When we think of heroic animals, what do we picture? A noble lion, posing a top his pride rock? A dog rescuing Timmy from a well? An egal, soaring majestically though the air? You probably aren’t picturing the small, brown, humble rat, more often maligned for their association with sewers and disease, but perhaps you should be.
Recently a five-year-old rat named Magawa was awarded a prestigious gold medal for his work detecting land mines, potentially saving many, many people from the risk of horrific injury and even death.
A real-life hero, Magawa was trained by a Belgian charity called Apopo to sniff out land mines. Working in Cambodia he has found 39 landmines and 28 unexploded munitions, making a 141.000 square meters of land safe, the equivalent of 200 football pitches.
At an online ceremony to celebrate Magawa’s achievement, Jan McLoughlin the director of the charity said, “Magawa’s work directly saves and changes the lives of men, women and children who are impacted by these land mines. Every discovery he makes reduces the risk of injury or death for local people.”
All this heroic behaviour has got us here at farmandpet.co.uk, thinking about what great pets these intelligent, cuddly animals make. Rats are so different to their often negative image as dirty, sneaky thieves, lets take a closer look and see if we can’t rehabilitate the humble rats image.
Here are 7 reasons you might want to keep one of these heroes as a pet.
Rats are very intelligent
When not making the world safe democracy, these intelligent animals can be trained to do tricks, such as coming when called or use a litter tray (making rats very clean animals, despite their image, but more on that later!).
In fact some experts think that rats may be more intelligent that dogs, displaying far better problem solving skills.
Rats like a good giggle
If you tickle a rat just right, they are known to chuckle in response. Find that perfect spot and the rat will emit a joyful outburst of ultrasonic squeaks! While this is too high for humans to hear, you will be rewarded with a frolicking behaviour, scientists call ‘joy jumps’.
Rats make friends
Rats are very social animals that form lifelong bonds with each other and their humans. A rat can recognise its human by sight or even by the sound of their voice. Once that trust has been established a rat will love being held and happily spend time on peoples shoulders and laps playing and cuddling.
They are perfect for flats or people without much space
They don’t need taking for long walks, they don’t make a lot of noise, they don’t need much space and they sleep for as much as 15 hours a day. If that doesn’t sound like the perfect pet for people with limited space and an active social life, we don’t know what does.
They have great personalities
Rats are real individuals, some rats are sociable, some are laid back, some are adventurous, some are lazy. One of the absolute best things about having a rat for a pet is getting to know the little guy. Rats have great personalities and seeing their character evolve and develop over time is a lot of fun.
They are very clean
As we mentioned, rats are very clean animals, meticulously cleaning themselves several times a day rats groom themselves more than cats. In fact there are so clean they are far less likely to transmit virus’ or parasites than cats or dogs.
Rats can even be trained to use the litter trey, keeping their little home happy and clean.
Rats are heroes!
As well as being trained to detect landmines rats are heroes in other ways too. Their tremendous empathy allows rats to recognise emotions on other rats faces and if a fellow rat is in pain or scared, they will work to get that rat out of danger. Rat’s never leave another rat behind!
At some point in your pets life, you’ll have to transport them somewhere. Whether for a holiday, moving to a new house or just a yearly visit to the vet, a safe secure, comfortable pet carrier is an essential purchase for any pet owner.
Finding the right carrier can, however, be difficult.
It might seem like a large carrier is best because it gives the pet more room to stretch out, and a soft carrier might seem like it would provide extra comfort. But a large carrier can seem daunting to a small animal, as they can feel like there is nowhere to hide in the large space. Similarly, a soft carrier might seem like it provides more comfort, but a soft carrier is vulnerable to knocks and may not be waterproof.
These problems are just the beginning.
A pet owner also has to consider how hard is to get the pet in, or out of the carrier? Is the viewing window the right size? How heavy is the carrier, and so on.
Here at farmandpet.co.uk we’ve created a handy guide to help you navigate the huge range of pet carriers currently on the market.
What are you going to use the carrier for?
The first thing to consider is what you’re using the carrier for. Your circumstances and when and where you use the carrier will have a huge impact on which is right for you.
For a single use over a short distance, you may get away with a cardboard carrier, however if you travel a lot, or are taking a long journey a hard case might be better.
Another thing to consider is your transportation situation. A carboard carrier is very light which is good for carrying, but soft and easily broken which is not ideal if you don’t have a car. A hard carrier is secure but heavy, but heavy, and so perhaps not perfect for carrying. In this case you may want to go for a soft sided carrier.
A lot of picking the right carrier is going to come down to your individual situation. So lets take a look at the types of carrier and their advantages and disadvantages.
You might well come across a cardboard carrier when you first buy your pet. Pet shops and rescue centres often give customers cardboard carries to take their new pet home.
While they are useful for a single, short-term use, cardboard boxes are probably not the best carriers for regular, permanent use.
