Why is Cider Vinegar Good for Chickens?

cider vinegar for chickens, rescue hens, ex battery hens


If you keep chickens  you have probably read that Cider Vinegar is really good for them, but do you know why? 

For a healthy gut…

Cider vinegar is very acidic and may help lower the pH of the crop.  This helps to reduce the growth of harmful bacteria, a bit like a natural anti-septic or natural anti-biotic. 

Reducing worm burden…

Internal parasites don’t like the acid pH of cider vinegar, therefore feeding cider vinegar helps deter the worms from establishing in the gut.  (It should be remembered that Cider Vinegar is not a wormer, and your chickens will still benefit from routine wormer treatment. )

Combats stress – 

Stress can weaken a hen’s immune system. This is why the addition of cider vinegar for a few days following stress (such as a house move, sudden change in weather, fox attack etc) can just give them a boost when they need it most.

Nutrient rich –

Cider vinegar is rich in vitamins and trace elements and full of natural probiotics and enzymes for a healthy gut.  It helps their general health and vitality, thus encouraging a healthy plumage and regular egg laying. 

BUT Not all Cider Vinegar is Equal!!

Most cider vinegar in supermarkets is filtered and pasteurized. Other than the taste, it  isn’t going to give your girls much else.  It is important to choose an unfiltered cider vinegar ‘with the mother’ to get the health benefits. The mother is all the ugly looking gunk at the bottom of the bottle, but this is where all the goodness lies.  Created from apple residue and pectin, the mother is where all the beneficial, fermented material lies. 

Take a look at our Pure Devon Cider Vinegar. Traditionally made by local cider makers & full of the mother…

Why do dogs eat grass?

dogs eat grass

It is often believed that dogs eat grass because it makes them sick, so cleanses their digestive system. It could therefore be an indication that the dog is feeling unwell or has an upset tummy.  In reality, only about 25% of dogs are sick after eating grass and there is no evidence that they are doing it because they are ill.  It is possible that dogs eat grass because they are looking for fresh nutrients, or extra fibre, but the most likely cause –  is that they like the taste! 


There is no need to worry if your dog likes eating grass. As long as you know that the grass is clean & toxin free, and they are not eating it obsessively. Also they shoudn’t be eating grass and avoiding their normal food. 

If you are concerned about your dog’s health, always contact your Vet. 

To view our range for dogs, click here.

Is Turmeric Good for Dogs?

is turmeric good for dogs

Turmeric may seem an unusual ingredient to add to your dog’s diet. But, there is growing evidence that it has many health benefits. 

So, Is turmeric good for dogs?

Turmeric has two key actions, and these are the reasons why it has become such a popular choice.  Turmeric is both anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant which means it can support the body through virtually every common health challenge. 

Chronic inflammation is common in many conditions. Joint stiffness and arthritis are the most well known, but inflammation is also apparent during many other conditions, including allergies and a sensitive gut. By helping to reduce inflammation there will also be a reduction in pain.

Anti-oxidants support the immune system, helping the body to flush out toxins. As your dog gets older the effects of oxidative damage start to add up, which is why the body ages. Turmeric is therefore a particularly good supplement for older dogs. 

For your dog to benefit from Turmeric it needs to be fed with oil and pepper. Turmeric is difficult to absorb but feeding it with oil helps to improve this. Black pepper is also known to enhance the absorption of turmeric. This is why our TOP Dog includes linseed oil and ground black pepper, so your dog can get the greatest benefit. 

learn more

Modelled by Barney. Photo by Sophie Callahan

Missing Badminton?

badminton special offer

Don’t be sad, you can still enjoy some amazing special offers from ourselves and these fantastic rural businesses who would love your support…

Muddyfootprints.co.uk – fabulous country clothing, home accessories and kit for your horses and dogs. Enjoy 15% off with the code: 15OFF 

Greenleas Equestrian – Enjoy 18% off everything on their entire equestrian store. If you need any kit, now is a great time to buy! Promotion code: BADMINTON18

Elegant Equestrian are offering a FREE matching stock pin with any browband purchased. Look the part at your summer dressage competitions and support a small business.

Fleetwood and Foxgrove are offering 20% off their field range scarves in honour of Badminton and free postage is standard. Offer ends Sunday Evening. Wow, these scarves are stunning!

