It’s a lovely day, the sun is out, the colourful flowers in your garden are in full bloom, the bees are buzzing, the vegetables are thriving, raspberries just waiting for you to pick and eat them straight from the bush and a nice refreshing breeze of air blows lightly through the rustling leaves – and carries something rather peculiar with it.
Years ago almost everyone knew this noise from their own back garden.
Nowadays a lot of people have only heard it in stories or even in the petting zoo.
This time though, the clucking is the most relaxing noise you could imagine, turning this beautiful day into perfection. Your happy little flock of backyard chickens, happily clucking away in your beautiful garden, supplying you with fresh, tasty eggs every day.
Does this sound somewhat too good to be true? A beautiful garden with flowers, vegetables and even berries that is not completely scratched and ruined from the chickens living in it? Is that even possible?
Yes, it is! And we will tell you how you can make your dream of keeping chickens and still having a beautiful garden a reality.
It might require a little bit of planning, but with these tips, you and your chickens can enjoy a lovely, well cared for garden together.
Free Range Chickens or Secure Chicken Run
The easiest way to keep your garden in a pristine condition is to keep your chickens in an enclosed area. With a spacious chicken run, you are able to keep the chickens in that area and they will not be able to dig up your precious vegetables.
This however might not be an option for everyone due to the garden shape, size or sloped areas. It would then be best to offer the chickens a small secure run for the daytime and let them out to free range once you are back from work.
The most important thing to consider is how much room you have in your garden that you would like to offer to the chickens. That determines how many chickens you can keep, without the ladies taking over your garden entirely.
The more space you can offer them, the less damage they will cause – their scratching will then not just affect a small area, instead they will be able to forage for food and scratch out mossy areas in your lawn as well as getting rid of pests like slugs, snails and caterpillars in a wider area, therefore not destroying the lawn but actually keeping it healthy.
If you account for about 20 sqm per chicken in the garden, they will usually not cause much damage to the lawn.
Another important factor to consider is the breed of chicken you choose.
Hybrids usually cause the most damage, as they are constantly looking for food and need a constant energy supply due to the demand of producing an egg almost every day. Hybrids are generally hardy birds that are easy for first time chicken keepers. However, a better choice for a beautiful garden are calm purebred chickens.
Depending on what you look for in a chicken, and if the eggs are not the most important part of your chicken parenting journey, bantam breeds are generally very nice and docile birds to keep in the garden. Their small size alone often prevents them from doing too much damage. Seramas and Cochins as well as Pekin Bantams and Silkies make lovely, friendly pets and are known to be fairly kind to your garden. Their eggs are generally very small. 2-3 eggs would usually make up the equivalent of one medium sized egg.
If you’d rather have a sizeable breakfast egg, Bantam Orpingtons would be a fantastic choice. They are very calm birds, don’t fly and are simply round and fluffy, perfect, friendly chickens. Due to the big size of regular Orpingtons, the Bantams seem more like a medium sized chicken and lay medium sized eggs. They come in a variety of colours and are a favourite of many.
Securing flower beds and veggie plots
An easy way to keep plants safe is a home made hoop house covered in plastic or netting, that will keep chickens out without difficulty.
If that’s not an option, you could try to install raised beds in your garden. Most chickens don’t seem too interested in foraging for food above head level, so they tend to leave plants in raised planters alone for the most part and the plants can thrive in their beautiful wooden planters. Raised gardens make easy, back friendly gardening possible and more enjoyable.
Should you not have raised beds or want hoops around your plants, we would recommend a mobile fencing option to allow your chickens to roam freely, yet not show off their landscaping skills on your veggie plot. The mobile Chicken Fencing from Omlet is ideal to keep chickens out of certain areas. The new and improved fencing blends into your garden and is available as a 12, 21, 32 & 42 meter roll. This movable chicken fencing is much easier to install than chicken wire and features many benefits such as tangle proof netting, adjustable poles and reflective badges to help you find the gate at night.
Omlet’s flexible chicken fencing comes with an inbuilt gate which features a newly redesigned catch that is stronger and more comfortable to use. You can also set the width of the gate opening to your preferred size making it easy to get in and out to feed your chickens. Another great feature of the gate is that you can position it wherever you want within the layout you have chosen, you can put it at any end, the middle or anywhere else. The width of the gate opening can also be adjusted to suit.
With an overall height of 1.25m, (which is taller than most chicken fencing), you can be confident that even the most determined of your feathered friends won’t make a great escape! The poles of the fence are also adjustable to ensure that the netting remains tight and secure at all times.
Offer a “chicken spa” area
Chickens love to dig up dry soil under bushes to then enjoy a lovely dustbath in the sheltered, shady area. Allow them to find their favourite spot, or plant some chicken friendly bushes in an area you are happy to devote to your chickens, and they will most likely not think about any other plants. A chicken spa like that will not only keep your girls feathers in beautiful condition but keep them in good spirits and happy moods.
Keep an eye on your chickens
The best and safest time for your chickens to free range is usually when you are with them in the garden and can keep an eye on them. This allows you to keep them from causing too much mischief by throwing a handful of tasty corn in an area as far away as possible from flowers and veggies. My lively bunch of ladies will then loudly proclaim their excitement and run to gather all the tasty treats. This will usually keep them preoccupied for at least 30 mins.
This entry was posted in Chickens
STEP ONE: LIGHT
The process of egg laying starts in the chicken’s eye. Sunlight enters the eye and activates a photosensitive gland, the pineal gland, located right next to the eye. This in turn triggers a process that releases an egg, or oocyte, from the chicken’s ovary. This light sensitivity is one of the reasons that hens lay less eggs in winter.
