A Hen keeper for more than 20 years with a 300-strong flock on her Surrey / Hampshire smallholding, chicken expert Suzie Baldwin offers her advice for looking after your chickens during February.
There is something about February that gives me a real spring in my step. Maybe its the increase in daylight or seeing the amorous courtships around the small holding. There is much dancing and preening, not to mention the deafening vocal sparring between all the cockerels as they compete for mates. Egg production has picked up, so I’m able to set my incubators to hatch chicks. A few hens have gone broody in the nesting boxes and, if successful, may raise some young the natural way, too. The geese will start laying again soon – and you cant beat an omelet made with their offerings. Apart from observing my flocks’ daily antics, one of the most enjoyable jobs is collecting their freshly laid eggs on chilly mornings – it still feels utterly magical. Feeding your hens high-quality “layers’ pellets” (fancy feed do a great high quality range that we stock in our Hollywater Hens shop) for their main diet is essential to keep them healthy and ensure they produce excellent eggs. Reserve treats for the afternoons – by which time they will have eaten some feed – as, like us, chickens favor them over the healthy option. Refreshing their drinkers daily is key, too, not only for their wellbeing – if your girls dehydrate, they may go into moult and it could affect their laying ability – but also for the goodness of their eggs, as they’re composed of 70 percent water.
- GROW…wheat on a windowsill or in an airing cupboard – chickens love the sprouted seed
- TURN…over the ground in fixed runs, apply disinfectant and add fresh bark
- MAKE…an all round tonic using dried seaweed to promote health, increase egg yield and darken yolk colour