NKC Equestrian Training are offering 20% off one of their online courses with the code BAD20. Ends 10pm Sunday.  NKC offer fantastic courses for all horse owners. These include equestrian First Aid and a huge range of equine health topics, please go and check them out. 

And if you are feeling lucky, pop over to Equissentials Dressage for your chance to win a bumper prize this bank holiday – including breeches, an honest riders T shirt, handmade horse shoe hearts  & a Hooves & Love gift box!!….

I bet you aren’t so sad about missing Badminton Horse Trials now! Whatever you are doing have a fabulous Bank Holiday weekend.


What does Turmeric do? (and why is it so popular?)

what does turmeric do


By now, I think everyone has heard of turmeric as a health food supplement for both humans and animals.  Turmeric is promoted as a miracle cure for virtually every condition under the sun,  but, whenever we are out and about, we are always asked the same question – 

What does turmeric do? (and why is it so popular)? 

The key active ingredient in Turmeric which was been the focus of most scientific research is Curcumin. This is what gives Turmeric its yellow colour. 

Turmeric as an Anti-inflammatory

Curcumin has potent anti-inflammatory properties and works by inhibiting the production of both Leukotrienes and Prostaglandins in the body. 

Leukotrienes and Prostaglandins trigger inflammation. Inflammation is actually very important as it helps the body to fight infection and triggers a whole cascade of reactions which stimulate the body to repair the area that has become inflamed.  Think of a nasty cough of cold. The mucus is the result of inflammation and helps the body to flush out the bacteria and nasties in your airways. This will prevent long term damage to the lungs.  If you have bumped yourself and cut your skin, it will swell and bruise. Again, that swelling is your body is the result of all the important nutrients going to the area to help repair the damage. 

But, in some conditions, the inflammation becomes long term (chronic) and becomes part of the problem, such as in arthritis, colitis and even allergies. This is when supplements like turmeric can help – by helping to inhibit the production of  leukotrienes and prostaglandins so that they no longer trigger the constant inflammation. 

Turmeric as an Anti-oxidant

Colourful food is good for us, and Turmeric is no exception. The bright yellow colour is an indicator of all the anti-oxidants it contains, known as curcuminoids.

Free radicals are damaging molecules in our body which cause oxidation. They are responsible for ageing, but also many diseases. Our body makes anti-oxidants in order to capture the free radicals and flush them out of the system, but sometimes the demand outstrips supply.  Curcuminoids are powerful anti-oxidants, even stronger than vitamins such as vitamin C and E. As well as having anti-oxidant properties itself, turmeric boosts the action of anti-oxidant enzymes already within our body. It therefore provides two different anti-oxidant benefits which both support the immune system. 

Anti-inflammatory AND Anti-Oxidant

These two huge benefits are what make turmeric so popular, and so widely used. There are many, many health conditions which involve both inflammation and oxidation. Turmeric has been well studied and known to have no adverse side effects, so why wouldn’t you try a natural approach? 

Turmeric is suitable for all animals. Curcumin is poorly absorbed and is best fed with oil. Also piperine, which is found in black pepper, will enhance the absorption of curcumin.

Related Products:

TOP Dog

TOP Horse

Countrylix Gold

photo by Sophie Callahan

Do you struggle to learn a dressage test?

British dressage, equestrian, learn a dressage test

We asked the British Dressage Facebook community for their help and they didn’t disappoint! Check out all these amazing suggestions…

1 – Watch tests on YouTube & pretend you are calling  the test for them (suggested by Pauline & Amy)

2 – Say your test out loud while driving to work (Stacey)

3 – Use your finger to trace the movements in the air. I always do this & my husband thinks I’m casting magic spells!  (Issie & Debbie)

4 – Run round the living room, preferably on an appropriately shaped rug! (Faye, Charlie, Katie & Amanda)

5 – If you have one, use your quad bike to practice the test in your arena (Elin)

6 – You can download BD audio tests and play them on a wrist speaker while you are schooling. (Julie)

7 – Learn the pattern rather than the letters. Draw it out on paper (Nicola & Katie) Natasha goes one step further and suggests colour coding for the different gaits) 

8 – Use a toy pony on a dressage arena drawn out on paper (Tiffany)

9 – Sue recommends Dressage Diagrams (www.dressagediagrams.com) where you can buy all the BD, BE and Pony Club tests in diagram form. 

