You may be thinking of buying chickens, or expanding your flock. But what exactly are you looking for?
There are a number of factors to consider. For example, is the main aim to have a good egg supply? Or colourful eggs? Will the hens be kept chiefly as pets rather than providers of eggs and/or meat? Will they need to be docile so that children can handle them?
Here are a few pointers, to make sure your feathered friends are fit for purpose.
All the chicken breeds available for purchase lay eggs. But if you’re looking for two or three hens that will satisfy your family’s weekly egg requirements, there are certain breeds renowned for their productivity.
Most hens go through a period in winter when production drops off. So, an average of five-plus eggs a week over the course of a year is the most you can hope for, and the breeds that regularly achieve this are Ancona, Australorps, Favaucana and Rhode Island Red. Many other breeds average four a week, but these four breeds are the queens of the coup when it comes to eggs, and will deliver between 260 and 300 a year.
And if we had to pick an overall winner, it would be the Australorps, as one hen of this breed holds the world record – 364 eggs in a single year!
Most hens lay brown or white eggs, and shell colour makes no difference to the taste of an egg or the colour of its yolk (that’s all down to what you feed your hens – plenty of greens will result in rich orange-yellow yolks).
However, some hens lay eggs of a more unusual colour. The Ameraucana, Cuckoo Bluebar, Cream Legbar and Super Blue Egg Layer will – as you may have guessed from that last name – deliver blue eggs.
The Araucana, Easter Egger, Favaucana and Ameriflower lay green-blue eggs, while the group of birds known as Olive Eggers give you eggs of a lovely olive-green hue.
Beautiful chocolate-brown eggs are the speciality of the Delaware, Marans and Penedesencas, while red-browns and pinkish-browns are delivered by Catalana, Plymouth Rock, Barnevelder and Welsummer hens.
The Sumatran and Swiss breeds produce eggs of a very pleasing cream hue. A mixture of different colours from a mixed flock of hens makes the perfect Easter basket – no dyes required!
Hens For Kids
Many chicken breeds can be nervous, while others can be quick to peck at intruding hands. These are not ideal for children, for the obvious reasons – ‘scared’ and ‘aggressive’ are not tags you would wish to apply to any kid’s pet!
Some hens are lovely and docile, though, and will soon get used to being stroked, picked up and treated as friendly members of the family. Some of the best breeds in this respect are the Brahma, Cochin, Belgian d’Uccle Bantam, Easter Egger, Golden Buff, Orpington, Silkie Bantam and Sussex.
Many people keep what are known as ‘dual-purpose’ chickens, and these are the breeds that combine good egg production (an average of four a week) with good eating. Not all good egg-layers make good oven birds, but many – including the Delaware, Dorking, Faverolle, Jersey Giant, Orpington, Plymouth Rock, Redcap, Rhode Island Red, Sussex and Wyandotte – do.
Hens bred specifically for meat, and not eggs, are known as broilers. They grow faster than breeds developed for egg-laying. Popular birds in this category include Bresse, Cornish Cross and Freedom Ranger.
If you’re not worried about egg supply or drumsticks and simply want something that will brighten up the garden, bantams are best. These are small birds, purposefully bred to look good, with endless variations on plumage, patterns and colours. They are particularly popular with keepers who like to enter their birds in shows and exhibitions.
Popular breeds in this category include Barred Plymouth Rock, boasting a striking stripy plumage; Buff Brahma with lovely bright colours and feathery feet; Cochins, which come in a wide variety of coat patterns and colours; the spectacular Mille Fleur d’Uccle Bantam; and the wonderfully fluffy Silkies.
So, whatever you’re looking for in a hen, the ideal chicken is out there somewhere!
Ever heard the expression ‘cooped up’? It means being stuck indoors with nothing to do, resulting in frustration and boredom. We tend to lock hens in a chicken coop, and that’s where the saying comes from.
A hen kept in a shed with nothing to do will soon start to show all the signs of boredom, just like a human. She may start pecking at her neighbours, or plucking out her own feathers. If blood is drawn, the other hens will often join in the beak-attack, and hens can actually be killed in a frustrated frenzy of pecking.
With nothing better to peck and scratch at, chickens may also start to eat their own and other hens’ eggs. Once a chicken becomes an egg-eater, it’s very hard to make her kick the habit.
Bored birds will also tend to sit in the egg box all day, and may become weak through lack of exercise. Boredom also causes stress, and stress can bring egg production to a temporary halt.
Bidding Bye-Bye to Bantam Boredom
As usual, prevention is the best cure, and there are many ways of stopping boredom from becoming a problem in the chicken run. The general rule is simple enough – don’t keep hens cooped up!
Room to Roam – Give your chickens as much outdoor space as possible. If they have a garden or meadow to peck and scratch in, that’s ideal. You don’t have to worry about rounding the birds up in the evening – as soon as the sun dips in the west, hens instinctively head for the safety and security of the coop. All you have to do is close the door behind them.
Weather the Storm – A day spent indoors is a day of boredom for a chicken. They should only be confined to the coop if the weather is particularly bad. A bit of rain, snow and wind will not harm them, no matter how unpleasantly muddy the run may look to you.
