The Omlet Blog

Date Archives: October 2020

How Much Should I Be Feeding My Chickens?

Chickens are great foragers, and free-range birds will peck and scratch for all kinds of wild treats, from grass and weeds to worms and beetles. However, even a hen with all-day access to a garden or meadow still needs to be fed with high-quality layers pellets. These contain the correct balance of protein, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals (notably calcium for egg shells) that will keep them happy and healthy. Protein is particularly important for healthy egg production.

A general ballpark figure is very useful, to guarantee that the hens’ dietary requirements are being met. For medium-sized breeds such as the Rhode Island Red, Oxford Brown or Orpington, you need to feed between 115 and 120 grams (just over a quarter of a pound) of feed per chicken per day, which is 805 to 840 grams (one and a half pounds) of feed per chicken per week. A slightly larger Sussex will eat a bit more, and the smaller Leghorn will eat slightly less, while a small bantam breed will only eat between a half and three quarters of that amount.

Chicks, Pullets and Layers

Until it is five weeks old, a chick will need to have its diet supplemented with protein-rich ‘chick crumbs’. Between then and 18 weeks old, while they are ‘pullets’, the birds will need ‘growers pellets’ to put on weight. As soon as the hens begin laying, they only need the regular ‘layers pellets’. These, again, are rich in protein, calcium and all the other essential nutrients.

The hens will also need daily access to grit. Treats are fine, as long as they are not being offered so frequently that the hens fail to eat their share of pellets. Corn is a healthy treat, and birds that have free-range access to grass will be in chicken heaven.

How Can You Make Sure Each Hen is Getting Her Share of the Food?

Any flock of chickens develops a natural pecking order, and the dominant birds will tend to eat their fill before the others, if there is not enough space for all the hens to fill their crops at once (something they like doing shortly before retiring for the night). A solution here is to buy a wide-bottomed feeder that allows several birds to eat at once, or to use more than one feeder. This will ensure the timid hens get their fair share of food.

However, as long as you have provided enough for all your hens, there should always be food left in the feeder when the dominant birds have had their fill. You should still keep a close eye on the health of your flock, though. Issues such as soft shells or feather-plucking can be signs of dietary deficiencies, and the problem might lie in the quality rather than the quantity of the birds’ diet.

Do Hens Eat the Same Food All Year Round?

Chickens moult every year, and will usually eat more food during this process, to ensure their bodies have all the protein they need to grow a new set of feathers. Hens usually eat more during cold weather, too, in order to fuel their metabolisms and stay warm. Free-range hens also tend not to find as many treats in the garden during the winter, as the insect population is at low ebb and the grass is no longer growing.

You can add a little more food each day during these periods. You will soon know if you are giving them too much or too little, by noting the amount of pellets left in the feeder each evening.

However, the hens produce fewer eggs in the winter, so all in all the amount of protein-rich pellets required does not differ significantly from season to season. Again, the key detail is to ensure a regular supply of food. In the summer, if your hens appear to be eating very little, it may be because they are finding too many good things on their foraging trips in the garden. This can be a problem if the wild food they are filling up on doesn’t provide the right balance of nutrients. You might want to confine a hen to the coop if she doesn’t seem to eat enough pellets. That way, she will be forced to eat the good stuff rather than the garden treats.

Layers pellets should be available to the hens 24/7 – they will eat as much as they need, and will not behave like a dog, eating everything at once simply because it’s there!

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This entry was posted in Chickens on October 23rd, 2020 by linnearask


Autumnal Ginger Cupcakes Recipe

Not a fan of Pumpkin Spice? Fancy trying something simple, yet seasonal you can make with your girls’ eggs? Try out these delicious ginger cupcakes, with a nod to autumn on top! 

To make 12 delicious ginger cupcakes, you will need…

  • 12 cupcake cases (we’ve gone for orange to stay on theme!)
  • 150g margarine or unsalted butter (softened)
  • 150g light muscovado sugar
  • 150g self raising flour
  • 1 – 2 tsp ground ginger (to suit your taste)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup

For the buttercream, you will need…

  • 250g margarine of unsalted butter (softened)
  • 500g icing sugar
  • ½ – 1 tsp ground ginger (to your taste)

For the pumpkin decoration, you will need…

  • Ready to roll fondant icing sugarpaste – orange
  • Ready to roll fondant icing sugarpaste – green

