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!
Whether you’re trying to convince your partner, housemate or parents to let you keep chickens, fear not, we have all the tricks of the trade to help get them on your side. Most importantly you are going to want to house your chicken in an Eglu, therefore immediately some of their reservations about chickens will be eliminated by the unique and innovative design features.
The Omlet guide for convincing anyone that you need to get chickens!
🥚 Don’t chickens need lots of space?
🐥 Answer: You may be surprised to hear that you can keep hens in a relatively small area. Chickens will appreciate as much space as you can give them so they can forage for food. If you are happy to give your chickens the whole garden then they will have more than enough space to be happy.
Ideally your garden should have a fence all the way round. This will prevent your chickens from wandering into the neighbour’s garden and, more importantly, ensure that all the eggs are laid on your side of the fence! The fence should be about 1.5m (5ft) high.
If you do not have grass, it is possible to keep a couple of chickens but you must provide them with a layer of wood chippings to rummage about in as this will give them the right type of surface underfoot.
🥚 Aren’t chickens a bit smelly?
🐥 Answer: Chickens smell lovely but maybe you mean isn’t their poo smelly? Well it’s not exactly perfume but chicken’s do 50% of their droppings at night and the Eglu is so easy to clean, in less than 5 minutes you can have it smelling like roses. The droppings are a great fertilizer too and will help produce amazing vegetables. We’ve even heard of one enterprising school child who started selling bags of chicken droppings to local allotment owners turning muck into brass and starting her entrepreneurial career early!
🥚 Ok so they aren’t smelly, but won’t they make a lot of mess?
🐥 Answer: The key to keeping things nice and tidy is having the right number of chickens for your garden, if you have a small garden then 2-3 hens are ideal, maybe consider bantams which are miniature chickens and perfect for even the smallest spaces. An Eglu is also easy to move, all models are available with wheels from the largest Eglu Cube to the smaller
Eglu Go and by moving them regularly chickens actually improve the grass by raking out moss and fertilizing it.
🥚 But we have lots of predators where we live…
🐥 Answer: Eglus are really secure chicken houses. Eglu runs are made from strong steel weld mesh, impossible for predators to break. A unique anti-tunnel skirt sits flat on the ground and prevents animals from digging in. The unique tunnel-proof panels have been proven in rigorous testing to be predator resistant. The run means that when you are out and about you can be sure that your chickens are safe
We’ve even had bears try and fail to get in to an Eglu. Foxes, badgers and birds of prey are all put off by the anti-tunnel skirt and tamper proof design.
🥚 What about when we want to go on holiday?
🐥 Answer: Chickens live outdoors and you can leave them for a weekend with enough food and water. For longer periods your friends or neighbours will be happy to come and check on them, especially if they can help themselves to the fresh eggs.
Here’s some fail safe tricks you can try that should help nudge them in the right direction:
🐓 Subtle hints – Start leaving cutouts from the Omlet brochure or pictures from our website around the house. Particularly successful spots include the fridge door, bathroom mirror and on top of their pillow.
🐓 Taste test – Get a farm fresh egg and also a store bought egg, do a taste test showing the difference in both colour and taste.
🐓Rescuing hens – Show them success stories from rescue hen charities and explain how you can save these birds and give them a happy home.
🐓 They eat bugs – Chickens are great little workers, so long as you keep moving them about your garden they’ll eat all the nasty bugs and ticks that you can’t seem to get rid of.
🐓 Friendly pets – People will be surprised to find out that chickens are actually very friendly pets, each with their own personalities. See if you can find a friend who already has chickens that you can introduce your loved one to so they can have the opportunity to ‘hug a hen’ and see for themselves how nice these animals are. Alternatively local farms and petting zoos will most probably have chickens you can go to see.
🐓 Start ‘hypothetically’ naming them – Start giving your soon-to-be chickens names. Try and get your loved ones involved in the brainstorm and then they’ll start to see how much fun you can have. Hen Solo, Princess Lay-a, Cluck Rogers… the list goes on!
