Chickens pretty much take care of themselves from an early age. However, there are certain things you need to avoid if you want your baby chickens to get the very best start in life.
In this article, we present six easily preventable pitfalls.
1. Not Having The Brooder Ready Before The Chicks Arrive
You need to sort out the chicks’ housing – known as a brooder – before the birds arrive. Otherwise, there will be nowhere to put them, and that would be disastrous.
You can buy brooder boxes made specifically to keep chicks in, or you can make a DIY brooder using a cardboard box or plastic bin with holes in the side. Only choose the DIY avenue if you’re 100% confident you know what you’re doing.
The important thing is to keep the birds in a warm and well-ventilated space, but protected from drafts. As a rule of thumb, allow two square feet per chick – this is more than enough space for fluffy newcomers, but remember you will also need to make sure they have enough room when they get bigger – which they will do very quickly!
A chicken wire covering for the top of the brooder is advisable. Chicks can easily ‘fly the nest’ if the sides of the brooder are less than 45cm high. Older chicks need roosting poles for perching when they sleep, and will appreciate the inclusion of these in the brooder.
2. Not Getting The Temperature Right
Too much or too little heat can kill chicks, so this is another life-or-death issue. The chicks need to be kept in a temperature of 35 °C (95 °F) in their first week. The heat should then be reduced slightly every five days or so until you’ve reached room temperature.
The source of heat is an important detail too. A heater designed explicitly for coops and aviaries is the best option, or a red heat bulb. You should not use a white heat bulb, as these produce glare that keeps chicks awake at night. This will make them irritable, as a result of which they may start pecking each other. Standard light bulbs are not suitable either.
Even the correct type of heater or bulb will need some adjusting in terms of where it hangs, and how high it is from the ground. Watch how the chicks behave in relation to the heat source. If they crowd together directly under the bulb or in front of the heater, it means they’re too cold. Lower the heat source or add an additional one, depending on the situation.
If the chicks cluster away from the heat source, they’re probably too hot. In this case, the heater or bulb will need to be moved further away, or its temperature reduced slightly. The chicks’ behaviour may change as they grow larger and the space becomes more crowded, so watch them carefully each day.
3. Using The Wrong Type Of Bedding
With chicks, it’s not a case of “any old bedding will do”. Use wood shavings or other non-toxic, absorbent material recommended for baby chickens. Avoid newspaper or shredded magazines, and don’t use aromatic, oily woods such as cedar. A 2.5cm layer of this bedding will be enough. If you omit the bedding, the chicks are in danger of slipping and sliding on the surface, which can lead to an injury called “splayed leg”, which is a life-threatening condition. The bedding should be changed at least once a week to prevent sticky droppings from accumulating.
4. Getting The Wrong Type Of Feed
Starter feed – in the form of either ‘crumble’ or ‘mash’ – is the essential basis of a chick’s diet. If your chicks have been vaccinated against coccidiosis, you will need to buy an unmedicated feed. The starter feed will double as a ‘grower’ feed, intended for chicks for up to 16 weeks. Some varieties, however, are for the first four weeks only, after which you can switch to a ‘grower’ feed.
Chicks will also enjoy a bit of fresh food as a treat, either vegetables or worms and bugs. These should never replace the starter feed mix, however. Chicks only eat as much as they need, and there’s no danger of them over-eating. So all you have to do is make sure the feeders are topped up at all times.
Like adult birds, chicks require grit to grind up their food. It needs to be sand grain-sized rather than the small pebbles and shell fragments that grown birds require.
The chicks will need food and water dispensers. Buy custom-made ones rather than improvising with dishes and trays: these inevitably end up fouled and/or spilt. Very young chicks will need to have their water changed at least twice a day, as they very quickly dirty it.
5. Forgetting To Perform Daily Health Checks
A chick health check is a simple case of looking at the young birds and making sure they look as lively and alert as usual. A chick that sits alone and looks lethargic or fluffed-up when the others are active may be unwell. An ill chick will deteriorate very quickly and die.
The most frequent health issue encountered in young chicks is ‘pasting up’. This is when their droppings become encrusted on their bodies, preventing them from pooping. An affected bird can be cured by wetting the pasted-up area with warm water and wiping it clean. You may occasionally have to use tweezers to remove a plug of poo from the vent. The chick will need holding securely during this rather delicate and undignified procedure. If left blocked, a pasted-up chick could quickly die.
Note: if there is a thin dark strand hanging from a chick’s rear end, this is NOT pasting up. It’s the dried up umbilical cord that attaches the bird to its yolk inside the egg. It will fall off in a few days.
6. Moving Chicks Outdoors Too Quickly
Chicks can spend up to three hours a day outdoors once they’ve reached two weeks, as long as there is someone to supervise them. A large wire cage or portable run will do the job. The birds should only be placed outside if it’s at least 18 °C (65 °F), dry and not too windy. They will need food, water and shade.
Note: If you take the chicks outdoors before two weeks old, or if you leave them for more than three hours, they may catch a chill or sunstroke (depending on the prevailing weather). These shocks to the system can kill a small bird.
By 12 weeks, the young hens are old enough to move into an Eglu coop and run. They will still be too small to negotiate the roosting bars, so these should be removed until the chicks are big enough to perch and walk across them safely. If you have an Eglu Cube, the chicks may have to be lifted in and out of the roosting and laying area, as they often struggle with the ladder. This can be converted into a ramp during these early weeks, to make things easier for the hens.
The roosting area of the Eglu – or any other walk-in coop and run set up – should have lots of bedding to ensure the hens stay warm at night. The bedding should also be replaced at least twice a week.