STEP TWO: THE YOLK
Hens are born with two ovaries, but one of them stops working straight after the chick has been born. It is believed that this is to save on both energy and weight, and as long as the other ovary is working, one is plenty!
The ovary contains thousands of potential eggs, or ovum as they are also known. If you were to open up a chicken, these undeveloped ova can be seen at the start of the spine. When the chicken is old enough to start laying, some of these ova begin to mature into what is later becoming the yolk. At this stage the ova are separated and contained within their own follicles, but when one is ready to move on it releases its follicle and moves out of the ovary and down the reproductive tract, the oviduct.
This process, ovulation, occurs approximately every 25 hours, and normally starts again about an hour after the previous egg has been laid.
STEP THREE: THE WHITE
Via the infundibulum the yolk enters the oviduct, and it is here that the egg is fertilised if a rooster has courted your hen. You might have noticed that egg yolks have a small, white spot on them. This is the blastodisc, the single female cell that together with the sperm will develop into an embryo through cell division.
The journey of the egg is however exactly the same regardless of whether it’s been fertilised or not. The yolk travels through the magnum and isthmus parts of the oviduct, and this is where the egg white (also called the albumen) is created. It works as a thin membrane around the yolk that holds everything together. The chalazae, two spiral bands of tissue, makes sure that the yolk is evenly positioned within the albumen, and the whole thing starts looking like an egg, although missing a quite crucial part – the shell!
STEP FOUR: THE SHELL
The egg receives its shell in the uterus, thanks to the shell gland. It takes roughly 20 hours to produce the shell, so this is the most time consuming part of the process. Before the egg moves on for the last time, the outermost layer, known as the bloom or cuticle, is formed to create a anti-microbial layer. When the egg is ready, the shell gland pushed the egg out of the oviduct and in to the cloaca, the part where the reproductive and excretory tracts meet.
This entry was posted in Chickens
Using a steam cleaner to clean any Eglu can be a very effective way. It will not affect the plastic, whereas all surfaces are cleaned, disinfected, and all killed mites, insects and dust are blown away by the power of the steam. As a bonus the surfaces will be dry in no time, because the plastic is warmed up.
Deep-cleaning an Eglu Go once or twice a year is extra easy if one follows these steps:
1. Take of the top panel (lid)
2. Unscrew both side panels and bumpers, and take these off as well. For a complete cleaning you may want to disconnect the run as well.
3. You now have access to all inner and outer surfaces. Clean them thoroughly with the steam cleaner, if required using an old dish brush as well.
4. Clean the bumpers, panels and top lid in the same way.
5. Re-assemble the run and the coop.
This cleaning method has been used for several years now by our Dutch team-member and is guaranteed to keep your Eglu in a top condition, without damaging any parts!
This entry was posted in Chickens
1. ”I’m thinking of selling the TV, I just watch the chickens anyway.”
2. “I’m feeling a bit low today, so I’m just going to hang out with the chickens for a bit.”
3. “Yes, we had a lovely holiday. But I spent most of it worrying about my chickens.”
4. “Sorry I’m late, I just had to check on my chickens before I left.”
5. “I tried to have a lie in this morning, but my chickens were hungry.”
6. “A day when I don’t get to hug a chicken is not a day worth living.”
7. Colleagues: So, have you got any exciting plans for the weekend?
8. Me then: 3 sounds like a good number of chickens.
Me now: 🐓🐓🐓🐓🐓🐓🐓🐓🐓🐓🐓🐓
This entry was posted in Chickens
You’ve seen it on some TV programmes or driven past small-holdings and seen canines and chooks living in harmony. Maybe they are a working dog? Maybe they are a family dog? How do they do it? We have put together 7 expert tips to help you introduce your new dog to a flock of chickens.
Understand How Dogs and Animals Learn
Our canine companions, on the whole, are super intelligent and trainable, providing we know how they learn and what we need to do to train them. Introducing them to our chooks can be done and co-habiting harmony does exist. It’s through this small thing we call desensitization. Stay with us for a short Psych 101 and we promise it’ll be worth it.
Desensitization is a process where, through graded exposure, an emotional response is diminished and adapted to a specific stimulus.
Now, what the heck does that mean I hear you yell?
In short, you expose your dog to your chooks, from a distance. As he behaves how you expect him to, you gradually move him closer to the chooks. You eventually get to the stage, that through the gradual exposure, he’s not that interested in the chooks after all. His emotional response has diminished, and he has adapted which results in a calm response.
Start with your chooks in their coop or a fenced in area. Keep your dog on leash and feed him treats, providing he is ignoring the chooks. If he is paying too much attention to them, move to a greater distance. The aim is to find a distance where he is not having any emotional response towards them.
Grade the Exposure
Providing your dog is ignoring the chooks at a certain distance, you can move gradually closer to them. Say you start at 50 feet away, slowly reduce to 45 feet, 40 feet and so on. Continue to praise and reward him for ignoring them. Remember, you want his emotional response to diminish. Keep training sessions short, you don’t want to over tire your dog. Some dogs get hyper-aroused just by being over-tired.
The Big Moment!
You’ve finally made it to near the chicken coop or fence, providing he is still pretty chilled out in ignorance of the chooks, ask him to sit next to the fence or coop. Praise and reward. If he behaves how you expect him to, lengthen the leash, so he can move around the border of the coop or fence, he can sniff and explore. If he’s calm, the chooks may even come over to investigate. Stay calm. If he starts getting excited or lunges/barks at them, remove him to a safe distance where he will ignore them again. You may need to do this a few times. What he learns is that to be around the chooks, I must stay calm. If your chooks will stay in a coop or fenced area, this may be where you spend the time repeating the behaviour and praising and rewarding. You may sit with him with a chew or just work on some commands. Again, the aim is to encourage him to ignore the chooks.
