Guinea pigs are fun, quirky companions for people of all ages and make fantastic pets. Though small, these little animals have bags of character and very distinct, individual personalities. If you’re thinking of bringing some guinea pigs into your home, you’ll be rewarded by conversational squeaks, affectionate nuzzling, and the comical sight of your pets devouring hay and vegetables like there’s no tomorrow. If you’re already an owner, then you’ll know firsthand what enjoyable and easy pets they are to look after.
If you are thinking of getting a guinea pig here’s a checklist of everything you need to keep your new pet happy and healthy!
1 – A friend
Guinea pigs are very sociable animals, and will need to live together with a friend, or else they will get very depressed. Siblings of the same sex is normally the best combination, but males of different ages normally get along well as long as there are no females around. If you’re planning to keep a male and a female guinea pig together and don’t want plenty of guinea pig babies you must make sure to get the male castrated.
2 – A safe and dry house
Your guinea pigs will need a hutch to live in, even if you intend to keep them in your home. Whether you opt for a modern hutch like our Eglu Go Guinea Pig Hutch, or a traditional wooden hutch is up to you, but which hutch and run you choose, and where you keep it, requires some careful thought.
A good hutch is vital to a guinea pigs’ wellbeing. It’s their home, and where they’ll spend the vast majority of their time. Well-made hutches provide a secure environment for your guinea pigs to sleep, socialise, and exercise, and a good hutch can last you and your pets many years, especially if you invest in a solid, robust model.
The Eglu Go Hutch is the simple, stylish, straightforward way to keep pets. Suitable for two to three guinea pigs, this will make a wonderful home for your new friends. It has been designed to enable your pet guinea pigs to express their natural instincts, offering them a fun environment that will make them feel really at home.
3 – Space to run around and play
Guinea pigs love exercise and space to play, so they need to spend time in their run each day. If your guinea pig hutch has a run attached, like the Eglu Go Guinea Pig Hutch, simply open the door to the run when you bring your guinea pigs their food in the morning. If your hutch doesn’t have a run attached, then it’s a good idea to give your guinea pigs an opportunity to stretch their legs each day by purchasing a standalone guinea pig run. If your run is outside then, weather permitting, your guinea pigs would like to be be put out there each morning and brought back each evening. Take this opportunity for a cuddle!
You can enhance their living space by providing Guinea pig activity tunnels linking hutches to runs and playpens. It’s a practical add-on that appeals to the animal’s instincts too – in the wild they are wary of open spaces, darting for cover under a bush or in a grass tunnel, whenever they sense danger.
The Zippi Guinea Pig Tunnel System is custom made with all this in mind – something that keeps the Guinea pigs happy at an instinctive level, while providing a practical addition to your set up, and bringing hours of fun for the family. The Zippi’s Guinea pig burrow pipes connect all the different areas used by your pets. Its Guinea pig hutch connector is suitable for whatever house you have provided for your pets – whether that’s The Eglu Go Hutch, a traditional wooden hutch, or something you’ve put together yourself. It connects very handily to The Zippi Playpens and Runs and The Omlet’s Outdoor Pet Runs.
4 – Food and Water
Guinea Pigs need constant access to food, so make sure you refill their dry dry food bowl twice a day. Fill their hay rack and cut up some fresh fruit and veg for them to munch on. Be sure to keep their water bottle nice and fresh, too.
Guinea pigs will eat virtually anything! As well as grass in the summer, they can be given a variety of wild plants such as dandelions, plantains, chickweed and milk thistle. When wild plants are not available they can be given vegetables, herbs and fruit. The key is to introduce as many different fresh foods when they are young, as they may be reluctant to try something new as they get older. Do however stay away from potatoes, onions, raw beans and beetroot, as well as anything bloating.
Hay is another important daily component of their diet. Only the best quality hay should be fed, and it should not be either dusty or mouldy. If you have somewhere to store it, it is often worthwhile to buy a bale from a farm, of a quality that would be fed to horses. As well as eating it, they will snuggle under it for warmth. Straw should not be used; it has no nutritional value, and the sharpness of its stalks often causes eye injuries as the guinea pigs burrow around in it.
5 – Vitamin C
The most important fact to know about guinea pigs is that, like us humans, they need a daily intake of Vitamin C. This can be provided by providing a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables. Most good guinea pig dry mixes now also contain vitamin C. Carrots and Broccoli are great sources of vitamin C, and a carrot a day keeps the vet away!
6 – And finally……..a routine!
Guinea pigs soon get used to a routine, and will reward you with welcoming squeaks as soon as they hear you open your back door. It is important to check on your guinea pigs at least twice a day, in the morning and evening. However guinea pigs love human company and the more time you can spend with them the happier they are.
It’s a lovely summers day, the sun is out, the colourful flowers in your garden are in full bloom, the bees are buzzing, the vegetables are thriving, raspberries just waiting for you to pick and eat them straight from the bush and a nice refreshing breeze of air blows lightly through the rustling leaves – and carries something rather peculiar with it.
Years ago almost everyone knew this noise from their own back garden.
Nowadays a lot of people have only heard it in stories or even in the petting zoo.
This time though, the clucking is the most relaxing noise you could imagine, turning this beautiful day into perfection. Your happy little flock of backyard chickens, happily clucking away in your beautiful garden, supplying you with fresh, tasty eggs every day.
Does this sound somewhat too good to be true? A beautiful garden with flowers, vegetables and even berries that is not completely scratched and ruined from the chickens living in it? Is that even possible?
