Since moving to the countryside and throwing ourselves into all things country, Primrose, Poppy and I have been desperate to start filling our little patch with livestock. Thinking that perhaps a pig would be too far a step for first time country bumpkins and a donkey completely out of the question as Jerry fiercely cherishes his newly acquired lawn, I turned my thoughts towards chickens. Surrounded by clucking hens and coops in our village, it was only a matter of time before I finally managed to cajole Jerry into letting us have our very own clutch of egg laying friends. Having no idea where to start, I dived into my henkeeper’s manual to find out what was needed for number 1 on the list – a hen house. Looking for the perfect coop was more complicated than I thought – plastic or wooden? With run or without? Lots of choice and plenty of advice out there. So whether you are looking to house an army of hens or just a little brood for laying eggs for you supper, here are Margot’s top tips for choosing your very own Cluckingham Palace:
What to look for in a hen house
1. Size matters
The size of the house is really important as too small and the hens will be cramped. Too large and then won’t be able to huddle together to keep warm. Work out how many hens you are going to get and always go for a coop that houses more. We have started out with four hens but plumped for a chicken house that could fit 6. Everyone tells me that chicken keeping is addictive and that I will be adding my ladies to my flock in no time so a little more room is an advantage.
2. Nesting boxes
Make sure your coop has a cosy little space for your hens to go and lay their eggs. Rule of thumb is one nesting box to every four hens. It takes up to 2 hours to lay an egg so it is really important that your feathered friends have a place of their own to relax and cogitate!
3. Roosting perches
Hens roost at night and like to huddle together so perching posts are an important part of any hen house. To help the hens find their ‘footing’ so to speak, perches must be sturdy and each hen needs to have enough space to perch.
Ventilation in a coop is vital as chicken droppings are high in ammonia and this can cause respiratory problems in your hens. Look for draught free ventilation and wherever possible choose a hen house that has a slide out bottom tray to make the coop accessible and easy to clean.
The quality of the house is paramount – remember you are looking for something that withstand all weathers and that was built to last. Your hens will thank you for their lovely snug home and will repay you in lots of delicious eggs so be sure to choose a hen house which fits the bill.
To give your hens their very own ‘Downton’, have a look at this rather gorgeous house. Now that really would have our village talking….I might just have to pop over and buy a feeder to match! Oh and look at the sign, basket and egg run too…..so many lovely poultry accessories to choose from.
Posted by Rebecca Fletcher