The Omlet Blog Category Archives: Chickens

Why Do Chickens’ Legs Not Get Cold In Winter?

Watching chickens scratch at the frozen ground or strut through the snow, you might wonder how they manage to keep their feet and legs warm. After all, this is one part of their body with no feathers to keep it cosy (unless you happen to have a feathery-legged breed such as the Cochin, Brahma or Silkie).

Surprisingly, the simple answer to ‘How do they keep their leg warm?’ is ‘They don’t!’ Those skinny, bare legs have scales, which retain heat to a certain extent, but they will still get very cold if the bird stands still for too long.

And that’s the important detail. A chicken keeps its legs warm by moving, and by not keeping all its toes on the ground for too long. These parts of their body lose heat rapidly; but the solution is quite simple.

Perching is the most effective way of retaining heat. A hen hunkers down when roosting, and her legs are tucked into her warm body. If space allows, install a flat perch too. A piece of wood with a 10 cm width will enable the hens to roost without having to grip the perch, which in really cold weather will prevent their toes freezing. (The lucky ones will simply snuggle down in a nesting box, which is the chicken equivalent of a thick quilt!)

But of course, a hungry hen doesn’t want to waste the whole day perching, so even in the coldest spells she will make a lot of contact with the ground.

One-Legged Hens

Like many other birds, chickens often adopt the ‘one leg’ look, tucking one of their limbs up into the warmth of their bellies. This reduces overall heat loss and stops feet and toes from freezing on the icy ground.

An upturned pot, a log, pallet or other slightly elevated space – cleared of snow or ice – will help the hens get the circulation going again, without having to catch their breath on the frozen ground. Like all birds, chickens are warm-blooded, just like us, and their own body heat soon works its magic. Indeed, with an average body temperature of around 41°C, chickens can remain active in the coldest weather.

The leg-warming process is helped by other tricks, too. Fluffing up the feathers retains body heat, by trapping small pockets of air which are then heated up by the bird’s warm body.

Some owners give their hens a supper of corn and grains, which take longer to digest than a standard pellet or other chicken food. Part of the digestion process involves producing heat – a kind of internal hot water bottle!

In general, hens will eat more food in the cold months, as more of their energy is spent keeping warm. Some owners like to supplement the birds’ diets with extra protein or a little suet, to increase their fat levels for the winter. Fat retains heat, and the whole bird benefits – not just the legs (which will remain as thin as ever!)

Help With The Heating

You can help your hens keep their toes cosy by making sure the coop is clean and dry. Clear out any snow dragged in on the birds’ feet, and keep an insulating layer of straw on the floor. You can give the birds extra protection by insulating the coop – although there should still be some ventilation, to allow the gases released from the birds’ droppings to escape.

You can install an automatic door to help keep the living quarters snug. Heaters are also available – but never use anything other than a heater designed specifically for hen houses. It’s also best to use these only if the temperature gets below -5°C, otherwise hens may get used to being cosy all the time, and that could be disastrous if the heater fails and the birds are suddenly exposed. Heat-pampered poultry can die of cold shock.

A coop should be draft-free, but not completely sealed, as ventilation is important for healthy hens. During the day, a sheltered spot in the run or garden will help them take a breather and warm those long-suffering legs.

Chickens are amazingly hardy, and although not exactly warm, their legs will be able to cope with anything the average winter throws at them. As long as they can toast their toes on a nice perch every now and then…

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Are Your Chickens Happy in Their Wooden Coop? Take the test.

Are your chickens happy in their wooden coop?
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.


The results…

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. 

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How the Weather Forecast Can Help Chicken Keepers

While most people check the weather forecast to help them plan their week activities or outfits, chicken keepers can also be using it to predict what accessories their coop needs to ensure their girls are as comfortable as possible. 

From sun to snow, wind to wet, the breakfast time weather reports and the handy app on your phone are all giving you helpful hints that you might be ignoring.

🌡 TEMPERATURE 🌡

Firstly, the most obvious indicator: the predicted temperature for the coming 10 days. Depending on what time of year we are in, this can be super helpful or utterly confusing if it is varying drastically. But let’s think about what we can act upon.

In winter, if the predicted temperature is at below 0 degrees celsius for more than 5 days in a row or the temperature is near freezing and you have very few chickens in your coop, you may want to consider attaching the Extreme Temperature Blanket to your Eglu to give your chickens some extra help with keeping warm, without limiting the coop ventilation. 

During hot summer months, when temperatures can be above and beyond 30 degrees celsius daily in some countries, it is wise to move your chicken coop into an area that is in the shade for as much of the day as possible. For your chickens, daily health checks are essential to ensure they are not suffering with the high temperatures. If your coop is attached to or inside a secure run, you can leave your coop door open to increase airflow at nighttime without your girls being exposed to predators.

☀️ SUN ☀️

When the sun is shining, it is tempting to cover your chickens’ run with shades so that it is completely protected from the sun inside. However, this can have the opposite effect on what you intended. Instead of shading and cooling the area, lots of shades create a tunnel which traps the heat, like a greenhouse. 

It is best to keep them in a shaded area, and protect one side of the run from the sun. If your chickens are out free ranging most of the day, make sure that they have access to shady patches in the garden, and that their food and water is also in shade. 

❄️ SNOW ❄️

Exciting for some, but for others a weather warning for snow can be very disappointing. You may want to consider sheltering your coop’s run with clear covers to prevent as much snow getting on the ground inside the run as possible. If snow is predicted for the foreseeable future, you may want to prepare for long term icy conditions and bring your coop closer to the house so it is easier to check on your chickens, and they can benefit from some of the shelter your house might provide. During the snow, be sure to dry off damp feathers and remove any chunks of ice from claws. Increase the amount of bedding and food you are giving your chickens too as this will help them stay warm. 

If you have time, it might be wise to consider how effective your chicken coop will be against the bitter cold. If you have a wooden coop, check if it is water-tight and well insulated. If you are not confident in your wooden coop, consider upgrading to a sturdy plastic alternative, like the Eglu Cube. It’s twin-wall insulation works in the same way as double glazing to keep the cold out of the coop, and the heat in during winter. The plastic material is waterproof and super easy to clean out quickly (especially important on chilly winter days).

☁️ CLOUD ☁️

The most boring of all weather forecasts, but often a rest bite from other more extreme conditions. During winter, a few cloudy days should raise the temperature slightly and give you a good opportunity to clean out your coop and thoroughly check on your chickens and make any changes needed for whatever the forecast predicts for the coming days.

🌧 RAIN 🌧

Some weather reports are more helpful than others when it comes to the exact timing and chance of there being rain. But if you’re looking at days of 90% chance of heavy showers, it would be wise to act fast and get some protective clear covers over the run. If the ground under your chickens’ coop and run is already extremely muddy and wet, you might want to consider moving them to a new patch of grass, and maybe even laying down a base material, like wood shavings, to prevent it developing into a swamp!

💨 WIND 💨

How you react to a windy forecast completely depends on the wind speeds predicted. Light winds, less than 25 mph, shouldn’t cause much of a problem. You might want to add some windbreaks around the base of your Eglu and a large clear cover down the most exposed side. However, in extreme high winds, the worst thing you can do is completely conceal your run, particularly a larger Walk in Run, with covers from top to bottom. In a large run, the mesh holes allow the wind to flow through without causing any issues to the structure, and a clear cover round one bottom corner of the run will provide chickens enough shelter. If you cover the run completely, the wind will be hammering against it and is more likely to cause the structure to lift or move. 

If your chickens are in a smaller run attached to their coop, we recommend moving it to a position where it will be most protected from the wind and any falling debris, for example, against a sturdy building wall. The Eglu’s wheels allow you to easily move the coops around your garden to suit the conditions. If you are keeping your chickens in their Eglu coop and run, and not free ranging during dangerous weather conditions, consider adding some entertaining toys and treat dispenser for them to prevent boredom, such as the Peck Toy or Perch


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Chicken-Keeping Challenges In The Year Ahead

Backyard hens usually spend their entire lives outdoors. This means they have to cope with everything the year throws at them, from blazing summers and sub-zero winters to year-round downpours.