Fowl Play – Chickens need stimulation, like most animals. Provide plenty of perches for roosting and resting, along with ladders, and a few pots, tree stumps or ornaments of different heights for them to clamber on and off. Many hens enjoy a chicken swing, too, as if they were parrots in a previous life.
Treats to Eat – Concealing a few tasty treats in the undergrowth or on ledges is a great way to keep hens entertained. Pack tasty titbits into a wicker ball, place it on the ground, and watch your hens enjoy a game of football as they eat. Alternatively, hang greens or a veg-filled Caddi just out of reach, so that the birds have to jump to get a beakful. Shop-bought or homemade suet-and-seed pecking blocks keep them coming back for more, too. The treats should not be overdone, though, as healthy diet is an essential part of good chicken care.
Making Hay – A pile of hay, straw, leaves or garden compost will give your hens something to scratch and rummage through, and they will find probably a few tasty worms and beetles to eat during the fun. Piles of vegetation will be levelled in no time at all – chickens remove piles, you could say!
Novelty Value – Chickens will be fascinated by anything new in their runs, even something as simple as a box or tray of straw, or an old brush. They are also fascinated by their own reflections, so an old mirror can be a good distraction. An old alarm clock or large watch with a reflective glass surface and a loud tick will intrigue them, too.
Dust to Dust – A dust bath goes down a treat at any time of year, not just in the hot summer months. If the weather is wet, you could provide a dry earth bath in a sheltered part of the run or coop.
Quality Time – Don’t underestimate the importance of interaction with your hens. Once they come to trust you they will relish your company, like any other friendly pet. Admittedly this can sometimes get a little out of hand, when hens start to flap onto the garden table to see what you’re eating, drinking or reading!
Boredom really doesn’t have to be a problem in the chicken run. As long as your hens can satisfy their strong scratching and perching instincts, and have a little fun along the way, they will remain healthy and happy.
If you’re keeping chickens in your garden, you’ve probably become accustomed to your morning routine: wake up, drink a cup of tea or coffee and collect fresh eggs from your flock. Of course it’s an unpleasant surprise when one day you go outside, looking forward to your fresh eggs for breakfast, but return to the kitchen empty handed. There are a number of possible reasons why you’re not finding eggs in the nesting boxes anymore. Maybe your hens are too old, it’s wintertime or they’re broody or moulting. But there’s also the possibility your hens are in fact still laying eggs, but are hiding them in a nest they’ve created outside their coop.
Why do chickens hide their eggs?
In a few words the cause might be either a shortage of nesting boxes, or your hens for some reason aren’t comfortable in the ones you have provided. The general ratio of nesting boxes to hens is 1:4, although 1:6 or 1:8 might be sufficient. It is important you give your chickens a safe, tranquil and shady spot for laying that makes them feel protected. Nesting boxes can sit on the ground or be elevated. Chickens aren’t picky about the material the nesting box is made off, but they are picky about where they lay their eggs. Although wooden nesting boxes are common, plastic and metal ones are less susceptible to bacteria and easier to clean. If your hens were happily using the boxes and then suddenly stopped, there might be mites in the nesting material.
Ways to get your hens laying in their nesting box
Of course you don’t want to go on a hunt every day to find eggs and you want to be able to gather them freshly from the nesting box you’ve provided for that purpose. You can take steps to encourage your chickens to lay in the nests and not outside hidden in grass, hay bales, under the chicken coop or any other place that for some reason seem to appeal to them.
Clean the nesting area out at least once a week
Whether an egg will be hatched or eaten, in both cases cleanliness of the nesting box is very important. The nest needs to be cleaned, disinfected and treated for mites regularly. Obviously a clean nest, free from droppings and red mites, will encourage your chickens to use it. It is recommended to clean the nesting area at least once a week. Put some fresh straw, wood shavings or hay in the bottom of the box to provide you’re chickens with a comfortable nesting space.
Find the secret nest
If you are letting your chickens roam about in the garden they may have made a nest under a bush or in a corner somewhere. Follow your chicken discreetly to find the nest. Hens will often let off a loud celebration cackle when they have laid an egg, which can help you finding the nest. Once you’ve discovered the nest, remove the eggs from it and try to block it off or make it otherwise unattractive. You can simply cover it with a scrap piece of wood, rocks or plastic bottles filled with water. Hopefully this will convince your chickens to return to the comfortable nesting box you’ve provided.
Hens will often lay in places where there are already eggs. Fake eggs are useful for encouraging your chickens to lay their eggs in a particular place. When young hens get ready to start laying, the fake eggs in a nesting box will give them the hint that this is the place to lay their eggs.
Collect the eggs regularly
Collecting eggs regularly is not only one of the greatest joys of keeping chickens, it is also an important thing to do. A few eggs won’t keep a hen from adding one more, but a box already full of eggs isn’t very appealing to a hen. Collect the eggs at least once a day, every day. This will also discourage egg eating and broodiness, and it will help you keep track of which eggs are fresh.
Break the habit
Chickens are creatures of habit, and they can be very stubborn about their egg-hiding-behaviour. Most chickens lay their egg in the morning. To help stop your hens laying in places other than the nesting box, you can keep them in their run until about midday. If your chickens are very stubborn, you can try to close your hens in for a few days. They’ll have to lay inside and hopefully get into this preferable routine.