  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (fan 160), and line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake cases.
  2. To make your ginger cake mix, start by creaming together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. Sieve the self raising flour into the mixture with the ginger. We used 2 tsp of ground ginger but you can use less if you prefer a more subtle taste.
  3. Lightly whisk the eggs in a bowl and add them to the mixture. Mix everything together carefully.
  4. Once mixed add the golden syrup and give a final stir. 
  5. Fill the 12 cupcake cases with the ginger cake mixture as evenly as possible.
  6. Place in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes.
  7. Leave to cool on a cooling rack before making the buttercream icing. 
  8. For the buttercream icing, add a small amount of icing sugar to the butter at a time and cream together. Once smooth, add up to a tsp of ground ginger to the icing.
  9. Put the icing in a piping bag. We used a large, star shape nozzle for the piping. Start in the middle and circle round leaving some space at the edge of the cake. Then spiral up on top and pull away to leave a peak. 
  10. Once you have iced all 12 cupcakes, you can decorate however you wish! We decided to make little pumpkins out of ready to roll icing. Simply roll the orange icing into small balls, no more than a cm in diameter. Then use a sharp knife to carefully draw lines down the pumpkin. 
  11. Roll a small amount of green icing a long strip then cut into tiny pieces to create the stalks. Press the stalk down lightly onto the pumpkin, and place on top of your cakes.

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This entry was posted in Recipes on October 21st, 2020 by linnearask


Why Chickens Make Great Pets for Families With Children

Chickens really are wonderful pets for the whole family. Not only will they provide you with fresh eggs every day, they are super fun to watch and hang out with and they will teach your children valuable lessons! In comparison to many other pets, chickens are relatively low maintenance, and caring for them doesn’t really require much that children from primary school age won’t be able to at least take part in. Read on to find out more reasons why chickens are great pets for families with children!

Why Are Chickens Such Great Pets?

  • Responsibility
    Children of all ages will learn about taking responsibility for another living creature. They should of course never be given full responsibility for all the care duties, but even scattering some corn on the ground or refilling the drinker can make children less selfish.
  • Routines
    Pets are also a long term commitment that will teach children to sometimes put their immediate wants and needs aside to go clean the coop or feed the chickens. It also shows children the importance of a structured routine, something many kids really like.
  • Food
    Keeping chickens will teach your children that food doesn’t magically appear on supermarket shelves. If they care for their own chickens, they will hopefully realise how important it is for animals to have enough space and adequate care, and they won’t take animal products for granted. 
  • Circle of life
    When you have pets it’s inevitable that your children will learn about life and death. Whether you’re breeding chicks, keeping flocks of chickens for meat or just have a few as pets in the garden, your children will be taught valuable lessons about the circle of life. 
  • Hygiene
    Having pets who live outside will teach children the importance of good hygiene. They will have to make sure to wash their hands after handling their chickens, and will realise that in order for the animals to stay happy and healthy, their coop and run will need to be cleaned out regularly.
  • Additional skills
    Keeping chickens can be educational in many ways you might not think about straight away. Apart from maths skills from counting eggs and measuring feed and water, children will learn about how different animals have different needs, that egg shells can be used for amazing art projects, and that eggs form the base of thousands of delicious recipes.  

Things to think about

  • Start with a smaller flock of no more than 5 chickens. That way your children will be able to differentiate them and give them names based on their funny personalities. Too many at once makes the chickens seem like a flock rather than a group of individuals, and you are all less likely to see them as pets. You can always get more at a later date!
  • It’s probably a good idea not to get a cockerel to start with. They are much more confident and pushy than hens, and can be a bit intimidating for younger children. You don’t want them to be put off straight away.
  • Get a coop that makes chicken keeping easy, so that the kids can help. The Eglu Cube is a perfect example. It’s super easy to let the chickens out in the morning and close the coop at night (even easier if you have an automatic door of course!) and to collect fresh eggs from the egg port on the side. Younger members of the family can even help with the cleaning of the coop, just empty the dropping tray and wipe down the smooth surfaces of the house approximately once a week, and your coop will look shiny and new every time! 
  • Even if you’re not incubating eggs and rearing chicks yourself, getting young chickens is a good idea if you want your children to be involved. Encourage regular interaction, and try to pick up the chickens regularly to get them used to being handled. This is sometimes made easier by having the chickens in a run that is easy to access, like the Walk in run. When it’s uncomplicated to go in and spend time with the chickens, you and your children are more likely to do it regularly!
  • Choose a friendly and hardy breed that is known to be good with children. Silkies are for example famous for being loving and happy to be held, Orpingtons are calm and affectionate and Cochins easily adapt to any situation they are confronted with. You can read more about different chicken breeds here

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This entry was posted in Chickens on October 20th, 2020 by linnearask


How Much Exercise Do My Guinea Pigs Need?