Being hardy birds, they take much of this in their stride. But there are still ways of helping your flock through the changing seasons.

Winter

This is the most challenging time of year for any animal living outdoors. The cons outweigh the pros, but with a little bit of help from their human friends, chickens can shrug off the excesses of the season.

  • Although chickens cope well with the cold, they don’t thrive when it’s both cold and raining. Protecting the run with extra weatherproofing will help enormously. Keeping the birds in an insulated Eglu is a good place to start.
  • Keep the hens’ feet dry in wet weather by lining the run with wood chippings.
  • Chickens usually return to the coop at dusk. But in the winter you may find your birds trying to get more pecking time from the short days. If your hens are prone to wander in the dark, a high visibility hen coat will help you locate them – and also ensure they’re visible to anyone else, should they stray from the garden. The coats also keep the birds cosy, so it’s a double blessing in the winter. A coop light can also encourage wandering chickens to return to the coop for bed time. 
  • Roosting perches enable chickens to cuddle up in the cold – something essential on a cold night. Roosting also prevents their feet from becoming too cold.
  • In sustained sub-zero conditions, rub petroleum gel (e.g. Vaseline) on the hens’ combs and wattles, to prevent them becoming frostbitten.
  • Keep an eye out for coughs, sneezes, lethargy, or other signs of illness. A chicken with a weak constitution may be vulnerable when the cold weather kicks in.
  • Egg numbers will drop – this doesn’t mean you’ll have no eggs for breakfast, though. Three hens should till deliver eight eggs a week in the coldest months, but this will vary somewhat.
  • Make sure the hens’ diet remains healthy, and add some extra vitamins and minerals to keep their immune systems up to scratch.
  • Their water will freeze, so be prepared to break the ice, and have some spare water dispensers ready in case things freeze up entirely.
  • On the upside, winter might kill off any lingering red mite in coops and runs!

Spring

As the days lengthen, your hens will start laying more eggs. The garden comes back to life, and the chickens will find things worth scratching for in the ground.

  • Foxes will be hungry after a long, lean winter, so make sure your coop and run are secure. Automatic doors will ensure the hens are in and out at the right times, and will prevent predators from gaining after-hours access. The door will also let your chickens out in the morning, so that you can enjoy weekend mornings in bed as the days get longer.
  • With the warmer weather, the red mites start to gather… mite-proof your chicken shed before the situation gets out of hand!

Summer

It’s amazing, having seen your chickens happily cluck and scratch their way through freezing winter, to now see them equally happy in temperatures 20-odd degrees warmer. The main problem in summer is too much sun – but with plenty of shade in the garden, your birds will love the warm weather every bit as much as you do. A chicken coop that provides shade in itself, like the space under the Eglu Cube or the Eglu Go Up, is ideal for the summer months.

  • Keep the water supply topped up, as hens drink more in warm weather.
  • Provide a dust bath – either a dry area of ground in the garden, or a tray in the chicken run. Cat-litter trays make good baths.
  • Daily egg-collecting will discourage hens from going broody – something they sometimes do at this time of year.

Autumn

Although the summer has gone and winter lies ahead, this is actually a great season for chickens. There are lots of juicy bugs to scratch for in the still-soft ground and leaf litter. If you have any fruit trees, there are rich pickings for the birds in the shape of windfalls.

  • Hens often moult at this time of year, so they need a good diet to help them stay healthy and grow new feathers. Extra vitamins and minerals will help, and a little apple cider vinegar in their water will help ensure a healthy, glossy new plumage.
  • If anyone nearby is planning a fireworks or bonfire party, make sure the hens are safely in their coop before the fun begins – it’s not much fun at all for a chicken caught in the firework crossfire.

Chickens are a year-round commitment. Fortunately, they make it easy for you – these wonderful birds are pretty much happy whatever the time of year.

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How the Eglu Keeps Your Chickens Warm in Winter

In winter, one of the biggest concerns we see from our customers is: “how well is the Eglu going to keep my chickens warm?”. In this blog, we explain the science behind the Eglu’s carefully designed features, which ensure your chickens are kept nice and toasty in the colder months. 

Insulation 

Air is an amazing thermal insulator. Heat is conducted between an area of more heat to an area of less heat. The warmer molecules vibrate rapidly and collide with others, passing on energy. If the material the heat (in this case the body heat from the chickens inside the coop) is trying to pass through has few molecules in it then it will be harder for the heat to transfer through it. This is the case with air, and that is why it’s commonly used as an insulator in everything from walls and windows to cooking utensils and drinking flasks – and chicken coops!

The Eglus’ unique twin wall system captures air in a pocket between the inner and outer wall, taking full advantage of air’s great insulating properties. This solution stops the cold air from moving into the coop, and retains the warm air in the coop. The same process also keeps the chickens cool in summer by stopping the warm air from entering the coop and making it too warm.

Ventilation 

Perhaps even more important than the coop’s insulating properties, is how well ventilated it is. If the coop doesn’t have good ventilation, you run the risk of either having a nasty draft if the coop has badly positioned vents or large holes and openings, or a build up of moisture if the coop is too tightly insulated. Both will prevent the chickens from staying warm on chilly winter nights, and can cause unpleasant respiratory illnesses.

The Eglu coops are designed to let air flow through the coop, but without creating an uncomfortable draft for the chickens. The vents are positioned in such a way that your pets won’t notice the fresh air flowing through the coop, but the warm air evaporating from the animals and their droppings will move through the vents and prevent any moisture. 

How chickens keep themselves warm

Chickens, like many other non-migrating birds, have a layer of downy feathers under their visible plumage that they can fluff up to create air pockets close to their bodies. This will retain the heat, and will keep them warm during winter. 

Chickens also have a high metabolic rate that will speed up even more during winter, helping to keep their bodies warm. This is why you might have to feed your chickens a little extra during the winter months. 

Chickens are also able to decrease the blood flow to their bare legs to minimise loss of body heat. The overlapping scales on their feet and legs trap some warm air, so walking on snow and ice rarely causes chickens any discomfort. When roosting in the cold, the feet and legs are tucked in under the warm feather blanket, and the chicken might also tuck its head under a wing to get some extra body heat.

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If you buy one new chicken coop gadget this week…

…make it this one.

From the latest smartphone to super clever hairdryers, we often hear and read about the top new gadgets that we need in our lives, and more recently we are beginning to see amazing tech products for our pets! But what about chickens? Yep, even our feathered friends are getting a look into the future, and this is not something to be missed. 

If you buy one thing for yourself or your chickens this week, make it this. 

The Autodoor. 

This one simple addition to your chickens’ coop, can make a hugely significant difference to your life as a chicken keeper, and many users swear by it. 

Secure the Autodoor to your chickens’ enclosure; this can be the Eglu Cube house, Eglu run, any wooden chicken coop or chicken wire, and use the control panel to set when the door opens and closes, based on a specific time or a percentage of light. 

In the morning, the Autodoor will open with no fuss, allowing your chickens out of their coop or run to explore, graze and stretch their wings, especially useful in summer, when your chickens are wanting to get going far earlier than you. There’s no need to get up at 5am when you have an Autodoor. 

In the evening, as the sun sets, the Autodoor can be programmed to close at a time when you know all your chickens will have gone into their coop to roost, so they can be secured and safe from predators. In winter, when it can be dark before you get home, you won’t have to worry about having to hurry back in time to shut them in. The Autodoor can do it for you. 

Here’s 5 other reasons, you need the Autodoor…

  1. Battery-powered. No need to keep your coop close to a power source.
  2. Reliable in all weather conditions. This is a gadget that will take you from winter to summer, and back again.
  3. Built in safety sensors ensure no chicken is harmed when investigating their new gadget.
  4. Improves coop security and insulation. The horizontal door is far safer than it’s vertical, guillotine style competitors which can be easily lifted by predators.
  5. Low maintenance and easy to install. Everything you need to get started is in one box!

