Is Your Chicken House Winter Ready?

Chickens in the snowA safe, dry house is essential if you’re going to have healthy hens, especially during the winter months. Depending on where you live you might need to make more preparations for winter than chicken keepers living in warmer climates.

For example, if you’re in the north of England or Scotland you might need to think about hen house heaters or heated water bowls for this winter.

If you live in the south of England you probably won’t need to resort to extra heat for your hens, but having a heated water bowl could save you having to break the ice every day.

Here are some other things that all chicken keepers, regardless of their location, need to do before the cold sets in.

Give your chicken house a good clean

Whether you’re planning on using a deep litter method during the winter or not it’s best to start the winter with a clean chicken house.

Clear all of the bedding out and give the house a good scrub with a pet safe disinfectant. Make sure you get in all the nooks and crannies!

It’s also a good idea to treat your house with a mite and lice product, even if your birds haven’t shown any sign of having an infestation.

Don’t forget your accessories

Now is the time to give all of your chicken house extras, such as perches, next boxes, grit tubs, and feeders, a really good clean. If anything is broken, or doesn’t come clean with a good scrub, it might be time to replace it.

When you’re done, give everything a good rinse and leave to dry in the sun whilst you clean the rest of the chicken house.

Check for wear and tear

If you’ve bought a good quality chicken house it should have a long working life with minimum maintenance, but it’s still a good idea to check your chicken house is up to the winter weather conditions.

Check your chickens, or pests, haven’t damaged the house and that all of the fixtures are in good working order. Do the doors close properly? Are any of the metal fittings rusty? Is the automatic door working? If you find anything that isn’t the way it should be, then now is the time to fix it.

Consider installing solar lighting

Many chicken keepers find that their hens’ egg production reduces, or even stop completely, during the winter months.

This is perfectly natural and when the spring comes around again your hens should start laying. However, if you don’t want to find yourself needing to buy supermarket eggs then you could install a solar lighting kit in your chicken house to give your flock the amount of light they need to continue laying.

Make sure your run is up to scratch

Many chicken keepers prefer to restrict their hens to a run during the winter months to limit the damage done to the garden or field. If you only use a run during the winter then it’s important to check it’s still safe and secure after being stored for the summer.

Just as with your chicken house, give it a good clean and check the wire, wood, and any metal fittings. You might also want to add extra layers of wire to make it harder for hungry predators to get to your flock.

Stock up on bedding and feed

Long nights and difficult weather conditions can make it harder to get your poultry essentials. If you’ve got a dry, vermin free space it’s a good idea to stock up on bedding and feed so you don’t find yourself in a fix if weather conditions stop you getting to the pet shop.

10 Reasons Why Keeping Chickens is an Amazing Idea

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If you’re already a chicken keeper then you’ll already know all of the amazing benefits of having a back garden flock.

However, if you’re new to the chicken keeping scene, or you’re still on the fence about introducing feathered friends to your home, then you might need to see the facts in black and white before committing.

Here are 10 reasons why keeping chickens is an amazing idea:

  1. Free range eggs!

This is the most obvious reason to keep chickens and you might never need to buy eggs again if you know how to store them when your chickens aren’t laying.

Keep an eye out for our Free Range Friday posts giving you plenty of delicious egg recipes so you don’t get bored.

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  1. You are what you eat

Depending on the brand of chicken food you feed your hens, you’ll also be able to boast that your eggs are organic and non-GMO, rather than from hens which are routinely fed engineered feeds containing antibiotics.

  1. You’ll boost your nutrition

Eggs are basically vitamins and nutrients packaged in a hard shell. Not only are they protein rich and full of the essential fatty acid Omega 3, but they’re also high in Vitamin A and Beta Carotene which is needed for good eyesight.

  1. You meals will be cruelty free

Let’s be honest, do we really know what happens on big commercial farms? By having your own chickens, you’ll be safe in the knowledge that the eggs you’re eating came from a cruelty free environment and were laid by happy hens.

