1. What do I feed my chickens?
Just like humans, chickens need a balanced diet. This consists of lots of different nutrients such as protein, carbohydrate, vitamins, and minerals. Protein provides amino acids which are vital nutrients, but ensuring you have the right amounts of these is particularly important - the amounts required are different depending on life stage and so growing chickens have different requirements from laying hens. The form and type of feed your chickens need can be dictated by their age. From hatching to around 5 weeks old, chicks will need to be fed chick crumbs. These need to be fed ad-lib, allowing at least 50g a day, per chick. After this stage, chickens still do a lot of growing so they’ll need a feed to assist with this, this is called Growers mash or growers pellets. Our growers pellets/mash is suitable to feed them up until point of lay, which is typically around 19 weeks. At this point, your hens will need to be transitioned onto layers pellets or layers mash. These are typically around 17% protein and help keep hens healthy and maintain good egg production. Transitioning on to a new feed should always be done gradually.
2. What do I feed baby chicks?
Feeding your chicks well gives them a head start in life by helping to support healthy growth and immune systems. In the first 5 weeks of life you should be feeding a chick crumb. Our chick crumbs with coccidiostat have 18% protein in, and help to provide the energy, protein and other vital nutrients that are needed for the early growth stage. The presence of a coccidiostat helps to prevent the illness coccidiosis in your chicks, which can sometimes be quite difficult to spot and can be fatal. Our Chick Crumb with coccidiostat is also formulated without GM soya bean meal and of course includes those important essential amino acids to help support your chicks development! For those wishing to feed a diet without added coccidiostat, we have our Organic Poultry Starter crumbs, which are also packed full of goodness to help ensure healthy chicks and steady growth. Don’t forget that chicks this young need other essential things too – these include things such as a chick feeder and a suitable drinker with plenty of fresh water, not forgetting that if they aren’t being raised by a broody hen then it’s vital they have a heat lamp too. Ensuring your chicks have all the essentials will help to keep your chicks cosy and comfortable.
3. How do I keep my chickens entertained?
Keeping chickens entertained is crucial to maintaining their health and happiness. When there are less sources available to peck, chickens can peck at each other – ultimately causing feather loss, injury and animosity amongst the flock. Eating is always at the forefront of a chickens mind, so any food based activity that they can peck at will be the most popular. Snacks such as a halved melon, a cabbage hung on a rope and packing food into items such as feeders and logs gives chickens the opportunity to work to get their snack. Small amounts of grain products such as wheat or mixed corn can be scattered on the floor so that they can forage for it – grains are best provided late afternoon to ensure they eat enough of their pellets first. It is important to remember that any treats that are fed will reduce the amount of pellets/mash that they eat, which means that they ultimately dilute some important nutrients. This means it is really important that treats are controlled, and not supplied in large quantities. Remember to always ensure that treats are chicken safe before feeding them too!
4. How to tell if your chickens are sick
Spotting when your chickens are sick can be difficult, especially when they can’t tell you what’s wrong. As prey animals, they naturally try to hide illnesses, making it even more difficult to spot when they are unwell. It’s important that you check your hen over regularly including their crop, vent, feathers, skin and overall body condition – always seek veterinary attention when needed. To try and spot when your chicken is ill, there are a few warning signs that you can look out for.
Chickens love to eat, so if one of your hens is off their food, then you should investigate this straight away – there are many health reasons that could be the cause and your hen may need some veterinary care. It's worth remembering that when hens go broody, they will spend much of the day sitting so will not be eating as much as their companions – this is quite normal behaviour, but remember to make sure she gets off the nest once a day to eat and drink.