 

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10 Things Not to Do in Winter if You’re a Chicken Keeper

1. Don’t shut your chickens in their coop

Chickens are built to be outside, and they are known to withstand some pretty extreme temperatures. Under the visible plumage birds like chickens have a layer of downy feathers that can be puffed up to create an extra layer of insulation that will keep them warm. 

Cooped up chickens will soon get bored and agitated, and even though you might be surprised that they choose to go out in freezing temperatures, you should definitely always give your chickens the opportunity to stretch their legs. 

Ensure chickens have a dry and sheltered spot in a secure run or in an area of the garden where they can spend time outside. We have plenty of different covers that makes this an easy job. Clear covers are ideal for winter as they will protect your chickens from wind and rain while still letting the light in. Put straw on the ground to prevent a build-up of mud, and install a perch or two for the chickens to rest on during the day. 

Close the door to the coop when all chickens have gone inside to roost for the night, or let your Automatic Chicken Coop Door do it for you. If you have chickens who are eager to stay out later you can use a Coop Light to encourage them up to bed. 

2. Don’t compensate for bad insulation by blocking up the coop

Well insulated coops, like the Eglus, will keep the chickens warm in winter by capturing the heat from the chickens’ bodies while not letting any cold air travel through the walls. They are also designed to let air flow through the coop to prevent a build up of moisture, without any nasty drafts.

Drafts and moisture are the two biggest winter enemies for chickens, as they make it difficult for them to stay warm and dry. If the coop is too tightly insulated the moisture evaporating from the chickens breaths and droppings will have nowhere to go. This humid environment – and the possible build up of ammonia – is really bad for chickens, and can lead to unpleasant respiratory illnesses.

Make sure that your coop is well ventilated, with vents that directs the air somewhere other than straight onto your chickens. 

3. Don’t heat the coop

Chickens are hardy creatures that will gradually adapt to lower temperatures, and heating the coop will mean that your chickens never get used to the cold. This will also make them less likely to actually leave the coop and get that exercise, fresh air and entertainment that they require to stay happy and healthy. 

Apart from the fact that heaters in the coop will always be a potential fire hazard, you also run the risk of your ill-adapted chickens getting a shock at a sudden drop in temperature if the power was to go off for some reason. This is much worse for them than having a slightly chillier coop. 

If you’re worried you can always add a bit of extra bedding to the nest box, or put an extreme temperature cover on your Eglu. 

4. Don’t leave eggs too long

Although the Eglu will keep your eggs warm and toasty, there is a risk that eggs laid elsewhere in the run or the garden will freeze in winter. Frozen eggs are not automatically dangerous to eat, but when the content of the egg freezes and expands, there’s a higher risk of bacteria entering through the cracks in the shell. 

Collect the eggs every time you visit your chickens to minimise the risk of a frozen yolk.

5. Don’t ignore the water

As goes for all animals, you will want to give your chickens constant access to fresh water, even in winter. They won’t drink as much during the colder months, but here that’s actually a disadvantage, as the water is more likely to freeze if not touched regularly. 

Bring the drinker inside overnight and take it out when you go to check on your girls in the morning. If the temperature goes below zero during the day, check the water as often as you can, and break the ice or change the water if it has frozen. 

There are several water heating solutions available on the market. Omlet stock Eton Drinker Heaters that you can easily plug into an outdoor power source, but there are also battery powered heaters you can put in the water. Just make sure the chickens are not able to peck their way through the heater.

If the temperature stays around zero, you can put something floating in the water, like a tennis ball. As the floating object moves, it will break up surface ice as it forms on the water, which will stop, or at least slow down the freezing process.

6. Don’t put off cleaning the coop

Hanging out in the garden is not as tempting in winter, but you will still need to make sure the chickens’ house is nice and clean. It is likely that your chickens will spend more time in the coop in winter and produce more droppings there, so keep an eye out and change your routine accordingly. 

7. Don’t limit the fun

The chickens might not venture as far out in the garden as they normally do, and the opportunity to forage for bugs and other treats will be limited when the ground is frozen or covered with snow. This can lead to chickens getting bored, which might result in aggressive feather pecking and egg eating.

You will need to make sure that they have plenty of fun things to do in their run. We have lots of boredom busting accessories in our shop. Put up perches the chickens can sit on and try the super fun Peck Toys or the Caddi treat holder for gradual treat-dispensing hentertainment. Or, if you feel your chickens might be the adventurous kind, why not put up a Chicken Swing they can enjoy together?

8. Don’t stick to the same feeding schedule

Your chickens will most likely eat more in winter, as they need the energy to keep warm. Give them some extra food, and make sure it doesn’t freeze in the feeder. For an extra snack, sprinkle some corn on the run in the afternoon to add both calories and some foraging fun. Or why not try this yummy chicken porridge that will warm their tummies on cold winter mornings.

Also make sure that you provide plenty of grit. As chickens don’t have teeth they need it do digest their food. The rest of the year they find and swallows little stones and pebbles as they peck around the garden, but if the ground is frozen this will be much harder.

9. Don’t ignore combs and wattles

All chickens, but particularly breeds with large combs and wattles, run the risk of frostbite on these sensitive body parts during winter. It’s not necessarily dangerous as it’s normally just the tips that get affected, but can be a bit uncomfortable. To prevent this, apply petroleum jelly to the combs and wattles during cold spells. 

10. Don’t take covers off when the sun is shining

If you’re in the habit of taking the covers off the chickens’ run when it’s sunny, it might be a good idea to stop doing this in winter. Clear covers in particular will create a lovely sunroom feeling on the run when the sun is out, and your girls will love having a warmer spot to retreat to. Covers will also stop cold winds, so we would suggest keeping them on permanently in winter.

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Gift Guide – For The Chicken Keeper

If you have a chicken keeping loved one who’s notoriously difficult to buy for, something for their chickens will probably be very well received. Take a look at our gift guide below and find something for every budget. 

Eglu Cube – For someone very close to you this is an amazing gift that will surely go down a treat on Christmas morning. Whether they’ve been wanting to start keeping chickens for as long as you can remember, or perhaps already have a wooden coop which they can often be heard complaining about; the Eglu Cube is the dream upgrade for any chicken keeper. Suitable for up to 6 medium-sized chickens, the Eglu Cube is super quick and easy to clean. The house features twin wall insulation to keep inside the coop warm in winter and cool in summer, and draft-free ventilation to keep fresh air moving through the coop without exposing your chickens to a cool breeze. The secure run is predator resistant and gives chickens a safe place to scratch about when they aren’t able to free-range, and can be accessorised with run covers, perches, hanging feeders and more! Choose from a purple or leaf green house, available from £549.


Do they already have a Cube? These accessories are a great addition to their coop. 

The Automatic Chicken Coop Door makes life just that little bit easier, especially in winter, and will go down a treat with tech lovers! The door can be programmed to open and close automatically by a certain time of day, so that chicken keepers can relax in the knowledge that their chickens are roosting in the safety of their coop even if the owners are stuck at work. With the light setting the door can be set to open at dawn and close at dusk, so the humans can have a well deserved lie in while the chickens start their busy day. The Autodoor can also be fitted to any wooden coop or run so makes a great gift for any proud chicken owner. 

As if that wasn’t flashy enough, you can now get the Autodoor with Omlet’s new Coop Light. The light comes on shortly before the door closes and encourages the chickens to return to the run or the coop. It is also useful for checking on the chickens at night, carrying out daily chicken keeping tasks after dark, or for those early morning egg runs! 

Save when you buy the Autodoor & Coop Light bundle, was £162.99, now £154.99.

The Eglu wheels are a practical present for Omlet chicken keepers who want to easily move their Eglu around the garden. If they already have wheels, run handles can make it easier to grip the run for moving, especially during the colder temperatures. 

