My Favourite Things: Looking after hens
11:31 15 November 2016
Anne Perdeaux, author of A Family Guide to Keeping Chickens, chooses her favourite products for henkeeping
Chicken Guard Automatic Coop Door Opener
This is my very favourite thing and I wish we’d bought one years ago! Free-range chickens go to bed in summer when they’re good and ready, even if their owners are waiting to go out for the evening. In winter somebody must always be available to shut the pop-hole in the middle of the afternoon. It was a constant worry and our lives revolved around the chickens’ routines - but not any more. The Chicken Guard light sensor takes care of increasing or decreasing daylight, and we use the timer function to ensure the chickens don’t emerge at dawn in summer. Although automation shouldn’t replace human care, and it’s still wise to check that everyone has come safely home to roost, this little gadget has certainly changed our lives.
Where to buy: £124.59 (including batteries and delivery) www.chickenguard.com
Lakeland Colour Changing Boiled Egg Timer
My husband makes (very) few contributions to the culinary arts, but he can cook perfect boiled eggs with this unusual egg-timer. It goes in the pan with the eggs and gradually changes colour as they cook. My egg is fished out first, as I like a lovely runny yolk for dipping my soldiers, while my husband waits until the colour on the timer reaches medium for his. Even on our temperamental solid-fuel range, our eggs come out eggsactly as we like them!
Where to buy: Price: £6.49 www.lakeland.co.uk
Barrier Scaly Leg Ointment
Some of my chickens are martyrs to scaly leg, and over the years I’ve tried several treatments with varying degrees of success. The traditional remedy of surgical spirit can be rather harsh, and isn’t suitable if skin is broken. Spray preparations seemed soothing, but were difficult to apply accurately and I ended up treating myself as well. It’s much easier to make sure the ointment goes where required, plus it eases the irritation, smells pleasant, and is only made from natural plant-derived ingredients. Best of all, it really works – and quickly too.
Where to buy: Price: Around £10.50 for a 400ml tub
Brinsea EcoGlow 20 Chick Brooder
We usually have hens queuing up to become mothers so an electric brooder seemed unnecessary. Then a chick was rejected by its mother, and I was up all night re-filling hot-water-bottles until a friend lent me a heat-lamp. This had to be suspended from the ceiling, and the heat was difficult to control. When an orphaned chick unexpectedly appeared, I borrowed one of these little brooders and was really impressed. Although it will take up to 20 chicks, it also made a snug nest for one, being the nearest thing we could provide to a mother hen. The unit doesn’t get hot like a heat lamp, emits no light, costs much less to run and simply plugs into a wall socket. We even used it in a broody-coop on the terrace during the day, so the chick could experience the outside world in safety. It would be a good idea to have one of these at the ready to avert potential disaster when hatching with a broody hen.
Where to buy: Price: £46.21 www.brinsea.co.uk
Defenders Prickle Strip – Dig Stopper
When I saw this advertised as a means of discouraging cats and dogs from spoiling the garden, it suggested a way of solving another problem. While it was fun having our little orphan chick living in the conservatory, it wasn’t so amusing when he grew into a huge cockerel and returned to visit. Investigating crowing one summer day, I found him perched happily on the armchair, and decided it was time to set some boundaries. With the Prickle Strip across the doorway, we can leave the doors open without fear of feathery intruders. The prickles are rubber and don’t hurt the chickens, but they prefer not to walk on them. Apparently foxes don’t like the prickles either – although I wouldn’t advise relying on them to keep a hungry fox away from chickens!
Where to buy: Price: £11.99 www.stvpestcontrol.com
Catching Net for Poultry
Not all chickens like being cuddled and most of the breeds we keep are independent types, tolerating humans on their terms only. To avoid stress I usually wait until they are roosting before picking them up, but this isn’t always possible. It’s embarrassing when two people are easily out-manoeuvred by a lame chicken, and so we invested in a large landing net. Ours was a cheap online buy and the handle had to be replaced when it broke, but Durham Hens are now selling a net of the type they regularly use when catching pullets for their customers.
Where to buy: Price: £14.99 www.durham-hens-poultry-supplies.co.uk
Domestic Fowl Trust Budget House plus Easy Access 8ft Run
This is on my wish list – but it is nearly Christmas! For some time I’ve been looking for a unit to replace both our elderly broody coop and derelict spare ark. The house and run must be big enough to isolate full-size birds, but also suitable for a hen and chicks. It should also be easy to clean thoroughly, well-made with good design features, and reasonably priced. As I’ve recently been researching housing for various articles, there’s been plenty of opportunity for window-shopping at the same time. This budget house ticks all my boxes, and the run is available in two lengths as a separate item. It comes from a reputable company too. I just hope Santa is reading this…
Where to buy: Price: £179 (for house and 8ft run, excluding delivery)
Flexible Tubtrug Extra Large
Tubtrugs are so useful. They come in various sizes and are virtually indestructible - I first bought them for my horses, and believe me they tried. An extra-large Tubtrug is the ideal place to keep the chicken cleaning-out kit ready for action. It will take masses of used bedding, and being flexible can be carried with one hand like a shopping bag. The contents are then easily tipped into the compost bin. The bright colours are cheerful and they are stackable too. One downside is that they are just a bit too handy, and may disappear for gardening duties – so it’s worth having more than one!
Where to buy: Price: £14.99 (extra large size)www.faulks.co.uk