10 – Visualize yourself riding in the arena. Caroline suggests that if you do this in bed you are guaranteed to fall asleep before reaching the 3rdmovement! Could be useful if you suffer from pre-competition nerves….

11  – For something a little different, try coaching and hypnotherapy (Jenni & Steve) 

12 – Ride a different horse to practice your test, that way the one you are riding at the competition won’t start predicting the movements (Tamsin)

13 – Julia says – ‘Make sure you learn the right test & check for updates’ – I think we have all been there! 

14 – Run round your arena on foot (but watch your extended trot after a glass or two of vino!! From Lauren) 

15 – Top tip from Viv – never ask your partner to read the test for you. Viv once had a blazing row in the middle of her test as he forgot where he was (to much amusement from the judge!) 

16 – Walk through your test on a long rein (Danee & Emma)

17 – Nic suggests that we all get working up the levels as by the time you reach Inter 1 there is only one test to learn!

18 – And if you fancy a brand new, Tech Savy app, check out the BD Dressage Test Pro App where you can listen, watch, draw and generally immerse yourself in your test learning – all on your phone! Created by Tracy-Ann Ormrod, you can download a free trial on the App store or visit www.dressagetestpro.com for more info.

A huge thank you to everyone who got involved on facebook and gave us all these fantastic ideas. No excuses to not learn a dressage test now!

Groundwork – Why Bother?

by Amy Craske, Holistic Horses

Groundwork for horses can bring huge benefits.
groundwork for horses

If you’ve ever spent anytime doing, watching or learning about groundwork then I’ll bet you think it’s an enormously useful tool for improving or communication with our horses. But if you haven’t, and an awful lot of people just haven’t been introduced to it, you could be quite reasonable in wondering what on EARTH is the point. I mean, its just walking about with your horse, isn’t it? Why would anyone bother wasting time doing that, when they could be riding? What could it possibly do to help?

So, lets think. If you lead out to the field, are you lucky enough to have a horse which calmly follows your every movement and change in speed on the way, and swings himself neatly sideways round the gate so you can close it? Does he never ever spook? Never drag you to the nearest patch of green it sees? Does he plant himself and refuse to move, no matter how hard you lean on that rope? Never nibble your sleeve and crowd your personal space? Does he load perfectly into the trailer every time? Do you feel COMPLETELY safe next to that half ton animal?

If you have that perfect creature, then fabulous, you’re very lucky, we’re all enormously jealous. And some horses and ponies just ARE very good at working out what’s expected of them, or may have had some very good training when they were young. But if your horse does any of the things mentioned above, or something else which causes a problem, groundwork can definitely help you. There does seem to be, amongst some people in the horse world, this feeling that horses just ought to be able to DO this stuff instinctively. They should KNOW to walk quietly next to you, despite that delicious looking patch of grass over there, or despite their field mate flinging itself inside out and upside down twenty feet away. And in my own early years with horses, I’d have counted myself as one of those people! But often they just DON’T, they’re too busy being a horse and not a robot. Would you expect a Great Dane puppy to walk to heel impeccably without any training? Of course not, but we do sometimes expect the same of horses. Of course, it goes without saying that its worthwhile investigating any possible physical cause for any negative behaviour you are experiencing, but sometimes it can be down to a lack of understanding and communication between horse and handler.

So let’s give ourselves a test: 

Can you and your horse walk together, matching speeds, without either of you dragging the other around? 

Can you easily turn both left and right, without wrestling their head around (we’ll have no Zoolanders here!)? 

Could you lead from both sides? 

Are you able to back your horse up a few steps without having to poke them in the chest? 

Can you move your horse’s hindquarters away from you from a simple touch or voice cue? And the same for its shoulders? 

Will he stand quietly for a few minutes, without you being dragged to the nearest grass or fighting to keep him still? 

Do you both respect each other’s personal space, with no shoving, nibbling or headbutting? 

Does your horse load and unload calmly and easily? 

Would you be happy to take that horse for a walk, in hand, around one of your usual hacking routes, and feel safe and in control? 

So, what if you failed the test?

If any of those things is a bit of a struggle, then it is well worth spending a bit of time on groundwork to improve your communication and control, and your safety. If you know an instructor which specialises in it, it’s a really good investment to have some lessons. Or if you’d rather not, or funds are tight, get a friend to video you working and see if you can be your own teacher.