Cardboard carriers are light weight and inexpensive. Making them a useful option for people on a budget who only intend to move their pet once.
Cardboard will not be able to stand up to a pets scratching. After a couple of uses you may find that your pet has opened up holes in the carrier in an attempt to escape.
Cardboard carriers are also not good with liquids. Urine, spilled water, or other liquids will weaken the cardboard, and it is not possible to adequately clean them off for future use. Similarly in the rain a cardboard carrier will become soft and spongy and can offer a quick escape.
Soft sided carrier
Soft-sided carrier. These types of carriers are usually made of nylon, and they are lightweight and easy to use. Some things to keep in mind about soft-sided cat carriers are.
Soft sided carrier are much easier to clean than cardboard, and due to their hardier build are suitable for repeat use.
Soft sided Carriers are a lot lighter and easier to carry than solid sided carriers making them a good choice for people who use public transport or don’t want to be lugging around anything too heavy, while still being reasonably sturdy.
While a lot hardier, this popular style of carrier is perhaps best for calm pets who are used to travelling. The nylon mesh while sturdy, can still be torn by a particularly determined, or distressed pet.
Another disadvantage is that the soft sides do render your pet slightly more vulnerable to knocks and bumps.
What to look for
One of the most important things to look for in a soft-sided pet carrier is that it the right size for your pet. The animal should be able to stand and turn around, but there shouldn’t be so much space that they get thrown around during a car journey.
Cats in particular prefer small, cosy spaces, that make them feel safe and secure.
If you’re expecting to take your pet on longer journeys it’s worth checking if there is room for a little food or drink, in case the little guys get thirsty of hungry
One of the most important things to look for in a soft pet carrier is that it doesn’t sag in the middle. Most soft carriers have a light frame to prevent sagging, but it is a good idea to test the carriers effectiveness so that your pet has a nice solid floor to walk around on, and is comfortable to lie on.
Hard pet carriers
Hard-sided carrier are usually made of solid, hard plastic, which makes the very durable and provides excellent protection for your pet.
As they are made of plastic, hard carriers are the easiest type of carrier to clean. Liquids wont soak in to any fabric and fur wont stick either. A quick wipe will take care of most problems.
Hard sided carriers provide the most protection for your pet. Most bumps or reasonably heavy object falling on the carrier should bounce off without hurting the carriers occupant.
The solid sides and door makes a solid sided carrier incredibly secure. A pet would have a hard time breaking out of a hard sided carrier, even if they are distressed and panicking.
Hard sided carriers are the heaviest form of pet carrier, so are perhaps not the best for travelling long distances on foot.
Being solid also makes the carrier slightly harder to store, as they have no give. You can’t squish the carrier in to a smaller space for storage.
What to look for
A good sturdy handle is essential to cope with the weight of the carrier. Make sure the handle is heavy duty and well attached so it doesn’t break off when transporting your pet.
As with the soft sided carrier, sizing the hard-sided carrier is essential. Being able to, stand, lie down and turn around, without being dwarfed by the space will make your pet much happier when being transported.
A little space for food and water is also a good idea for longer journeys.
There are many more things to consider when buying a pet carrier, but many will only become apparent when you consider you own circumstances, but hopefully this has given you a starting point to navigate your way to the perfect pet carrier.
At some point in a pets life, they’re going to have to be transported somewhere. Whether it’s for a holiday, moving house, or just a yearly visit to the vet; a safe secure, comfortable pet carrier is an essential purchase for any pet owner.
Finding the right carrier can, however, be difficult.
It might seem like a large carrier is best because it gives the pet more room to stretch out, and a soft carrier might seem like it would provide extra comfort. But a large carrier can seem daunting to a small animal, as they can feel like there is nowhere to hide in the large space. Similarly a soft carrier might seem like it provides more comfort, but a soft carrier is vulnerable to knocks and may not be waterproof.
These problems are just the beginning.
A pet owner also has to consider how hard it is to get the pet in or out of the carrier, is the viewing window the right size, how heavy is the carrier, and so on.
Here at farmandpet.co.uk we have partnered with a company that we feel provides the perfect pet carrier for small animals.
The Marchioro Range
Marchioro is family run business that has specialised in pet and garden plastics since 1957. Working with experts from several different countries, Marchioro has developed an innovative, exclusive pet line that we are happy to bring to you at affordable prices.
Marchioro’s commitment to animal care and welfare is reflected in their attention to detail and the high standards to which, every product is manufactured. Marchioro use high quality raw materials combined with state of the art injection and rotation moulding technology to create products manufactured to the very highest standard.
With such a staunch commitment to quality it is no wonder that Marchioro products have received many awards and are available in over 60 countries.
With a range of features making it the perfect plastic carrier for pets including cats and small dogs, the Marchioro Pet Carriers are a simple yet attractive carrier ideal for transporting your pets.