  
  

Guinea pigs are not built for marathons, but they still love to exercise those little legs. Given enough space, they will not need any extra exercise equipment, so hamster-style wheels and balls are not required (and can, in fact, be very dangerous for guinea pigs). What they do need, though, is a combination of hutch and run – and, ideally, extra tunnels, too – to give them plenty of exercise space.

Guinea pig exercise is all about exploring and interacting. They are very sociable animals, moving around their enclosure in groups or dashing away on little adventures of their own. Being instinctively nervous and alert animals has the side effect of making them very active. If there’s a strange noise or sudden movement, they are likely to dash for the safety of a familiar corner.

How Much Space Do Guinea Pigs Need To Exercise In?

The floor area for a hutch containing two guinea pigs should be a minimum of 0.75 square metres. The hutch is where they’ll spend much of their time, so the bigger the living quarters, the better. The indoor part of a hutch is only half the story, though, and guinea pigs need some outdoor space, too. It is recommended that they should have at least three hours free-ranging time each day. This is easy to arrange if you combine a hutch and run, and an all-in-one living space such as The Eglu Go Hutch for Guinea Pigs is the ideal option.

Guinea pig runs can also be linked to outdoor playpens using an arrangement such as the Zippi Guinea Pig Tunnel System. This kind of flexible system allows you to construct anything from a simple A to B tunnel, to a full-blown maze. You can also accommodate fun features in your tunnel set up, such as lookout posts and feeding stations.

For a pair of Guinea pigs, a one- to two-metre-square run provides ample space. If you are able to give the pets more space than this, they will only really use it fully if it has plenty of tunnels and bolt holes to head for – guinea pigs don’t like to be too far away from somewhere safe and cosy, and will not usually roam in a large garden. What you can do in a large space, though, is construct an obstacle course or maze of tunnels, giving your pets endless fun and exercise.

Encouraging Guinea Pigs To Exercise

Guinea pigs are more inclined to run around and have fun if they have companions to play with, So, rule number one for ensuring that your pets get enough exercise is to provide them with at least one playmate. In the wild, extended family groups tend to number at least 10, but you should always keep the numbers to a level dictated by the size of the hutch and run. You need to get the mix right, as a male and a female will inevitably mate, which has obvious consequences in terms of space and mouths to feed.

Groups of males or groups of females are the best option. A castrated male will mix very happily and placidly with females, and any small disagreement and scuffles among your guinea pigs is unlikely to result in injury, and is all part of their exercise routine.

Incorporating hiding places in your run/hutch/tunnel set up is an important detail. Guinea pigs instinctively have one eye on a safe bolt-hole when they are out and about, and scurrying back to safety is probably their most strenuous form of exercise.

You can encourage your pets to scout around and stretch their legs by putting interesting objects in their run, such as hay balls, wicker toys stuffed with treats, chews, tunnels and simple hideaways in the form of terracotta caves and igloos. They will also play happily with the cardboard tubes from the inside of loo-rolls and paper towels, or a simple cardboard box, especially if these items are stuffed with hay and fresh veggie treats.

One of the things that gives guinea pigs such a unique character is their loveable combination of endless inquisitiveness and nervousness. They follow their noses, explore everything, and then dash back to safety, making those wonderful wheep wheep sounds as they do so. With this mixture of playing and bolting, their exercise needs are easily met – all you need to do is provide the hardware.

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This entry was posted in Guinea Pigs on October 16th, 2020 by linnearask


What Illnesses Do Hamsters Get And How Can They Be Treated?

Photos by Frenjamin Benklin on Unsplash

Giving your pet hamster a daily health check will enable you to spot common health problems before they become serious. A visual check will tell you if there are any cuts, limps, or problems with the hamster’s eyes, ears, teeth and nails. You’ll also be able to spot other potential problems such as runny droppings or blood in the urine. Each time you handle your pet, you can feel for lumps and bumps, too.

In general, hamsters are healthy little animals, but it is important to be aware of some of the commoner problems.

Abscess

Hamsters can develop infections if they have cut themselves, and abscesses may form. A hamster who chews the bars of the cage constantly may develop an abscess in the mouth, for example.

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Abscesses need to be treated by a vet.