Yes, it is! And we will tell you how you can make your dream of keeping chickens and still having a beautiful garden a reality.
It might require a little bit of planning, but with these tips, you and your chickens can enjoy a lovely, well cared for garden together.
Free Range Chickens or Secure Chicken Run
The easiest way to keep your garden in a pristine condition is to keep your chickens in an enclosed area. With a spacious chicken run, you are able to keep the chickens in that area and they will not be able to dig up your precious vegetables.
This however might not be an option for everyone due to the garden shape, size or sloped areas. It would then be best to offer the chickens a small secure run for the daytime and let them out to free range once you are back from work.
The most important thing to consider is how much room you have in your garden that you would like to offer to the chickens. That determines how many chickens you can keep, without the ladies taking over your garden entirely.
The more space you can offer them, the less damage they will cause – their scratching will then not just affect a small area, instead they will be able to forage for food and scratch out mossy areas in your lawn as well as getting rid of pests like slugs, snails and caterpillars in a wider area, therefore not destroying the lawn but actually keeping it healthy.
If you account for about 20 sqm per chicken in the garden, they will usually not cause much damage to the lawn.
Another important factor to consider is the breed of chicken you choose.
Hybrids usually cause the most damage, as they are constantly looking for food and need a constant energy supply due to the demand of producing an egg almost every day. Hybrids are generally hardy birds that are easy for first time chicken keepers. However, a better choice for a beautiful garden are calm purebred chickens.
Depending on what you look for in a chicken, and if the eggs are not the most important part of your chicken parenting journey, bantam breeds are generally very nice and docile birds to keep in the garden. Their small size alone often prevents them from doing too much damage. Seramas and Cochins as well as Pekin Bantams and Silkies make lovely, friendly pets and are known to be fairly kind to your garden. Their eggs are generally very small. 2-3 eggs would usually make up the equivalent of one medium sized egg.
If you’d rather have a sizeable breakfast egg, Bantam Orpingtons would be a fantastic choice. They are very calm birds, don’t fly and are simply round and fluffy, perfect, friendly chickens. Due to the big size of regular Orpingtons, the Bantams seem more like a medium sized chicken and lay medium sized eggs. They come in a variety of colours and are a favourite of many.
Securing flower beds and veggie plots
An easy way to keep plants safe is a home made hoop house covered in plastic or netting, that will keep chickens out without difficulty.
If that’s not an option, you could try to install raised beds in your garden. Most chickens don’t seem too interested in foraging for food above head level, so they tend to leave plants in raised planters alone for the most part and the plants can thrive in their beautiful wooden planters. Raised gardens make easy, back friendly gardening possible and more enjoyable.
Should you not have raised beds or want hoops around your plants, we would recommend a mobile fencing option to allow your chickens to roam freely, yet not show off their landscaping skills on your veggie plot. The mobile Chicken Fencing from Omlet is ideal to keep chickens out of certain areas. The new and improved fencing blends into your garden and is available as a 12, 21, 32 & 42 meter roll. This movable chicken fencing is much easier to install than chicken wire and features many benefits such as tangle proof netting, adjustable poles and reflective badges to help you find the gate at night.
Omlet’s flexible chicken fencing comes with an inbuilt gate which features a newly redesigned catch that is stronger and more comfortable to use. You can also set the width of the gate opening to your preferred size making it easy to get in and out to feed your chickens. Another great feature of the gate is that you can position it wherever you want within the layout you have chosen, you can put it at any end, the middle or anywhere else. The width of the gate opening can also be adjusted to suit.
With an overall height of 1.25m, (which is taller than most chicken fencing), you can be confident that even the most determined of your feathered friends won’t make a great escape! The poles of the fence are also adjustable to ensure that the netting remains tight and secure at all times.
Offer a “chicken spa” area
Chickens love to dig up dry soil under bushes to then enjoy a lovely dustbath in the sheltered, shady area. Allow them to find their favourite spot, or plant some chicken friendly bushes in an area you are happy to devote to your chickens, and they will most likely not think about any other plants. A chicken spa like that will not only keep your girls feathers in beautiful condition but keep them in good spirits and happy moods.
Keep an eye on your chickens
The best and safest time for your chickens to free range is usually when you are with them in the garden and can keep an eye on them. This allows you to keep them from causing too much mischief by throwing a handful of tasty corn in an area as far away as possible from flowers and veggies. My lively bunch of ladies will then loudly proclaim their excitement and run to gather all the tasty treats. This will usually keep them preoccupied for at least 30 mins.
Are you thinking about adopting a kitten or rescue cat? That’s great – but it’s important to ensure you are completely prepared to provide the care they need first.
Many cats still find themselves placed into rescue centres (whether for the first time or the sixth) when new owners change their mind about their new pet. This is incredibly distressing for the cat, and can put already-busy rescue centres in a difficult situation. Ask yourself the questions below and check you and your home is completely ready for a new furry family member.
Should I buy or rescue a cat?
Before going ahead with buying a kitten from a breeder, it is important to remember there are lots of cats in rescue centres across the country, waiting for their furever homes, including cats of all ages and breeds.
We strongly encourage enquiring with your local cat rescue homes before making a decision. These cats may have been through a tough time and initially be very shy and reserved, but most rescue cats make a full recovery and see a drastic change in their personalities when they are in a safe home and have bonded with their new owner.
Is my home, garden and neighbourhood safe for a cat?
