Chicken adopts humans, advice needed!

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Chicken adopts humans, advice needed!

Post by Rooster Recruit » 10 Sep 2013, 18:05

Dear forumites,

I hope you'll be able to offer basic advice to someone who has become involved in chicken welfare purely by accident, having no previous knowledge or experience.

At the beginning of July this year a cockerel showed up near our offices on a busy aerodrome near London - and then just carried on hanging around. For obscure reasons he was nicknamed 'Steve'.

We're assuming Steve is a youngish bird as he was relatively small on arrival and has continued to gain in size and weight. He appears, to us chicken newbies, to be healthy and happy, and keeps himself occupied perching on roofs and fenceposts, scratching about in the dirt, having dustbaths (which he seems to enjoy a lot), and crowing loudly at all times of the day. Sometimes he disappears for an hour or two, but always comes back. As he seems to have adopted our place of work as his territory (and as we enjoy his antics) we felt we should look after him and have been putting out chicken food and water every day. Our office is on the perimeter of the airfield and although there is noise from aircraft and people, cars passing through and so on, none of this seems to bother him. He'll come inside to get food, even eating out of peoples' hands. Large groups of strangers do seem to make him a bit more nervous however. There's been a nasty incident with a sofa, which may never be the same.

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As Steve seems tame on the whole, we wonder if he might have 'escaped' from somewhere - a smallholding or childrens' zoo - and perhaps not be as aware of foxes and other predators as he could be. Aerodrome staff and aircraft owners have clubbed together to buy him a solid-looking hen house and we've tried to seek advice about whether getting a couple of hens would be appropriate, but opinions differ.

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So. On to the inevitable questions...

Origins: Firstly and most obviously: what 'sort' is he? We've been unable to identify him from pictures in books or online. My uneducated guess is that he must be some sort of hybrid, as he seems to show characteristics of various breeds, but not strongly enough that you'd pick him out in an identity parade. Secondly, out of curiosity, where might he have come from? We are right next to a house with a large garden just outside the airfield boundary, but Steve doesn't 'belong' to the occupiers. Are chickens like cats, alternating between different 'homes' to get fed by kind-hearted humans?

If Steve really is a completely tame bird, can he fend for himself alright? (he seems to know what he's looking for when he's scratching around in the soil). Does he actually need our help to get enough to eat, or are we just spoiling him?

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Feeding: He seems to like the food we put out (mixed corn) and has access to naturally occurring grit to aid digestion. Is this the right kind of thing to give him? Would he eat scraps? Is there anything one definitely SHOULDN'T try to feed a chicken? (I've heard mealworms are not good for them, for example).


Housing: As I say, we've bought him a henhouse, partly hoping to give him somewhere safe to sleep where he can't be got at by foxes etc. Does this seem suitable?

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The roost is a good size, but the run doesn't seem very long. Bear in mind he has a large area to roam on foot during the day, and flies up onto fences, trees and rooftops, so he gets plenty of exercise. We've been told that raising the coop on legs or stilts is the best way of keeping out predators. Is that correct?

Company: Much as we'd like to get some hens for him to mingle with we don't want to end up with lots of chicks, or fertized eggs that can't be turned into omlettes. Also we're worried he might attack them. Presumably he would also fight with another male. Thoughts?

Healthcare: We've been told it's very important that chickens are wormed regularly, as ringworm, gapeworm etc can cause fatal complications.Should we be putting medicine in his feed? Does adding cider vinegar and crushed garlic to drinking water really help?

Should we, in fact, take him to a vet for a check up? (I would love to see someone try to catch him).

___________________________________________

I'm sure I've asked too many questions, and some that are no-brainers. We are trying to get up to speed by learning slowly from books, websites and through advice from one or two people who have kept chickens. But no one has that much time to study the subject and it never hurts to ask the experts.

I'll be happy if someone can identify the breed, or what mixture of breeds he might be.

