So finally the weather here in cold, rainy old England has started to clear up. The rain has stopped and spring is finally trying to make it’s mark, bringing new life to this beautifully green and verdant land. And so I thought it about time to show you our little flock of feathered friends and undoubtedly the driving force behind this little blog of ours.
As you can see, our chickens have a lovely large pen to live in, giving them plenty of space to root and explore.
The chicken house is a classic design, it’s simple but effective and large enough for all the chickens to have plenty of room to roost or lay.
The house is raised off the floor for several important reasons. Firstly, it prevents damp and cold getting in through the floor. It also helps prevent pests and critters getting into the house. And lastly, the shade it provides gives the hens somewhere to have a dirt bath and get away from the hot day sun.
We encourage egg-laying with 1 nest box for every four or five chickens. Nest boxes should be raised off the ground at least a few inches, but lower than the lowest roosting pole. They should also be dark and “out of the way” to cater to the hen’s instinct to lay her eggs in a safe place.
The chicken house also needs to be airy enough to prevent respiratory diseases, to which chickens are especially prone, but not so drafty during winter that they freeze their tail feathers off. Chickens can withstand the cold so long as it’s not drafty.
We took advice from several sites on the internet about cold weather preparation for our hens. We found that instead of heating the coop in the winter, the chickens adapt to the cold weather over time. Their body metabolism actually changes along with the seasons. When you heat your coop, the birds will never get used to the colder outside temperature — so if the heat were to accidentally cut out causing a sudden change in temperature, you could literally lose your entire flock overnight. Combs and wattles are wattles are susceptible to frost bite damage during freezing weather, so try smearing them with Vaseline to prevent this from happening. You can also try using pieces of old carpet or duvet as insulation to put on the roof of the hen house, But of course be sure not to block the ventilation holes.
Dirt bath’s are the chickens way of washing and important in preventing parasites such as mites and lice from finding a home in your chickens’ feathers and legs.
Having a tree in their pen is very important (if possible) as it also provides essential shelter, not only from the sun, but also from the wind and the rain too.
Water is vital for your chickens. They can’t live for long without it! During the winter, you’ll need to make sure the water supply doesn’t freeze! If you don’t have electricity in your coop and therefore cannot provide a water heater, we recommend you bring the waterer into your house every night, and return it outside every morning. Check the water once or twice a day to make sure it’s not frozen. During the summer, excessive heat is a real risk to birds. Make sure they have access to fresh, clean water at all times. A source of shade is important too (like a tree) and ventilation in the coop of course!
Now, this may sound obvious, but it’s easy to forget. Having let your chickens out of the coop in the morning, don’t forget to close and secure it at dusk (once they’ve all returned of course) to make sure predators can’t get to them. It’s easy to forget, but important to remember!