Think about where your home is located. Some rescue cat centres do not allow adoption if you live near a busy road – and for good reason. Some skittish cats can put themselves in danger and there is a risk of injury in a busy street. Consider whether your current home is really suitable and safe for a cat to be going outdoors. If not, are you able to provide an alternative, secure outdoor space for them to play and exercise, such as an Outdoor Cat Run?
If you live in an apartment, it may still be possible to rescue a cat who is happy to be an indoor cat. You can also provide the cat with a safe outdoor space with the Cat Balcony Enclosure, so they can get some fresh air and playtime outside of your flat, without fear of escape or injury.
Within your home, do you have other animals who could respond negatively to a new furry resident? Only rescue a cat that you know will be okay with other pets and children in your household, and likewise only if you know the existing residents will welcome a new four-legged family member.
Can I offer a secure space for the cat to feel comfortable?
For rescue cats, having their own space to hide when they get scared or anxious is incredibly important. Does your home have plenty of hiding spaces for your new cat to disappear to when it all gets too much?
Are you able to provide a cosy cat cave for your new pet to sleep and rest in complete peace and security? The Maya Nook Indoor Cat House is the ideal den for nervous cats to be tucked away in, as the curtains provide a completely secluded space. Learn more about how the Maya Nook could help settle your rescue cat into your new home here.
Am I willing to provide a rescue cat with the support they need?
Seeing the transformation in your rescue cat’s personality is incredibly rewarding, but first you need to be sure that you can provide the patience and support needed for them to settle in to your home and feel at ease.
If you have a full time job, you may need to consider taking some time off to settle them into your home, get them used to their surroundings, litter tray and neighbourhood. If the household has children, you will need to prepare them to be gentle and quiet with the new cat.
Most rescue cats are discharged from rescue homes with a full bill of health, but on the odd occasion some cats may need a few more vet visits, or even repeat medication. If you rescue such a cat, you must be prepared to accept the cost and commitment required to provide the healthcare they need.
What will I need to settle a rescue cat into my home as smoothly as possible?
Many cats in rescue centres looking for a new home have had a very tough time of it. Whether mistreated, abandoned, stray, or injured, the kitties who find themselves in the care of a rescue organisation can, quite understandably be wary of humans. But this isn’t a reason to give up on them.
When I adopted my cat he was depressed and overweight due to the large amount of time he had spent hidden away in his kennel, showing no interest in playtime or human interaction. He had been with the rescue organisation for 4 months and not one person had shown him any interest. Stress had caused his fur to come out in great tufts, but as I stroked him he let out a little purr. I adopted him then and there.
On bringing Smudge home, I opened the door to his cat carrier but he refused to step out for a good few hours, and when he did he scarpered under the kitchen table, hidden as best he could.
In his first few weeks with us he spent a lot of time hidden under beds, behind the sofa, in between boxes or attempting to blend in to a pile of clothes or under a blanket. It took a long time for Smudge to be brave enough to spend time on the sofa and beds, and even then he wouldn’t be up there for long until a slight movement or noise would frighten him and he would vanish.
It became very obvious he was going to take a bit more time to settle in and to feel less afraid, so I was going to need to think outside of the box – or more so inside. As I noticed he felt most secure in an enclosed space where nothing could reach him and he was protected from harm, I started to think about the best kind of bed to suit his timid personality.
The Maya Nook is a cosy indoor Cat House with curtains. Yes, you heard that right, it’s got curtains. But before you start rolling your eyes at another example of anthropomorphism, let me explain. The curtains not only make the Nook look really nice, they are also fully functional and transform the Nook into an enclosed little ‘room’ where cats can rest and sleep in a peaceful, secure space they can call their own. Placing their bed in a den-like Nook gives them a sense of distance and security from a busy home life, while the addition of the curtains completely closes off their space so they cannot see outside, and likewise they cannot be seen.
When I introduced Smudge to the Maya Nook, it took a short while for him to get used to it. I allowed him to spend some time alone with it, giving him the opportunity to approach it at his own will, instead of picking him up and forcing him inside, which I thought could create a negative association. He spent some time sniffing around, going in and out for short periods of time with the curtains open. When he had settled inside for the first time, I closed the curtains for 30 seconds or so and opened them again. I repeated this a couple of times so he could get used to both scenarios.
When he would spend time hidden behind the sofa or under a bed, he seemed to mostly be awake and on guard, unable to relax, whereas now that he is sleeping in his Maya Nook, I feel as though he is getting much better quality rest and actually being able to switch off from what is happening on the other side of the curtains.
The combination of a quiet space and better sleep time has had a multitude of benefits to Smudge’s progress in our home. He is visibly more relaxed and spends more time out of his bed and in the open space with the family, compared to when he spent all of his time hidden and stressed. He is beginning to open up to the possibilities of play time, visitors are still feared but he is becoming braver with showing his face, and always has the comfort of being able to run to his Nook whenever it gets a bit too much for him.
I am sure this will also be hugely beneficial for events such as Fireworks Night and New Years Eve, when the bangs and pops of fireworks can be relentlessly frightening and heard for weeks on end. The Nook will help to reduce the sound, while the curtains will block out any flashing lights coming through the window.
The Maya Nook is designed to fit in the home like a piece of furniture, so we are able to use the space on top for whatever we please. It is a great spot to feed my cat and keep his water bowl so it is always close by and in his “safe zone.” The Maya Nook is also available with a handy fitted wardrobe which provides extra storage for cat food, treats and toys.
