl up and fall through the slot into a collection bucket.
The photo on the right is with the lid on. The flies can fly between the gaps into the hinged porthole. The clawed tool is used to turn over the compost occasionally, but the system is largely 'set and forget' except for regularly adding your kitchen scraps to it.
Check out the video below that shows what short work soldierflies will make of a banana! You'll be amazed how they chow down on your kitchen scraps and are quickly ready for more. Combined with worm farming, just about everything is compostable at Poultry Patch (maybe not the hubby and kids ;-) !
Gardening Australia have instructions for a DIY Soldierfly farm: https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/love-your-larvae/11184864
What to know more ? Feel free to ask me questions ! firstname.lastname@example.org
Are you ready to indulge in all things "chicken"? We certainly are !
Even if you're not sure if you want chickens in your backyard, come and long and find out what you're missing out on ! ;-)
Classes are being held at Macquarie Community College in November or December to unpack the world of keeping chickens in your suburban backyard. Be it at a beginner level or if you're wishing to make more of your backyard flock (growing forage for hens, hatching, dispatching, making more of their compost, refining your chicken keeping practices), you name it - we've done it and can share our experiences with you.
We have loved having chickens over many years and have loads of tips and tricks to ensure it is easy and really enjoyable for you too.
Join Poultry Patch in a workshop or two on Keeping Backyard Chickens - a beginner's guide, or Making the most of the coop that you already have ! These workshops will be in November and December.
Macquarie Community College will be including our workshops in their Term 4 catalog, so keep an eye out for those ! A link to their site is below.
We look forward to meeting you and talking all things Chickens !!
Poultry Patch is a family business based in the north west of Sydney. Our focus is to help make the keeping of backyard chickens in the suburbs of any city easy, rewarding and fun.
Backyards do not need to be big to be able have the joy that owning chickens brings: their wonderfully fresh eggs, efficient recycling and companionship. It's fun for the whole family.
"We live in the suburbia" does not need to be a reason to not have this touch of farming in your 'patch', nor does "I don't have the time to look after chickens" or "I don't know a thing about keeping chickens!". That's what we're here for!
Poultry Patch is focused on making it easy, hassle-free, and most importantly so very rewarding. We've got many tips and tricks that'll overcome and obstacle for keeping backyard chickens.
It all started with young girls’ upbringing in a country town and her devotion and affinity with animals.