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Keeping chickens...

Hi all,

I am not entirely sure if this is the right place to be asking questions about keeping chickens but worth a try...!

I am hoping to invest in four or five hens at some point this year, I wonder if anyone can recommend any companies that sell houses for that amount of hens, preferably with a run large enough that should they need to be they can be left ‘indoors’ for the day...

Also, the area shown in the picture is where I was hoping to house them... with the hen house being placed nearest where the photo has been taken from so that it is situated on concrete and a fox can therefore not dig underneath... my only concern is that the area is very exposed and we often face high winds, not to mention we do get cold temperatures here (Scottish Highlands). Is this a problem for the hens? I do note that several Crofter’s keep them and have houses and gardens in a similar exposed position to myself...

Any advice and help would be so greatly appreciated!

Thank you :)
Aidan.
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  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 27,611
    Can't help with sheds or hen houses as I converted a former donkey shed into a hen house ready to house 6 ex-layers we adopted last September.   I insulated it with sheets of OSB as they don't like draughts then replaced the rotten shelf where the donkey's manger had been and put nesting boxes and straw on that with a perch above that.   Only 1 uses the perch, 2 nest on the poo shelf below it and the others do musical nest boxes all night.

    I built a safe pen round 2 sides of the shed using sheets of metal grid that builders use of reinforcing concrete and then put a finer fence mesh round the bottom half to keep them in.   I have planted climbers to cover the pen and provide shade in summer.   I also made them a swing but they've never been bored enough to use it as we now let them roam in the whole potager.  On wet days we put their feeder and water in the polytunnel so they have daylight, space to fossick and, very importantly, bare dry soil for dust baths.

    We've had to put insect netting round all the planted beds to keep them from eating the veggies but that still leaves plenty of scope for them to explore and scratch about.

    I do know that it's recommended to have the house up on legs so they have a dry space to go on wet days and I expect yours would appreciate some windbreak netting on the windiest side or their pen.   Have a word with your neighbours about how they manage.

    Ours are giving us 5 or 6 eggs a day, even thru winter and keep us company - funny not always helpful - when we're working in the potager.  I feed them on mixed grains with linseed for laying hens, add a sprinkle of crushed oyster and mussel shells to help with egg shell formation and I give them kitchen peelings and so on plus a tin of sweetcorn between them every day as their treat.

    There are foods you should avoid, eg citrus, so you need to research that.


    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • aidanhoadaidanhoad Posts: 152
    Thank you so much for your reply Obelixx!

    Definitely a lot to think about, I am thinking also about planting some form of hedging (would have to be hardy) around the outside of the fence shown in the picture - I had considered Leylandii but it would seem that it’s toxic to sheep and we are surrounded by Croft land... I do not want to be the cause of poorly sheep! Have you any suggestions as to a fast growing, very hardy (wind, salty air) plant to create a hedge wind break?

    Thank you again :)
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 27,611
    edited March 2021
    My climate is different from yours all the way up there so seaworthy hedging plants like tamarisk or sea buckthorn which do well here probably won't suit.  I suggest you have a chat with your farmer and gardening neighbours about what works well up your way and then you can have a look at it too.

    Always best to tap local knowledge and, assuming you're new arrivals, they'll be delighted that you're interested in doing what's best and be happy to help.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • SkandiSkandi Northern DenmarkPosts: 1,453
    Sea buckthorn would make an excelent hedge it grows everywhere on the coast where I am in a very similar climate. and provide the chickens with a little but of food. Give them somewhere to get out of the wind and rain and they will be perfectly happy in that spot.
    Like Oblixx I can't comment on hen houses but I would make sure it's well ancored down there! my chickens also live in part of a barn. I will say that you should expect them to turn that entire fenced area (if they have access to it) into mud. Chickens do an unexpectedly large amount of damage to grass. of course if you can get permission to let them onto that field during the day they would love it.
  • Sorry not about the chickens: but I love the situation. It looks like the front of an elegant village cricket pavilion, but maybe a bit of a slope once you go through the gate and onto the 'pitch'!
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 27,611
    Funnily enough @Skandi I've been looking at sea buckthorn as a wind break along the northern end of our potager to give the chooks and veggies some protection from cold winds but also fruits for wild birds and chooks.   I know it does well in Devon and there are several forms available her at better nurseries so I assume it will do well here too, near the Atlantic but not with the salt laden winds. 
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • aidanhoadaidanhoad Posts: 152
    Thank you @Skandi - much appreciated advice; would provide some beautiful colour aswell!

    @clarke.brunt - now you say that I can totally see the cricket pavilion aspect, I think it's the fencing? I am working my way round painting it and tidying up so it's a bit all over the place at the moment!
  • nick615nick615 SW IrelandPosts: 995
    Could I suggest your hens won't have much of a life if on concrete with nowhere to scratch and peck.  They're industrious little souls, but do need a source of interest.
  • aidanhoadaidanhoad Posts: 152
    Hi @nick615

    They will have that entire fenced area to roam, the idea was to put the hen house on the concrete area, there is a patch of grass to the left of the concrete that the run part of the house will sit above.

    I was just thinking that it would be less for me to try and fox proof if half of the house was on concrete... 

    Is the area not large enough?
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 27,611
    They can't peck away at concrete and they can't do a dust bath in it and they do need a dust bath.   They need earth/grass/weeds/compost heaps to grub around in or they'll get bored and hungry and not be happy.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
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