Keeping our feathered friends happy
Backyard chicken keeping is a hobby with benefits. Obviously, there are eggs on demand (unless little Beryl has decided to go broody again) with fresh, delicious, sunset-orange yolks that literally burst with flavour. But pet hens offer more than just a food supply. Their clucking and warbling, dust-bathing, scratching and pecking, and downright entertaining antics – especially the Benny Hill-style chases that occur when one of them lands a big juicy worm – can have a hugely positive impact on their owner’s sense of wellbeing.
Among my motley crew are a few chunky home-bred hybrids, a couple of fluffy-bottomed lavender pekins, a dainty lemon sablepoot who looks like she’s wearing the world’s most impractical leopard-skin boots, and Doris the Poland, a ditzy blonde who likes nothing more than to fall asleep in my arms, purring (I’m not kidding, she vibrates, which I am assured is a sign of her contentedness).
The domestic poultry market in Britain is booming as more folk discover the joys of chooks, and therefore it’s not surprising to see poultry product manufacturers are trying hard to keep pace with developments. Chickens appear to have risen in the pecking order of domestic pets so that their status in the household is almost on a level with cats and dogs, and owners are keen to ensure they are doing their best to keep their beloved birds as happy and healthy as possible.
Two issues that domestic keepers can face, however small their menagerie, are pecking among their hens, and chicken runs (as well as lawns if the chickens have wider garden access) that can soon turn into a mudbath. And here’s where Vencomatic Group might be able to use their expertise in designing and producing commercial poultry products to assist the humble domestic keeper… I got the chance to trial two of their products (second review in another post) with my hens, and here is my verdict.
Pecking Pan to the rescue!
Pecking is perhaps one of the species’ less attractive character traits as it’s hardwired into their DNA and there’s no getting away from the chicken hierarchy, with ‘superior’ birds regularly pecking and nipping at those lower down the order with everyone knowing their place.
Also, they find the colour red absurdly attractive so if a hen has an injury or any red bits on show, perhaps from feather loss due to pecking or an overly attentive cockerel, chances are the sore spots are going to get a lot worse as her coop-mates won’t be able to stop themselves from giving it a good old peck (ouchie!).
Many domestic chicken owners try using a spray that disguises the red colour to prevent it attracting such unwanted attention, with varying results. Vencomatic’s Pecking Pan offers a more proactive solution – its mixture of cement, limestone, oyster shell and grit helps by gently and naturally blunting the bird’s beak, so that it’s less likely to cause injury to other hens. I know some owners are left feeling quite upset by their girls’ pecking behaviour and at a loss as to how to stop it, so this tactic that has proved highly successful at preventing injurious pecking in a commercial poultry environment is definitely worth a try. I found that a little sprinkle of corn or layers pellets on the pan was enough to encourage my lot to head over for a nibble and, naturally, when one tries it, they all want to have a go!
There’s no risk of it tipping over; it’s weighted and does feel quite heavy and sturdy, and it can be hung if you’re able to attach it to something that can take its weight. It’s clearly very durable – mine is showing no sign yet of wearing out after six months’ use. The only potential downside is it can collect standing water if it is located outdoors in rain, so you might want to put it in a sheltered area or ensure any water that gathers is regularly tipped out.
The innovative Pecking Pan has undergone rigorous testing and research and has been proven to improve bird welfare so it will be interesting to see if the domestic market takes it under its wing.
- Review by Sarah Mainprize.