Colds

Hamsters sometimes develop colds, and can catch the same common cold virus as humans. This is an illness you might hear before you actually see, as the hamster will usually develop a wheeze and a cough along with a runny nose.

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Colds pass quickly, but it advisable to take the hamster to a vet, as the symptoms may be the result of a respiratory infection or allergy.

Cuts

Small cuts can be cleaned with a cloth and lukewarm water. The main task is to find out how the hamster cut itself, and to minimise the danger of repeated injury. There may have been a fight, or the hamster may have fallen after climbing.

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If the cut looks bad, or if there is an associated limp, take the hamster to the vet for an assessment.

Ear problems

Ear infections can cause hamsters to run in circles aimlessly. The condition is distressing, but rarely fatal.

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A vet can prescribe a medicine that will help clear the ear infection, and can also check to ensure that there isn’t a more serious brain-related problem.

Dry ears are a common problem. The symptoms are flaky skin and lots of ear-scratching.

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Rubbing a little petroleum jelly onto the affected area will help treat dry ears.

Eye problems

Eyelid problems, protruding eyes or weeping, infected “sticky” eyes are all possible health problems, and have various causes.

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A vet will be able to advise you on the type, cause and treatment of the eye problem. If one of the eyes is simply gummed up, dabbing it with warm water will help clear the sticky stuff. This is a fairly common issue in older hamsters.

Lumps

A physical examination, carried out gently when you are handling your pet, will be able to detect lumps and bumps. Most of these will be benign swellings, but there are more serious conditions including testicular cancer and mastitis.

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Take the hamster to a vet if it develops lumps.

Mange

This skin condition is caused by skin-burrowing mites, and the presence of scabs, dry skin and matted hair are signs of infestation.

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A vet will be able to prescribe a treatment for mange mites and other parasites, and you will find some handy remedies in pet shops too.

Strokes

If your hamster seems to be unsteady on its feet or constantly stumbling, it could be due to a leg injury, or it could be the effects of a stroke. One of the symptoms of the latter is a constant swaying motion, even when the hamster is at rest.

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There is no treatment for strokes, but most of them are mild. You simply need to keep your pet comfortable, with plenty of food and water, and remove obstacles such as hamster wheels from the cage.

Tooth problems

A sudden loss of appetite in a hamster may indicate a tooth or other oral problem. Damaged or overgrown teeth make it difficult for the animal to eat. A visual check will soon reveal if there is a tooth issue.

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The hamster will need to have its teeth altered by a vet to enable it to eat properly.

Urinary problems

If you spot blood on your hamster’s bedding, it could be due to an injury, a burst abscess, or a urinary infection. An examination of the hamster’s bedding will tell you if it is the latter problem. A change in urine colour, or a lack of urine, indicate health issues too.

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Physically examine your pet: a bloated stomach is a sign of bladder stones, which block the urinary system and can cause blood to appear in the urine. A trip to the vet is essential, as this condition is painful and can prove fatal.

Wet Tail

Wet tail is a nasty form of bacterial diarrhoea, and tends to kill hamsters very quickly. The signs of this disease are wet and faeces-soaked fur around the tail.

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Isolate your pet, provide lots of water (as the diarrhoea will have dehydrated the hamster), and take it the vet. Antibiotics can sometimes save the animal’s life.

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This entry was posted in Hamsters on October 15th, 2020 by linnearask


Why Do Some Eggs Have Double Yolks?

Most people would agree that the yolk is the best part of the egg. A double-yolker in the breakfast pan is therefore a very welcome sight!

Some hens lay double-yolkers every time, a genetic quirk that simply means two yolks are released into the system instead of one. However, hens that manage this impressive feat are rare, and no single breed has been developed to pull off the double-yolk trick every time.

The one-egg-with-two-yolks breakfast can still be yours every day, though, if you’re willing to pay extra for it. You may have spotted double-yolk ‘super eggs’ on the shelves of certain supermarkets – sold at a premium, of course – but these are nearly all from young birds, rather than the mythical Double Yolker breed. It’s worth pointing this out, as a Google search will lead to some interesting information about such a breed. But it doesn’t exist – yet!

Most double-yolk eggs encountered by chicken keepers come from young hens. Point-of-lay birds tend to produce a very small egg or two, and then a couple of double-yolkers, before their bodies settle down into a regular four or five eggs-per-week pattern. A double-yolk egg after this early laying stage is very rare in most birds, although some hens begin to produce double-yolkers again towards the end of their egg-laying lives. Circumstantial evidence suggests that the Rhode Island Red, Oxford Brown, Sussex, and Leghorn breeds have a higher chance of producing double-yolkers.