Unfortunately the end of the year doesn’t mean the end of winter, and all chicken keepers will appreciate some covers to put on the run, in preparation for the rainy months ahead. Not only will covers keep the girls dry and out of the draft, they will also prevent the lawn from turning into a mud bath. Choose the heavy duty covers for ultimate protection from wet weather, the clear covers to allow for sunlight and shelter, or the Combi covers for the best of both worlds. 


Little gifts for any chicken keeper

The Ultimate Hentertainment Bundle, made up of a 1m Chicken Perch, Poppy Peck Toy, Caddi Treat Holder and Chicken Swing, contains absolutely everything a new chicken keeper would need to keep their chickens from getting bored. This eggcellent hentertainment package is now only £49.95 (RRP £59.95) in our Christmas Star Buys

The new Limited Edition Hivis Chicken Jacket, designed to look like a traditional Christmas Jumper, will ensure chickens are safe and seen when crossing the road this December, while keeping hens super cosy – perfect for the festive season.

Treats – Boredom busting treats are perfect stocking fillers for all chicken keepers. Our favourites include the Feldy Chicken Treat Balls, perfect for the Caddi Treat Holder, the Nature’s Grub Garlic, Herb and Vegetable Mix and the super cute Naturals Strawberry Hearts.

Egg skelter – For chicken keepers and keen bakers, this lovely kitchen eggcessory will go down a treat. As well as looking good, it is also incredibly practical and will help ensure eggs are used in date order! Shop the colour range here.

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Adding ex-batts to our brood

Caramel Quin and her children keep backyard hens in east London. This is their diary of introducing ex-battery hens to their older girl.

We started out with two hens and an Eglu Cube. A friend who had kept chickens for eight years needed her garden back and we’d been thinking about henkeeping, so she kindly passed them on to us. We named them Buffy and Britney (I make no apologies for brainwashing my tween kids to love late nineties pop culture).

That was just over a year ago. Buffy’s still going strong, Britney only lasted a few months. By then, we loved the girls and were already on the waiting list to collect ex-battery rescue hens from the British Hen Welfare Trust. We went as soon as possible: Buffy needed more chickens for company, or at least we did.

We drove to a nearby rehoming day and collected six birds, bringing them home in a couple of cardboard boxes. They looked sorry for themselves, skeletal, anaemic. Their crests were pale and floppy. The dog, shut inside the house, pressed himself against the glass door and salivated like a cartoon hungry dog, even though they didn’t have much meat on them. The hen with fewest feathers was nicknamed Necky and looked more dinosaur than bird. The boldest was nicknamed Dora the Explorer as she sought out every nook and cranny in the garden.

A garden! It was hard to imagine that these birds had never been outdoors before. Everything was new as they exhibited natural behaviours for the first time, like scratching and pecking at the soil for bugs. We let them explore while Buffy looked on from the chicken run. Then we swapped them and they ate while she was free range. Later we put them together in the run and watched excited as the first made it to the top of the ladder and found the Eglu.

On the first night, they didn’t all find their way upstairs to bed. A couple roosted under the Eglu Cube, so I went into the run and put them in by hand in the night. From then on, they knew where home was and made it into bed before the Autodoor closed to keep them warm and safe.

We gave them plenty of free range time. We also doubled up on feeders and drinkers, so nobody got bullied away from dinner. The hanging feeder proved best because all seven birds could get around it at once. I swapped layers pellets for smaller layers mash for a couple of weeks because the birds were used to smaller food when they were commercially laying.

On their second day we found eggs laid randomly all over the garden, cutest was the one in the hollow of a dust bath. But within a week they had all figured out where the nest box was. Having never had more than two eggs in a day, it was a thrill to get five or six (and on one remarkable day, seven). Ex-battery hens tend to be good layers, they were bred for it after all.

On day two, I remember them freaking out when it rained: they had never experienced these tiny water bullets from the sky. Then there was a brilliant moment when I threw a handful of cherry tomatoes into the run and they dived away as if I’d lobbed a grenade into the trenches.

Bullying wasn’t as bad as I’d feared though. Buffy was outnumbered 6:1 by the newly named Willow, Betty, Mercury, Dora, Chirpy da Hen and Mango Buckbeak. (Listed in order of the age of the family member who named them… youngest last, as you can tell.) We added coloured rings on their ankles early, before it was hard to tell them apart as their feathers grew back, though the feathers came in slowly because we adopted them in April. Apparently if you adopt in the winter they get feathers faster because they need them for warmth.

Chirpy and Mango were the least feathered and most picked on, sometimes bullied away from food, but we gave them plenty of free range time so the bigger ones got out in the garden while the smaller ones ate. Gradually the bullying pecks gave way to polite pecks between all the girls, preening each other after a dust bath and freeing new feathers from their protective sheaths.

Seven months on, we still have Buffy and four of the new girls. Willow and Mercury didn’t make it: one died suddenly the other was unwell for a few days first. But we’ve also nursed others back to health: my signature banana porridge is now famous for bringing ill chickens back from death’s door.*

The star of the show is Chirpy da Hen, who I swear will live longest. She might outlive me. She gave us a scare a few months ago with a backside protrusion of epic proportions. We cleaned and examined it and were convinced it was a tumour not just a prolapse. We separated her in a pet crate so her sore bum wouldn’t get pecked by the others. We fed her banana porridge and gave her painkillers. Over a week, her bad butt gradually improved until we could miraculously pop it back in again and reintegrate her with the others. She’s fine now. No, she’s more than fine. She’s badass.

BHWT is careful to manage expectations: the lifespan of ex-batts is hard to predict. Instead they say “your hen has at least experienced kindness outside of the commercial system which is more than she could have ever hoped for”. If you think pets are a good way for children to learn about mortality, try ex-battery hens. They’re fun, their eggs are yummy and it’s easy to feel positive about the good life you give them, no matter how long or short it is.

Ours have a great life with free range time every day. They eat well, even jump up to eat roses and fuchsias from the bushes and I don’t mind. The dog is used to them now and can go out at the same time without him acting like a cartoon hungry dog.

My luxury is upgrading to a Walk-in run with rain cover, which is as much for me as it is for the birds. I got it mostly so I can muck out the run without kneeling down. It also gives the girls plenty of space and lets the children and guests visit them any time.

We’ve gone full circle as Buffy is going through her first hard moult, she’s half bald in cold weather, while the ex-batts are nearly fully feathered. Next year we’ll probably add more ex-batts to our brood. I guess we initially got them thinking of the eggs but now it’s more than that: they’re part of the family… who just happen to lay delicious eggs.

For more information on battery hens and maybe opening up your home to some check out the ‘British Hen Welfare Trust’ for upcoming rehoming dates.


*We recommend only feeding your chickens treats occasionally. Always make their food outside of your kitchen to avoid cross contamination of food.

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How To Make A Dust Bath For Your Chickens

You might not think it necessary to actually make a dust bath for your chickens. They seem to do it for themselves. Whenever there’s a dry spot of earth they’ll peck and scratch at it, and then crouch down, fluff out their feathers and shake their wings to cover themselves in dust.

That’s fine. But there are ways of making the dust bath even more enjoyable, and more effective too. A bit like trading in a bucket of cold water for a power shower!

Why Do Chickens Need Dust Baths?

Just like a human bathtub, a dust bath is all about cleanliness. It’s not only chickens who like to hit the dirt – you may spot other birds such as sparrows and blackbirds taking a dust bath too. The dust or sand absorbs surplus moisture and oils on the skin. It also deters parasites such as mites and lice by coating the insects’ breathing pores or simply driving them away.

Once fully coated in dust or sand, the chicken will have a shake-down, just like a dog after a dip in a river. A quick preen of the feathers, and they’ll be all done and dusted. Literally.

In addition to these physical benefits, dust-bathing is also thought to be mentally rewarding for hens. It helps them relax, and is a way of socialising too, when a group of hens bathe together.

