Avian Moulting: Autumnal Featherloss in Chickens – Why and When it Happens

Moulting: The purposeful loss (or shedding) of scales/hair/feathers.

In late summer or early autumn, chickens begin to lose their feathers. This is one of the most alarming things for a novice chicken keeper. This, however, is perfectly normal. It is called Moulting (USA spelling is Molting).

When chicks hatch, they are covered in soft puffy tufts of fluff, which is shed and replaced by small feathers in the first juvenile moult. After a few more juvenile moults, and a lot of growing, the chicks finally acquire their adult plumage. This is then moulted off again in autumn, and replaced.

Chickens moult to replace their old, worn, torn and no longer waterproof feathers with brand new, shiny, waterproof plumage to combat winter’s harsh weather. So, during September, October and sometimes even August, chickens all over the country will look ragged, and partially hair-less. As said before, this can be quite scary for a novice chicken keeper, however is 100% normal!!!

It takes a lot of energy to grow new feathers, and lots and lots of protein! During the autumn, chicken will stop laying to concentrate on moulting. At this time, changing feed from layers pellets to breeders pellets may be advisable, as rather than egg laying, breeders pellets target fertility and beauty, and contain lots of protein which helps hens grow new feathers.

Feather eating during this period may occur, this is also not a problem as the hen is only recycling protein! If you are worried they will choke, rake loose feathers away, but ensure you feed foodstuffs that contain plenty of protein.

  • Moulting is a natural process, not a disease. It occurs over a 6-8 week period, and gradual feather-loss is okay, whereas baldness is NOT ok. If a hen is completely bald, it may be a different problem besides moulting that requires investigation.
  •  More protein, less stress and good hygiene = good moult, and good return to lay.
  • Chickens should act normally while moulting, if they stop eating or drinking, something is amiss!
  • When returning to lay, eggs may be smaller than normal, however, they should quickly return to normal!

		

Avian Immune System – The Police of The Chicken Body

Like all animals, chickens, as well as other poultry, have immune systems like mammals do. Below is an insight to the defence of the avian body!

Primary Defences

Innate Immunity

Acquired Immunity

  • Passive Immunity
  • Active Immunity
    1. Cellular Immunity
    2. Non Cellular (Humoral) Immunity

    Skin: The skin is the first, and primary defence. It forms a physical barrier which blocks harmful micro-organisms from entering. Therefore, invasion can only occur if the skin is broken.

    Mucous Membranes: As the name suggests, these are membranes, covered in mucous! They are found lining the digestive tract, respiratory tract and several other body systems. The mucous carries the micro-organisms away, and expels them, via nasal discharge, or out the other side in the faeces.

    Immune System: Finally, if the invaders have bypassed all the other defences, the immune system comes in. It consists of various organelles and cells which are primed to target anything alien. Many of these are harmless, but the ones that cause disease must be eradicated!

    The immune systems primary role is to recognise foreign bodies and neutralize or eliminate them. This is done by lysis (rupture) and agglugation (clumping together) of foreign bodies, or phagocytosis (engulfing and de-activating).

    Innate Immunity is one of natures tools. It is the natural, or inherited ability to resist infection or disease.

    • Some birds are naturally resistant to diseases like lymphoid leukosis because they lack the receptors that the lymphoid leukosis virus infects.
    • Chickens have a high body temperature, so diseases from other animals are usually not a problem, because the pathogen is killed at high temperatures.
    • Normally, the skin and digestive tract are riddled with naturally beneficial bacteria. These stop invaders from gaining a foothold
    • The respiratory tract has fine hairs, called cilia. These are washed over with mucous and any bacteria foolish enough to dare penetrate the tract will be washed away and expelled out of the nose.

    Acquired Immunity is a very effective type of immunity that the bird gains over its lifetime. White blood cells or leucocytes are found in the blood. These are the ”police” of the body, and they hunt the criminals! There are phagocytes, which phagocytose (engulf and deactivate) intruders, and lymphocytes which release antibodies (special globulin proteins) to bind to and inactivate the antigens.

    There are two main ways in which acquired immunity works…

       

    1. Passive Immunity – This involves immunity transferred from individual to individual, for example, from hen to chick through the egg. In mammals, a similar process takes place through colostrum (antibody rich ”first milk”).
    2.  

    3. Active Immunity refers to the immunity gained from acquiring a disease then defeating it. The  chicken keeps memory cells in the blood, so if the chicken is re-infected, antibody producion will occur so fast that the disease will not have time to cause symptoms.

