The Omlet Blog

Date Archives: November 2019

Adding ex-batts to our brood

Caramel Quin and her children keep backyard hens in east London. This is their diary of introducing ex-battery hens to their older girl.

We started out with two hens and an Eglu Cube. A friend who had kept chickens for eight years needed her garden back and we’d been thinking about henkeeping, so she kindly passed them on to us. We named them Buffy and Britney (I make no apologies for brainwashing my tween kids to love late nineties pop culture).

That was just over a year ago. Buffy’s still going strong, Britney only lasted a few months. By then, we loved the girls and were already on the waiting list to collect ex-battery rescue hens from the British Hen Welfare Trust. We went as soon as possible: Buffy needed more chickens for company, or at least we did.

We drove to a nearby rehoming day and collected six birds, bringing them home in a couple of cardboard boxes. They looked sorry for themselves, skeletal, anaemic. Their crests were pale and floppy. The dog, shut inside the house, pressed himself against the glass door and salivated like a cartoon hungry dog, even though they didn’t have much meat on them. The hen with fewest feathers was nicknamed Necky and looked more dinosaur than bird. The boldest was nicknamed Dora the Explorer as she sought out every nook and cranny in the garden.

A garden! It was hard to imagine that these birds had never been outdoors before. Everything was new as they exhibited natural behaviours for the first time, like scratching and pecking at the soil for bugs. We let them explore while Buffy looked on from the chicken run. Then we swapped them and they ate while she was free range. Later we put them together in the run and watched excited as the first made it to the top of the ladder and found the Eglu.

On the first night, they didn’t all find their way upstairs to bed. A couple roosted under the Eglu Cube, so I went into the run and put them in by hand in the night. From then on, they knew where home was and made it into bed before the Autodoor closed to keep them warm and safe.

We gave them plenty of free range time. We also doubled up on feeders and drinkers, so nobody got bullied away from dinner. The hanging feeder proved best because all seven birds could get around it at once. I swapped layers pellets for smaller layers mash for a couple of weeks because the birds were used to smaller food when they were commercially laying.

On their second day we found eggs laid randomly all over the garden, cutest was the one in the hollow of a dust bath. But within a week they had all figured out where the nest box was. Having never had more than two eggs in a day, it was a thrill to get five or six (and on one remarkable day, seven). Ex-battery hens tend to be good layers, they were bred for it after all.

On day two, I remember them freaking out when it rained: they had never experienced these tiny water bullets from the sky. Then there was a brilliant moment when I threw a handful of cherry tomatoes into the run and they dived away as if I’d lobbed a grenade into the trenches.

Bullying wasn’t as bad as I’d feared though. Buffy was outnumbered 6:1 by the newly named Willow, Betty, Mercury, Dora, Chirpy da Hen and Mango Buckbeak. (Listed in order of the age of the family member who named them… youngest last, as you can tell.) We added coloured rings on their ankles early, before it was hard to tell them apart as their feathers grew back, though the feathers came in slowly because we adopted them in April. Apparently if you adopt in the winter they get feathers faster because they need them for warmth.

Chirpy and Mango were the least feathered and most picked on, sometimes bullied away from food, but we gave them plenty of free range time so the bigger ones got out in the garden while the smaller ones ate. Gradually the bullying pecks gave way to polite pecks between all the girls, preening each other after a dust bath and freeing new feathers from their protective sheaths.

Seven months on, we still have Buffy and four of the new girls. Willow and Mercury didn’t make it: one died suddenly the other was unwell for a few days first. But we’ve also nursed others back to health: my signature banana porridge is now famous for bringing ill chickens back from death’s door.*

The star of the show is Chirpy da Hen, who I swear will live longest. She might outlive me. She gave us a scare a few months ago with a backside protrusion of epic proportions. We cleaned and examined it and were convinced it was a tumour not just a prolapse. We separated her in a pet crate so her sore bum wouldn’t get pecked by the others. We fed her banana porridge and gave her painkillers. Over a week, her bad butt gradually improved until we could miraculously pop it back in again and reintegrate her with the others. She’s fine now. No, she’s more than fine. She’s badass.

BHWT is careful to manage expectations: the lifespan of ex-batts is hard to predict. Instead they say “your hen has at least experienced kindness outside of the commercial system which is more than she could have ever hoped for”. If you think pets are a good way for children to learn about mortality, try ex-battery hens. They’re fun, their eggs are yummy and it’s easy to feel positive about the good life you give them, no matter how long or short it is.

Ours have a great life with free range time every day. They eat well, even jump up to eat roses and fuchsias from the bushes and I don’t mind. The dog is used to them now and can go out at the same time without him acting like a cartoon hungry dog.

My luxury is upgrading to a Walk-in run with rain cover, which is as much for me as it is for the birds. I got it mostly so I can muck out the run without kneeling down. It also gives the girls plenty of space and lets the children and guests visit them any time.

We’ve gone full circle as Buffy is going through her first hard moult, she’s half bald in cold weather, while the ex-batts are nearly fully feathered. Next year we’ll probably add more ex-batts to our brood. I guess we initially got them thinking of the eggs but now it’s more than that: they’re part of the family… who just happen to lay delicious eggs.

