Negleted chickens, or am i being to soft?

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Steve_789

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Negleted chickens, or am i being to soft?
« on: January 15, 2020, 14:22 »
Hi folks,

I'm part of a walled garden that's had chickens since day 1 almost 30yrs ago. However last year there was a change with just "who" owned the chickens, before it was one of the staff and they got the money from the eggs, now their officially the gardens chickens with any any egg money going to the garden, the same member of staff agreed to carry on looking after them. Before last year there was plenty of coops and shelter and no reason to question how they were looked after, however this year i've been slightly concerned, and since Christmas i've been seriously concerned that there not being looked after correctly. I'm not really a chicken person, although i've looked after animals my entire life, including the normal hamsters and rabbits etc, just never chickens.

So, we have 16 chickens of various breeds (which breeds i have no idea!), the first picture shows them. They all seem healthy enough, although to be honest i wouldn't know if they were ill and i've not picked any of em up and had a good look etc. We have also 8 Muscovy ducks we got last year as well, not concerned about them, the adults cant fly (youngsters can) but they have full access to the entire walled garden (5 acres), although they do come down to the chickens at feeding time and join in, which factors into my first worry ... are they being fed enough.

At the moment i dont know "exact" quantities, other than 2 25kg bags of "mixed poultry corn" lasted the entirety of december, with 2 new bags being brought last week, also a bag of what i've been told are laying pellets was brought as well. As i mentioned i dont know the exact quantities the chickens are given,but it wont be any more than one of those large yogurt pots a day, bout 350kg/450kg sized tub at a guess (when filled with yogut that is!) and it may well be less. There is a proper feeder, although its never used as "the rats eat it all", although i've never seen a rat, or evidence of rats down there, we do have mice elsewhere in the garden though so it may be a perfectly valid reason. They also have no separate grit supply, which i've seen they need access to, we do have gravel paths around them and they can get out of their area (no issues with that btw), so maybe they get out, eat some gravel, then go back in?
 
My 2nd worry is water, now they do have it, its always dirty, but its always full (and i've been making a point of going down and replacing it every few days when i'm in) and i've seen them drink from it, but is that only because its that or nothing?? We do have a proper metal watering station i've been thinking of hanging so it actually works properly but the staff member in charge certainly never uses it.

My 3rd worry is the coop, its just horrible and, i think, far to small, it also leaks. I actually took a look in it back in october and it very obviously hadn't been mucked out for months and months, so i cleaned it all out, fresh bedding down (from the available bedding, pine shavings at best guess) etc, then took another look in last week, it very obviously hadn't been done since. Now i think the staff member has noticed i've been taken more interest in the chickens welfare as he mucked it all out on monday, however he'd also moved all the bedding from the nice dry shed into a wheelie bin, and it was sodden, i could wring it out in my hands, and he put THAT into the coop!! I also don't think its anywhere near big enough for them all, i sat down there on tuesday when it was raining hard to see where they'd take shelter, the 6 big ones all went into the coop (and when i looked in it seemed very cosy!) and all the others took shelter UNDER the other shed (can be seen in the first pic), where they'd made a little cave for themselves!! The only other shelter in their area is a crab apple tree and long grasses, which they were all huddled between last week when it was windy.

As for run space, no issues there, there's plenty, its a pretty big plot!

One thing i also noticed last year is that we got little to no eggs last year, where as the year before we had loads. Now after looking around on the web i can only think of a few reasons for that, 1 - their not being fed correctly, 2 - the coop was to bad to go in so they hid under the hedge to lay, 3 - the staff member swiped all the eggs from themselves (i wouldn't put it past them to be honest..). All the chickens, with the possible exception of the 6 biggest, are all within 3-4 years old, with some being born last year, so from what i can tell we should still be getting a good amount of eggs.

So i guess my question is this, is it just a case of "stop being soft, if the chickens are happy and healthy then there's no issues", or are they being neglected and instant action is required??

Thanks in advance

Steve
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New shoot

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Re: Negleted chickens, or am i being to soft?
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2020, 17:32 »
Hi Steve and welcome to the forum.

The chickens and ducks look in reasonable condition, but it is really hard to tell from a photo if they are underweight.  It looks like they have a good area to range it and they will find their own food from that, plus any grit that they need.  When chickens are not in lay (which is perfectly natural over the winter for a lot of breeds) they eat less.  Older hens that have finished their laying lives also eat less.

The coop looks run down and could do with improvement for sure, plus the bedding used should be dry as it can get mouldy otherwise and that will not be good for the birds.  It also needs to be kept clean.  No animal should live in filth.