As long as your chickens are laying and there’s a cockerel in your flock, you can hatch and incubate chicks all year round. However, traditionally the most popular time to breed your own chickens is in the spring. Hatching and rearing your own chicks from eggs is an incredibly exciting and rewarding process. There is nothing better than seeing your tiny chicks grow up in the knowledge that they are getting the best possible life from start to finish.The incubation period for chicken eggs is usually 21 days. The most reliable way to incubate your fertilised eggs and maximise the chance that they will hatch into healthy chicks is to use an artificial incubator. Here’s our step-by-step guide to hatching chicks:
1. Long Term Plan
Before the hatching starts, you will need to have a plan in place as to what you are going to do with the chickens once they hatch. It is a safe estimate that 25-50% of eggs will not hatch due to either not being fertilized or due to some mishaps during incubation. Among those which will hatch, approximately 50% will be cockerels and 50% will be hens. Everybody wants hens and hardly anyone needs cockerels, so there is a question of what to do with the latter. In many breeds, cockerels do not tolerate each other and they will fight vigorously unless they are completely separated.
First of all, you need to be as sure as it is reasonably possible that the eggs are fertilized, so getting them from a good breeder / farmer is crucial. Eggs of some breeds are quite expensive, so every egg that will not hatch costs you money. A breeder can never give you a 100% guarantee that the egg is fertilized, but an experienced one can be quite confident they are.
The eggs should not have any deformations or bear any other visible defects. Any cracks in the eggshells are a no-go. Any defect of the eggshell might result in the chick having difficulty in hatching, being deformed, or not developing at all.
Once you have the eggs, it is a good practice to wash them with an egg disinfectant. Eggs are porous and the embryos get oxygen and water through their eggshells. If there are any toxins or bacteria on the eggshells, that might endanger the embryos.
3. Keep a Diary
It is a really good idea to keep a diary of hatching. This includes numbering the eggs and keeping a daily record of each eggs weight. A developing egg will gradually lose weight in its 21 days of incubation. It will lose about 10-15% of its original weight over time. When the egg in the incubator is not losing weight it usually means it is not developing.
Choose your incubator carefully. Some incubators, such as the Brinsea Mini II Incubator have an Auto-turn mechanism built-in. Auto-turn saves you a lot of time and effort. Every egg during the incubation time needs to be turned every 90 minutes in order for the embryo to be positioned perfectly in the egg. A broody hen naturally turns all the eggs she is sitting on as she moves around the nest, so the turning simulates what naturally happens when a hen takes care after eggs. If the incubator does not have the Auto-turn option, you will need to turn the eggs manually. It is therefore a good practice to mark all eggs with a non-toxic marker just to be sure that every egg is being turned every time you visit them.
A good incubator will be able to keep a steady temperature within. One that we recommend is the Brinsea Mini II Incubator. The optimal temperature for hatching chicks is 37.5 degrees Celsius. A good incubator will set its alarm off if the temperature within drops below or rises above a certain threshold. Temperature in the room where the incubator is placed is crucial here, as it heavily influences the temperature in the incubator. You will be opening the incubator during routine controls of the eggs, so it is really important the eggs don’t get a temperature shock in the process – such a shock might kill the fetuses. We advise keeping a steady temperature of approx. 25 degrees Celsius in the room with the incubator. The room should also be draft free.
A good incubator will be able to provide a good humidity inside. Optimal humidity for the eggs during hatching is around 40-50% but needs to be increased on Day 19 in order to soften the eggshells and help the chicks to hatch out. With some Incubators such as the Brinsea II Mini Incubator, there are two water containers inside. Fill one up every day, and fill both of them from Day 19 onward. You can fill up the water container in the Brinsea without the need to open it which is very useful, since you generally don’t want to open the incubator too often. It is perfectly normal that some condensation starts to build up in the incubator after a few days due to high humidity.
5. Daily routine
Day 7 is an important threshold. First of all, you need to start cooling the eggs for half an hour a day. It’s best to do this around the same time each day. A good incubator has a fan and you can set an automatic cooling time. If not, you need to cool the eggs down manually by taking them out of the incubator. The cooling temperature should not be shockingly different – a difference of 2 to 5 degrees Celsius will do.
Developing eggs keep their own temperature when exposed. That is how a hen tells the difference between a developing and a dead egg. When the hen gets off the nest to eat and drink, the dead eggs will go cold almost instantaneously. The hen will then get rid of the dead eggs from the nest.
You also need to start candling the eggs on Day 7 at the latest. Candling will show you which eggs are developing and which are not. If an egg does not show any signs of development on Day 7, it will not hatch. It is essential to take out any eggs which stop developing as they will start to decompose if left in the incubator. From Day 7 onward you should continue candling on a regular basis. It’s not necessary to do it every day, as you won’t see any significant progress on day-to-day basis, but it is a good practice to do it every third or fourth day. Weighing and candling combined are usually good indicators if the egg is developing or not.