For more information on battery hens and maybe opening up your home to some check out the ‘British Hen Welfare Trust’ for upcoming rehoming dates.


*We recommend only feeding your chickens treats occasionally. Always make their food outside of your kitchen to avoid cross contamination of food.

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This entry was posted in Chickens on November 27th, 2019 by linnearask


How To Make A Dust Bath For Your Chickens

You might not think it necessary to actually make a dust bath for your chickens. They seem to do it for themselves. Whenever there’s a dry spot of earth they’ll peck and scratch at it, and then crouch down, fluff out their feathers and shake their wings to cover themselves in dust.

That’s fine. But there are ways of making the dust bath even more enjoyable, and more effective too. A bit like trading in a bucket of cold water for a power shower!

Why Do Chickens Need Dust Baths?

Just like a human bathtub, a dust bath is all about cleanliness. It’s not only chickens who like to hit the dirt – you may spot other birds such as sparrows and blackbirds taking a dust bath too. The dust or sand absorbs surplus moisture and oils on the skin. It also deters parasites such as mites and lice by coating the insects’ breathing pores or simply driving them away.

Once fully coated in dust or sand, the chicken will have a shake-down, just like a dog after a dip in a river. A quick preen of the feathers, and they’ll be all done and dusted. Literally.

In addition to these physical benefits, dust-bathing is also thought to be mentally rewarding for hens. It helps them relax, and is a way of socialising too, when a group of hens bathe together.

Things To Add To A Dust Bath

Many owners convert an old cat litter tray, or the base of a disused bird or small mammal cage, into a chicken dust bath. These can be a little shallow though, resulting in the bath contents being scattered around. An old tyre can be used, or an old crate or wooden box. It should be 20 to 30cm high, which is enough to contain 10cm of ‘dust’ plus extra height to prevent the stuff spilling out.

The dust bath should be placed in a sunny spot. This seems to be an important detail, and chickens will seek out a sunny dust bath even in the winter. The bath tub should be filled with non-clay-based, chemical-free soil (sandy is ideal), and kept dry. It will become fine and dusty in no time.

Wood Ash – One of the best things to add to the soil is wood ash. It contains vitamin K, calcium and magnesium, which is great for the birds’ health. It also absorbs toxins from the pores, so acts as a kid of medicine. Chickens will usually eat some of the ash too. This is fine – those nutrients work inside as well as out.

Diatomaceous Earth (Food Grade) – This natural, silica-rich powder has powerful anti-parasite properties, killing mites, lice, fleas and ticks. Hens will bathe in it, and it can also be added to their food.

Fine sand – Even if you have sandy earth in your area, adding fine sand will improve the dust bath. It cleans feathers very effectively, and also helps deter those pesky parasites.

Dried herbs – While very much optional, herbs bring health benefits to hens. Lavender, rosemary and thyme and mint are gentle insecticides, helping yet again with chicken parasites. Rosemary and thyme are also anti-inflammatories, and are thought to help keep hens’ respiratory systems healthy. Oregano and sagehelp boost their immune systems, and parsley provides a vitamin boost. Mint can help the birds keep cool in hot weather, and is also, due to its strong smell, thought to deter rodents and insects. And all that green stuff helps produce brilliant yellow egg yolks too. 

For dust-bath maintenance, all you need to do is clean out the droppings each day, and refill the bath every week or so, depending on how heavy the usage is. If you provide your chickens with the ideal bath, you won’t see them for dust!

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This entry was posted in Chickens on November 24th, 2019 by linnearask


10 Common Dog Training Mistakes

It’s a fantastic achievement to transform that over-excited, jumping, weak-bladdered puppy into a trained and trusted friend and companion. The transformation isn’t automatic, but comes about through persistence, organisation, and a few simple dog training tools.

You can find several training tips on our Omlet Dog Guide. Here, we’ll highlight a few things that can slow down the training process.

1 – The training sessions are too long.

This is definitely rule number one. Training takes a lot of canine concentration, and if you overdo it, the dog will become bored and/or impatient. And, frankly, so will you. A training session should be between five and ten minutes. After that, it’s time out. You can resume the training with another 10-minute session an hour or so later.

2 – You’re getting impatient.

You might think your dog is the cleverest pet you’ve ever met. But he’s still a dog, and not a human, so you shouldn’t expect miracles. A dog has to concentrate to learn new commands, especially ones that go against his natural instincts to run, bark, eat, and jump up to greet people. Many owners lose patience when, for the umpteenth time, the dog fails to respond to a command, lies down instead of sitting, forgets to wait when you tell him, and so on.

As soon as you lose your temper, your dog will sense the hostility and begin associating training with human anger. Understandably, he’ll not be too keen on taking part in future sessions.

3 – You’re on auto-repeat.

If your dog fails to get the hang of a new command or trick on the third attempt, let it go. The mystified mutt will have made three incorrect guesses, and getting it right after ten attempts will not make the training stick. Revisit these ‘fails’ in later training sessions. Review your approach – was it too vague, too similar to another command, or have you fallen into the traps mentioned in points 1 and 2 above?