Things To Add To A Dust Bath

Many owners convert an old cat litter tray, or the base of a disused bird or small mammal cage, into a chicken dust bath. These can be a little shallow though, resulting in the bath contents being scattered around. An old tyre can be used, or an old crate or wooden box. It should be 20 to 30cm high, which is enough to contain 10cm of ‘dust’ plus extra height to prevent the stuff spilling out.

The dust bath should be placed in a sunny spot. This seems to be an important detail, and chickens will seek out a sunny dust bath even in the winter. The bath tub should be filled with non-clay-based, chemical-free soil (sandy is ideal), and kept dry. It will become fine and dusty in no time.

Wood Ash – One of the best things to add to the soil is wood ash. It contains vitamin K, calcium and magnesium, which is great for the birds’ health. It also absorbs toxins from the pores, so acts as a kid of medicine. Chickens will usually eat some of the ash too. This is fine – those nutrients work inside as well as out.

Diatomaceous Earth (Food Grade) – This natural, silica-rich powder has powerful anti-parasite properties, killing mites, lice, fleas and ticks. Hens will bathe in it, and it can also be added to their food.

Fine sand – Even if you have sandy earth in your area, adding fine sand will improve the dust bath. It cleans feathers very effectively, and also helps deter those pesky parasites.

Dried herbs – While very much optional, herbs bring health benefits to hens. Lavender, rosemary and thyme and mint are gentle insecticides, helping yet again with chicken parasites. Rosemary and thyme are also anti-inflammatories, and are thought to help keep hens’ respiratory systems healthy. Oregano and sagehelp boost their immune systems, and parsley provides a vitamin boost. Mint can help the birds keep cool in hot weather, and is also, due to its strong smell, thought to deter rodents and insects. And all that green stuff helps produce brilliant yellow egg yolks too. 

For dust-bath maintenance, all you need to do is clean out the droppings each day, and refill the bath every week or so, depending on how heavy the usage is. If you provide your chickens with the ideal bath, you won’t see them for dust!

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Why Are My Chickens Not Laying?

Most people decide to keep chickens because they’re looking forward to a supply of fresh eggs. So when the hens don’t deliver the goods, it can be worrying, baffling and frustrating.

In most cases, patience is the simple answer. There are a number of reasons why hens might not be laying, but the commonest are simply to do with age. They will not start lying until they are six months old and thereabouts. The exact timing depends on breeds. Some, such Australorps, Golden Comets and Leghorns, begin laying early, between 16 and 18 weeks. With some of the larger breeds such as, Orpingtons, Plymouth Rocks, and Wyandottes, you can wait up to eight months for the first eggs to appear.

Another complicating factor is the time of year. Hens that reach egg-laying maturity in the autumn or winter may not lay until spring. This underlines another common answer to the “Why are my hens not laying?” question – most breeds tend to stop producing eggs, or drastically reduce their output, in the colder months.

In the Mood to Brood

Sometimes a chicken decides to sit tight and wait for her egg to hatch. In this maternal mood, she is known as a broody hen, and will stop producing eggs. This is handy if you want to hatch chicks, as the hen will happily sit there for the three weeks it takes to hatch an egg. It’s less handy if you want her to produce more eggs, though.

The hen can either be left for three weeks, after which she will resume normal service, or you can gently discourage her. Placing a bag of ice cubes or frozen peas underneath her can do the trick. Some chicken keepers recommend placing the hen in a wire cage or dog crate, with food and water. This is a little uncomfortable, and will usually beak the brooding habit.

All Change – Moulting and Ageing

All hens have a time limit on their laying. On average they will produce eggs for three years.

Most hens take ‘time off’ for winter, and also for moulting. Many breeds undergo what’s known as a hard moult, losing their feathers over a few days and growing a new set quickly. Others may undergo a ‘soft’ moult, losing a few feathers at a time.

Keeping the hens well fed, and adding a little extra protein to their diet, will keep them healthy during this time. Their physical efforts are concentrated on growing new feathers, which is why the egg supply tends to drop during the moult.

This underlines another important point – a nutritious diet, centred on a fortified chicken feed and plenty of calcium, is vital. If hens are malnourished, egg production will drop.

Sick Birds Don’t Lay

If your hens are neither too young nor too old, not moulting, not brooding, and not hunkering down for a cold winter, the reason for the drop in eggs may be illness. Parasites – lice, mites, fleas, internal worms – can cause bodily stress that impacts their laying.

Stress can also be brought on by bullying, too much handling, injury, noisy children and pets in the garden, or poor environment. Making sure the hens have a space where they can stay happy and healthy is vital. A setup such as the Eglu coop and run, along with suitable perches, feeders and other essential accessories, does the trick.

There may be other underlying health issues at play, though. Check out our pages on chicken health for more advice on diagnosing and – where possible – treating problems.

Vanishing Eggs

It’s just possible that your non-laying hens are laying – it’s just that you can’t find the eggs. There are two reasons for this. Free-ranging chickens often ‘go native’ and begin laying eggs in a spot in the undergrowth, rather than in the coop.

Check under shrubs, in long grass, and any secluded corner of your plot of land. If the AWOL laying has been going on for a long time, there may be a few eggs out there in the wilderness. Check their freshness by placing them in a bowl of water. If the eggs lie on their sides, they are fresh. If they are more upright (between 45 and 90 degrees), but still resting on the bottom of the bowl, they are not fresh, but still usable. Any that float have passed their sell-by date!

Eggs may also disappear if a hen acquires a taste for them. Egg-eating amongst chickens can be a sign of overcrowding or poor diet. Once she has acquired the taste, it can be difficult to stop a hen eating eggs, and she may need isolating to stop her pecking at her neighbours’ eggs. The isolation may also induce slight stress, just enough to interrupt her own laying, which may in turn break the habit.

Normal Egg Service Resumed

Don’t worry – unless a hen is very old or very ill, her egg-laying should soon resume. Owners can aid the process by making sure they’re giving the birds everything they need. They keys to a good egg supply are good food, a good space – and patience!

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How The Autodoor Makes Winter Easier For You And Your Chickens

We can learn a lot from chickens. They go to bed early, and once indoors they snuggle up together to keep warm. No messing about after hours. As a result, they’re ready for a fresh start as soon as the sun comes up.

The problem is, there’s often no early-rising human around at dawn to open the door of the coop and let the hens get on with a busy day’s scratching, foraging and laying. Equally, you might not be able to be there to lock the door behind them after they’ve headed for bed early in the bleak midwinter.

An open door in the chicken shed lets in the cold, and unless your coop and run are secure, some very unwelcome night visitors of the four-footed kind might come calling…

“Someone Should Invent An Autodoor For Chicken Sheds…”

Fortunately, the necessary security-cum-draft-excluder has already been invented. Omlet’s Autodoor attaches directly to the Eglu Cube Mk1 and Mk2 chicken houses. But it’s not exclusively for those models – the Autodoor works with any chicken coop, with a unique and clever design that enables it to be attached to whatever des res your chickens are living in.

Like many ingenious inventions – wind-up radios and wind-up torches come to mind, or solar powered garden lights – Omlet’s automatic chicken coop door opener is very simple. It’s battery powered, with both a timer and a light sensor for maximum flexibility and control. The Autodoor won’t instantly seize up when the temperature plunges, either. It’s been tested to work down to minus-20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit).

The Autodoor is also very easy to install. Its LCD control panel is separate from the door itself, so it can be placed in the best position for the built-in light sensor to do its work.

The door, once closed, is also very secure. It doesn’t use a string and pulley system, so it can’t be lifted up by hungry creatures hoping for a midnight chicken snack. Nor will they be able to squeeze through the tight seal once the door is shut.

Attaching The Autodoor

If your hens live in an Omlet Eglu Mk2 Cube or a chicken coop made of wood, the Autodoor comes with all the fittings you need. You’ll need a few extra attachments if you want to fit the door to a Mk1 Eglu Cube, an Omlet Run or a set up involving traditional chicken wire.

