How do you stop a broody hen being broody?

The reason a hen goes broody is because the heat in their body rises to prepare to incubate a clutch of eggs which causes a brooding character, so the idea is, take the heat out of her body/chest and the brooding instinct will go away.

There are a number of tips, tricks and ideas that can help a hen from being broody.

Bravery is needed as she will possibly peck at you when you approach, take hold of her by placing your hands either side of her body to hold the wings in place, gradually ease her into a container of water (the water must be tepid, not ‘iced’), feet first, until the water reaches the chest area. Keep her in the tepid water for around 30 seconds then gradually take her out again (dry her off a little if you wish). Place her gradually on her feet on to the ground. You may need to do this numerous times until the heat goes from her breast. Please do note though, not cold water, it must be the same temperature as your hand, otherwise shock will set in.

Another alternative of many traditional poultry keepers is to put the hen in a wire mesh dog crate, with no bedding so that air can circulate around the body and so reducing the heat. Alternatively, try swapping real eggs with rubber eggs.

My chickens have messy bottoms and runny poo, what would cause this?

Several things could be the cause. Worms is the first thing to check, have you wormed them recently. Secondly, what are you feeding them? If giving too many treats, like sweetcorn, cabbage or sunflower hearts, it can give them diarrhoea. Staple diet should be layers pellets but, like children being offered a choice of ice cream or vegetables, they will take the treat in preference.

Is it necessary to keep a cockerel?

No, hens will lay eggs and do all usual things without one. You would only need a cockerel if you intend to breed, but as you can buy fertile eggs easily it is not necessary. Cockerels are very beneficial to keep a flock ‘in order’ and so will prevent feather pecking, which is common in a hen only flock. The downside to keeping cockerels is that they crow loudly; neighbours will complain; they can hurt hens through over-zealous mating and they can be aggressive and jump up at you.

Where can I get some chicks/hens from?

There are Breeders Directories in specialist magazines such as Country Smallholding, Your Chickens and Practical Poultry. Look for local ones that you can visit to see the birds and talk to the breeder. Make sure the birds are vaccinated for Newcastle Disease and Mareks Disease. Do not buy from local ads or auctions unless you are knowledgeable and know what to look for. Having ex-battery hens is a wonderful idea but be careful if you are new to poultry keeping, that you research as much as possible and are mindful of the additional care needed with ex-battery hens as they may have many psychological problems and sometimes need looking after as they have few chicken instincts.


How long do red mites live?

The red mite lifecycle can be as short as seven days, they live and reproduce in poultry housing and can survive for up to 10 months without feeding, so it’s important to regularly check for signs of red mites. They only attach to chickens to feed for one to two hours at night.

How do I check for Red Mites?

A weekly check should include running your hand under the perches for signs of blood spots, while tapping the wood around corners, or any nooks and crannies, this will bring out any hatched mites for a visual check.

An initial sign of infestation may be the reluctance of hens at night going into the house. It is best to check for Red Mites early in the morning, as they can be easily seen by the naked eye. The Red Mites get their distinctive red colouring after feeding on the blood of birds overnight.

Another sign is a build-up of a grey dust in the chicken house, this is the detritus from the mite.

Birds may start to look anaemic and lethargic such as pale combs rather than red and sitting hunched up in a corner rather than actively scratching around. If your birds are lethargic/anaemic the Nettex Poultry Nutri-Drops provides an instant energy source, a fast-acting pick me up.

How to maintain a mite free environment?

To remove the constant threat of Red Mites, a weekly three-step programme is advised. Firstly, thoroughly clean out your coop and remove all faeces, dry matter and bedding.

Secondly, spray Nettex Total Mite Kill Ready to Use Solution onto all surfaces, including the underside of the roof. Hard to reach areas can be treated with Total Mite Kill Aerosol which acts as a long-lasting control.

Finally, fresh bedding should be laid and then liberally apply Total Mite Kill Powder over the surface of bedding, perches and nest boxes. It’s also important to include the Total Mite Kill Powder in dust baths. If you can see the powder, it’s doing its job.

The Nettex Total Mite Trial Kit contains all of the above products, in convenient small sizes.


