Most people decide to keep chickens because they’re looking forward to a supply of fresh eggs. So when the hens don’t deliver the goods, it can be worrying, baffling and frustrating.
In most cases, patience is the simple answer. There are a number of reasons why hens might not be laying, but the commonest are simply to do with age. They will not start lying until they are six months old and thereabouts. The exact timing depends on breeds. Some, such Australorps, Golden Comets and Leghorns, begin laying early, between 16 and 18 weeks. With some of the larger breeds such as, Orpingtons, Plymouth Rocks, and Wyandottes, you can wait up to eight months for the first eggs to appear.
Another complicating factor is the time of year. Hens that reach egg-laying maturity in the autumn or winter may not lay until spring. This underlines another common answer to the “Why are my hens not laying?” question – most breeds tend to stop producing eggs, or drastically reduce their output, in the colder months.
In the Mood to Brood
Sometimes a chicken decides to sit tight and wait for her egg to hatch. In this maternal mood, she is known as a broody hen, and will stop producing eggs. This is handy if you want to hatch chicks, as the hen will happily sit there for the three weeks it takes to hatch an egg. It’s less handy if you want her to produce more eggs, though.
The hen can either be left for three weeks, after which she will resume normal service, or you can gently discourage her. Placing a bag of ice cubes or frozen peas underneath her can do the trick. Some chicken keepers recommend placing the hen in a wire cage or dog crate, with food and water. This is a little uncomfortable, and will usually beak the brooding habit.
All Change – Moulting and Ageing
All hens have a time limit on their laying. On average they will produce eggs for three years.
Most hens take ‘time off’ for winter, and also for moulting. Many breeds undergo what’s known as a hard moult, losing their feathers over a few days and growing a new set quickly. Others may undergo a ‘soft’ moult, losing a few feathers at a time.
Keeping the hens well fed, and adding a little extra protein to their diet, will keep them healthy during this time. Their physical efforts are concentrated on growing new feathers, which is why the egg supply tends to drop during the moult.
This underlines another important point – a nutritious diet, centred on a fortified chicken feed and plenty of calcium, is vital. If hens are malnourished, egg production will drop.
Sick Birds Don’t Lay
If your hens are neither too young nor too old, not moulting, not brooding, and not hunkering down for a cold winter, the reason for the drop in eggs may be illness. Parasites – lice, mites, fleas, internal worms – can cause bodily stress that impacts their laying.
Stress can also be brought on by bullying, too much handling, injury, noisy children and pets in the garden, or poor environment. Making sure the hens have a space where they can stay happy and healthy is vital. A setup such as theEglu coop and run, along with suitable perches, feeders and other essential accessories, does the trick.
There may be other underlying health issues at play, though. Check out our pages onchicken health for more advice on diagnosing and – where possible – treating problems.
It’s just possible that your non-laying hens are laying – it’s just that you can’t find the eggs. There are two reasons for this. Free-ranging chickens often ‘go native’ and begin laying eggs in a spot in the undergrowth, rather than in the coop.
Check under shrubs, in long grass, and any secluded corner of your plot of land. If the AWOL laying has been going on for a long time, there may be a few eggs out there in the wilderness. Check their freshness by placing them in a bowl of water. If the eggs lie on their sides, they are fresh. If they are more upright (between 45 and 90 degrees), but still resting on the bottom of the bowl, they are not fresh, but still usable. Any that float have passed their sell-by date!
Eggs may also disappear if a hen acquires a taste for them. Egg-eating amongst chickens can be a sign of overcrowding or poor diet. Once she has acquired the taste, it can be difficult to stop a hen eating eggs, and she may need isolating to stop her pecking at her neighbours’ eggs. The isolation may also induce slight stress, just enough to interrupt her own laying, which may in turn break the habit.
Normal Egg Service Resumed
Don’t worry – unless a hen is very old or very ill, her egg-laying should soon resume. Owners can aid the process by making sure they’re giving the birds everything they need. They keys to a good egg supply are good food, a good space – and patience!
We can learn a lot from chickens. They go to bed early, and once indoors they snuggle up together to keep warm. No messing about after hours. As a result, they’re ready for a fresh start as soon as the sun comes up.
The problem is, there’s often no early-rising human around at dawn to open the door of the coop and let the hens get on with a busy day’s scratching, foraging and laying. Equally, you might not be able to be there to lock the door behind them after they’ve headed for bed early in the bleak midwinter.
An open door in the chicken shed lets in the cold, and unless your coop and run are secure, some very unwelcome night visitors of the four-footed kind might come calling…
“Someone Should Invent An Autodoor For Chicken Sheds…”
Fortunately, the necessary security-cum-draft-excluder has already been invented. Omlet’s Autodoor attaches directly to the Eglu Cube Mk1 and Mk2 chicken houses. But it’s not exclusively for those models – the Autodoor works with any chicken coop, with a unique and clever design that enables it to be attached to whatever des res your chickens are living in.