The control panel and light sensor attach via a robust cable, so you can choose the best spot for registering the daylight. The sensor doesn’t mean your hens have to be home before the sun hits the horizon, though. You can set it to close an hour after sunset, to suit your birds’ routine. Equally, it can be set to open an hour after first light, if your chickens are used to having a bit of a lazy start to the day. This makes sense when the days are particularly cold – the hens might want to take advantage of their cosy place on the perch for as long as possible before venturing out into the cold frosty morning.

The door will not open in the night, even if passing headlights, a security light or a torch beam shine on the coop. It has been designed to ignore these temporary bursts of light, and only open when there has been consistent light for an amount of time fixed by you via the control panel.

So basically, that’s your chickens’ winter worries sorted.

It’s possible that you have a stoical family member who is willing to be on guard at dawn and dusk every day throughout the cold winter months to open and close the coop door. Lucky you –that’s real chicken dedication! 

For everyone else, the Autodoor does all the work for you when you’re not around. Or, let’s face it, it gives you the excuse and peace of mind to enjoy a weekend lie-in without having to brave the elements on morning chicken duty!

A NEW Accessory for the Autodoor

Now your Autodoor can do even more to make winter chicken keeping that bit easier, with the NEW Coop Light. This practical light plugs into the Autodoor control panel and can be set to turn on automatically 5 minutes before your door is programmed to close, to encourage your chickens up to bed. So if you have some night owls among your flock who you worry about being left behind, this is the perfect solution.

You can also use the Coop Light on manual mode to supply light to your coop or run, ideal for checking on your chickens, or for those who are having to carry out their daily chicken keeping duties, once the sun has gone down. The cable between the control panel and the light is 2 metres long so that you can position the light in an optimal place for your set up.

 

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31% off Chicken Perches this Halloween!

Save 31% on Omlet Chicken Perches this Halloween!

Calling all wicked Witches! We know October has been a very busy month for you all, which is why we are offering 31% off when you upgrade your witch’s broomstick this Halloween, to the Omlet Chicken Perch. This spooktacular offer will fly past, so don’t miss out! 

Use discount code WITCHES until midnight on the 31st of October! 

 

Give your chickens a brilliant new way to play in their chicken run with Omlet’s Chicken Perch, available in 2 lengths to suit your flock. The naturally weather resistant perch not only features an innovative bracket design – allowing it to be placed anywhere on any chicken run – but is also suitable for use by all breeds of chicken, making it the new must-have DIY chicken coop accessory!

Upgrade your chicken’s playtime with this fun accessory, and use code WITCHES to save 31% until midnight tomorrow.

Terms and conditions

This promotion is only valid from 30/10/19 – midnight on 31/10/19. Use code WITCHES to claim 31% off Chicken Perches. This offer is available on the Omlet Chicken Perch 1 metre and 2 metre only. Subject to availability. Omlet ltd. reserves the right to withdraw the offer at any point. Offer cannot be used on delivery, existing discounts or in conjunction with any other offer.

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Happy World Egg Day! Enter our competition here.

Happy World Egg Day!

To celebrate, we want you to nominate someone you know who has always dreamed of collecting fresh eggs from their own chickens every day. We will be picking one lucky winner to receive an eggcellent prize – the amazing Eglu Go Chicken Coop with 2m run! 

To enter, head over to our Twitter page, follow us and reply to the World Egg Day tweet with the username of the person you want to nominate. 

Good luck!

Terms and Conditions

The competition closes at midnight on the 13th of October 2019. To enter please comment on the World Egg Day tweet on the Omlet Twitter page – you must also be following the page. One winner will receive an Eglu Go Chicken Coop with 2m run. The winner will be randomly selected from all entries worldwide and notified within 7 days of the competition closing. If the winner does not respond to claim the prize within 7 days of notification, we reserve the right to withdraw the prize from the winner and pick a replacement winner.

Omlet reserve the right to withdraw or amend the competition at any point. Prize cannot be transferred to cash. This competition is not open to Omlet employees or members of their immediate families. All entries must be made on the relevant competition post. The winner agrees to the use of their name and any reasonable requests by Omlet relating to any post-winning publicity.

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How to Prepare your Chicken Coop for Winter

The temperature is already dropping rapidly, the nights are drawing in and we are just weeks away from the first frost. Although the fresh air and crunchy leaves may be loved by some, the signs of winter being just around the corner can be a worry for chicken keepers. 

Now is the time to act! Get your chickens’ coop ready for the colder months before the freezing temperatures hit, and you will be able to rest easy knowing that your girls are warm and healthy throughout winter. 

Take a look at some of our top tips for getting your chicken coop winter-ready…

Move your coop closer to the house

This is a simple step for making it easier for you to look after your girls and give them their daily health checks, which are even more important in the colder months. Choose a lightweight coop with wheels, like the Eglu, to make it even easier to move it around your garden.

Upgrade your wooden coop to an Eglu

The main benefit to an Eglu Cube Chicken Coop for chicken keepers in winter is the twin wall insulation found in the design of the plastic house. This works in a similar way to double glazing, by creating a barrier between the cold air outside the coop, and the air in side. The air between the two walls conducts poorly, which means inside the house stays at a consistent and warm temperature throughout winter, whatever the weather is doing outside. Chickens are very efficient at keeping themselves warm, all you will need to do is make sure the coop door is shut at night time. 

Autodoor

…and to make sure your chicken coop’s door is always shut at dusk, even if you are not yet home, the Automatic Chicken Coop Door is a convenient solution for the Eglu Cube or wooden chicken coops. You can set the Autodoor to close at a specific time or light percentage to suit when all your girls have gone up to bed and the sun has set. The Autodoor runs off batteries and has been tested to work down to -10 degrees celcius so there is no worry, however cold it gets outside! 

The other benefit to the Autodoor is that it will open again at dawn so you can head off to work early before the sun rises and your girls need to be let out, or you can stay in bed for even longer at the weekends without going out in the freezing cold to let your chickens out of their coop! 

The NEW Coop Light also makes it easier for you to check on your girls and carry out daily chicken keeping duties if you don’t get home until after dark. This plugs directly into your Autodoor control panel, and can even be programmed to automatically turn on 5 minutes before your Autodoor closes to encourage your chickens up to the coop.

“The nights are drawing in and I couldn’t be happier knowing that my girls are safely tucked up in bed with their Omlet Autodoor closed behind them. The Autodoor has given me peace of mind, flexibility and a well needed lie in! Couldn’t recommend it enough!” – Hayley’s Lottie Haven

Run covers

Chickens are very good at coping in cold temperatures, but don’t like getting wet, so it would be kinder for them to be protected from the elements when in their run by our clear covers and windbreaks. Available in a variety of sizes to suit your run length, the clear run covers protect your girls from wind and rain so they can continue to play whatever the weather, whilst still allowing light into the run. 

Extreme temperature jackets

When the temperature drops below freezing for multiple days in a row during the very depths of winter, it might be wise to give your chickens extra warmth with an extreme temperature jacket. Poorly or older chickens, will definitely benefit from this extra support.

Hentertainment

Prevent chickens getting bored when rain stops play with a variety of fun and interactive toys they can play with in all weathers. The Chicken Perch provides an easy outdoor perch which can be installed in their run (and protected by the run covers) for when your chickens can’t perch in their usual spots around your garden. The Chicken Swing provides hours of fun and again, can be easily installed in any run. While the Peck Toys and Caddi Treat Holder offer enriching entertainment as well as a rewarding flow of treats.

Added extras

Prevent your chickens’ water from freezing with a water heater to ensure they have access to flowing water at all times. It is also recommended to provide extra layers pellets and treats during winter, as chickens will need more energy to keep themselves warm and lay their eggs in the colder months.

 

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How to Keep Rats Away from your Chicken Coop

 

One of the most common questions we get from people who are thinking about keeping chickens is…

“Will keeping chickens attract rats?”