If you plan on having free range chickens, and canine and chooks will be mingling daily, read on.
The Great Escape
When you feel confident that your dog has so far, happily ignored the chooks and not shown any aggression or heightened arousal towards them, you can let them out of their coop/area to roam freely. Keep your dog on his leash. Ask him to sit or lay down if this makes you feel more comfortable. As the chooks are roaming, providing your dog shows little interest, praise and reward him. Again, you may want to give him a chew or even a slow feeding puzzle game. He just needs to learn than he can co-exist with the chickens without interacting with them a great deal.
Patience Is A Virtue
You may have to spend a significant amount of time working through these steps, but done in the right way, it will be worth it. Whilst on leash you can walk him through the chooks, he may sniff, they may also show interest too. The only behaviour you don’t want to see is aggression, lunging or chasing. If this happens, go straight back to beginning and work on the gradual exposure again.
The most nerve-wracking part will likely be when you feel he is ready to be let off leash to mingle on his own. Again, take your time. You may pop the chickens back in the coop and let him explore off leash around a fence. You may prefer to put him on a long line (50ft) when in with the free-range chooks. This way, he feels like he has more freedom, but you still have control if it goes pear shaped. Be realistic though, some dogs just never quite make it to being able to mingle unsupervised with chooks, so watch the behaviour of your dog and make the call.
Chooks to dogs are super-interesting, like most things. The long and the short of it, successful introductions mean the chooks are no longer that interesting and your dog learns that to be around them he simply just needs to be calm. Arm yourself with some high value treats, chews and any other slow feeder puzzles; start from a distance and encourage the behaviour you want to see. Praise and reward when you do. Grade the exposure. Always stay calm and in control and don’t be afraid of going back to square one if things don’t go as you’d hoped. It may take time, but it will be worth it when you have canine and chooks living in harmony.
This post was written by John Wood at All Things Dogs.
This entry was posted in Chickens
Whether you’re trying to convince your partner, housemate or parents to let you keep chickens, fear not, we have all the tricks of the trade to help get them on your side. Most importantly you are going to want to house your chicken in an Eglu, therefore immediately some of their reservations about chickens will be eliminated by the unique and innovative design features.
The Omlet guide for convincing anyone that you need to get chickens!
🥚 Chickens take up too much space
🐥 Answer: Chickens come in all sorts of shapes and sizes including bantams which would be happy even in the smallest backyard.
🥚 Chickens smell bad
🐥 Answer: Chickens smell lovely but their poo is a bit unpleasant. That’s why the Eglu is so easy to clean, in less than 5 minutes you can have it smelling like roses.
🥚 Chickens make a lot of mess
🐥 Answer: All Eglus are easy to move and chickens actually improve the grass by raking out moss and fertilizing it.
🥚 We have lots of predators
🐥 Answer: Eglus are predator proof, we’ve even had bears try and fail to get in. Foxes, badgers and birds of prey are all put off by the anti-tunnel skirt and tamper proof design.
🥚 We won’t be able to go on holiday!
🐥 Answer: Chickens live outdoors and you can leave them for a weekend with enough food and water. For longer periods your friends or neighbours will be happy to come and check on them, especially if they can help themselves to the fresh eggs.
Here’s some fail safe tricks you can try that should help nudge them in the right direction:
🐓 Subtle hints – Start leaving cutouts from the Omlet brochure or pictures from our website around the house. Particularly successful spots include the fridge door, bathroom mirror and on top of their pillow.
🐓 Taste test – Get a farm fresh egg and also a store bought egg, do a taste test showing the difference in both colour and taste.
🐓Rescuing hens – Show them success stories from rescue hen charities and explain how you can save these birds and give them a happy home.
🐓 They eat bugs – Chickens are great little workers, so long as you keep moving them about your garden they’ll eat all the nasty bugs and ticks that you can’t seem to get rid of.
🐓 Friendly pets – People will be surprised to find out that chickens are actually very friendly pets, each with their own personalities. See if you can find a friend who already has chickens that you can introduce your loved one to so they can have the opportunity to ‘hug a hen’ and see for themselves how nice these animals are. Alternatively local farms and petting zoos will most probably have chickens you can go to see.
🐓 Start ‘hypothetically’ naming them – Start giving your soon-to-be chickens names. Try and get your loved ones involved in the brainstorm and then they’ll start to see how much fun you can have. Hen Solo, Princess Lay-a, Cluck Rogers… the list goes on!
This entry was posted in Chickens
Nathalie is the owner of the Instagram account My Backyard Paradise. Together with her husband and their three teenage daughters she runs her own ‘mini backyard farm’ in Belgium. The beautiful pictures she shares with her Instagram followers show that this truly is a backyard paradise. In June 2018 Nathalie decided to extend her mini farm with three ex-battery hens. Follow their journey to recovery in the two-part photo diary she kept for us. You can find part one here.
The chickens are still eating an Alfamix mixture, a very rich grain blend with pellets and amphipods, and layers pellets. It’s time to further reduce the layers pellets (this was the only feed they had before we rescued them). For one month we will only give them Alfamix, then they will get the same food as our other chickens. Our chickens also always have access to a large meadow where they can find lots of extra food.