Chicks soon pick up the dos and don’ts of life from your other birds. A lot of their behaviour, remember, is based on instinct, so as long as you give them the right environment, nature will take care of the rest.
Is your chicken’s coop strong enough to survive the winter?
Is it time I upgraded my wooden coop?
These are all questions many chicken keepers ask themselves when facing the reality that their wooden coop may not be up to another winter.
Take this short test to see whether your wooden coop is suitable for the winter.
Wood absorbs water, does it seem heavier to move in the winter?
A = Yes, either I’m getting weaker or my coop is definitely heavier in the winter
B= Yes, but I solved it by getting someone else to move the coop for me.
C = I’ve given up trying to move it.
D = Nope, I spent the summer sanding and varnishing my chicken coop and now it’s more waterproof than a Norwegian fisherman’s beard.
Have you had to pour boiling water onto locks to get them to open?
A = Yes, my coop deicer kit is more comprehensive than the one I use for my car.
B = Boiling water would have been a better idea than the brick I used to hit the sliding bolt which slipped and went straight through the greenhouse.
C = I religiously grease all hinges and bolts every few weeks to keep things moving.
D = I have very carefully aligned my coop to the morning sun so that the bolts and hinges have defrosted by the time I get out. On cloudy days I resort to the kettle.
Has your wooden coop grown over winter?
A = It’s funny you should mention that, yes the doors all seem too big for the frames and nothing opens or shuts properly any more.
B = Yes, all the panels seem to have swollen a bit and I’m a bit worried about what will happen when they all shrink again because I filled all that extra space with another couple of chickens.
C = Mostly seems fine, but the bottom sections are looking a bit soggy.
D = Thanks to my painstaking varnishing and siting of the coop on some free draining pea shingle it’s in tip top condition.
Is the roof leaking?
A = I’ve already fixed the roof a few times this year, and it’s leaking again.
B = Yes, but this is the first time and I think it’s easy to fix.
C = At the moment I don’t have any troubles with the roof.
D = My wooden coop is brand new and I don’t expect to have any problems this winter.
Is it cold and damp inside?
A = Yes, it does feel cold inside and the bedding gets damp quickly.
B = It is a little chilly in there, but my chickens huddle together for warmth.
C = I have no problems with dampness, and I have a lot of chickens to keep each other warm.
D = The coop keeps warm well overnight once I have shut the door, and my chickens are outside during the day.
Did you have difficulties with red mites in summer?
A = Yes, I had to clean and treat the coop and my chickens regularly and I am dreading this summer.
B = No more than usual, I’m used to it and tackled the problem as best I could.
C = I did have some mite issues over summer but I have a solid cleaning strategy in place.
D = The red mites didn’t cause a problem in my coop this year.
How long does it take to clean?
A = It’s an all day task which I dread doing so it doesn’t get cleaned regularly in winter.
B = It does take quite a long time, so it’s not fun in winter but I know my chickens appreciate it.
C = It takes a few hours to do but the whole family helps.
D = It doesn’t take me long at all and I have a good system in place.
Mostly A’s = If you experience repeated issues with your wooden coop, like red mite, a leaking roof, or poor ventilation, then these problems are unlikely to disappear overnight, and will only get worse in poor weather conditions. Consider upgrading to a plastic chicken coop for faster cleaning and red mite removal, better insulation without compromising ventilation, and happy chickens all-year round.
Mostly B’s = You’ve done well to keep going with your wooden coop this far, and seem to be willing to overcome the problems involved in owning a wooden chicken coop. The coop itself may be able to survive another winter, but are you and your chickens happy about it? The most important thing for you to do here is keep an eye on any dampness inside the coop and ensure that the coop has plenty of ventilation to keep the water particles moving through without making your chickens super cold.
Mostly C’s = Sounds like you’re a veteran wooden chicken coop owner and know exactly what you’re doing! Keep an eye on the typical problems areas throughout winter, and make sure you’re keeping up with the cleaning, especially if you have lots of chickens sharing the coop. In spring, reevaluate how your coop held up during the colder months, if some damage is done, or some of your chickens got ill, consider why this might be and look to other housing options.
Mostly D’s = Your wooden coop is likely in its early days, or you have spent lots of time and effort in preserving it as best you can. It’s still worth checking around all the problem areas before the worst of winter hits, and looking at potential accessories which could improve your chickens’ home. For example, an Automatic Chicken Coop Door can be placed on the wooden coop door so that it can be shut earlier in the evening once all your chickens have gone to bed, even when you’re not yet home. This way your chickens can begin to roost in the warm with no blowy drafts, and they will also be safe from predators once they’ve gone to bed.
Red mites, or Dermanyssus gallinae, are without a doubt backyard chicken keepers’ worst enemies! They are nocturnal creatures living in cracks and crevices of the coop, and they only come out at night to feed on chicken blood. Most long term chicken keepers will have encountered these parasites, and can confirm that they are more destructive and difficult to get rid of than all other pests combined.
Getting Rid of Red Mites
If you have diagnosed a red mite infestation in your wooden coop, there are a few things you can do to try to get rid of them. Start off by giving your coop a really deep clean. Strip the house down as much as possible to get into all corners, nooks and crannies, and scrub with warm water. You will need to replace any felt or fabric parts and carefully clean perches, feeders and drinkers and other loose objects in the coop. Make sure that you get rid of all bedding that might have been infested.
If you can still see mites crawling out of crevices in the wood when the coop is drying, try hosing the coop and all loose parts down with a pressure washer. Leave to dry for 10-15 minutes and blast it over again to get rid of even more mites. Repeat until there are very few mites emerging after every wash.