A tough, non-brittle carrier for pets, the Marchioro Pet Carrier’s will not splinter or harm your animal, for safe transporting at all times. Featuring a top handle for carrying, the Marchioro Skipper range is convenient, easy to use and ideal for travelling, trips to the vets and more.
A great quality, long lasting carrier, the Marchioro Skipper range of pet carrier also features vent slats in the sides for visibility and comfort, a secure wire door so your pet cannot escape and a plastic locking key for easy assembly and disassembly when in and out of use. This makes for easy and convenient storage too.
Farmandpet.co.uk is proud to offer the Marchioro Skipper 1F and 2F.
Marchioro Skipper 1F
Marchioro Skipper 1F is a well made, economical carrier ideal for small animals around 7-22 pounds.
The Marchioro F1 skipper features:
A strong, durable construction that won’t wear and break over the life of your pet.
The small pet carrier is easy to put together and take apart for compact storage when the carrier isn’t in use
A large metal door makes it easy to get your pet into the carrier while preventing them from getting out.
Ergonomic care for easy, comfortable carrying.
Side latches and additional security pins keep the carrier securely locked.
The Marchioro F1 is suitable for pets 7-22 pounds.
The metal doors are shock resistant.
Measures 19″L x 12.25″W x 12.25″H.
Marchioro Skipper 2F
The Marchioro Skipper 2F is ideal for slightly larger small pets, weighing between 9-33 pounds. It has all the same features as the F1 but is suitable for slightly larger animals.
Standard metal door can be opened from either side
Ergonomic handle for easy carrying
Side latches and extra security pins keep the carrier securely locked
Suitable for pets 9-33 pounds
Measures 21.75″L x 14.25″W x 13″H
In addition to the pet carrier Marchioro have applied their knowledge of plastics to produce a litter trey of outstanding quality.
Marchioro Bill Hooded Litter Pan
Keep your kitty litter where it belongs with the Marchioro Bill Hooded Litter Pan. This durable plastic pan features a high back and enclosed hood to provide total control of your cat’s litter. Designed for simple efficiency, the Bill is easy to disassemble, clean, and transport.
The Marchioror Bill hooded litter pan features:
Enclosed litter pan prevents litter mess and spillage
Simple to disassemble for easy cleaning
The door will help keep odours inside.
Convenient carry handle makes transportation easy
Measures 19.75″L x 15.75″W x 16.5″H
A recent study by Liverpool University has suggested that anxious people are more likely to be bitten by dogs and that dog bites are more common than is often thought.
A sample of 700 people were rated for their emotional stability on a scale of one to seven and then questioned about whether or not they’d been bitten. The researchers found that for every point of increased anxiety on the scale there was a 23% increase in the chance of being bitten.
Of the people interview around one fourth reported having been bitten by a dog, with a third of those bitten requiring medical treatment. Which suggests that the number of dog bites might be significantly higher than official statistics suggest. With men being more likely to be bitten.
Given these findings it is worth learning the proper way to approach a dog as being comfortable and confident with the animal will make it easier to make friends.
How to approach a dog
Caroline Kisco of the Kennel Club notes that “How dogs react to people is often determined by how people themselves react to dogs, so it is important that people recognise the best ways to interact with dogs and that owners always keep their pets under control and consider that not everyone may feel comfortable being around dogs or know how to interact with them.”
Knowing the correct way can help reduce anxiety and help a person approach a dog with confidence reducing the likely hood of being bitten.
- The first thing to do is speak to the dog’s owner and make sure that it’s okay to approach their dog. If a dog is alone it is best not to approach it at all.
- Move toward the dog from the side instead of coming at it head on. This is how one dog greets another. Coming at a dog straight on can be interpreted as aggressive behaviour and will draw aggression in turn.
- Speak calmly and quietly. Try to adopt a relaxed manner with the dog, yawning, smiling and blinking slowly are all good ways to achieve this. Try to avoid starring at the dog, this can also be interpreted as aggressive behaviour.
- Don’t rush up to a strange dog and stand over them. Dogs can find this frightening. Try to let the dog come to you.
- Try to squat by the dog instead of towering over them. Let the dog sniff you, then stroke the shoulder or chest. Don’t reach over the dog this can result in anxiety for the animal.
- Finally never make a dog feel trapped. Don’t back it in to a corner or put your face too close to the dogs face filling its vision
- A dog’s body language will give you clues to how it is feeling. If the dog arches its body, tucks its tail between its legs, licks its lips, looks away or growls, the dog may feel uncomfortable and its best to back off.
How to train a dog
While it is important to help people find the best ways to approach a dog it is important to remember that it is our responsibility as dog owners to control our pet’s behaviour. It is not reasonable to expect every person a dog meets to have the knowledge and experience to correctly interact with a dog.
As Ksico notes “It is important that all dogs are properly trained and socialised from an early age to reduce the risk of bad behaviour, including biting.” It can be tempting when we get our adorable little ball of fluff and puppy eyes home to let it do whatever it wants, but if we want a happy well behaved dog follow these suggestions:
Firstly Dogs need training from the moment you bring your puppy home. Puppies are constantly learning from the moment they meet their new owner. Creating a fun loving environment with consistent rules will help a puppy learn its place in the world.