Read this account from a British Hen Welfare Trust volunteer and Omlet customer who recently rescued two ex battery hens. If you want to volunteer or rehome hens, please visit the BHWT website.
As I watched my flock potter about in my garden leading the blissful life and giving me so much in return, from their glorious eggs to laughter at their non-stop antics, I knew I wanted to give back something to these wonderful creatures.
That evening I registered my interest at the British Hen Welfare Trust to become a volunteer. I’d heard stories and seen posts online about ex-battery hens but I don’t think I really had any idea what I was going to face, and the life I was about to see thousands of beautiful ladies live day in and day out.
Picking up my new hens
Volunteer day saw an early rise at 6:30am to get to the farm. The first sight I had was a row of massive windowless barns and I could hear the faint whisper of thousands of voices inside.
I rallied off with the other volunteers who were already carrying out bewildered little faces and loading them into the crates that would be taking them onto their forever homes, where they would finally be loved and get a name.
Upon entering the reality was far worse than I could’ve imagined. So many cramped bald fragile bodies lined in cages five high, as far as the eye could see. Dust and ammonia filled the air, andall I wanted was to get them all out from the dark, away from the bare wires cages as quickly as I could.
Working with other like-minded volunteers was an inspiration, everyone worked so hard. I knew I had to be strong so that I could get some of the girls out of there; that day we got two thousand out of their prisons, all who’d seen nothing but that life for 18 months. At this young age their bodies are nutritional depleted causing them to no long produce eggs to the standard or frequency the industry wants, therefore they are not deemed commercially viable. The harsh reality is that they are then sent for slaughter. Yes, the sad truth is we had to leave some girls behind and really we only make a small drop in the ocean but for those few that do go on to a loving family its means the world.
I personally carried out my two hens, and they happened to be two of the baldest of the lot. One girl, who I called Tess, only had a few feathers on her entire body. I cuddled her in my arms as we drove home, where she shut her little eyes after such a long day realising she could now finally rest.
First few days at home
Once I got Tess and Gloria (named after the song ‘I will survive’) home I let them settle in the cat carrier until the evening with some food and water. They were terrified of me as the only human touch they’d ever previously had was never filled with love.
Even though I have a large walk in run for my flock I knew the girls needed to adjust to every day life at their own pace. They’d never even seen daylight before, instead having 20 hours of artificial light and four hours of darkness to get them to lay as many eggs as possible.
I treated them to their own luxury apartment with a view – a lovely new Eglu Go UP with a 2 meter run and wheels so I could easily move it around the garden and they could snack on as much fresh grass as they wanted. The Eglu is so easy to clean, and another main factor was to keep the dreaded red mite at bay as I did not want anything hindering my precious girls recovery whilst so weak. Looks trendy in the garden too.
Later that evening I gently placed them into the Eglu coop with the door closed so that they could get used to it and get a good night’s sleep. It’s important to allow them time to imprint on their sleeping area, as this will encourage them to go to bed at night on their own.
In the morning I let them out and even though not the most gracious of the descents both came out to explore and dive straight into the Glug and Grub containers. And so began my bonding, greatly helped by their appetite for yummy grapes.
I think my favourite sight in the first few days was them laying in the sun completely at ease and finally acting out natural behaviours like having a dust bath.
They both adapted better each day and I marvel at their ability to take on new situations. It took a little while to understand the concept of a ladder, more so due to the fact they had to build up the strength in their fragile legs, but now that they understand night and day they run up and I find them both snuggled in the coop before lock up when I say sleep tight.
Now six weeks on in their freedom journey they are flourishing. They have massive personalities which continue to shine each day: Tess is bold and Gloria is cheeky. Both are growing lots of feathers each day and they fill my heart with such love that I know they feel back.
As I write this both are running around enjoying summer with my other girls in the garden, casually going back to their Eglu run for a bite to eat and a drink before stepping out and having more adventures, because they know thats their forever home.
I want to thank Omlet for giving my girls such an amazing coop to grow old in and enjoy retirement – they love it!
For more information on battery hens and maybe opening up your home to some check out the ‘British Hen Welfare Trust’ for upcoming rehoming dates.
Red mites, or Dermanyssus gallinae, are without a doubt backyard chicken keepers’ worst enemies! They are nocturnal creatures living in cracks and crevices of the coop, and they only come out at night to feed on chicken blood. Most long term chicken keepers will have encountered these parasites, and can confirm that they are more destructive and difficult to get rid of than all other pests combined.
Getting Rid of Red Mites
If you have diagnosed a red mite infestation in your wooden coop, there are a few things you can do to try to get rid of them. Start off by giving your coop a really deep clean. Strip the house down as much as possible to get into all corners, nooks and crannies, and scrub with warm water. You will need to replace any felt or fabric parts and carefully clean perches, feeders and drinkers and other loose objects in the coop. Make sure that you get rid of all bedding that might have been infested.
If you can still see mites crawling out of crevices in the wood when the coop is drying, try hosing the coop and all loose parts down with a pressure washer. Leave to dry for 10-15 minutes and blast it over again to get rid of even more mites. Repeat until there are very few mites emerging after every wash.
