Choosing a Chicken House
Your Chicken House purchase is important so should be considered as an investment that will protect your birds and make life easy for you to look after them.
The convention is that:
You should allow 1 sq ft of floor area per bird in a hen house
It should have a large access door for you to be able to clean it with removable floor or dirt tray
The nest boxes should be low down and in the darkest place of the house so that the hens can lay in privacy and undisturbed
Perches should be higher than the nest boxes, removable for cleaning, approx. 2 inches square with rounded edges, allowing at least 7 - 8in of perch space per bird and perches should be at least 8 inches apart.
If the nest boxes are higher than the perches then the hens will sleep in the nest boxes, because they want to roost at the highest point, and make them dirty, which is not desirable.
Type of Chicken House
We would (naturally) always recommend timber housing and there are very good reasons for this.
All Flyte so Fancy Hen Houses are made using pressure treated timber so that they will last for a considerable number of years without needing any preservative treatment.
Timber is a natural material so it will move and breathe with the seasons and therefore provide a healthy atmosphere for the birds. It will not be damp with condensation every time the temperature changes and will not suffocate them in summer or freeze them in winter.
We recommend that you check the house is made from timber that is at least 19mm thick to avoid twisting and warping. Any plywood used should be at least 9mm thick and of hardwood exterior grade or marine ply otherwise it will degrade and delaminate very quickly.
When considering your henhouse purchase some common sense rules can avoid wasted money. First and foremost is build quality. That is to say, you can spend £100 on a basic hen house from China that may last a year before degrading, or spend £300 on a timber house to last over 20 years but does have a good re-sale value if you decide to change it after 5 years.
When viewing a possible henhouse, think about how it would be once the hens are living in it, and what it may be like after a year of hens living in it:
Is it strong enough to withstand the 'traffic' of hens in and out every day?
Is it made of thick, maintenance-free, pressure treated timber i.e. shiplap or tongue and groove, so it can be outside in all weathers?
Do you think that with a clenched fist say, you could bash a hole in the walls (we are not for a moment suggesting you actually try this, just think about it). If you could, then certainly a fox could get into the house without much effort.
Is the roof of thick enough timber so that it will not crack and leak and it is steep enough for the rain to run off easily? Onduline sheet is a commonly used, it is a robust roofing material but not as good looking as timber and can be prone to condensation.
Is it raised off the ground so that rats cannot make their homes underneath the house?
Will it help to keep the hens draught-free and comfortable in the coldest part of the winter?
Are there any places in the design where it might leak in heavy rain?
Will it blow over in high winds or is it solid and heavy?
Is the headroom inside enough so that the birds will not suffocate in the heat of summer?
Is it easy for you to clean and can you easily get access to all corners inside?
How easy is it to move to fresh ground regularly?
Can you imagine the number of birds you would like, living in that space inside?
Would a determined fox, mink or badger be able to break his way into the house and kill your chickens?
Is the pop-hole approx 13" square, which is what is needed for an average size chicken?
Are there ventilation points for air movement or will the birds sleep in a draught? Air movement is vital to avoid a build-up of fumes and humidity. Don't forget the birds excrete ammonia and perching in a draught is not healthy.
Above all, consider the health, security and comfort of your hens and make your chicken keeping experience a good one. Your budget will naturally play a huge part so invest wisely and you will reap the rewards.
Chicken Runs and Security
To keep the hens secure from foxes, badgers, mink or any other predator, a secure chicken run area should be a consideration.
This can be either a wired run attached to the house (as shown here), a dedicated fenced run area with the house inside, or an electric poultry net which will keep them secure and give them plenty of space.
Although it may not suit everyone, we can certainly recommend Electric Poultry Netting as a solution to security as we have used it successfully for many years.
A large non-electrified fence needs to be at least 6ft tall to prevent a fox scrambling over and needs wire mesh around the base to prevent digging.
Electric Poultry Netting is about 3ft 6in tall and is brilliant. A fox cannot dig under it without getting a shock and it doesn't look like a prison camp, it can be moved when necessary and made into any shape you want.
There are other considerations with electric netting but, you can research it first here How Electric Fencing Works
Shelter and Shade
You should also consider, when choosing a site for the hen house, how to offer some natural protection for the hens from the sun, wind and rain.
It's good idea is to plant small trees in the pen to provide some shade (not bushes as they may be encouraged to lay under them), or place the house so that they can find a shady spot.
For the very worst of winter weather it may be an idea to provide a wooden shelter of some kind, like our Chicken Shelter, or something homemade so they can at least keep out of the wind and rain.
Chickens are generally quite robust outdoor creatures and will generally look after themselves, but they do not like windy weather.
Ground Cover in the Chicken Run
We have found that the best surface for an outside run is a Hardwood Wood Chip (not bark which can be harmful due to mould spores).
So, if you have limited space, and they have turned your grass to mud, and want to give them a permanent run area it may be worth considering.
It will keep them clean, keep them permanently occupied scratching around in it for bugs all day, and can be washed through with a hose or, naturally with the rain if in the open. It may need changing perhaps twice a year so is very cost effective.
Researching your project is key to successful, trouble free chicken keeping so do invest wisely.
For more hints and tips from the Flyte so Fancy website please visit About our Houses
Or Basic Chicken Keeping
Choosing a Chicken House is ©Flyte so Fancy 2009. Author: Anne Weymouth. Reproduction of part or all of this text is only possible with the express permission of Flyte so Fancy.