Potty training a puppy through positive reinforcement will help to establish a positive relationship with a puppy, helping to learn his role and the role of their owner.
The first 16 weeks of a dog’s life are the best time for them to learn to socialise. Through interaction with other dogs a puppy will learn not to bite too hard or be too boisterous, as well as learning tolerance and patience.
Socialisation with people is equally important. Carrying around a few treats that can be given to strangers to give to the dog, can help the dog associate strangers with good experiences, making them less likely to respond aggressively.
Teaching a dog that it is not okay to bite from an early age is very important. An owner must establish their place as the leader of the pack to help a puppy understand its place in the world.
Finally, a dog must have plenty of exercise. A bored dog with a lot of excess energy is far more likely to engage in aggressive inappropriate behaviour
While this list is a good starting place, there many excellent training schools that can help give a puppy the best possible start in life.
While the number of dog bites is still very low in the UK, there are things we can do both as pet owners and fans of pets to reduce the likelihood of a dog bite occurring. Properly training a dog, and learning the correct way to interact can reduce the chances of a dog bite, and create calm happy pets.
It has been a long acknowledge truth that diet plays a huge role in a persons health. What we eat has been linked to a whole range of health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. We are encouraged to cut back on things that are bad for us and favour ingredients that promote good health.
A pets diet is equally important. What cats, dogs and other pets eat can have a dramatic effect on a pets health and wellbeing, and the issue is complicated by the staggering variety in different pets needs. A cat and a dog obviously have different needs, but even with these definitions there are a lot of different needs that can be addressed. A small dog like a pug has such a different size shape and purpose to a sheep dog that its metabolism and other specific needs are bound to be different.
A breed specific food will likely control a pets calorie intake to match the animals natural needs, as well as containing ingredients that help to protect against health problems that particular breeds are susceptible to, a hypoallergenic food will help care for cats and dogs with allergies, and so on.
Speciality foods come in many different verities each specifically deigned to care for a particular pet or a particular problem. Here is a list of some of the most common speciality foods and why you might want buy them.
Breed specific- The terms ‘dog’ or ‘cat’ encompass a huge variety of weights, shapes and metabolisms. A Chihuahua can be as small as a kilo and a half and fifteen centimetres tall, where as a chow can be 30 kilos and fifty six centimetres, a greyhound has a different metabolism to a pug, similarly cats come all sorts of shapes and sizes. If a pug ate food designed for a greyhound it would get fat pretty quickly. A pug might have a natural inclination toward certain illnesses that can be protected against through diet, a greyhound might have different ones. Pet food companies such as Royal Canin offer a wide variety of food designed specifically for different breeds of dogs and cats.
Age- As your cat or dog ages and their bodies change so do their nutritional requirements. As a kitten or a puppy is developing they require a higher concentration of nutrients in order to not only maintain themselves but to also create the capacity for growth. Whereas it is natural that a senior or geriatric pet needs a different nutritional profile to help guard against ailments associated with age. Similarly a young animal requires higher carbohydrate levels to fuel their active lifestyle, whereas an older pet who is far less active would just grow fat. Picking the right food in line with a pet’s age will help your pet by keep your pet healthy and active throughout their life.
Specific health concerns – Companies such as Royal Canin offer a range of products designed to aid in the recovery or managements of specific health problems such as Urinary Health, Diabetes, Digestive Support, Liver Health, Illness and Surgery Recovery Support, Renal Health, Weight Management, and Cardiac Health. These products are designed to use ingredients that specifically help to care for animals with these ailments and are available through your vet or licenced vendor.
General health – As well as the more specific problems that can be helped by diet, there are also a range of products designed for more general health and care of a pet. For example foods that help control the weight of a dog , or a food designed for cats who are fussy eaters, or hypoallergenic food for animals with allergies.
The most common Speciality food type for general health:
Hypo allergenic- Just like people, pets are perfectly capable of developing allergic reactions to certain foods. Allergies can manifest themselves as something as simple as a mild irritation, but at its worst an allergic reaction can be life threatening.
A hypo allergenic food will typically use sources of protein and carbohydrate that an animal hasn’t had a chance to develop allergies to. Often hypo allergenic foods will use duck or venison as a protein source and oats or rice as a carbohydrate source.
Urinary tract health – Urinary tract foods aim to prevent the development of crystals and stones in the urinary tract by controlling the levels of calcium, oxalate, phosphorous and magnesium in a pets system.
Hairball prevention – Because a cat cannot digest its own hair as it grooms itself the fur that it removes builds up in the cats mouth and stomach. This can only be expelled by being bought back up through the mouth. This can often be distressing for cat and owner alike. While not able to completely remove the need for hairballs, hairball prevention foods are designed to be high in fibre, the fibre sticks to the hair helping it move through the
digestive tract instead of being spat back up.