Still not completely clear of mites? Time for the anti-mite products. Mix a mite specific concentrate with water using the manufacturer’s guidelines and apply this to the coop. Go heavy on areas where it is likely that the mites are hiding (corners and end of perches are particularly affected areas), but it is important that you treat the whole coop. When the wood is completely dry, apply plenty of red mite powder on your chickens, their bedding and their dust bath before you let them back into the coop.
In summer you will need to re-apply the powder every few days, and it in many cases getting ahead of the mites will mean deep cleaning the coop with detergents on several occasions over a period of two weeks. When autumn comes the mites become dormant and will not feed on your chickens, but they are unfortunately likely to reappear when the temperature rises again in spring.
Preventing Red Mite Infestations
When it comes to red mites, prevention will always be better than cure, and one of the few things you can actually do to keep these little creatures from hurting your chickens is to have a coop that doesn’t make life easy for them.
The smooth plastic surfaces of the Eglu chicken coop leaves very little space for the mites to hide. There are no corners or gaps that you won’t be able to reach with a hose or a pressure washer, which means that one deep clean of the Eglu should get rid of all dust, dirt and possible pests. By cleaning your Eglu on a regular basis you prevent red mites from ever becoming a problem for you and your hens, and you won’t have to spend all that time and money cleaning and disinfecting that you would if you had a more traditional coop.
The Eglu chicken coops have over the last 15 years been the solution for a lot of people who have tired of constantly trying to get rid of red mites from their wooden coops. Here are some of the things current Eglu owners have told us about battling red mites:
“I’ve thought about having an Eglu for two years but this summer’s red mite infestation was too much. I hate using chemicals/insecticides around my hens so I took the plunge and I’m really pleased.”Sue
“After having some terrible experiences with mites we decided enough is enough and time to buy a “mite free eglu” as advertised. We have been slightly put off by the price previously but now I wish I had one from the start! I couldn’t rate the omlet eglu cube any higher! What used to take 2 hours to clean and scrub a chicken coop now takes 10 minutes! We have not had any lice infestations since having the cube I absolutely love it and so do our chickens, just wish we had bought one sooner!”Amie
“The most important feature to me is the hygienic, easy clean & wash nature of all the surfaces. I would never buy a wooden house again having struggled with mites which hid in all the joints and gaps of the boards. There is nowhere for the mites to hide on the Eglu and cleaning is quick and easy. I’m certain that there isn’t a better house available for healthy hens.”Neil
For a limited time only we now have a special bundle with products that have known anti mite and lice benefits, including Carefresh bedding, Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, garlic powder and Omlet’s Coop-Pourri. Now available for £19.80!
Omlet’s limited edition summer coop-pourri will not only make your coop smell lovely and have a calming effect on your chicken, but contains, among other things, lavender, peppermint, basil, cinnamon bark, coriander, chamomile, garlic, thyme, fennel, rosemary, dill, oregano and marigold, ingredients that all have pest-repelling qualities. Lavender has for example been seen to fend off fleas and lice, whereas coriander and dill will keep certain types of mites away from your coop.
Does the thought of mites make you itch? Watch our video about two neighbours having very different chicken keeping experiences this summer, showing some of the struggles that chicken owners with mite-infested coops are faced with:
Keeping your pets warm in winter and cool in summer is one of the best ways you can help them stay healthy. But this is often easier said than done. Traditionally chicken coops and rabbit hutches have been made from wood. This has its advantages: it’s an easy material to work with, it’s customisable and it looks attractive. However, when it comes to coping with the weather, it can leave a lot to be desired. Wood is not a very good thermal insulator, meaning if it’s hot outside the temperature will transfer through to the inside quickly.
Perhaps surprisingly, a much better thermal insulator is air. But how can something so thin that you can’t even see keep our pets comfortably insulated from the elements? It’s precisely because it’s so thin that it’s so effective. Heat is conducted between an area of more heat to an area of less heat by one of three processes: conduction, radiation or convection. In conduction warmer molecules vibrate rapidly and collide with other nearby molecules passing on that energy. If the material that the heat is trying to pass through has few molecules in it then it will be harder for the heat to transfer through it. This is precisely what happens if you have a warm surface separated from another surface by a layer of air.
Because air is not a good conductor it is commonly used as an insulator in everything from buildings (double glazing, cavity walls) to cooking utensils, drinking flasks and even the high tech chicken coops.
Eglu chicken coops have a unique twin wall system that takes full advantage of air’s great insulating property to keep your pets comfortable all year round. Within the walls of the Eglu is an air pocket which acts as a barrier, stopping hot and cold temperatures penetrating into the inside of the house, so your chickens can stay warm in winter, and cool in summer.
The Eglus also feature a draft-free ventilation system designed to increase the air flow throughout the coops, keeping chickens at a comfortable temperature. These air vents are discretely located around the coop, and specifically designed so they do not allow drafts over the nesting box. A well ventilated coop is not only beneficial for keeping chickens cool, but it is also extremely important for preventing your hens from suffering with respiratory issues.
For evidence of the Eglu’s cooling properties, take a look at this video showing how much slower an ice lolly melts when inside the coop…
As an Omlet Ambassador I’ve heard that line hundreds of times at trade shows and expo halls all across the United States. However, as a former DIY luxury chicken coop builder and longtime Omlet Coop owner I would like to set the record straight and explain why on Omlet Coop is the best purchase a backyard chicken tender can make.