How Are Double Yolks Formed?

Hens’ bodies release a yolk approximately two hours after the previous egg has been laid. Once in the hen’s oviduct – the part of the bird’s body in which the eggs are formed – the yolk is surrounded by the white albumen part of the egg and then covered in hard calcium. If a hen has released two yolks side-by-side, the egg-forming process treats them in the same way as a single yolk, resulting in two yolks ‘trapped’ inside a single egg shell.

If double-yolked eggs are fertilised, the result is two chicken embryos in one shell. Most of these ‘twin’ eggs fail to develop properly, though, with only one chick growing beyond the early development stage, or with neither of them developing. This makes it rare for two chicks to emerge from one egg. Chicken breeders are advised to put aside the double-yolkers to prevent them developing, and in commercial operations most double-yolkers are sold to food companies that use eggs in their products.

How Can You Tell If An Egg Has Two Yolks?

You don’t need to crack the shell to find out what’s inside – you can spot a double-yolker by ‘candling’ the egg. The word candling comes from the ancient practice of holding an egg in front of a candle flame, but a small torch does the job just as well (although they are still ‘candled’ rather than ‘torched’!) If there are two yolks inside, they will be visible as two dark blobs against the bright light as it shines through the shell.

So, although double-yolkers are estimated to occur in just one per thousand eggs, the sheer abundance of point-of-lay hens means that they are a common sight on the plates of chicken keepers around the world.

Triple yolkers, however, are very unlikely to grace the breakfast table. This super-rarity is found in just one egg per 25 million!

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This entry was posted in Chickens on October 12th, 2020 by linnearask


Can Dogs Get Seasonal Affective Disorder?

What is SAD?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs on a seasonal basis, appearing yearly in the autumn and winter. Researchers don’t completely know what causes SAD, but it’s most likely linked to the shorter days of the colder months, which limit the amount of sunlight we get. 

Lack of sunlight can affect the part of the brain called hypothalamus that can lead to decreased production of the hormones melatonin, which regulates sleep, and serotonin, which plays a large part in controlling our mood and appetite. It is also likely that our bodies’ internal clocks are disturbed by the lower light levels, causing additional symptoms of SAD.

Do dogs get SAD?

There is no official diagnosis of SAD in dogs, but recent studies have suggested that seasons can negatively affect animals as well. Surveys also show that many dog owners notice that their dogs seem down and less enthusiastic during the winter months. Due to this, awareness of SAD is growing, and many vets will be aware of the disorder.

What are the signs? 

Symptoms of SAD commonly include a persistent low mood, loss of interest in otherwise joyful activities, grumpiness, increased appetite and the need for more sleep than normal. This applies to all species, but in dogs you also need to watch out for toilet accidents and hair loss. 

If you notice these symptoms in your dog, the first thing to do is to take them to the vet, as there are other things that might cause these symptoms that might require different interventions. Your vet will hopefully be knowledgeable about mental health in dogs, and should also be able to give you some advice as to how you can help your pup. 

What can I do to prevent and combat it?

Try to keep up your normal routine throughout the colder months. It’s not as tempting to go for walks when it’s muddy and rainy, and you’re probably less likely to meet up with friends and their dogs for some fun playing in the park, but it’s really important to make sure your dog still gets the right amount of exercise and socialisation. This works both preventatively and if you’ve already started seeing signs of SAD in your dog.

If your work schedule allows it, it might be better to walk the dog while the sun is still up, so you’re exposed to some direct light. Open blinds and curtains in the house, and consider putting the dog bed closer to a window so he or she is not hidden in a dark corner. 

Exercise and light exposure are things that will make you feel better as well, and that’s another thing that will subsequently help your dog stay happy and healthy. Our pets are extremely susceptible to our mood and emotions, and your dog is more likely to suffer if you do. 

Humans with SAD can sometimes benefit from artificial sunlight lamps, specially designed lamps that mimic sunlight. While there’s no evidence that these will improve your dog’s mood, it’s unlikely to hurt, so ask your vet if they think it would be a good idea. 

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This entry was posted in Dogs on October 9th, 2020 by linnearask


15% Off All Qutes with Storage – Seize the Opportunity!

Save 15% on the best selling Qute Hamster and Gerbil Cage with storage this weekend. This stylish and modern cage is sure to be a hit with both pets and owners!