Is there no-one in charge there that you could speak to?  If not, I would suggest you call the RSPCA and report your concerns.  An inspector can come and have a look and suggest improvements.  They do work with people, before marching in all guns blazing.   If the staff member who cares for the birds reacted to your interest, that may well be enough to get things back on track,

I hope this answers some of your questions at least  :)

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Steve_789

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Re: Negleted chickens, or am i being to soft?
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2020, 19:03 »
They have a great run area to move about in, its about 20x30m or summing silly, no worrys about that. I did wonder if they'd be able to find enough food within it and it was a case of "topping up" with the mixed corn or not though.

And yes, the coop is very run down, that's one bit i will be improving on regardless, maybe not with a new big one, but certainly more places to shelter within the area so they don't have to hunker down under the shed.

There is someone in charge i can talk to, and i have done before (i'm also a trustee of the charity which helps!). I just wanted to be sure there was actually any issues with how their being looked after before i started to ruffle feathers (pun fully intended! :))

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New shoot

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Re: Negleted chickens, or am i being to soft?
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2020, 19:50 »
They will eat a lot of grass, plus any worms, slugs or other bugs that they find.  Laying hens are quite thin compared to a chicken you might buy to eat in a supermarket, if that is your only point of reference. 

50kg of corn, plus layers pellets is quite a bit of feed.  They may be getting more that the 350/450g you think they get a day to empty that lot in a month, so it might be worth checking on that.  Rats will eat any food left out at night and may venture out in daylight if they know food is around, which might be why the birds are called to a scatter feed at certain times. It would be impossible to rat-proof such a big run.   If a coop is raised off the ground, some chickens do enjoy getting under there, so their cave is not so bad as you think.  They may love it.

The housing and cleanliness does seem to be the other major issue, but the birds should also be being wormed regularly and the coop checked for red mite.  If they have worms, this could also affect  egg laying and general health.  Sorry to keep adding to your list, but I think you do have a case for getting involved and while you are at it, it would be good to get the birds on a good routine for all this stuff.  You could try just asking the member of staff who cares for them to teach you and then gently start putting your own ideas in, rather than make him or her feel you are taking over or being critical of them.

There is a lot of useful information in the main part of the site here :

https://www.chickens.allotment-garden.org/poultry-articles/

and here on the forum

https://chat.allotment-garden.org/index.php?board=13.0

You can also use the search facility in each area to look for key words if there is something specific you want to check on, plus we'll do our best to answer questions you post  :)
« Last Edit: January 15, 2020, 19:55 by New shoot »

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Steve_789

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Re: Negleted chickens, or am i being to soft?
« Reply #4 on: Today at 11:38 »
Thanks for all the advice, it really is useful!

I double checked the tub used to feed them, i was totally wrong, its a 1kg tub. So even at 1 a morning it should last about 25 days with 25kg bags, longer if the staff member doesn't use the entire tub. I did notice half the bag laying pellets bag had been used up, however its not been mixed into the main feed, nor seemingly disturbed since i re rolled it down on tuesday, so its gone .... somewhere (staff member still has their own chickens on their allotment..). One thing another member of staff noted is that they swarmed up on wednesday when she went to feed them about lunch time (the chicken staff member having taken the day off...without telling anybody...) and were jumping up at her etc, which they've never done with them, or me,  before. Would that just be because the routine had changed? Questions were also raised if their even fed at weekends when no one else in over in winter, would they be able to scavenge enough food from the run like you mentioned they might?

I also took a look under the shed as well, they've dug out little beds for themselves but the smell is terrible due to poo, that cant be healthy for them surely?

I've got no idea how often their wormed, if at all. However i haven't seen any worming stuff around recently, but its possible they could have been wormed earlier in the year and i just didn't notice. I know red mite have been an issue in the past and the staff member just tended to burn whatever shelter/coop had it. I don't recall it being mentioned last year.   

It almost seems to be from a few weeks of reading about chickens and seeing how other people look after theirs we might be better just starting from scratch !
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grinling

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Re: Negleted chickens, or am i being to soft?
« Reply #5 on: Today at 15:29 »
Chickens might be dustbathing under the shed.
Water and food should be available all day with oyster shell available as well. grit is optional as they will find it naturally.
red mite check, run a piece of white tissue along cracks or end of perch, this will squish them and turn the tissue red.
Wildlife incl mice and birds will eat the food.
winter concern is water freezing,so someone should be going in daily. footwear should be in disinfectant.
house and bedding should be dry with enough perch space.
worming was probably done with pellets.



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