It’s also time to do something about their nails. Usually it’s better not to cut chicken nails, they just have to wear down. But the manure stuck under their nails needs to go. We soak their feet in lukewarm water and wash off the manure. This takes more than half an hour per chicken. In the meanwhile our ducks decide to help us and bathe in the water! As a reward we give the chickens a treat afterwards. It’s strawberry season, so I cut some strawberries into small pieces. My husband says the chickens are still ignorant, they are not used to anything and do not know how to eat a whole strawberry. But they do like the small pieces, they finish them in no time. Slowly we introduce more variation into their diet. Our chickens always get a decent amount of fruits and vegetables, kitchen scraps, leftovers from our children’s lunch boxes etc. We’d rather give it to our chickens than putting it on the compost heap.
We are down to two eggs per day. One chicken stopped laying completely, but we don’t blame her. It’s nature and we have to respect it.
This week it rained for the first time in a long time. Fortunately, I have a very caring daughter who wants to make sure the chickens look for shelter. When she checks on them she finds them in their run, not moving and soaking wet. When she comes back in she’s also soaking wet. She tells me she put the chickens in their Eglu and closed the door “because otherwise they will never learn, mum!”. Our children are really interested in our new chickens and they think it’s terrible how laying hens are treated by the industry. They tell me that next time we have to save 50 chickens! But I don’t think our neighbors would agree with that. It’s important our children learn that nature has a rhythm, and that chickens lay fewer eggs during winter. But this doesn’t mean they have to die! We will just eat less eggs and have to remember to store eggs in the freezer so we can use them for cakes later on. We certainly will not buy any eggs this winter!
Our chickens really start to get to know us and they know when we will bring them treats. It’s now time to introduce them to the rest of our chicken family. Our chickens have not been allowed to free-range since the new chickens arrived. The risk that they would transmit parasites was just too high. But now they are allowed to run free again. And they are very curious to meet these three brown newcomers! The new ladies on the contrary are not too sure about this and stay close together in the middle of their run. We will spend this week introducing them to each other. Eventually we want to keep them all in the same large chicken coop. In no time they are used to the other chickens and don’t even seem to notice anymore when ten other hens scratch around their run.
Since they are now part of our extended chicken family we have to come up with names for the ladies. This is something we always decide as a family. We decide to go with names of the Belgian Royal Family. Overall, they will be our best laying hens, so they deserve some respect. We name them Louise, Elisabeth and Mathilde. They are not scared anymore and eat from our hands. It helps when you talk to them softly, as they start to recognize your voice and associate it with food. Besides vegetables we now also feed them scraps like rice and pasta, which they really seem to enjoy. And they still give us two eggs every day!
It’s finally time. We move the Eglu to the orchard, our chickens’ playground. We open the door of the chicken run. Our ladies stay inside, but our greedy Faverolle cannot wait to taste their feed and unsuspectingly enters the run. Immediately the three chickens attack. My children are shocked, they did not see this coming! I don’t worry too much since I know they’ll soon sort themselves out and are now strong enough to defend themselves. We just have to give them a few days to get used to each other.
They then take off to discover the orchard, but stay together all the time, and the other chickens don’t come near them. But it is time for them to sleep in the big chicken coop with the other chickens. At night, when it’s already dark, we take them out of their Eglu and put them on a perch in the big coop. The best time to do this is at night when it’s dark, so they won’t start fighting. This way the chickens will also all have the same smell in the morning. We keep the automatic chicken door closed for 2 days. This will enable them to sort out the pecking order and it will give them time to get used to their new home.
The transition actually goes really well. But they don’t let the rooster come near them! They are clearly higher in the pecking order than him! After two days we open the door of the chicken coop and allow everyone outside. The three ladies are slightly hesitant but eventually decide to have a look outside to see what the other chickens are up to. The only problem with the three chickens is that they like to stay out late, after the door of the automatic coop has already closed. My husband takes a flashlight to look for the chickens and puts them in the coop with the other chickens. But we can’t do this every night… We’re going on holiday soon and we want the chickens to go inside the coop by themselves. Instead of putting them in the coop we just manually open the door again when they want to get in. After a few days they enter the coop before the door closes. We can now go on holiday and don’t have to worry anymore!
I notice that since they’ve decided to sleep inside the coop, they’ve really found their place in the group. They even sleep on the highest perch. We notice the amount of eggs has really decreased. We just find one egg per day, which is strange since we hear two chickens clucking. Our youngest daughter decides to keep a close eye on the chickens. After spending half the day in the orchard, our daughter proudly tells us she found out where one of the hens is laying her eggs. There is a hidden nest! A true treasure with seven eggs in it! After removing the eggs and twigs, this hen also decides to lay her eggs in the chicken coop.
Three months later
We split our holiday in two so we can check on our chickens and collect their eggs. There is a fox in the neighborhood, so we are scared every time we come back home. But they’re all still there! We have an automatic poultry drinker, they have plenty of food in their feed bucket, and with all the plums, peaches and apples falling from the trees there’s also more than enough variation! There’s nothing better than a bunch of happy chickens and a bucket filled with colorful eggs. Now all of our chickens are allowed to free range in the garden when we are home. The three ladies are now the most adventurous. Our other chickens never noticed the compost heap but the three ladies have already found it (and they help mixing it a little bit). The only chickens that sometimes enter the kitchen are these three. And when we have dinner outside, one of them will sometimes just jump on the table. They surely provide entertainment!
We are really relieved and also proud the three hens have adjusted so well. It was a difficult summer for the animals. It was really warm and there was no rain to cool them down. But with the right care and some extra attention it all went really well.
The three hens are proud chickens now, and are definitely are part of our chicken family. They are very tame, and they are always the first to come to us so we can pick them up and cuddle them. They are very curious and love colorful shoe laces. Their egg production has stopped because they need all their energy to renew their feathers. We give them protein muffins to help them with this.