Still not completely clear of mites? Time for the anti-mite products. Mix a mite specific concentrate with water using the manufacturer’s guidelines and apply this to the coop. Go heavy on areas where it is likely that the mites are hiding (corners and end of perches are particularly affected areas), but it is important that you treat the whole coop. When the wood is completely dry, apply plenty of red mite powder on your chickens, their bedding and their dust bath before you let them back into the coop.
In summer you will need to re-apply the powder every few days, and it in many cases getting ahead of the mites will mean deep cleaning the coop with detergents on several occasions over a period of two weeks. When autumn comes the mites become dormant and will not feed on your chickens, but they are unfortunately likely to reappear when the temperature rises again in spring.
Preventing Red Mite Infestations
When it comes to red mites, prevention will always be better than cure, and one of the few things you can actually do to keep these little creatures from hurting your chickens is to have a coop that doesn’t make life easy for them.
The smooth plastic surfaces of the Eglu chicken coop leaves very little space for the mites to hide. There are no corners or gaps that you won’t be able to reach with a hose or a pressure washer, which means that one deep clean of the Eglu should get rid of all dust, dirt and possible pests. By cleaning your Eglu on a regular basis you prevent red mites from ever becoming a problem for you and your hens, and you won’t have to spend all that time and money cleaning and disinfecting that you would if you had a more traditional coop.
The Eglu chicken coops have over the last 15 years been the solution for a lot of people who have tired of constantly trying to get rid of red mites from their wooden coops. Here are some of the things current Eglu owners have told us about battling red mites:
“I’ve thought about having an Eglu for two years but this summer’s red mite infestation was too much. I hate using chemicals/insecticides around my hens so I took the plunge and I’m really pleased.”Sue
“After having some terrible experiences with mites we decided enough is enough and time to buy a “mite free eglu” as advertised. We have been slightly put off by the price previously but now I wish I had one from the start! I couldn’t rate the omlet eglu cube any higher! What used to take 2 hours to clean and scrub a chicken coop now takes 10 minutes! We have not had any lice infestations since having the cube I absolutely love it and so do our chickens, just wish we had bought one sooner!”Amie
“The most important feature to me is the hygienic, easy clean & wash nature of all the surfaces. I would never buy a wooden house again having struggled with mites which hid in all the joints and gaps of the boards. There is nowhere for the mites to hide on the Eglu and cleaning is quick and easy. I’m certain that there isn’t a better house available for healthy hens.”Neil
Does the thought of mites make you itch? Watch our video about two neighbours having very different chicken keeping experiences this summer, showing some of the struggles that chicken owners with mite-infested coops are faced with:
Keeping your pets warm in winter and cool in summer is one of the best ways you can help them stay healthy. But this is often easier said than done. Traditionally chicken coops and rabbit hutches have been made from wood. This has its advantages: it’s an easy material to work with, it’s customisable and it looks attractive. However, when it comes to coping with the weather, it can leave a lot to be desired. Wood is not a very good thermal insulator, meaning if it’s hot outside the temperature will transfer through to the inside quickly.
Perhaps surprisingly, a much better thermal insulator is air. But how can something so thin that you can’t even see keep our pets comfortably insulated from the elements? It’s precisely because it’s so thin that it’s so effective. Heat is conducted between an area of more heat to an area of less heat by one of three processes: conduction, radiation or convection. In conduction warmer molecules vibrate rapidly and collide with other nearby molecules passing on that energy. If the material that the heat is trying to pass through has few molecules in it then it will be harder for the heat to transfer through it. This is precisely what happens if you have a warm surface separated from another surface by a layer of air.
Because air is not a good conductor it is commonly used as an insulator in everything from buildings (double glazing, cavity walls) to cooking utensils, drinking flasks and even the high tech chicken coops.
Eglu chicken coops have a unique twin wall system that takes full advantage of air’s great insulating property to keep your pets comfortable all year round. Within the walls of the Eglu is an air pocket which acts as a barrier, stopping hot and cold temperatures penetrating into the inside of the house, so your chickens can stay warm in winter, and cool in summer.
The Eglus also feature a draft-free ventilation system designed to increase the air flow throughout the coops, keeping chickens at a comfortable temperature. These air vents are discretely located around the coop, and specifically designed so they do not allow drafts over the nesting box. A well ventilated coop is not only beneficial for keeping chickens cool, but it is also extremely important for preventing your hens from suffering with respiratory issues.
As an Omlet Ambassador I’ve heard that line hundreds of times at trade shows and expo halls all across the United States. However, as a former DIY luxury chicken coop builder and longtime Omlet Coop owner I would like to set the record straight and explain why on Omlet Coop is the best purchase a backyard chicken tender can make.
This was my pride and joy:
A luxury coop that is Pinterest worthy and constructed of the best materials I could get my hands on. It has a radiant barrier roof that I shingled! It has a skylight in the middle that is UV blocking and tinted so as to only protect against the harsh and hot Texas sun. We used metal bracing on every corner to make sure we were squared up and secure. There are hundreds of screws holding up the double layer of hardware cloth. Literally, hundreds of screws. I used pressure treated wood that was rated for ground contact and further sealed with deck sealant. I used fiber cement siding that was rated to withstand hail impact and wind thrown objects. No expense was spared in building the Fort Knox of chicken coops that I thought would last a lifetime. I even ordered special chicken shaped handles for the coop doors:
Why is an Omlet Coop a better buy than building a DIY coop?
