Advice and ‘Guarantee Terms’ for 12-20 week-old pullets
Our pullets are carefully reared from hatching eggs produced from our own ‘clean’ breeding flocks resulting in strong vigorous stock, which should grow into healthy and productive hens, therefore, we are happy to offer a three months guarantee for the birds. We supply a large number each year, throughout the UK and abroad and claims on our Guarantee are minimal. These are usually due to management issues, like poor ventilation in housing, parasites, shortage of outside space, over stocking, mixing of ages, feeding issues, or boredom. Hens which are stress free, and able to carry out normal behaviours are more likely to remain healthy and produce good quality eggs. Poultry keepers should always bear in mind that the chicken is a jungle bird and many of their behavioural needs have changed little over the past ten thousand years. The challenge is to try and understand this, and to encourage natural behaviour. The points below are only a basic guide, and we are happy to help, as a primary source, with any questions on the management of the birds.
- The hen house should be vermin proof, fox proof and well ventilated.
- A strict vermin control regime should be in place
- Fresh water should be provided in a fount drinker of more than a day’s capacity.
- Feed should be available at all times in a tube feeder
- Feed plain or natural growers’ pellets for up to 20 weeks of age, or until point of lay. These should be free from Coccidiostats (ACS free) because our birds are vaccinated with Paracox 8, for Coccidiosis at day old. Some recommended brands are Marriages and Smallholder.
- Large size plain hen flint, in a separate container should be available up to 20 weeks of age. Chick and grower size grit should not be given beyond 12 weeks of age because it is too small and passes through the digestive system. Search for Jondo Hen Flint. 20Kg bags are the most economical buy.
- Worm with Flubenvet one month after purchase, then treat 2-3 times a year, depending on ground conditions. Flubenvet is also available ready mixed in Heygates and Marriages Layers pellets, in 5, 10 bags. Don’t store – the shelf life is limited.
- At 18-20 weeks (depending on how close the birds are to lay) feed poultry layers These should be available throughout the day, in a tube type or similar feeder. Intermittent feeding morning and evening is not recommended because the feed intake of less dominant birds may be reduced.
- At 18-20 weeks feed Jondo Mixed Grit (flint + oyster shell). The calcium supplied in layers feed is not enough for some breeds producing thick shells. If you have hen flint left over from the grower stage, this can be mixed with Jondo Oyster Shell to make your own mixed grit.
- 10 days after arrival of the birds, introduce a handful of mixed corn per bird, per day, in the late afternoon. Do not over feed mixed corn, because it does not provide a balanced diet, is fattening, it may reduce egg production and cause health problems.
- Healthy treats in the form of insects, sweetcorn, whole cabbage and kale, can be given from the start.
- Twice weekly give a high grade multi-vitamin/mineral supplement ( AviVit Tonic) in the water – particularly important during sudden changes in weather, at start of lay, or any other time of stress. In hot weather, AviVit Electro Plus B electrolytes should be added to the water – daily in extreme conditions.
- Allow access to fresh grass & green food each day. Never feed cut grass or chopped greens, as this can cause compacted crop or gizzard, leading to a permanently extended crop, crop infections or starvation.
- Always keep at least two hens of the same breed/strain for companionship.
- Treat the house for red-mite weekly, inside and out, from April to November and monthly from December to March, with AviVit Pure, Fresh Water Sourced, Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth using the AviVit powder applicator. This can be backed up during severe challenges with a wet treatment, using Antec HD3 heavy duty detergent, applied with a knapsack or garden sprayer. The average house for 6-10 birds, requires about 8 litres of liquid treatment for a thorough drenching. If not treated as a precaution, all hen houses become infested with red mite (plastic houses to a lesser extent), which causes anaemia, loss of condition, ill health, and early or sudden death. We are happy to give advice on mite treatment, which is a common cause of health problems in poultry. All products are available on AviVit.uk
Outside range – Chickens are versatile and adaptable and will cope in most environments but will not thrive in a small run. Ideally allow the birds to free-range, either full time or part time. If this is impractical, allow as much ground space per bird as possible.
