Posted by: kathandroger | October 17, 2014

Re-housing the hens.

Well,  they have all been promised new homes, so it looks like our chicken consumption will dwindle over the next few weeks! Kath is convinced that we have only one young cockerel and they are all in super condition and the girls will make good layers in the months to come. I have kept chickens over more than thirty years now, and I still enjoy having a few around, enough to lay a decent amount of eggs, and yet few enough to know each individual character. And they do have very different characters! All types of human traits can be seen, from the meek and retiring to the brash and confident, and even sometimes the clowns. Ours are quite tame, but not too tame, otherwise they tend to think they own the house and will come into the kitchen in search of food. The dog does her disciplinary duties well, but has difficulty if they fly onto the work surfaces, as one of the chicks did last week! The cat keeps his distance, especially after he received a sharp peck on the nose from a broody hen.

But what about housing the flock? Over the years I have had lots of houses, big and small, and am now convinced that that the smaller and simpler the house the easier it is to look after. The present residence is made out of scraps and cost next to nothing-it needs a roof, in this case a sheet of metal bent over a frame, which can be easily hinged open for cleaning, and a box with a hole in for the birds to come in and out. In my opinion nest boxes are a waste of time; often the birds don’t use them,and with the hinged roof eggs are easy to collect. I always put in a perch for the birds, any reasonable size branch of wood will do, but again many of them seem to prefer to roost on the floor. I use old hay for the lining; we have made our own hay in the past, but a bale will last for many months. Cleaning is very easy by just rolling up the hay and chucking it onto the compost heap-I only do it weekly and it takes about a minute! I put the latest house on wheels via a simple A frame because it is in the orchard and I need to move it when I cut the grass, but a movable house is always a good idea to prevent ratty rat making his home underneath. The feeder is suspended under a elongation of the roof and remains dry, whereas the water at the other end is in the open. Both only need filling every week or so, and we feed only wheat or barley, which we buy from a farmer friend for 10 euros a sack-and that lasts a couple of months. The hens roam freely and feed on whatever they can find in the orchard, and any scraps that the dog doesn’t find first! They do some damage to the flower beds, but not enough to make any real difference. The one extravagance we have indulged in this year is the automatic door opener which works on a light sensitive switch. It cost about 80 euros but means we can leave the animals for weeks at a time if we want to, but I do miss letting them out myself in the morning!

In the past in the UK the foxes and mink were a real problem, and I reckoned to lose all the flock about once a year. Here Charlie fox is less in evidence, and we are surrounded by a solid wall and have the dog loose all the time, but even so I will not be surprised if disaster occurs again, it is all part of the experience.IMG_2788IMG_2789


Responses

  1. We’ve a fox around! We’re looking at poullaillers as TIm is very busy and needs time to knock up a hen house. Given a fortune we’d go for a chicken wagon from Green Frog Designs or an Eglu Cube! The neighbours already know we’re bonkers.

  2. Uh-oh. Tim got a beautiful view of a stoat this morning out of the living room window. We’ll need Chicken Colditz!


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