Like many ingenious inventions – wind-up radios and wind-up torches come to mind, or solar powered garden lights – Omlet’s automatic chicken coop door opener is very simple. It’s battery powered, with both a timer and a light sensor for maximum flexibility and control. The Autodoor won’t instantly seize up when the temperature plunges, either. It’s been tested to work down to minus-20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit).
The Autodoor is also very easy to install. Its LCD control panel is separate from the door itself, so it can be placed in the best position for the built-in light sensor to do its work.
The door, once closed, is also very secure. It doesn’t use a string and pulley system, so it can’t be lifted up by hungry creatures hoping for a midnight chicken snack. Nor will they be able to squeeze through the tight seal once the door is shut.
Attaching The Autodoor
If your hens live in an Omlet Eglu Mk2 Cube or a chicken coop made of wood, the Autodoor comes with all the fittings you need. You’ll need a few extra attachments if you want to fit the door to aMk1 Eglu Cube, anOmlet Run or a set up involving traditionalchicken wire.
The control panel and light sensor attach via a robust cable, so you can choose the best spot for registering the daylight. The sensor doesn’t mean your hens have to be home before the sun hits the horizon, though. You can set it to close an hour after sunset, to suit your birds’ routine. Equally, it can be set to open an hour after first light, if your chickens are used to having a bit of a lazy start to the day. This makes sense when the days are particularly cold – the hens might want to take advantage of their cosy place on the perch for as long as possible before venturing out into the cold frosty morning.
The door will not open in the night, even if passing headlights, a security light or a torch beam shine on the coop. It has been designed to ignore these temporary bursts of light, and only open when there has been consistent light for an amount of time fixed by you via the control panel.
So basically, that’s your chickens’ winter worries sorted.
It’s possible that you have a stoical family member who is willing to be on guard at dawn and dusk every day throughout the cold winter months to open and close the coop door. Lucky you –that’s real chicken dedication!
For everyone else, the Autodoor does all the work for you when you’re not around. Or, let’s face it, it gives you the excuse and peace of mind to enjoy a weekend lie-in without having to brave the elements on morning chicken duty!
A NEW Accessory for the Autodoor
Now your Autodoor can do even more to make winter chicken keeping that bit easier, with the NEW Coop Light. This practical light plugs into the Autodoor control panel and can be set to turn on automatically 5 minutes before your door is programmed to close, to encourage your chickens up to bed. So if you have some night owls among your flock who you worry about being left behind, this is the perfect solution.
You can also use the Coop Light on manual mode to supply light to your coop or run, ideal for checking on your chickens, or for those who are having to carry out their daily chicken keeping duties, once the sun has gone down. The cable between the control panel and the light is 2 metres long so that you can position the light in an optimal place for your set up.
Calling all wicked Witches! We know October has been a very busy month for you all, which is why we are offering 31% off when you upgrade your witch’s broomstick this Halloween, to the Omlet Chicken Perch. This spooktacular offer will fly past, so don’t miss out!
Use discount code WITCHES until midnight on the 31st of October!
Give your chickens a brilliant new way to play in their chicken run with Omlet’s Chicken Perch, available in 2 lengths to suit your flock. The naturally weather resistant perch not only features an innovative bracket design – allowing it to be placed anywhere on any chicken run – but is also suitable for use by all breeds of chicken, making it the new must-have DIY chicken coop accessory!
Upgrade your chicken’s playtime with this fun accessory, and use code WITCHES to save 31% until midnight tomorrow.
Terms and conditions
This promotion is only valid from 30/10/19 – midnight on 31/10/19. Use code WITCHES to claim 31% off Chicken Perches. This offer is available on the Omlet Chicken Perch 1 metre and 2 metre only. Subject to availability. Omlet ltd. reserves the right to withdraw the offer at any point. Offer cannot be used on delivery, existing discounts or in conjunction with any other offer.
To celebrate, we want you to nominate someone you know who has always dreamed of collecting fresh eggs from their own chickens every day. We will be picking one lucky winner to receive an eggcellent prize – the amazing Eglu Go Chicken Coop with 2m run!
To enter, head over to our Twitter page, follow us and reply to the World Egg Day tweet with the username of the person you want to nominate.
Terms and Conditions
The competition closes at midnight on the 13th of October 2019. To enter please comment on the World Egg Day tweet on the Omlet Twitter page – you must also be following the page. One winner will receive an Eglu Go Chicken Coop with 2m run. The winner will be randomly selected from all entries worldwide and notified within 7 days of the competition closing. If the winner does not respond to claim the prize within 7 days of notification, we reserve the right to withdraw the prize from the winner and pick a replacement winner.
Omlet reserve the right to withdraw or amend the competition at any point. Prize cannot be transferred to cash. This competition is not open to Omlet employees or members of their immediate families. All entries must be made on the relevant competition post. The winner agrees to the use of their name and any reasonable requests by Omlet relating to any post-winning publicity.
