Chickens!

***This is not the sort of thing that I normally post on here but I’m having a little play with pictures and I thought why not talk about the hens. So this is a bit of a test post but I hope you enjoy it all the same***

It’s been a while since I mentioned our chickens. At the moment we have ten of the little sods lovely charming animals. Before I go on though I will just say fresh eggs are lovely 😀

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Our first henhouse

Right where was I, oh yes our chickens. We take our pets very seriously, we’re one of those families that believe a pet isn’t a pet but part of the family (our cat doesn’t have the same opinion. She seems to despise us and the dog. The dog more so) and our chickens are part of the family as well. We’ve built a huge enclosure for them so they have plenty of room and we’re on our second henhouse. The first was okay but was not that spacious and the red mites had lots of places to hide (they’re a minor irritant).

Although the house we have at the moment is designed to house up to ten chickens we’re not especially pleased with the size and layout of it so we are going to build our own one in the next few months(depending on how the harvest goes) we’re going to base it on a small shed and have it so we can open one entire side so it’s easier to get in to clean out (which is my job) and generally make sure all is spic and spam in it. At the moment to properly clean out our current hen house I have to have squeeze my body into it which isn’t fun when you have a couple of nosey hens getting in the way (and yes they do get in the way). We want them to have plenty of space at night as well as during the day.

This plan is not set in stone yet, the design that we are going for may alter. My dad likes the idea of building one ourselves from scratch. This way we can totally customise it to what we want. At the moment our current henhouse has the nesting boxes higher then the perches in the middle of the house so the hens, who like to be high up, tend to sleep in the nesting boxes. To stop them doing this we want to make it so the perches are higher.
They’re not pets, not in the sense of a loyal dog or a lap cat but each one has its own personality. One of our first hens we got, Henrietta, reminded us of those old cartoons where the mother hen would hitch up her feathers like a skirt and run around like a, well like a headless chicken. Another one of our first ones was called Fred (my then four year old nephew named her). She would never be too far away from any of us humans when we were in the run. She always had to see what was going on. after she passed away we got a few more hens and one of them was brown like Fred had been so that ones called, New Fred. We have lost a few hens over the two years we have had them which is never fun. Especially since each of the hens is an individual and we get to know them well. The biggest, Bertha, is the one who keeps as far away from humans as possible. Some are quite tame, but none of them like to be handled and catching them on the rare occasions we need to handle them is always energetic, frustrating and comical for anyone watching (I’ve not ended up on my face yet though)

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The run under construction
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The girls didn’t like the snow
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This is Goldie, she’s one of the ones who has to know what we’re doing when in the run

On average we get about 6-8 eggs a day, which our friends and family love because, as I said, fresh eggs taste great! In Winter that does drop a bit and we’ve noticed in the last couple of weeks that they are not laying as many eggs which we’re putting down to the heat wave we currently have here in the UK. Mainly the hens do lay their eggs in the nesting boxes but often we find them in the house and once in a while we find one on the ground in the run itself. I think that may have been partly because we introduced five hens in two weeks. We adopted two fully grown ones from a friend of mine (who couldn’t believe how big the run was) and we brought three young ones from the gentleman who we get our hens from. This meant there was a lot of pecking order squabbles going on. Those have all but ended now, we still have still have squabbles but nothing of note.

We would love to allow the hens to have a run of our garden but its not secure enough for them so they could easily get out and foxes and other animals could get to them. Although each time our dog Pacey sticks his nose up against the fencing of the run he gets his nose pecked, he hasn’t learnt yet. The cat generally keeps well clear, I think this is because she tired to catch a cock pheasant one day and it turned on her and chased her down the garden. Our hens are great, they give our garden more life then it already had and they give us a lot of entertainment. They dig holes that we fall into when its dark, they chase each other around if one has something that the others want. If we open the steel bins we store their food and corn in they come sprinting to that end of the run, especially if its corn that’s coming out. They hate it when I’m cleaning the house out and always kick the bedding and straw around once I’m done. When I am cleaning the house out I put the dirty litter in one of those soft buckets that builders use, which the hens stand on and flick the litter out of. Normally onto me.

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And this is how the run looks today

We’ve got quite a hefty tree branch at one end of the run which we put in one day and the hens love it. It’s somewhere else for them to perch along with the top of the house, which is quite funny watching them trying to get to the top of it. We got a 30 litre water feeder for them recently and I’m surprised they haven’t started sitting on it. We got this because we only had two smaller ones which could easily get knocked over. It’ll be an achievement to tip this one on its side. We are going to build them a few perches within the run and we have a new food dispenser that we are going to put up but its not free standing so we’re planning to put it on the side of the new house once its built.

The run itself is big. It could easily hold a family sized car with room to spare. It could do with being two inches taller (at least once a week I hit my head on one of the beams) but it’s nothing to drastic. The Hens have enough space to flee if there is a scuffle and more then enough room to stretch their wings and dig multiple holes for dust baths.

We’ve had chickens for two years now and I am so glad we do have them. Even in the middle of winter and I’m trying to clean out the house in the pouring or in falling snow, or when one (or THREE) of them get out and we have to catch them I still love it. It’s not easy by any means but it’s something I will always enjoy.

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