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.
The Victoria and Albert Museum houses the largest collection of art and design in the world, across 145 galleries and 13 acres of space in the centre of London. Home to priceless pieces by Faberge, Michaelangelo, Charles Renee Macintosh and Frank Lloyd Wright to name a few it’s not exactly the kind of place you would expect to find a couple of chickens wandering around. But that’s exactly what you would have found if you went to the Late Nights series in August which the V&A puts on every last friday in the month. In August the focus was on Urban Grow Your Own and as well as hydroponics, a seed exchange and disco soup, Omlet were invited to display an Eglu and chickens in the amazing surroundings of the John Madjeski garden. A beautiful summers evening meant that the garden was packed and plenty of people did a double take as we set up the Eglu and produced two real live chickens who promptly did real live droppings much to all the kids delight. We answered loads of questions from people all over the world who were visiting and it was great to meet so many chicken fans. It’s not the first time the Eglu has been in the V&A though, you may remember that the Eglu Classic was picked to represent great british design alongside the E-Type jaguar and Concorde during an exhibtion that ran alongside the London Olympics in 2012.
Meet Guirec Soudee, a 24 year old man from Brittany, France and Monique, his pet hen. This unlikely pair are currently sailing around the world, they set out on their voyage 2 years ago and they haven’t looked back since.
Monique is the loyal pet hen of Guirec, who had originally planned on keeping a cat on the boat for company but changed his mind and opted for a feathered friend for companionship. Guirec said that he chose a chicken as they’re very easy to keep, plus he gets to have fresh eggs whilst at sea. Win win.
Others doubted whether this new found friendship would work but Guirec said that Monique took to sea life very quickly and was laying straight away.
The dynamic duo are currently in Greenland but are heading to Alaska soon, Monique continues to lay eggs even in the colder climates, according to Guirec she lays on average 6 eggs a week.
“She follows me everywhere, and doesn’t create any problems. All I need to do is shout ‘Monique!’ and she will come to me, sit on me, give me company. She is amazing.”
We wish Guirec and Monique good luck for their continued travels, we’ll be keeping a close eye on their Instagram and Facebook.
As the weather starts to heat up we have created a list of our top tips for keeping your chickens cool in the summer months. Chickens can suffer from heat stress and stop laying eggs therefore it’s incredibly important to take measures to ensure their temperature stays as cool as possible in the heat of summer.
When chickens become very hot, you will also see them holding their wings out away from their bodies and ruffling their feathers, this is to help the heat escape. Unlike humans, chickens don’t sweat to release the heat, they pant, similar to a dog. Please keep an eye on them so that they don’t suffer from heat stress.
Signs of heat stress include:
-panting with beak open
-laying around with wings outstretched
-loss of appetite
-slow to respond to stimuli, unresponsive
Top 11 tips to help avoid heat stress
Make sure you provide plenty of shade for your hens to escape the sun. We have a variety of heavy duty and shade covers for all our Eglu runs.
Keep your hens hydrated with plenty of fresh water, why not add a few ice cubes to their glugs to keep the water nice and cold for as long as possible
Create a dust bath area for your chooks to nestle down and find a cool part in the ground.
One key tip is to look out for the signs of heat stress and act fast, if you think one of your chickens is suffering, dunk them in a bucket of room temperature water keeping their neck and head above the water. Keep them inside in the air con and make sure they get plenty of water.
Use a sprinkler/mister- the hens won’t like the water very much but it’s for their own good.
Freeze fruit and veg in ice blocks so that your hens can peck at it. Or just freeze pieces of fruit, Watermelon is a popular favourite among chickens.
Avoid foods such as corn and scratch as they require longer digestion processes, which creates more body heat.
If your local climate stays warm at night simply place a large ice block in the coop, your hens will enjoy sleeping near it at night.
Add vitamins to their water to make sure they are replacing the lost nutrients.
Pay close attention to bigger/heavier hens
Plan ahead for next year and plant a tree or bush to provide extra shade!
Welcome the Autumnal weather with 3 for 2 on all Clear, Heavy Duty and Combi Covers this week only. Suitable for all Eglus, Walk in Runs and other coops and hutches, Omlet Covers will keep your furry and feathered friends dry on the drizzliest of days. Stock up today using promo code: COVERS3FOR2
This offer is not valid in conjunction with any other Omlet offer. The offer expires at 11:59pm on 25th October 2015. The cheapest product will be free. Offer applies to Heavy Duty, Clear and Combi Covers. Previous purchases are not eligible for this offer.
Omlet Ltd, Tuthill Park, Wardington, Banbury, Oxon, OX17 1RR.
Having supported the British Hen Welfare Trust for many years now, we have decided to do something eggstra special this World Egg Day. To celebrate the humble egg, the awesome chicken and 10 years of the BHWT, Omlet are going to donate money from every Eglu sale this World Egg Day to this marvellous organisation.
Established 10 years ago, the BHWT saves hens from slaughter by rescuing them at the end of their commercial laying life and finding them caring homes around the country. As well as rehoming hens, they educate consumers about caged eggs in processed food so they can make an informed choice when shopping and they actively promote Great British Free Range Farmers.
The BHWT’s work to increase consumer awareness has led to big names, such as Hellmans, switching to free range eggs in their food products. These policy changes have improved the quality of life for tens of thousands of hens. The BHWT have also played a role in improving veterinary care of backyard chickens by facilitating the training of vets across the country.
To date, the British Hen Welfare Trust has rehomed 486,192 chickens that have gone on to have happy, healthy lives, just like Lily, in the photo above. She was rescued by an Eglu owner earlier this year and after just eight months and a little TLC, she is looking fabulous and laying eggs every day.
We would love to raise as much money as possible for the fantastic folks at the BHWT to help them to continue their amazing work and rescue even more brilliant chickens. Here’s how your Eglu purchase will help…
20 Eglus sold = £1,000 – enough for 40 new crates to transport hens.
50 Eglus sold = £2,500 – enough to set up two new teams with necessary equipment including crates, feeders, drinkers, hen first aid kits, banners, tshirts, stationary etc.
70 Eglus sold = £3,500 – enough for a standard, open trailer to transport 480 hens, with a customer-made tarpaulin that keeps hens ventilated.
100 Eglus sold = £5,000 – enough to buy a larger, fully enclosed stock trailer that can carry up to 600 hens.
This offer is valid from 12:01am until 11:59pm on the 9th October 2015. Previous purchases are not eligible for this offer. This offer applies to UK orders for Eglu Go Chicken Coops, Eglu Go UP Chicken Coops, Eglu Classic Chicken Coops and Eglu Cube Chicken Coops. Orders that are later cancelled will not be eligble.
Omlet Ltd, Tuthill Park, Wardington, Banbury, Oxon, OX17 1RR.