(March - May, NZ & Australia)
- Hens will be shutting down egg production from March and going into their annual 'moult' where they lose, then replace all their feathers, and lay down calcium and other important minerals required for egg-laying for spring.
- It's vital to keep feeding a quality commercial feed during this time to ensure birds can grown a new set of feathers before winter and put on the body condition they need to get them read for laying.
- Use your hens to clean up your garden beds. Scattering some pellets or grain through a bed you want turned over is a great way to give your hens something useful to do, and they'll weed it, eat surplus insects, rotary hoe it and fertilise it, all for free.
- Once birds stop laying, it's a good time to give them a worm treatment as you don't need to worry about witholding periods. You use Aviverm (make sure it is the one for large birds, available from vets, on Trade Me or from pet stores) by putting it in their water as per the instructions.
- Another worming option is an off-label treatment such as 0.1ml (that's just one drop) per kilo of Eprinex Cattle pour-on (ivormec/ivermectin) on the skin under the wing. It's important to make sure you get the dose right so get a syringe (minus needle) from your vet that measures in 0.1ml increments. A commercial breed weighs around 2kg, so needs two drops, while heavier breeds and roosters will need to be weighed to get an accurate dose.
- Check birds for lice and your hen house for mites. These will look like tiny red dots on the frame and in gaps in the wood of your hen house but they can be tricky to see. You can use treatments such as Ripcord spray (available from rural supply stores) or neem oil.
- Prepare your coop for winter. Clean out and replenish with fresh bedding, preferably a deep bed of at least 20cm. Repair any holes or gaps where there may be cold drafts.