From Day 7 up to Day 19 tasks should continue in a routine manner: daily cooling, weighing, and occasional candling.
Day 19 marks the next important stage. You need to stop turning the eggs and cooling them, and lay out a hatching mat in the incubator (so the chicks won’t slip on the incubator’s surface on their first day of life). You also need to increase the humidity inside up to at least 65%. When using the Brinsea Mini II Incubator you can achieve this by filling up the second water container inside.
At some point during that period the eggs will start wiggling: the chicks will be moving around the egg to position themselves perfectly to hatch out. You might feel the temptation to check on the eggs often, but at this time it is best to leave them be and inspect the eggs every 6 hours or so.
Around Day 20 the chicks should peck out a small hole in their eggshells to catch their first breath of fresh air. It’s best to leave them be. Do not help them by making the hole bigger or breaking the shell apart. They will do it themselves in their own time. In that time they will also consume all the nutrients in their eggshells, so it is vital for them to stay inside for the time being.
Most of the chicken breeds hatch on Day 21 with only a handful of breeds hatching on Day 20 or 22. Do not help the chicks in hatching, they should be able to do it themselves – it’s their first test of strength. Only give a helping hand when a chick is really late (in comparison with its companions in the incubator) and/or the eggshell is really thick and the chick is evidently struggling to get out for a prolonged period of time.
Once the chicks hatch out, leave them in the incubator for another 24 hours. They should be well fed having eaten all the nutrients from their eggs. Apart from that, the incubator provides them with the optimal temperature and humidity.
Now watch our eggcellent egg hatching video to see how easy it is to hatch chicks!
Save £70.99 today when you buy a Purple Eglu Go Chicken Coop and a Brinsea Mini II ECO STARTER PACK. The starter pack includes everything you need to hatch your own eggs including a Brinsea incubator, a candling lamp, a Chick Brooder and an Eglu Go Chicken Coop which the chicks can move into when they reach 9 weeks old.
Nathalie is the owner of the Instagram account My Backyard Paradise. Together with her husband and their three teenage daughters she runs her own ‘mini backyard farm’ in Belgium. The beautiful pictures she shares with her Instagram followers show that this truly is a backyard paradise. In June 2018 Nathalie decided to extend her mini farm with three ex-battery hens. Follow their journey to recovery in the two-part photo diary she kept for us. You can find part one here.
The chickens are still eating an Alfamix mixture, a very rich grain blend with pellets and amphipods, and layers pellets. It’s time to further reduce the layers pellets (this was the only feed they had before we rescued them). For one month we will only give them Alfamix, then they will get the same food as our other chickens. Our chickens also always have access to a large meadow where they can find lots of extra food.
It’s also time to do something about their nails. Usually it’s better not to cut chicken nails, they just have to wear down. But the manure stuck under their nails needs to go. We soak their feet in lukewarm water and wash off the manure. This takes more than half an hour per chicken. In the meanwhile our ducks decide to help us and bathe in the water! As a reward we give the chickens a treat afterwards. It’s strawberry season, so I cut some strawberries into small pieces. My husband says the chickens are still ignorant, they are not used to anything and do not know how to eat a whole strawberry. But they do like the small pieces, they finish them in no time. Slowly we introduce more variation into their diet. Our chickens always get a decent amount of fruits and vegetables, kitchen scraps, leftovers from our children’s lunch boxes etc. We’d rather give it to our chickens than putting it on the compost heap.
We are down to two eggs per day. One chicken stopped laying completely, but we don’t blame her. It’s nature and we have to respect it.
This week it rained for the first time in a long time. Fortunately, I have a very caring daughter who wants to make sure the chickens look for shelter. When she checks on them she finds them in their run, not moving and soaking wet. When she comes back in she’s also soaking wet. She tells me she put the chickens in their Eglu and closed the door “because otherwise they will never learn, mum!”. Our children are really interested in our new chickens and they think it’s terrible how laying hens are treated by the industry. They tell me that next time we have to save 50 chickens! But I don’t think our neighbors would agree with that. It’s important our children learn that nature has a rhythm, and that chickens lay fewer eggs during winter. But this doesn’t mean they have to die! We will just eat less eggs and have to remember to store eggs in the freezer so we can use them for cakes later on. We certainly will not buy any eggs this winter!