For all we know, Steve may decide to leave as suddenly as he arrived, but we like having him around and want to do the best to create a safe environment for him. He's a good-natured bird and keeps us entertained as he goes about his action-packed daily schedule. In fact we've come to see him as our company mascot. Personally I would rather leave him to his natural life than start trying to turn him into some kind of pet, but not knowing his background it's hard to know where to draw the line.


Thanks in advance.


Andy,

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Last edited by Rooster Recruit on 10 Nov 2015, 22:07, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Chicken adopts humans, advice needed!

Post by NannyP » 10 Sep 2013, 22:27

I can't begin to answer all your questions as it's late. However just wanted to say, he looks fine, he is a Bantam hybrid (from the photos) and others are far more knowledgeable about breeds and will come along and tell you what he has in him.

At this time of year, he's probably relatively safe from predators, and if he is roosting in trees and high up may well be able to keep himself out of harms way. However, once very cold weather arrives (Jan/Feb/Mar) and foxes and martens are needing food for themselves or their young, he will be far more at risk if not housed. If you can get him to go into the coop at night, he should be safe. The run isn't big, and it's fine if he is getting some free ranging in each day.

I personally wouldn't add to your stock with hens or coqs, he seems perfectly happy on his own, and adding in others is a slippery slope.

Good luck, and I am sure they will be lots of comments tomorrow.

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Re: Chicken adopts humans, advice needed!

Post by drfish » 11 Sep 2013, 08:50

As above really, looks like some sort of hybrid, and a good looking fella at that. Chances are, he's someone's pet from within a mile or so radius, and he wandered off the beaten track and got lost, eventually finding his way to you guys. Birds have a homing instinct and tend not to stray far from their familiar surroundings, but as you've found, it does happen. If he's content, you'll probably have him for life now. As NannyP stated, if he's happy enough with human company, then I wouldn't bother adding to them. He probably doesn't know any different now, so leave him be. A solitary hen is more of an issue than a solitary cockerel.

With regards avoiding predators, no chicken is especially good at that, so don't leave it to chance anyway. Even the wiliest of chickens would stand no chance against a fox.

I suspect he'll become a bit of a celebrity round your workplace though. People are always interested in the unusual.

Well done to you guys though for providing him with some safety and care. :thumbright:
Giving power to politicians is like giving whiskey and car keys to a teenage boy - P. J. O'Rourke (thanks Jessie)

It's amazing that people can believe everything is predestined but they still look both ways when crossing the road - Stephen Hawking

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And a lot of Ibuprofen.

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Re: Chicken adopts humans, advice needed!

Post by lukeross » 11 Sep 2013, 10:42

Feeding: as well as the chicken food and grit, he'll probably appreciate scraps in small quantities. Definitely no avocado and no uncooked potato skins, but pretty much anything else can be tried. Our chooks seem to particularly love soft leaves (eg. old lettuce, salad), meaty things (ham fat, fish skin, etc), any spare non-citrus fruit and excess cooked potatoes. Mealworms are fine in small quantities, but aren't necessary.

Healthcare: if he seems happy then I don't think you need take him to the vet - most vets don't know much about chickens either. The two main healthcare issues are mites and worms. Worming is easy with Flubenvet powder, which is mixed with food. I worm every 6 months. The most common mites live in the house rather than on the chicken itself. Vigilence, regular cleaning, and a light dusting of the coop with cheap ant powder (check the active ingredient is permethrin - the pound shops round here sell it) tend to help.

Company: as others have said, probably not necessary - think carefully before you do. If you fancy getting eggs, you could keep, say, two hens with him. Fertile eggs are perfectly edible (take them fresh from the nest and keep them cool to stop them developing) - but there's a very real risk that the hens will lay eggs somewhere you don't know about them. Until... one day, you find you have a unexpected family.

Housing: that's a nice looking coop, my hens will be jealous! Try to encourage him to sleep in the coop at night by placing him inside once roosted if you can reach him. One other possiblity is to place tasty food in the run in the evening, shut him in the run so he can't go to his normal roosts, and let him find his way into the coop as it gets dark. Once inside, if you close the pop-hole he should be safe from night-time foxes. Then let him out to free-range in the morning - no need to keep him in the run. It'll be strange for him at first, but in time he should learn to go into the coop by himself.