 

The important thing to note with this is that the rats are not attracted to the chickens, they are actually drawn specifically to the chickens’ feed. Once we know this, thinking about how we can prevent rats in our gardens doesn’t seem such a daunting task…

Store all chicken feed in secure bins with lids

Keep your chickens’ feed as secure and well-sealed as possible in airtight bins to reduce any smell which might attract unwanted visitors. 

Only throw the food on the ground which you know your chickens will eat

Avoid there being left over feed in the grass for rats to eat, buy only throwing on the ground what you know your chickens will consume during the day. A good solution for this is using a corn dispenser such as the Peck Toy, or a feed ball holder, like the Caddi

Remove feeders from the run at night time

Securely cover or remove entirely, all feeders and treat dispensers at night fall and return to the run in the morning. Chickens are usually closed up in their coop at night so shouldn’t miss need any midnight snacks!

Hang compact discs in the run

Rumour has it, the way that CD’s reflect light startles and upsets rats which may be enough to put them off getting close to your coop. Hang old CD’s with string in your run and see if it works!

Collect eggs every day

Rats are also attracted to your chickens’ eggs for food so you should make sure you remove the eggs daily to take away another temptation. Eglus offer a completely secure house for your girls to lay their eggs without fear of them being stolen!

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How To Choose the Right Chickens for You

You may be thinking of buying chickens, or expanding your flock. But what exactly are you looking for?

There are a number of factors to consider. For example, is the main aim to have a good egg supply? Or colourful eggs? Will the hens be kept chiefly as pets rather than providers of eggs and/or meat? Will they need to be docile so that children can handle them?

Here are a few pointers, to make sure your feathered friends are fit for purpose.

Good Layers

All the chicken breeds available for purchase lay eggs. But if you’re looking for two or three hens that will satisfy your family’s weekly egg requirements, there are certain breeds renowned for their productivity.

Most hens go through a period in winter when production drops off. So, an average of five-plus eggs a week over the course of a year is the most you can hope for, and the breeds that regularly achieve this are Ancona, Australorps, Favaucana and Rhode Island Red. Many other breeds average four a week, but these four breeds are the queens of the coup when it comes to eggs, and will deliver between 260 and 300 a year.

And if we had to pick an overall winner, it would be the Australorps, as one hen of this breed holds the world record – 364 eggs in a single year!

Colourful Eggs

Most hens lay brown or white eggs, and shell colour makes no difference to the taste of an egg or the colour of its yolk (that’s all down to what you feed your hens – plenty of greens will result in rich orange-yellow yolks).

However, some hens lay eggs of a more unusual colour. The Ameraucana, Cuckoo Bluebar, Cream Legbar and Super Blue Egg Layer will – as you may have guessed from that last name – deliver blue eggs.

The Araucana, Easter Egger, Favaucana and Ameriflower lay green-blue eggs, while the group of birds known as Olive Eggers give you eggs of a lovely olive-green hue.

Beautiful chocolate-brown eggs are the speciality of the Delaware, Marans and Penedesencas, while red-browns and pinkish-browns are delivered by Catalana, Plymouth Rock, Barnevelder and Welsummer hens.

The Sumatran and Swiss breeds produce eggs of a very pleasing cream hue. A mixture of different colours from a mixed flock of hens makes the perfect Easter basket – no dyes required!

Hens For Kids

Many chicken breeds can be nervous, while others can be quick to peck at intruding hands. These are not ideal for children, for the obvious reasons – ‘scared’ and ‘aggressive’ are not tags you would wish to apply to any kid’s pet!

Some hens are lovely and docile, though, and will soon get used to being stroked, picked up and treated as friendly members of the family. Some of the best breeds in this respect are the Brahma, Cochin, Belgian d’Uccle Bantam, Easter Egger, Golden Buff, Orpington, Silkie Bantam and Sussex.

Sunday Roast?

Many people keep what are known as ‘dual-purpose’ chickens, and these are the breeds that combine good egg production (an average of four a week) with good eating. Not all good egg-layers make good oven birds, but many – including the Delaware, Dorking, Faverolle, Jersey Giant, Orpington, Plymouth Rock, Redcap, Rhode Island Red, Sussex and Wyandotte – do.

Hens bred specifically for meat, and not eggs, are known as broilers. They grow faster than breeds developed for egg-laying. Popular birds in this category include Bresse, Cornish Cross and Freedom Ranger.

Ornamental Hens

If you’re not worried about egg supply or drumsticks and simply want something that will brighten up the garden, bantams are best. These are small birds, purposefully bred to look good, with endless variations on plumage, patterns and colours. They are particularly popular with keepers who like to enter their birds in shows and exhibitions.

Popular breeds in this category include Barred Plymouth Rock, boasting a striking stripy plumage; Buff Brahma with lovely bright colours and feathery feet; Cochins, which come in a wide variety of coat patterns and colours; the spectacular Mille Fleur d’Uccle Bantam; and the wonderfully fluffy Silkies.

So, whatever you’re looking for in a hen, the ideal chicken is out there somewhere!

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How Do You Stop Your Chickens Getting Bored?

Ever heard the expression ‘cooped up’? It means being stuck indoors with nothing to do, resulting in frustration and boredom. We tend to lock hens in a chicken coop, and that’s where the saying comes from.

A hen kept in a shed with nothing to do will soon start to show all the signs of boredom, just like a human. She may start pecking at her neighbours, or plucking out her own feathers. If blood is drawn, the other hens will often join in the beak-attack, and hens can actually be killed in a frustrated frenzy of pecking.

With nothing better to peck and scratch at, chickens may also start to eat their own and other hens’ eggs. Once a chicken becomes an egg-eater, it’s very hard to make her kick the habit.

Bored birds will also tend to sit in the egg box all day, and may become weak through lack of exercise. Boredom also causes stress, and stress can bring egg production to a temporary halt.

Bidding Bye-Bye to Bantam Boredom

As usual, prevention is the best cure, and there are many ways of stopping boredom from becoming a problem in the chicken run. The general rule is simple enough – don’t keep hens cooped up!

  • Room to Roam – Give your chickens as much outdoor space as possible. If they have a garden or meadow to peck and scratch in, that’s ideal. You don’t have to worry about rounding the birds up in the evening – as soon as the sun dips in the west, hens instinctively head for the safety and security of the coop. All you have to do is close the door behind them.
  • Weather the Storm – A day spent indoors is a day of boredom for a chicken. They should only be confined to the coop if the weather is particularly bad. A bit of rain, snow and wind will not harm them, no matter how unpleasantly muddy the run may look to you.
  • Fowl Play – Chickens need stimulation, like most animals. Provide plenty of perches for roosting and resting, along with ladders, and a few pots, tree stumps or ornaments of different heights for them to clamber on and off. Many hens enjoy a chicken swing, too, as if they were parrots in a previous life.
  • Treats to Eat – Concealing a few tasty treats in the undergrowth or on ledges is a great way to keep hens entertained. Pack tasty titbits into a wicker ball, place it on the ground, and watch your hens enjoy a game of football as they eat. Alternatively, hang greens or a veg-filled Caddi just out of reach, so that the birds have to jump to get a beakful. Shop-bought or homemade suet-and-seed pecking blocks keep them coming back for more, too. The treats should not be overdone, though, as healthy diet is an essential part of good chicken care. 
  • Making Hay – A pile of hay, straw, leaves or garden compost will give your hens something to scratch and rummage through, and they will find probably a few tasty worms and beetles to eat during the fun. Piles of vegetation will be levelled in no time at all – chickens remove piles, you could say!
  • Novelty Value – Chickens will be fascinated by anything new in their runs, even something as simple as a box or tray of straw, or an old brush. They are also fascinated by their own reflections, so an old mirror can be a good distraction. An old alarm clock or large watch with a reflective glass surface and a loud tick will intrigue them, too.
  • Dust to Dust – A dust bath goes down a treat at any time of year, not just in the hot summer months. If the weather is wet, you could provide a dry earth bath in a sheltered part of the run or coop. 
  • Quality Time – Don’t underestimate the importance of interaction with your hens. Once they come to trust you they will relish your company, like any other friendly pet. Admittedly this can sometimes get a little out of hand, when hens start to flap onto the garden table to see what you’re eating, drinking or reading!

