How do you look after hens?

Are hens man's best friend?

5 tips to look after your hens. This will tell you everything about their personalities and give you tips so they stay healthy and happy, including behaviour, pecking, perches, delousing and health.
The relationship between people and hens is one of these surprises. It is an important part in the daily lives of your hens. Although you can form a relationship with a hen, they don’t necessarily let themselves be stroked. Nevertheless, you can grow fond of hens. Children quickly become attached to hens, especially when they feed them. These shared moments are vital and with company too. They do everyone good as they lend themselves to family moments and to nurturing a taste for rural life. Above all, these moments bring your children into contact with hens and their rules. So, when you feed them, it’s really important that the hens get used to your presence and recognise you afterwards.

The vet's advice

“Hens are animals that work on the principle of conditioned reflexes. Giving them food determines their behaviour. Gradually, they begin to link your presence to an action and they start to recognise you.”

deux poules dans un jardin

Pecking, a source of well-being

As with all animals, understanding behavioural traits is key to their well-being.
Things are a little different for hens as their well-being depends on some surprising facts. In fact, some their natural behaviour is linked to the need for physical and mental well-being. But what makes a hen happy and healthy? Pecking, of course! Obviously, we think this is a natural and innate form of behaviour, but pecking is a especially source of fulfilment. For a hen, pecking at things is a quest for well-being. With this in mind and, as always, with a eye on comfort, Gasco has developed supplements that meet this need to pick and choose what they eat. Among the products developed, our two-footed friends especially appreciate oyster shells, or salt blocks.

The vet's advice

“But remember, you must be able to tell the difference between pecking and pecking! Hens peck to sift through their food and catch morsels in their beaks. But they can also peck other hens. There are three reasons behind this. They may want to get rid of parasites in the feathers of their fellow hens. Or it can be a sign of an unbalanced diet. Or, it can be down to the so-called “pecking order”, to affirm their position in the hen house hierarchy. You need to pay close attention if this happens as the consequences can be serious. In fact, pecking can cause a hen to be victimised, where other hens attack it and can even kill it.”

A hen on a wall...

Just like us, hens find some positions more comfortable than others, to be content and happy.
And, surprising as it may seem, this comfort comes from finding a place to balance. So, there is a normal, rational explanation when you see objects raised off the floor in hen houses. The simple fact to be on a perch give hens a sense of security and peace. Indeed, once a hen is up high, it can protect itself from predators. Did you know that hens can sleep on a perch and not lose their balance? If you see a hen on a perch asleep, please don’t move it as you will expose it to more danger than before. In addition to the safety aspect, hens find perching comfortable and relaxing. Rest assured then, that your hens are not planning to escape, but rather spend some well-earned time relaxing.

Delousing, or the definition of happiness!

Delousing is a natural form of behaviour for happy, healthy and mellow hens.
Ok, but what exactly is delousing? Quite simply, it’s when hens shake themselves. To do this, they need to find some fine soil, where they can make a hole and flap their wings. If you don’t have a garden for your hens to dig about in, you can give them a basin of sand, fine soil or talc. To start with, vary the contents of your basin regularly to see which material the hens like best. Delousing is practical as it helps the hen to get rid of all the small parasites nestling in its feathers. But delousing is not just down to a hen’s sanitary needs. In fact, hens enjoy flapping around, feeling the dust and the soil on their feathers. So, don’t hesitate to make them a small corner of paradise where they can have all the fun they want.

How can I make sure my hens stay healthy?

One day, perhaps, you might see that your hen is not looking so bright and breezy.
You should then ask yourself a few questions. Firstly, don’t get unnecessarily worried. Very often, feeling a bit feeble and lethargic is down to their surroundings and can be resolved by making some changes. Sometimes, when they don’t feel so well, this can create slight behavioural issues. But, you shouldn’t view these situations as a danger. They actually tell you about the state of your hen’s health. Unusual behaviour can come in the form of refusing to eat or drink, to be alone, or to be aggressive towards others hens, or even self-harm. But, don’t panic and rush to any hasty conclusions, observe their behaviour over time. Clearly, you must keep a close eye on trouble, but only when a recurring pattern sets in! It is only harmful to a hen’s health when its troubled behaviour become repetitive. Once the problem has been identified, you can deal with it yourself, or by calling a vet. Behavioural changes can be down to the wrong food, too little space or a lack of hygiene. You can provide solutions to these types of problems. But if it is more complicated, don’t hesitate to call specialists that can help you. Once the problem has been treated, keep a close eye on the tiniest detail that might be a triggering factor. Calm will return once more to the hen house and you can sleep peacefully too.

The vet's advice

Hens are worriers and life in the hen house is governed by specific rules to reduce any stress. However, anxieties can occur in individual hens, or in the group itself. These stresses and strains can be seen in their behaviour. Firstly, cries can be a sign of joy, fear or irritation. Next, posture is a sign in a particular situation. For example, if a hen pushes out its chest, it’s because it wants to scare its enemy. Just like humans, many studies have been carried out into animal behaviour. In the case of sensitive animals, like hens, make sure that the tiniest detail doesn’t throw a spanner in the works and cause anxiety to the others. “