Similarly, if your dog fails to lie down when you say “lie down”, don’t repeat the command endlessly. It will tell the dog he doesn’t need to respond immediately, or it might make him think that the command for ‘lie down’ is actually “Lie down! Lie down!  Lie down! Lie down! Lie down!…etc.”

4 – Everyone’s moody.

If a dog is tired, grumpy, hungry, or expecting his regular walk, a training session isn’t going to go down well. The same applies to the human trainer – if you’re not in the best of moods, the dog will know, and neither of you will be in the best frame of mind for a training session.

5 – The default approach is punishment.

There are two ways of training a dog – the old-fashioned correction-based method, and the much better ‘positive reinforcement’ method. The old way involved punishing a dog for getting things wrong, while the modern way is to reward him when he gets it right. Some owners mix and match the two methods, which can be confusing. The poor dog doesn’t know what’s coming next – a tasty treat or an angry gesture.

You should never shout your dog’s name in anger or as part of verbal punishment either, or he will come to associate his name with negative things.

6 – The training is inconsistent.

Always use the same command words for each action, and make sure the dog performs the required action once he’s learned it. If you give the command and then let it slide if the dog doesn’t bother responding, you’re undermining the process. When training a dog you’re establishing sets of rules, and consistency is the only thing that’s going to make them stick.

If using a dog clicker, make sure the clock is reinforced with a treat. And don’t click loads of times for a single training action or behaviour, or the click will lose its meaning for the dog.

7 – The training is tailing off.

If a dog learns new tricks and performs well in early training sessions, it doesn’t mean the behaviours will stick in his head forever. They need reinforcing every day over the dog’s early months, otherwise he will get rusty (a bit like you trying to recall those school French lessons 20 years later). Some owners make the mistake of thinking a paid-for training session can replace a year of regular and patient training. It can’t.

8 – Bad behaviour is being rewarded.

If a dog is misbehaving, it can be tempting to shout his name angrily, and then reward him with a treat or attention when he comes. To the dog this means bad behaviour = reward. Ignore the bad behaviour as much as you can, and draw a line by distracting the dog by asking him to sit or lie down (without using his name). You can then reward the good behaviour.

9 – You’re overdoing the treats.

If dog treats are given too frequently or the portions are too large, the dog may decide, later, that he will only listen if there is food involved. There are also health issues involved with overdoing the snacks too. Praise, play and affection are just as important as food treats when training.

10 – A bull terrier can’t be a sheepdog!

There’s no single ‘best way’ to train a dog. It depends on breed and temperament. So, don’t rely on previous experience or the advice of another dog owner, if the dogs in question were completely different characters. 

No dog is born pre-trained. But by avoiding these 10 common mistakes you’ll make the training much more effective, ensuring that everyone involved – human and dog – has a great time during the process.

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This entry was posted in Dogs on November 22nd, 2019 by linnearask


The Omlet Christmas Sale is on! Up to 20% off

Whether you are starting your chicken keeping journey in the new year, want to give your pets a safe space to to play on in the garden, have decided to invest in the incredibly popular automatic chicken coop door, plan to build a fun tunnel system for your rabbits or guinea pigs or just looking to finish that Christmas present list – we’ve got you covered!

In Omlet’s Christmas Sale you get up to 20% off your order, so what are you waiting for?

 

Terms and Conditions

Up to 20% off promotion is only valid from 18/11/19 – 2/12/19. No promo code required. Subject to availability. Omlet ltd. reserves the right to withdraw the offer at any point. Products excluded from this promotion are: Eglu Classic Chicken Coop, Eglu Classic Hutch, Eglu Classic Duck House, Boughton Chicken Coop, Lenham Chicken Coop. The discount cannot be transferred to delivery or courses. Offer is only valid on full priced items and cannot be used on already discounted products or in conjunction with any other offer.

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This entry was posted in Christmas on November 18th, 2019 by linnearask


What to do if Your Cat Goes Missing

Contact neighbours to check sheds and garages

Before you go for a full search party, try contacting your neighbours and ask them to check their garages and sheds to see if your cat has accidentally got locked in. As you’re walking around the neighbourhood, call the cat’s name and listen out if you can hear a cry from any garages. 

Make sure someone is home 

If you don’t have a cat flap, make sure someone is at home while you’re out searching just in case your cat decides to come back. Some cats do just like to go for a walkabout for a few days. If the weather takes a turn and it starts to rain, it can be heartbreaking to think of your pet out in the cold weather, but actually bad weather can help as it will drive your cat home as it seeks shelter. 

Go out searching

If you know your cat, you will know where their favourite hang out is. Make sure you head along to their most frequented spots and take a box of treats with you to loudly shake and call their name. 

Put up posters

Make sure you put up posters locally, including lampposts, notice boards in shops and post through peoples doors to spread the word and make them more aware. 

Make sure they are collared and chipped

If your cat is chipped, then if they’re taken to a vets the vet can call you and reunite you asap. If they are not, make sure you call all of the local vets and check your cat hasn’t been brought in. 

Social media

Put up a post on your social media similar to your physical poster and ask friends and family to share it. Also message your local community Facebook groups to get them to post about the missing cat. 

Let your other cat help

If you have another cat, it can be tempting to keep them locked in whilst the other one is missing due to your worry. Don’t do this! Make sure your other cat is allowed out exploring as they normally do, more often than not they will lead you to your other cat who might potentially be trapped or injured. Also if you follow your other cat it will give you an idea where they normally spend their days. 

