Chicken with swollen eyes

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This picture shows a chicken with swollen eyes from South Africa – the chicken is suffering from Infectious Coryza. The chicken will become dehydrated and will die very quickly if left untreated with chicken medicine. Catching disease early is very important – if you think your chicken is sick – then act immediately – don’t wait to see what may happen or you may very well lose your entire flock. The poultry disease will quickly move to other chickens and can decimate an entire flock – it is a respiratory disease and once a chicken has this disease it is a carrier for life – even when the chicken is healed with the correct medication. Chickens can get 180 different diseases, the worst is new castles disease – many of these can be treated with the correct inoculations when the chickens are young. If your chickens act differently from normal, bunching up, sitting on their own and not eating, hunching, or not eating – then act straight way.

The best solution is prevention:

  • no different aged birds close to each other
  • footbaths in front of each house, showers if you can avoid it
  • regular vitamins
  • layers and broilers far away from each other
  • clean houses regularly
  • clean water founts everyday
  • no strangers, salesmen, suppliers near your houses
  • fly and rat control
  • correct temperatures and humidity in houses
hen with swollen eyes
Dehydrated and hunched

Poultry Vaccines given as chicken medication when the birds are young are critical – These poultry medicines can be bought from a vet or from a poultry medication company like Imunovet or Vetpak. The best way to avoid poultry disease is to keep your chicken house very clean, control your flies and other vermin. Avoid placing young birds in close proximity to older chickens – and properly clean your chicken house between cycles. Infectious Coryza is easily transmitted – but water is the critical factor – it is easily passed from chicken to chicken when the poultry houses are wet and the water is dirty – you will need to separate infected chickens from the rest of the flock – and treat them for 3 to six days. Early warning signs are sneezing and blowing bubbles out of the nasal passages at the top of the beak – if you can catch it then, early, then you can avoid the chickens eyes swelling up and the bird getting very sick – it will spread – so be awake when you look at your birds –  look for runny dropping and blood in the chicken droppings – this will be a sign of Coccidiossis. Poultry sickness – any kind, swollen eyes, runny litter, blood in the litter, hunched chickens, rattling in the chest, not eating, not drinking, dull eyes – are all signs that your chicken is sick. You will need poultry vaccines, or chicken medication – or you may be watching chickens dying. Give them vitamins regularly, feed them fresh vegetables if you can and stick to your bio security practises religiously.

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De-beakers for chickens

Debeakers, or de-beakers are items used for debeaking a chicken – this is the process of removing the tip of a chickens beak. Chickens that are kept in a battery cage, or layer cage often need to be debeaked to stop the chickens from hurting each other. When chickens are kept very close together, as in a layer house with cages, the hens often resort to cannibalism – this is due to boredom and being tightly closeted with other chickens. The process, while seemingly cruel, if done in the corect manner – is painless. The chickens will be feeding shortly afterwards. If you are keeping chickens at home you should avoid buying hens that have been debeaked – it is easy to see – the beak will be blunt and often deformed at the tip – also the top part of the beak and the bottom part of the beak are different lengths.

beak trimmers and debeakers

This hen has been debeaked

A well made BEAK TRIMMER  trims and cauterizes the chickens beak in a single operation. This slows down bleeding and beak regrowth. Birds usually begin eating right after trimming. De beakers are used
by turkey growers, hatchery men, broiler producers, egg producers, and game bird breeders around the world – this practise is banned for any chicken farmer who is doing free range chickens or organic chickens. Beak trimming is actually not the correct term – what actually happens is that the tip of the beak is burnt, or cauterised.

debeaking poultry for battery farming

Debeaker for trimming chickens beaks

Not only is beak trimming performed on chickens but also toe clipping.  Usually  on 6-10 day old layer chicks. When done properly, this method of beak trimming will usually take care of the beak for the life of the bird, and you will not need to need to re trim later. A commercial beak trimmer, or debeaker  will beak trim up to 150 to 1200 birds per hour
depending on whether the birds are chicks, pullets, or hens. Debeaking of layers and breeders should only need 2 +seconds of cauterization. Properly done, this method of beak trimming will usually last for the life of the bird, and eliminates the need to re trim beaks at a later date.

If your buy debeaked chickens and then try to free range the hens, they will battle to forage properly – even simple things like pecking at a tomatoes is almost impossible – you will need to feed them layer mash – although certain vegetables like spinach is easily eaten by a chicken that has had it’s beak trimmed. In many countries trimming beaks and toes is illegal – but if you are placing many chickens in a layer cage it is highly unlikely that the chickens will not hurt each other – and you should debeak or trim the chickens beaks before placing them in the battery cages. Be prepared for the law to change in South AFrica – layer cages and any poultry farming practises that are considered cruel are under review – battery farming is already banned in many European countries. A better option is probably to start with free range chickens or organic chickens – the chicken meat and the organic eggs will fetch a premium in South Africa – and the demand for free range eggs is growing as consumers are made aware of what goes on in some poultry farms – and they do not like it. The South African consumer is beginning to vote with their feet – and it would seem that intensive, cruel poultry farming techniques are going the way of the dinosaur, and that could be catastrophic if you have invested a fortune in layer cages and high tech poultry equipment like debeakers.

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Bad to feed chickens

do not feed your chickens

Some foods are just not good for chickens

Do not feed your chickens these foods – and don’t think that chickens know what is good for them – they will eat just about anything you give them – and sometimes with very bad results. Free range chickens will eat worms and small lizards – also small mice and weeds.