    Passive immunity

    The first few days after hatching, a chick’s immune sytem is not functional, so it cannot fight invasion for itself. The solution to the problem comes through the egg. The mother passes on some antibodies which, although short lived, will guidde the chick through the first few days of life. These antibodies are from the mother’s acquired immunity, either from  vaccines or infection, then defeat of a disease.

    The level of immunity that is passed into the egg is similar to her own level, but after the 3 weeks of incubation, this drops to half. Therefore , it is valuable for the flock manager to keep the mother’s immunity levels high, to promote the health of her chicks. If vaccination of the chick is to be considered, remember that doing so too early could cause a subdued immune response, due to maternal antibodies attacking the vaccine, but if left too late, the chick will be open to disease, and may have an excessively high immune response.

    Active Immunity

    As I said above, active immunity is where the body fights off a disease, and keeps memory cells in the blood, so at the firt sign of re-infection,  antibodies are produced, and the disease cannot take a hold. This defence is effective, but only for specific antigens.

    Active immunity is divded into two parts, namely non-cellular (humoral) and cellular…

     

    Non-Cellular (Humoral) Immunity

    Non cellular (humoral) immunity involves antibodies, and the cells that produce them. Antibodies only exist for a short time, and are specific to their antigen. For example, the antibody for Infectious coryza, affects only the pathogen for Infectious coryza, and not the Infectious Bronchitis virus.

    When a pathogen enters the body, it is engulfed by a phagocytic WBC, known as a macrophage. It is then transported to and exposed to the B-lymphocytes (also known as B-cells).

    B-cells are produced (in the chick) by yolk sacs, the liver and the bone marrow. After 15 days of incubation, through to ten weeks of age, these cellsare moved to an organ known as the Bursa of Fabricius (BF). When required, the BF ”programs” the B-cells to attack the antigen with antibodies. The programmed B-cells then progress onto the spleen, the blood, the cecal tonsils, the bone marrow, the Harderian gland (in the eye) and thymus (an organ which ”educates” T-lymphocytes (T cells)).

    Destruction of the BF in chicks of a young age, due to Marek’s disease or Gumboro disease, means that the chick can never program B-cells, so cannot respond to most invasions, or vaccinations.

    When invasion occurs, the B-Cells release antibodies to fight the intruders. Macrophages also join the fight, coming to gobble-up the antigens which the antibodies have inhibited. After a war is over, the B-cells produce ”memory cells” which ”remember” the intruder, so should the intruder attack again, they can produce large amounts of antibodies, to generate a quicker and more effective response than the initial attack.

    Antibodies do not have the capability to kill disease directly, rather, they bind to the pathogens and inhibit their receptors. This means that they cannot locate, and bind to the target receptor.They also acts as a ”flag” for the phagocytes (macrophages) to detect invaders! Finally, though, it is up to the macrophages to engulf, and destroy pathogens.

    Cellular Immunity

    The cellular component of the immune response involves all cells that react to a specific antigen, except for those involved in antibody production (B-cells etc). The main players here are the T-lymphocytes (T-cells). These begin as the same stem cells as B-cells, but are programmed in the thymus rather than the BF.

    T-cells are produced and programmed to perform various functions, some T-cells assist B-cells and macrophages, these are known as helper T-cells, some produce lymphokines, others (directly) destroy invading organisms. Others still are known as suppressors, and inhibit the effects of macrophages and B-cells.

    This response was first discovered when it was found that birds with a damaged BF can still fight many infections and diseases!

    Lymphokines

    These are chemicals in the form of soluble proteins, that assist in activating other components of the immune response. Almost 100 different types have been identified!

    They work by:

    • Binding to WBC and increasing their ability to fight off invasion
    • Breaking down damaged, and invading cells
    • Increasing lymphocyte production
    • Performing many other related functions.

     

     

    Learn the Lingo – Lets Speak Chicken!

    Like all animals, chickens have their own way of communicating. They are more capable and cunning than we have ever realized – they have their own language! They are capable of communicating danger, announcing a new egg, chatting to their friends and much more!

    They use vocal communication, and gestures to convey meaning, and scientist have recentlly discovered that clever chickens may be as crafty as humans…

    In fact, a study carried out by Dr K-lynn Smith and Professor Chris Evans from the Centre for the Integrative Study of Animal Behaviour at Macquarie University found that chickens are social animals, who use complex communication skills, and adjust what they say depending on who’s listening!!

