Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Keeping Chickens at Home- What shall I keep them in?

Keeping Chickens at Home - What shall I keep them in?

keeping chickens at home UK

The skys the limit here.

Because my chickens are kept on a smallholding and I have quite a lot of them, I tend to opt for simplicity and functionality when I design and build my chicken houses.

But, most people, like yourself, are just thinking of keeping chickens in their back garden for a hobby and some fresh eggs. So, I think, you can afford to be a little more creative as you want it to look nice in your garden.

The simplest thing in the World is to adapt an old shed. The cheapest way to have a new chicken house is to build a wooden box about 1 metre square using outdoor plywood. The roof needs to be sloping a little to let the rain come off. The roof needs to covered in some waterproof material such as plastic or roof felt and it should overlap the base all the way around by a good 3-4 inches. The front and the back needs to be hinged so you can open it for collecting eggs and for cleaning.

Chickens roost at night. That is they like to sit off the ground when they go to sleep at night. It harks back to when chickens were wild and slept in the trees at night to avoid predators. All you need is a length of 2"x1" fitted across the house about 15 inches off the floor. The edges of the wood for the perch needs to be smoothed off. Place the perches in the middle of the chicken house. Allow one perch (1metre) for about 3-4 chickens.

Chickens must have somewhere dark and snug to lay their eggs. To build a nest box for your chickens is very simple. Build another box roughly 12"x12"x20"high, again with a sloping roof to stop the chickens trying to roost on it and then forget to put a front and a back on it. Instead, put a piece of wood about 3" high on the bottom. With the front open, the chicken can easily pop in and out and with the back open, you can easily get at the eggs. Check out the picture in the next post of one I made earlier in true Blue Peter fashion as a guide. Make sure the nest box is always placed lower than the perches in the house as chickens will always try to roost on the highest point in their house. Place the nesting box at the back of the house, so you can easily collect the eggs when you open the back of the chicken house in the morning. Put some fresh straw in it and you're ready to go.

The chicken house needs to off the floor by a couple of feet. Use some bricks or blocks. It protects the house from damp and discourages mice and rats from nesting underneath. The floor of the chicken house needs to have a good layer of fresh straw over it. This should be cleaned out and replaced every couple of weeks. The used stuff makes great compost. Don't waste it! Keeping chickens can have additional benefits such as great vegetables and roses!!

The front of the house needs a doorway. Simply cut an arch shape about 12" high and 8" wide at the bottom in the centre. Then you need to make a door slightly wider (13"x9") so the chickens can locked up at night for protection against predators. The picture shows the sliding door method I normally use. A nail keeps the door up and out of the way during the day. At night I pull it out and the door slides down to cover the hole. There's no reason why you couldn't use hinges and a simple hook lock like a regular door. I just find this way easy to build. There's a picture of the door in the next post.

The last thing you will need is a ramp for the chickens to get in and out of their new house. Don't make it too steep and put some steps on the ramp to stop them slipping. Have a look at the picture in the next post to see what mine looks like.

Of course you could avoid all this hassle (I actually enjoy building the houses. It's all part of keeping chickens for me) by buying a chicken house. There are the classic wooden chickens arks to the fashionable and funky brightly coloured eglus!! (Omlet, the company who make the Eglu offer a complete keeping chickens package including the house, the run, feeders and drinkers, feed and a couple of organic chickens. Bit pricey, but a great package for a nervous beginner. In the right border are links to all these types of chicken houses and plans to make your own 'chicken castle'. Check them all out and see what takes your fancy. Buying chicken houses is a lot more expensive than making them of course, but that's always the way with everything isn't it?

I'll put a bunch of pictures of my Henhouses in the next post.

Keeping Chickens at Home - What shall I keep them in?