This was my pride and joy:
A luxury coop that is Pinterest worthy and constructed of the best materials I could get my hands on. It has a radiant barrier roof that I shingled! It has a skylight in the middle that is UV blocking and tinted so as to only protect against the harsh and hot Texas sun. We used metal bracing on every corner to make sure we were squared up and secure. There are hundreds of screws holding up the double layer of hardware cloth. Literally, hundreds of screws. I used pressure treated wood that was rated for ground contact and further sealed with deck sealant. I used fiber cement siding that was rated to withstand hail impact and wind thrown objects. No expense was spared in building the Fort Knox of chicken coops that I thought would last a lifetime. I even ordered special chicken shaped handles for the coop doors:
Why is an Omlet Coop a better buy than building a DIY coop?
Experience should not be underestimated when lives are on the line
Omlet was founded in 2003 and has been innovating since. That is over 16 years of experience in building chicken coops. That is 16 years of predicting and preventing predators from getting chicken dinners. The average DIY’er that I meet at trade shows or talk to on forums such as BackYardChickens.com is a first-time chicken owner who hasn’t witnessed the creativity and determination of predator animals such as raccoons, foxes, and even neighborhood dogs.
Included in the price of each and every Omlet coop is 16 years of research and development to give us chicken tenders the best possible home for our flocks. That is 16 years of perfecting the Omlet Coops that get delivered to front doors all across the World. I cannot emphasize this enough because it is the most important factor in why I chose Omlet over DIY’ing another coop. It is not 16 years of making the same old coop over and over again like you’ll find at Tractor Supply or the local hardware/feed store. It is 16 years of constant innovation and stalwart dedication to making the safest coop on the market. While you read the rest of this please ask yourself whether you think a few google searches, a Facebook group, or in my case a Pinterest post can compete with 16 years of on the ground experience with thousands of models sold and tested across not just the US but the world at large. Think about the chickens you will soon be bringing home to live in the coop. Do you trust their lives to a weekend DIY project? Also, if you have kids and they are involved with the chickens then please consider the trauma of them waking up some day to find that a raccoon has turned their favorite hens into a recreation of a CSI episode with a headless hen as the victim. The cost may be steeper up front, but I can personally assure you that it will be more than worth it in the end for the peace of mind, the portability, the cleanliness, and so many other reasons.
DIY may seem like the cheaper route but I can assure you that the first time you wake up to find your favorite hens dismembered by a racoon or de-feathered and half eaten by a fox the last thing on your mind will be how you saved a couple bucks here and there. Why go through the heartbreak of losing hens and then spend the next couple days having to drain your wallet to renovate and repair the coop? Also, once a predator gets into your coop once they will keep coming back for more. They will poke, pull, and attempt to gain access in any way possible since they now know that an all you can eat chicken dinner is just inside. Why not stop them the first time so they never even consider coming back?
The most commonly encountered coops on the internet are constructed of wood. Wood can either be treated or untreated. Treated wood is wood that has been infused with copper products under extreme pressure in order to give it a few extra years of protection against Mother Nature.
However, treated wood does not protect against the ammonia rich droppings left behind by fluffy chicken butts. Chickens do not urinate and defecate separately like us humans do. Instead they combine the two acts and their droppings are highly concentrated and highly corrosive to many materials. This results in an accelerated rate of decay and decomposition of any and all wooden components of a DIY coop. This is a hugely important point to consider because decaying wood is similar to rotten wood in that it is incredibly fragile, and fragility is not something any chicken owner wants when it comes to their coop. The only way to circumvent this is to be diligent in replacing decaying panels as soon as you notice the first signs of decay. Mind you, this requires purchasing more materials, expending more of your time performing the labor to remove the decaying parts and reinstalling the new parts, and adds undue stress to your flock as you tinker with their home.
Of note, there are various sealants and paints that can be used on both treated and untreated wood, but my firsthand experience showed that these only served to prolong the inevitable as they too decayed. Furthermore, I would caution against their use as they can become a health hazard for your flock. Chickens will eat just about anything they can fit into their beaks so as the paint and sealant begin to crack, chip, and flake off the chickens will pick at the cracking paint or sealant and will quickly eat any flakes they can knock off or catch on the ground. I am not a veterinarian, but it certainly doesn’t take one to warn against the well-known dangers of ingesting paint.
Omlet coops are made out of a high-density plastic polymers that are non-porous and designed to be durable against both Mother Nature and any mother hen. The corrosive droppings from your chickens do not affect the durability of the Omlet coop and will not cause it to degrade or deteriorate with wood. It will stay strong for decades or more without any need to repair, replace or renovate.
Chicken wire, I would like to just say to stay as far away from this as possible because every week I hear from people who used chicken wire only to discover their coops broken into and flock decimated. Chicken wire is good at containing chickens but is absolutely worthless for keeping predators out. Raccoons can reach their hands through it and can pull it apart in under an hour. Coyotes, foxes and neighborhood dogs can easily bite and pull it apart. Snakes slither right on in without trouble.
The other wire that people commonly use is hardware cloth. This is what I used when I first built my own coop and it does work for a while. However, over time it will sag, and it is not meant to bear weight well. It can prevent predators most predators for a while but it is far from impenetrable and without proper installation and constant checks it can easily fail and need replacing.
