I kept 3 hens on the allotment, then I moved allotment and kept them in the back garden for about 3 months. I and the kids loved keeping them but they are poop machines. Whilst I enjoyed keeping them on the plot if keeping them at home give some thought to where you will allow them to roam, my run was too big to put in the back garden so they were free to roam anywhere...big mistake! Can't beat getting up and collecting your 'farm fresh' eggs every morning, I'd like to get some more for the new plot, sadly of the three I had at home, one died (and was almost pecked apart by the others!) and an urban fox got the other two. Apart from the amount of poop they produce, they are great fun!
Hi, your morning visit is to open the coop door and put there food and water out, they want out as soon as it starts to get light. Takes 2 minutes then you can get back to bed if need be, this time of year you are letting them out just before 8am and locking them in there coop around 4.30pm, but in the height of the summer it can be as early as 6am and locking them away after 10.30pm. The more free range they have the less maintanence they require as they will forage most of there diet from bugs, worms and vegatation around the garden or large run. They will also make there own dust bath under a tree for a ample and will groom themselves which again is quite entertaining to watch. As for the coop maintanence it is quite minimal, here is what I do, to start with I got some pond liner ( cheap enough of ebay ) and cut it the the foot print of the coop and nest boxes and placed them inside the coop, this is to make it easier to clean the coop later on., then on top of that I put in about 2 inches of straw on the floor of the coop and abut 3 - 4 inches in the nest boxes to protect the eggs as when they lay they sort of pop out and if they hit the floor they will break. Assuming you go for the solway coop then it is just a case of every other day remove the lid from the coop and nest boxes, put a nappy sack over your hand https://groceries.asda.com/product/nappy-sacks/asda-smart-price-nappy-bags/38302432 and do what is called poo picking, the poo will clump to the straw so you just pick the poo/ straw clumps out and bin them, then replace some of the straw that you picked out with the poo so there is still roughly 2 inches, you are looking at about a hand full if straw will need replacing, also top up the nest boxes with straw if need be. Once every few weks do a full coop clean out, remove all old straw and bin or compost, remove the pond liner and hose down, once dry replace pond liner and put in fresh straw. Do your poo picking and full clean out in the afternoon if possible so you are not disturbing there egg laying. I probably make it sound like a lot of work but it is not, just 5 mins every other day to poo pick and 20 mins once every few weeks for there full clean out. Another plus of this plastic coop is that if need be once every 6 months or yearly you can give it a jet wash to bring it back up like new. As for wood shavings or bark there not needed, assuming you are o ly getting around 3 - 6 chickens you do not need to rake the lawn as there poops will be spread out. If you think you will want closer 6 hens then go for the maxi coop, https://www.solwayrecycling.co.uk/shop/pig-poultry/hen-houses/maxi-hen-loft as this is the one I have and is easily roomy enough for 6 rhode hens as it will allow for 3 birds per perch and it comes as standard with 2 nest boxes. You want 1 nest box the every 3 birds. I know £240 with vat for a coop sounds expensive but it will last forever and a day and will have resale value, the wooden flat packed coops are made out of softwood and last 3 years tops if your lucky and are a pain to clean out. I would not recommend the coops with runs, they look bigger online than they actually are in person once erected, just look at some of the measurement's, you get very little for your money, the birds will be unhappy, maintainece will be more as they are pooping in a small run area and will need cleaning daily. They will have less room to forage for there own food and will boredom feed on there own feed pellets, pellets are cheap but why not let the find 50% of there own diet, it is what they love to do. There easy to get them where you want, I have a large run but also of a day when I am about I let them free range in the garden, if I suddenly need to go out and want them back in there run, I just throw some scraps or porridge oats in the run, they run straight in for it. They are food motivated. Just another point on your hens, go for ones that are less likely to go broody such as Rhodes island reds, black rocks, Warren or bluebells. Hens that go broody can be a pain, they want to sit on the eggs and are not happy when you try to take what they now see as there eggs. Hope this helps, anything else you would like to know or if I have not explained anything properly then please just ask.
Thnaks for your help. Those breed of hens sound ideal.Having had a look around some of the intro to keeping hens pages it seems I need to be prepared for a morning visit to check on them, give them water and food. Similar thing in the evening including locking them up in the coop. Once a week clearing out the coop and raking the lawn plus putting new shavings in. Is this an approximate assessment about the time commitment for keeping hens? Im just wondering if I’m better getting one of these coops that have a ready made run attached, which is much more contained. Are the hens easy to usher into places?
Hi, the brick wall side will be fine, I have this bird netting on the top of my run https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/4m-10m-Anti-Bird-Crop-Fruit-Veg-Garden-Netting-Protect-Plants-Pond-Trees-Mesh/291755719746?epid=582428327&hash=item43edfefc42:g:Sq4AAOSwhRxXKWLq Not very strong but I hope it puts foxes off thinking they could just hop in over the top, to me it is better than nothing as putting chicken wire on top is not practical. I live rural so have to think about predators more, although not had any problems to date. When you first get the chickens you will have to show them where they sleep by catching them and putting them in the coop before it gets dark, by the third night they will have the idea and put themselves to bed before sun down, they don't like to be out after dark. Rhode island reds are a great bird and very hardy, laying well over 250 eggs per year, another good egg layer and full of character are the bluebells. Best place to get your hens are poultry auctions, there normally auctioned at point of lay around 6 months old in batches of 3, I paid £18 for my 3 Rhode island reds and £39 for the 3 bluebells but I had to have them as they were just what I was looking for. I would have more chickens but I already get to many eggs at 6 a day, mine just don't stop paying even in deep winter. I will add some pics for my chickens when I get chance. Another reason why you want a plastic coop is red mite, there are a tiny mite that can live in cracks in wooden coops and come out to feed on the birds of a night, it is spread by wild birds, but it is highly unlikely you will get them with a plastic coop and if you do they are easy to get rid off with desi dust or just give the coop a jet wash, not so easy with wooden coop as there is to many cracks for them to hide in. http://www.pestfix.co.uk/organ-x-desi-dust-(diatomaceous-earth)-insect-killing-powder.asp They go mad for scraps, mine get any left over food such as chips, pizza crusts, any left over Sunday roast and they love things like cooked pasta and porridge oats. Feed them your scraps and they will be your best friend.
Thanks. Will it be ok to have one side without chicken wire as this will be a solid brick wall. But there would be no roof? Does this matter? Or should there be a roof/chicken wire over the top as well? At the open end I was just going to put chicken wire and perhaps a gate of sorts for me to be able to get in and clear up. This coop looks great. Just need to convince the wife. We have a 2 year old daughter and I think this would be a great little pet/hobby. Gonna look into the different breeds now so we can choose the more children’s friendly hens.