Dental health – Dental health foods are simply foods designed to clean a pets teeth as they chew. Dental health foods might also contain ingredients that aim to reduce the build up of tartar. These foods are especially beneficial for pets who won’t sit for their owner to clean their teeth, or for breeds and animals that are susceptible to gum disease.
Joint care – Designed for pets who have trouble getting around, Joint care foods contain ingredients such as glucosamine and chondroitin which work to rebuild damaged cartilage and reduce inflammation around joints.
As you can see whatever your pet’s specific needs there is likely to be a speciality food to cater for your animal. A speciality food while a little more expensive has the many advantages over a generic food. A carefully selected balanced diet can help to protect a pet’s health and create the right conditions for a long and healthy life
Birds make fantastic pets. From the parrot to the cockatiel, birds are beautiful, friendly and inquisitive, giving so much to a home they deserve to be a far more popular pet. While people often choose a dog or cat as a pet there are many advantages to having a bird.
Intelligence – Birds are incredibly intelligent animals. Birds display impressive cognitive skills such as problem solving, using tools, navigational skills and have even displayed the ability to count from left to right. Certain birds such as parrots can even mimic speech making them great companions.
Sociability – Birds are as affectionate as any cat or dog. Their gentle social natures make them excellent companions. Some pet birds become constant companions to their owners as they go about their chores.
Inexpensive – After the initial setup costs, birds are relatively inexpensive to keep. Birds only need a relatively small amount of feed for their diet, and this can be augmented with fresh fruit and vegetables.
Space – While larger pets such as cats and dogs require room to run and play, a bird doesn’t require a huge amount of space and could happily by kept in a small flat.
What you’ll need
As it’s where a pet bird will spend most of its time, the most important thing to consider is which cage is best.This will depend on which type of bird will make the cage its home, there are also other important points to consider.
While more space is always better, the owners space may be limited so it is worth considering the minimum amount of space a bird requires to be content
1. The minimum width of a bird cage should be 3 times a birds wing span, if there is more than one bird in the cage, then the space should be three times the combined wingspan.
2. There should be enough space for the birds to turn on their perch without scraping their tail feathers.
3. The cage height should be three times the length of the bird from the top of its head to the tip of its tail. More height is required the more birds in the cage.
4. There should be enough room for the bird to fully extend its wings without touching the sides of the cage
The orientation and spacing of the bars on a cage are also very important. For small birds such as cockatiels and budgies, the orientation of the bars is unimportant, whereas parrots like to use their beaks and feet to climb and so require horizontal bars.
Another important consideration is how far apart the bars are spaced. If the bars aren’t spaced correctly then the bird can get it’s wing or another body part trapped and injure itself.
Another thing to consider is the shape of the cage. A circular cage may not be best for a bird as they can feel insecure without corners. Or if you have flighted birds the length of the cage becomes more important than the height. As with all considerations on this list the type of bird will largely dictate the kind of cage it will require. Researching a particular species needs is important when buying a pet bird.
A pet bird will spend the majority of its time standing on its perch so it’s something that needs to be right. There are a range of types of perch available and a mixture of a couple of types is probably best. A mineral perch give the bird somewhere to groom and break its nails where as a rope perch can provide verity and interest to a birds life.
When placing the perches it is important that they don’t impede a birds flight, or movement. A perch also should be directly over the feeder or drinker. Ideally one perch should be next to the feeder, one should be next to the drinker and one elsewhere.
A birds diet is very important. Feeding a bird a balanced diet will help to maintain the birds health, happiness and ensure a long lifespan. Fortunately it has never been easier to feed a bird a high quality diet.
As with cages, the right food will depend on the species of bird. The parrots and the cockatiel are very different shapes and sizes and live in very different environments, and so have different needs. There are five main types of bird dietary classification.
1. Florivore – These birds consume flowers as the main part of their diet. Nuts, berries, roots, bark, seeds, and fruits will make up the diet. Examples of this kind of bird include the red faced parrot, the military macaw and the blue and gold macaw.
2. Nectariovre – Nectarivores love the sugar rich nectar produced by plants as well some insects and seeds. The lorikeet and lory enjoy this kind of diet
3. Frugivore – Fruit eaters who supplement their diets with nuts and seeds, frugivores include the blue throated macaw and the green winged macaw.
4. Omnivores – Omnivores like a little meat in their diet, as well as seeds and fruits these birds enjoy insects and some invertebrates. The sulphur crested cockatoo and red tailed amazon are example of omnivores.
5. Granivore – Granivores such as the budgie or cockatiels enjoy grains and seeds.
No matter whether you have a parrot or a cockatiel there will be a high quality food to meet the nutritional needs of your bird and the species of bird should be considered when designing its diet.
While the type of bird affects the diet, generally speaking a birds diet will consist of a high quality breed specific feed augmented with fresh fruits and vegetables. An insect paste can be bought as a treat. It is important to have variety in a birds diet to prevent boredom.