Use smart front door cameras

Front door cameras such as Nest and Ring will often pick up any movement going past their house including animals. Check with your neighbours if anyone has one and ask them to look at motion alerts from the time you last saw your cat. 

If you move house

To avoid your cat getting lost when you move house,  keep them indoors for at least 3 weeks to avoid them getting disoriented or trying to head back to their previous territory. This time indoors allows them to settle and regard the new house as ‘home’ marking their scent. 

You can also rub butter on your cats paws on the first day you arrive, instead of stressing and trying to dart out the door your cat will enjoy sitting down and licking the butter off its paws thereby slowly becoming familiar with their surroundings. 

Whilst they’re kept indoors, keep sprinkling some of their used cat litter around the garden so that it warns off other cats and also is a familiar scent for them when you do let them outdoors. Once you do let them out, do it just before a usual mealtime, if they’re hungry they will more likely come back to the sound of dinner rattling in the box or packet.

The need and want to return to their old home can be very strong for a cat, particularly if the house isn’t very far away. Make sure the new owners have your contact details in case your cat returns. 

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This entry was posted in Cats on November 17th, 2019 by linnearask


Why Are My Chickens Not Laying?

Most people decide to keep chickens because they’re looking forward to a supply of fresh eggs. So when the hens don’t deliver the goods, it can be worrying, baffling and frustrating.

In most cases, patience is the simple answer. There are a number of reasons why hens might not be laying, but the commonest are simply to do with age. They will not start lying until they are six months old and thereabouts. The exact timing depends on breeds. Some, such Australorps, Golden Comets and Leghorns, begin laying early, between 16 and 18 weeks. With some of the larger breeds such as, Orpingtons, Plymouth Rocks, and Wyandottes, you can wait up to eight months for the first eggs to appear.

Another complicating factor is the time of year. Hens that reach egg-laying maturity in the autumn or winter may not lay until spring. This underlines another common answer to the “Why are my hens not laying?” question – most breeds tend to stop producing eggs, or drastically reduce their output, in the colder months.

In the Mood to Brood

Sometimes a chicken decides to sit tight and wait for her egg to hatch. In this maternal mood, she is known as a broody hen, and will stop producing eggs. This is handy if you want to hatch chicks, as the hen will happily sit there for the three weeks it takes to hatch an egg. It’s less handy if you want her to produce more eggs, though.

The hen can either be left for three weeks, after which she will resume normal service, or you can gently discourage her. Placing a bag of ice cubes or frozen peas underneath her can do the trick. Some chicken keepers recommend placing the hen in a wire cage or dog crate, with food and water. This is a little uncomfortable, and will usually beak the brooding habit.

All Change – Moulting and Ageing

All hens have a time limit on their laying. On average they will produce eggs for three years.

Most hens take ‘time off’ for winter, and also for moulting. Many breeds undergo what’s known as a hard moult, losing their feathers over a few days and growing a new set quickly. Others may undergo a ‘soft’ moult, losing a few feathers at a time.

Keeping the hens well fed, and adding a little extra protein to their diet, will keep them healthy during this time. Their physical efforts are concentrated on growing new feathers, which is why the egg supply tends to drop during the moult.

This underlines another important point – a nutritious diet, centred on a fortified chicken feed and plenty of calcium, is vital. If hens are malnourished, egg production will drop.

Sick Birds Don’t Lay

If your hens are neither too young nor too old, not moulting, not brooding, and not hunkering down for a cold winter, the reason for the drop in eggs may be illness. Parasites – lice, mites, fleas, internal worms – can cause bodily stress that impacts their laying.

Stress can also be brought on by bullying, too much handling, injury, noisy children and pets in the garden, or poor environment. Making sure the hens have a space where they can stay happy and healthy is vital. A setup such as the Eglu coop and run, along with suitable perches, feeders and other essential accessories, does the trick.

There may be other underlying health issues at play, though. Check out our pages on chicken health for more advice on diagnosing and – where possible – treating problems.

Vanishing Eggs

It’s just possible that your non-laying hens are laying – it’s just that you can’t find the eggs. There are two reasons for this. Free-ranging chickens often ‘go native’ and begin laying eggs in a spot in the undergrowth, rather than in the coop.

Check under shrubs, in long grass, and any secluded corner of your plot of land. If the AWOL laying has been going on for a long time, there may be a few eggs out there in the wilderness. Check their freshness by placing them in a bowl of water. If the eggs lie on their sides, they are fresh. If they are more upright (between 45 and 90 degrees), but still resting on the bottom of the bowl, they are not fresh, but still usable. Any that float have passed their sell-by date!

Eggs may also disappear if a hen acquires a taste for them. Egg-eating amongst chickens can be a sign of overcrowding or poor diet. Once she has acquired the taste, it can be difficult to stop a hen eating eggs, and she may need isolating to stop her pecking at her neighbours’ eggs. The isolation may also induce slight stress, just enough to interrupt her own laying, which may in turn break the habit.