Dull and poor quality feathers or unexpected feather loss can sometimes be an indicator of poor health. If unwell, your chickens may not be consuming enough food to get the nutrients they need and they may also struggle to absorb the vital nutrients too. They may also not be preening as much as usual. This can all lead to duller less healthy looking feathers – if you notice this in your hens then it’s worth investigating this further. Feather loss can of course indicate that your bird is going through their moult, but unexpected feather loss or damage can also indicate a parasite issue, so close inspection of your hens for lice or mite may help to explain the cause – ensure that you seek treatment when needed. Broody hens that have been broody for a while may show a slight loss of condition in the feathers and show feather loss on their breasts – this isn’t unusual, but make sure they are getting off at least once a day to eat and drink, and seek advice if you think there may be another cause such as parasites. In general though, it’s worth remembering that there are other causes of feather loss, such as bullying in the flock or, if you have a cockerel in your flock, then missing feathers around the back or neck can be from mating. Watching your birds closely should help you to figure out what is going on, but veterinary advice should be sought if in doubt.
A dull or discoloured comb can also be an indicator of illness – one of the combs purposes is to help with temperature regulation and allow chickens to deal better with heat in the warmer months. A purple tinge to the comb can indicate a circulation issue so it’s worth seeking veterinary advice if you do see this. Whilst a paler comb may just indicate your hen is naturally off lay, any abnormal or out of season changes may be indicative of a health problem including anaemia and parasite issues so this should always be investigated further. A reluctance to enter the coop at night can indicate that you have a red mite issue – red mites feed on your hens blood at night, and come off the bird after feeding and can leave them looking paler than usual; because they don’t live on the bird you’ll need to look in cracks and crevices for any activity – you can wipe a piece of kitchen towel under the perches that your hens are sitting on, do this after dark, if it shows blood smears then this is another indicator that you have red mite.
Symptoms such as coughing, sneezing or rattling breathing should be taken seriously as chickens have quite sensitive respiratory systems and there are a number of illnesses that can target them. Some respiratory illnesses can spread amongst your flock, so it’s important to act fast so that you can try to stop it spreading and also seek veterinary attention where needed. Respiratory illnesses can be really serious, so it’s important not to ignore the symptoms. It’s worth remembering that dusty or dirty bedding can cause some respiratory issues as the dust and ammonia can irritate their delicate respiratory systems and cause them to experience discomfort and display symptoms.
Your chickens droppings can also be an indicator of whether something is wrong. There is a reasonably wide variation in what a normal dropping can look like – there are many online guides to help with identifying whether droppings are normal or not. Persistent diarrhoea should be taken seriously as it can be indicative of problems in the digestive system or other organs. It's important to deal with messy bottoms too, as although uncommon it can lead to fly strike which can be devastating and is often fatal. Blood in the droppings needs to be taken seriously too – this can sometimes be indicative of a serious parasite burden which can be fatal, so veterinary advice should be sought swiftly.
Hunched over hens that are not moving much is usually an indication that there is something seriously wrong with your hen. If you feel that there is something seriously wrong with your hen then you should seek veterinary advice urgently so that they can advise on the best treatment. Whilst this isn’t an exhaustive list of potential indicators of illness, we hope that it provides you with an idea of some of the things to look out for in your flock!
5. Which poultry grit would be best for my chickens?
Choosing what grit is best for your hens can be hard when there’s so many out there. Much like food, the grit you chose can be dictated by the age of your chicken as they come in various sizes. The term grit can often be used to describe both oyster shell and flint grit – often referred to as soluble and insoluble grit. Oyster shell dissolves in the digestive system, giving your hens extra calcium to produce good, strong eggshells and help maintain strong bones. Keep the oyster shell in a separate container from your hens main feed, and your hens will eat it as and when they feel they need it. Insoluble grit are small bits of stone. This insoluble grit is really important as chickens don’t have teeth, so they store this grit in their gizzard, where it will help grind up their food. The stones don’t dissolve but move around the gizzard, cracking husks of grain and helping with digestion – allowing nutrients to absorbed. Keep your hens flint grit in a separate container from their main feed and they will select from it when they need it. Marriage’s mixed poultry grit contains both oyster shell and insoluble grit.
6. Why have my chicken’s stopped laying eggs in Winter?
Just like us, chickens routines change around the darker nights and shorter days. As your hens go through their moult (which is usually early autumn or late summer) you will notice that they stop laying due to the high nutrient demands on them during the moult. As you move into the winter months, your hens laying will be further impacted because of the shortening days as ideally they need approximately 14 hours or more of daylight to sustain strong egg production. As the days shorten, your hens egg production will slow and may naturally stop due to a hormonal response to the shortening days. Winter can be seen as a period of rest from egg laying for your hens. Very cold weather can also decrease or stop egg production, as energy is utilised to keep themselves warm rather than producing eggs.