Adopting a rescue cat is really rewarding and I’m so glad that I didn’t let Smudge’s initial shyness put me off. If you have adopted or are thinking of adopting a rescue cat who continues to be very nervous and stressed in your home, I would highly recommend providing them with an indoor cat house like the Maya Nook so they can claim a secure space for themselves – it could transform your cat’s personality.
Hamsters make excellent pets – they’re fun, cute, and relatively easy to care for. Their cuddly credentials have made them popular pets all over the world. Hamsters bring a lot of joy to a lot of people, but how can we tell our hamster is happy too, or not? Like all animals, hamsters have the ability to communicate with one another and with their owners. They use body language much like we do and can display a range of emotions that include being happy, afraid, threatened, curious, startled, angry and many other emotions.
Stretching and yawning: yawning is often a sign your hamster is feeling comfortable and relaxed, rather than being very sleepy. If your hamster stretches as he yawns, this is even more proof that he is a very relaxed hamster.
Freezing: this involves your hamster staying in one position, sometimes for a few minutes. Its ears are straight up and he is completely stiff to the touch. There are lots of potential reasons for hamsters to stop moving temporarily: they can freeze both out of fear and surprise, or they can pause their movement so that they can listen more carefully to something that they’re unsure about.
Sitting up on back legs, ears forward: something has captured his attention. Your hamster is standing on its hind legs to see and hear better.
Grooming: hamsters spend a large amount of their time grooming themselves. When a hamster grooms itself, washing its feet, hands and fur, it means that he is feeling secure and happy.
Chewing: if your hamster keeps biting the bars of its cage, then there may be some things that you need to do to improve your pet’s life. Gnawing on the bars of the cage can indicate one of a number of things, including boredom, a lack of space, or overgrown teeth.
Biting: hamsters can bite when they’re scared, when they’re stressed, or when they’re confused. if your hamster bites you, then there’s almost certainly a reason for it. Maybe your hamster is in pain, or simply uncertain how to react to you. Never get angry at your hamster but try to understand the reason behind his behavior.
Ears folded back, eyes half closed: your hamster has just woken up and is still sleepy. It is best not to take out your hamster out of its cage until it has woken up fully.
Running: hamsters are born to run. In their natural habitat they can run up to 5 miles per night! It’s therefore important that hamsters kept as pets have the opportunity to run, usually provided by a wheel. Hyperactivity and repetitive behavior, on the other hand, can also be a sign of stress. A stressed hamster will move constantly, run on his wheels quickly, try and climb his cage and appears more nervous and alert than usual.
All hamsters will have their own personalities. Spend time watching your hamster and get to know his personality and mannerisms. As you get to know your pet, you’ll be able to recognize when they are their usual selves, and when they are not. Observing your hamster’s body language is a great way to be more “in tune” with the needs of your pet, which can be crucial to their health and well being. Visit our extensive hamster guide at the bottom of this page for more information about hamster and tips on how to keep them healthy and happy.
More than 80% of cat owners are having their sleep disturbed by their feline friends, reveals latest Omlet survey.
Following a discussion amongst the Omlet cat owners about the close sleeping arrangements with our pets, and the resulting impact on our daytime energy levels, we began wondering whether it is actually normal, or wise, to be allowing our cats to sleep in our beds?
Are we just soft when it comes to letting our cats get cosy at night, or are we a nation of pet slaves who value our cats happiness more than our own sleep?
To find out we decided to conduct a survey to shed light on the sleeping patterns of cats and how their nocturnal habits affect their owners. Over 900 cat owners responded and more than half (56%) said they let their cat sleep on the bed with them at night, with 40% allowing them to do so on the first day! In fact by the end of the first month of cat ownership the number has increased to 71% of owners allowing their cats into their bed at night.
A massive 84% of cat owners who allow their cat to sleep in their bedroom admitted to having their sleep disturbed by their cat – and as a result 1 in 5 cat owners sometimes resent their cat following a bad night’s sleep. Could this cosy sleeping arrangement actually be negatively impacting the nations’ relationship with their cats?
We invited these cat owners to share how exactly their cat disturbs their sleep. Many agreed that the main disturbance is due to their cats lying too close to them, purring, snoring or cleaning themselves. However, here are our top 10 favourite, more unusual, ways that cats are disturbing their owners sleep…
Chasing mice around the bedroom
Patting my face
Trying to eat my toes
Zoomies at 3am
Dribbling on me
Trying to wake me up for breakfast, or asking for a snack
Knocking things off shelves
Licking my eyelid
A third of cat owners say they have to change their bed sheets more regularly since allowing their furry friend to sleep on their bed. Only a small number of people (12.2%) are aware that allowing cats to sleep in their bed is unhygienic.
Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine found that when you look a bit closer cats can have parasites like fleas and ringworm, which unless treated can cause health issues in humans. Fleas for example can jump into your mouth leading to owners becoming inadvertently infected by tapeworms. Yuck.
37% of cat owners have made the wise choice to shut their bedroom door at night, saying they can’t allow their cat to sleep on the bed because their sleep gets disturbed.
1 in 4 owners wish their cat would sleep in their own bed at night – which begs the question, why don’t they?
Perhaps they’re so connected to their owner that they can’t bear to be more than 2 inches away from them, or maybe their owner has never found a cat bed which provides the same level of luxurious comfort as a king size bed and a thick, cosy duvet does?
The Maya Nook gives your cat their own little space, complete with a cosy bed, curtains and wardrobe, to create a warm, secluded and calming zone for them to sleep in complete peace, undisturbed by you and most importantly out of mischief.