Experience should not be underestimated when lives are on the line
Omlet was founded in 2003 and has been innovating since. That is over 16 years of experience in building chicken coops. That is 16 years of predicting and preventing predators from getting chicken dinners. The average DIY’er that I meet at trade shows or talk to on forums such as BackYardChickens.com is a first-time chicken owner who hasn’t witnessed the creativity and determination of predator animals such as raccoons, foxes, and even neighborhood dogs.
Included in the price of each and every Omlet coop is 16 years of research and development to give us chicken tenders the best possible home for our flocks. That is 16 years of perfecting the Omlet Coops that get delivered to front doors all across the World. I cannot emphasize this enough because it is the most important factor in why I chose Omlet over DIY’ing another coop. It is not 16 years of making the same old coop over and over again like you’ll find at Tractor Supply or the local hardware/feed store. It is 16 years of constant innovation and stalwart dedication to making the safest coop on the market. While you read the rest of this please ask yourself whether you think a few google searches, a Facebook group, or in my case a Pinterest post can compete with 16 years of on the ground experience with thousands of models sold and tested across not just the US but the world at large. Think about the chickens you will soon be bringing home to live in the coop. Do you trust their lives to a weekend DIY project? Also, if you have kids and they are involved with the chickens then please consider the trauma of them waking up some day to find that a raccoon has turned their favorite hens into a recreation of a CSI episode with a headless hen as the victim. The cost may be steeper up front, but I can personally assure you that it will be more than worth it in the end for the peace of mind, the portability, the cleanliness, and so many other reasons.
DIY may seem like the cheaper route but I can assure you that the first time you wake up to find your favorite hens dismembered by a racoon or de-feathered and half eaten by a fox the last thing on your mind will be how you saved a couple bucks here and there. Why go through the heartbreak of losing hens and then spend the next couple days having to drain your wallet to renovate and repair the coop? Also, once a predator gets into your coop once they will keep coming back for more. They will poke, pull, and attempt to gain access in any way possible since they now know that an all you can eat chicken dinner is just inside. Why not stop them the first time so they never even consider coming back?
The most commonly encountered coops on the internet are constructed of wood. Wood can either be treated or untreated. Treated wood is wood that has been infused with copper products under extreme pressure in order to give it a few extra years of protection against Mother Nature.
However, treated wood does not protect against the ammonia rich droppings left behind by fluffy chicken butts. Chickens do not urinate and defecate separately like us humans do. Instead they combine the two acts and their droppings are highly concentrated and highly corrosive to many materials. This results in an accelerated rate of decay and decomposition of any and all wooden components of a DIY coop. This is a hugely important point to consider because decaying wood is similar to rotten wood in that it is incredibly fragile, and fragility is not something any chicken owner wants when it comes to their coop. The only way to circumvent this is to be diligent in replacing decaying panels as soon as you notice the first signs of decay. Mind you, this requires purchasing more materials, expending more of your time performing the labor to remove the decaying parts and reinstalling the new parts, and adds undue stress to your flock as you tinker with their home.
Of note, there are various sealants and paints that can be used on both treated and untreated wood, but my firsthand experience showed that these only served to prolong the inevitable as they too decayed. Furthermore, I would caution against their use as they can become a health hazard for your flock. Chickens will eat just about anything they can fit into their beaks so as the paint and sealant begin to crack, chip, and flake off the chickens will pick at the cracking paint or sealant and will quickly eat any flakes they can knock off or catch on the ground. I am not a veterinarian, but it certainly doesn’t take one to warn against the well-known dangers of ingesting paint.
Omlet coops are made out of a high-density plastic polymers that are non-porous and designed to be durable against both Mother Nature and any mother hen. The corrosive droppings from your chickens do not affect the durability of the Omlet coop and will not cause it to degrade or deteriorate with wood. It will stay strong for decades or more without any need to repair, replace or renovate.
Chicken wire, I would like to just say to stay as far away from this as possible because every week I hear from people who used chicken wire only to discover their coops broken into and flock decimated. Chicken wire is good at containing chickens but is absolutely worthless for keeping predators out. Raccoons can reach their hands through it and can pull it apart in under an hour. Coyotes, foxes and neighborhood dogs can easily bite and pull it apart. Snakes slither right on in without trouble.
The other wire that people commonly use is hardware cloth. This is what I used when I first built my own coop and it does work for a while. However, over time it will sag, and it is not meant to bear weight well. It can prevent predators most predators for a while but it is far from impenetrable and without proper installation and constant checks it can easily fail and need replacing.
The run components are made from welded steel panels. I could go further into detail about these, but I think the picture below is worth a thousand words:
It was a sad day when I had to leave behind the Pinterest quality barn-inspired coop because we sold the house and couldn’t haul off the coop without hiring a forklift and crew to load it onto a flatbed.
Thankfully, that will never happen with Omlet Coops. They are portable when fully assembled and they are also so easy to disassemble and flat pack that I can now fit our multiple coops and run attachments into the bed of my pickup truck with ease. In fact, I had to do just that when we moved from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Austin, Texas.
Modular and Expandable with ease
One of the hardest parts about designing and building a DIY coop is that you have to know how many chickens you want from the start. That may seem like an innocuous task but there is a phenomenon known to chicken owners as “chicken math.” It is something I have encountered first hand and been a victim of. In what started with 3 chickens has now since expanded to 31 chickens and counting. Our barn inspired chicken coop was meant to house 5-6 hens at a time and any sort of expansion would be extremely costly and require cutting into, and compromising the structural integrity of the original coop to attach any expansions on it.
Our Omlet coop expanded with us and we are already saving up for another full-size WALK-IN-RUN to add. Attaching any sort of expansion or add on is literally a 10-minute job. Due to the modular structure of the Coop and the Walk-in-Run all that has to be done is clip on the new expansions to the existing ones.
