Why ease of clean­ing is a key con­sid­er­a­tion in nest box de­sign

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Country Smile -

When it comes to the egg, you’re deal­ing with a per­ish­able food item, or per­haps that egg is go­ing to be­come a vul­ner­a­ble chick.

In both cases, clean­li­ness of the nest is a pri­or­ity, so fea­tures that make a nest easy to clean are im­por­tant as, de­spite your best ef­forts, birds will often work out a way to sleep and defe­cate in nests.

The nests need to be eas­ily cleaned, dis­in­fected and treated for mites reg­u­larly. Metal or plas­tic is much eas­ier to clean than wood and is not as at­trac­tive for mites to hide out in, although they will still colonise any joints.

Plas­tic bins or buck­ets will come into their own for ease of clean­ing.

If you have built-in nests, a re­mov­able bot­tom makes clean­ing much eas­ier.

Bro­ken eggs in the nest can also cause a sticky mess and the pres­ence of bro­ken egg ma­te­rial en­cour­ages birds to scratch around in the nests to eat it, which can often break more eggs in the process. This is where wood shav­ings make spot clean­ing on a daily ba­sis much eas­ier than hay as it ab­sorbs the of­fend­ing ma­te­rial in a con­tained blob, ver­sus hav­ing to com­pletely re­move and prob­a­bly wipe or wash down a nest con­tain­ing hay.

Nests fixed to the wall cre­ate an added mite hide­out be­hind it. Be­fore you add lit­ter to a nest box, give it a good spray in­side, be­hind and around it with your choice of mite treat­ment. Con­tin­ued treat­ment is cru­cial through­out the year to keep pop­u­la­tions un­der con­trol.

You could also add some­thing like di­atoma­ceous earth (DE) to the nest lit­ter. Sprigs of aro­matic herbs like laven­der, rose­mary and thyme may also help as the oils they con­tain are thought to be a mite de­ter­rent.

Clean nest boxes on a reg­u­lar ba­sis

The re­mains of dried and dusty fae­ces and egg yolk, plus the added mois­ture from wet (freshly-laid) eggs and fae­ces make nest boxes the ideal medium for grow­ing bac­te­ria like sal­mo­nella, E. coli and campy­lobac­ter. It’s crit­i­cal to clean out the whole nest on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, not just add fresh lit­ter. A wet egg still has open pores through which bac­te­ria can gain ac­cess as the warm con­tents shrink as they cool, creat­ing a suck­ing ef­fect on the egg’s ex­te­rior.

How to train your hens

You’d think birds would find a nest by in­stinct and choose one you have so thought­fully pro­vided, but as many flock own­ers know, this is not al­ways the case.

Older birds lay­ing and us­ing the nests will at­tract the new lay­ers, but you need to be pre­pared to spend time training them.

Some will start look­ing around their en­vi­ron­ment for a good spot even be­fore they start to lay. A few ar­ti­fi­cial eggs (or golf balls or even lemons) in the nests might help. How­ever their first egg may catch them un­awares and it could be dropped any­where in the coop or run. Af­ter that a hen will look for a proper place and will quickly be­come im­printed on this spot as the best place to lay. It can be very hard to change her mind.

If you can, move any ‘rogue’ eggs you find and place them in the nest, or place the bird in the nest as soon as you see her think­ing about lay­ing, or sim­ply place a nest or suit­able box where she has cho­sen to lay, put her in it and when she has laid there 2-3 days run­ning, slowly move the nest to where you want it to be. This is easy if you are us­ing buck­ets or in­di­vid­ual boxes that are eas­ily moved.

Think of the nest place­ment from the bird’s point of view. Can she see it when down on the ground, does it look dark and se­cluded enough, can she reach it eas­ily and spend some time con­sid­er­ing it by walk­ing along a perch, rather than hav­ing to jump straight in from ground level?

Part of the training regime should be teach­ing them what you don’t want them to do. If you have young hens not yet lay­ing, make sure they can’t sleep in the nest boxes as this is the start of a bad habit. Birds should perch or sleep on the floor at night, and it’s only broody hens who get to sleep on the nest. The best idea is to keep the nest boxes blocked off and only open them up about two weeks be­fore eggs are an­tic­i­pated.

You also want to dis­cour­age hens from us­ing the lip of the nest as a perch. One way to train birds not to sleep in the nests once they are avail­able, is to close them up in the late af­ter­noon and only open them up again once it’s dark (eg, af­ter din­ner) so birds are al­ready in the coop, sleep­ing on their perches. This way the nests are still avail­able for the early morn­ing lay­ers.

When you have 16 breeds of her­itage poul­try and a large col­lec­tion of other game­birds like the Ap­ple­tons, you know all about the frus­tra­tions of fight­ing red mite in­fes­ta­tions.

These nasty bugs don’t live on your chick­ens but hide in the frame­work of your coop, perches and nest boxes, only com­ing out at night to feed like lit­tle vam­pires, suck­ing the blood of your birds. The re­sult is your birds be­come stressed, suf­fer­ing anaemia, re­duced egg pro­duc­tion and even death if not treated.

Red mites re­pro­duce rapidly and are very dif­fi­cult to con­trol, so Fionna and Gor­don de­vel­oped Ap­ple­tons Poul­try Safe­guard which dis­solves any mites it comes into con­tact with. It’s also a pow­er­ful dis­in­fec­tant, killing bac­te­ria, viruses and odour in coops.

“We’ve been work­ing on it for a cou­ple of years now, tri­alling and test­ing it,” says Fionna. “We’ve got through the red tape re­quired and got the big tick to go ahead.”

Fight­ing red mite and win­ning is one thing, but Fionna was also con­scious of creat­ing a NZ prod­uct that was cost-ef­fec­tive.

“We’re not hav­ing to ship it around the world and that makes it more eco­nom­i­cal. This is a con­cen­trate which you mix with water as you need it – you get 64 litres of mite-fight­ing so­lu­tion from our 1-litre con­tain­ers, and that makes it a lot more cost­ef­fec­tive es­pe­cially when com­pared to sim­i­lar avail­able prod­ucts.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.