7. How do I keep my chickens safe from predators?
Keeping your chickens safe is your number one priority, however keeping predators away can be tricky. Firstly, using strong fencing around your chicken run can help. Although foxes are smart animals, ensuring the fence is at least 6-foot-tall and ideally sloped outwards can make it harder for foxes to climb over. Placing bricks, slabs or large stones at the foot of your fence can also make it more difficult for them to dig underneath and so act as a deterrent. Foxes can chew through some wire meshes so make sure your chicken fencing is strong enough to deter against this. Many predators become more active at night so it is worth taking extra precautions by ensuring your coop is safe and secure and ensuring you are closing the coop up before it gets dark. Make sure that your chickens’ coop is safe, secure and ensure there aren’t any holes that rodents can get in through too.
8. Chicken keeping for beginners
Keeping chickens can be an incredibly rewarding experience, whether you want them for eggs or just more company, they’ll soon become part of the family. As long as you’ve got a suitable outdoor space big enough for a chicken run, you can provide the perfect environment for them. So firstly, do you have enough room in your garden? Chicken’s need plenty of room to run around and explore, even in a run. Without adequate space, they get bored and consequently, may start pecking each other. Secondly, how many chickens do you want? It’s important to know chickens live their best lives when surrounded by a flock, giving them a bit of company and keeping them out of trouble. Next, you need to consider if you have enough time to look after chickens – not as high maintenance as some animals, they still need to be cleaned out regularly, have clean water and food, plenty of enrichment activities available, veterinary care and so on.
9. What’s the best food to use for breeder hens?
When your hens are breeding, they may benefit from a slightly different feed. Breeder feeds typically include a higher protein content and specific levels of vitamins and minerals in order to help provide the right amounts of amino acids and other essential nutrients not only to them, but to their chicks too. Our poultry breeder pellets contain the perfect balance of protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals as well as being non-GM, helping to ensure the breeding bird and her chicks are in full health. Newly hatched chicks are dependent on the nutrients of their yolk sac provided by the hen, so this needs to be of good quality in order support them at this critical time. You can help ensure you maximise the quality of the yolk sac by feeding a top quality feed, as the nutrients are dependent on what the hen herself was fed. Our pellets contain a premix of vitamins and minerals, with protein levels designed to maintain fit birds and improve hatchability.
10. What corn should I feed my chickens?
With a lot of different varieties on the market, it can be confusing what corn would be best to give your flock. Our royal variety contains a mixture of different materials, such as dried carrots, peas, cut maize, wheat and grit. We believe this is one of the best quality corn mixes you can give your chickens, not only offering them a high quality, natural corn but also one with a lot of variety – providing enrichment for your chickens as well as being a tasty treat. Corn is a treat that should be fed in the afternoon occasionally, to ensure that your flock has eaten enough of their pellets or mash that was put out for them in the morning. This is so you don’t inadvertently cause a nutrient balance. Providing corn in the afternoon is a good way of providing energy to help keep your chickens warm at night.
11. How many eggs will my chickens lay, and how often?
Egg laying can naturally vary depending on various factors including breed, age, season, stress and diet. Hens will typically have come into lay by about 20 weeks of age, but this varies depending on various factors such as breed, and even as to when in the year they were hatched. Most chickens lay 1 egg a day for a large part of the year, sometimes nearer two days depending on their reproductive system. A chickens first laying year will be it’s most productive; after this, egg laying naturally slows down with age. A common reason for egg production slowing during the year is reducing light hours. Hens ideally need approximately 14 hours or more of daylight to sustain strong production – this means you will see a slow or pause in your hens laying over the winter months, and as the days get longer they will come back into lay. As the days shorten, your hens egg production will slow and may naturally stop due to a hormonal response to the shortening days. Winter can be seen as a period of rest from egg laying for your hens. Another point to remember is that as your hens go through their moult (which is usually early autumn or late summer) you will notice that they stop laying due to the high nutrient demands on them during the moult.