The run components are made from welded steel panels. I could go further into detail about these, but I think the picture below is worth a thousand words:
It was a sad day when I had to leave behind the Pinterest quality barn-inspired coop because we sold the house and couldn’t haul off the coop without hiring a forklift and crew to load it onto a flatbed.
Thankfully, that will never happen with Omlet Coops. They are portable when fully assembled and they are also so easy to disassemble and flat pack that I can now fit our multiple coops and run attachments into the bed of my pickup truck with ease. In fact, I had to do just that when we moved from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Austin, Texas.
Modular and Expandable with ease
One of the hardest parts about designing and building a DIY coop is that you have to know how many chickens you want from the start. That may seem like an innocuous task but there is a phenomenon known to chicken owners as “chicken math.” It is something I have encountered first hand and been a victim of. In what started with 3 chickens has now since expanded to 31 chickens and counting. Our barn inspired chicken coop was meant to house 5-6 hens at a time and any sort of expansion would be extremely costly and require cutting into, and compromising the structural integrity of the original coop to attach any expansions on it.
Our Omlet coop expanded with us and we are already saving up for another full-size WALK-IN-RUN to add. Attaching any sort of expansion or add on is literally a 10-minute job. Due to the modular structure of the Coop and the Walk-in-Run all that has to be done is clip on the new expansions to the existing ones.
The total cost of the Pinterest coop that I build was around $1600. It fit 5 chickens comfortably and held up for just short of 2 years before we started to have to replace parts and deal with decay.
Chicken coops from Tractor Supply range from $250 to over $1,000. However, most of these have wooden components that will break down and need replacing so you will have to throw money at it regularly to keep it functional.
There are a handful of plastic polymer options at TSC but none of them allow for attaching a run, or any sort of modular upgrades that will allow you to grow your flock or custom tailor your coop to your yard. Therefore, you will end up spending well over the cost of an Omlet coop for something that is not designed to fit together and is not as adaptable and flexible as a product from Omlet’s ecosystem.
Peace of mind knowing all of the “What if’s” have been accounted for.
As stated above, Omlet has more experience in this field than any DIY’er. They have answered all of the if, and, buts, and what ifs with first hand experience. The peace of mind that comes with being able to purchase an all in one coop that will last for decades, keep the flock safe, and be adaptable to your future needs is worth more than saving a few bucks by risking all of that.
It’s a lovely summers day, the sun is out, the colourful flowers in your garden are in full bloom, the bees are buzzing, the vegetables are thriving, raspberries just waiting for you to pick and eat them straight from the bush and a nice refreshing breeze of air blows lightly through the rustling leaves – and carries something rather peculiar with it.
Years ago almost everyone knew this noise from their own back garden.
Nowadays a lot of people have only heard it in stories or even in the petting zoo.
This time though, the clucking is the most relaxing noise you could imagine, turning this beautiful day into perfection. Your happy little flock of backyard chickens, happily clucking away in your beautiful garden, supplying you with fresh, tasty eggs every day.
Does this sound somewhat too good to be true? A beautiful garden with flowers, vegetables and even berries that is not completely scratched and ruined from the chickens living in it? Is that even possible?
Yes, it is! And we will tell you how you can make your dream of keeping chickens and still having a beautiful garden a reality.
It might require a little bit of planning, but with these tips, you and your chickens can enjoy a lovely, well cared for garden together.
Free Range Chickens or Secure Chicken Run
The easiest way to keep your garden in a pristine condition is to keep your chickens in an enclosed area. With a spacious chicken run, you are able to keep the chickens in that area and they will not be able to dig up your precious vegetables.
This however might not be an option for everyone due to the garden shape, size or sloped areas. It would then be best to offer the chickens a small secure run for the daytime and let them out to free range once you are back from work.
The most important thing to consider is how much room you have in your garden that you would like to offer to the chickens. That determines how many chickens you can keep, without the ladies taking over your garden entirely.
The more space you can offer them, the less damage they will cause – their scratching will then not just affect a small area, instead they will be able to forage for food and scratch out mossy areas in your lawn as well as getting rid of pests like slugs, snails and caterpillars in a wider area, therefore not destroying the lawn but actually keeping it healthy.
If you account for about 20 sqm per chicken in the garden, they will usually not cause much damage to the lawn.
Another important factor to consider is the breed of chicken you choose.
Hybrids usually cause the most damage, as they are constantly looking for food and need a constant energy supply due to the demand of producing an egg almost every day. Hybrids are generally hardy birds that are easy for first time chicken keepers. However, a better choice for a beautiful garden are calm purebred chickens.
Depending on what you look for in a chicken, and if the eggs are not the most important part of your chicken parenting journey, bantam breeds are generally very nice and docile birds to keep in the garden. Their small size alone often prevents them from doing too much damage. Seramas and Cochins as well as Pekin Bantams and Silkies make lovely, friendly pets and are known to be fairly kind to your garden. Their eggs are generally very small. 2-3 eggs would usually make up the equivalent of one medium sized egg.
