Choosing A Chicken House

Buying a Chicken House is a big investment. Get the wrong hen house and you can find yourself repeating the exercise before too long.

Girl with battery henAfter buying a Flyte So Fancy Maggie’s Dozen hen house some years ago (pictured above) we thought it was time to go back and ask one of the experts there to give us some tips on buying a henhouse!

Ann Weymouth from Flyte So Fancy has kindly shared some of her knowledge on choosing the right chicken house…

The hen house purchase

The hen house purchase 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. It should have a large access door for you to be able to clean. 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.

Ex Battery Hens in House

Perches should be higher than the nest boxes, removable for cleaning, approx. 2 inches square and allow at least 7 – 8in of perch space per bird. 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 since they tend to roost at the highest point and would make nest boxes dirty.

At Flyte So Fancy we would (naturally) always recommend timber chicken 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. We recommend that you check the house is made from timber at least 19mm thick to avoid twisting and warping.

When considering your hen house 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 plywood house from China that may last a year and would be worth nothing to sell after that time, or spend £500 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 hen-house, 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.

Some points to consider when buying a chicken house:

  • Is it strong enough to withstand the ‘traffic’ of hens in and out every day?
  • Is it made of thick, pressure treated timber i.e. shiplap or tongue and groove, so the house can be outside in all weathers?
  • Is the roof made of thick enough timber so that it will not crack and leak, and is it steep enough for the rain to run off easily?
  • Is it raised off the ground so that rats cannot make their homes underneath the house?
  • Will it help to keep the hens warm 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 a gale or is it solid and heavy?
  • Is the headroom inside enough so that they will not get too hot in the heat of summer?
  • Is it easy to clean and can you 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 their way into the house?
  • Is the pop-hole big enough (approx 13″ square) 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, don’t forget the birds excrete ammonia.

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 reward.

Keeping chickens secure

Chicken in DorrwayTo keep chickens secure from foxes, badgers, mink or any other predator, a secure run area should also 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. Although it may not suit everyone, we 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 is brilliant, no digging it in (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 so again, research it first.

Choosing a site for your hen house

When choosing a site for your hen house, consider how to offer some natural protection for the hens from the sun, wind and rain. A good idea is to plant small trees in their pen to provide some shade (not bushes as they may be encouraged to lay under them), or place the house so that they can shelter in the lee. For the very worst of winter weather it may be an idea to keep the hens inside with food and water although they are quite robust creatures and will generally look after themselves.

We have found an excellent surface for an outside run to be playground hardwood wood chip (not bark chippings that can be harmful). So if you have limited space, and your chickens have turned your grass to mud, it may be worth looking at playground hardwood wood chip. 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 twice a year but it is very cost effective.

Researching your project is key to successful, trouble free chicken keeping…. Invest wisely!

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