The levelled design will encourage natural nesting and burrowing instincts, it’s super simple to keep clean and hygienic, extremely secure, and thanks to the removable bedding tray it’ll be easier than ever to spend quality time with your pets. The practical storage section under the cage is perfect for keeping all your pets things in one place, making keeping hamsters or gerbils easier and more fun than ever!

Use promo code SEIZE15 to get 15% off all Qutes with storage until Monday evening!

Terms and conditions
Promotion of 15% off Qute with storage runs from 08/10/20 – midnight 12/10/20. Use promo code SEIZE15 at checkout. Includes all colours of Qute Hamster and Gerbil Cage with storage. All Qutes without storage are excluded. Subject to availability. Omlet ltd. reserves the right to withdraw the offer at any point. Offer cannot be used on delivery, existing discounts or in conjunction with any other offer.

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This entry was posted in Gerbils on October 8th, 2020 by linnearask


Choose The Right Bed for Your Dog

Dogtor™ Adem, Dog behaviourist & trainer, discusses everything you need to know about dog beds, which types may suit which breed and age of dog, and why we might see our four-legged best friends exhibit certain behaviours in and around their beds. Read on to learn more!


What should I look for in a dog bed?

A dog bed should be comfortable for the breed type, age and size of your dog. If you have an older dog, they might benefit from an orthopedic or memory foam bed, such as the Omlet Bolster Bed with premium memory foam mattress, which gives support by gently moulding around your dog. A puppy, on the other hand, might benefit from a bed that can absorb water if, for example, a bowl of water is accidentally knocked over by them or they ‘toilet’ on their bed area whilst still being house trained. For puppies, you may also want to consider a type of bedding that is comfortable for them but not too precious or expensive due to the higher risk of this bedding being chewed or damaged as they play and explore. For me, it is also important to choose a bed that is robust and can be easily washed. Again the Omlet Bolster bed is a great choice with this feature! This not only helps the environment by limiting the need to frequently replace a smelly or very worn dog bed with a new version, but also ensures any accidents or dirt brought into their dog bed area can be easily cleaned away, keeping their bed area hygienic and inviting. You could also consider covering your dog’s bed with a removable and washable cover, particularly in the winter months.

What type of bed might suit my breed of dog?

Certain breeds might need more cushioning than others to stay comfortable and limit their potential for developing sores or sore patches, for example greyhounds who are considered more ‘boney’ than many other breeds. Some breeds might also like to curl up, for example a husky or some of the smaller breeds, whilst others prefer to lay on their side and stretch out, for example hounds such as deer hounds, greyhounds, and lurchers. An owner should consider how their individual dog likes to lay and relax and choose a suitable bed with this in mind.

The time of year can also have an effect on where your dog chooses to sleep. To ensure your dog remains comfortable, you can adapt their bed to suit the season by adding extra blankets or even cool mats to your dog’s bed. If you’re looking for a cozy blanket, Omlet’s Super Soft Dog Blanket is definitely a winner for those cooler months where some dogs might like to ‘snuggle up’. For the warmer months of the year, you could try a cool mat instead of their usual bed if it is particularly hot! Omlet’s Cooling Mat for Dogs is a perfect choice, coming in a range of sizes to suit many breeds.

I have observed my dog ‘digging’ their bed, why is this?

This is a natural instinct derived from the need to ‘clear the ground’ or an area of insects and potentially small rodents and reptiles. Ancestors of our pet dogs might need to do this in order to make the area they are choosing to reside in safe for them to lay down in. Some dogs, such as those in tropical climates that predominantly live outside or live as ‘street dogs’, still use this instinctive behaviour to keep themselves from being bitten and stung. This act of ‘clearing the ground’ may even have benefits in preventing parasite infestation. Whilst in Mauritius last year, I witnessed a young street dog clearing an area and whilst watching I noticed that she stopped in her tracks and became very observant as she had disturbed a small scorpion in some leaves. Without this act of digging and clearing, this dog would have undoubtedly been stung by this scorpion.

Dogs may also dig because they sweat through their paws, making the act of digging and ‘circling’ in an area another way of spreading and leaving their scent. This is something we commonly know as ‘marking’ and usually associate with the image of dogs urinating up lamp posts!

Finally, dogs may also dig naturally on hot days and in hot climates in an attempt to try to remove hot surfaces (e.g. baked earth). This helps them to reveal a cooler surface to reside in. In addition, wild canids such as arctic foxes and wolves, may dig to avoid extreme weather such as high wind, the cold (e.g. snow), and storms. Again, this act helps to keep them safe as well as assists in regulating their body temperature. Although seldom needed in the pet dog world today, this instinctive behaviour still remains in part in our domesticated dogs.