Normal Egg Service Resumed

Don’t worry – unless a hen is very old or very ill, her egg-laying should soon resume. Owners can aid the process by making sure they’re giving the birds everything they need. They keys to a good egg supply are good food, a good space – and patience!

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This entry was posted in Chickens on November 14th, 2019 by linnearask


How To Make Sure Your Cat Keeps Warm This Winter

Some cats would rather have an early night on a warm sofa than a long night out on the tiles. The Persian, the Ragdoll and the Russian Blue, for example, all view the world beyond the window as a hazard rather than something irresistible on the other side of the cat flap.

Breeds such as the hairless Sphynx and the thin-coated Cornish Rex and Devon Rex struggle at both ends of the weather scale, burning in strong sunlight and shivering in the cold.

Other breeds, such as Burmese, Korat and Siamese love being outside and will soon become stressed and destructive if forced to live behind closed doors.

Many others mix and match as the mood takes them. For example, you’ll never see an Abyssinian cat more content than when she’s curled up in a favourite armchair – until you’ve seen her rolling blissfully on the lawn.

But no matter where your feline friend sits on the Coach Potato/Great Outdoors scale, one thing they all love is warmth. For an outdoor cat in the UK this is no problem from – let’s be optimistic – the back end of March to the middle of October. But when the temperature drops and the frosty mornings bite, every cat needs somewhere to warm its paws.

An Indoor Haven

You don’t need to have the central heating blasting out to keep your cat from shivering. A cosy spot to curl up in, away from drafts, hustle and bustle, will do the trick. It could be something as simple as a box with a blanket, or a safe space under the cupboard – or even on top of it. Best of all, a tailor-made cat bed will maximise cosiness and heat retention.

Another custom-made option is the Maya Nook. This transforms your cat’s cosy corner into a piece of attractive furniture, providing snuggling space for your pets, and with curtains that keep it all nice and private. The Maya Nook also has an optional wardrobe attachment, for keeping cat food, toys and other feline bits and pieces tidied away.

Even without the heating cranked up, the enclosed nature of the Maya Nook makes it the perfect hot spot at any time of the year.

An Outdoor Haven

If you have the kind of cat who craves the outdoors no matter what the weather, and who sometimes likes to sleep rough in the garden, there are things you can do to make their life a little comfier.

A box-with-a-blanket in a shed or other outbuilding, or a covered area in a quiet corner, can all give the bare minimum of cosiness that no outdoor cat can resist. Even a little dry area under a trampoline or climbing frame can do the trick.

If you have an Omlet Cat Run, you can put a covered snoozing area in one of the corners. That keeps things snug and safe for a cat who likes being outside, but who has a tendency to disappear or wonder into danger.

If your cat still suffers the shivers in winter, you could buy a cat jacket. These can be particularly useful for hairless breeds such as the Sphynx.

Best of all, though, there is that perennial favourite warm spot that can help a cat through the longest of winters – your lap!

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This entry was posted in Cats on November 13th, 2019 by linnearask


How To Name A Pet

Naming pets can be difficult. Should you go for something highly original, something that describes the pet, or something that reflects your own personality? Should it be ‘safe’, picked from an online list of popular pet names? Or should it say something about the year the pet was born – perhaps a dog called Trump, a cat called Greta, or a budgie called Boris?

If it’s a family pet, parents often take the easy way out and ask the kids to think of names. We fool ourselves that we are being kind, inclusive parents, but in reality we’re just passing the buck!

Safety in numbers

Somehow, if there’s more than one new pet the floodgates of inspiration suddenly open. You can use the same letter – Maxi and Mini, Pixie and Pumpkin, or Arthur and Alfie. Or you can go for famous couples such as Pepper and George, Thor and Loki , Meg and Mog, Lennon and McCartney, Bubble and Squeak.

It becomes harder if there are more than two new animals to be named. A small flock of chickens, for example, may well start out with individual names, but chances are you’ll soon be referring to them simply as “The Chickens”.

The other definition of “safety in numbers” is “names used 1000s of times before”. Cats will always be called Tom, Fido will be used for Dogs, and Polly the parrot will remain iconic. And then there are all those lists of Most popular Pet Names. These change gradually as the years pass, just as popular baby names do.

A survey of 2018 faves, for example, suggests that Bella, Poppy, Lola and Alfie are the commonest dog names in the UK. Cats are mainly called Luna, Bella, Milo and Loki. And if you have a parrot, chances are it’s named Charlie, Kirsty, Ollie, Bernard or Basil.

Small mammals tend to share popular names, and right now the most popular ones are Flopsy, Thumper, Luna, Cookie and Rosie (and Flopsy and Thumper, along with Peter, have been top names for rabbits for 60 years or more).

No Laughing Matter?

If you opt for an amusing name, you need to be confident you won’t regret the decision further down the line. You will find that names such as Brexit, Doggy McDogface and Smelly Cat soon pass their sell-by date.

If you want a pet name that will always raise a smile, without overdoing it, it’s best to choose something not usually used for pets at all. You’ll probably never tire of a cat called Gary, a dog called John and a parrot called Karen. It’s a fine line, though. Quirkier names such as Laptop the cat, Curtains the dog and Bread Roll the parrot may quickly lose their appeal.