The temperature is already dropping rapidly, the nights are drawing in and we are just weeks away from the first frost. Although the fresh air and crunchy leaves may be loved by some, the signs of winter being just around the corner can be a worry for chicken keepers.
Now is the time to act! Get your chickens’ coop ready for the colder months before the freezing temperatures hit, and you will be able to rest easy knowing that your girls are warm and healthy throughout winter.
Take a look at some of our top tips for getting your chicken coop winter-ready…
Move your coop closer to the house
This is a simple step for making it easier for you to look after your girls and give them their daily health checks, which are even more important in the colder months. Choose a lightweight coop with wheels, like the Eglu, to make it even easier to move it around your garden.
Upgrade your wooden coop to an Eglu
The main benefit to an Eglu Cube Chicken Coop for chicken keepers in winter is the twin wall insulation found in the design of the plastic house. This works in a similar way to double glazing, by creating a barrier between the cold air outside the coop, and the air in side. The air between the two walls conducts poorly, which means inside the house stays at a consistent and warm temperature throughout winter, whatever the weather is doing outside. Chickens are very efficient at keeping themselves warm, all you will need to do is make sure the coop door is shut at night time.
…and to make sure your chicken coop’s door is always shut at dusk, even if you are not yet home, the Automatic Chicken Coop Door is a convenient solution for the Eglu Cube or wooden chicken coops. You can set the Autodoor to close at a specific time or light percentage to suit when all your girls have gone up to bed and the sun has set. The Autodoor runs off batteries and has been tested to work down to -10 degrees celcius so there is no worry, however cold it gets outside!
The other benefit to the Autodoor is that it will open again at dawn so you can head off to work early before the sun rises and your girls need to be let out, or you can stay in bed for even longer at the weekends without going out in the freezing cold to let your chickens out of their coop!
The NEW Coop Light also makes it easier for you to check on your girls and carry out daily chicken keeping duties if you don’t get home until after dark. This plugs directly into your Autodoor control panel, and can even be programmed to automatically turn on 5 minutes before your Autodoor closes to encourage your chickens up to the coop.
“The nights are drawing in and I couldn’t be happier knowing that my girls are safely tucked up in bed with their Omlet Autodoor closed behind them. The Autodoor has given me peace of mind, flexibility and a well needed lie in! Couldn’t recommend it enough!” – Hayley’s Lottie Haven
Chickens are very good at coping in cold temperatures, but don’t like getting wet, so it would be kinder for them to be protected from the elements when in their run by our clear covers and windbreaks. Available in a variety of sizes to suit your run length, the clear run covers protect your girls from wind and rain so they can continue to play whatever the weather, whilst still allowing light into the run.
Extreme temperature jackets
When the temperature drops below freezing for multiple days in a row during the very depths of winter, it might be wise to give your chickens extra warmth with an extreme temperature jacket. Poorly or older chickens, will definitely benefit from this extra support.
Prevent chickens getting bored when rain stops play with a variety of fun and interactive toys they can play with in all weathers. The Chicken Perch provides an easy outdoor perch which can be installed in their run (and protected by the run covers) for when your chickens can’t perch in their usual spots around your garden. The Chicken Swing provides hours of fun and again, can be easily installed in any run. While the Peck Toys and Caddi Treat Holder offer enriching entertainment as well as a rewarding flow of treats.
Prevent your chickens’ water from freezing with a water heater to ensure they have access to flowing water at all times. It is also recommended to provide extra layers pellets and treats during winter, as chickens will need more energy to keep themselves warm and lay their eggs in the colder months.
One of the most common questions we get from people who are thinking about keeping chickens is…
“Will keeping chickens attract rats?”
The important thing to note with this is that the rats are not attracted to the chickens, they are actually drawn specifically to the chickens’ feed. Once we know this, thinking about how we can prevent rats in our gardens doesn’t seem such a daunting task…
Store all chicken feed in secure bins with lids
Keep your chickens’ feed as secure and well-sealed as possible in airtight bins to reduce any smell which might attract unwanted visitors.
Only throw the food on the ground which you know your chickens will eat
Avoid there being left over feed in the grass for rats to eat, buy only throwing on the ground what you know your chickens will consume during the day. A good solution for this is using a corn dispenser such as the PeckToy, or a feed ball holder, like the Caddi.
Remove feeders from the run at night time
Securely cover or remove entirely, all feeders and treat dispensers at night fall and return to the run in the morning. Chickens are usually closed up in their coop at night so shouldn’t miss need any midnight snacks!
Hang compact discs in the run
Rumour has it, the way that CD’s reflect light startles and upsets rats which may be enough to put them off getting close to your coop. Hang old CD’s with string in your run and see if it works!
Collect eggs every day
Rats are also attracted to your chickens’ eggs for food so you should make sure you remove the eggs daily to take away another temptation. Eglus offer a completely secure house for your girls to lay their eggs without fear of them being stolen!
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…