Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hen housing

Many people are now keeping hens, however many people don't seem to do their homework. I follow a poultry site and am amazed at some of the very silly questions that people ask, most of these questions are just common sense. There are a few basic rules for keeping poultry, all of which are common sense.

Your hens should be kept safe from predators. This means some form of bio security, fencing of some type, we use electric poultry fencing, although this is not cheap it does mean that the runs can be moved to allow for fresh grazing.

Adequate housing, vermin and draught proof housing that allow the hens to move around,but it should have good ventilation, preferably a house that is large enough to have a feeder and drinker inside. Feed should be kept dry and hens should have continuous access to clean fresh water.

A dust bathing area should be available, this helps to keep lice at bay and keep the feathers in good condition.

If you require your hens to stay in lay during the shorter days, a low wattage light should be provided.

Good quality feed is also essential. Also access to grit or oyster shell.

So the basic rules:
Free from fear.
Free from hunger or thirst.
Free to display natural behaviour. I.E. able to walk around and stretch their wings.
Good housing.

We always use organic feed for our hens, but this is our choice, if we could not access Organic feed we would certainly make sure the feed was GM free. There is no proof whatsoever that GM is safe, but plenty of studies indicated that it is not.

We now have our new hen house, this is the rearing house. After our chicks hatch we put them in a brooder with an electric hen, we keep them on heat for about three weeks, depending on the temperature and how well feathered they are. Again depending on temperature they are then moved to the nursery house, with an outside run. They do have a 40watt red bulb in the house in case the nights are cold. At about tens weeks old they then are moved into the rearing house. Depending of whether we are doing pure breeds or cross breeds, the unwanted birds will be slaughtered for the table at about six months.

We have now had our first broad beans, although we only set up the veg garden last May, we have been able to find some veg each day to eat. This year the garden is greatly expanded and we hope that it will keep us completely in veg for the coming year.

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