How to introduce new hens to an established flock

introduce new chickens

It is possible to introduce new hens as I have done it successfully many times. There are a few important considerations, the main one being space. If you are short on space, or your girls are confined to a small run, don’t do it! I firmly believe that most problems can be avoided if they have a large enough area. 

Quarantine

Firstly, if you are not sure about the new girls’ background, it would be advisable to quarantine them for at least a couple of weeks to ensure they are not bringing any illness, mites or lice to your established flock. This will also give you a chance to worm them.  When the time comes there are lots of different ways you could introduce them, but this is what works for us…., 

Space

In the first few days there will be bickering as they try to sort out the pecking order. It is important for all the hens to have enough space so they can get away from each other – so the less dominant can move away from the more dominant and therefore avoid being bullied.    It is important to consider that your new hens may never have met each other either, especially if they are rescue hens. Expect some bickering amoung the new girls as well as with your older ones. 

Food

It is important to provide plenty of food stations. Depending on how they are reacting to each other, you might need more food bowls than you have chickens to allow them all to move around. Having 6 bowls for 5 chickens means there will always be a bowl free for the less dominant girls to choose. Spread the bowls out around the run so they all get their chance to eat without being pushed off.  After a few days you can start to reduce the number of food stations as they gain confidence to share.  You may need more than one water bowl too. 

Timing

You may want to have a separate area at first to allow the groups to meet safely wither side of a fence on day one. This could be a sectioned off area in your run.  I always wait until my original girls have gone to roost before popping the new girls in the coop with them. They are less likely to start fighting if they are already settled for the night and hopefully by the morning they will have started to get used to each other. You will need an early start the following day though! Make sure you are up with the light to let them out into their run and keep checking on them throughout the day. Expect them to be pretty noisy too!

I would recommend keeping your new girls in a run for a few days so they learn where home is. This can be tricky though if your original girls are used to coming in to lay. The first few days will be pretty labour intensive while you juggle keeping the old girls and the new ones happy so make sure you have plenty of time to spend with them. 

Key points:

  • Have plenty of space
  • Never add a single chicken to a flock 
  • Try to keep the numbers fairly even. If you have 10 chickens already, adding 4 – 6 new ones will probably be more successful than adding just 2. 
  • Choose similar sized chickens. 
  • Have lots of food stations and tasty treats to keep them occupied
  • Have an antiseptic spray to hand to treat any injuries. 
  • Make sure you are home for a few days so you can keep checking them
  • Expect it to take a few nights for the new girls to learn where they go to bed. 
  • It might take a couple of weeks or more for them to settle

The best way to cool a horse…

how to cool a horse

Why shouldn’t you scrape?🐴💦


You have probably seen the posts doing the rounds on facebook about the best way to cool a horse – and that you shouldn’t scrape the water off.
Put simply this is why….The theory behind ‘not scraping’ starts with a very hot horse. Perhaps he has been working hard on a hot day and is at risk of heat exhaustion. The quickest and most effective way to cool a horse quickly is by continually applying cold water. If you stop to scrape the water off you are wasting time when you could be applying more cold water. Secondly, It is the process of evaporation that cools the skin – As the water evaporates off, it is cooling the body under it.


Therefore by applying more cold water, and not scraping, you get a double cooling effect.


Now, if you are just giving your horse a quick rinse off because he is a bit sweaty, scraping isn’t going to do any harm. I usually scrape the excess off my horse, otherwise he thinks the water dripping off is more flies!


And, in case you are wondering, pouring cold water over a hot horse isn’t going to cause stress, colic, laminitis or anything else. And excess water doesn’t act as an insulator on the skin. Prior to the Atlanta Olympics a huge amount of research was carried out that disproved all these myths!

Chicken Red Mite – 10 things you should know…

poultry red mite

10 things you need to know about chicken red mite…

1 – They are not red! Most of the time, poultry red mites are a grey-ish colour. They only look red immediately after a blood meal

2 – If you look at them with a magnifying glass they look a bit like ticks, with a similar bulbous body.

3 – They can reproduce in just 7 days after hatching! 

4 – They don’t like sunshine 

5 – they can survive all winter without a feed. Only coming out when the weather warms up

6 – They can get right into the cracks and crevices of a wooden coop making them very hard to find

7 – A large infestation will cause anaemia and even death of your chickens

8 – They don’t feed on humans or other animals, but may be carried by them

9 – Plastic coops will still get red mite but they are much easier to clean and treat.

10 – Coop Clear is our 100% natural solution. Based on a specially developed disulphide extract of garlic, red mites hate it but it is completely safe for you and your chickens. Available as a liquid concentrated and a DE based powder. Use together to treat your coop for chicken red mite.

Can horses eat Sticky Weed Goose Grass?

sticky weed goose grass for horses

Sticky Weed for Horses, also known as Sticky Willy, Clivers, Goose Grass or Cleavers (Galium aparine).

This is a very useful ‘weed’ and most horses love the taste. Sticky weed supports the lymphatic system and is a diuretic. This means that it is particularly good for flushing out swellings and inflammation. It is good for allergies, for supporting the liver and kidneys and cleanses the blood.