Just a few weeks from now they will have beautiful shiny feathers and the only thing that will remind us of their past will be their trimmed beak!
If you’re thinking about rehoming ex-battery hens or would like to support an organisation that works to help chickens in need, contact our friends at the British Hen Welfare Trust. The BHWT is a national charity that re-homes commercial laying hens and encourages support for British free range eggs.
This entry was posted in Chickens
Nathalie is the owner of the Instagram account My Backyard Paradise. Together with her husband and their three teenage daughters she runs her own ‘mini backyard farm’ in Belgium. The beautiful pictures she shares with her Instagram followers show that this truly is a backyard paradise. In June 2018 Nathalie decided to extend her mini farm with three ex-battery hens. Follow their journey to recovery in the two-part photo diary she kept for us.
A laying hen, one that can lay up to 300 eggs a year, is what we were missing. During autumn, our purebred chickens don’t lay any eggs for a long time. They instead take spend their time and energy renewing their plumage and waiting for the days to get longer again. Last year we didn’t have any eggs for over 3 months despite having more than ten hens! We decided that if we wanted fresh eggs during autumn, we had to buy laying hens.
We always buy our new chickens from a smaller trader or a hobby breeder, so we can actually see the chickens and know they have access to grass, clean water and decent housing. But we like the idea of rescuing a few laying hens destined for slaughter by giving them a good life in our garden. The life of battery hens ends after just sixteen months. Their bodies need time to recover and their egg production will stop. This means a loss for the industry. Besides that, after each moult the egg production will drop, and the industry does not accept that!
So that’s what we did. First thing to do was find a place where you can rescue commercial laying hens from slaughter. The first option we came across was www.redeenlegkip.be (‘Save a battery hen’), a Belgian website where you can buy or adopt a laying hen. If you decide to adopt a hen, you’ll pay a monthly contribution of €5 and get 24 egg per month in return. When you adopt or buy a chicken, the organization ensures the chickens are collected from the companies and given appropriate first aid. However, we wanted to experience this ourselves. After continuing my search, I came across another Belgian website www.lespoulesheureuses.org (recently also available in France). They give you the opportunity to collect the chickens yourself, so you’ll know the address and code (the one you can find on the egg) of the company.
We then had to wait for the right weather. The best time to save a laying hen is when you can give her the ideal conditions to recover. They often don’t have many feathers left and have probably never been outside their barn, where the temperature is always at least 18 degrees! They’ve never seen rain and you should also be careful with draught and wind. You don’t want them to get ill, they have experienced more than enough stress already.
On June 16th 2018, it is finally happening. I reserved three Isa Brown chickens from a code 2 company. Code 2 means the eggs from this company are sold as free-range eggs. Sounds good, you might think…
Free-range eggs from the commercial industry come from chickens that only have access to barns. They have perches, nesting boxes and scratching areas with some straw on the floor. There is a maximum of nine chickens per square meter and debeaking is allowed. This is probably not what most of us have in mind when we think of free-range chickens…
My youngest nine-year-old daughter is joining me on my way to pick up the chickens. I tell her in advance that the chickens will be in a bad shape and will look nothing like the chickens we have at home, that she isn’t allowed to pick them up and cuddle them, and that we have to take care of them first. We are not the only ones here today to buy chickens. An older couple buys two chickens and there is someone with a trailer with 50 chicken cages. People keep on coming. We ask a staff member if we can have three chickens. He looks at my daughter first before turning around to get them for us. Of course, we are not allowed in the barns, we’re not even allowed to take a picture. The chickens we get are in a much better condition than the ones the older couple got, ours still have a lot of feathers. Maybe I shouldn’t have taken my daughter with me, to get a more honest impression of the condition of an average laying hen. The man probably had our daughter in mind when he chose our chickens. After paying €3 per chicken, the life these chickens deserve can finally begin. At home everything is ready for them. After driving 10 minutes, my daughter and I look at each other. It’s smelly in the car. And it’s a strange smell, not like normal chicken manure, but a chemical, unnatural smell. The chickens are quiet, I hope they will survive the one hour drive home…
When we get home, we inspect them carefully. They seem numb, or are they frozen with fear? They still have lots of feathers, but they are dull and not shiny like the feathers of a healthy chicken. Their feathers are tangled and the tail feathers don’t look good at all. Their gaze is blank and their comb is very pale. Their toenails are way too long and curly, and there is manure stuck under them. Clearly, they haven’t been able to scratch around that much. The beaks of our chickens have been trimmed. This means the top of the beak has been cut off when they were only ten days old. This is very painful and is done to prevent feather pecking. Chickens do this when they are stressed, for example due to limited foraging opportunities.
It’s time to treat them against parasites such as lice and worms. We use Diatom Earth, a natural product used against all kinds of parasites. They need to be quarantined first. For this, we give them a temporary home in our Eglu Classic from Omlet. It has a 2 meter run and we can easily move it around in the garden so they have access to fresh grass every day. It’s also very easy to clean. We lift the chickens out of their cage and watch carefully how their feet touch the grass for the very first time. They seem surprised and for a few minutes they just stand still, until one hen realizes she can, and is allowed to, move. Slowly but surely, they cautiously start to explore their run. While the children are watching the chickens, I add the first dose of medication to their drinking water. We use Avimite, a product against lice and mites. The first week they need this on a daily basis, then weekly for the next five weeks. They soon find their water and it looks like they haven’t had any for days. Usually we don’t feed our chickens layers pellets so I had to buy them, because this is the only thing our new chickens have ever had. In the evening we help the chickens into their Eglu where they can safely spend the night.