Our chickens really start to get to know us and they know when we will bring them treats. It’s now time to introduce them to the rest of our chicken family. Our chickens have not been allowed to free-range since the new chickens arrived. The risk that they would transmit parasites was just too high. But now they are allowed to run free again. And they are very curious to meet these three brown newcomers! The new ladies on the contrary are not too sure about this and stay close together in the middle of their run. We will spend this week introducing them to each other. Eventually we want to keep them all in the same large chicken coop. In no time they are used to the other chickens and don’t even seem to notice anymore when ten other hens scratch around their run.
Since they are now part of our extended chicken family we have to come up with names for the ladies. This is something we always decide as a family. We decide to go with names of the Belgian Royal Family. Overall, they will be our best laying hens, so they deserve some respect. We name them Louise, Elisabeth and Mathilde. They are not scared anymore and eat from our hands. It helps when you talk to them softly, as they start to recognize your voice and associate it with food. Besides vegetables we now also feed them scraps like rice and pasta, which they really seem to enjoy. And they still give us two eggs every day!
It’s finally time. We move the Eglu to the orchard, our chickens’ playground. We open the door of the chicken run. Our ladies stay inside, but our greedy Faverolle cannot wait to taste their feed and unsuspectingly enters the run. Immediately the three chickens attack. My children are shocked, they did not see this coming! I don’t worry too much since I know they’ll soon sort themselves out and are now strong enough to defend themselves. We just have to give them a few days to get used to each other.
They then take off to discover the orchard, but stay together all the time, and the other chickens don’t come near them. But it is time for them to sleep in the big chicken coop with the other chickens. At night, when it’s already dark, we take them out of their Eglu and put them on a perch in the big coop. The best time to do this is at night when it’s dark, so they won’t start fighting. This way the chickens will also all have the same smell in the morning. We keep the automatic chicken door closed for 2 days. This will enable them to sort out the pecking order and it will give them time to get used to their new home.
The transition actually goes really well. But they don’t let the rooster come near them! They are clearly higher in the pecking order than him! After two days we open the door of the chicken coop and allow everyone outside. The three ladies are slightly hesitant but eventually decide to have a look outside to see what the other chickens are up to. The only problem with the three chickens is that they like to stay out late, after the door of the automatic coop has already closed. My husband takes a flashlight to look for the chickens and puts them in the coop with the other chickens. But we can’t do this every night… We’re going on holiday soon and we want the chickens to go inside the coop by themselves. Instead of putting them in the coop we just manually open the door again when they want to get in. After a few days they enter the coop before the door closes. We can now go on holiday and don’t have to worry anymore!
I notice that since they’ve decided to sleep inside the coop, they’ve really found their place in the group. They even sleep on the highest perch. We notice the amount of eggs has really decreased. We just find one egg per day, which is strange since we hear two chickens clucking. Our youngest daughter decides to keep a close eye on the chickens. After spending half the day in the orchard, our daughter proudly tells us she found out where one of the hens is laying her eggs. There is a hidden nest! A true treasure with seven eggs in it! After removing the eggs and twigs, this hen also decides to lay her eggs in the chicken coop.
Three months later
We split our holiday in two so we can check on our chickens and collect their eggs. There is a fox in the neighborhood, so we are scared every time we come back home. But they’re all still there! We have an automatic poultry drinker, they have plenty of food in their feed bucket, and with all the plums, peaches and apples falling from the trees there’s also more than enough variation! There’s nothing better than a bunch of happy chickens and a bucket filled with colorful eggs. Now all of our chickens are allowed to free range in the garden when we are home. The three ladies are now the most adventurous. Our other chickens never noticed the compost heap but the three ladies have already found it (and they help mixing it a little bit). The only chickens that sometimes enter the kitchen are these three. And when we have dinner outside, one of them will sometimes just jump on the table. They surely provide entertainment!
We are really relieved and also proud the three hens have adjusted so well. It was a difficult summer for the animals. It was really warm and there was no rain to cool them down. But with the right care and some extra attention it all went really well.
The three hens are proud chickens now, and are definitely are part of our chicken family. They are very tame, and they are always the first to come to us so we can pick them up and cuddle them. They are very curious and love colorful shoe laces. Their egg production has stopped because they need all their energy to renew their feathers. We give them protein muffins to help them with this.
