I used to wonder at the time the Sage spent with his chickens.  Now, I’m almost as bad.  Although I probably spend less time watching them and more time working.

Indi was out again this morning, but now I’ve remembered the little gap I saw a few weeks ago, between their run and the barn.  Remarkably, she is the only one to have found it.  Endearingly, she waits for me now, because she knows that I’ll drop her morsels to entice her back home, then she can scoot back out again until it’s time for the next meal.  Except now I’ve blocked the gap.

I’ve also raked out all those moulted feathers, cleared the old bedding, dusted for mites and generally cleaned and tidied.  It wasn’t great in the late afternoon heat, but it’s done.  I was slightly late with the mite-dusting – not bad, but I should have done it a week ago.  As it was, I picked a few off me as I went along, and went for an early bath.  I’ve been busy and distracted, and also had run out of powder, but it’s not good.  The nest boxes and other places they rest have been treated, also their perches, and I’ll deal with places they dust-bathe tomorrow.  Peculiar that such minute bugs can tickle so – although it’s just as well, because it gives a warning that treatment is required.

Up to six eggs again today, though several chickens are moulting heavily, including Indi (this is good, it means I don’t have to search for her eggs as she won’t be laying any).  Blue Witch suggests that layers’ pellets might be better than mixed wheat and corn for them – I don’t know, they’re Russell’s birds and I have never looked after them.  Now that they’re more confined, it’s probably so – when they were completely free range, I’m sure they got all the nutrition they needed naturally.  All the same, however they’ve been kept, we’ve never had any illness in the 25 or so years we have kept chickens.  A couple of weeks ago, I was getting up to 18 eggs a day, so they seem to be in pretty good condition.

Did I ever tell you how we acquired the bantams in the first place?  It was quite by accident.

5 comments on “Bantams

  1. Blue Witch

    Ah – the mites will be the reason many have gone off-lay, and into premature moult (hens are daft and usually moult in early autumn, not in mid-summer, which seems ridiculous, but it’s what they do).

    Once mite has set in it’s really really hard to get rid of it. We use the organic Barrier red mite and louse powder all year round (buy them online in big tubs and decant into the normal shakers, or use a special puffy thing, for economy), but, if you have mite already, you will need something non-organic to kill it. The only thing, save burning everything and starting again (what we eventually – having spent several hundred pounds on unsuccessful treatments – did the only time we’ve ever had an outbreak – that was before this product was avaialbe in the UK) that works is ‘Perbio Choc RTU’ insecticide. Don’t waste your money/time/the hens’ well-being on anything else: if the mite are on you in the daytime, you have a bad outbreak.

    I’d also suggest feeding some sort of hen vitamin (eg poultry spice) as the mites suck the hens’ blood when they are at roost and it really weakens them and makes them susceptible to ill health/death.

    Modern helath feeding practices can be found on a web search eg As it says, corn is a treat and has little nutritional value.

    Erm, sorry to seem a know-all but we’ve had hens for 19 years and I have researched/read/talked to knowledgeable people extensively and have their care down to a fine art!

  2. Z Post author

    I don’t think we do have a bad outbreak, the reason I had some on me was because I’d been clearing out the nest boxes. I had fewer on me than I expected, in fact – I know we’re bound to get some in this hot weather and I’ve been guiltily aware that I should have dusted against them again before this, but I think I’ve caught it early. I pick up sitting hens to look under them for eggs and haven’t got any mites off them, so there can’t be many. But I’ll give it a week, if we still have a problem I’ll get something more heavy-duty. Some of them are still moulting, but the number of eggs is going up already – we’ve never lost a single hen due to ill health, only to fox, mink, dog or old age so, even if R’s way of looking after them is old-fashioned, I don’t think it’s that bad. Looking at the advice on the link, it’s not very different from what I do already – they have oyster shell and grit, I give them lots of greens and they’re out in the garden now, I let them all out for the day, several times a week.

  3. Blue Witch

    Sorry if you thought I was in any way being critical of how SR has looked after them – I was only trying to say that there could be a better way that wasn’t invented years ago! Red mite isn’t ineveitable at all and really should (and can) be avoided. It’s horrid for the hens.

  4. Z Post author

    XL, the first mite killer I looked at had awful warnings that it shouldn’t be used directly on the chickens, and I was rather scared off buying it. The one I did buy can be, though I haven’t done so as yet, as I don’t think they are much affected.

    I didn’t take it that way, BW, not at all. You know Russell, if he can do it an old-fashioned way, he will. I was trying to consider if the hens are being harmed by how we feed them. He bought a load of feed back in the spring, if I don’t use it up it’ll be an awful waste, and they are going out to forage too. And yes, I feel guilty about leaving it a bit longer than I meant to – I put my arms in the nest box and left them there for a couple of minutes, stroked the chickens, picked them up and rummaged for the eggs, and I only ended up with a single mite, so I really don’t think it’s a bad attack. I’ll dust again weekly until I’m sure all mite eggs have hatched.


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