I have been kicking around the idea of keeping chickens. I am thinking of building some form of chicken housing. What I have been researching what are the critical housing requirements that chicken have. I don’t have all the answers yet and I am hoping through the power of blogging that visitors to this site my contribute with ideas and first-hand experiences.
UPDATE 23/9/2012 – have made some updates based on comments received and research made.
I have obviously a lot of research to do and I will need to do some reading.
I am currently thinking of converting a shed I have in my garden into a chicken shed and the constructing a run.
I would welcome any ideas or experiences passing readers might have :)
Various advice that it needs to be 12 x12 x9 inches, so the chicken can go inside, squat and lay. If the box is too big the chicken could stand up turn around and eat the egg. Not sure how prone chickens are to eating their own eggs?
Other advice I have had is to use an old wooden fruit box. This seems a very good cost-effective idea. But does the box need minimum/maximum dimensions?
With nesting materials, pine bedding is a no no. But I am making the assumption that straw, hay or stredded paper would be suitable?
Feeding and Watering
Various methods from nipples to containers. Both need to be kept above ground level but accessible by the chickens. The advice I have received on containers is that they can be changed every other day but the chicken must have access to water. Don’t let the water go slimy!
‘Gravity fed nipples’ is a great term to stick in a search engine, especially if you search for images only! The nipples appear to provide water to the chickens automatically and cleanly. I wonder if you have to train the chickens to use the gravity fed nipples?
Foxes appear to be the main culprit with chickens. Some bloggers have erected chicken runs with fencing buried into the ground. In the River Cottage book its says:
‘eventually the same patch of bare earth may start to harbour parasites and disease. A chicken run that is scratched to bare earth should be relieved, and re-seeded annually’.
Another blogger’s idea of a chicken tractor would probably solve that problem.
I have found in my research the ‘ladder system’. The photo is from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book ‘The River Cottage Cookbook’, 2001 edition, p213. I guess, predators would not be able to get to the chickens, although the poor old chicken-keeper would need to clean and collect from the chicken house via a ladder. The author of the book says you have to train the chickens to go up their ladder and I presume because the chicken’s ladder is more flimsy, the predator would not be able to follow?
Why was fox hunting (with dogs) banned in England? :(
Another piece of advice was not to keep the chicken too close to the house. I am making the assumption this is to do with smells and that rats are attracted to the chicken house?
Falling In Love
In Country Small Holding magazine, I read an article by Jules Moore of Mumbleys Farmhouse. Now the article was not related to chickens, but there was a photograph with the most beautiful hen house I have seen. I emailed Jules and she provided the link to the supplier of this chicken shed, which is called a ‘Standard 10 Poultry Housing’.
Anyway, what has made all the difference to this hen house was the choice of colours Jules had applied: Cuprinol Fence paint – Country Cream and a sage green. I have fallen in love with this chicken shed. Jules also suggests putting the shed on wheels.
Nesting Box Dimensions
More on the nesting box dimensions. Countingdownfromzero says her nesting box dimensions are 12″ x 12″ x 12″ (30.5cm x 30.5cm x 30.5cm). Another interesting point from Countingdownfromzero, was that 2-4 hens can use the same nesting box.
On page 19 (1953 edition!!!!!!) of ‘Fowls and How to Keep Them’ by Rosslyn Mannering’, she says
‘Fourteen inches, cubic measure, is a good general size for the nest-boxes with a front rail at the bottom of the box, 4 inches high to keep in the straw nesting material’.
Hens Pecking Their Eggs
More from Rosslyn Mannering on hens pecking their eggs. She says:
‘The openings, or fronts, of the boxes should face the back wall of the house, since secluded nests are most attractive to the hens, and eggs laid in raised semi-dark nests of this kind are less likely to tempt the mischievous beaks of the potential egg-eaters in the flock’.
At this point in time I am thinking about drawing-up plans based along the lines of the Mumbleys Farm chicken shed.
Thanks to the kindness and generosity of all of those who left comments and contacted me on this subject. Please keep them coming – I have a lot to learn!