Can horses eat sticky weed goose grass?

Yes!

Pick a large bunch and offer it to your horses 2 or 3 times a week. It is particularly good for reducing leg swelling when horses are stabled and can help horses with swollen lymph glands due to allergy. It is very nutritious and is a good way to naturally supplement the diet if your horse is on limited grazing.

If you think your horse is a little too enthusiastic about eating Sticky Weed it may indicate an underlying condition. A horse I bought many years ago seemed to actively seek it out when I first bought her. It turned out she had liver issues and was probably craving the Clivers because she knew they were good for her!…

you may also like: Why do horses love cow parsley?

Why do horses love Cow Parsley?

cow parsley for horses

Why do horses love Cow Parsley, and is it good for them?

It is almost impossible to ride out in the countryside during Spring without your horse trying to grab the Cow Parsley as they pass. Mine absolutely love it, like a sweet shop growing in the hedgerows. But is it good for them?

Cow Parsley (Anthriscus Sylvestris) is a member of the carrot family – perhaps this is why horses love the taste so much? In traditional herbal medicine, Cow parsley has been used to support the digestive system, it is good for the kidneys and the respiratory system and has even been used as a mosquito repellent. 

As with all things, moderation is key but allowing your horse some mouthfuls of Cow Parsley is only going to benefit them, especially when our modern grazing lacks any herbal variety. You could try filling a small haynet with wilted nettles, cow parsley, dandelions & clivers (goose grass) For an all round herbal boost. This would be especially good for horses on limited or poor grazing. 

But Beware: 

You must be absolutely certain that you are picking Cow Parley, not the very similar looking, but deadly Hemlock. 

Can Chickens Taste?

can chickens taste

If you keep chickens you will know that they have likes and dislikes, and some are just plain fussy when it comes to food choices. So, it may surprise you to learn that a hen’s ability to taste is actually quite poor.

The chicken’s tongue is small and tough and they have far fewer taste buds than we do – probably less than 500, compared to our 9000! Also, the chickens taste buds are situated at the back of the tongue so they are committed to swallow before they get any sensation for taste. 

The chicken’s brain has developed over time for sight and sound, so it is unlikely that they can smell much either.  But, what they can do, is learn. It is likely that they have learnt what is good and what isn’t, and they have a great ability for selecting healthy plants and bugs over those that may be toxic or difficult to eat. 

Research on chickens taste, likes and dislikes is scarce, but anyone who knows chickens knows they have foods they love, and foods they hate, even if science can’t fully explain this yet.

Looking for some tasty products for your chickens? Check out our poultry range here

Poultry Red Mite

poultry red mite

What are red mites?

Poultry red mite (Dermanyssus gallinae) are blood feeding parasites that live in your coop. They come out at night for a blood meal from your hens. Red mite are notoriously difficult to eradicate because, not only do they reproduce in 7-9 days, but they can survive without a blood meal for several months!

Red mites will feed from any bird and can be brought into your flock by wild birds, or another carrier like a dog or squirrel. They don’t feed from mammals but they may hitch a ride! During the day they live in the cracks and crevices of your coop, and once your hens have gone to roost they come out to feed. Their short life cycle means that their population grows rapidly. If left untreated your hens will stop laying, become anaemic and may even die.  

Wooden coops offer more hiding places, particularly if they have a felt roof. It is really important to do a thorough check every week.

How to Eradicate Red Mite

To eradicate poultry red mite, it is essential is to treat as soon as you notice any clusters. Repeat treatment every 3 – 4 days. Just a few days delay can allow the population to explode. 

We recommend our Coop Clear Powder to sprinkle under the bedding and in the nest boxes every time you clean out your coop during the summer months. Then, use the Coop Clear liquid in a spray to directly target any clusters and to really get into the corners and joins within your coop.  Coop Clear contains a patented di-sulphide extract from garlic which bugs hate. By making their environment unpleasant it will slow their reproductive rate and reduce numbers. Coop Clear is completely natural so there is no risk to hens or humans. The spray can be used even while the hens are in the coop.  Buy the bundle here.

Delicious Dandelions!

dandelions

Did you know that dandelions are packed with nutrients? They should probably be considered a super food rather than a weed!

Dandelion leaves contain more vitamins than many fruits and vegetables and are a great source of antioxidants. The root contains inulin, a type of soluble fibre with is great for digestive health. 

Dandelions have anti-inflammatory properties, help control blood sugar, support healthy joints and a healthy liver. Traditionally, they were referred to as ‘the pee herb’ as they act as a natural diuretic. With their great mineral profile some consider them a natural electrolyte too. 

Dandelions can be fed fresh or dried to your horses, dogs and chickens. For raw-fed dogs, add a few fresh dandelion leaves to their meal. If your chickens don’t have access to grass, put some dandelion leaves in a bird feeder for them to peck at. Horses also benefit from a few handfuls, especially if they are on restricted grazing. Dandelion leaves will help add natural nutrients and variety to their diet. 