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  1. You’ll learn something new every day

Did you know that chickens can recognise up to 100 human or animal faces? Or that they have a complex social structure known to us as “the pecking order”? Having chickens in a back garden hen house gives you the chance to get up close and personal with a different species, learning something new about them every day.

  1. You could save a hen’s life

Your chickens don’t have to be a fancy breed and you could help save a hen’s life by rehoming some ex-battery hens. Charities such as The British Hen Welfare Trust has rehoming stations across the UK if you’re interested in helping hens in need.

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  1. Chickens give you free fertiliser

If you’re green fingered and proud of your garden then you’ll know that chicken manure is a highly prized commodity amongst gardeners. You’ll have your own free supply with back garden hens!

  1. Free pest control

Another benefit to garden hens is the free pest control they provide. As well as the feed you give them, they’ll enjoy scratching around and ridding your garden of slugs, snails, and other creatures that will ruin your flowers and vegetables.

  1. You’ll cut down on food waste

Although technically you’re not meant to feed chickens your kitchen scraps, many people do and they’ll enjoy the occasional treat from time to time.

Here are some more ideas for treats your chickens will love.

  1. You could give a heritage breed a boost

If rehoming ex-batts isn’t for you then you could consider keeping rare or “heritage” breed(s) of chickens and helping to keep the breed alive for future generations.

You can find the full list of rare breed chickens on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust website.

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Buying Your Chickens: Which Breed is Best for Beginners?

Did you know there are well over 100 breeds of chicken being bred in the UK? Each breed has its’ own characteristics, attributes, purpose, and personality. The question is how do you choose a breed that suits your lifestyle and needs?

Chicken breeds break down into three categories – chickens for meat, chickens for eggs, and chickens that are dual purpose. The majority of beginners want chickens that will produce eggs and are easy to look after.

Here are the top things to look for in any breed of chicken:

  • Is your chosen breed friendly and easy to tame?
  • Is this breed easy to care for?
  • Is this breed quite common? You’ll find it easier to get help and advice if your breed is well known.
  • If you want to keep chickens for eggs – is this breed known for high egg production?
  • If you want to keep chickens for meat – is this breed known as a good table bird?
  • If you want to keep chickens as pets – is this breed known for being docile and having a good personality?

Our top chicken breeds for beginners

Wyandotte

This breed ticks all the boxes as they’re pretty, practical, and produce great eggs. Not only are they incredibly friendly and placid but they’re also great layers so you won’t be short of eggs.

If you’re looking for a chicken breed to enhance your outdoor space then you’ll be pleased to hear that the Wyandotte comes in 14 different possible plumage variations in the UK.

Orpington

Whether you choose the large fowl or the bantam Orpington you’ll find you’ve got a great pet – especially for children. They’re not always great layers so if you’re looking for high egg production then this breed isn’t for you.

You’ll also need to make sure that your chicken house pop hole is large enough for the large fowl variety and consider keeping them separately if you have mixed breeds as the Orpington can be subject to bullying.

Warren

This is the most common hybrid breed of chicken and people will recognise Warrens as a classic brown hen – seen here in the popular Mercedes-Benz advert.

They’re friendly, docile, and love human interaction making them the perfect pets for adults and children alike. Originally bred for battery egg production they really are laying machines so you’ll never need to buy eggs again!

Silkie bantam

If you’re not worried about egg production and you want a pretty pet then this breed is ideal. Silkies are small, incredibly tame, and have great personalities. They also have some unique features with black skin and bones and five toes rather than four.

They are also great mothers so if you’re looking to start breeding and want a broody hen to sit on eggs then get yourself a few Silkies.

Brahma

If the Orpington isn’t quite big enough then the Brahma is even bigger! They might not lay a lot of eggs but they are one of the friendliest breeds of chicken. They’re great if you have children but standing at up to 30 inches tall they might be a bit big to sit on your lap!

As with the Orpington you’ll need to make sure your chicken house can accommodate these gentle giants – you might even want to consider a bespoke design.

Happy Birthday Jim & 15% Off!