    Some Chook calls…

    The titbit call: A distinct “tuc-tuc-tuc-tuc-tuc-tuc-tuc-tuc” sound

    The warning call: This is a common one when a predatory bird is spotted in the sky. It is a short but accentuated “tuck!” It is usually followed by complete silence, which is only broken once the spotted creature is deemed as non-threatening.

    The egg call: This one surfaces when an egg has been laid. It is usually started by the hen who laid, and conveyed by other hens or the cockerel. It is generally a “kaaaeeee-ka-ka-ka-ka-kaaaeee!” 

    The alarm call: This one is similar to the egg call, only it is a more desperate, drawn-out sound.

    Wild Panic: This is not really an ordered sound, consisting of loud, desperate screeching. It is rarely found, and even then usually marks a serious situation, such as a fox attack.

    The Cluck: This is the common chicken sound, a soft cluck exhibited almost constantly! It is simply the chickens chatting, bonding and interacting! It is a soft, gently “cluck-cluck-cluck-cluck-cluck-cluck

    Mother Call: This is a sound the mother makes to her chicks. She is teaching them, and bonding with them.

    The ”Go away, Im broody” cluck: An irritated cuc-tuc-cuc-tuc-cuc-tuc-cuc-tuc-cuc-tuc-cuc-tuc

    Thee are some of the most common calls and sounds, there are many more, in fact, at least 30 have been identified!

     

    Mycoplasma – The Chronic Recurring Disease – Chronic Respiratory Disease (CRD)

    Mycoplasma

    Mycoplasma refers to a family (also known as a genus) of bacteria that lack a cell wall. This means that common antibiotics such as penicillin, or other cell wall synthesis (the combination of several entities to form something different (such as the process by which amino acids form proteins, or proteins form an organelle)) targeting antibiotics (also known as beta-lactam antibiotics). They can be parasitic (living off other organisms) or saprotrophic (living off dead or decomposing matter).

    Mycoplasma in Chickens

    The most common type of mycoplasma affecting chickens is mycoplasma gallisepticum. This type of mycoplasma is parasitic, and affects chickens, wild birds, turkeys, pigeons and other fowl. It is the causative agent of chronic respiratory disease (CRD) in chickens and infectious sinusitis in game birds, turkeys, pigeons etcetera. It is transmitted either through the eggs of carrier hens, or by chicken to chicken (airborne) transmission. It is highly contagious and is spread rapidly when the birds sneeze.

    Some breeders breed without the knowledge that their flock is infected, therefore passing the disease on. Stress is thought to lower the resistance to the mycoplasma bacteria, and the disease sets in and the birds begin to exhibit symptoms. Some people dismiss this as the ‘common cold’, or think its ‘nothing’ and the disease is allowed to run riot throughout the stock.

    Symptoms

    • Sniffling
    • Sneezing
    • Rasping or rattling in the throat
    • Foamy eyes and nose
    • Yawning

    More advanced symptoms include:

    • Loud, sharp ”Coughing” noise
    • Stiffness
    • Stretching legs and wings, sometimes trailing them
    • Difficulty balancing, sometimes even falling over

    Diagnosis

    Diagnosis is generally based on symptoms, and a blood test at the vets will give definite results. A course of medication will follow. Tylan is recommended for this purpose, but it is only available on prescription.

    Some people recommend Tylan injections rather than tylan oral, as this is faster and usually more efficient.

    Prevention

    A  vaccination is now available. The F-Strain is a low pathogenicity strain which gives immunity to the  birds for the laying season, but leaves them as carriers. It is, however, fully virulent for turkeys. Recently, 6/85 and ts-11 were introduced. These two live nonpathogenic strains give immunity, without making the inoculated bird a carrier.

    Can You Breed From Birds With Mycoplasma?

    Can You breed from chickens with Mycoplasma? Please comment below on how you feel about breeding from chickens with this chronic illness.

    Well, the long and short of it is that there is no easy answer. If you have birds with mycoplasma, and you want to breed from them, every situation must be treated as a different case!

    It all depends on how, where, when and why the birds have been infected, as well as the intensity of the infection.

    Also, some strains are more virulent than others, so this will also have some effect on the decision to breed or not to do so. It should also be taken into account, that once the birds are heavily infected, there are two ways of transmission. One of these occurs when the birds are stressed, and actively ”shedding” pathogens. This is when the disease is carried from bird to bird through the air. The other is when the bird is not exhibiting symptoms, but still carrying the disease. This is when the bird transits the disease through the egg!