12. Why are my chickens eggs yolk a different colour?
Your chickens egg yolk colour is determined by their diet and health. Many feeds will contain artificial pigments which are used to alter the colour of the hens yolk, but with our Farmyard Layers Pellets we like to keep it natural and use the feed ingredients themselves to ensure that the yolk colour of your hens eggs is coloured in a natural way. Natural pigments in raw materials such as marigold or maize will not only influence the colour of the yolk, but also enrich the egg with carotenoids too, which are associated with human health benefits.
13. Should I feed chicken layers mash or pellets?
Knowing the difference between chicken layers pellets and chicken layers mash can be a bit confusing. It’s important to know they both have the same nutritional value, so your chickens won’t benefit more from having one or the other from a nutritional point of view. With layers pellets it can often be easier to see how much of them your flock is eating compared to mash as there can often be a fair amount of wastage when feeding mash. Mash diets typically keep hens occupied for slightly longer as it takes more time for them to consume their daily requirement of mash than it does with pellets – but the benefit of this is most noted in commercial settings where other stimulation sources may be limited, rather than domestically kept hens that have outdoor access. What you chose to feed your hens may also depend on the size of your chickens – some chicken breeds find it easier to eat pellets then others. In the colder months, people often add hot water to mash; making it into a porridge like consistency – it depends on your chickens preferences as to whether they will appreciate this or not! If you do try this, remember to discard and uneaten feed the same day too.
14. Why should I use a cool pressed pellet?
Nutri pressed pellets are designed to ensure they are easy for your small animal to digest. They are formulated without grains and packed full of fibre. We also use a cool pelleting process which helps retain more natural nutrients. Nutri pressed pellets also have longer cut fibre, so teamed with lots of hay they help support your animals digestive and dental health too! Added to this, because all of this goodness is packed into individual pellets it also helps prevent selective feeding.
15. What food should I feed my rabbit?
Knowing what amounts of certain foods to feed your rabbit can be difficult. They need a variety of vegetables, especially leafy greens, as well as hay, a small amount of pellets and fresh, clean water in order to make up a healthy diet. Good quality hay or grass should make up the majority of a rabbits diet and should always be available. Hay is an essential source of fibre and is needed for healthy digestion and teeth – it encourages the important side-to-side chewing which helps to support healthy dental wear and also supports gut health too. Providing hay and leafy greens also allows them to express their natural behaviours. To make sure you are meeting all of the nutrient requirements of your rabbit you should feed a rabbit food too. These come in different forms, but our special Hypoallergenic Nutri Pressed pellet is a healthy choice. Packed full of tasty ingredients, Marriage’s Nutri Pressed pellets are a great alternative to traditional extruded pellets, helping to provide a wholesome, flavoursome, balanced diet for Rabbits. Processing at cooler temperatures helps to retain more of the nutrients which may otherwise be lost during higher temperature manufacturing methods like extrusion. Our gentler cool pressing method helps to retain more of those heat sensitive nutrients, helping to make Nutri Pressed pellets a nutritious choice for Rabbits. Designed with their health in mind, we have packed our pellets with a variety of wholesome high fibre grasses and herbs and formulated them without added grains, they also have the added benefit of linseed and have no added sugar.
A handful of leafy greens helps to provide extra nutrients such as vitamins and fibre into your rabbits diet - they also offer different tastes and textures which provides enrichment and stimulation for your rabbit helping to make sure they don’t get bored. Small amounts of treats such as fruit or carrot will be greatly appreciated by your rabbit. It is important that you don’t overfeed treats to help ensure you rabbit stays happy and healthy. It is vital that you always ensure that clean drinking water is available in a suitable drinking apparatus.