If you’d rather have a sizeable breakfast egg, Bantam Orpingtons would be a fantastic choice. They are very calm birds, don’t fly and are simply round and fluffy, perfect, friendly chickens. Due to the big size of regular Orpingtons, the Bantams seem more like a medium sized chicken and lay medium sized eggs. They come in a variety of colours and are a favourite of many.
Securing flower beds and veggie plots
An easy way to keep plants safe is a home made hoop house covered in plastic or netting, that will keep chickens out without difficulty.
If that’s not an option, you could try to install raised beds in your garden. Most chickens don’t seem too interested in foraging for food above head level, so they tend to leave plants in raised planters alone for the most part and the plants can thrive in their beautiful wooden planters. Raised gardens make easy, back friendly gardening possible and more enjoyable.
Should you not have raised beds or want hoops around your plants, we would recommend a mobile fencing option to allow your chickens to roam freely, yet not show off their landscaping skills on your veggie plot. The mobile Chicken Fencing from Omlet is ideal to keep chickens out of certain areas. The new and improved fencing blends into your garden and is available as a 12, 21, 32 & 42 meter roll. This movable chicken fencing is much easier to install than chicken wire and features many benefits such as tangle proof netting, adjustable poles and reflective badges to help you find the gate at night.
Omlet’s flexible chicken fencing comes with an inbuilt gate which features a newly redesigned catch that is stronger and more comfortable to use. You can also set the width of the gate opening to your preferred size making it easy to get in and out to feed your chickens. Another great feature of the gate is that you can position it wherever you want within the layout you have chosen, you can put it at any end, the middle or anywhere else. The width of the gate opening can also be adjusted to suit.
With an overall height of 1.25m, (which is taller than most chicken fencing), you can be confident that even the most determined of your feathered friends won’t make a great escape! The poles of the fence are also adjustable to ensure that the netting remains tight and secure at all times.
Offer a “chicken spa” area
Chickens love to dig up dry soil under bushes to then enjoy a lovely dustbath in the sheltered, shady area. Allow them to find their favourite spot, or plant some chicken friendly bushes in an area you are happy to devote to your chickens, and they will most likely not think about any other plants. A chicken spa like that will not only keep your girls feathers in beautiful condition but keep them in good spirits and happy moods.
Keep an eye on your chickens
The best and safest time for your chickens to free range is usually when you are with them in the garden and can keep an eye on them. This allows you to keep them from causing too much mischief by throwing a handful of tasty corn in an area as far away as possible from flowers and veggies. My lively bunch of ladies will then loudly proclaim their excitement and run to gather all the tasty treats. This will usually keep them preoccupied for at least 30 mins.
The process of egg laying starts in the chicken’s eye. Sunlight enters the eye and activates a photosensitive gland, the pineal gland, located right next to the eye. This in turn triggers a process that releases an egg, or oocyte, from the chicken’s ovary. This light sensitivity is one of the reasons that hens lay less eggs in winter.
STEP TWO: THE YOLK Hens are born with two ovaries, but one of them stops working straight after the chick has been born. It is believed that this is to save on both energy and weight, and as long as the other ovary is working, one is plenty!
The ovary contains thousands of potential eggs, or ovum as they are also known. If you were to open up a chicken, these undeveloped ova can be seen at the start of the spine. When the chicken is old enough to start laying, some of these ova begin to mature into what is later becoming the yolk. At this stage the ova are separated and contained within their own follicles, but when one is ready to move on it releases its follicle and moves out of the ovary and down the reproductive tract, the oviduct.
This process, ovulation, occurs approximately every 25 hours, and normally starts again about an hour after the previous egg has been laid.
STEP THREE: THE WHITE
Via the infundibulum the yolk enters the oviduct, and it is here that the egg is fertilised if a rooster has courted your hen. You might have noticed that egg yolks have a small, white spot on them. This is the blastodisc, the single female cell that together with the sperm will develop into an embryo through cell division. The journey of the egg is however exactly the same regardless of whether it’s been fertilised or not. The yolk travels through the magnum and isthmus parts of the oviduct, and this is where the egg white (also called the albumen) is created. It works as a thin membrane around the yolk that holds everything together. The chalazae, two spiral bands of tissue, makes sure that the yolk is evenly positioned within the albumen, and the whole thing starts looking like an egg, although missing a quite crucial part – the shell!
STEP FOUR: THE SHELL The egg receives its shell in the uterus, thanks to the shell gland. It takes roughly 20 hours to produce the shell, so this is the most time consuming part of the process. Before the egg moves on for the last time, the outermost layer, known as the bloom or cuticle, is formed to create a anti-microbial layer. When the egg is ready, the shell gland pushed the egg out of the oviduct and in to the cloaca, the part where the reproductive and excretory tracts meet.
Using a steam cleaner to clean any Eglu can be a very effective way. It will not affect the plastic, whereas all surfaces are cleaned, disinfected, and all killed mites, insects and dust are blown away by the power of the steam. As a bonus the surfaces will be dry in no time, because the plastic is warmed up.
Deep-cleaning an Eglu Go once or twice a year is extra easy if one follows these steps:
1. Take of the top panel (lid)
2. Unscrew both side panels and bumpers, and take these off as well. For a complete cleaning you may want to disconnect the run as well.