Designed to look like a piece of modern furniture, the Nook looks great in any room so can be placed in your bedroom if your cat likes to be close to you, or downstairs to give you a truly undisturbed sleep while your cat enjoys a luxurious slumber in their very own cat house.
Overall 52% of cat owners said they may prefer it if their cat slept in their own bed, yet 70% of people say they don’t regret allowing their cat to sleep on their bed. So the Maya Nook might be the purrfect compromise to keep both cats and their owners happy.
Here at Omlet we often receive calls from aspiring chicken keepers who are seeking chicken keeping advice before getting their first birds. Some of the most popular questions we get asked are, what should I feed my chicken with or how can I protect my chickens from predators? One question that keeps coming up is, do I need to shut the Eglu door at night?
Often people ask us this question because the idea of adding another task to their daily routine might be one of the reasons which puts them off chicken keeping. Much like you wouldn’t like to sleep with your front door open, unfortunately for chicken keepers, nor do your chickens, therefore most nights we would recommend you close the chicken coop door. But having to close the door doesn’t necessarily mean that it would need to be done by the chicken keeper themselves! Have you ever thought about automatic door system? Well luckily for chicken keepers, Omlet has recently launched a new Autodoor which will solve all of these problems. Even though our Eglus are specially designed to keep your chickens warm in winter with a unique twin-wall insulation system which works in a similar way to double glazing, leaving the door open overnight would let the cold enter inside which might result in having frozen eggs after a freezing winter night and could make your chickens feel unwell. Which is why we strongly recommend you use the handle on top of the Eglu and simply lift and twist it to close the door in one convenient motion each evening after having make sure all your flock are inside As important as it is to close the door to protect your hens from the cold, it is also important to do it to protect them from potential overnight predator attacks. Most predators would wait for the night to attack your chickens therefore by simply closing the door it would protect your flock from being attacked by predators such as racoons, foxes and coyotes. Having said how important it is to close your chicken coop overnight we understand that not everyone has the luxury of being at home every night to close the coop door especially for people working late shifts that are often home well after the sun sets. That is why we recently launched an automatic chicken coop door that can be attached directly to any wooden chicken coop, wire or the Omlet Eglu Cube Mk1 and Mk2.
Much like a personal chicken coop concierge, the Autodoor will always make sure your chicken’s coop is securely closed at night even when you’re running late. Whether you decide to use the light or time mode, the Omlet secure and safe Autodoor will either open and close at dawn and dusk or at specific times that you have programmed it to. In addition to being designed to be used in different modes the Autodoor has a unique safety sensor detecting any blockages to prevent your chickens from being injured when they decide to stop half way through the door. Benefits of the Omlet Automatic Chicken Coop Door:
Easy to install, no maintenance required
Operated by light sensor or timer
Powered by battery
Works with all wooden chicken coops
Improves coop security and insulation
Compatible with the Eglu Cube
Reliable in all weather conditions
Built-in safety sensors
Can be used with any chicken run or mesh
To summarise, closing the coop door is definitely the recommended action for every chicken keeper in order to protect their chickens from the cold and predators however this task can easily be completed by an Autodoor. Check out the review below to see what one of our Autodoor owners thinks of this new product:
“Thank you Omlet for a wonderful product and great service. The door arrived quickly, very well packaged and my concerns over fitting it were unfounded as I was able to complete the task completely unaided. The door is easy to operate and means my girls are safely tucked up at dusk and I do not have to get up ridiculously early to open the coop and stop them hollering!” – Wendy
You’ve seen it on some TV programmes or driven past small-holdings and seen canines and chooks living in harmony.Maybe they are a working dog? Maybe they are a family dog? How do they do it?We have put together 7 expert tips to help you introduce your new dog to a flock of chickens.
Understand How Dogs and Animals Learn
Our canine companions, on the whole, are super intelligent and trainable, providing we know how they learn and what we need to do to train them.Introducing them to our chooks can be done and co-habiting harmony does exist. It’s through this small thing we call desensitization. Stay with us for a short Psych 101 and we promise it’ll be worth it.
Desensitization is a process where, through graded exposure, an emotional response is diminished and adapted to a specific stimulus.
Now, what the heck does that mean I hear you yell?
In short, you expose your dog to your chooks, from a distance.As he behaves how you expect him to, you gradually move him closer to the chooks.You eventually get to the stage, that through the gradual exposure, he’s not that interested in the chooks after all.His emotional response has diminished, and he has adapted which results in a calm response.
Start with your chooks in their coop or a fenced in area.Keep your dog on leash and feed him treats, providing he is ignoring the chooks.If he is paying too much attention to them, move to a greater distance.The aim is to find a distance where he is not having any emotional response towards them.
Grade the Exposure
Providing your dog is ignoring the chooks at a certain distance, you can move gradually closer to them.Say you start at 50 feet away, slowly reduce to 45 feet, 40 feet and so on.Continue to praise and reward him for ignoring them. Remember, you want his emotional response to diminish. Keep training sessions short, you don’t want to over tire your dog.Some dogs get hyper-aroused just by being over-tired.
The Big Moment!
You’ve finally made it to near the chicken coop or fence, providing he is still pretty chilled out in ignorance of the chooks, ask him to sit next to the fence or coop.Praise and reward.If he behaves how you expect him to, lengthen the leash, so he can move around the border of the coop or fence, he can sniff and explore.If he’s calm, the chooks may even come over to investigate.Stay calm.If he starts getting excited or lunges/barks at them, remove him to a safe distance where he will ignore them again.You may need to do this a few times.What he learns is that to be around the chooks, I must stay calm.If your chooks will stay in a coop or fenced area, this may be where you spend the time repeating the behaviour and praising and rewarding.You may sit with him with a chew or just work on some commands.Again, the aim is to encourage him to ignore the chooks.