To celebrate Jim becoming another year older (and wiser) we’re offering our customers 15% off selected poultry housing.

The following products currently have 15% off their usual retail price, so grab a bargain while you can:

We also have two special offer “bundles” that are ideal if you’re just starting out with chickens or you’re looking to make keeping chickens even easier…

 

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So don’t delay – get yourself over to the website and take advantage of Jim’s Birthday Bonanza!

Eight Reasons Why Keeping Chickens is a Great Idea!

It’s pretty safe to say we love chickens and there are thousands of other people all over the world that love their chickens too. Today, we’re looking at the top reasons to start keeping chickens.

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We love chickens!

  1. Fresh eggs!

This is probably the top reason that people start keeping chickens and having a daily supply of fresh eggs is certainly a good enough reason for us.

Not only will you get the satisfaction of collecting your own eggs but you’ll also know exactly what went into making them. You are what you eat after all!

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  1. Chickens are educational

Keeping chickens in your back garden is a great way to teach your children a little bit more about where their food comes from.

Having any pet is a valuable lesson in respecting and caring for animals but having a pet that gives you a tasty treat back in return for your love and dedication is even better.

  1. Your garden will be bug free

If you let your chickens free range you’ll be amazed how quickly they get rid of all the bugs in your garden.

Worms, slugs, beetles, flies, snails, and spiders all make a tasty snack for hens so you’ll be provided with free pest control all year around.

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  1. Chickens are low maintenance

Most common breeds of chicken are hardy, easy to care for, and low maintenance making them an ideal pet.

Usually as long as your flock has food, water, exercise, and a clean shelter they’ll be happy. Of course, how fancy you want to make your chicken house is up to you!

  1. You’ll get free fertiliser

Whether you let or hens free range or not you’ll still have an abundance of glorious free fertiliser that your plants will love.

The high nitrogen content of chicken poo means that it turns into brilliant compost so put it on your flower beds and wait for your plants to thrive.

  1. You’ll cut down your food wastage

Chickens are like compost bins and will happily guzzle down your left over kitchen scraps.

A squashed cauliflower, a handful of sweetcorn, or a few pieces of bacon rind will always be a welcome treat for your flock.

  1. Chickens enhance any garden

Even the plainest breed of chicken is beautiful and there are plenty of ornamental breeds if you want something really spectacular.

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  1. Chickens are entertaining

In return for as little as 15 minutes per day of your time you’ll get hours of entertainment back.

You’ll soon learn that each chicken has her own personality and all of the different breeds have their own character traits.

Now Stocking HenSafe Automatic Door Openers!

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Jim Vyse Arks is pleased to announce that we now stock HenSafe Automatic Chicken Coop Door Openers.

Designed and made in Wiltshire, UK the HenSafe Automatic Chicken Coop Door Opener is robust, rugged, and reliable. The innovative chicken coop door opener has three operating modes built in one compact, weathertight unit. Driven by a microprocessor, the HenSafe unit has a user-friendly display screen to make setting it up a piece of cake.

Take a look at the HenSafe Automatic Chicken Coop Door Opener here.

Key benefits and features of the HenSafe Automatic Chicken Coop Door Opener include:

  • Powerful 5KG lifting motor to lift the heaviest of doors
  • Fully automatic with industry quality parts
  • Fully integrated internal light sensor and timer
  • Manual button for extra flexibility
  • Digital push button display showing settings, battery life, and a system heartbeat LED light so you can see it’s working from 100m away
  • Operate using the time, light level, or a combination of both (time with a light backstop) to suit your location
  • Easy to install
  • Simple to use

Testimonials:

“HenSafe is well thought out to cover all eventualities, well made and reliable. Takes the worry out of hen husbandry.” Mr M from Lanarkshire.

“I would like to compliment you on an excellent product. I purchased my first HenSafe door opener from you last week, installed it, set the time, calibrated closing light and set an opening time within 20 minutes. It works a treat.”

