Backyard hens usually spend their entire lives outdoors. This means they have to cope with everything the year throws at them, from warm summer days and sub-zero winter nights 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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…
Battery-powered. No need to keep your coop close to a power source.
Reliable in all weather conditions. This is a gadget that will take you from winter to summer, and back again.
Built in safety sensors ensure no chicken is harmed when investigating their new gadget.
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.
…and finally, the Autodoor is now 25% OFF when you sign up to the Omlet newsletter here. That’s a huge saving of $67.49! Find out more and get your unique discount code here.
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 $870.
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.
You can now get the Autodoor with a the Omlet Poppy and Pendant Peck Toys in our Stay Buys! Was $298.98, now only $284.98. Buy here!
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 $93.97 (before $113.97) in our Christmas Star Buys!
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.
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 sage help 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!
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 theEglu 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 onchicken health for more advice on diagnosing and – where possible – treating problems.
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!
In the last decade chicken keeping has become a hit with families wanting a slice of the good life, propelling hens into the top ten list of pets. The reasons are clear: a supply of fresh eggs that’s the envy of your friends as well as teaching children important lessons of where their food comes from suggests that chickens really are the ultimate pet.
However, a recent survey found that over 60% of chicken keepers wish they could spend longer in bed in the mornings with many admitting they would be willing to pay up to $400 for a solution that could prolong their lazy mornings in bed! 1 in 6 couples even admitted to regularly arguing about who should let the chickens out. What will save the country’s chicken keepers from tiredness and possibly even divorce?
Introducing the brilliant new Automatic Chicken Coop door opener from Omlet. Designed to work with the best-selling Eglu Cube as well as any wooden chicken coop. Omlet’s Automatic Chicken Coop Door Opener is battery powered and combines both a timer and a light sensor, giving you the ultimate flexibility and control.
Omlet’s Head of Product Design, Simon Nicholls, said: “We know our customers love their chickens and always want the best for them, that’s why we designed the Autodoor so that the hens could get up when they want, which can be quite early in the summer. It was also important to ensure that it works as well at closing the coop at night and in all weather conditions too, so we carried out extensive testing in several different countries over 2 years to perfect the design.”
The unique integrated frame and door design comes with everything you need to attach it to your chicken house or run and has been tested to work down to -20 deg C. 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.
Sharon Burton, who has kept hens for 4 years in Oxford, believes the Autodoor has even saved her marriage! “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my chickens. I buy them the best food, I sprinkle dried flowers in their nest box to keep it fresh, but I always felt guilty if I didn’t hop straight out of bed at the crack of dawn to let them out and whenever I asked my husband Paul to do it he would pretend to be asleep! When Omlet asked me to test the Autodoor I was delighted, it’s saved my marriage!”
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 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.
As long as your chickens are laying and there’s a cockerel in your flock, you can hatch and incubate chicks all year round. However, traditionally the most popular time to breed your own chickens is in the spring. Hatching and rearing your own chicks from eggs is an incredibly exciting and rewarding process. There is nothing better than seeing your tiny chicks grow up in the knowledge that they are getting the best possible life from start to finish.The incubation period for chicken eggs is usually 21 days. The most reliable way to incubate your fertilised eggs and maximise the chance that they will hatch into healthy chicks is to use an artificial incubator. Here’s our step-by-step guide to hatching chicks:
1. Long Term Plan
Before the hatching starts, you will need to have a plan in place as to what you are going to do with the chickens once they hatch. It is a safe estimate that 25-50% of eggs will not hatch due to either not being fertilized or due to some mishaps during incubation. Among those which will hatch, approximately 50% will be cockerels and 50% will be hens. Everybody wants hens and hardly anyone needs cockerels, so there is a question of what to do with the latter. In many breeds, cockerels do not tolerate each other and they will fight vigorously unless they are completely separated.
First of all, you need to be as sure as it is reasonably possible that the eggs are fertilized, so getting them from a good breeder / farmer is crucial. Eggs of some breeds are quite expensive, so every egg that will not hatch costs you money. A breeder can never give you a 100% guarantee that the egg is fertilized, but an experienced one can be quite confident they are.
The eggs should not have any deformations or bear any other visible defects. Any cracks in the eggshells are a no-go. Any defect of the eggshell might result in the chick having difficulty in hatching, being deformed, or not developing at all.
Once you have the eggs, it is a good practice to wash them with an egg disinfectant. Eggs are porous and the embryos get oxygen and water through their eggshells. If there are any toxins or bacteria on the eggshells, that might endanger the embryos.
3. Keep a Diary
It is a really good idea to keep a diary of hatching. This includes numbering the eggs and keeping a daily record of each eggs weight. A developing egg will gradually lose weight in its 21 days of incubation. It will lose about 10-15% of its original weight over time. When the egg in the incubator is not losing weight it usually means it is not developing.