When I open the coop the next morning they don’t want to come out. After an hour we get them out of their coop and notice they have already laid three eggs, one in the nesting box and two on the roosting bars. Because of the medication, we cannot eat their eggs for the next few weeks. Sad, but we just don’t want to take any risk. We have to discard them.
The rest of the day the chickens sit outside. They eat clover and grass for the first time and seem to realize this is not bad at all. The second and third night we have to help them into their Eglu, but from then on they finally realize that this is their new home. In the morning they come outside when I open the door and after a few days they only use the nest box to lay their eggs. Their eyes are getting brighter and they start to establish the pecking order. They are more lively than the first few days, but still nothing compared to our other chickens. Although they aren’t afraid anymore when we come near, they don’t allow us to touch them. This is hard for the children who want to cuddle them to make them forget their past. But the chickens first have to get used to their new environment, to us, and to their new life.
We only have to repeat the red mite treatment once a week now and we can start with the deworming. This treatment, which they need five days in a row, can also be added to their drinking water. The hens give us two to three eggs every day. It’s now time to gradually change their diet. They are used to their new home, they’re not scared anymore when we come near or when our dog wants to sniff at them. They clearly defined their pecking order. We want the very best for our animals, and this also includes a rich and varied diet. Our chickens get Garvo but our 3 laying hens need something extra, a mineral and vitamin boost. We give them Alfamix, a very rich grain mixture with pellets and amphipods. But when I mix this with their layer pellets, I notice that they only eat their pellets and not the new food. They do eat a lot of grass and clover. Slowly but surely their combs are getting redder.
During the weekend, our youngest daughter decides it is time for them to free range in the garden. They love it, and really enjoy the dust baths. But trying to get them back into their Eglu is less enjoyable. Finally they decide to go back into their home. Our daughter has learnt that they are not ready to discover the great outdoors just yet…
Come back in a couple of weeks time to read part two of the diary!
This entry was posted in Chickens
If you’re a first time chicken keeper getting started this autumn, you will likely be wondering what exactly you need to take care of your new pets. Some things will depend on your garden and how many chickens you will be getting, and others are a standard essential for all chicken keepers. We’ve put together this handy guide for everything you need, plus there is a checklist at the end for you to use when shopping.
First things first – housing. Your choice here will mainly depend on the number of chickens you plan on getting. At Omlet, we recommend a plastic chicken coop to reduce the risk of red mite infestation and to keep your girls completely weather protected. The traditional wooden chicken coop may look nice but they are harder to maintain, keep waterproof and red mite free.
Our Eglu chicken coops not only look great (available in purple or green), but they are also completely weatherproof, twin-wall insulated, and super easy to clean, making it virtually impossible for red mites to survive.
The Eglu Go and Go UP are a good starting point if you are only planning on getting 2 to 4 chickens. The house is the same, with a pull out droppings tray, nesting area, roosting bars and easy open back door, the only difference is that the Go UP comes on a stand with a ladder up to the coop, making the run taller, giving more space for hentertainment and allowing your chickens to roost off the ground.
The Eglu Cube is our largest coop. It is suitable for up to 10 smaller bantam breeds such as Pekins, 6-8 medium sized hens like the Rhode Island Red or 4-5 large breeds like the majestic Cochin. The Cube also has a back door and pull out droppings tray, plus a side egg port for you to easily collect your eggs from the nest box (which is big enough for 3 chickens to lay at once).
All our chicken keeping products, including the Eglus have 10% off now until the 22nd of March in our Spring Sale, so if you are thinking about keeping chickens now is the time to do it!
The Eglus are available with a fox resistant chicken run made from strong steel weld mesh, impossible for predators to break. A unique anti-tunnel skirt sits flat on the ground and prevents animals from digging in. Choose your run length based on how many chickens you will be getting and how often you will be able to let your chickens free range. If you start with a smaller run to begin with and realise later on your chickens need more space, we have run extensions available, or you may want to consider a larger Walk in Run to give your chickens lots of space and make it easier for you to spend time with them and look after them.
A number of accessories are also available for your Eglu run including wheels and run handles to make it quick and easy for one person to move the coop and run to another area of your garden.
Something else you may want to consider for your garden set up is Chicken Fencing. Although, not predator proof, chicken fencing allows you to section off an area of your garden to keep your chickens in one place. This is especially useful if you have a larger garden that you don’t want your chickens to get lost in, or if you have a vegetable patch or flower bed to protect. This is best used when you are home or at a time when you know foxes are not about in your area, so you know your girls are safe free ranging outside of their coop run.
Like any other animal, chickens can get bored and need good sources of, what we like to call, hentertainment to keep them occupied when you are not around.
Our Rocky and Elvis Peck Toys slowly release treats over time while being pecked and offer hens great boredom busting fun. The Omlet Chicken Perch can be placed anywhere on any chicken run, and allows your hens to fulfill their natural desire to perch from the highest point available while in their run during the day.
For spring and summer time you may want to consider a shade for the run to give your chickens a cooler area out of the sun where they can chill out.
For winter, an Extreme Temperature Blanket is ideal for keeping the coop warm when temperatures drop below freezing for multiple days in a row. There are also a number of run covers and wind breaks available so your chickens can still enjoy time outside while being protected from the elements.
For laying hens you will need to provide layers pellets which offer the protein content they need to stay healthy and regularly lay eggs. A fully grown chicken will typically eat about 120 grams of layers pellets a day. You will also need to provide grit which is essential for helping chickens digest their food, as they do not have teeth.