How to Spring Clean Your Chicken House

The weather has warmed up, at least temporarily, and that means it’s the perfect time to get outside and give your poultry house a really good scrub. Sunny days make it easy to dry out damp houses and your flock won’t mind being outside in the sunshine whilst you’re giving their coop a spring clean.

Here are our does and don’ts for a chicken house that is clean as a whistle:

Time to get those gloves on!

Time to get those gloves on!

Do get your gloves on

Of course putting your marigolds on before you start cleaning your house will stop your hands getting dirty but it will also keep you safe from the bacteria in the coop and the chemicals in the disinfectant.

Don’t skimp on the elbow grease

Even though our houses are well ventilated and easy to clean they still benefit from a good scrub a few times a year. Use a small brush to get the dirt out of the nooks and crannies. Then use disinfectant spray or powder to keep bugs and bacteria at bay.

Do recycle your newspapers

Our houses are designed with an easy clean floor but you can make cleaning even easier by recycled your old newspapers and putting them underneath the bedding.

When you need to clean the house simply roll the newspaper up and take all the dirty bedding with it. This method is also good for minimising the mess made when cleaning your chicken house.

Do have a quick clean daily

Whilst you might not full time to do a full clean daily it’s worth spending a few minutes removing faeces and any very dirty bedding every day. It will make doing a full clean an easier task and reduce the risk of bacteria build up.

Don’t forget feeders and drinkers

If you’re going to be giving your chicken house a full clean it’s a good idea to also clean and disinfect their feeders and drinkers.

Don’t use hay as bedding

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – hay is not a suitable bedding material for chickens. Damp hay releases fungal spores, especially when your hens scratch around in it, and this can cause a respiratory disease called aspergillosis.

Do fix it if it’s broke

Make sure to set some time aside to carry out any maintenance jobs on your chicken house every time you give it a deep clean. Patch any holes, oil squeaky doors, and replace any pecked perches. You could even give it a fresh lick of paint!

Don’t forget outside too

If you keep your flock in a run or enclosure then don’t forget to tidy that up as well. You can hose large concrete runs, rake runs on grass or wood chippings, and if you have a moveable run simply rotate it to a new patch of grass.

Do get into a routine

Giving your hen house a weekly or fortnightly deep clean will prolong its working life and make sure your hens stay healthy. Pencil the time into your diary and make yourself a checklist so you don’t forget any important cleaning tasks.

Boredom Busters for Hens

In the colder months your hens can spend more time in their run and less time free ranging in your garden, field, or orchard. This can lead to boredom and bad behaviour as chickens need something to occupy their time…

In many ways chickens can be like small children – they like shiny objects, they’re easily distracted, and they can cause mass destruction if they’re not kept entertained.

Luckily keeping your hens occupied doesn’t have to be difficult and unlike small children they won’t be clamouring for the latest toy or games console. In fact, a head of cauliflower could be the best present you could ever give them!

If you’re new to the world of chicken boredom busters or you’re looking for more inspiration here are our top tips for keeping your flock amused:

Fun and healthy!

Any treats that give your poultry something to do and ensure they get all their vitamins and minerals have to be a good thing, right?

Hanging a cabbage or cauliflower from the roof of their enclosure will keep them occupied for hours playing “piñata” and then they can forage for fallen bits of veg when they’re done.

Mirror mirror!

Now we’re not saying that chickens are vain but they do like to check out their reflection from time to time. Lightweight, shatterproof, and plastic mirrors are an inexpensive purchase that can be found in many bargain homeware shops.

Fix the mirror to your run using cable ties and watch your hens pamper and preen!

Chicken swing

Yes – chicken swings are a thing!

Another level

Chickens love to have a “bird’s eye view” of the world so providing them with outside perches, swings, or stumps to stand on will give them a better look at their surroundings.

Tree stumps, branches, old ladders, and broom handles can all be used to give your hens a multi-level environment.

For something fancy and ready to go you can purchase a chicken swing from the British Hen Welfare Trust shop, or if you fancy a bit of DIY, you could also make your hens a swing.