What is scaly leg?

Scaly leg mites are particularly nasty. The mite lives on the ground in damp conditions and then they burrow under the scales of a bird’s legs causing great irritation, which the hen tries to relieve by pecking, this creates painful sores on the legs. The infection is easy recognised because of the raised scales and it is highly contagious and affects birds of all ages.

How can I treat Scaly Leg in my chickens?

Scaly Legs can be managed with effective spray based formulations, such as the Nettex Scaly Leg Remover Spray. It comes in a hand-held spray bottle making it easy to apply.

Once the birds have been treated, we recommend that their house is disinfected thoroughly using poultry disinfectant such as Nettex Virtec-P Disinfectant or Virkon-S.

For the ground use Nettex Ground Sanitising Powder in dry conditions. If the ground is wet or soggy then consider covering in a thick layer of wood shavings or woodchip to keep the chicken’s legs and feet dry. Regular applications of Ground Sanitising Powder should avoid further infections.

Top Management Tip

Apply the Scaly Leg spray onto a soft toothbrush and apply to the legs in an upward motion, gently working it under the scales. Note that the scales will not improve in appearance until the bird next moults. Do not remove any damaged scales.

For General Maintenance

  • When buying in birds always check them carefully and treat them before introducing them to the rest of the flock
  • Spray the legs, comb and wattles every few weeks

Always isolate and quarantine any affected birds.


What is feather pecking?

Cannibalism and feather pecking are a complex multifactorial behavioural problem of poultry and game birds worldwide.

What are the symptoms of feather pecking?

  • Pecking at feet (especially in young chicks)
  • Pecking at vents (in adult layers and turkey poults 8-12 days old)
  • Pecking at the head, face and wings
  • Feather pulling.

Why do chickens feather peck?

Feather Pecking can occur due to several reasons such as;

  • Boredom
  • Stress
  • Annual moult
  • Lack of Protein
  • Persistent peckers.

How to prevent feather pecking in chickens?

Nettex Anti-Feather Pecking Spray is a foul-tasting substance that includes antibacterial agents to help prevent feather pecking and to heal wounds.

What else can I do to prevent feather pecking?

The Agrivite Nutri-Peck Blocks are a nutritious peck block that can help prevent feather pecking by reducing boredom.

How do I treat a bird that has a minor external wound/graze?

Cannibalism and feather pecking may lead to skin wounding, leaving it open to bacterial infection. In severe cases this can lead to blood loss and anaemia. The Nettex Poultry Wound Spray is an antibacterial aerosol cleansing spray which leaves a violet residue when used, to indicate that the affected area has been covered.


What is the best way to care for my chickens?

Good nutrition provides healthier, tastier eggs and choosing the right feed is important. Feed chicks up to six weeks of age chick crumbs, then use a growers feed (pellets or mash) until the pullets start laying at around 20 weeks. Once the birds begin producing eggs they can move onto a layer feed.

Birds should also be given an internal worming supplement every month. Treat litter periodically to reduce larvae and worm egg burden.

During illness or stress give the flock a mineral and vitamin boost such as the Nettex Poultry Nutri-Drops a fast-acting pick me up, or the Nettex Vitamin Boost + with added Seaweed to help support health and productivity. The Agrivite Apple Cider Vinegar is a traditional formula to help promote digestion, health and vitality.

I have a bird that is weak and lethargic, what should I do?

Feed the Nettex Poultry Nutri-Drops for an instant energy source, a fast-acting pick me up.

Top Management Tip

Don’t be tempted to feed your birds too many treats and never offer human food – their digestive systems can’t cope with salt or sugar in processed meals. A fat hen will soon stop laying and her health will suffer. Some fresh greenery is fine, but limit portions and offer only at the end of the day.

Do chickens need Flint Grit and Oyster Shell?

Chickens need Flint Grit to help digest their food and aid digestion, the grit helps grind down the food the hens eat. Oyster Shell provides calcium, calcium is needed to improve egg shell and bone quality, if hens are calcium deficient the eggs will become soft or have no shell.

If your hens are free-range then it is likely that they already get enough grit in their diet, but if they are confined to a run you should provide a Poultry Flint Grit and Oyster Shell, Agrivite Poultry Mixed Grit provides a convenient all round mix.