Corn is a great treat for hens but should be limited as it is high in fat. Other treats, such as fruit, green veggies and cereals should also only be given in limited supply to avoid chickens filling up on those rather than the layers pellets.
It also important to ensure fresh water is available at all times – checking and refilling it daily.
Our Eglus all come with a feeder and drinker but you may want to consider buying extra to offer another area in your garden for when they are free ranging, especially important for chickens who don’t like to share with their coop-mates!
There are lots of different types of bedding available on the market, and which you choose is entirely dependent on your personal preference. Some to consider include dust extracted wood shavings, straw, chopped cardboard, Aubiose and Easichick.
When you give your chickens’ droppings tray and bedding area its weekly clean, you might want to consider sprinkling some Diatom Powder around to prevent any bugs making a home in your chicken coop, and adding some BioDri to bedding will help to sanitise the litter, make it last longer, and reduce the growth of bacteria.
Deep clean your whole coop once a year with a disinfectant such as Johnson’s Clean ‘n’ Safe to ensure the coop is spotless.
Last but not least: Chickens!
When you have everything in place and are ready to get some chickens, we strongly recommend looking to charities to rescue an ex-battery hen. While these hens may be a little more wary of their new home and the strange environment they are not used to, they will soon come round and settle in and be a great layer for you and your family.
Get 10% off all the products mentioned in this post until the 24th of March in our Autumn Sale! No promo code needed.
- Run wheels/handles
- Run shade and covers
- Toys; perches, treat dispensers
- Feeders and drinkers
- Layers pellets
- Diatom powder
- Chicken-safe Disinfectant
This entry was posted in Chickens
Did you know that chickens can’t sweat? Instead, chickens use their legs, combs and wattles to lead heat away from their bodies. They also pant and spread their wings in order to get some air through those feathers. Chickens also enjoy lying down in the shade when it’s very hot, and of course they drink lots of water. Did you know that it is actually easier for chickens to keep themselves warm in winter than it is for them to cool down during the summer? It isn’t just an issue of comfort either – chickens can die of heatstroke. Since chickens have a hard time cooling themselves down, when it gets extremely hot they rely on you to help them. So, what can you do to help your chickens keep cool in the summer heat?
Here are our 7 top tips:
Eggs consist mainly of water, so producing an egg absorbs a lot of water from a hen’s body. Drinking cool water is also one of the main ways in which chickens cool themselves down. Your chickens will therefore need lots of fresh, clean and cool water in the heat of the summer. It’s best to change the water every day to make sure they have this. It is also a good idea to provide several water sources so all your chickens can drink at the same time and don’t have to fight for access and end up dehydrating.
Another way you can use water to help your chickens cool down is by providing some shallow pools where they can dip and cool their feet and legs, remember that this is one of the areas where heat leaves their bodies. Try filling some shallow bowls or tubs and leaving them around in the run or your garden. If your chickens don’t like to stand directly in the water you can try placing a brick in there which will be cooled by the water and which the chickens can then stand on top of.
It is absolutely essential to provide shade for your chickens and even more so when it gets really hot. If you let your chickens free-range in the garden they might be able to find shade under trees and bushes but in any case it is a good idea to provide shade in the run as well. You can easily create shady spots in the run for instance by having a raised coop and/or attaching covers to the run.
3) Treats and Feeding
Try giving you hens some cool treats such as frozen berries, vegetables or pieces of fruit. You could even create hanging treats by freezing your chickens’ favourite treats in an ice cube tray with a string in the middle so they can hang in the run. Or try keeping a whole watermelon in the fridge to cool it down before serving as a summery treat.
Be careful not to give your chickens too many treat though, as you want to make sure they eat their layers pellets. Chickens eat less when it’s extremely hot because digestion produces more body heat, so it’s important to make sure they eat the right things and get the vitamins and minerals they need. Try feeding your chickens during the cooler parts of the day such as in the evening. See tip #4 as well.
4) Nutritional Supplements
It is a good idea to give your hens some nutritional supplements in the heat such as vitamins and tonics which can be added directly to their food or water. These can improve absorption of minerals, give your chickens a boost to improve their overall health and help them cope better with the heat.
Apple cider vinegar, for instance, can help with calcium absorption in the body which is essential for egg shell production.
5) Dust Baths
Chickens love to dust bathe in the warm weather, but you might not want them scraping around in your flower beds. The best thing to do is to build another flower bed (but not for your flowers) and fill it with some sand, soil and some louse powder. If you have a large flock you might even want to provide several spaces so all your chickens have a chance to dust bathe in the shade.
Make sure that you place the dust bath in a sheltered spot or cover it up when your chickens aren’t using it otherwise the rain might turn it into a mud bath.
Your chickens will need plenty of space during the hot summer months so make sure they aren’t overcrowded. It will be even hotter for them if they are crowded too closely together. Chickens need to be able to spread out and spread their wings for ventilation, and everyone in the flock needs to be able to drink cool water and lie in the shade at any time.
7) Cool Coop
All Omlet Eglu chicken coops have a unique twin-wall insulation system which works in a similar way to double glazing. This means they do not overheat in the summer. They are also built with a draught-free ventilation system, carefully designed to avoid air blowing directly over the roosting area whilst allowing fresh air to circulate.
If you have a wooden chicken coop, it is important to think about how you can keep the coop nice and cool for your chickens. Make sure you create plenty of ventilation either by opening windows in the coop or by using a fan. Be careful not to have too much thick and heavy bedding as it absorbs heat. Also keep an eye out for mould if you’ve got a wooden coop. Mould can make straw and hay start to rot faster, thereby producing more heat, so make sure you clean out the coop regularly and especially at any signs of mould.
