Good homes make good tenants

by Jill Dickie

If chickens are happy, warm, and feeling secure they’ll repay with enough eggs from each hen to keep you in cooked breakfasts, pavlovas and baked cakes for months!

Chickens like to have a regular, quality food supply, and also enjoy good draught-free shelter, out of the rain and hot sun. If they are free-range, the shelter you provide can be something as simple as a hay shed, implement shed, or a treeline, as long as they have somewhere to lay those precious eggs for you.

It is possible to partially free-range your hens by letting them out for the afternoon after they have ‘done their duty’, bringing them back into their house at night, to safety from predators. The house should be secure from all weathers, and provide next boxes as well as poles to roost on at night.

If letting them out isn’t an option, your hen house can provide similar accommodation, and a connected run gives them a place to scratch and pick at the ground as chickens like do. A run can be as elaborate as a netting compound complete with a roof to keep wild birds or cats out, or as simple as some sticks of timber nailed together, covered with chicken wire and windbreak cloth.

Another option, smaller again, is a mobile hen house. Built on skids or wheels, you can shut the hens in then drag or tow it to a nearby site, allowing them the freedom of fresh grass as they need it. 

It saves the effort of providing greens each day, gives the soil time to rejuvenate, and the hens can fertilise the ground as well. When a smaller number of chickens are being kept, accommodation is easily achievable with various coops available on the market, or easily build your own with timber and netting, as long as they have a dry and secluded spot for egg laying. Other options, if you’re not so handy on the tools, is to recycle other items into what you need. A waterproof ute canopy, for example, is just about high enough for the chooks to pop under to shelter from the rain. Gathering some of those plastic drums, securing together, and cutting chicken-sized doorways in the fronts; converting an unused dog kennel or garden shed; even an unusable plastic water tank with a door for you and a door for them cut into the side!

All it takes is a little imagination, and you’ll have eggs-axctly what keeps everyone happy!