Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Roosts for your Henhouses

Are you building new henhouses, and wondering what location, how high, thick, and what shape roosts should be for your poultry? Here are some guidelines from our experience

They should be at least 1 foot from the poultry coops walls, further if you have the room. This gives chickens more rooms for their tails and avoids damage to the feathers. It stops them pooping down the wall too.

This really depends on your breeds of chicken. Some breeds like silkies and cochins barely roost in the chickens coops at all or maybe 1-2 feet off ground with steps. Sumatras, Dorkings, Wyandottes and Chanteclers will happily roost 7 feet off the ground with no steps in between.

A ladder-type set up with many heights is best if you have room in your chicken coops. The multiple levels gives many comfort levels for the hens, and also give them smaller steps to get up to the top. Make the ladder as wide as you like. For most rare heritage chicken breeds, they will all try to roost on the top step and the dominant hens will roost highest in the henhouses.

If you have poultry coops roosts over 5 feet, make sure you have at least 6" thick shavings or bedding for the birds to land on. They can break bones and injure themselves coming down in the morning.

Shape & Size
Poultry coops roosts can be round or flat. If flat, square or rectangular, they should be at least 4 inches across. For example, a 2 by 4 laid flat. Any smaller and the birds will try to curl their toes around them and can cut the blood supply off with excess pressure on the corners. Birds are more stable on a wider roost and use less energy balancing. They can insulate their toes better in winter too with a wider poultry coops roost.

Irregular or round chickens coops roosts should be at least 3 inches diameter for many of the above reasons. You can use free tree limbs that are in good shape and the chickens will happily use them.

In general

* Don't put them over feeders or waterers
* Don't put them over other roosts - chickens will get pooped on when roosting!
* Wooden roosts are best, they are more comfortable in extreme temperatures.
* No sharp edges on the roosts
* Secure them well. Attaching them on a block of wood screwed to a henhouses wall helps stability and with the weight-chickens are heavy. Use 2 screws so they don't rotate!

You can see when you are planning your henhouses or poultry coops, your roosts need to be taken into account! Click here for easy henhouses plans designed by experienced chicken owners.

Tags: henhouses, henhouse, poultry coops, chickens coops, chicken coops

Lighting your Henhouses

Planning henhouses and choosing the right design is confusing and I want to make sure your chickens get what they need. Check out these simple henhouse plans after you read about lighting your poultry coops.

As you may know, hens and pullets need 14 hours of daylight a day to lay eggs regularly. You certainly have the option of letting nature take it's course and not providing light in the henhouse. There will be a lower egg production over the winter months and it may help reduce boredom and feather picking.

In Northern climes, if the chickens have that break over winter, come April to June their lay rate will be way higher We have gone with no light in the poultry coops and they will still lay eggs, just not as many. Some breeds like the partridge chantecler there is barely a difference in winter, but in spring that will lay slightly better for not having the light.

The surge in production in the spring as the day lengthens is great if you are going to hatch chicks or sell pure bred hatching or fertile eggs. In mid winter, we find the demand for farm-gate egg sales is less, so don't feel you have to provide light.

That said, it is extremely straight forward to provide 14 hours of light to the henhouses in the depths of winter.

First if all, start your henhouses design with at least one good sized south facing window. Chickens love to lay in the sun or even dust-bath in it, inside the henhouses if it streams in that window in the winter months. You will not have to run a light bulb all day with a decent sized henhouse window and you save that 8-10 hours of electricity.

You can supplement to get the 14 hours total light with a money saving light-bulb on timer at the end of the day. We hang a timer up in the top of the henhouses to give that additional light. You can use a cheap timer or more expensive light senor type. As far as bulb wattage, we use a 100 watt bulb if the light will be 6 feet or higher off the ground, and in bigger henhouses, say over 15 feet squared.

For smaller or lower-roofed poultry coops you may go to 60 or 40 watts, as too strong a white light can make the chickens be more aggressive to each other. The fluorescent compact bulbs don't work as well in the extreme cold so we use incandescent.

The other type of lighting we occasionally use in the henhouses (if the temp gets below -20 degrees Celsius) is the 250 watt red heat lamp. These are also used for brooded chicks for the first 4 week of life, for sick or ailing birds.
Occasionally, if it is very cold in the winter and I have small, old or large combed birds that just need a boost we will put in a corner of the henhouses about 2 feet above the ground till the cold weather passes.

If you are in the process of planning your henhouses, click here to check out the best henhouses plans we have found online. If you have any questions or comments go ahead. Maybe we can help! Thanks for reading about lighting your henhouses.