Just a few weeks from now they will have beautiful shiny feathers and the only thing that will remind us of their past will be their trimmed beak!
If you’re thinking about rehoming ex-battery hens or would like to support an organisation that works to help chickens in need, contact our friends at the British Hen Welfare Trust. The BHWT is a national charity that re-homes commercial laying hens and encourages support for British free range eggs.
Nathalie is the owner of the Instagram account My Backyard Paradise. Together with her husband and their three teenage daughters she runs her own ‘mini backyard farm’ in Belgium. The beautiful pictures she shares with her Instagram followers show that this truly is a backyard paradise. In June 2018 Nathalie decided to extend her mini farm with three ex-battery hens. Follow their journey to recovery in the two-part photo diary she kept for us.
A laying hen, one that can lay up to 300 eggs a year, is what we were missing. During autumn, our purebred chickens don’t lay any eggs for a long time. They instead take spend their time and energy renewing their plumage and waiting for the days to get longer again. Last year we didn’t have any eggs for over 3 months despite having more than ten hens! We decided that if we wanted fresh eggs during autumn, we had to buy laying hens.
We always buy our new chickens from a smaller trader or a hobby breeder, so we can actually see the chickens and know they have access to grass, clean water and decent housing. But we like the idea of rescuing a few laying hens destined for slaughter by giving them a good life in our garden. The life of battery hens ends after just sixteen months. Their bodies need time to recover and their egg production will stop. This means a loss for the industry. Besides that, after each moult the egg production will drop, and the industry does not accept that!
So that’s what we did. First thing to do was find a place where you can rescue commercial laying hens from slaughter. The first option we came across was www.redeenlegkip.be (‘Save a battery hen’), a Belgian website where you can buy or adopt a laying hen. If you decide to adopt a hen, you’ll pay a monthly contribution of €5 and get 24 egg per month in return. When you adopt or buy a chicken, the organization ensures the chickens are collected from the companies and given appropriate first aid. However, we wanted to experience this ourselves. After continuing my search, I came across another Belgian website www.lespoulesheureuses.org (recently also available in France). They give you the opportunity to collect the chickens yourself, so you’ll know the address and code (the one you can find on the egg) of the company.
We then had to wait for the right weather. The best time to save a laying hen is when you can give her the ideal conditions to recover. They often don’t have many feathers left and have probably never been outside their barn, where the temperature is always at least 18 degrees! They’ve never seen rain and you should also be careful with draught and wind. You don’t want them to get ill, they have experienced more than enough stress already.
On June 16th 2018, it is finally happening. I reserved three Isa Brown chickens from a code 2 company. Code 2 means the eggs from this company are sold as free-range eggs. Sounds good, you might think…
Free-range eggs from the commercial industry come from chickens that only have access to barns. They have perches, nesting boxes and scratching areas with some straw on the floor. There is a maximum of nine chickens per square meter and debeaking is allowed. This is probably not what most of us have in mind when we think of free-range chickens…
My youngest nine-year-old daughter is joining me on my way to pick up the chickens. I tell her in advance that the chickens will be in a bad shape and will look nothing like the chickens we have at home, that she isn’t allowed to pick them up and cuddle them, and that we have to take care of them first. We are not the only ones here today to buy chickens. An older couple buys two chickens and there is someone with a trailer with 50 chicken cages. People keep on coming. We ask a staff member if we can have three chickens. He looks at my daughter first before turning around to get them for us.Of course, we are not allowed in the barns, we’re not even allowed to take a picture. The chickens we get are in a much better condition than the ones the older couple got, ours still have a lot of feathers. Maybe I shouldn’t have taken my daughter with me, to get a more honest impression of the condition of an average laying hen. The man probably had our daughter in mind when he chose our chickens. After paying €3 per chicken, the life these chickens deserve can finally begin. At home everything is ready for them. After driving 10 minutes, my daughter and I look at each other. It’s smelly in the car. And it’s a strange smell, not like normal chicken manure, but a chemical, unnatural smell. The chickens are quiet, I hope they will survive the one hour drive home…
When we get home, we inspect them carefully. They seem numb, or are they frozen with fear? They still have lots of feathers, but they are dull and not shiny like the feathers of a healthy chicken. Their feathers are tangled and the tail feathers don’t look good at all. Their gaze is blank and their comb is very pale. Their toenails are way too long and curly, and there is manure stuck under them. Clearly, they haven’t been able to scratch around that much. The beaks of our chickens have been trimmed. This means the top of the beak has been cut off when they were only ten days old. This is very painful and is done to prevent feather pecking. Chickens do this when they are stressed, for example due to limited foraging opportunities.
