In this new feature series, we invite our writers to choose their favourite eight products for henkeepers. To launch the series: JO BARLOW, who keeps ex-bats in Cornwall
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A small, family-run business in West Cornwall, Arkus Coops were my first choice when buying a new coop for the girls. I had done a great deal of research into plastic coops to ensure the best home for my girls and these seemed to tick all the boxes: local (to me); using recycled plastic and could adapt the coop to my (and the girls’) specific and exacting requirements. For example, the coop is set on a taller than usual stand as I, too, am taller than usual. They are also significantly cheaper than other plastic coop manufacturers, a small coop (4-6 hens) is just under £220, a large coop (12-15 hens) is just under £330. I have 13 hens in the large coop and there is plenty of room for them. http://www.arkus.co.uk/
This was a revelation to me! In my first few chicken keeping months I used wood shavings and straw and was unhappy with both. Then I learnt about Easichick; it is made from wood fibre and is organic and dust free. It makes daily poo picking easy, is very absorbent, does not allow red mite to hide amongst it and it is composta-
ble. A bale will be enough for two large coops. http:// easibedding.co.uk/easibed/
We have essential oils in the house anyway for the humans and I discovered that a drop of lavender oil in the girls’ bath helps calm them (and me) and, as it is antibacterial, it helps kill germs, as well as aiding the healing process. I use a drop of tea tree in salt water if I am bathing wounds in order to kill infection and I also use eucalyptus if any of the girls are having a steam inhalation.
YEO VALLEY ORGANIC LIVE YOGHURT
Hens are lactose intolerant so dairy should be avoided, but many of the hens I have come with crop issues, which recur throughout their retirement. I have found a little live yoghurt, as well as being excellent after a course of antibiotics or after sour crop, is also a very good preventative. I give my 13 girls a small (150g) pot between them once a week and it seems to have kept crop issues at bay. https://www.yeovalley.co.uk/
MASON CASH BOWLS
I must confess to a touch of snobbery here but I do love Mason Cash products; something that started with some very old but beautiful mixing bowls I inherited from my grandmother. After trying many other chicken feeders and drinkers which clogged or leaked respectively, I tried a couple of Mason Cash dog bowls I found in the local farm shop. They are heavy enough to not be knocked over and you can buy various sizes depending on the size and amount of your hens. The only drawback is that the food bowls need to be under cover should it rain but I find that a small price to pay for something both beautiful and practical in my girls’ garden! http://www.masoncashpets.co.uk/products.html.
ECOVER WASHING UP LIQUID
We try to be as eco-friendly as we can and Ecover washing up liquid is easily available, relatively cheap and the lemon and aloe vera one is vegan. Obviously it is good for washing up the lovely Mason Cash bowls but also, it is gentle enough to use in the hens’ baths. Having lost a hen to fly strike a few years ago, my clean knicker obsession knows no bounds and the girls are often hoiked in for a bath, just in case a small smudge turns into something worse. With no harsh chemicals I am happy to use this on my girls’ delicate skin. http://uk.ecover.com/en/
Where would I be without diatom powder! It is poofed in the coop, on the bedding, on the girls, in the dustbath and even, I understand although have never tried, can be used in the feed to help keep worms at bay. It is made from ground up tiny fossils and is a fine powder. Biolink Diatom Powder from Flyte so Fancy comes in 1.25 and 2.kg tubs, the larger lasts me months. Used all the time it helps keep the dreaded red mite and lice away. Totally natural, it is safe to use, and luckily has no smell as I also tend to end up wearing copious amounts of it! http://www.flytesofancy.co.uk/
CORN ON THE COB
I wanted to include some wonderful organic, GM-free feed here but my girls are so common they refuse to eat anything but the cheapest mash from the local farm shop. So instead I am championing the humble corn on the cob. Their treat of choice, they enjoy it best cut in half, the corn shaved off the cob so they can enjoy hoovering up the kernels before a leisurely peck at the cobs. We tried growing it one year, and produced about three cobs from 70 plants so we now buy it in with our weekly shop!
TOP LEFT: Essential oils TOP RIGHT: Yeo Valley organic live yoghurt LEFT: Easichick bedding ABOVE: A Mason Cash bowl
ABOVE & INSET: Arkus coops tick all the boxes
Corn on the cob
Ecover washing up liquid