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Re: Chicken adopts humans, advice needed!

Post by son of eddy » 11 Sep 2013, 11:39

I am no expert on bantam breeds but he looks like he's at least got Dutch Bantam in his genes.
https://www.omlet.co.uk/breeds/chickens/dutch+bantam/
http://www.poultrymad.co.uk/chickens/dutch.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Surrey.jpg
https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=dutch ... 67&bih=732
As for getting there, it is possible he's lost his way and its equally possible that he's been abandoned, basically dumped to fend for himself because his crowing is an issue to the neighbours where ever he was living.

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Re: Chicken adopts humans, advice needed!

Post by drfish » 11 Sep 2013, 11:49

Good point about being dumped, overlooked that. Some people will just abandon cockerels in the wild rather than do the dastardly deed of dispatching them.
Giving power to politicians is like giving whiskey and car keys to a teenage boy - P. J. O'Rourke (thanks Jessie)

It's amazing that people can believe everything is predestined but they still look both ways when crossing the road - Stephen Hawking

1 Wife, 3 children, 1 Staffie Bitch (RIP Marley), 1 Chi-Chi, 1 Tuxedo Cat, 1 part Maine Coon cat, male bearded dragon, Horsefield Tortoise, 2 White Silkies, 1 Frizzle Pekin, 1 CLB, 1 Appenzeller Spitzhauben Cockerel, 1 blue laced Wyandotte, 3 Appenzeller x Wynadotte pullets, 1 Call drake, 3 khaki Campbell ducks, 4 (2 male 2 female?) Aylesbury x Campbells, a breeding colony of Dubia cockroaches.

And a lot of Ibuprofen.

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Re: Chicken adopts humans, advice needed!

Post by Henwife » 11 Sep 2013, 12:48

My guess would be somebody's ex-pet who was thrown out when he started to crow. If you confine him after so much freedom he may turn bolshie. Just give him food and fresh water, he'll find plenty of stuff whilst scritching around, and if he flies up at night, will be safe. If you want him in his posh house at night, move his food and water in there, but leave the run door open so he gets used to going in and out. Birds are shut up at dusk & let out at dawn, but if he prefers to roost out, there's nothing you can do about it and he'll be OK. Consider him a friendly wild bird and treat accordingly. He'll probably live to a ripe old age.
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Re: Chicken adopts humans, advice needed!

Post by Rooster Recruit » 11 Sep 2013, 15:40

Wow, that's really everything I wanted to know! Thank you all for taking the time to answer my many questions. I feel much more confident now that we can do the right thing by him armed with the knowledge you've passed on. It's all tremendously helpful.

I'm delighted to be able to tell people he's more or less a Dutch Bantam. He is a fine looking bird isn't he? Most people tend to take to him immediately and he has already attained celebrity status around these parts and amongst visitors to the airfield. I'll make sure that anyone involved in his care takes note of Henwife's advice to remember that he's a wild animal at heart, however comfortable he seems around humans....that was my feeling exactly, albeit based on a complete lack of knowledge.

We won't bother getting hens in then, but will get him used to the coop ASAP (great to know how to go about 'training' him), try to vary his diet a bit, and get him wormed and see to his personal hygiene as described by lukeross.

It hadn't occurred to me that someone might have abandoned him because of his crowing. It is pretty loud and extremely frequent (another sign of good health, maybe) but it doesn't seem to bother anyone.

Again, a big thanks to all of you for the advice. I think Steve's going to be fine.


Andy

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Re: Chicken adopts humans, advice needed!

Post by drfish » 11 Sep 2013, 15:55

Crowing takes a few different forms.

