The Hen House
With the wide range of houses available on the market, choosing the best one can be confusing, and if you are buying by mail order, its easy to make a mistake, because photographs can be deceptive. Generally, if the price is too good to be true – you’ll be in for a disappointment when it arrives.
Whether the house is homemade, a converted garden shed or outbuilding, or purchased from a manufacturer, there are certain points in the design and construction which are , essential to the health and contentment of the hens.
A good hen house should be strong enough to stand all weather conditions, vermin proof, warm, and draught free, but with adequate ventilation, and it must offer the birds plenty of room to move about when they are shut in. In the height of the summer the hens will wake at 4 am. but may not be let out until 8 or 9 am. so it helps if they can go down to a safe, fox proof run at dawn, for food and water.
A perch should be provided, up from the floor because hens prefer to roost off the ground, and the nest box should allow at least one square foot for up to five birds, and ideally should be separated from the roosting area.
With any house incorporating a run, it is important to bear in mind that while the roosting area may be adequate for up to 10 or 15 birds, the run is only suitable as a temporary holding area. Hens are only truly content if allowed to range free in the garden, or kept a large fox-proof run. The range area given to organic commercial free-range hens is 10 sq. metres per hen, but if you can’t manage this much space, the birds will be happy if there are plenty of interesting things to do with suitable places for dust bathing and foraging.