Glucosamine Sulphate Vs Glucosamine HCl… and why you need to check the labels!

glucosamine sulphate, glucosamine for horses, joint supplement for horses

Glucosamine is probably the most important ingredient of any joint supplement. It is found naturally in cartilage, and has an important role to play in cushioning the joints. As the body ages, wear and tear to the joints increases to the point where the body can no longer make enough glucosamine of its own to prevent damage. This is when a supplement comes in – providing glucosamine in the diet ensures a readily available supply for maintaining healthy joints despite increased age or workload.

In most equine supplements, the glucosamine has been extracted from the shells of crustaceans. There is also a man-made vegetarian source, but this is not common place. Glucosamine does not exist as a pure glucosamine molecule – a bit like sodium,  You can’t feed pure sodium, it is only ever in the form of sodium chloride (common salt). With glucosamine, there are two common forms – glucosamine hydrochloride (glucosamine HCl) & glucosamine sulphate. (there is a third that you may come across – N-acetyl glucosamine but it works slightly differently in the body) 

So, is there a difference?

The key difference between these two forms of glucosamine is purity. They cannot be compared like for like –

Glucosamine HCl contains about 99% glucosamine

Glucosamine Sulphate has to be stabilised with a salt (usually potassium chloride) and only contains about 74% actual glucosamine.

So, if your supplement contains ‘10,000mg of glucosamine’

If the source is glucosamine HCl, you are getting 9900mg pure glucosamine, 

BUT

If the source is glucosamine sulphate your horse is only getting 7400mg of glucosamine, which is as big difference. You have to feed 35% more of the supplement to get the same specification!

Check your labels!

If in doubt, check your labels! By feed law, the manufacturer has to declare which source of glucosamine is being used in their product. But only last week, we found a joint supplement for horses being marketed as a premium product (at a premium price) and claiming to have one of the highest specifications of glucosamine on the market. They claim that this product provides 15000mg of glucosamine per 50g dose, BUT, when you look at the label it declares 298g glucosamine SULPHATE per kilo. 298g/kilo does work out as virtually 15,000mg per day, but as they use glucosamine sulphate your horse is actually only getting 11,100 mg per day!…

Hemp Oil Vs CBD Oil. Are CBD and Hemp Oil the Same?

hemp oil, CBD, hemp seed oil, hemp vs cod

Are CBD and Hemp oil the same thing?

Everyone is talking about Hemp and CBD. The UK industry has gone from nothing to worth over £300 million in just a couple of years. This is because claims suggest that CBD can relieve pain, anxiety, depression, seizures and more…

BUT, are CBD and Hemp the same thing?

CBD comes from the hemp plant but it is not the same thing as hemp oil.

CBD and Hemp seed oil both come from industrial hemp. This is the hemp grown legally and not marijuana.  Hemp Seed oil, as it’s name suggests, comes from cold pressing of the hemp seeds, and is a vegetable oil similar to linseed oil. CBD, however, is extracted mainly from the flowers and also the leaves. It is often mixed with a vegetable oil carrier (which could be hemp seed oil,  or coconut, olive etc) which is why it is often referred to as ‘CBD Oil’ 

Crucially, hemp seeds DO NOT contain CBD. 

Humans vs Animals

CBD is readily available from health food stores in the UK and can be sold as a food supplement. You will also see many CBD companies now sponsoring human athletes promoting it as a way of improving performance and increasing focus.

But, for animals, CBD is illegal without a Veterinary Prescription. In  2018, the Veterinary Directorate categorized CBD as an animal medicine. This is mainly in order to safeguard animals from the lack of regulation in the industry. CBD is also a banned substance, so while the cross country runners may be using it to improve their performance, the cross country jumping event horse could end up with a positive dope test. 

In the last few weeks, the British Equestrian Trade Association has differentiated between the higher risk hemp fibre (commonly used for bedding) and feed products from hemp seeds.  Hemp seeds do not contain CBD, so they are permitted for use in horse feeds.

To Conclude:

CBD cannot be fed to any animals unless prescribed by a Vet

CBD is a banned substance under FEI rules

Hemp Seed Oil & Hemp Seed Meal do not contain CBD

If purchasing CBD for your own use it is very much ‘buyer beware’. The lack of regulation and huge potential for profit has created some very unscrupulous companies – surveys have found that up to 62% of CBD products do not contain the amount of CBD specified on the label – some may have none at all! 

If hemp seed oil doesn’t contain CBD why should you feed it?

Hemp seed oil is highly nutritious. Unlike any other vegetable oils it provides the perfect balance of Omega 3:6. It is naturally rich in anti-oxidant vitamin E. It provides both SDA and GLA (neither are found in linseed) and the Omega 3 is in a readily digestible form (unlike the Omega 3 in linseed which must be converted by the body before it can be utilized).  There are many environmental benefits from growing Hemp over any other seed oil, and it is also very palatable.  

We recommend Hemp Seed Oil for all animals, for supporting healthy skin and joints and for providing extra healthy omega oils.  It is also a great source of non-heating energy for horses and may even have a calming effect.  Learn More

Read more about our Pure Devon Hemp Seed Oil here