Housing for your Chickens by Virginia Shirt
There are many delightful forms of chicken houses on the market today. The type of housing you decide to provide will be dictated by the amount of chickens you will be keeping.
Virginia Shirt is the author of The Right Way to Keep Chickens available from Amazon and all good bookstores. She has lived with chickens for over 15 years so her knowledge is based on practical experience.
The book provides a comprehensive guide to keeping chickens and is an easy read from an obvious enthusiast.
Housing for your Chickens
There are many delightful forms of chicken houses on the market today. The type of housing you decide to provide will be dictated by the amount of chickens you will be keeping. Most of you, I suspect, will be keeping a small back yard flock which will require a small amount of space. You just need to bear in mind that some of the commercial housing is rather expensive. If you are a handy person or you are friendly with one, then you could inexpensively make your own chicken house
Housing the Free Range Hen
Again most people reading this will be thinking of free range hens. There is no better way to keep a hen than free range. Therefore the housing you provide need not be the top of the range. The chicken will be outside for most of the day so will simply require a safe house at night. The most important aspect of your housing is to keep the chicken sheltered from all weathers and to offer protection from predators; this will include foxes and badgers. Rats should also be kept out to the best of your ability. Rats have been known to not only eat fresh laid eggs but they can actually set upon the chickens. This is especially true of young chicks and smaller poultry.
If you have any unused outbuildings these can easily be converted into a suitable accommodation. You will need to supply something for the chicken to roost on. The chickens will roost happily on a home made perch. I have even used an old wooden ladder laid across two boxes. The chickens seemed more than happy!
Each bird should have around a foot in width to roost comfortably. The area for the feet should be small enough to allow their toes to curl over. I would consider around one inch square as a suitable guide. Look around the home and I am sure you will find a suitable perch that will cost nothing. The perch will need to be around a foot from the ground and certainly no more than two foot. Chickens are rather delicate and not good at jumping great heights. It is possible to do physical damage and cause health problems if the perch is too high.
Nest Boxes will be an important consideration in your chicken house. You should provide one nest box for every two to three chickens. The box or cupboard should have a space just big enough to fit in one chicken at a time. Again they can be made out of almost anything. Often when hunting for eggs round the farm I will find them in the most obscure places.
The chickens are attracted to dark quiet places that have only one entrance. This makes the chicken feel safe and secure. Therefore keep your eyes open around the home and garden or even car boot sales. We have even used a large plastic bin laid on its side. Yes this was the chicken’s idea so I’m happy to go with that. Therefore a row of large bins arranged around a foot off the ground would be sufficient. Rabbit hutches are ideal and these can often be picked up very cheaply second hand. Just place them in a dark corner of the chicken house and wait for the eggs. If using rabbit hutches never depend on them standing alone in your garden. They are not fox proof and must be inside a building with secure doors.
Whatever building or shed you use the most important aspect is the building must be fox proof. There is nothing worse than worrying about a fox getting to your chickens. Make sure there are no small openings or gaps that will allow them access. Any wire used to block off windows etc must be totally fox proof. Make sure that you can gain access for yourself in order to clean out the house.
Buying Ready Made Chicken Coops
If you really cannot rig up your own housing or you don’t wish to there are many lovely ones to purchase. The Eglu made by Omlet is an ideal choice for keepers with a small back yard. These little houses are bright and attractive and can house up too four large chickens. It is ideal for the first time owner or for children who are being introduced to chicken keeping. They are easy to clean and are insulated and very attractive. The eglu is initially expensive to purchase but it looks robust enough to last your lifetime!
Small fold units can be purchased and these are also ideal for the smaller garden. The fold unit has wheels on it and two handles, rather like a wheelbarrow. Depending on the size you purchase they can normally be moved around easily by one person.Whatever housing you decide to use your most vital element is that it is fox proof. You also need it to be draught free as chickens do not thrive in a draughty environment. But bear in mind you will still need ventilation to keep the chickens lungs healthy. The environment should also be free from damp and must keep out the rain and extreme temperatures.
Light for the Chickens
If at all possible keep your chicken house near to an electricity supply. During the winter the day light hours are shorter and the hens will stop laying. Chickens need 16-18 hours of daylight in order to stimulate laying of eggs. Once the daylight hours decrease putting light into the house will help to keep the hen in lay. Make sure they do not have above 18 hours as this could cause stress. Such stress may manifest itself in the hens actually going off lay or blood spots in the eggs
Enjoy the chickens and provide them with a comfortable and safe environment and they will reward you with beautiful fresh eggs each day.
Article Copyright © Virginia Shirt
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