If your chickens are reluctant to go into the hot coop during the day to lay their eggs you could try providing nesting boxes for them outside in cooler, shaded areas.
We wish you and your chickens a lovely summer!
Sources: https://www.fresheggsdaily.com, http://www.henrescue.org, https://www.omlet.dk, https://www.backyardchickens.com
This entry was posted in Chickens
By Lotte Denckert
I’ve been lucky enough to be allowed to test the Omlet Eglu Go. Over the spring and summer I’ve first had a brood of chicks and later a brood of ducklings living in my Eglu Go.
The house is awesome to use as a broody coop and for raising chicks. The house is easy to clean, has good draught-free ventilation, it has a good size for chicks and ducklings, and the attached run gives great protection for the little ones early on, when they are very exposed in relation to birds of prey and other unwelcome guests.
Eglu Go for raising chicks
At first, my chicks were living in a cage in our guest room. They were hatched using an incubator and needed a chick brooder in the first few months as it was very cold outside. When the temperatures started to rise and the chicks had more well developed feathers, I moved them out into the coop. I kept them here for about 10 weeks. There were 10 chicks and they fitted easily in the coop until they were large enough to move into the large chicken coop with the grown-ups. I removed the roosting bars in the coop since small chicks don’t sleep on roosting bars in the beginning. I filled the coop with a generous layer of wood shavings and straw since it was still cold in the spring.
The coop is pretty easy to move around, especially if you add the wheels. You can therefore move the coop and run when the grass starts to get dull, this way, the chicks always have fresh grass to walk around on.
It’s great to have a closed run for the first while. Small chicks are exposed to birds of prey – this run keeps the birds from attacking. My grown hens were also a danger to the chicks in the beginning. Chickens aren’t always hospitable when it comes to new members of the flock. The small chicks could be left in peace in their run and the big hens could slowly get used to their presence. This made it so much easier to introduce them later, since they were already used to each other.
Hatching and rearing in the Eglu Go
When the chicks were too large to all live in the coop, I introduced them to the large flock, and then I suddenly had an empty Eglu Go. My ducks had laid a lot of eggs in a large nest but none of them were interesting in brooding. I already had two broody silkies, so I tried putting the duck eggs under them. The chickens weren’t discriminative about the eggs, and they happily lay brooding.. About a week before the eggs were supposed to start hatching, I moved the two hens and their eggs into the empty Eglu Go. The hens were very good about it and continued their persistent brooding, a week later 8 large ducklings came into the world.
Again, I had removed the roosting bars from the coop since ducks don’t sleep on roosting bars. This way, there was also room for two nests. The hens got along fine and they didn’t seem to mind that their babies had webbed feet rather than chicken feet.
Again, the other poultry in the garden could slowly get used to the new arrivals, and for that reason, there were also no issues when, a few weeks later, I let the ducklings and their mothers out to join the others in the garden.
The benefit of having ducks in an Eglu Go is that ducks often prefer to sleep outside. At night I let them into the run attached to the Eglu Go and close the run door so they are protected from predators. At the same time, they can decide for themselves whether to sleep in the coop or out in the run. In the morning I open the run door, so they can run freely in the garden and collect slugs, snails and insects.
I can definitely recommend this coop both for chicks and ducklings, whether hatched naturally or in an incubator. It’s a good idea to choose the 3 meter run, since it gives the little ones more space to play and explore.
This entry was posted in Chickens
A school in Italy, ‘Agrinido e Agriasilo Montessoriano Al Nido dell’Aquila’ has recently bought an Eglu Cube and Eglu Classic Chicken Coop for their educational programme on nature and pet caring.
We spoke with Mr Colombo’s about their new exciting project.
“Our farm with vegetable garden area produces fruit and vegetable and has recently added a nursery and a kindergarten following the Montessori method.
According to the Montessori method, the outside space needs to be prepared and organised as well as the classrooms inside the building. Therefore, we created and equipped an area
of our farm for the purpose of having children grow and care for the vegetables and also the pets (chickens and tortoises).
We wanted our little students to care for their own chickens for different reasons: firstly, to teach them how to care for another living being, and secondly, for the daily exiting reward of
getting delicious fresh eggs. Moreover, chicken- and pet-keeping has been a valuable starting point to teach numbers to the children, not to mention that the eggs were perfect to
paint and use as Easter decorations!
In order to assure that our students had the best and most educational experience, we needed something practical, clean and safe. In addition, it has to fit in the 55sqm we dedicated to the project. We decided to choose an Eglu Chicken Coop as, compared to regular wooden coops, plastic was easy to clean, highly hygienic, wouldn’t rot and would last for a very long time.
We decided to opt for Omlet’s Eglu Cube, as we valued the possibility to move the coop regularly. We move our Eglu every Saturday, in order to allow our chickens to enjoy new fresh grass every week. We were pleased to discover that one person can easily move such a big coop alone thanks to the wheels.
The size of the coop was also essential: it has to be accessible by small children. The Eglu Cube features a lateral door for easy access to the nest and eggs which is at the perfect height even for 2-year-old children. Thanks to this, our students can easily collect eggs in complete autonomy.
After a year, we wanted to expand the program and we bought another coop, the Eglu Classic, which we use to keep chicks. Keeping chicks helps children learning about time flowing and the phases of life from the egg incubation, to hatching and growing, and the patience necessary to wait for all these changes to happen.”
The Eglu Cube Chicken Coop is the ideal way to keep up to 10 chickens in a town or country garden – find out more here
This entry was posted in Chickens