Now I love a good chicken hut; drool over them; dream about what I could put in them and relish in its construction and amenities - ventilation, nesting boxes, perches, runs etc, (sad I know), but I was shocked to see the sheer vast array on offer these days.
In the current (September) edition of Country Smallholding magazine, Poultry section there is a feature on housing. The diversity of houses from construction firms is phenomenal. Construction materials include a rigid hard plastic; one made from something described as non-absorbent materials; 100% UK recycled plastic; but the majority are still made from (my favourite) treated timber. There's something about a well constructed chicken hut made from wood and stained a dark colour that really get's me excited (little things, I know!).
In the magazine there are over a dozen companies advertising their huts, the styles and designs are many and varied. Which got me to thinking (Oh no, I hear you groan!), what are the essentials for chickens welfare in housing? I looked up the Poultry Club of Great Britain's website, they being the doyenne of all things poultry and came up with the following -
1. Ventilation - adequate enough to stop the build up of condensation and therefore bacteria and should be located towards the top of the house to ensure the birds have no draughts coming up from underneath.
2. Window - usually covered in mesh, glass is not safe, it can break. The window is to assist with egg laying, letting more light in; the lengthening daylight hours increase egg production.
3. Space per bird - Large birds need 30sq cm each, bantams a little less (doesn't seem very much to me, but I suppose that's the minimum). If you suffer from really bad weather it would be best to allow them more, especially if they use it to shelter from the weather.
4. Perches - ideally 5cm wide with rounded edges (also see the above edition of Country Smallholding magazine, there is an excellent article on a trial done on perches, makes for interesting reading).
5. Pophole - this is the chickens access door. Complete with an actual door which is closable at night for security purposes. I notice in some Chicken magazines that there are adverts for door timers these days too - the height of laziness!
6. Some larger form of door / take out panel for ease of cleaning the hut.
7. Nest boxes - should be located at the darkest and therefore the lowest part of the house. They usually look like an add on, onto the side of the house. Each box should be up to 30sq cm, and one box will service every four hens. I do find that most of my hens tend to prefer only one or two of the boxes, the others used for sleeping in!
Tomorrow I will look at runs, bedding, different styles of hut etc - watch this space!
Be interested to see/hear of your views on these designs, especially the new style ones.
Stats today -
Eggs produced = 11
1 dozen eggs