How can I train my dog to sleep in their bed?

A good training instructor or behaviourist will have this on their training syllabus, helping owners to teach the ‘go to bed’ command. If you are interested in this but can’t attend a training class, I also explain how you can teach your dog this command in step by step instructions in this blog.

If, however, your dog is reluctant to sleep in their own bed you should investigate why. Firstly consider, is the bed area provided the most attractive sleeping area available to your dog? Positive reinforcement such as offering treats in this area can help to make their bed area a more positive and inviting place to reside, as can ensuring the bed is comfortable for their breed type and age (as discussed above!) Secondly, you might want to evaluate if your dog potentially has a behavioural issue such as separation anxiety that is preventing them from wanting to sleep in their own bed. If you believe this to be the case, you should seek help from a certified behaviourist to address this issue and help to build your dog’s confidence in being physically away from you.

How can I stop my dog destroying their bed?

Think about your dog’s life stage. A young puppy may chew a bed as they explore with their mouth and enjoy the texture on their teething gums. In this instance, it would be advisable to buy a bed that does not contain lots of small parts or stuffing that can be ingested. Similarly, you could pick bedding made of material that can not easily be broken down through the act of chewing. You can always buy a ‘nicer’ bed for your dog to use under your direct supervision until they have passed this life stage and have lost their baby teeth and gained all of their adult teeth.

If your dog is older and destroying their bed, perhaps when they are left alone for example, this could potentially signal that your dog is feeling stressed and is suffering from separation anxiety, for which behavioural advice should be sought to enable your dog to recover from this issue.

Similarly, chewing and destroying of beds can also sometimes indicate that your dog is bored. To combat this, you could look to try to tire your dog more effectively before leaving them alone, which will encourage them to rest more in your absence. You should also ensure that your dog is not left for long periods of time by themselves. Just like us, dogs are social mammals and need company. As well as ensuring your dog is appropriately exercised and is not being left for too long, you can also offer your dog something to do for some of the time you are away from them. For example, you could leave them something else to chew that is safe and made for this purpose. Consider leaving them with a hard chew food item or a food dispensing toy filled with tasty treats for them to try to get to!

I hope you have found the above information useful. Wishing your beautiful pooches the most restful of snoozes!

Dogtor™ Adem
Dog Behaviourist & Trainer
www.dog-ease.co.uk
@dogtoradem

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This entry was posted in Dogs on October 7th, 2020 by linnearask


Do My Chickens Need Supplements?

Photos by William Moreland on Unsplash

The very short answer to that question is probably no. If you give your chickens a good quality feed and some corn, and let them peck around the garden for insects and small stones they use to grind down their food they should technically be getting everything they need. 

Any supplement should be given to your chickens as a complement to a healthy and balanced diet, and not instead of giving them good feed or sufficient space to live out natural chicken behaviours. However, just like you might boost your own system with some extra vitamins and minerals, there are some things that you can give your hens that will help them stay healthier and give them more energy.

Particularly useful at more challenging times, like around a moult or during a particularly tough cold snap, we’ve listed all the supplements you might want to have in your cupboard: 

Grit

Chickens don’t have teeth, but use small rocks and stones to grind their food down. Most free range chickens gather grit naturally while exploring the garden, but if you for some reason have to contain your chickens to a smaller area than normal, or if their run is covered in snow, you might need to add grit to their diet. 

Make sure to choose something that is chicken specific and will have the right composition and size of components, like the Omlet Chicken Grit.

Vinegar

Vinegar, normally Apple Cider Vinegar, is a great booster all year around. It aids digestion, keeps internal parasites at bay, and is mildly antiseptic. In the winter it’s also fantastic to use preventatively to keep respiratory infections away from your flock.

Choose an organic or unpasteurised vinegar that contains a substance called ‘the mother’. It’s a gel-like substance that grows naturally on the vinegar, and it’s the mother that contains the most powerful enzymes and minerals that make the vinegar so beneficial.

Vinegar can be added to the chickens’ drinking water, approximately 10ml per liter of water.

Garlic

As well as keeping vampires away, garlic has been used for its beneficial properties for centuries, and it’s a great addition to your chickens’ diet. 

You can crush up a fresh clove or use garlic powder to add to the feed. It’s great for circulation, and can help with respiratory infections. It’s also said to help ensure a good appetite, so it’s ideal to give it to newly rescued hens that need a nutrient boost.