Raw green potato peels

They love cooked potato – mashed or whole – Raw potato peal contains a toxic substance called Solanine.

Salted food
Can cause salt poisoning in small bodies such as chickens.

Avoid orange peels and banana skins

Dried or undercooked Beans Raw, or dry beans, contain a poison called hemaglutin which is toxic to birds.
Avocado Skin or Pip

Skin and pit have low levels of toxicity.

Raw eggs
Cooked eggs are fine – but don’t teach your layers to like raw eggs – otherwise thy will eat each others eggs.
Chocolate, Sugar
No brainer – not pets or livestock should be given sugar,

Otherwise you can give them anything – they will eat bugs and small mice, worms and weeds. My chickens love tomatoes – especially the small cherry tomatoes that grow wild on the farm. Try to chop bigger pieces of feed up – and hard food is also better to avoid. Do not give them anything that you would not eat – as in moldy or old food. don’t feed chickens, chickens should not eat, bad for chickens, food that you should not give your chickens. Chickens eat most things – and they are not very good at telling what is good for them or not – best not to feed them avo or potato peels – but they love bugs and small mice, lizards and tomatoes! You can just toss your kitchen scraps into the chicken house or chicken coop. Depending how many chickens you are keep and what size chicken house you have will determine if it is worth your while. A bowl of scraps for 200 chickens is a good way to get rid of your scraps but will make no difference to your feed costs. On our free range farm we grow African cabbage, tomatoes and spinach – my chickens love me.

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Nest boxes or Layer cages?

Layer cages are used in intensive chicken farming – they are not considered at all friendly to the chickens. If you are doing free range chickens or organic chickens you will have to use nest boxes for your hens to lay eggs in your chicken house – Nest boxes are used in green chicken farming. Layer cages, on the other hand, are banned in European countries as cruelty toward animals – it is legal in South Africa – but perhaps not for long.

Most large chicken farms that are doing egg production use layer cages in their chicken houses – if you are raising hens to lay eggs for day old chicks then you will use nest boxes in your poultry house – this is so the the cocks can have access to the hens to fertilize the eggs. Green chicken farming is about the future – caring for the planet and the animals we use for food production.

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Free Range eggs

Free Range eggs can be bought in South Africa from most of the large supermarket chains – Woolworths even offers organic eggs. Free range eggs and organic egg farming is a growing industry in South Africa. With the government giving loans to small chicken farmers, the chances of seeing more free range eggs and organic eggs on our shelves is growing.

How hard is it to do free range eggs? – Pretty easy actuallythe biggest challenge is space – you need a whole lot more land than for intensive farming. And once you have space, the other hassle is rotating the land – the hens scuff up the vegetation and turn it into a dust bowl quite quickly. The organic regulations say that there must be green cover, so to look after the land, and to comply, one needs to keep moving the chickens to a new spot and let the vegetation recover.

organic eggs

Free ranging chickens

While many of the small poultry farming operations are concentrating on intensive farming methods using layer cages and battery farming, there are some small poultry farmers experimenting with free range chicken farming. As the public becomes more aware of the animal abuses that happen in battery farming, through programs like Carte Blanch, so the demand for free range eggs and organic eggs grows. Free range chicken meat and organic chicken meat, while also growing in popularity, is harder to find, and harder to sell. Small poultry farmers often find it difficult to find someone to build a free range house – and also battle to get the right price for their eggs. In rural areas especially there is little demand for free range – or should I say little demand for expensive eggs. Battery eggs are much cheaper, and in places where disposable income is non existent, I am not surprised that no one is prepared to pay more for what seems to be the same product. What rural farmers do not realise is that many of them have access to easy markets on their door steps – Game lodges, bed and breakfast establishments and other tourist places all buy free range eggs – it is what what their customers expect. With these establishments being far off the beaten track I am quite sure they would jump at the chance to buy eggs locally at a fair price. Many of them are worried about their carbon footprint and buying locally is one way to reduce this.

Free range eggs just mean that the chickens that lay the eggs are not kept in a layer cage and that they have access to the outside –able to wander freely under the sun during the day whilst they forage naturally. Free range eggs and organic eggs are more expensive than battery produced eggs because of the extra work of collecting eggs and the fact that the chickens walk around – expending their energy on walking instead of laying eggs. Know this though, free range chickens are much happier than battery raised chickens – and a happy chicken means a happy egg. Which would you rather eat?

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Chicken Houses

Small Chicken Houses are made from galvanised steel roofing  and sturdy angle iron. Sizes vary from 3m x 5m up to 30m x 6m. You will need to decide how many chickens you wish to grow – whether you want broilers (chickens for eating) or layers (hens that lay eggs for eating) and from that you can decide how big your house should be.
Yellow door chicken house

The best house on the market

You will also need to decide whether you are going to go organic chicken farming or free range chicken farming. The type of chicken house you need will depend on these things. To prepare the ground for a chicken house you will have to level it and throe a slab. Once this is done a poultry house can be erected. Some companies offer to do the slab and the house – but be careful because in South Africa the chicken house companies throw a terrible slab – which will crack and wear. Make sure you ask the chicken house company for specifications on you slab and house and then compare prices and specs. You will find that spending a bit more now on a good slab and a sturdy poultry hoses will save you money in the long run. You will also need running water close to your chicken house and a good electricity supply. You will then need poultry equipment – drinkers, pan feeders, heaters and curtaining for your yellow door chicken house – which is probably the cheapest best value chicken house in South Africa.
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