The total cost of the Pinterest coop that I build was around $1600. It fit 5 chickens comfortably and held up for just short of 2 years before we started to have to replace parts and deal with decay.
Chicken coops from Tractor Supply range from $250 to over $1,000. However, most of these have wooden components that will break down and need replacing so you will have to throw money at it regularly to keep it functional.
There are a handful of plastic polymer options at TSC but none of them allow for attaching a run, or any sort of modular upgrades that will allow you to grow your flock or custom tailor your coop to your yard. Therefore, you will end up spending well over the cost of an Omlet coop for something that is not designed to fit together and is not as adaptable and flexible as a product from Omlet’s ecosystem.
Peace of mind knowing all of the “What if’s” have been accounted for.
As stated above, Omlet has more experience in this field than any DIY’er. They have answered all of the if, and, buts, and what ifs with first hand experience. The peace of mind that comes with being able to purchase an all in one coop that will last for decades, keep the flock safe, and be adaptable to your future needs is worth more than saving a few bucks by risking all of that.
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!
Here at Omlet we often receive calls from aspiring chicken keepers who are seeking chicken keeping advice before getting their first birds. Some of the most popular questions we get asked are, what should I feed my chicken with or how can I protect my chickens from predators? One question that keeps coming up is, do I need to shut the Eglu door at night?
Often people ask us this question because the idea of adding another task to their daily routine might be one of the reasons which puts them off chicken keeping. Much like you wouldn’t like to sleep with your front door open, unfortunately for chicken keepers, nor do your chickens, therefore most nights we would recommend you close the chicken coop door. But having to close the door doesn’t necessarily mean that it would need to be done by the chicken keeper themselves! Have you ever thought about automatic door system? Well luckily for chicken keepers, Omlet has recently launched a new Autodoor which will solve all of these problems. Even though our Eglus are specially designed to keep your chickens warm in winter with a unique twin-wall insulation system which works in a similar way to double glazing, leaving the door open overnight would let the cold enter inside which might result in having frozen eggs after a freezing winter night and could make your chickens feel unwell. Which is why we strongly recommend you use the handle on top of the Eglu and simply lift and twist it to close the door in one convenient motion each evening after having make sure all your flock are inside As important as it is to close the door to protect your hens from the cold, it is also important to do it to protect them from potential overnight predator attacks. Most predators would wait for the night to attack your chickens therefore by simply closing the door it would protect your flock from being attacked by predators such as racoons, foxes and coyotes. Having said how important it is to close your chicken coop overnight we understand that not everyone has the luxury of being at home every night to close the coop door especially for people working late shifts that are often home well after the sun sets. That is why we recently launched an automatic chicken coop door that can be attached directly to any wooden chicken coop, wire or the Omlet Eglu Cube Mk1 and Mk2.
Much like a personal chicken coop concierge, the Autodoor will always make sure your chicken’s coop is securely closed at night even when you’re running late. Whether you decide to use the light or time mode, the Omlet secure and safe Autodoor will either open and close at dawn and dusk or at specific times that you have programmed it to. In addition to being designed to be used in different modes the Autodoor has a unique safety sensor detecting any blockages to prevent your chickens from being injured when they decide to stop half way through the door. Benefits of the Omlet Automatic Chicken Coop Door:
Easy to install, no maintenance required
Operated by light sensor or timer
Powered by battery
Works with all wooden chicken coops
Improves coop security and insulation
Compatible with the Eglu Cube
Reliable in all weather conditions
Built-in safety sensors
Can be used with any chicken run or mesh
To summarise, closing the coop door is definitely the recommended action for every chicken keeper in order to protect their chickens from the cold and predators however this task can easily be completed by an Autodoor. Check out the review below to see what one of our Autodoor owners thinks of this new product:
“Thank you Omlet for a wonderful product and great service. The door arrived quickly, very well packaged and my concerns over fitting it were unfounded as I was able to complete the task completely unaided. The door is easy to operate and means my girls are safely tucked up at dusk and I do not have to get up ridiculously early to open the coop and stop them hollering!” – Wendy
If you’re a first time chicken keeper getting started this spring, you will likely be wondering what exactly you need to take care of your new pets. Some things will depend on your garden and how many chickens you will be getting, and others are a standard essential for all chicken keepers. We’ve put together this handy guide for everything you need, plus there is a checklist at the end for you to use when shopping.
First things first – housing. Your choice here will mainly depend on the number of chickens you plan on getting. At Omlet, we recommend a plastic chicken coop to reduce the risk of red mite infestation and to keep your girls completely weather protected. The traditional wooden chicken coop may look nice but they are harder to maintain, keep waterproof and red mite free.
Our Eglu chicken coops not only look great (available in purple or green), but they are also completely weatherproof, twin-wall insulated, and super easy to clean, making it virtually impossible for red mites to survive.
The Eglu Go and Go UP are a good starting point if you are only planning on getting 2 to 4 chickens. The house is the same, with a pull out droppings tray, nesting area, roosting bars and easy open back door, the only difference is that the Go UP comes on a stand with a ladder up to the coop, making the run taller, giving more space for hentertainment and allowing your chickens to roost off the ground.
The Eglu Cube is our largest coop. It is suitable for up to 10 smaller bantam breeds such as Pekins, 6-8 medium sized hens like the Rhode Island Red or 4-5 large breeds like the majestic Cochin. The Cube also has a back door and pull out droppings tray, plus a side egg port for you to easily collect your eggs from the nest box (which is big enough for 3 chickens to lay at once).
