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!
🥚 Chickens take up too much space
🐥 Answer: Chickens come in all sorts of shapes and sizes including bantams which would be happy even in the smallest garden.
🥚 Chickens smell bad
🐥 Answer: Chickens smell lovely but their poo is a bit unpleasant. That’s why the Eglu is so easy to clean, in less than 5 minutes you can have it smelling like roses.
🥚 Chickens make a lot of mess
🐥 Answer: All Eglus are easy to move and chickens actually improve the grass by raking out moss and fertilizing it.
🥚 We have lots of predators
🐥 Answer: Eglus are predator proof, we’ve even had bears try and fail to get in. Foxes, badgers and birds of prey are all put off by the anti-tunnel skirt and tamper proof design.
🥚 We won’t be able 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!
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!
A lot of chicken keepers are worried about their chickens during cold winter days. Chickens are usually well adapted to the cold and as long as their coop is dry on the inside, they feel happy and warm in the Eglu.
Of course there are a few things to look out for and prepare for during the winter, so we have spoken to Stefanie, who is going through her second winter with the chickens in their Eglu Cube this year. She tells us about the preparations and adaptations she makes for when the weather gets icy and how she and her chickens get through the season.
Omlet: How long have you been keeping chickens and how many have you got?
Stefanie: We have been keeping six chickens since February 2018.
Omlet: What is your favourite thing about keeping chickens?
Stefanie: I love that we have our own, freshly laid eggs every morning.
Omlet: You live in an area of Germany that usually gets very cold and snowy in winter. How cold can it get in winter and how much snow do you have at the moment?
Stefanie: We live in Lohberg, in the south of Germany. The temperatures are usually between -5 and -15 degrees in winter, so it does get very cold here. We currently have around 50cm of snow, which is normal for this time of year.
Omlet: What changes to you make to the Eglu Cube to get it ready for winter?
Omlet: Do you change the daily food and water routine during the winter?
Stefanie: We make sure to feed them more regularly and keep an eye on them to make sure they definitely eat enough. They eat a lot of fresh lettuce, and I like to give them warm food to help them keep warm. Keeping an eye on the water is extremely important as it easily freezes.
Omlet: Do the chickens use the run more or less in the winter than they do the rest of the year and do your chickens like snow?
Stefanie: My chickens don’t like snow at all, so that’s why they mainly keep to the covered areas of their run, where it’s dry.
Omlet: Do your chickens lay eggs in the winter?
Stefanie: Our six girls don’t lay as much as they usually do during other times of the year, but even though we have a lot of snow, we still get around two to three eggs every day.
Omlet: Do you add a lightsource to your coop?
Stefanie: Yes, we do have a light in the coop as it gets dark very early these days.
Omlet: As chickens love scratching and foraging for food, do you give them some other entertainment when it’s snowy and icy?
Stefanie: Yes, we tend to spread some corn in the covered areas of their run. This keeps them entertained and offers them a chance to scratch naturally.
These are great ideas to keep your chickens happy and healthy during the winter. Have a look at our video of top tips for chicken keeping in winter:
Last month, we celebrated International Cat Day by inviting all our lovely Omlet followers and customers from around the world to share their wonderful cat rescue stories on social media. Here is a selection of our favourite tales…
””I took my little kitty ’Bettemis’ and her sister into my care from Tøstrup shelter and animal welfare center, she was so small that we didn’t think she would survive, but she did. And when she was 2 years old she fell from a window and broke her pelvis in two places, this she survived as well. She is the most cuddly and affectionate cat I know, although she stamps when she walks. I have 4 cats and a dog.” – Lilian Fischer Krarup, from Denmark.
“This is my darling boy Yumyum. He was rescued from a very hectic household. Kids chasing and pulling his tail. So he was shut in a room with a filthy litter tray. He was two pounds in weight and eight weeks old. He was a feisty wee soul to begin with, but has settled in fine. He is now 14 yrs and has been diabetic for many years now. He has Insulin twice a day and special low carb biscuits. He has me wrapped around his little paw” – Helen, from the UK.
““This is Misfit, he came from our vet, she found him on the street, he was ill and no owner ever showed up, so we got him. We have 33 cats in total, many from Trøstrup shelter” –
Tilla Löewenhausen, from Denmark.
