Well, the weather forecast lied here! We were meant to have had ten days of good weather when in fact we got one good day, a couple of dry days and then lots of fog and drizzle instead! It has meant that lots of plans both with the poultry and with garden were put on the back burner again.
Chicken Housing & Run
We did manage to get the omlet fencing fully secured after a bit of a change around of where we wanted to put it. Moveable fencing is perfect for us as we have quite a big garden with lots of lawn so we can move them around when an area starts to look a little worn out from their scratching.
The house is built and the girls are happily exploring their new plot. The house was just a little cheapie self build. Although we are making all the coops ourselves for up at the smallholding we wanted something small, easily moveable and quick to build for these little ladies (I also wanted something pretty for the garden).
The main problem with a lot of coops you can buy online is that the number of hens they say you can keep in them is actually far more than you would reasonably want to keep in them. The coop we bought was advertised as being suitable for 5 large fowl or 9 bantams. In my opinion it is suitable for 5 bantams in the actual house and two in the run space – so if keeping more you need to extend the run as we have.
Stocking Density for Hens
When keeping hens in the back garden (or smallholding) I tend to use the following figures as a bare minimum:
Coop Space – for the coop I want at least 1sqft of space per bird excluding the nest boxes – so this is perching space. Although I have often found the hens all crammed into one nest box at night I make sure they have this pace available so they can spread out if they want to, which is especially the case in hot weather.
Run Space – for the run I want at least 1 sqm per bird, the more the better. The more space you give the less damage the flock will cause. As we have vegetable beds and borders with flowers in that I want to protect we have used fencing to keep the birds in. An electric fencing system will also keep predators out and can also be used as a moveable system so you can change where the hens are kept if you wish to.
Extending the Flock
We plan to add another 2 little ladies to the flock this spring – also bantams. I like to keep at least 3 chickens at a time in case illness hits one as the remaining girl can become very forlorn herself if left on her own.
When adding new additions you need to take some care in terms of both possible illness and aggression to the newcomers. If you have hatched and raised your own birds illness won’t be a concern, but if buying from a breeder for the first time you should ideally keep the hens separate for at least a week to make sure the new birds are fit and healthy. In terms of aggression separating the run for 5-7 days if you have one is ideal so that the current flock can see the newcomers and by the time they are integrated they are already formed into the flock.
Frequently Asked Poultry Questions
We have lots of information in our poultry help articles including a large Chicken Keeping Frequently Asked Questions section. This along with the poultry forums are ideal if you are thinking of starting out with a small flock of hens this spring.