All our chicken keeping products, including the Eglus have 10% off now until the 22nd of March in our Spring Sale, so if you are thinking about keeping chickens now is the time to do it!
The Eglus are available with a fox resistant chicken run 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. Choose your run length based on how many chickens you will be getting and how often you will be able to let your chickens free range. If you start with a smaller run to begin with and realise later on your chickens need more space, we have run extensions available, or you may want to consider a larger Walk in Run to give your chickens lots of space and make it easier for you to spend time with them and look after them.
A number of accessories are also available for your Eglu run including wheels and run handles to make it quick and easy for one person to move the coop and run to another area of your garden.
Something else you may want to consider for your garden set up is Chicken Fencing. Although, not predator proof, chicken fencing allows you to section off an area of your garden to keep your chickens in one place. This is especially useful if you have a larger garden that you don’t want your chickens to get lost in, or if you have a vegetable patch or flower bed to protect. This is best used when you are home or at a time when you know foxes are not about in your area, so you know your girls are safe free ranging outside of their coop run.
Like any other animal, chickens can get bored and need good sources of, what we like to call, hentertainment to keep them occupied when you are not around.
Our Rocky and Elvis Peck Toys slowly release treats over time while being pecked and offer hens great boredom busting fun. The Omlet Chicken Perch can be placed anywhere on any chicken run, and allows your hens to fulfill their natural desire to perch from the highest point available while in their run during the day.
For spring and summer time you may want to consider a shade for the run to give your chickens a cooler area out of the sun where they can chill out.
For winter, an Extreme Temperature Blanket is ideal for keeping the coop warm when temperatures drop below freezing for multiple days in a row. There are also a number of run covers and wind breaks available so your chickens can still enjoy time outside while being protected from the elements.
For laying hens you will need to provide layers pellets which offer the protein content they need to stay healthy and regularly lay eggs. A fully grown chicken will typically eat about 120 grams of layers pellets a day. You will also need to provide grit which is essential for helping chickens digest their food, as they do not have teeth.
Corn is a great treat for hens but should be limited as it is high in fat. Other treats, such as fruit, green veggies and cereals should also only be given in limited supply to avoid chickens filling up on those rather than the layers pellets.
It also important to ensure fresh water is available at all times – checking and refilling it daily.
Our Eglus all come with a feeder and drinker but you may want to consider buying extra to offer another area in your garden for when they are free ranging, especially important for chickens who don’t like to share with their coop-mates!
There are lots of different types of bedding available on the market, and which you choose is entirely dependent on your personal preference. Some to consider include dust extracted wood shavings, straw, chopped cardboard, Aubiose and Easichick.
When you give your chickens’ droppings tray and bedding area its weekly clean, you might want to consider sprinkling some Diatom Powder around to prevent any bugs making a home in your chicken coop, and adding some BioDri to bedding will help to sanitise the litter, make it last longer, and reduce the growth of bacteria.
Deep clean your whole coop once a year with a disinfectant such as Johnson’s Clean ‘n’ Safe to ensure the coop is spotless.
Last but not least: Chickens!
When you have everything in place and are ready to get some chickens, we strongly recommend looking to charities such as the British Hen Welfare Trust to rescue an ex-battery hen. While these hens may be a little more wary of their new home and the strange environment they are not used to, they will soon come round and settle in and be a great layer for you and your family.
Get 10% off all the products mentioned in this post until midnight on the 24th of March in our Spring Sale! No promo code needed.
On a cold winter’s day, when there’s a heavy frost or a thick blanket of snow do you ever wonder how your chickens manage without central heating and a mug of cocoa? It’s natural to worry if your hens will be comfortable when the temperature dips below freezing.
Unsurprisingly, chickens will look for shelter when the weather’s bad so the first thing you can do to keep your chickens cosy is make sure they have a winter proof chicken coop. In this respect choosing the right chicken coop is similar to choosing your own house. You wouldn’t want drafty windows and doors, a leaky roof, and paper thin walls – and neither do your chickens. Many coops that are bought are fine during the summer, but unfortunately when winter comes they can leave their occupants shivering.We set about testing two very different chicken coops over the course of 3 nights in the Bavarian Forest in Germany. A place that gets more than its fair share of snow and ice.
The first chicken coop was typical of the type sold all over the internet. On first impressions everything fits together well and it’s attractively painted, it comes with a roosting bar and a nesting box and a run. It appears that this is a perfectly good chicken coop. However, on closer inspection it’s worrying to find that large sections of the wooden panels are only 5mm thick. There’s no insulation and nothing in the instructions regarding the suitability of the coop for year round use.
The second coop was the Eglu Cube by Omlet. This chicken coop is part of the Eglu range which all feature a twin walled construction providing an insulating layer all round the coop. Similar to the way ice chests are made, it feels extremely robust and heavy duty. You could say it’s agricultural quality in a hobby chicken coop. It looks the part – but would the Eglu keep the cold out and the warm in?
Identical digital thermometers were placed inside the Eglu and the wooden coop which would take readings both inside and outside the coops during the night. Cameras were also placed inside the coops to record the chickens. After the chickens went to bed the front doors were closed, in fact the Eglu Cube came complete with a rather fancy Automatic Chicken Coop door which gently closed behind the last chicken.
As it got dark the outside temperature dropped to -3.8℃. While it was getting colder outside, it was getting warmer in the Eglu Cube. Around an hour after the chickens had gone to roost the temperature inside the Eglu Cube was 8.3℃ and it stayed there all night. That’s a plus 12℃ temperature difference.
