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Chooks at Christmas time

Chook care in busy periods

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JESSAMY MILLER gives some handy hints to make life easier in the chook pen during the festive season and summer holidays.

Over the festive season and summer holidays, all our routines tend to be thrown into disarray. There might be school concerts or Christmas parties to attend, and holidays by the beach in January if you are lucky. It can be hard staying on top of all the jobs, so here are some handy hints to make life easier in the chook pen. 

  • Take care that chooks are in a secure house or yard where predators like foxes, dogs, hawks and snakes can’t get at them, especially if you are going away. Safety is one less factor to worry about then. 
  • If birds are being confined in the henhouse while you are on holidays, leave them some distractions such as a mirror, extra perches, or a bale of pea straw to peck at and scratch through. They’ll be too busy to get bored and become naughty!  
  • Buy in plenty of chook food and shell grit and label it clearly and appropriately before going away. 
  • Consider installing a battery or solar operated door to the henhouse that works on a timer so that chooks are locked up at dusk even if you are out late, and you can have a little sleep-in the next morning. 
  • Make sure you provide two sources of water; then if one gets knocked over, birds have another as back-up. 
  • Did you know there are professional chicken sitters who will look after your birds for a fee? Alternatively, ask a neighbour or friend to check on the chooks at least once a day in return for the eggs. I offer the job to our neighbour’s children for a small amount of pocket money; they love the novelty of being chook-keepers for a few days, while the parents supervise. I find it works best if the sitter lives close by. 
  • Don’t leave any smelly scraps in your chook pen to go off and attract flies in the warm weather if you are not going to be around, stick to dry foods like pellets or mixed grains, and some grass or greens hung with string. 
  • – Chooks might enjoy a peck block for a nutritional boost and for something to peck at. These blocks contain vitamins and minerals that chooks can take in on an ad lib basis, and are available from online pet supply stores. 
  • If you don’t have time to collect eggs, a rollaway nest is ideal; in these contraptions the egg tootles away into a safe collecting area so chooks can’t crush or eat them and they don’t get soiled. 
  • Prepare in advance for warm weather by offering birds a water soluble vitamin powder in drinking water the day before the hot weather starts. Freeze water in soft drink bottles and place in waterers so water stays cool and palatable all day long. And before you leave for work in the morning make sure birds will have plenty of shade throughout the day. 

With a little organisation, both you and your chooks will enjoy the silly season, busy as it is.