    Birds which have been exposed to the disease, but have not contracted any signs are the obvious ones to breed from, if any. That said, they may still be carriers, but that could (theoretically at least) actually make the chicks immune to the disease! Because, as I discussed in my article on the chicken’s immune system (not yet published at the time of going to press), if an adult bird has immunity to a disease, some antibodies are actually passed on to the chick! But, it is a double edged sword, because, at the same time, disease pathogens could have been passed on, and this leaves the chick open to disease.

    Birds that have been treated for mycoplasma have obviously had the disease more severely, so chances are, the oviducts would have been infected, guaranteeing the chicks to come down with the disease, UNLESS you medicate the birds with tylan, or similar, and collect the eggs that you will use for hatching  during this period of medication. IF you are lucky, the tylan may have intercepted pathogen transmission to the egg, or in some mysterious way, avoided infection!

    Obviously, placing eggs under an infected hen is NOT advised, because she will only infect them, even if the eggs were uninfected! Therefore, an incubator is a better answer. An uninfected hen is not advisable either, unless she is vaccinated with a non-pathogenic strain, because if the eggs were NOT pathogen free, they will infect the previously uninfected hen!

    So, can you breed from chickens with Mycoplasma? Yes. Yes you can, BUT you need to look at EVERY SINGLE CASE seperately, and evaluate  the risks and benefits, because, at the end of the day, it’s not really worth taking the risks of breeding from infected birds, unless you are trying to rescue a breed on the edge of extinction!!!

     

    The function and science of the avian ear



    Do Chickens have ears? Yes! And in this article I will explain how they work.

    Even though chickens ears are seen only as small,  fleshy red or white earlobes, or auriculars (also known as ear coverts), the inner ear channels and amplifies sound, and plays a significant role a one of the senses.

    Near the auriculars and below and behind the eye, the ear is located. The auriculars channel sound waves into the ear opening,  and towards the eardrum, a thin membrane that vibrates in accordance with the sound waves. The waves are passed down the columella, one of the smallest bones in the avian body, and transmitted to another membrane called the oval window via the cochlea in the middle ear. The cochlea is filled with fluid, and tiny hairs called cilia are attached to its walls. They move with the sound vibrations, as blades of grass do in the wind. Vibrations are translated into electrical impules, and sent to the brain via the auditory nerve.

    When human cilia are damaged, they never re-grow, and so throughout life, hearing slowly decreases. The same happens in birds, right? WRONG!!! Birds can regenerate their cilia!!!

    Avians also have semicircular canals, the saccule and utricle, which regulate balance, just as they do in humans.

    I hope this was interesting, feel free to browse my website!

     

    A chickens Brain- The Science

    Did you know that chickens have a concept of the future?

    Scientist used tho think that only humans and higher primates had brains with structure that is complex enough to allow forethought. The complex arrangement of the neurons, and the  fact that they have a concept of the future suggests that they are intelligent enough to worry. An example of this is shown when a strange person comes to the breeders house, puts them in a box and into a roaring creature with legs that go round and round (a car!!). They dont peck around happily, instead they make noises of alarm and worry what is going to happen to them. An even worse scenario is when they are stuffed into crates, loaded onto a lorry and brought to a slaughterhouse.  This is a terrible state for them to travel in, and they spend their time worrying what will happen to them.

    The neocortex is the part of the brain that deals with complex thought. Chickens have one of these too.

    An egg can only hold up to 200 calories, and many calories are needed for a big brain. This is why mammals go through the pain of childbirth, because they give their young a constant supply of calories, and their young grow a big brain. Despite possessing a tiny brain (about the size of a pea!!), chickens fit a lot into it. Their spinal chord, and some parts of the brain deals with movement, co-ordination and reflex, while the rest of the brain deals with memory, senses, future conceps and voluntary actions. This is quite a lot to fit into such a tiny brain!

    Chicken Housing

    Chickens like to live a life of freedom and range where they choose, but in the modern day people interefere with this, and put them in cages to lay. People now also put them into there garden for a fresh supply of eggs, but for them to remain healthy and happy they have imporant requirements including good food, a foraging area, nutrient rich greens, space and good housing.