If you plan on having free range chickens, and canine and chooks will be mingling daily, read on.
The Great Escape
When you feel confident that your dog has so far, happily ignored the chooks and not shown any aggression or heightened arousal towards them, you can let them out of their coop/area to roam freely.Keep your dog on his leash.Ask him to sit or lay down if this makes you feel more comfortable.As the chooks are roaming, providing your dog shows little interest, praise and reward him.Again, you may want to give him a chew or even a slow feeding puzzle game.He just needs to learn than he can co-exist with the chickens without interacting with them a great deal.
Patience Is A Virtue
You may have to spend a significant amount of time working through these steps, but done in the right way, it will be worth it.Whilst on leash you can walk him through the chooks, he may sniff, they may also show interest too.The only behaviour you don’t want to see is aggression, lunging or chasing.If this happens, go straight back to beginning and work on the gradual exposure again.
The most nerve-wracking part will likely be when you feel he is ready to be let off leash to mingle on his own.Again, take your time.You may pop the chickens back in the coop and let him explore off leash around a fence.You may prefer to put him on a long line (50ft) when in with the free-range chooks.This way, he feels like he has more freedom, but you still have control if it goes pear shaped.Be realistic though, some dogs just never quite make it to being able to mingle unsupervised with chooks, so watch the behaviour of your dog and make the call.
Chooks to dogs are super-interesting, like most things.The long and the short of it, successful introductions mean the chooks are no longer that interesting and your dog learns that to be around them he simply just needs to be calm.Arm yourself with some high value treats, chews and any other slow feeder puzzles; start from a distance and encourage the behaviour you want to see.Praise and reward when you do.Grade the exposure.Always stay calm and in control and don’t be afraid of going back to square one if things don’t go as you’d hoped.It may take time, but it will be worth it when you have canine and chooks living in harmony.
Cats and dogs (and humans) make noises to show others what they feel, want or really don’t like. Rabbits do as well, but they mainly use body language to communicate with other rabbits, and with us. You will most likely not be able to understand everything your rabbit is trying to tell you, but by learning a few things about rabbit body language, you’ll be able to make life a little bit better for your pet.
Lost of postures and vocalisations can mean several things depending on the situation, and can differ somewhat from rabbit to rabbit. It is therefore important to be able to take in accompanying signals that help you see what’s going on.
Rabbits are relatively quiet animals, but they do make a few noises that you’ll be able to differentiate from each other. Here are a few of them: Growling – A short barking growl is a sign of aggression, and indicates that you, or something else close by, is threatening the rabbit.
Screaming – If the rabbit lets out loud, piercing screams he or she is likely to be very scared or experiencing a lot of pain.
Low grunting & grinding of teeth – This is the rabbit equivalent of a cat’s purring, and means that the rabbit is content and relaxed.
Loud teeth grinding & chattering – If the grinding however changes into louder teeth chattering, the rabbit is most likely in a lot of pain.
Thumping – Rabbits drum their feet against the ground when they are afraid or threatened, or want to make others aware of what is going on. Thanks to the rabbit’s strong hind legs, this can be surprisingly loud.
EARS, EYES & NOSE
Rabbits use their ears to tune into what’s going on around them, and they can often be a good indicator of how your rabbit is feeling. If the ears are stood up and are twitching, your rabbit is listening out for something. If they are confident it’s not dangerous, or not particularly interesting, they might only raise one ear. When they are relaxed, the ears will rest against the body, normally along the back.
Rabbits have very expressive eyes, and as they are prey animals, they will only fully close them when they are extremely comfortable and feel completely safe. So if you find your rabbits sleeping with their eyes closed, it is a clear sign that they feel at home. Eyes wide open combined with fluffed up fur and growling indicate fear. The rabbit’s inner eyelids might also protrude and become visible if he or she is uncomfortable.
The nose is also a good indicator how the rabbit is feeling and how interested they are in what is going on around them. The faster the wiggling of the nose, the more attentive or agitated the rabbit is. Rabbits tend to rub their noses in a way to show affection, so if you find your rabbit rubbing their nose on you it’s a sign that they really like you. If they also throw in a little lick, you’re properly loved!
The Classic – Rabbit is sat with weight on the bottom, forelegs straightened and ears standing up. He or she is checking to see what’s going on.
Head on the ground – If the rabbit rests its head on the ground, he or she is showing submission, and might want to be petted or groomed. In different circumstances it can also mean that they want to be left alone, so make sure to take in other signals.
The Ball – Rabbit is sat rolled up with legs tucked, normally with ears resting against the body. He or she is sleeping or napping. Rabbits can sleep with their eyes open, but prefer to keep them closed if they feel comfortable and safe enough.
Belly on the ground – The rabbit is lying on its belly with legs stretched out behind or maybe to the side of the body, with the head either up or resting on the ground. The rabbit is resting, and is relaxed. The further the legs are stretched behind the body, the more comfortable the rabbit is.
Grooming – If the rabbit is grooming itself when you are around it can be seen as a sign that he or she trusts you. Rabbits are prey animals, and will never take their eyes off what they think might be an intruder.
Nose nudge – This can either mean “leave me alone” or “you’re in my way”. It is however also a sign of trust, as you aren’t seen as a threat to the rabbit.