““This is Fröken Fräs. She waited for 10 years for a new home at the rescue centre in Lidköping. She was somewhat aggressive, not very outgoing, and no one’s first choice. It didn’t get easier when she got older and started getting dental issues. Now she lives in Dalarna and is a beloved family member of ours since a few years back. She loves prawns, to sleep in the sun, play with balls or just lay close to us and cuddle. There are a lot of cats like her out there – those older cats with a few flaws that, almost, no one wants.” – Pia, from Sweden.
“This is Jessie! She was rescued by Little Valley Animal Shelter and painstakingly nursed back to health after being found with her back leg completely skinned 😞 They thought they were going to have to amputate but their amazing care meant they didn’t have to in the end. It was a very long road to recovery but she is now fit, healthy and a beloved member of our family” – Charley, from the UK.
““This handsome cat is iPoes! I adopted her in 2010 from ‘t Julialaantje in Rijswijk (the Netherlands). Although she’s my cat, I can honestly say she is one of the sweetest cats I’ve ever met. She will never scratch or bite. Except the neighbor’s tomcat, she will make sure he leaves our house immediately!
According to the animal shelter, iPoes used to live in a house with many other cats and dogs. In the beginning she wasn’t very social, and it took almost 2 years before she felt comfortable enough to sit on my lap. But this is not a problem anymore: now she likes to sleep next to me under the duvet with her head on my pillow! Although she’s very sweet, she’s not very clever… She is a very small cat and according to the vet her head is just too small for a big brain. But even after 8 years she still learns new things every day!” –Pauline, from Holland.
“Heddi is 17 years old and I rescued her back in 2001. She’s got a large personality and knows what she wants, and she always lets us know when she wants something, food or being let out into the garden – even at 5 in the morning! Nowadays she prefers to sleep outside and never leaves the garden. She hisses and chases male cats that come into the garden. Her kidneys are starting to act up, and she’s got arthritis, but she’s very happy and has perfect teeth. She’s got a friend who is two years younger, Nancy, with a completely different personality, but I love them both.” – Jag älskar båda lika mycket.” – Annika, from Sweden.
““Bibi, has been rescued 9 years ago! We found him straying in our neighborhood a very cold and snowy day of winter, we presume his owners decided they didn’t want him anymore. He came to my door, I let him entered and he never left. He is so thankful that he accept all the new rescues animal in our house, even this bird that doesn’t want to leave haha” – Joëlle, from France.
““Hi, let me introduce you to Obi & Ficelle! We have recently adopted Obi, he is a 3 months old kitten that we found in the street where he was starved and sick! Today, he lives the perfect life with his soul sister Ficelle which we have got from a rescue center located in north of France.” – Cassandre, from France.
““We picked up our cat Mia from the rescue centre in Murtal / German in September 2017. Our other rescue pets were excited about her arrival as well.” – Marlena, from Germany.
““Luna is from Lund shelter. We don’t know her story. We just know that she was there for a very long time. She wasn’t very talkative when we got her. Today she sleeps in my arm under the duvet and can act on command.” – Charlotte L Hansen, from Denmark.
““In the summer of 2006 a kitten suddenly showed up outside our house. He was extremely thin, had a large cut on his stomach and ridden with ear mites. It took me two days to catch him, but then only a few minutes before he calmed down and started purring. I already have 4 neutered male cats, and the plan was never to keep him, but we quickly had to give up that idea. He stole my heart! We named him Alvin and he is now as big a part of the family as the other cats.” – Jennifer, from Sweden.
““Sir George is my foster failure from 2 years ago with Diamonds in the Ruff Animal Rescue in Lockport NY. George came to me at 4 days old and right from the start was a medical learning process. He developed a hernia from straining with chronic diarrhea by 5 weeks old. He continued to struggle and failed to thrive until he was 9 months old. We did a lot of tests, and a lot of food trials. My vet is awesome and she wouldn’t give up – and neither would Diamonds. We finally found a diet that George could tolerate. He is allergic to dairy, fish and carbs. He has swung from diarrhea to constipation to just right. July 4th this year, he urinary blocked. My vet again is awesome and saved me a trip to the ER. He is on chronic medications as well as a special diet (which at one time included home cooked meals). Due to the malnurishment at an early age, he is my “mini” kitty but is happy, and doing great!” –Cathryne, from USA.