Things To Avoid

If you have a new dog, you should avoid giving it a name that resembles a command word. For example, Sid sounds like ‘Sit’, Levi sounds like ‘Leave it’, Walt sounds like ‘Wait’, Hal sounds like ‘Heel’, and so on. This is less of an issue with other pet species.

Anything rude or controversial is going to cause embarrassment – for you (when you have to use the name in front of the neighbours), and for the poor children forced to address their furry friends as Sexy Paws, Satan, or whatever.

It’s also short-sighted to give pets baby names. Yes, that puppy may well look like Tummykins, and that kitten may respond well to Tiny Fluff, but once they’ve become adults, it will sound a bit silly.

You should also spare a thought for vets and kennels/catteries too. Having a dog called Cholmondeley (pronounced Chumley), a cat that sounds like ‘catkin’ but is spelled Qatqin, or even rogue letters in the name, such as Jaxon, Klyde or Phreddie, can lead to confusion in databases.

Things To Fall Back On When All Else Fails

You could choose a name that describes your pet’s behaviour or appearance. Flash, Dash, Nibbler, Scratchy, Sooty, Rosy, Socks, Spot, Biscuit, Brownie, and so on. There are also the famous names – Bugs, Daffy, Sylvester, Tweetie Pie, Lassie, Laika, Marmalade, Felix, etc.

And then, of course, there’s that classic ‘get out of jail free’ card – the kids. All you have to do is pronounce judgement on whatever names they come up with, saying “try again” if you don’t like it. Once they’ve decided on a Snowy, Scooby, Simba or Marley, you can sit back with the satisfaction of a difficult job well done.

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This entry was posted in Pets on November 12th, 2019 by linnearask


Snow Safety Tips for Pets

Snowy weather can bring great fun for all the family, but when it comes to our pets we need to take extra care to keep them happy and healthy (even if they love it!) Take a look at our snow safety advice, and make sure you’re prepared for whatever winter may bring…

Dry off damp fur and feathers

Check on your outdoor pets a few times throughout the day during periods of snowy weather and check they haven’t got too wet. Damp fur and feathers will take longer to dry during colder temperatures, making it difficult for them to warm up again. Indoor animals should also be dried off with a towel after being outside or going for a walk. 

Clean paws of ice

For dogs and cats in particular, snow can get compacted into their paw pads and turn to painful cubes of ice. Use a towel or drying mitt to dislodge any chunks of snow and dry off their feet. Also take care when walking your dogs in snow, as salt used to grit the roads can be poisonous. Watch that they don’t stop to eat snow at the roadside and clean their legs and paws of any snow or dirt after their walk. 

Extra food 

Pets of all kinds will use more energy to keep themselves warm in winter, particularly in super cold, snowy spells, so they will benefit from some extra food. Although they will appreciate more treats, don’t be tempted to overfeed on these. Something nutritious will help them the most.

Extra bedding

Outdoor pets will need more dry bedding in their coop or hutch for them to snuggle into and keep warm. However, make sure their home is still well ventilated to keep fresh air moving through and prevent health problems. Read other ways you can get your coop winter-ready. Indoor animals might also appreciate an extra blanket or a cosy den for bedtime. 

Potential risks

If you have a cat who still likes to go outdoors whatever the weather, be wary of the potential of antifreeze poisoning. Look out for symptoms such as vomiting, seizures or difficulty breathing and call a vet immediately if you think your cat may be ill. Find out more about anti-freeze poisoning here. An outdoor enclosure could also provide a solution for letting them play outside in safety.

Don’t forget about the wild birds in your garden! 

Place a wide bowl or tray of water in your garden with something inside to float around (e.g. rubber duck!) to keep the water moving and prevent freezing. Extra wild bird food will also be appreciated!

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This entry was posted in Winter on November 10th, 2019 by chloewelch


15 Signs That Your Cat Loves You

Cats have a reputation for being aloof, and for not getting over-excited when they see you. All this really means is that they’re not like dogs! Cats actually form very strong bonds with their beloved owners, and the subtlety of their affection is all part of the feline charm. So, you know it’s true love if your cat…

1. Greets you when you open the door.

The welcoming meow, the erect tale, the eager trot towards you… if that’s not a happy cat, we don’t know what is! Some cats even acquire an uncanny knack for predicting your arrival, sitting by door or window and waiting for you before there’s any sight or sound of you in the street. But you’ll need to verify that psychic trick with one of the other humans in the house…

2. Enjoys being stroked.

While it’s true that some cats just love being stroked no matter who’s doing the stroking, many don’t like being manhandled at all. If your cat shies away from an over-friendly stranger or discourages them with a claw or two, but lets you stroke her, that’s definitely love.

3. Grooms you.

You might not particularly like being licked by your cat’s sandpaper-like tongue, but it’s a sign of affection nonetheless. It means your cat sees you as her family, a parent figure.

4. Gazes at you.

If your cat looks into your eyes without turning away, she is completely relaxed in your company. A long, slow blink is a good sign too. A cat will normally interpret staring as a sign of aggression, and will look away (or run away). If she’s relaxed enough to meet your gaze lovingly, take it as a great compliment!

5. Head-butts you.

Cats rub against humans and furniture with little discrimination. However, a full-on head-butt rub is a sign of affection, and doesn’t just mean she wants some food!