1) To announce his arrival to any ladies in earshot
2) To warn of predators or perceived threats
3) To alert his pals to food
4) The most common one, just for the sheer hell of it because they know it's annoying :lol:
Giving power to politicians is like giving whiskey and car keys to a teenage boy - P. J. O'Rourke (thanks Jessie)

It's amazing that people can believe everything is predestined but they still look both ways when crossing the road - Stephen Hawking

1 Wife, 3 children, 1 Staffie Bitch (RIP Marley), 1 Chi-Chi, 1 Tuxedo Cat, 1 part Maine Coon cat, male bearded dragon, Horsefield Tortoise, 2 White Silkies, 1 Frizzle Pekin, 1 CLB, 1 Appenzeller Spitzhauben Cockerel, 1 blue laced Wyandotte, 3 Appenzeller x Wynadotte pullets, 1 Call drake, 3 khaki Campbell ducks, 4 (2 male 2 female?) Aylesbury x Campbells, a breeding colony of Dubia cockroaches.

And a lot of Ibuprofen.

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Re: Chicken adopts humans, advice needed!

Post by Rooster Recruit » 11 Sep 2013, 16:43

By a process of elimination I'm leaning toward explanation #4 :lol:

Steve seems to like the sound of his own voice!

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Re: Chicken adopts humans, advice needed!

Post by Miss Chooks » 11 Sep 2013, 18:19

Well, Steve has found himself some very nice "carers". Well done to you all, your doing a great job =D>

He is very handsome and looks very well indeed.. nice red comb & wattles. Everyone seems to have given you the advise you need so here's to a long and happy life for Steve :P

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Re: Chicken adopts humans, advice needed!

Post by Rooster Recruit » 11 Sep 2013, 21:51

Thanks very much, Miss Chooks. He's definitely the outdoor type, but if we can persuade him to roost in the hen house that will be a bonus. I've been reading up on Dutch Bantams...interesting to learn that they're known for their friendly disposition and responsiveness to humans. It all fits with what we've observed about young Steve.

...and also that they're good fliers. Very appropriate for an airfield-based cockerel ;)

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Re: Chicken adopts humans, advice needed!

Post by son of eddy » 11 Sep 2013, 22:28

One thing we haven't advised you on is attention to his spurs. His claws may get warn down if spending a lot of time on hard surfaces but not his spurs, which can grow extremely long. Whilst he's not going to be getting fresh with the ladies so there's not a risk to them[cockerels rip the hens backs open when mounting if they have long spurs] they will need a little trimming every now and again. This is no more difficult that clipping dogs nails and requires the same equipment.

But you only need to keep taking off the tip of the spur so as it dosen't get to a sharp point.

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Re: Chicken adopts humans, advice needed!

Post by Moriarty » 12 Sep 2013, 12:36

oh well done on looking after Steve, what a great story! He's survived a while in the wild so is probably pretty savvy about his own safety, and may be able to fly up to trees. Chickens can get really tame and feed from your hand, with a bit of practice, and they will follow you around anywhere. however, as you're in an office it might mean he tries to get into the office (be warned, despite trying very hard, you cannot toilet train a chicken although I understand you can buy chicken nappies!). Anyway, great story, do keep us updated on Steve and his carryings-on !
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Re: Chicken adopts humans, advice needed!

Post by Rooster Recruit » 12 Sep 2013, 13:06

son of eddy wrote: One thing we haven't advised you on is attention to his spurs. His claws may get warn down if spending a lot of time on hard surfaces but not his spurs, which can grow extremely long. Whilst he's not going to be getting fresh with the ladies so there's not a risk to them[cockerels rip the hens backs open when mounting if they have long spurs] they will need a little trimming every now and again. This is no more difficult that clipping dogs nails and requires the same equipment.

But you only need to keep taking off the tip of the spur so as it dosen't get to a sharp point.
Ah, thanks for the warning, that would not have occurred to me in a million years. I can see this is going to be a steep but rewarding learning curve! I've found a thread on these forums and a couple of articles elsewhere on this subject so I'll study those when I get time. Presumably this only needs doing if they get very long causing him difficulty in walking?

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