It’s time to treat them against parasites such as lice and worms. We use Diatom Earth, a natural product used against all kinds of parasites. They need to be quarantined first. For this, we give them a temporary home in our Eglu Classic from Omlet. It has a 2 meter run and we can easily move it around in the garden so they have access to fresh grass every day. It’s also very easy to clean. We lift the chickens out of their cage and watch carefully how their feet touch the grass for the very first time. They seem surprised and for a few minutes they just stand still, until one hen realizes she can, and is allowed to, move. Slowly but surely, they cautiously start to explore their run. While the children are watching the chickens, I add the first dose of medication to their drinking water. We use Avimite, a product against lice and mites. The first week they need this on a daily basis, then weekly for the next five weeks. They soon find their water and it looks like they haven’t had any for days. Usually we don’t feed our chickens layers pellets so I had to buy them, because this is the only thing our new chickens have ever had. In the evening we help the chickens into their Eglu where they can safely spend the night.
When I open the coop the next morning they don’t want to come out. After an hour we get them out of their coop and notice they have already laid three eggs, one in the nesting box and two on the roosting bars. Because of the medication, we cannot eat their eggs for the next few weeks. Sad, but we just don’t want to take any risk. We have to discard them.
The rest of the day the chickens sit outside. They eat clover and grass for the first time and seem to realize this is not bad at all. The second and third night we have to help them into their Eglu, but from then on they finally realize that this is their new home. In the morning they come outside when I open the door and after a few days they only use the nest box to lay their eggs. Their eyes are getting brighter and they start to establish the pecking order. They are more lively than the first few days, but still nothing compared to our other chickens. Although they aren’t afraid anymore when we come near, they don’t allow us to touch them. This is hard for the children who want to cuddle them to make them forget their past. But the chickens first have to get used to their new environment, to us, and to their new life.
We only have to repeat the red mite treatment once a week now and we can start with the deworming. This treatment, which they need five days in a row, can also be added to their drinking water. The hens give us two to three eggs every day. It’s now time to gradually change their diet. They are used to their new home, they’re not scared anymore when we come near or when our dog wants to sniff at them. They clearly defined their pecking order. We want the very best for our animals, and this also includes a rich and varied diet. Our chickens get Garvo but our 3 laying hens need something extra, a mineral and vitamin boost. We give them Alfamix, a very rich grain mixture with pellets and amphipods. But when I mix this with their layer pellets, I notice that they only eat their pellets and not the new food. They do eat a lot of grass and clover. Slowly but surely their combs are getting redder.
During the weekend, our youngest daughter decides it is time for them to free range in the garden. They love it, and really enjoy the dust baths. But trying to get them back into their Eglu is less enjoyable. Finally they decide to go back into their home. Our daughter has learnt that they are not ready to discover the great outdoors just yet…
Come back in a couple of weeks time to read part two of the diary!
Finding a frozen egg in the next box is one of the most disappointing things a chicken keeper can experience, especially as eggs can be few and far between in winter.
An egg white freezes at -0.45°C, and a yolk at -0.58°C, which means that exposed eggs are at risk of freezing as soon as the temperatures approaches zero.
Can I use a frozen egg?
Frozen eggs can make you very ill. When the egg freezes the contents expand, causing the shell to crack. If you find a frozen egg with a cracked shell, the safest thing to do is to discard it, as you don’t know what unpleasant things the contents of the egg have come in contact with.
If the shell isn’t broken, you can keep the egg frozen until you need it, and then thaw it in the fridge. You might however find that it doesn’t behave completely like eggs that haven’t been frozen, especially the yolk. It can get gelatinous and thick, and will not flow like it normally does. It will also be much more difficult to separate the white and the yolk, so it’s best to use the egg for a recipe where the whole egg is needed.
How to prevent the eggs from freezing
Insulate your coop
The simple answer is to insulate your coop, or to get a coop that is already insulated, like the Eglu chicken coops. If you try to insulate your coop with plastic or tarp, or some old rugs you’ve got lying around, make sure you keep the coop well-ventilated.
Focus on the nest box
Try to make the nest box as inviting and warm as possible. Hanging curtains around them will help retain the heat from the chickens, as will lots of straw.