6. Brings you presents.

Okay, this isn’t your cat’s most endearing habit, but the ‘gift’ of rodents – dead, half-dead or very much alive – is a sign that they feel secure and at home, according to some experts. There’s also a school of thought that interprets it as affection. Sort of. It’s something a mother cat would do for her kittens, teaching them how to handle prey.

7. Meows a lot.

Cats are thought to have a special ‘meow’ for humans. If your cat mews, gurgles and vocalises a lot in your presence, she’s telling you how much she loves you.

8. Gives you the twitchy tail treatment.

When your cat walks up to you, tail erect and twitching, she’s letting you know how pleased she is to see you. Sometimes it’s because she knows its food time, but it’s often simple affection.

9. Falls asleep on you.

Cats are always wary, and need to feel super-secure when choosing a sleeping spot. If they choose you as their bed, take it as a sign of complete trust and contentment.

10. Sticks her bottom in your face.

Cats have scent glands on their rear ends, a kind of scented ID. If your pet presents you with her behind, it means you’re a friend. Don’t feel you have to reciprocate, though…

11. Shows her belly.

A cat that rolls on its back and invites you to rub its tummy is very chilled, and views you as a friend and playmate. But that doesn’t mean she won’t use her claws in the belly-rubbing game that follows, so watch out!

12. Purrrrrrrrrs!

Cats purr for their kittens, and for their human friends. No on else.

13. Gently nibbles you.

The soft nibble of a friendly cat is very different from an aggressive bite. Some cats use this oral greeting as a means of bonding with their human friends. Some owners, however, discourage it, as even a gentle nibble can be a little uncomfortable if the cat gets over enthusiastic.

14. Follows at your heels.

If it’s not food time, this behaviour is a sign of pure affection. The cat simply wants to be with you. Some cats tag along with their owners outdoors, and many are very happy to follow their best friends to bed. Once you’ve let them adopt this habit, it’s a hard one to break!

15. Kneads you.

If your cat needs you, she may also knead you… This behaviour is thought to originate in kittens, pawing their mums to stimulate milk flow. If your cat does it to you, take it as a sign of affection, bonding and trust. Love, in other words!

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This entry was posted in Cats on November 4th, 2019 by linnearask


How The Autodoor Makes Winter Easier For You And Your Chickens

We can learn a lot from chickens. They go to bed early, and once indoors they snuggle up together to keep warm. No messing about after hours. As a result, they’re ready for a fresh start as soon as the sun comes up.

The problem is, there’s often no early-rising human around at dawn to open the door of the coop and let the hens get on with a busy day’s scratching, foraging and laying. Equally, you might not be able to be there to lock the door behind them after they’ve headed for bed early in the bleak midwinter.

An open door in the chicken shed lets in the cold, and unless your coop and run are secure, some very unwelcome night visitors of the four-footed kind might come calling…

“Someone Should Invent An Autodoor For Chicken Sheds…”

Fortunately, the necessary security-cum-draft-excluder has already been invented. Omlet’s Autodoor attaches directly to the Eglu Cube Mk1 and Mk2 chicken houses. But it’s not exclusively for those models – the Autodoor works with any chicken coop, with a unique and clever design that enables it to be attached to whatever des res your chickens are living in.

Like many ingenious inventions – wind-up radios and wind-up torches come to mind, or solar powered garden lights – Omlet’s automatic chicken coop door opener is very simple. It’s battery powered, with both a timer and a light sensor for maximum flexibility and control. The Autodoor won’t instantly seize up when the temperature plunges, either. It’s been tested to work down to minus-20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit).

The Autodoor is also very easy to install. Its LCD control panel is separate from the door itself, so it can be placed in the best position for the built-in light sensor to do its work.

The door, once closed, is also very secure. It doesn’t use a string and pulley system, so it can’t be lifted up by hungry creatures hoping for a midnight chicken snack. Nor will they be able to squeeze through the tight seal once the door is shut.

Attaching The Autodoor

If your hens live in an Omlet Eglu Mk2 Cube or a chicken coop made of wood, the Autodoor comes with all the fittings you need. You’ll need a few extra attachments if you want to fit the door to a Mk1 Eglu Cube, an Omlet Run or a set up involving traditional chicken wire.

The control panel and light sensor attach via a robust cable, so you can choose the best spot for registering the daylight. The sensor doesn’t mean your hens have to be home before the sun hits the horizon, though. You can set it to close an hour after sunset, to suit your birds’ routine. Equally, it can be set to open an hour after first light, if your chickens are used to having a bit of a lazy start to the day. This makes sense when the days are particularly cold – the hens might want to take advantage of their cosy place on the perch for as long as possible before venturing out into the cold frosty morning.

The door will not open in the night, even if passing headlights, a security light or a torch beam shine on the coop. It has been designed to ignore these temporary bursts of light, and only open when there has been consistent light for an amount of time fixed by you via the control panel.

So basically, that’s your chickens’ winter worries sorted.

It’s possible that you have a stoical family member who is willing to be on guard at dawn and dusk every day throughout the cold winter months to open and close the coop door. Lucky you –that’s real chicken dedication! 