3. You now have access to all inner and outer surfaces. Clean them thoroughly with the steam cleaner, if required using an old dish brush as well.
4. Clean the bumpers, panels and top lid in the same way.
5. Re-assemble the run and the coop.
This cleaning method has been used for several years now by our Dutch team-member and is guaranteed to keep your Eglu in a top condition, without damaging any parts!
To celebrate the launch of our NEW Caddi Chicken Treat Holder, we are including a pack of the exclusive Feldy’s Chicken Pecker Balls with the first 40 orders of the Caddi. Simply quote discount code CADDI at checkout to claim your treat ball pack.
The NEW Caddi Chicken Treat Holder is the ideal way of feeding your chickens fresh fruit and vegetables. The Caddi Treat Holder keeps food off the ground, which is healthier for your hens, improves run cleanliness, reduces food wastage and keeps pests away. As an added benefit your chickens will enjoy the fun and interactive experience of foraging their treats from the swinging feeder.
The Caddi measures a generous 20cm top to bottom and 8cm across. It is made from heavy duty welded steel with a waterproof rain cap, and thanks to the adjustable nylon string you can hang it in all types of chicken runs, including the Eglu runs and Omlet’s Walk in Chicken Run.
A range of quality, high energy chicken feed balls has been developed specifically for use with the Caddi Treat Holder. Feldy Chicken Pecker Balls are ideal for placing in the treat holder for your hens to peck away at, and they offer a high quality and practical treat solution for your hens. This high energy feed supplement helps to improve your flock’s condition, feathering and health and features added calcium for the production of top quality eggshells!
Use the code CADDI at checkout to see if you made it in time to get a free pack of Feldy Chicken Pecker Balls with your Caddi order!
Terms and Conditions Free pack of 6 Feldy’s Chicken Pecker Balls is only valid with orders of the Caddi Chicken Treat Holder and Caddi Chicken Treat Holder Twin Pack. Use code CADDI at checkout. The first 40 worldwide orders of the Caddi Chicken Treat Holder will receive the FREE pack of Feldy’s Chicken Pecker Balls pack. If the promotion code does not apply to your basket, the first 40 orders have been placed and the code has now expired. The free bundle are subject to change. Subject to availability. Omlet ltd. reserves the right to withdraw the offer at any point.
Here at Omlet we often receive calls from aspiring chicken keepers who are seeking chicken keeping advice before getting their first birds. Some of the most popular questions we get asked are, what should I feed my chicken with or how can I protect my chickens from predators? One question that keeps coming up is, do I need to shut the Eglu door at night?
Often people ask us this question because the idea of adding another task to their daily routine might be one of the reasons which puts them off chicken keeping. Much like you wouldn’t like to sleep with your front door open, unfortunately for chicken keepers, nor do your chickens, therefore most nights we would recommend you close the chicken coop door. But having to close the door doesn’t necessarily mean that it would need to be done by the chicken keeper themselves! Have you ever thought about automatic door system? Well luckily for chicken keepers, Omlet has recently launched a new Autodoor which will solve all of these problems. Even though our Eglus are specially designed to keep your chickens warm in winter with a unique twin-wall insulation system which works in a similar way to double glazing, leaving the door open overnight would let the cold enter inside which might result in having frozen eggs after a freezing winter night and could make your chickens feel unwell. Which is why we strongly recommend you use the handle on top of the Eglu and simply lift and twist it to close the door in one convenient motion each evening after having make sure all your flock are inside As important as it is to close the door to protect your hens from the cold, it is also important to do it to protect them from potential overnight predator attacks. Most predators would wait for the night to attack your chickens therefore by simply closing the door it would protect your flock from being attacked by predators such as racoons, foxes and coyotes. Having said how important it is to close your chicken coop overnight we understand that not everyone has the luxury of being at home every night to close the coop door especially for people working late shifts that are often home well after the sun sets. That is why we recently launched an automatic chicken coop door that can be attached directly to any wooden chicken coop, wire or the Omlet Eglu Cube Mk1 and Mk2.
Much like a personal chicken coop concierge, the Autodoor will always make sure your chicken’s coop is securely closed at night even when you’re running late. Whether you decide to use the light or time mode, the Omlet secure and safe Autodoor will either open and close at dawn and dusk or at specific times that you have programmed it to. In addition to being designed to be used in different modes the Autodoor has a unique safety sensor detecting any blockages to prevent your chickens from being injured when they decide to stop half way through the door. Benefits of the Omlet Automatic Chicken Coop Door:
Easy to install, no maintenance required
Operated by light sensor or timer
Powered by battery
Works with all wooden chicken coops
Improves coop security and insulation
Compatible with the Eglu Cube
Reliable in all weather conditions
Built-in safety sensors
Can be used with any chicken run or mesh
To summarise, closing the coop door is definitely the recommended action for every chicken keeper in order to protect their chickens from the cold and predators however this task can easily be completed by an Autodoor. Check out the review below to see what one of our Autodoor owners thinks of this new product:
“Thank you Omlet for a wonderful product and great service. The door arrived quickly, very well packaged and my concerns over fitting it were unfounded as I was able to complete the task completely unaided. The door is easy to operate and means my girls are safely tucked up at dusk and I do not have to get up ridiculously early to open the coop and stop them hollering!” – Wendy