Really focus on what your whole body is doing and how your horse responds to you. There are many methods out there (Intelligent Horsemanship is a good place to start!) but you need to find what suits you and your horse best. Groundwork is an incredibly useful thing to spend time on, and I hope I’ve given you a few ideas here. And that’s without even mentioning using it to prepare youngsters, introduce lateral work, develop muscle strength and fitness, pole work or long reining…the list goes on!


About the Author..

Amy Craske is a freelance instructor and behaviour trainer based in east Norfolk, specialising in helping people improve their relationships with their horses. She is training with Intelligent Horsemanship and Ride With Your Mind, and is in the process of becoming accredited with both organisations. She is also part of the Concordia International Pony Club team, and can be found on Facebook at Amy Craske – Holistic Horses, and online at amycraskeholistichorses.wordpress.com

Taking on Rescue Hens – What to Expect

rescue hens, ex-batts, bhwt, chicken, poultry,

If you are taking on ex-battery rescue hens they will have lived in hot, cramped conditions. Many will have lost a lot of feathers and their combs will be pale and flaccid (in order to help lose heat) They will have had artificial light for at least 18 hours a day, will never have seen grass or outside, and will only have ever eaten layers crumb.

1 – A suitable Home – firstly, you will need to provide a home for your hens. If you hope to have just a coop, with them free ranging in the garden, you will still need a run to keep them safe for the first couple of weeks and so they can learn where ‘home’ is.

2 – Collection Day – Your rescue hens are likely to have had a very stressful 24 hours. They may have already travelled a long distance from farm to rehoming centre, before travelling from centre to their new home with you. They will have had little, if anything to drink or eat and the stress of the situation may have led them to become quite feisty and even aggresive.  If you have very young children, it may be best to keep them away until your hens have had time to settle. Being pecked on day one isn’t a great start to their relationship!

3 – Once you are home – Make sure you see them all drinking and eating. If it is late, it is especially important to make sure they eat before going to bed. Food in their crops will provide energy and help keep them warm through the night. Your hens will have only ever eaten crumb. The rescue centre will probably advice you to continue with crumb until they settle, but I have never had a problem with them going straight onto pellets – they are usually just grateful to have food they don’t have to fight over!

4 – Expect to have to lift your girls to bed for the first few nights. They won’t understand that there is a nice warm coop waiting up the ladder, and will probably just huddle down together in the corner. Once you have lifted them in they usually get the hang of going to bed by themselves within a week.

5 – Day 1 – It is wonderful to watch your girls explore your garden for the very fist time. Watching them instinctively scratch at the grass and flap and stretch their wings is hugely heart warming! You will probably find some eggs too! Keep a close eye on them for a few days as the great outdoors is completely alien to them, and the more often they see you, the quicker they will learn that you are friend not threat.

6 – Will your hens be warm enough? The BHWT advise that even hens with very few hens will be ok, unless it is unusually cold. Just ensure they eat just before going to bed and give them a thick bed. They advice against jackets and jumpers as they are inclined to get caught in them and they can cause more trouble than they solve. Feed a good protein rich diet (Super Seeds are the ideal treat for rescue hens) and within a few weeks you will see new feathers growing.

7 – If you have hens already, it is best to introduce your new girls at night. Expect some squabbles for a few days as they re-establish their pecking order and keep some poultry-safe antiseptic spray to hand in case of any injury. I have never had any issues when introducing new birds but they have plenty of room and I always have several food stations so no one has to share. Even your new girls may fight with one another as they may never have met before.

________

It is not just ex-battery hens who have a very short life. Commercial free-range birds are also only kept for 13 – 18 months. You may be able to buy a few from your local free-range egg producer. We have had many this way. They are usually in better condition than ex-batts but still in much need of tlc.

For further information on rescue hens, visit the British Hen Welfare Trust

Wha’t the difference between Activated and Non-Activated Charcoal?

charcoal for dogs, charcoal for horses, charcoal for chickens. non-activated charcoal

Nutritional charcoal comes in two forms – activated charcoal and non-activated charcoal. But what is the difference?

Activated charcoal is where ordinary charcoal has been treated to increase its surface area. This may be carried out by physical activation using gasses and super high temperatures or chemical activation. The result is a highly porous charcoal with a massive surface area which acts a bit like a sponge. As activated charcoal is so porous there is a danger that it will take out some of the good stuff as well as the bad. This includes medicines as well as vitamins and nutrients which could have a detrimental effect if fed long term. 