16. What plants can my rabbit eat?
Your rabbit can eat a lot of plants, just as it would in the wild. When rabbits are in the wild, they spend a lot of time hiding from predators, they then emerge when it is safe so that they can consume as much food as possible. Hay is an extremely important part of your rabbits diet and this should always be provided as libitum. Generally, rabbits love eating a variety of fruit, vegetables and herbs so it’s important you provide a variety of different ones to ensure you keep them stimulated. It’s important to be aware of food items that are unsafe or are otherwise unsuitable, common examples of items you should not feed are apple pips, avocado, iceberg lettuce, rhubarb (leaves and stalks), tomato leaves etc. Second to hay, a handful of leafy greens will be greatly appreciated by your rabbit – rabbits will enjoy a variety of different leafy greens and herbs, just remember to check they are all rabbit safe. Apple without the seeds and raspberries are examples of fruit that your rabbit will appreciate as treats - Fruit and certain root vegetables such as carrot, should only be fed in small quantities as a treat because of their high sugar content.
17. Why does my rabbit not like being picked up or held?
Rabbits are small and cute, but as enticing as it may seem you can cause harm and distress by handling them the wrong way. When holding a rabbit, you should hold it gently but firmly, ensuring one hand is always supporting their back and hindquarters. To make them feel more secure you can hold all four of their feet against your body. Never pick rabbits up by their ears, or turn them on their backs as though you’d stroke their tummy. Placing a rabbit on it’s back makes them go into a trance state of immobility. This causes their heart and respiratory rate to rapidly increase, as they feel fear-related stress and is harmful for them.
18. Why has my rabbit stopped eating?
A serious reason as to why your rabbit has stopped eating can be to do with a gastrointestinal problem called GI Stasis. This is when the contractions in rabbits intestines that normally push food through the gastrointestinal tract slows down or stops – this can have a number of causes including stress. Rabbits can be quite easily stressed, so they may have been stressed by something without you realising. GI stasis can be life-threatening for rabbits and should be treated straight away. Take your rabbit straight to the vet when you spot they’re off their food. It’s always best to get your rabbit checked with a vet as soon as they stop eating in case in case they need urgent veterinary attention.
19. Bunny Basics: Living with a house rabbit
Lots of people chose to keep their rabbits inside, allowing them play time within the house as well as outside. It’s important to bunny-proof areas of your house to protect your rabbit and ensure they don’t get hurt when roaming around. There are some simple but important things to remember, such as keeping house plants out of reach of your rabbits so they don’t nibble them, making sure any plants are rabbit safe just in case, and making sure there are no cables or wires that your rabbit may be able to chew. A rabbit naturally wants to chew, so providing them with plenty of rabbit safe toys helps ensure they won’t nibble your furniture (although there are no guarantees so always make sure you supervise them when they are out!). Allowing your rabbits to go outside into a secure area will also benefit them a lot as just like us they benefit from the sunshine and fresh air too - they’ll also be thankful for the chance to graze on some grass. If you have more than 1 rabbit in the house, they’ll have company to entertain each other and they’ll be a lot happier. You should spend time with your rabbits too, but try not to pick them up or cuddle them too much as they don’t like being lifted. Instead you can sit with them and let them come over to you – if you do have to lift your rabbit make sure you do this properly and safely, supporting them.
20. What should I feed my guinea pig?
Guinea pigs need a balance of pellets, hay and fresh vegetables to have a healthy diet. Just like humans, they also can’t produce their own Vitamin C so they require vitamin c rich foods in their daily diet. Guinea pigs need a variety of vegetables, especially leafy greens, as well as hay, pellets and fresh, clean water in order to make up a healthy diet. Good quality hay or grass should make up the majority of the diet and should always be available. Hay is an essential source of fibre which is needed for healthy digestion and teeth – it helps to support healthy dental wear and also supports gut health too. Providing hay and leafy greens also allows them the opportunity to express their natural behaviours. To make sure you are meeting all of the nutrient requirements of your Guinea pig you should feed a specific Guinea pig food too. These come in different forms, but our special Hypoallergenic Nutri Pressed pellet is a healthy choice. They are packed with tasty ingredients, and help to provide a wholesome, flavoursome, balanced diet for Guinea pigs. Processing at cooler temperatures helps to retain more of the nutrients which may otherwise be lost during higher temperature manufacturing methods like extrusion. Our gentler cool pressing method helps to retain more of those heat sensitive nutrients, helping to make Nutri Pressed pellets a nutritious choice for Guinea pigs. Designed with their health in mind, we have packed our pellets with a variety of wholesome high fibre grasses and herbs and formulated them without added grains. A handful of leafy greens helps to provide extra nutrients, fibre and additional moisture into your Guinea pigs diet - they also offer different tastes and textures which provides enrichment and stimulation for your rabbit helping to make sure they don’t get bored. Very small amounts of treats such as fruit or carrot will be greatly appreciated by your guinea pig. It is important to ensure that you don’t overfeed treats to help ensure your guinea pig stays happy and healthy. It's vital that you always ensure that fresh, clean drinking water is available in a suitable drinker.