    Runs and paddocks

    Chickens like to range wherever they choose, but mostly this is not an option because people don’t like to have their flower beds in disarray, so an enclosure in the garden will do. They prefer to have a place with trees because they dont like to stand in a place where they are vulnerable to the hot sun. Our paddocks have apple trees so they shade the birds, and also give us a summer treat!
    Fencing should be strong post and rail with chicken mesh, which should be checked regularly for holes.
    Runs should contain a sand bath, which the chickens can use at will. It should contain sand, diatomous earth or both.
    The term Free range is different to free to range, the latter refers to chickens which are not cooped up while the former is where each hen has a minimum of 4 metres square to roam.
    The standard is 4sq ft in the coop and 10sq ft in the run in mainstream production.

    Housing requirements
    There must be at least 10in perch space for each hen and there must be at least 1 nest box per 5/6 hens. There must be at least 1 drinker per ten hens and, by DEFRAs regulations, 15cm of feeder per bird.
    There must be sufficient ventilation, birds must be warm enough, but must also have fresh air available to avoid respiratory problems.
    Contrary to what some people think, chickens only lay in their nestboxes, they dont sleep in them. Therefore several birds can share a nestbox, the box must be in a quiet, dark and fairly secluded corner.
    Naturally, the place where droppings are at greatest density is in the chicken coop, where they poop in the same place every night. As a result of this, coop cleaning needs to be done at least once a week. A few small bantams in a fairly large coop need to be cleaned out once a week, while larger birds need cleaning out every two or three days.

    Chicken Breeding- An Introductory Guide to Breeding Chickens

     

    Artificial Hatching

    Breeding Flocks

    Broodiness

    Fertilization

    Hatching Without a cockerel

    Natural Hatching

    Recognizing broodiness

    Summary

     

     

    Breeding flocks

    Whether for home breeding or commercial purposes, if you want your chickens to have chicks you need to choose a good, healthy breeding flock. This involves selecting quality birds, which must be healthy, and must also conform to their breed standard.
    You should choose birds that are 100% healthy. Their feathers should be shiny and smooth and they should have clear eyes and nostrils.
    The maximum number of hens you can have with one cock depends on the breed. With big placid breeds like Brahmas you can normally keep two to five hens with one cock, while with a light, slender, very active cock you can keep up to ten or even twelve hens!

    Chickens must be healthy, and conform to their breed standard before you can even THINK about adding them to your Breeding Flocks.

    Fertilization
    All hens that are to be used for breeding should be at least one year old as when they are one year of age they reach full maturity and have generally got better hatching and laying rates. Even if they are laying before this age, making them go through the stressfull process of raising chicks may have detrimental effects on their development if they are not yet fully developed.
    If your cock becomes infertile, don’t worry, as infertility whether in old or young is normally temporary. It could be that he is too fat and therefore not in good breeding condition. Also, it could have something to do with the time of year. Some cocks are active all year round and others only in the breeding season. If, however, he is infertile for more than a couple of months, especially if he is old, it may be time to consider a new cock.
    Mating in chickens is called treading. An active cock is one who mates his hens a lot; a non-active cock is one who doesn’t mate them at all. To tread a hen the cock mounts her and grips her neck feathers. To pass sperm from cock to hen they join sex openings and the hen can then receives the sperm. Many eggs can be fertilized by just one treading, as it is possible for the sperm to stay alive for more than ten days.

    Frequently trodden hens often have bare patches on their neck and back where he has ripped her feathers out due to his vigorous activities. This can be remedied by moving the cock to a seperate run for a while, or adding more hens to his flock.
    Hatching Eggs
    Egg hatching can be done with a broody hen or with an incubator. The latter is an option for mass production, or for people who dont have a broody, while the former is natural and is done by people who keep hens as a hobby.

    Artificial Hatching

    Some incubators only need water added to keep the embryos moist as they automatically turn the eggs, regulate the temperature and do everything else for you, whereas the more basic incubators require you  to turn the eggs and set temperature yourself. It is helpful to mark the eggs with a cross on one side and a circle on the other so that you know which side to tun them onto.
    Eggs should be turned over the pointed end three times a day so that the embryos don’t stick to the shell. This should be done to all eggs that are intended for hatching, even if they are just being stored in boxes. It is best to place the eggs with the tip pointing inwards. Once the eggs have been put in leave the incubator lid on all the time unless you are turning the eggs. In many incubators, there will be two water compartments in the middle. Fill one of them up but leave the other. In others, there may be only one. Fill this up part of the way, as instructed (in instruction manual).