Collect the eggs more frequently
You will be surprised how fast an egg freezes in sub zero temperatures. Rather than collecting the eggs once in the morning, try to visit the coop 3 or 4 times a day to get the new eggs into the warmth of the house as soon as possible.
If this is not a possibility for you, Omlet’s Eglu coops can give you a bit more flexibility. The twin-wall insulation system will keep the coop warmer for longer, which prevents the eggs in the nest box from freezing, while also keeping your chickens warm and cosy, and the coop nicely ventilated. You can also protect your eggs (and chickens) against the most extreme temperatures with our rage of insulating blankets and jackets.
I’ve been lucky enough to be allowed to test the Omlet Eglu Go. Over the spring and summer I’ve first had a brood of chicks and later a brood of ducklings living in my Eglu Go.
The house is awesome to use as a broody coop and for raising chicks. The house is easy to clean, has good draught-free ventilation, it has a good size for chicks and ducklings, and the attached run gives great protection for the little ones early on, when they are very exposed in relation to birds of prey and other unwelcome guests.
Eglu Go for raising chicks
At first, my chicks were living in a cage in our guest room. They were hatched using an incubator and needed a chick brooder in the first few months as it was very cold outside. When the temperatures started to rise and the chicks had more well developed feathers, I moved them out into the coop. I kept them here for about 10 weeks. There were 10 chicks and they fitted easily in the coop until they were large enough to move into the large chicken coop with the grown-ups. I removed the roosting bars in the coop since small chicks don’t sleep on roosting bars in the beginning. I filled the coop with a generous layer of wood shavings and straw since it was still cold in the spring.
The coop is pretty easy to move around, especially if you add the wheels. You can therefore move the coop and run when the grass starts to get dull, this way, the chicks always have fresh grass to walk around on. It’s great to have a closed run for the first while. Small chicks are exposed to birds of prey – this run keeps the birds from attacking. My grown hens were also a danger to the chicks in the beginning. Chickens aren’t always hospitable when it comes to new members of the flock. The small chicks could be left in peace in their run and the big hens could slowly get used to their presence. This made it so much easier to introduce them later, since they were already used to each other.
Hatching and rearing in the Eglu Go
When the chicks were too large to all live in the coop, I introduced them to the large flock, and then I suddenly had an empty Eglu Go. My ducks had laid a lot of eggs in a large nest but none of them were interesting in brooding. I already had two broody silkies, so I tried putting the duck eggs under them. The chickens weren’t discriminative about the eggs, and they happily lay brooding.. About a week before the eggs were supposed to start hatching, I moved the two hens and their eggs into the empty Eglu Go. The hens were very good about it and continued their persistent brooding, a week later 8 large ducklings came into the world.
Again, I had removed the roosting bars from the coop since ducks don’t sleep on roosting bars. This way, there was also room for two nests. The hens got along fine and they didn’t seem to mind that their babies had webbed feet rather than chicken feet.
Again, the other poultry in the garden could slowly get used to the new arrivals, and for that reason, there were also no issues when, a few weeks later, I let the ducklings and their mothers out to join the others in the garden.
The benefit of having ducks in an Eglu Go is that ducks often prefer to sleep outside. At night I let them into the run attached to the Eglu Go and close the run door so they are protected from predators. At the same time, they can decide for themselves whether to sleep in the coop or out in the run. In the morning I open the run door, so they can run freely in the garden and collect slugs, snails and insects.
I can definitely recommend this coop both for chicks and ducklings, whether hatched naturally or in an incubator. It’s a good idea to choose the 3 meter run, since it gives the little ones more space to play and explore.
Read our handy guide first that has been provided by Sarah from Sussex Garden Poultry ….
What advice would you give for someone looking to keep Chickens?
The most important thing is going to be the coop, choose something that will be safe for the hens, that will last, that’s easy to clean. Spend well, spend once. Buy your hens from a reputable source, it’s easy to be fobbed off with cockerels or older hens if you don’t know what to look for. Buying ‘point of lay’ means they may not be laying yet, but within a few weeks you’ll get eggs, there is no way of ageing a hen, you don’t want to buy something that’s 3 years old.
Which type of Chickens would you suggest to get as a first time Chicken owner?
If you’ve never kept hens before I always suggest you choose a fairly calm type of hybrid. The Red Rangers, Blacktails, Light Sussex & speckled hens. These girls will lay you lots of eggs with the minimum of fuss. Bantams are also a good choice if you have a small garden.
