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Afbeelding: Poultry_-_Housing_your_Poultry__picture_1

Housing your Poultry

When you first bring your birds home, they may well be a little nervous, so you will need to confine them in their own run for a couple of days, just until they have found their feet and become familiar with their new surroundings.

Newcomers are often not welcomed with "open wings", as chickens operate a strict pecking order and even when you are only keeping one or two birds, the established bird will always uphold their position.  They may need a little encouragement in and out of their chicken house and once they have found the confidence in their new surroundings they will very quickly settle themselves down.

You should allow a minimum of 1 sq ft / bird, but bear in mind the more space you can give them the better, as they do spend a lot of time inside when sheltering from wind and rain.  They will scratch and root, eat seeds, bulbs and vegetables so if you don't want your garden "uprooted", fence them in.  Exercise space for your birds has no set rules, but a minimum run of about 20 sq ft is plenty for 4 hens.

Poultry houses need to be well ventilated, preventing the build up of bacteria and condensation, but without draughts.  Stale air can cause health problems in poultry, so a window or roof ridge should be more than adequate.

The flooring can be slatted, which will allow droppings to fall through, although this will be colder, boarded solid is warmer, but you will need to furnish the house with a droppings board, preferably under the perch, so it can be slid in and out when cleaning.

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The flooring can be slatted, which will allow droppings to fall through, although this will be colder, boarded solid is warmer, but you will need to furnish the house with a droppings board, preferably under the perch, so it can be slid in and out when cleaning.

Nest boxes should be angled and at the darkest place in the house as a discouragement to egg eating. The darkness is also an aid to the hen's laying pattern, as hens like to lay their eggs in secret. One nest box for every 3 birds, lined with sawdust or shavings (from non treated wood), warm and draught free.  If possible, access from the outside of the house to the collecting area of the nest box is easier and if the box has been angled the eggs will roll to the back of the box.

In the wild chickens will roost on branches in trees, keeping them safe from predators on the ground, so it is part of a chickens natural instinct to roost or perch.  The perch should be approximately 2 inches wide, allowing at least 8 inches of perching space / bird, as they do tend to huddle together.

Chickens can often get bored if not provided with enough stilmulation - dust baths are more often than not dug by the chickens themselves.  They will spend hours lying in the soil, flapping of their wings allows dust through the feathers which can help with the control of parasites.

Items of interest in their natural environment, such as logs at different levels provide good stimulation, as do hanging greens for them to peck.

Chickens that are confined to the same place and not given a change in pastures to root and scratch in can often develop bad habits in an attempt to overcome their boredom.  Ensure you have an ark or henhouse that can easily be moved. Overcrowding can also cause chickens to develop bad habits.

Ramp access to the henhouse is a good means of exercise.  If you have rescued hens then they will have probably had very little space to move about in at their previous residence, so they will be a little short of exercise when you first get them home.  This can be overcome with a ramp and it won't take them long before they are jumping to at least a standard roost  height.