Poultry Housing and Equipment
Chickens have three basic needs:
1. Secure, clean housing
3. Food and water
With proper poultry housing they will continue to produce eggs almost every day and provide hours of endless entertainment.
Good poultry housing is absolutely essential to keeping your fowl secure and healthy. The house you choose should be substantial enough to withstand all weathers and particularly protect them against predators. Preferably choose one that does not sit on the ground as this can not only lead to damp, cold conditions inside the house, which is not healthy for the hens, but is also a wonderful place for rats and mice to make their homes and live undisturbed.
Poultry Housing should be considered an investment that will protect your birds and make life easy for you to look after them. Convention says you should allow 1 sq ft of floor area per bird in a house, we usually allow more in our houses. It should have a large access door for you to be able to clean it. 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 nestboxes, removable for cleaning, approx. 2 inches square and allowing at least 7 – 8in of perch space per bird. Good ventilation is also important to prevent respiratory diseases.
To keep the hens secure from foxes, badgers, mink or any other predator, a secure run area should be a consideration. This can be either a wired run attached to the house, 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. 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 dug in at the base and at least 6ft tall, Electric Poultry Netting is about 3ft 6in tall and it can be moved when necessary and you can make the pen any shape you want.
You should consider, when choosing a site for the house, how to offer some natural protection for the hens from the sun, wind and rain. A good idea is to plant small trees in the pen to provide some shade. For the very worst cold winter weather it may be an idea to keep the hens inside with food and water.
Keeping the house clean need not be a chore with the right house. We recommend using a light layer of wood shavings or straw (not hay as it will encourage mold spores and lead to disease). This will then be easy to scoop out and replace regularly. Weekly cleaning is preferable depending on the number of hens and the weather, and once a month a clean with disinfectant and a good scrape.
Nice thick layers of wood shavings are good for the nest boxes and should be kept clean for clean eggs. Sprinkle Louse Powder and/or Diatom Powder into the nest box bedding to make sure the birds get a regular covering which helps to prevent lice.
We would always recommend timber housing and there are very good reasons for this. Timber will move and breathe with the seasons and therefore provide a healthy atmosphere for the birds with the correct ventilation. It will not be damp with condensation every time the temperature changes and will not suffocate them in summer or freeze them in winter.