Whether a bottle or dish is used it is very important that a bird has an adlib supply of fresh clean water. Dehydration can cause major health problems and can occur within a day of not having water.
A cuttle bone is also important as it will provide large amounts of calcium and other trace elements that birds require to be healthy.
The first thing to consider is how many hens are going to make the chicken house home and how much space there is in the garden. As a rule of thumb poultry require a minimum of 30cm space to be comfortable. So if you decide to keep 5 chickens you will need a coop with a minimum of 4.5m floor space.
The perch should be 5-8cm wide with smoothed out edges with 20cm in between each perch to allow the chicken enough space to be comfortable. Perches should also be removable for ease of cleaning. Chickens naturally try to perch in the highest spot so the perch should also be higher than the nest box entry.
The nest box should be in the lowest darkest corner of the chicken house, so the chickens feel safe and can lay privately. If the nest box is high up chickens will try and sleep in the nest box making the area dirty.
Keeping a chicken coop clean is very important. A good house should have a large access door that gives easy access to every corner of the coop. The house should be raised off the ground to prevent rats from nesting and should be easy to move about the garden.
The overall construction of the coop should be solid. Poultry need somewhere they can shelter from rain and cold weather. The walls should be solid enough that chickens can bed down and keep warm in the winter. The roof should be solid and free of cracks so that there are no leaks, damp is very bad news in a chicken house.
A chicken house should also have ventilation points and a roof that is high enough that the house doesn’t get to hot in the summer, and so that fumes don’t build up in the house.
A chicken house needs to be heavy enough that it won’t blow over in strong winds, and also to withstand predators such as foxes or badgers.
Chicken houses are generally made from either wood or plastic. There are advantages and disadvantages to both and in the end the decision will probably come down to personal preference. However there are a few things to consider. The big advantage to a plastic house comes from cleaning. A plastic chicken coop can be cleaned and dried very quickly which is a huge advantage particularly in winter. Wooden houses on the other hand are naturally breathable. This means a wooden coop is far less likely to have condensation running down the walls which helps prevent the growth of moulds that can cause respiratory problems for birds.
The run provides an area for chickens to exercise, find bugs to eat and gives poultry a space there owners don’t mind them destroying.
As well as containing the poultry, the run helps to protect chickens from predators. A high quality fence will keep animals such as cats and foxes out of the run, providing peace of mind for owners that their chickens are safe.
When it comes to how to size the run, work on the rule that a chicken needs about one square meter of space in the run to be happy.
Chickens need a balanced nutritious diet fed constantly throughout the day in order to maintain a long healthy life and produce a good number of high quality eggs. Protein is particularly important to chickens as it affects egg laying and feather growth. In the wild chickens forage for insects, worms, slugs and snails however in a garden it is unlikely chickens will find enough protein in this manner. A high quality commercial feed will be specially formulated to provide a balanced diet and is a must for a backyard chicken keeper.
The type of product given to chickens is dictated by age. Chick crumb is fed up to 5 weeks and contains 19% protein. Grower pellets are typically around 19% protein and is fed between 6 and 18 weeks. After that the switch is made to layer pellets at about 15% protein.
Chickens also require grit added to their feed. Chickens don’t have teeth so they peck at small stones to help grind up food in their gizzard. Grit with oyster shell is particularly useful as it provides calcium which helps produce eggs with strong shells.
As a treat chickens can be given corn. Chickens love corn, but if they eat too much they can become fat and produce fewer eggs. A handful of corn per chicken is plenty.
There are a bewildering array of chicken feeders on the market. The only hard and fast rule is that the feeder must keep the feed dry. Wet feed can lead to disease and clog the feeder preventing chickens from feeding.
One of the first things to consider is plastic or steel. The big advantage of plastic is hygiene. Because plastic is non porous so there is nowhere for bacteria to hide. A plastic feeder has more options when it comes to cleaning products, as some may be too strong and corrosive for metal. Plastic feeders also tend to be cheaper than metal which might be a good option for someone without much money or only a couple of chickens.
Metal feeders on the other hand tend to be heavy, so they won’t blow away, and more durable, so they’ll last longer. Against that metal feeders tend to be more expensive, and are perhaps not quite as hygienic.
The next thing to look for is a feeder that spreads the feed around evenly. Chickens are very competitive when it comes to food and things can turn nasty around the feeder. It is not uncommon for older hens to bully younger ones. A feeder that offers a good dispersal area will help to ease tensions and make sure all chickens are well fed.
It also very important to buy a feeder that is easy to clean. A dirty feeder can lead to disease and illness for your chickens so it is important to have good access to the whole of the feeder in order to keep your chickens healthy. Good access will also save time and help you avoid becoming frustrated.
As with feeders, choosing the right product begins with metal or plastic. Plastic drinkers are cheaper and more hygienic, whereas metal are more durable and heavy weight but more expensive.