21. Guinea pigs housing
Guinea pig cages need to be roomy enough to allow them to freely wander about and have plenty of spaces to hide and feel secure. Whilst some cages on the market can be larger vertically, guinea pigs really rely on a lot of floor space rather than lots of levels. The minimum recommended size cage for a guinea pig is around 30 by 50 inches, which allows just enough room to roam around, explore, climb up ramps and play with toys – if you can allow more space then that’s great too. Remember though, the more guinea pigs you have, the more space you will need! The cage is where they spend most of their time, so living in a confined space can cause them significant amounts of stress. Low height ramps and platforms provide enrichment, but they do need enough room to exercise, even with their daily play outside of the cage. Having enough space is vital to ensuring they can have time to themselves when they don’t want to play with the others. Larger spaces are also easier to clean because they help prevent a build up of waste and with some training, may allow guinea pigs to separate their bathroom area to their living and play area. Ensuring they have plenty of hiding spaces will also help to keep your guinea pigs happy and healthy.
22. Does my guinea pig need a friend?
As social animals, guinea pigs are typically very affectionate not only towards their friends, but also towards humans too. Having a companion in their cage can increase your guinea pigs happiness, allowing them to not only have a bond with you but also within their cage too. Without proper companionship, they can start to feel lonely – inevitably leading to further health problems. In their natural habitat, guinea pigs live together in herds. Often surviving better as a pack, this originally would help them warn each other of predators and keep each other warm at night. Guinea pigs need company of their own kind, so it is important that they have a guinea pig friend living with them to keep them occupied and happy. If you find yourself in a situation where your guinea pig sadly loses their companion, it’s important that you seek advice before attempting to introduce a new guinea pig. It’s really important that if you’re planning to bring a new guinea pig into your current pig’s life that you do it really carefully. Doing it properly will help to stop any disagreements.
23. Why isn’t my guinea pig touching their food?
There can be a few reasons your guinea pig has stopped eating their food, but it’s important that you get them eating again as soon as you can and seek veterinary advice where needed. A sudden change in their diet may lead to a refusal to eat what you’ve provided, so when changing their food it’s important to gently ease them into it, so they get used to the new mixed with the old. Illness can be another reason they’re off their food, for example if they’re having dental problems this may cause them pain when eating. Keeping old, uneaten food can also put guinea pigs off their food, so don’t leave old uneaten food in their cage and it’s a good idea to split the daily feed of pellets into two feeds so that you can see whether the first portion has been eaten before you add the second feed of the day.
24. Misconceptions about guinea pigs
A big misconception about guinea pigs is that they don’t like to interact with humans. Guinea pigs are actually very sociable animals and enjoy the company of not only you, but other guinea pigs too. They may come across shy at first, but as soon as they get used to their surroundings and have bonding time with you and other guinea pigs, they’ll love being around you. Another important misconception is guinea pigs are great pets for children. Some people often think that smaller animals such as guinea pigs are easy for children to care for, however they’re not ideal starter pets for children. Kids can get excited about carrying, snuggling and playing with a guinea pig, but it’s important to know their boundaries and understand they need to be held gently and with care. This isn’t to say children can’t have a guinea pig, but it’s crucial they know how delicate and sensitive guinea pigs can be, as well as what a big commitment they are too.