Herbs

Plenty of herbs and spices are said to have medicinal properties that will help your hens keep their immune system in top condition. Verm-X is a 100% natural supplement that helps maintain intestinal hygiene and keeps the hen’s gut and digestive system in great condition, which can help keep parasites and infections away. 

Oregano, cinnamon, parsley, turmeric and ginger are other chicken favourites that will increase vitamin levels and aid the immune system, and that grinded down can be mixed into your chickens feed.   

Calcium

Chickens use lots of calcium to build egg shells, so laying chickens can sometimes need a little more than they get from their pellets. 

Equimins Egg Shell Improver is a great example of a supplement that contains high levels of calcium and phosphorus and will strengthen the quality of your chickens’ eggs. Ideal for ex battery hens or hens going through a moult. 

Poultry Spice

This is a long term favourite with chicken keepers, a mineral supplement that will be beneficial to your chickens’ general health. It’s perfect for moulting, or to help maintain good appetite in winter.

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This entry was posted in Chickens on October 5th, 2020 by linnearask


Are My Cats Safer in an Outdoor Cat Run?

Cats that are let outside have a shorter life expectancy than indoor cats. Sure, some outdoor cats live until they’re 20 years old, but on average, letting your cat roam free outside significantly increases the risk of injuries, accidents, and infections. 

There are clear pros and cons for both indoor and outdoor cat, but certain factors can encourage the decision to keep your beloved pets indoors most of the time. 

Traffic

Cats and cars don’t mix, and if you live by a busy road you might not want to run the risk of letting your cat out to roam freely. Even the cleverest of cats can’t assess speed from a moving vehicle, and you’ll struggle to train them not to chase a mouse over the road without first checking the coast is clear.

Indoor breeds

Some cats are just not made to go outside. Their fur might not be thick enough to handle neither sun nor rain, they are not agile enough to move around different structures and textures, might not have the street smartness to stay out of trouble, or will just never see the point of outdoor activities, like exploring and hunting. 

Cats with FIV

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is a very contagious disease that significantly lowers your cat’s immune system. If your cat has been diagnosed with FIV, it’s highly recommended that you keep him or her indoors to stop them from passing the virus on, but also to protect them from infections or injuries that their immune system can’t handle. 

Wildlife protection

Letting your cats roam free allows them to express natural behaviours, and one of these is the strong urge to hunt. While no one really cares about the odd mouse cats kill, people can get very upset when they see your cat bringing home song birds, baby hares or rare lizards. Wildlife fans are often great opponents of cat predation, and even if you trust your neighbours not to hurt your pet, letting your cat out might create an uncomfortable glitch between you and the rest of the neighbourhood. 

Cat thefts

Cat thefts are more common than you might think, maybe not surprisingly seeing how much some popular cat breeds cost. Thieves might keep an eye on your cats comings and goings over a few days, and lure them away when no one will notice. 

It’s important to be aware that this does happen, and if you have an expensive cat you might not want to let it run free outside without supervision. 

Illness and injuries

If your cat is sick or has hurt themselves in some sort of accident, the vet might have told you to at least temporarily keep them indoors. While this can be extremely frustrating for both cat and owner, it’s important not to hurry the healing process by letting your cat out too early.


If any of these apply to you and your cat, or if you for some other reason have decided not to let your pets roam free, you’ll be glad to know that there is a great solution that will both give your pet access to fresh air (which is highly beneficial to both their physical and mental health) and keep them safe: a cat run.

The Omlet Outdoor Cat Run, or Balcony Cat Run, can be customised to fit the space you’ve got in your garden or on your balcony. It’s just over 2m high, so you can easily go inside to spend time with your cat in the run if you want, or you can leave them to play or rest in the sunshine while you tend to the garden. 

The run can be placed on most surfaces, and you can decorate it with climbing toys and scratching posts to keep your cat active and entertained. It’s stable and secure, so you won’t have to worry about leaving your cat unsupervised for shorter periods of time. 

Not having to walk your cat on a lead will mean he or she can be outside for longer, and by adding covers to your run you can make sure they won’t get rained on, or burn their skin in the sun. 

In a cat run, your pet won’t get into contact with traffic or any other, potentially unfriendly cats. You will be able to limit and control how much he or she moves around to not over activate bones and muscles, and the risk of theft is greatly reduced. Not only will your cat be safer, small rodents and song birds can also live a slightly more relaxed life! 

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This entry was posted in Cats on October 2nd, 2020 by linnearask