Hygiene is as always very important. When choosing a drinker make sure it is easy to clean, but also the water remains clean. Poultry tend to be a bit clumsy and very messy. Having a source of water that remains free of litter, dirt and feet is important.
In an increasingly difficult farming environment, maximising profitability has never been more important. Minerals, vitamins and trace elements play a very important role in animal nutrition and animal production, if there are deficiencies then production and profitability will suffer.
Dairy cows, sucklers, suckler calves, dairy replacements, heifers, growing cattle, beef cattle, store cattle, calves, weanlings, sheep, ewes, lambs, milking sheep and goats all have a requirement for minerals, vitamins and trace elements. The animals will not perform as well as they should and extreme deficiencies in minerals, vitamins and trace elements the consequences are severe. Breeding and reproduction, milk production, growth rates in growing cattle can be greatly affected by even a relatively small deficits and in extreme cases death may occur.
While various forage products such as grass, hay, silage, maize silage, wholecrop silage, brassicas, kale, fodder beet, stubble turnips, forage rape, can provide some of the animals requirements but not always enough to prevent problems. Supplementing diets with products such as trace element boluses have a far larger more consistent effect.
The three most important trace elements for livestock are calcium, magnesium and phosphorous which are essential for a healthy life. These major minerals are required in relatively large quantities. Shortages will cause metabolic disorders in cattle, sheep and goats.
In particular calcium for dairy cows is very important, particularly at calving. A deficiency will lead to hypocalcaemia or milk fever. The economic consequences of milk fever, both clinical and sub clinical are well documented. Cows with low calcium levels, with either clinical or sub clinical milk fever perform less well than cows with good calcium levels. A cow with milk fever, clinical or sub clinical is more likely to suffer from whites, metritis, displacements (LDAs) and be more difficult to get back in calf. Supplementation with a bolus such as Neolaits’ Bolutech Flash containing slow and quick release calcium, magnesium, vitamin A and vitamin D3, and niacin can reduce the risk by bridging the gap between need and supply. Improvements in calcium levels leads to less economic loss, improved production and reproduction and more profit. A herd with 100 cows can lose £20000 per annum.
Phosphorus deficiency can also be seen at calving. The cow that is down at calving does not respond completely to calcium. She cannot quite raise her back legs. This is probably a phosphorous deficiency. This can be corrected with Neolait Bolutech Activ, a phosphorous bolus.
Magnesium deficiency, grass tetany, grass staggers, can lead quickly to death. Magnesium supplementation with Neolait Bolutech Reflex can prevent this problem. Grass staggers is mostly seen in the Spring and Autumn when cows are at grass. High levels of potassium, potash from fertiliser, in the grass can lead to grass tetany by interfering with magnesium uptake. High quality, highly digestible young leafy grass silage can also be short of magnesium. Magnesium also has an important role in calcium mobilisation at calving.
Trace elements, copper, cobalt, iodine, selenium, manganese and zinc all play an important part in animal nutrition and all impact on production and profitability.
Additional trace elements to meet animal needs can be provided using the appropriate Neolait Bolutech Bolus.
Copper deficiency in cattle can be seen when coat colour reddens or in extremis the eyes appear as spectacles. Sheep generally are sensitive to copper and will die if there is excess in the diet. Shortages can be seen in lambs suffering from swayback.
Cobalt is needed to ensure good fibre digestion and energy metabolism. When in short supply lambs and cattle do no grow. This deficiency is known as pine.
Iodine is seen in calves born with hair loss or they are still born.
Selenium is necessary for good muscle development in new born calves and lambs.
Zinc is important for healthy feet and skin
Vitamins also play an important role in animal nutrition particularly vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin D3 and the vitamin B complex.
Vitamin A fed at the right levels plays an important part in production and reproduction. Feeding vitamin A above NRC (2001) levels has not shown a health benefit. Higher levels in the dry period and first six weeks of the lactation can improve yield. Excessive feeding in the dry period may conversely suppress yield. Vitamin A is needed for embryo survival and regular cycles.
Vitamin D3 plays an important role at calving helping the cow to produce calcium to prevent milk fever, hypocalcaemia. Vitamin D is supplied by exposure to the sun. Housed cattle may need more supplementation.
Vitamin E plays a major role in helping to maintain health reducing the number of retained cleansings and metritis.
High levels of vitamin C are used in Bolutech Vitality 1.40. This is a bolus to reduce somatic cell counts in milk.
Biotin can improve milk yield and have a positive effect on foot health. Neolait Bolutech Heel is a biotin bolus that lasts 6 months.
Niacin can help improve fat mobilisation through the liver converting the fat to glucose in the blood. This may reduce the incidence of fatty liver disease and ketosis and improve the energy status of the cow. Neolait Bolutech Start bolus contains niacin and is used in early lactation cows to reduce the incidence of fatty livers/ketosis.