Circling – Sometimes the rabbit starts running around your feet when you’re in the run with him or her. This is a mating ritual, and a sign that he or she is in love with you.
Territorial behaviour – If you have got a new hutch or run, the rabbit will have to make sure that its territory is marked. Rabbits do this by rubbing scent glands on their necks against objects, spraying urine and scattering their dropping around the place. This behaviour normally stops once the rabbit feels at home.
Nest building – If you notice that your female rabbit starts pulling out hair from the fur, and collects hay in a specific place in the hutch, it’s likely that she is building a nest. Rabbits sometimes have false pregnancies, but if you think that there is a possibility that your rabbit might be pregnant, it’s worth contacting your vet.
The bunny flop – Rabbit is rolling on its back with the legs in the air. This is a sign that the rabbit is really happy and relaxed, and the movement can sometimes be combined with a binky, which means that the bunny is running around and dancing madly, often jumping up in the air out of pure happiness.
Someone once said that you can train anything that has a brain that connects to a stomach, and that goes for hamsters as well. They are actually very clever little creatures and probably capable of more than you think – like learning tricks for example!
Training your hamster is a wonderful way to vary your daily playtime and spend time together, and it’s something that both stimulates your pet mentally and creates a strong bond between the two of you. It should be said though that this training takes a lot of time and patience, and every hamster is different, so there’s never a guarantee that your hamster will learn these specific tricks, or any tricks at all.
As with most pets there are advantages of getting a young hamster when it comes to training and getting the hamster used to your and your family, as they have not yet developed habits and routines that can be difficult to break. This is not to say you can’t teach an old hamster new tricks, but it will take much longer to train him or her.
The most important thing is that your hamster feels comfortable around you, and that your smell and your voice has a positive association. Try to always stay calm around your hamster, and avoid raising your voice, as that can cause unnecessary stress. Spend a good few weeks together with your hamster before you move on to tricks, so you know that you can trust each other!
TREATS Now you need treats. Maybe you already know what your hamster’s favorite is, but if you don’t, we recommend sunflower seeds. They are however very fatty, so make sure that you limit the intake to training sessions or special occasions. You can also try with small pieces of chopped vegetables like carrots or broccoli.
STAND Start with an easy trick, a good first one is ”Stand”. Hold the treat in front of the hamster just over its head so that the hamster can see it but not reach it. As you do this, use your command ”Stand”. Your hamster will instinctively stand up to get closer to the treat.When the hamster stands, give the treat and verbal praise. Only give the treat if the hamster stands, as they otherwise won’t understand why they are being rewarded. If you hamster doesn’t stand it might be because he or she is not hungry at that moment, or distracted by something else going on in the room. Try again a bit later.Repeat this a few times a day for a week or two, until your hamster stands even when you don’t have a treat in your hand. Stick to one command at the time, and still always reward the hamster for standing.
JUMP Now you can move on to another trick. Use the ”stand” command, and then move the treat up and forward and say ”jump”. If the hamster tries to jump, praise him or her and give the treat.If your hamster is happy to jump you can add a hoop into the mix. Hold some sort of hoop between the hamster and a treat, so that they have to move through the hoop to get to it. As they go though, say ”hoop” or ”jump through the hoop”. Start with the hoop touching the ground, and then gradually lift it if you hamster seems to enjoy the game.
ROLL OVER Another fun and easy trick is ”roll over”. All you need to do is to carefully place the seed on your hamster’s back and ask him or her to roll over. If they do it, reward with the seed. After a while the hamster will roll over even without you putting the seed on their back.
Be consistent with the training, and let it take time, but it doesn’t hurt to shake up the routine every now and then to keep things interesting. Some tricks are easier than others, and all hamsters are different, so be patient and do not push your pet or get frustrated if it’s taking longer than you expected.
If both you and your hamster enjoy the training, there is really no limit as to how much you can teach your pet. You can use toys or build obstacle courses; make up the tricks as you go along and show off to friends and family!
On average backyard chickens live to an age of six to eight years, but there are of course exceptions. How old a chicken will become depends amongst other things on the breed and how a chicken is kept. Heavy layers exhaust themselves with a lifespan of just three years, others can live up to ten years. According to the Guinness World Records world’s oldest chicken is Matilda, a Red Pyle hen from Alabama that died at the age of sixteen (1990-2006). A hen is considered a senior around the age of five. If you are not sure about the age of a chicken, there are signs that will tell you your hen is getting older.
As a chicken gets older the texture of the comb will slightly change and she will likely have some scars from being pecked by other chickens. The feet and legs tend to thicken and if your hen has spurs, you know she’s not a youngster anymore (generally chickens grow spurs around three years of age). Arthritis may cause your older chicken to move stiffly and you might notice she walks a bit slower and more carefully. And of course the egg production of an older hen will decrease. The average chicken lays eggs for four to five years on a regular basis, with the peak of the egg production around 18-24 months. Already after two years, the egg production tends to drop. When you start seeing soft or thin-shelled and misshapen eggs, you know your hen is about to retire from egg laying altogether. But with most breeds living to age seven or beyond, you’ve got a few more years to enjoy the companionship of the hen that has served you and your family so well.
CARING FOR OLDER CHICKENS
Caring for older hens isn’t difficult and really isn’t much different than caring for them when they’re younger but there are a few things you can do for them to make sure they are healthy and comfortable.
Lower the perch in the run and/or coop
Senior chickens can start having mobility problems due to arthritis or joint inflammation. By lowering the height of the perch to one or two feet off the ground it’s easier for your old hen to hop onto it, protecting her joints. Building a ramp up into the coop might be necessary.