    Eight days into the incubation period it is useful to find out if the eggs are fertilized.You can find out using a candling lamp, a specialist lamp that you can buy either from incubator specialists or an animal feeds merchant. Candling lamps should be used in a very dark spot, otherwise you cant see anything! Hold the lamp against the egg. If you see a dark spot that moves away from the light, you’ve got a live embryo. Sometimes all you see is a dark spot but other times you see a maze of blood vessels. If you see a spot of blood it could either be a dead embryo or an infertile egg (in which case the spot of blood is probably the ‘meat spot’ which is caused by the rupture of a blood vessel during the eggs formation in the hen.) All infertile (clear) or dead (blood ring, blood spot, dark ‘thing’ sticking to the shell*,) eggs should be disposed of (best on the compost where they will be broken down).

    *There is an exception to this. sometimes these can be live embryos, the dark thing being the vitelline membrane ( full of veins and arteries), which resembles the placenta in humans. If this is the case you will see a dark spot move away from the light within the dark ”thing”.

    Two days before the chicks are due, stop moving the eggs and fill the second compartment with water to aid hatching. This will cause more humidity to build up in the incubator. This is essential for the chicks to pip.
    Be patient, as hatching can take as long as two days, so if they are a day too early or too late don’t worry!
    There are two membranes in an egg, one inside the shell and the other around the chick.
    When hatching, the chick rolls around and takes the yolk sacks and blood vessels inside it. If a chick is having difficulties, some people help them while others are strongly against it, for they say if the chick is weak it should be left to destiny. If you think any of your chicks are weak do not try to help them out by cracking the shell in any place because if they have not done their rolling antics, it makes it all even harder, if not impossible!

    For twenty-four hours after hatching chicks can live without food. This does not mean that you should not give them food, once they are dry and in a box they should have access to food!!! It is best to leave the chicks in the incubator until they are totally dry.
    Your chicks may start lying around in strange positions because they need to rest and they don’t know immediately how to lie properly. Once they are totally dry, carefully put them into a box with shallow sawdust, a very shallow bowl of water and a shallow rimmed food tray. They should have an infra red lamp and a shelter under the lamp where they can get warmth and shade.
    Eventually, with time the chicks will get the hang of standing, grooming and lying down!
    Broodiness
    Having a broody hen has many advantages over artificial hatching. Whereas, among other things, a hen can teach her chicks how to survive an incubator is just a humming machine. The temperature in an incubator can fluctuate or there could be a powercut, ending the embryos life. Despite this incubators have their own advantages, chicks can be hatched without a broody hen and through lots of handling, the chicks also become much tamer.

    Breeding Without a cockerel:

    Believe it or not, this can be done. You need a broody hen, suitable housing, time and patience, but not a cockerel! How does this work? You buy hatching eggs! These should be bought from a reputable breeder. They shoukd also NOT be purchased online, and certainly NOT from eBay. You should ensure the eggs are not older than 7 days, and dont get them ent through the post! Even if they all come through in one piece, they will have taken a battering during transport, from which they will never recover, regardless of the amount of ”Fragile. Handle with care” notices the box is adorned with!!!
    How to recognise Broodiness

    • A broody hen sits on the nest for long periods of time sometimes refusing to leave it.
    • Being aggressive to other hens or her handler.
    • Certain parts of the abdomen and breast become featherless (‘brood patches’).
    • She makes ‘clucking’ noises.
    • She puffs herself up when anyone or anything approaches

    Natural Hatching
    Using a broody hen to hatch eggs is an easy option, for all you have to do is wait (and of course, tend to the hen).
    It is best to separate a broody hen from the rest as otherwise other hens will come and lay more and more eggs and they will get mixed up and your hen will sit on far too many eggs, which will all be due for different dates, so when her first chicks hatch, there will be lots more half brooded eggs!
    Keeping two or more broodies in the same cage is no good either as they may start steal each other’s eggs and chicks!!!

    Broody hens should have access to food and water at all times. It is ideal to keep them in an ”ark” house, that is low to the ground, so that they can have access to a bit of leg stretching space, and room for the chicks to explore without getting mixed up with the other chickens.

    SUMMARY!

    • Only breed from healthy birds
    • If you have not got a cockerel, but do have a broody hen, you can buy hatching eggs.
    • Always read your incubator manual if you choose to use one
    • Broody hen are the most natural way to raise chicks
    • A broody must have food and water at all times!
    • Goodluck, and have fun!

    And lastly, have fun with your chickens, whether it is to breed, for eggs or for exhibition!!!

    Why not take a look at our other chicken care pages, they are loaded with information that you will need and treasure when you keep your own birds!