The Neolait Bolutech range of boluses covers many needs.
Bolutech Excell slowly releases minerals, vitamins and trace elements over a period of 8 months, 250 days. Excell improves liveweight gain, plus 12% and fertility, up to 30%. Excell is high in levels of copper, cobalt, iodine, selenium, zinc, manganese, vitamins A, E and D.
Bolutech Ovixcell for sheep contains no copper. It is used for improving lambing. Ovixcell is high in levels of cobalt, iodine, selenium, zinc, manganese, vitamins A, E and D. Ovixcell improves colostrum quality, lamb vigour and vitality thereby reducing lamb mortality.
Bolutech Refresh is used specifically for improving conception rates. It contains all the necessary vitamins and minerals and in particular high levels of beta carotene.
Bolutech Ovifresh does the same for sheep. It improves lambing percentage. It is particularly useful for early lambers and where sponges are used.
Improve dry cow management, particularly at grass, with Bolutech Tonic. Bolutech Tonic is a slow release bolus exclusively for dry cows. It lasts for 42 days. Tonic improves colostrum quality, calf vitality and cow and calf health. It contains high levels of iodine, selenium and vitamin E.
For all its advantages, living in the city sometimes presents a potential pet owner with restrictions on owning a pet. Smaller spaces, and close neighbours can be problematic if a pet owner wants a big noisy animal.
But don’t despair! With a little forethought and some careful planning there is a pet to suit almost any situation. Here are our suggestions for the best pets for city living.
Cats are a natural fit for city living. They don’t need walking, clean themselves and can be trained to use a litter tray. Keeping a cat in can also protect your pet from dangers such as cars, disease and other animals.
A potential cat owner might also want to consider adopting an older cat. Not only will you be giving a home to a fluffy thing, but an older cat will have less energy and cause less devastation in your home.
Dogs come in many different shapes and sizes and vary a great deal in how much space and exercise they need, as well as how noisy and sociable they are.
Dogs can make great pets for flats and city living as long as you put in the research before dashing out and grabbing the first cute face you see. French bulldogs, or Dachshunds are perfect, they are small and require little exercise. For a more complete breed guide please click here.
Hamsters, mice, and rats have a lovely inquisitive, social natures. Any rodent lover knows you can lose a lot of time watching their ever twitching noses probing every nook and cranny they find.
Clean and contained rodents make fantastic city pets, the only drawback is they can be a little noisy spinning on their wheel, and as nocturnal creatures, most of this noise would be at night
Lizards are great pets for city living, very little mess, quiet, no fur to aggravate allergies, and they don’t need huge spaces to bound around in. Plus who wouldn’t want a tiny dinosaur wrapped around their finger?
Fish can provide a calm little centre in the otherwise hectic life of the city. These beautiful creatures have many advantages for city living, as with lizards, they are clean, quiet and contained, but they also never develop separation anxiety, which makes them perfect for the workaholic or the social butterfly.
Why not start with a couple of Goldfish in a bowl and see where your imagination, and wallet, takes you
Perhaps not for everyone, spider make great pets for a certain type of person. While not sociable creatures, spiders are fascinating to watch as they have a range of interesting behaviours.
There aren’t many pets you can match wits with as you try to keep these escape artists contained.
Beautiful, intelligent and very social animals, birds make great pets for city living. Birds need relatively little space, are easily trained and are hypoallergenic.
Birds are very social animals, the more love and attention you give them the more affectionate and happy they will be. A great pet for someone looking for a real relationship.
As grazing animals, there are few things rabbits love more than tucking in to a good meal, but a Bugs Bunny carrot is not the best thing for a rabbit to eat. Here is farm and Pets guide to what to feed your rabbit.
A great source of protein, fibre, vitamins and calcium hay should make up the bulk of your rabbits diet. Hay protects your rabbit’s digestive system and helps your pet maintain good, healthy teeth.
Alfafa should only be given to young rabbits as it is too rich in calcium and calories for adults. Timothy, grass or oat hay is more suitable and should be given to adult rabbit as an unlimited supply.
An adult rabbit should be given a cup of fresh leafy green vegetables, herbs and weeds per 2kg of weight. Rabbits should be given three types of vegetable daily to make sure your rabbit gets all the vitamin and nutrients it needs. New types of vegetables should be introduced slowly. For a full list of suitable vegetables please click here.
A rabbit’s diet should be supplemented with a good quality fresh pellet. Look for a product high in fibre and low in protein. An adult rabbit should be given about a quarter to half a cup of pellets per 2.5kg of body weight. Rabbits should be given fewer and fewer pellets as they age.
High sugar fruits should never form the basis of a rabbit’s diet. carrots, apples broccoli and herbs can all be given as treats. You should try not for give your rabbit more that 50g of fruit a day because of the sugar content
A rabbit needs a constant supply of clean fresh water to stay healthy. If you are concerned your rabbit isn’t drinking enough, leave any fresh veg wet after cleaning.