Choose your incubator carefully. Some incubators, such as the Brinsea Mini II Incubator have an Auto-turn mechanism built-in. Auto-turn saves you a lot of time and effort. Every egg during the incubation time needs to be turned every 90 minutes in order for the embryo to be positioned perfectly in the egg. A broody hen naturally turns all the eggs she is sitting on as she moves around the nest, so the turning simulates what naturally happens when a hen takes care after eggs. If the incubator does not have the Auto-turn option, you will need to turn the eggs manually. It is therefore a good practice to mark all eggs with a non-toxic marker just to be sure that every egg is being turned every time you visit them.
A good incubator will be able to keep a steady temperature within. We used the Brinsea Mini II Incubator. The optimal temperature for hatching chicks is 37.5 degrees Celsius. A good incubator will set its alarm off if the temperature within drops below or rises above a certain threshold. Temperature in the room where the incubator is placed is crucial here, as it heavily influences the temperature in the incubator. You will be opening the incubator during routine controls of the eggs, so it is really important the eggs don’t get a temperature shock in the process – such a shock might kill the fetuses. We advise keeping a steady temperature of approx. 25 degrees Celsius in the room with the incubator. The room should also be draft free.
A good incubator will be able to provide a good humidity inside. Optimal humidity for the eggs during hatching is around 40-50% but needs to be increased on Day 19 in order to soften the eggshells and help the chicks to hatch out. With some Incubators such as the Brinsea II Mini Incubator, there are two water containers inside. Fill one up every day, and fill both of them from Day 19 onward. You can fill up the water container in the Brinsea without the need to open it which is very useful, since you generally don’t want to open the incubator too often. It is perfectly normal that some condensation starts to build up in the incubator after a few days due to high humidity.
5. Daily routine
Day 7 is an important threshold. First of all, you need to start cooling the eggs for half an hour a day. It’s best to do this around the same time each day. A good incubator has a fan and you can set an automatic cooling time. If not, you need to cool the eggs down manually by taking them out of the incubator. The cooling temperature should not be shockingly different – a difference of 2 to 5 degrees Celsius will do.
Developing eggs keep their own temperature when exposed. That is how a hen tells the difference between a developing and a dead egg. When the hen gets off the nest to eat and drink, the dead eggs will go cold almost instantaneously. The hen will then get rid of the dead eggs from the nest.
You also need to start candling the eggs on Day 7 at the latest. Candling will show you which eggs are developing and which are not. If an egg does not show any signs of development on Day 7, it will not hatch. It is essential to take out any eggs which stop developing as they will start to decompose if left in the incubator. From Day 7 onward you should continue candling on a regular basis. It’s not necessary to do it every day, as you won’t see any significant progress on day-to-day basis, but it is a good practice to do it every third or fourth day. Weighing and candling combined are usually good indicators if the egg is developing or not.
From Day 7 up to Day 19 tasks should continue in a routine manner: daily cooling, weighing, and occasional candling.
Day 19 marks the next important stage. You need to stop turning the eggs and cooling them, and lay out a hatching mat in the incubator (so the chicks won’t slip on the incubator’s surface on their first day of life). You also need to increase the humidity inside up to at least 65%. When using the Brinsea Mini II Incubator you can achieve this by filling up the second water container inside.
At some point during that period the eggs will start wiggling: the chicks will be moving around the egg to position themselves perfectly to hatch out. You might feel the temptation to check on the eggs often, but at this time it is best to leave them be and inspect the eggs every 6 hours or so.
Around Day 20 the chicks should peck out a small hole in their eggshells to catch their first breath of fresh air. It’s best to leave them be. Do not help them by making the hole bigger or breaking the shell apart. They will do it themselves in their own time. In that time they will also consume all the nutrients in their eggshells, so it is vital for them to stay inside for the time being.
Most of the chicken breeds hatch on Day 21 with only a handful of breeds hatching on Day 20 or 22. Do not help the chicks in hatching, they should be able to do it themselves – it’s their first test of strength. Only give a helping hand when a chick is really late (in comparison with its companions in the incubator) and/or the eggshell is really thick and the chick is evidently struggling to get out for a prolonged period of time.
Once the chicks hatch out, leave them in the incubator for another 24 hours. They should be well fed having eaten all the nutrients from their eggs. Apart from that, the incubator provides them with the optimal temperature and humidity.
Now watch our eggcellent egg hatching video to see how easy it is to hatch chicks!
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.
Terms and Conditions
The competition closes at midnight ACT 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.
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.
For evidence of the Eglu’s cooling properties, take a look at this video showing how much slower an ice lolly melts when inside the 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 PeckToy, 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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!