The run – For hens which are confined to a run, 10m² range per bird, is the minimum legal requirement for organic commercial poultry. If the available space is restricted in a small garden or allotment, consider reducing the number of birds kept, fencing in vegetable plots instead of the hens, to allow some free-ranging, enrich the run with covered sand baths, outdoor perches, outside shelters, wind breaks, and areas of hardwood chip to encourage insects & foraging. In an ideal run, space permitting, 50% of the ground should be covered with foliage or grass, with access to a dust bath, and shelter from rain and sun.
Outside space is the single most important requirement for a healthy flock, and good quality eggs. Common health issues associated with poultry kept in small runs, are: egg binding, prolapses and egg peritonitis, increased susceptibility to parasites, digestive problems, heart, respiratory, and weight problems. Shortage of space also causes behavioural problems like aggression, feather pecking, vent pecking, and self-harm.
Notwithstanding the above, some of the healthiest, and most productive chickens we have supplied are in small gardens, because, with sympathetic management, and some inventive ideas and good communication with the owner, the birds are kept occupied and interested in their surroundings.
- Mix new 18 week or older birds with existing hens for two weeks.
- Mix growers with adult hens before 18 weeks of age.
- Mix with other hens showing signs of illness – ie. watery eyes, sneezing, congestion in the throat or lungs, listlessness, or with loose or abnormal droppings.
- Mix with ex-battery hens, or birds which have shown signs of mycoplasma, or bronchitis now or in the past.
- Mix ages of growing birds under 18 weeks of age (all growers must be the same age within three days).
- Keep with water fowl.
- Close ventilation slots or windows in the hen house, except in the most extreme weather.
- Keep in a small run – hens need space to roam, forage, and exercise, to remain mentally and physically healthy.
- Keep next to a pond or bird table.
- Feed oyster shell under 18-20 weeks (can cause kidney damage), or bread, fat or any starchy food at any age.
- Avocado Pear, rhubarb leaves or dairy products. Only give healthy poultry-friendly treats.
- Place a small run on mossy ground. This can cause compacted crop
- IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT ANY OF THE ABOVE POINTS, PLEASE ASK.
First week in the new home
- Any sudden change of environment causes considerable stress in hens, which can trigger feather pecking or other forms of aggression, followed by disease. Careful, quiet handling, with no sudden shocks, noises, or bright light, will help reduce stress; but ask for advice if aggressive behaviour continues for more than a short period, because it can rapidly lead to serious illness, and is difficult to correct if left un-checked.
- Your birds have come from a quiet, dimly lit rearing house, and are not used to the outside world. At first, they’ll be shy and reluctant to venture outside, particularly in bright sunny weather, due to their sensitive eyesight. They will come out when ready, and this may take two to three days, depending on the local environment. They must not be rushed. Food and water should be close at hand.
- New pullets can be let out into the garden after three days, or a larger fenced area, after two days. Keeping them confined for too long will cause stress related problems.
Our birds are vaccinated against Salmonella (SE and ST) and treated with Aviguard (Beryl’s retail name) three times before 12 weeks of age, but for ongoing protection we advise monthly treatment with Beryl’s Friendly Bacteria available in the Avivit shop – Probiotics help protect against a range of poultry infections including the Salmonellas.
We also vaccinate against Mareks Disease, but no other vaccinations are given because a full commercial layer vaccination programme is unnecessary and undesirable in garden hens or small flocks. We do not recommend mixing our birds with hens which have received full commercial vaccination programme.
Auctions: Poultry purchased from bird auctions and sales pose a disease risk and we do not recommend adding our birds to these flocks.
Mixed breed flocks: The popular trend of purchasing single hens of different breeds from different sources, is not good practice and often causes disease and stress related problems.
Mixed ages: mixing hens of different ages and from different sources without appropriate quarantine facilities in place, is a common cause of health problems.
A range of poultry health products, including our own unique brands, are available here: www.avivit.uk
THE ABOVE ARE NORMAL, BASIC MANAGEMENT RULES, WHICH MUST BE FOLLOWED, TO QUALIFY FOR OUR GUARANTEE. WE RESERVE THE RIGHT TO REFUSE ORDERS IF THE ABOVE TERMS ARE NOT ACCEPTED BY THE CUSTOMER. IF IN DOUBT, ABOUT ANY OF THE ABOVE, OR FOR QUESTIONS ABOUT HOUSING, EQUIPMENT OR FENCING, PLEASE ASK, WE ARE HAPPY TO HELP.