Predator proof run
Old chickens don’t move as fast as they used to. Providing them with a predator proof space is important to keep them safe. It’s best to supervise your chickens when they are free ranging. You may want to provide your older chickens with a separate coop and run to prevent younger, more aggressive hens from pecking them.
Accessible food and water
Make sure food and water containers are easily accessible. This means the food and water containers must be on an easily accessible height. It can also be a good idea to have two sources of food and water: one in their run area and if they are free ranging one outside. Older chickens may not be able to range as far for food and water.
Feeding older hens
If your entire flock is older and none of the hens are laying any longer, you can give the whole flock a chicken grower feed since they don’t need the additional calcium that a layer feed provides. If you are feeding different age groups together or add new chicks to the flock, the entire flock can be fed the chicken grower feed from the time the new chickens are eight weeks old up until the laying age of 16 to 18 weeks old. After that the new layers will need a laying feed. The layer feed won’t hurt the older hens, as the calcium is good for their bones.
Older chickens may not be wearing down their nails with activity like foraging and scratching. If the claws are curling round then they will need trimming. Consider nail clipping as part of caring for old chickens if your chickens have long nails.
A good vet
Try to find a vet near you who specialises in poultry. Do this and register in advance of having problems. Arthritis, egg failure, joint inflammation, gout, ascites, tumors, adenocarcinoma and salpingitis are issues that can come up with chickens of any age, but more so in old chickens.
BENEFITS OF OLDER HENS
In their own way, older hens contribute well past their productive egg laying years. Older hens still produce manure, which is a great fertilizer for your garden. Older hens still like to eat bugs. You’ll notice a reduction in the number of ticks and snails in your garden when you keep a flock of chickens. Furthermore, older hens are more likely to go broody and be available to raise the chicks you purchase or hatch.
When the temperatures drops, most rabbit owners know the importance of checking that their pet’s hutch is winter ready.
However, did you know it’s just as important to consider your rabbit’s emotional needs as well?
Brave the cold to give your bunny a cuddle!
An often overlooked problem for rabbits in winter is that they have reduced playtime with their owner. When the weather’s nice, you’ll often be outside even if you’re not specifically going out to see your rabbit. You and your pet will benefit from lots of regular visibility. However, in the winter when you’re not going outside as much, you and your rabbit will also be missing out on regular contact and this will have a significant impact on your rabbits’ health. Even if kept with other rabbits, they can still miss you and feel lonely. Brave the cold and get outside to maintain as much of their normal routine as possible. And remember rabbits are crepuscular meaning they are most active at dusk and dawn so even when it’s dark you can still pop out to see them, it’s unlikely you’ll disturb their sleep.
As well as less playtime with their owner, less exercise is also an unhealthy side effect of the winter months. It is incredibly important you do all you can to avoid this affecting your rabbits’ health.
Consider a hutch with a run attached so that your rabbits have access to space for exercise during the day. A large walk in run also makes it easier for you to play with your rabbit, as there is space inside for you to join them, and you and your rabbits can be protected from the elements by covers over the top and around the sides of the run.
If your rabbits’ hutch is not attached to a run, the Zippi Tunnel System is an excellent solution to link these two together, and provide rabbits with easy access to a larger area for exercise when they choose. You can also open the run in the morning and close in the evening by using the door on the Zippi Tunnel entrance.
Provide lots of dry bedding in their hutch and if your rabbit’s get really wet then you can dry your rabbits with a towel after outdoor activity. Check there is food and water available in the run, as well as a shelter and toys. You can even place some bedding in the run to encourage exercise when it is cold.
Your rabbits’ home
In winter, ensure that your rabbits’ home is waterproof, dry and ventilated. A common problem with standard wooden hutches is that they can become damp and cold from leaks and drafts. If you do have a wooden hutch, it is important to check the home for damp patches regularly. You will also need to remove any wet bedding promptly as this can freeze.
Consider moving your hutch closer to your house, in a sheltered area to protect it from wind and rain and make it easier for you to check on your bunnies regularly.
Provide your rabbits with extra bedding to keep them warmer during these colder months, and you may also want to purchase a safe microwavable heat pad to place underneath bedding if temperatures drop below freezing.
Ensure your rabbits have access to clean drinking water at all times, as they will likely drink more in winter, and check this is not frozen on particularly cold days. As well as hay, provide your rabbits with some leafy greens as these may be in short supply for them in your garden at this time of year.
Some owners bring their rabbits indoors for winter. This can be a great way to keep pets warm and healthy in the colder months, however, the process needs to be carefully managed. Moving your rabbits into a different habitat can be a stressful change, which should be done gradually. Remove all hazards and cables from ground level in the rooms which your rabbits will have access to, provide a dark sleeping spot, and place familiar items from the outside hutch into the home.
We recommend seeking further advice from animal welfare experts such as the RSPCA or your vet if moving your rabbits indoors.
If this is not an option for you, or if your wooden hutch is looking a little worse for wear, and not providing your rabbits with the warm, dry shelter, they require, consider upgrading to a insulated waterproof hutch, such as the Eglu Go, which offers complete protection against the elements.
The Eglu Go Hutch has a unique twin wall insulation system which works in a similar way to double glazing to keep your rabbit’s home well insulated, while the draught-free ventilation system allows fresh air in without blowing cold air over the bedding area. The removable bedding tray can be slid out and cleaned quickly making it easier for you to meet your rabbits’ needs and maintain their dry living conditions.