Tags: henhouses, henhouse, poultry coops, chickens coops, chicken coops

Friday, 10 June 2011

How many square feet in your Henhouses per adult Chicken?

For those who haven't owned chickens yet, this is a mysterious number and a big worry to get right to make sure henhouses are big enough keep the birds, healthy, content and productive. Having a great poultry coops plan is a start but you need to rough idea of size of henhouses needed before you can choose the right one.

I have seen all sorts of crazy henhouse square footage allowance numbers online, even as low as one square foot per chicken!!! We have seen 2 feet by 18 inch battery hen cages that used to house 3 poor hens. The actual square footage needed in poultry coops is a sliding scale, a guideline. More is obviously better, but keeping henhouses building costs down is a limiting factor.

Here's some information based on our experience and research so you can make your own decision for your poultry coops situation. Square footage needed depends on....
- Number of chickens
- Amount of time they will be in the coop, is there an outside henhouses run?
- Climate - if winter means deep snow & they stay in henhouses 24/7
- Size of chickens - Standard large fowl or bantam miniature chickens
- Temperament - how active or flighty or docile the chickens are (allow an extra 30-50% for flighty Mediterranean and laying breeds-some of the bigger docile chickens seem just as happy in a smaller space)

Storeys Guide to Raising Poultry recommends poultry coops with 2 to 3 feet square feet per chicken for broilers and 2-2.5 square feet per brown egg layer. They say size of poultry coops depends on type and number of birds to be housed. Our heritage large fowl (some docile, some flighty)free range in summer. They stay in henhouses from December to March. For them 5 feet a square foot is a minimum for the henhouses, with 10 feet per chicken if possible for winter. They certainly need less space in the summer and just use the henhouses for roosting then.

For breeding poultry coops, arks or chicken tractors where there is an enclosed run and poultry coop all in one, we allow 5-10 square feet per chicken with the area of run and poultry coop added together. Some people allow less area and we consider an absolute minimum for is 3-4 square feet per chicken for a short period of time, say a few weeks.

As far as bantams, it seems space allowances in poultry coops are roughly half for standard sized hens. For poultry coops runs and pens, 4 square feet for a bantam is recommended and 8-10 square feet of run for large fowl standards. We usually just count them as standard size as we just have a few banties.

I hope these poultry coops size guidelines are clear. We usually round up the henhouses square foot numbers for a given number of birds, because what you save in building materials by making a henhouse smaller, you may spend in time, medication, replacing birds and lost production of eggs and meat if they are overcrowded and get sick.

I hope this helps you chose the best henhouses plan for your yard and flock. There are so many to choose from here once you know how many laying hens or meat chickens you want.

Tags: henhouses, henhouse, poultry coops, chickens coops, chicken coops

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Why Building Predator Safe Henhouses is #1 priority.

No matter whether chickens lay eggs in a nesting box or get light to trigger laying, or have roosts for night time or lots of space to exercise, if they can't survive in your poultry coops, you will have no eggs and you will not even want the meat. Having the excellent henhouses plans and knowledge of predators are essential for keeping your birds safe.

Even just looking financially, if these aren't your pets, it is an utter loss when a predator gets into the henhouse and kills your birds. Even a predator killing just a few chickens will cause enough unrest that laying can be affected. Management can become harder when they won't go back into the poultry coops to normally roost at night. Sometimes puncture wounds that were overlooked on survivors can cause losses, and take up time to deal with as the birds conditions worsen. It is upsetting and shocking for the family when pet chickens are killed too.

The best way to go about protecting your chickens and building predator-proof henhouses is knowing the likely predators in your area and their method of operation. Knowing what size hole they can squeeze though, type and usual time of attacks will go along way to protecting your poultry.

Most predator attacks happen on henhouses at dusk and night and though most chickens will roost for more safety, there should never be a hole in poultry coops larger than 1" and the doors should never be left open after dusk and before dawn. If you are unable to be around at dusk you may want to install an automatic coop door for peace of mind and freedom!

Predation rates can be higher when henhouses are located near trees or backing onto forest and woodland. These areas are habitat and cover for the predators. And covered runs prevent aerial predators, hawks, eagles, owls and crows from striking. Regular hexagonal chicken wire will not stop the most intent predators for example raccoons from getting into your poultry coops and attacking the chickens. Welded wire or hardware cloth is the only wire we ever use in our poultry coops.

When planning your henhouses please be aware of how important keeping the birds safe is. They will always find somewhere to roost and lay their eggs. They won't always be able to get away if a predator gets in the henhouses when you are not around. Check out these great henhouse plans!

Tags: henhouses, henhouse, poultry coops, chickens coops, chicken coops