Boredom really doesn’t have to be a problem in the chicken run. As long as your hens can satisfy their strong scratching and perching instincts, and have a little fun along the way, they will remain healthy and happy.

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Why Chickens Hide Their Eggs and How to Stop Them Doing It

If you’re keeping chickens in your garden, you’ve probably become accustomed to your morning routine: wake up, drink a cup of tea or coffee and collect fresh eggs from your flock. Of course it’s an unpleasant surprise when one day you go outside, looking forward to your fresh eggs for breakfast, but return to the kitchen empty handed. There are a number of possible reasons why you’re not finding eggs in the nesting boxes anymore. Maybe your hens are too old, it’s wintertime or they’re broody or moulting. But there’s also the possibility your hens are in fact still laying eggs, but are hiding them in a nest they’ve created outside their coop.

Why do chickens hide their eggs?

In a few words the cause might be either a shortage of nesting boxes, or your hens for some reason aren’t comfortable in the ones you have provided. The general ratio of nesting boxes to hens is 1:4, although 1:6 or 1:8 might be sufficient. It is important you give your chickens a safe, tranquil and shady spot for laying that makes them feel protected. Nesting boxes can sit on the ground or be elevated. Chickens aren’t picky about the material the nesting box is made off, but they are picky about where they lay their eggs. Although wooden nesting boxes are common, plastic and metal ones are less susceptible to bacteria and easier to clean. If your hens were happily using the boxes and then suddenly stopped, there might be mites in the nesting material.

Ways to get your hens laying in their nesting box

Of course you don’t want to go on a hunt every day to find eggs and you want to be able to gather them freshly from the nesting box you’ve provided for that purpose. You can take steps to encourage your chickens to lay in the nests and not outside hidden in grass, hay bales, under the chicken coop or any other place that for some reason seem to appeal to them.

Clean the nesting area out at least once a week
Whether an egg will be hatched or eaten, in both cases cleanliness of the nesting box is very important. The nest needs to be cleaned, disinfected and treated for mites regularly. Obviously a clean nest, free from droppings and red mites, will encourage your chickens to use it. It is recommended to clean the nesting area at least once a week. Put some fresh straw, wood shavings or hay in the bottom of the box to provide you’re chickens with a comfortable nesting space.

Find the secret nest 
If you are letting your chickens roam about in the garden they may have made a nest under a bush or in a corner somewhere. Follow your chicken discreetly to find the nest. Hens will often let off a loud celebration cackle when they have laid an egg, which can help you finding the nest. Once you’ve discovered the nest, remove the eggs from it and try to block it off or make it otherwise unattractive. You can simply cover it with a scrap piece of wood, rocks or plastic bottles filled with water. Hopefully this will convince your chickens to return to the comfortable nesting box you’ve provided.

‘Decoy eggs’
Hens will often lay in places where there are already eggs. Fake eggs are useful for encouraging your chickens to lay their eggs in a particular place. When young hens get ready to start laying, the fake eggs in a nesting box will give them the hint that this is the place to lay their eggs.

Collect the eggs regularly
Collecting eggs regularly is not only one of the greatest joys of keeping chickens, it is also an important thing to do. A few eggs won’t keep a hen from adding one more, but a box already full of eggs isn’t very appealing to a hen. Collect the eggs at least once a day, every day. This will also discourage egg eating and broodiness, and it will help you keep track of which eggs are fresh.

Break the habit
Chickens are creatures of habit, and they can be very stubborn about their egg-hiding-behaviour. Most chickens lay their egg in the morning. To help stop your hens laying in places other than the nesting box, you can keep them in their run until about midday. If your chickens are very stubborn, you can try to close your hens in for a few days. They’ll have to lay inside and hopefully get into this preferable routine.

 

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Transfoming the Lives of Ex Commerical Hens

Read this account from a British Hen Welfare Trust volunteer and Omlet customer who recently rescued two ex battery hens. If you want to volunteer or rehome hens, please visit the BHWT website.


As I watched my flock potter about in my garden leading the blissful life and giving me so much in return, from their glorious eggs to laughter at their non-stop antics, I knew I wanted to give back something to these wonderful creatures.

That evening I registered my interest at the British Hen Welfare Trust to become a volunteer. I’d heard stories and seen posts online about ex-battery hens but I don’t think I really had any idea what I was going to face, and the life I was about to see thousands of beautiful ladies live day in and day out.

Picking up my new hens

Volunteer day saw an early rise at 6:30am to get to the farm. The first sight I had was a row of massive windowless barns and I could hear the faint whisper of thousands of voices inside.

I rallied off with the other volunteers who were already carrying out bewildered little faces and loading them into the crates that would be taking them onto their forever homes, where they would finally be loved and get a name.

Upon entering the reality was far worse than I could’ve imagined. So many cramped bald fragile bodies lined in cages five high, as far as the eye could see. Dust and ammonia filled the air, andall I wanted was to get them all out from the dark, away from the bare wires cages as quickly as I could.

Working with other like-minded volunteers was an inspiration, everyone worked so hard. I knew I had to be strong so that I could get some of the girls out of there; that day we got two thousand out of their prisons, all who’d seen nothing but that life for 18 months. At this young age their bodies are nutritional depleted causing them to no long produce eggs to the standard or frequency the industry wants, therefore they are not deemed commercially viable. The harsh reality is that they are then sent for slaughter. Yes, the sad truth is we had to leave some girls behind and really we only make a small drop in the ocean but for those few that do go on to a loving family its means the world.

I personally carried out my two hens, and they happened to be two of the baldest of the lot. One girl, who I called Tess, only had a few feathers on her entire body. I cuddled her in my arms as we drove home, where she shut her little eyes after such a long day realising she could now finally rest.

First few days at home

Once I got Tess and Gloria (named after the song ‘I will survive’) home I let them settle in the cat carrier until the evening with some food and water. They were terrified of me as the only human touch they’d ever previously had was never filled with love.

Even though I have a large walk in run for my flock I knew the girls needed to adjust to every day life at their own pace. They’d never even seen daylight before, instead having 20 hours of artificial light and four hours of darkness to get them to lay as many eggs as possible.

I treated them to their own luxury apartment with a view – a lovely new Eglu Go UP with a 2 meter run and wheels so I could easily move it around the garden and they could snack on as much fresh grass as they wanted. The Eglu is so easy to clean, and another main factor was to keep the dreaded red mite at bay as I did not want anything hindering my precious girls recovery whilst so weak. Looks trendy in the garden too.

Later that evening I gently placed them into the Eglu coop with the door closed so that they could get used to it and get a good night’s sleep. It’s important to allow them time to imprint on their sleeping area, as this will encourage them to go to bed at night on their own.

In the morning I let them out and even though not the most gracious of the descents both came out to explore and dive straight into the Glug and Grub containers. And so began my bonding, greatly helped by their appetite for yummy grapes.

I think my favourite sight in the first few days was them laying in the sun completely at ease and finally acting out natural behaviours like having a dust bath.

They both adapted better each day and I marvel at their ability to take on new situations. It took a little while to understand the concept of a ladder, more so due to the fact they had to build up the strength in their fragile legs, but now that they understand night and day they run up and I find them both snuggled in the coop before lock up when I say sleep tight.

Getting better

Now six weeks on in their freedom journey they are flourishing. They have massive personalities which continue to shine each day: Tess is bold and Gloria is cheeky. Both are growing lots of feathers each day and they fill my heart with such love that I know they feel back.

As I write this both are running around enjoying summer with my other girls in the garden, casually going back to their Eglu run for a bite to eat and a drink before stepping out and having more adventures, because they know thats their forever home.

I want to thank Omlet for giving my girls such an amazing coop to grow old in and enjoy retirement – they love it!

For more information on battery hens and maybe opening up your home to some check out the ‘British Hen Welfare Trust’ for upcoming rehoming dates.

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