What type of Coop would you recommend?
Always buy the biggest coop you can afford & have space for, hen keeping is addictive, you start with 3 & end up saying, ‘oh I like that colour, that breed, that shape……..’
Omlet sells four different types of Eglu Chicken Coops
How many Chickens would you suggest getting initially?
First think about your coop size, I always recommend starting with 3, the classic & the Go easily take 3 hens, should you have the misfortune to loose a bird you need to add a minimum of 2 hens, these coops have the space for 4 hens max. With the Cube you can take more hens, but remember when you want to add to your flock it’s best to double your numbers, so 4 or 5 in a cube allows you to add again in a couple of years time to keep a year round supply of eggs from new layers.
Should you always keep more than one Chicken?
Chickens like to be in flocks, no one wants to be lonely, why would a chicken?
Chickens love to hop onto a perch. This fondness for perches is instinctive. Chickens are descended from the Asian Jungle Fowl, which roosts on the branches of trees. Perching is as natural to hens as scratching and egg-laying. This might lead you to assume that the ideal perch is in a tree, or at least high off the ground. But while some of the lighter breeds such as Bantams or Leghorns might be able to flap their way to the topmost branches, the average domestic hen is way too big to try. A perch that a bird can hop onto from the ground is perfectly adequate.
During the day they’ll use the perch to relax, take a break and watch the world pass by. If you are keeping your chickens in a run then adding a perch is an excellent way to enrich their enclosure. Enrichment is one of those terms that does what it says on the tin. By adding accessories to the bird’s run you are enriching their lives by providing activities, variation and interest for them. Whilst it might not seem like an obvious activity, a static perch is actually one of the best additions you can make to your chickens environment, click here to see a video of how to attach a perch to your run. And if you have a big flock of chickens, you can add several perches in different locations, which will help to avoid any pecking order problems where the chickens lower down are not allowed to join in the perching fun! Top 4 tips when choosing a perch for your chickens
Make sure that the perch is strong enough to take the weight of your chickens, an average egg laying chicken weighs about 2kg. A bantam would be about 800g-1kg and a large breed could be up to 5kg.
Make sure that the perch is long enough, you should allow about 20cm per average sized chicken.
Don’t place the perch too high. When you first introduce the perch, place it quite low, maybe 10cm off the ground. The chickens will quickly learn to trust it and then you can raise it so it’s just above their heads.
When choosing a place to position your perch try to find a spot in the run that is covered so that the hens can still perch when it’s raining without getting wet.
Using a perch in the chicken house.
When chickens “come home to roost”, they usually head straight for their favourite spot on the perch. It may not look like the most comfortable way to spend the night, but that perch is every bit as snug and inviting to a hen as your warm, cosy bed is to you.
Hens will roost on pretty much anything, from an old ladder to a flat plank of wood. But it’s best to give them something custom made – wide enough with rounded corners, and easily adjustable. As their well-being is at stake – and that impacts your egg supply – it makes sense to buy the best. Omlet’s chicken perch is very easy to fit to every type of chicken run and wooden coops too, click here to find out more.
If a chicken doesn’t have a perch, they are more likely to attract mites and lice, or to pick up bacteria from the soiled ground. The stress of having no perch will also lower their immune systems, maximising their chances of disease.
Perches help hens feel safe and secure. At night a chicken is totally blind, and a perch gives them somewhere to “sit tight” if they are disturbed. As far as they’re concerned, if their feet are gripping that reassuring perch, they’re safe from predators. This reduces stress, which in turn promotes good egg-laying.
Perches even help with coop hygiene, as the entire night’s load of droppings will be dumped in one convenient spot for you to clean out.
The Run Door Self Fit Kit lets you add an extra access door to your Eglu run or Walk in Run.Simply cut out a section of your run mesh, cover the edges with the supplied edge protectors and clip the door in place.(You will need some good quality pliers to cut the hole in your run panel.) If your pets move their toys to awkward parts of the run or occasionally lay an egg just out of reach, the Self Fit Door Kit is just the thing for you! Note: The door opens inwards not outwards, so remember to take that into account when deciding on the location of your new door. If you are using it on an Eglu Go run or an Eglu Cube run, the angle of the Run panels will mean you need to mount it slightly higher to avoid it colliding with the ground when you open it.