Non-activated charcoal is exactly how the carbonated wood comes out of the kiln. By it’s very nature, it is still very adsorbent, but not as porous as the activated version. This means it can be fed on a more long-term basis without the risk of flushing out important nutrients in the diet. 

What makes our Pure Devon Charcoal different?

1 – Pure Devon charcoal is not activated. It is a traditionally made, natural product without the involvement of chemicals or modern science. Therefore, it has a more gentle, natural, effect and is more suitable for long term use. It wouldn’t be the first choice for treating an acute poisoning, but as it isn’t so porous you won’t be losing vitamins from the diet when feeding everyday.

2 – Our product is made from sustainably sourced hardwood on Exmoor. Most other charcoal in the UK (whether activated or not) is made from imported wood and coconut shells. Transporting wood around the globe just for making charcoal supplements obviously has a massive environmental impact! 

3 – Our charcoal is a truly artisan product, made by hand to exacting standards. It even has FEMAS accreditiion – the gold standard European Approval for the manufacture of animal feeds. 

What is it for? 

🐎 For Horses: 

Feed Charcoal to horses with a sensitive gut – they could be twitchy, stressy and generally uncomfortable around the gut area, ex-racehorses are particularly prone to this. They could have loose droppings as a result of a change in feed or routine, or have habits such as crib biting or soil eating. These horses are often difficult to keep weight on and fussy feeders with feisty or ‘hot’ temperaments. 

🐕 For dogs:

Charcoal is great for dogs with a sensitive tummy. It helps to prevent flatulence and soothe the gut, making it a great natural choice for dogs prone to upset tummies. It can help those dogs who are difficult to keep weight on and picky eaters. Most dogs find it palatable, just mix it with a damp feed.

🐔 Chickens:

If you have ever had a bonfire in the garden, you may have seen your chickens pecking around in the ash. Charcoal sweetens the crop and  maintains a healthy digestive system. It also promotes weight gain and egg production. As charcoal helps to adsorb ammonia it improves the environment within their coop by improving air quality. 

Learn more about Pure Devon Charcoal here

What is Sour Crop?

sour crop, hens, chickens, poultry, free range, bhwt

If you keep chickens, you are bound to have come across the term ‘sour crop’. It is one of the most common chicken ailments. Here is what you need to know:

What is the Crop?

The crop is part of the bird’s digestive system. It is a small pouch in the chest, sitting to the right of the breast bone. The food is stored in the crop before moving on to the gizzard where it is ground down ready for absorption. In the mornings your birds’ crops will be empty, but after a day eating you can feel that it is full up again.

Sour Crop

Sour Crop is caused by a Candida yeast infection. It can cause thickening of the crop wall that makes a blockage more likely. One of the indicators of the disease is foul smelling breath, like sour milk, hence its name.  Sour crop causes weight loss and even death as the bird cannot eat or digest its food properly.

What causes Sour Crop?

The candida yeast are naturally part of the microflora, it is only when they take over the healthy bacteria that they cause a problem. This could be due to poor diet, damage to the crop, impaction of foods and worm infestation. Conditions that damage the healthy bacteria allow the candida to grow. Dirty conditions increase the risk, as does a course of antibiotics, which also kill the good bacteria and therefore upset the natural balance of microflora.

The Symptoms:

As well as looking generally unwell, your chicken may be reluctant to eat. It’s crop could be full in the morning, suggesting that yesterday’s food is still blocked in the crop. If a sour white liquid is secreted from its mouth the condition has reached an advanced stage.

Treatment:

There are several online recommendations for massaging the crop and withdrawing food, but you should always contact your Vet first. Fungicidal medication may be required (anti-biotics are not effective).

Prevention:

  • Always ensure your hens have access to fresh drinking water
  • Keep their living conditions clean and free from faeces
  • Only feed fresh food
  • Limit starchy foods like bread or pasta as these can block the crop (especially as hens tend to love them and eat too much at once! High starch foods are also poor nutritionally)
  • Feed grit for a healthy digestive system. (see Gastro Grit)
  • Feeding cider vinegar is good for promoting the healthy bacteria and maintaining the correct acidity in the gut. (See Pure Devon Cider Vinegar, which is unfiltered and full of all the good stuff)