Red Mites: Do this and You Won’t Have a Problem!

Red mites hide away in the dark corners of the chicken coop, emerging at night to feed on the blood of your poor unsuspecting chickens.

The level of irritation from a red mite infestation can cause broody hens to abandon their nests and pluck out their own feathers. Other symptoms include weight loss and a general loss of condition and lower egg yield.

Since they feed at night, they are notoriously difficult to spot during the daytime. Birds will be restless at night and will have a severe skin irritation from the biting mites. Red Mites are almost white before they feed, blood red after a feed and a greyish black colour with partially digested blood so you will see various colours of mites.

How to test for red mites: Simply wipe a white piece of kitchen towel or a white tissue along the underside of a perch in the dark. Any blood stains will indicate the presence of Red Mite!

Prevention is the easiest way to deal with mite. When you get started with keeping chickens more than likely you will have a new mite-free coop. Make sure to give this a real good dusting of red mite powder before you put your chickens in. Aim to leave a noticeable layer of the powder in the corners and cracks of the coop.

As soon as you can handle your hens comfortably, dust them too with mite powder, making sure to work the powder in under their feathers.

By doing this every 4 to 6 weeks, you greatly reduce the chances of red mite taking hold. To date we have never experienced a red mite problem because we follow this method.

If at a later stage you introduce a new bird to the flock make sure that they are very well dusted down with mite powder.

There is a whole host of products available to you. The main ingredient in these powders is D.E (Diatomaceous Earth) which is a 100% natural and non toxic powder that typically provides protection for up to 6 weeks with just one application.

Lice

The same applies to biting lice, which lay their eggs at the base of chicken’s feathers. Again, dust all your chickens with powder, regardless of whether they are showing symptoms or not, and give the hen house a really good layer too.

My Chicken Is Sneezing – What Should I Do?

As with humans, chickens do sneeze –normally to clear the nasal passage.

If it is a regular thing then it could also signal a temporary cold.

Hens can suffer from colds during the wet and cold months, it’s not uncommon. Using Citricidal drops and Apple Cider Vinegar, added to their water, can be helpful in keeping the auto immune system healthy.

Keep an eye on them and if it persists or gets worse, the vet might be necessary.

If they have other symptoms like coughing, gasping for air, bubbly or mucousy eyes with a rattly chest then this could be Mycoplasma. Treatment for this is normally with antibiotics and a visit to your vet is recommended.

Birds suffering with respiratory disease should always be isolated from the other healthy hens, given lots of TLC and be given veterinary attention where necessary.

How Many Chickens Do You Need?

So how many chickens should you start with?

I would suggest that if you are completely new to keeping chickens to start with just two or three hens to begin with and see how you get on. Chickens like to live in groups (birds of a feather and all that) so never keep less than a pair.

If laying properly, three hens will provide a family of four with enough eggs to keep the fridge stocked and the poached eggs flowing, so to speak.

Just how many eggs can you expect?

According to the International Egg Commission, the UK average egg consumption per person is approximately 180 eggs a year, or just under 3.5 eggs a week. So, on paper a family of four would eat about 12 to 14 eggs a week, which is exactly what you would expect from three happy and well-fed hens.

You should also know that egg production does vary depending on what breed of chicken you keep. For example, a Light Sussex may lay up to 220 eggs a year, while a showier breed such as the Orpington may only produce 80 eggs a year.

Also, egg production does vary between winter and summer. During the summer months, most hens will lay an egg a day, but in winter, they will lay fewer, and may even stop altogether. Egg production will also decrease when a hen moults which can happen at any time but is most common at the end of summer. As hens get older, their egg production also slows.

What I have found since keeping chickens is that we seem to get through a lot more eggs at home than we used to. Maybe it’s because in the past it was just another item on the list to pick up at the supermarket and now it’s just a short walk in the garden. And it’s a conscious thing; I find myself frying up a quick egg whenever I’m in a rush and feeling a bit peckish.

The girls also bake a lot more, as we don’t want to let any extra eggs go to waste!

Chicken Nesting Boxes: What You Should Know

Hens will always seek out dark, quiet and secluded places to lay their eggs. By providing suitable nesting boxes within the coop, you can provide your hens with their ideal laying environment, and a space where you know their eggs will be clean and protected – and easy to find!

Our traditionally designed wooden hen houses have the nesting boxes protruding from the side and easily accessible via a locking nesting box lid. This allows you to easily open it up and collect your eggs with minimal disturbance to the hen house as a whole.

You’ll find they don’t need much space to lay their eggs, quite often we find two hens squashed together inside one tiny compartment of the nesting box even though the other 2 areas are completely free! Up to three hens will share one nesting box happily, but if you have three hens, two boxes will give them more options.

Nest boxes should be lined with soft dry bedding material and raised from the ground. If the nesting boxes are positioned higher than the perches, what tends to happen is your hens will sleep in their nesting box because it’s the highest place.

This isn’t a problem as such but what you will find is they will foul their laying area (hens produce a large amount of their droppings at night) and then quite happily lay right on top of it! So if you want clean eggs, look for a coop which has the perches high up.

We have designed all our wooden coops so that the perches are either in line or higher than the bottom of the nesting box so there is less chance of this happening.