Unfortunately it was not as cosy in the wooden house. As the temperature outside dropped so too did the temperature inside the wooden coop. At 11pm it was -2℃ inside the coop. That’s only 1℃ warmer than the outside temperature. In fact the inside of the wooden coop stayed below zero for nearly the whole night, warming to just above zero by 7am.
If it was freezing inside you might be wondering how on earth the chickens survived. Chickens, as with all other warm blooded animals, have temperature-regulating mechanisms to keep their body temperature at a constant level (around 41-45℃ in a healthy adult hen), so they can cope with a certain amount of cold. Just like wild birds, chickens will fluff up their feathers when it gets cold; this traps a layer of air which insulates the chickens against the cold. This is why it’s so important that chickens don’t get wet during cold weather, as this prevents them from being able to fluff their feathers up. In addition a drafty coop will make it hard for them to trap this layer of warm air too.
They will also tuck their head under their wings and huddle together with their coop companions to keep themselves warm. On the in coop camera recording you could clearly see how the chickens select a roosting place, and then fluff up their feathers.
So if the chickens in the wooden coop were able to keep themselves warm even though it was freezing inside there’s nothing to worry about? Not quite, a coop that’s not insulated or draughty will place extra demands on your chickens because of the heat being lost. Chickens in a cold coop will have to increase their metabolism to turn food and fat reserves into heat at a faster rate than hens in a cosy coop. If the heat loss is extreme, or a chicken is not fully fit then over the course of several cold nights there is a risk that all the energy reserves are used up resulting in the chicken being unable to keep it’s body temperature high enough with potentially fatal consequences.
What this test shows is that properly insulated, winter ready chicken coop can make all the difference between a cosy night in the coop and one spent shivering to keep warm. As an added bonus hens that use up less energy keeping warm are more likely to keep laying.
Jo Page is a veterinary nurse who also runs the blog My Little Country Lifestyle, where she shares stories from her countryside life in the South West of England. Jo recently upgraded her old wooden chicken coop for a Eglu Go UP, and has written about her first weeks with the new coop:
“As a veterinary nurse I take the welfare of all my animals very seriously. As humans we have bred animals and birds to suit our wants and needs and on occasion this does mean they aren’t able to survive or thrive without human intervention.
The hens are also not ‘only a chicken’ they are birds I have chosen to keep for the benefit of fresh eggs and it is my responsibility to ensure their needs are met.
The Eglu Go UP is worlds away from the make shift house they had when we moved and much more superior to the coop and run at our previous house. Both were predominately made of wood and we have already had to dispose of one chicken house due to a red mite infestation which we could not clear. Red mite bite the chickens at dawn and dusk, can make them anaemic and effect egg production. They thrive in damp woody environments so traditional wooden chicken coops are a breeding haven for them.”
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.
Winter is coming. If you’re new to keeping chickens you might wonder what you can do for your chickens to keep them happy and healthy during winter. Most chicken breeds cope well in moderately cold temperatures as long as they have a well-insulated and dry coop. Chickens normally acclimatise themselves to the cold weather, so you shouldn’t worry too much about your chickens getting too cold, especially if you have an Eglu which is well insulated. In fact, chickens are able to adapt better to the cold than they are the heat. But why not give your chickens a bit of extra protection during the winter, if only for your own piece of mind.
The basics of any chicken coop and run in the winter
Weather Protection and insulation. The coop must be weatherproof. As said, most chicken breeds don’t mind the cold at all but they prefer not to get wet. The chicken coop should also be insulated enough that it remains warm inside even in the midst of winter. If you have an well-insulated Eglu chicken coop you can increase the level of protection against the most extreme temperatures with our range of insulating blankets and jackets.
Ventilation. A well ventilated chicken coop will ensure that plenty of fresh air gets inside the coop. This will keep the odours down and avoids moisture build-up. When a chicken coop is too tightly insulated, not only will it retain heat, it will also retain moisture. Just make sure the coop is draft-free.
Rising damp. Rising damp can also be an issue for chicken coops. Coops should be raised off the floor to prevent the base becoming damp. If your coop doesn’t have legs fitted, you can place bricks under the coop to allow air to circulate and reduce damp. Always make sure you place or build your chicken coop and run on high ground that won’t flood during heavy rain.
Size of the coop. Make sure your chicken coop is not too big for the amount of chickens you have. When the coop is too big, your chickens won’t create enough body heat to warm up the space. Chickens huddle together and keep each other warm, so they don’t need a lot of space. Try not to open the door of the coop at night when your chickens are roosting. Be mindful that their body heat is keeping them warm and by opening the coop you will let out the build-up warmth. If you do have a large coop/stable and just a few chickens, you can put a large cardboard box on its side, half filled with chopped straw/wood shavings in a corner to help them conserve their body heat.
Run. It’s important that at least part of the chicken run is covered with a winter shade. You can even build a kind of greenhouse style addition to your coop, covering it with clear plastic. This will give your chickens a bit more space on nice days. Another tip to prevent the area under the run becoming muddy is to cover the area with bark chippings. Mud is a breeding ground for poultry worms so muddy areas should always be avoided.
Perches. Give your chickens have plenty places to roost. To prevent their feet will get too cold, you’ll need to give your chickens a place to perch in both their coop and run. The perches need to be wide enough so that the chickens can cover their toes with their feathers. This will provide them with a little extra warmth which will save them from the bitter cold.
Cleaning. Keep your chicken coop clean and dry. Clean the droppings from inside the coop daily and replace the bedding as necessary. By keeping the coop both dry and clean, you will help to prevent dampness which can cause frostbite.
