So you’ve got chooks and a rooster and you want some chicks. But how do you know if the rooster is doing his job?
The way to check eggs to see if they are fertile is called “candling”. Candling involves putting a bright light behind the eggs to see what is inside. It’s really easy to do and great to see if you’ve got chicks.
Last summer was our first at our new rental. We built the chook run in a back corner, where the remnants of an old run was, using the parts of our previous run bought over when we moved. Inside the new chook run were two fruit trees – a beautiful big fig tree and a small, but rather healthy looking nectarine.
What we learnt from our first season here was that sparrows and blackbirds loved both the chook run and the fruit trees.
Now this isn’t rocket-science. We have always had fruit trees, we’ve always had chooks and we’ve always had issues with birds. But never like this! It wasn’t uncommon to see 30 or 40 birds eating the chook feed, polluting their water, getting stuck in the bird netting covering the trees and damaging the fruit.
We managed a good harvest of figs despite the birds, but the pollution of the chook run and general pest that they are meant I needed to do something.
After giving all the trees in the chook run a good haircut we set about enclosing the run with commercial grade fruit netting. It will keep the birds out but is gentle enough that the fruit trees can grow and not be damaged by wire.
The method of enclosing the run is simple – using some lengths of timber secrets across the yard, the commercial grade bird netting is simply screwed down and pulled tight forming a ceiling. There are a few gaps to plug and patch but in relatively quick time it is sealed up.
I have to give a massive shout out to my Father in Law Graeme who came over and finished off the job for me! Without his help it would have remained a half finished job for some time no doubt!
The fig tree is just budding now so time will tell if this method works to save both the chooks and the fruit!
We’re visiting my wife’s family in the city. They have a few chooks which enjoy the odd escape attempt. Not good when the suburban fences are only 4-5ft high. The answer, which is sometimes controvsial, is to clip their wings… or build higher fences.
Clipping the chooks wings doesn’t hurt them at all, however some people still don’t like the idea of cutting away naturally growing parts of a live animal. I don’t clip our chooks, not because I am against it but simply because it’s unnecessary in our backyard chook run where there are plenty high enough fences.
And if you want to know how to do it, here is how:
Using 2 people, one to hold the chook and wing, the other to cut the feathers, cut away around half the length of the first 10 flight feathers using sharp scissors, nail scissors/clippers or another suitable cutting tool. You can cut only one wing, with the theory that the bird will be unstable and unable to fly, or both wings to make sure they won’t escape. And that’s it! It is an easy job which takes seconds.
When the wing is cut, the bird naturally tucks the cut feathers under the wing when it is folded so that it is barely noticeable. But you may need to keep an eye on those feathers when they start to moult and trim the new feathers again when they re grow.
In possibly one of the coldest weeks in the Australian Autumn this year, one of my chooks decided to moult. Well, at least I thought she was moulting. The only problem was she lost ALL of her feathers… and it was on wet, windy days with maximums of just 12°C (54°F).
As it turned out, “Susie Chook” was moulting and not sick or diseased. She lost all her feathers save those on the very top of her neck and face, but there was no sign of lice or mites on her body. In a few days she had new feathers growing and within 7-10 days she was completely grown out with new feathers. The other chooks in the run also moulted around this time but none of them moulted as severely and quickly as Susie.
This sort of moulting where a bird loses all their feathers at once is not overly common. A bird will usually moult in late summer or autumn. You can tell if your chickens are moulting when you see old feathers littering the run and lack of feathers or scruffy feathers around the body and particularly the neck. This is usually a longer gradual process than poor Susie Chook’s effort this autumn. If there is a particularly severe moult it will typically be only the neck feathers which will drop all at once.
Birds generally stop laying during a moult and if it is late in autumn some may not lay again (or only lay periodically) until the days warm and lengthen in spring. Birds may also require some extra protein in their diet to cope with the moult.
When a bird begins to moult, it is a good idea to check them for lice, mites and other problems to ensure that the reason why they are dropping their feathers is due to an annual moult and not some other stress or disease/pest related issue.