For everyone else, the Autodoor does all the work for you when you’re not around. Or, let’s face it, it gives you the excuse and peace of mind to enjoy a weekend lie-in without having to brave the elements on morning chicken duty!

A NEW Accessory for the Autodoor

Now your Autodoor can do even more to make winter chicken keeping that bit easier, with the NEW Coop Light. This practical light plugs into the Autodoor control panel and can be set to turn on automatically 5 minutes before your door is programmed to close, to encourage your chickens up to bed. So if you have some night owls among your flock who you worry about being left behind, this is the perfect solution.

You can also use the Coop Light on manual mode to supply light to your coop or run, ideal for checking on your chickens, or for those who are having to carry out their daily chicken keeping duties, once the sun has gone down. The cable between the control panel and the light is 2 metres long so that you can position the light in an optimal place for your set up.

 

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This entry was posted in Chickens on November 2nd, 2019 by chloewelch


Giving Your Budgie and Finches the Best Possible Living Space

What do you need from a bird cage?

The main thing is to give your budgies and finches a space in which they can happily do what a bird has to do – eat, sleep, fly, perch, and chill out.

So, your check list might read something like this:

  • Full flying access to the entire cage
  • Fantastic feeding station
  • Lots of perches and usable ‘corners’ for taking time out
  • Easy access to and from the cage
  • Fantastic design that makes it a standout feature in the room.

And that pretty much summarises the new Geo – the first great leap forward in cage design for 100 years.

The Geo Bird Cage for Budgies, Finches and Canaries

Until the arrival of the Geo, bird cages hadn’t changed much since the early 20th century.

But why did we need another innovation in cage design, you may ask? For the simple reason that when keeping a pet, its welfare and happiness are the top priorities.

So, with this in mind, could the old, rectangular-type standard bird cage be improved upon?

The answer is yes – and then some!

The unique geodesic-dome shape of the Geo, and its central feeding station, are the stand-out features. To explain how we got there, let’s take a brief sprint through previous approaches to cage design.

Bird Cages – from Small Cells to Big Sales

Bird cages have a long history, and their basic shape and function has evolved over the years.

In the beginning a cage was simply a cell in which the feathered inmate – usually a finch, bunting or starling – was expected to sing its little heart out. These small cages were made from wicker or other light, pliable wood. By the 1830s cages were being made from metal and wire. The basic design remained bell-shaped (the kind of thing seen in Tweety Pie cartoons).

This design lingered into the later 19th century when keeping birds as pets underwent a huge surge in popularity, with budgies becoming the pet bird of choice for many. The cages were often ornate, but the emphasis was on decoration, rather than keeping the birds happy. These cages were all height and no width, usually.

By the early 20th century, rectangular, wider bird cages were mass produced – the kinds of things still sold as the standard finch or budgie cage in most pet shops. Design was, at last, part of the overall concept – seed trays that slot into the cage sides, water bottles that attach via clips, better, wider doors, removable bases for easy cleaning.

With a wide range of cage sizes, it meant you could ensure that the dimensions were right for the number of birds you owned. So what was left improve – why do we need the Geo?

Why the Geo Cage is Better for Pet Birds

The geodesic dome shape of the Geo cage provides the ideal dimensions for birds to move around in. When flapping and flying in a rectangular cage, birds don’t have much front-to-back space – the flying area is limited to the length of the cage. Also, birds cannot negotiate 90 degree corners: these are dead space when it comes to flying.

So, if you were to map the total usable flying area, you might be surprised to find that in a standard rectangular cage of 90x60x40cm (220,000 cubic centimetres) a budgie or finch can only make use of one tenth of the area for flying.

In contrast, the Geo’s 62x60x60cm (223,200 cubic centimetres) is nearly ALL flying space. There are no front-to-back limited space issues, and no right-angled corners to prevent a bird stretching its wings.

Birds are happier if they can fly outside the cage

In any indoor cage, a bird is only able to fly in a limited space. Ideally, all pet birds should be allowed to free-fly in the room – and we have advice on making this a safe and happy pastime in our Omlet Budgie Guide.

The Geo makes free-flying a breeze – it has two wide doors allowing your birds easy access to and from the cage.

Cutting Corners

Do birds need corners to hide in if they’re startled or afraid of something?

Yes and no. It’s more about the position of the cage. If the birds are in the middle of a room completely surrounded by activity they will have nowhere to hide if they’re feeling nervous. That’s why a cage – including the Geo – should be close to a wall or a corner of the room if possible.

Also, the Geo does have corners – lots and lots of them, just not the right-angled corners of a standard cage. You’ll still find your birds using these multiple corners to rest and take stock.

Looking good, feeling good

The Geo’s marriage of great looks and ultimate bird-friendly design set it apart from anything else available.

One of the most eye-catching features is its central feeding station. It’s a joy to watch birds gather together and feed, and the Geo has an extra bonus in that most of the discarded husks and dropped seeds fall into the feeding station’s hopper for easy cleaning.

The rounded shape of the Geo – not circular, but a collection of many flat sides – makes it a striking feature in the room. But, most importantly, it’s a striking feature that doubles as the perfect environment for your pet budgies and inches.

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This entry was posted in Budgies on November 1st, 2019 by linnearask