The Nettex Mineral Boost with Prebiotics and Seaweed contains a high level of oyster shell grit and limestone to support egg shell quality and to assist with digestion.


What is the best type of housing to keep clean?

A clean flock is a healthy flock!

Keeping your coop clean is a top priority… EVERY WEEK! When buying new housing bear in mind that you will need to dismantle and clean it thoroughly frequently. So make life easy, choose a sturdy coop with few nooks and crannies and one that is easy to take apart for cleaning.

Most coops come with a run attached, but make sure both have strong locks and are placed on solid ground to prevent foxes burrowing in.

Top Management Tip

Sprinkling some clean litter on the run area will give the birds something to scratch about in and will absorb any faeces and odours.

What disinfectant should I use?

The Nettex Viratec-P Poultry Disinfectant is a powder concentrate broad spectrum disinfectant that can be used on poultry housing, arks, equipment and in the presence of organic matter.

The Nettex Poultry 4 in 1 Disinfectant is a ready to use spray that is suitable to use on equipment such as feeders and drinkers, the disinfectant kills viruses and bacteria that are associated with poultry diseases.

How do I maintain a healthier environment for my chickens?

The Nettex Ground Sanitising Powder is a non-toxic, disinfectant powder to keep hen houses and runs worm and germ free.


What can worms do to a chicken?

In any type of poultry, worms can impair the health of a bird, due to worms taking the nutrients out of the food of their hosts resulting in weight loss in your birds, or they may not be growing at the rate they ought to be.

Worms can damage the digestive tract of the bird which can lead to other infections. There will be a reduction in egg production and birds may seem ‘unwell’ and lethargic.

How do I treat worms?

If you believe your poultry have worms then the veterinary answer is to use a recognised, licensed wormer such as Flubenvet. This wormer is licensed for poultry through the Animal Veterinary Medicines Authority and a prescription is needed from a vet or you will have to complete a POM-VPS declaration form on a website.

Be careful when purchasing online that the company you are buying from have an SQP (Suitably Qualified Person) to sell Flubenvet. Be careful of any online companies that do not ask you to complete a form or give the SQP information before purchase.

The natural solution, which many people prefer, is regular use of an herbal product. A licence is not required as they do not contain ‘chemicals’. Not that these will not kill Gapeworm but can help to prevent other worms.

Verm-X Pellets or Liquid for Poultry is commonly used, particularly in organic systems. It is administered for 3 days out of every month throughout the year.

The Nettex Herbal Gut Conditioner yet again, does not need a licence and Nettex say it works on the chickens gut to make it inhospitable for worms.

Leaving any poultry on the same small area of ground for prolonged periods is the primary cause of worms (and many other diseases), moving the hens to fresh ground frequently is advised. Nettex Ground Sanitising Powder can be sprinkled regularly on the ground and will kill the worms from larvae stage to full grown.

Prevention is better than cure

These simple preventative measures against worm infestations can help save a great deal or worry and loss of birds.

  • Give them clean ground regularly. Never allow them to stay on bare earth for long periods; the ground will harbour countless worm larvae, bacteria and potential infections.
  • If in a fixed run then move it often to new ground, if you are not able to move the run then consider a surface that can be cleaned with disinfectant (not concrete, it’s not a natural surface). Using a loose Hardwood Woodchip surface for example, then make a watering can mix of Virkon S Disinfectant, to regularly ‘water’ the ground is a good solution (do not use on grass or near watercourses). When dry, follow up with Nettex Ground Sanitising Powder. Use disinfectant regularly inside the hen house too as contaminants can be carried inside.
  • Use Agrivite Apple Cider Vinegar in your bird’s drinking water regularly (plastic drinkers only). This changes the balance of acid in the gut so it becomes an inhospitable place for worms to live and breed. One teaspoon per litre of water is all that is required.
  • Keep grass quite short as sunlight destroys worm eggs.
  • The herbal answer is Verm-X Pellets for Poultry or Nettex Herbal Gut Conditioner every month, or the chemical answer is Flubenvet twice a year.