Also take care of…
Water. It is important your flock always has a source of fresh, unfrozen water. Depending on where you live this can be quite challenging. To prevent you have to keep rushing outside to swap over your drinkers every few hours, there are heated waterers like the Eton Drinker Heater. You can also wrap the drinkers up in a layer of bubble wrap to keep the water unfrozen for longer. Don’t place the water inside the coop, this can cause damp.
Feed. During winter your chickens feed consumption will typically be much higher than in the spring/summer. Often chickens enjoy warm feed, like cooked lentils or warm oatmeal with some raisins or other small dried fruits. Give your hens extra corn in the afternoon as this will heat them up internally as they digest it overnight. To encourage your chickens to keep laying eggs in the winter, always have a good amount of food available. Layer pellets have the right nutrients your chickens need throughout the winter.
Combs and Wattles. If it gets extremely cold across the winters your chickens’ combs and wattles can be in danger of getting frostbite. Most hardy chicken breeds have small combs, but if you have breeds with very large, floppy combs you will need to gently rub petroleum jelly onto their combs and wattles. You will also need to keep an eye out for coughs, colds and general symptoms of being unwell. Read our chicken breed directory to find out which birds are best suited to colder climates.
Vermin. Remember at this time of year, there are hungry rats and mice attracted to the chickens feed and water. Take extra care with the storage of your feeds. Store feed away from the coop and keep it in an airtight container. If you notice any signs of vermin, remove the feeders and drinkers at night.
Boredom. It is more likely your chickens will get bored in the winter, when there are no grass and weeds to munch and fewer bugs to feast on. This will lead to mischief, like feather pecking, egg eating etc. Prevent boredom by giving your chickens a Chicken Swings, perches, piles of leaves and/or a mirror. Read our blog “Keep your hens entertained!” for more non-food ideas for keeping your chickens busy.
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.
The Eglu will keep your pets snug and warm in really cold weather. The Eglu has a special twin walled construction which provides an insulating layer in the chicken coop which keeps the interior warm in winter and cool in summer so that the hens are comfortable all year round. If you live in a particularly cold area with lots of days and nights below zero or in an very exposed area for example next to the coast or on top of a hill then it’s a good idea to provide your pets with extra insulation in the form of an Eglu Extreme Weather jacket or blanket available on the Omlet website.
Hens are remarkably hardy and their feathers keep them very well insulated in very cold weather. They don’t mind snow but don’t like being damp so try to provide somewhere dry for them to shelter during the rain if at all possible. The only recommendations for winter are to make sure that the water feeder doesn’t freeze by taking it into the house or garage overnight and to make sure that hens with large combs don’t get them frost-bitten by rubbing on some Vaseline to protect them.
Another way you can help the hens is to feed them things which release energy slowly and therefore keep their bodies warmer for longer. Foods like wheat and oats are wonderful slow energy releasers so sprinkling wheat as a scratch feed in the late afternoons or making wheatgerm or oats into a porridge with warm water for an afternoon feed will keep their little bodies warm overnight and will not put too much weight on as corn would.
Both the Eglu Go and Eglu Classic houses sleep up to 4 medium to large chickens, however the standard 2 metre run that come with them, are really only suitable for up to 2 chickens, as it is best to try and give each chicken about a metre of run each.
You can extend both the runs, 1 metre at a time, to make them longer which in turn allows you to keep up to 4 chickens… (If you want three chickens, purchase the standard Eglu with a 1 meter run extension, the chickens will be quite happy in a run this size)
The Eglu Go UP can sleep up to 4 medium to large chickens, but again the standard 2 metre run for the Eglu Go UP would only be suitable for 2 chickens. You can also extend the Eglu Go UP run by adding 1metre extensions.
With regards to the Eglu Cube, the house itself will sleep up to 10 small chickens, but with the standard 2 metre run, we would suggest between 4 and 6 chickens, 4 chickens if you were NOT going to let them free range and 6 chickens if you were. The Eglu Cube run extension can also be extended 1 metre at a time, and you can have as many 1 metre extensions as you require.
If you were to have an extension on the Eglu Cube run making it 3 metres long, we suggest the number of chickens be between 6 and 10 chickens, 6 chickens if you were NOT going to let them free range and 10 if you were.
Omlet are delighted to announce the global launch of the new Eglu Cube chicken coop.
The design of the new Eglu Cube was focused on just one thing, creating the ultimate chicken coop. Made with advanced manufacturing technology, this coop is extremely strong and durable yet surprisingly light, making it effortlessly manoeuverable. Aesthetically pleasing, the clean, functional lines not only look great but also make cleaning the coop a breeze.
The new Eglu Cube is also the safest chicken coop on the market. It has a patented locking mechanism that will outfox any predators and includes a steel weld mesh run, complete with Omlet’s unique anti-tunnel skirt, designed to keep any unwanted visitors at bay.
Comfier, more discreet and easier to clean – the Eglu Cube makes light work of a large flock. Inside the Eglu Cube, chickens will find a spacious roosting area with contoured bars to provide plenty of perching opportunities. The nest box, complete with sliding door, is discreetly positioned off to one side for privacy during the crucial egg laying moment.
With space for up to 10 hens you could be collecting a staggering 60 eggs a week. Your family will enjoy an abundance of cakes, quiches and dippy eggs galore!
Omlet’s Head of Product Design Simon Nicholls said “With the new Eglu Cube we really wanted to push the boundaries of what a chicken coop could be. This is definitely the most advanced chicken house we have ever designed, it’s safer for your hens, more comfortable and even easier to clean. It really is the ultimate hen house.”
Whether you live in a town or the countryside, are a first time chicken keeper or an experienced breeder the new Eglu Cube will delight owners and their hens alike.