Piles of leaves

This is a great tip for the autumn months when you’ll have an abundance of fallen leaves in your garden. For reasons known only to themselves chickens hate piles so try putting a pile of leaves in their enclosure and see how quickly they start to destroy it!

Something new

Chickens love anything new that they can investigate – wooden crates, a plastic rake, an old broom head, or even a tub of mud – will be greatly appreciated by your flock.

As long as the item can’t injure or damage your hens in any way go ahead and let them check it out.

Move things around

If you can easily move your chicken house then try putting it in a new part of the garden. Not only will this give a bit of your garden a rest but it will also allow your hens to explore a new environment.

If you’ve got a permanent poultry enclosure then why not move your flock’s feeder and other accessories to new places? Your chickens will have fun looking for things that have moved and moving things might even reveal worms, bugs, and other edible goodies!

Creating a cosy nest: the best bedding for your chickens

We all like to snuggle up in bed after a long day and your chickens are no exception but with so many bedding options how do you know which one is the best?

Straw, hay, shavings, paper, Aubiose, or a specialist poultry bedding – for first time chicken keepers the myriad of options can make creating a cosy nest for your hens a nightmare.

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Easichick – just one of the bedding options!

 

Here’s a quick run-down of the most popular bedding materials to help you make an informed choice and create an inviting chicken house:

Straw & Hay

Straw – many people use straw as a bedding material, especially in nest boxes, but it compacts easily and isn’t the most absorbent option. This means that it needs to be changed regularly and might become an expensive choice.

Hay – hay should not be used be used as a bedding material as like straw it compacts easily and quickly becomes damp. Damp bedding encourages fungal spores to grow and can cause aspergillosis – a respiratory disease. If you do need to use hay then only use it in nest boxes and change it daily.

Wood shavings

Dust extracted woods shavings, not sawdust, is one of the most popular bedding materials for poultry because it’s relatively cheap, easy to use, and highly absorbent.

Our Twitter follower @louiselambert27 says: “for bedding I use dust free shavings (as they’re) better for respiratory issues”

However, if you’re rearing chicks or ducklings only introduce wood shavings after 4-6 weeks. Ducklings in particular see shavings as a tasty snack which can prove fatal.

Check your wood shavings are not derived from hardwoods and that they are as dust free as possible. Dusty bedding can cause respiratory problems, especially if there is poor ventilation in your hen house.

Shredded paper

Just like hay and straw shredded paper can be used as a bedding material but is best kept for nest boxes and changed regularly. It is easily compacted and depending on how thickly it is shredded it may not be that absorbent.

Chopped cardboard

Although this sounds like shredded paper it is less likely to compact and more absorbent, making it a good choice for chickens. It is also dust free and can be composted – which is ideal if you’re also a keen gardener!

Aubiose

This easily composted bedding was originally designed for equine use but is fast becoming one of the most popular options for chicken keepers because it’s so absorbent. It’s made from natural hemp and when spread on the floor of your hen house can provide an extra insulating layer during the colder months.

Easichick

If you’re looking for a bedding material that has been specifically designed for chickens then this could be the option for you. It’s dust free, highly absorbent, biodegradable, and free-draining.

Just like chopped cardboard and Aubiose it’s also easily composted and it’s been approved for organic farming.

 

Added Extras for Your Chicken House

Once you get everything set up keeping chickens really is a walk in the park, which is possibly why they’re such a popular pet even with the urban crowd. All you need is the right coop and a little bit of green space and your chickens will be happy.

In the past we’ve discussed the things you should look for when buying your first chicken house. This week we’re going to be looking at the added extras you can get for your chicken house that will make keeping hens even easier!

Here are some chicken house accessories that make your hen’s home more luxurious and will definitely make keeping chickens easier:

Easy moving

If you’re looking for a chicken house that you can move around your garden then you’ll need something that is easy to move by yourself. Moveable chicken houses are very popular and there are a range of wheels and handles you can get to make moving your chicken house quick and simple.

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Let there be light

Lighting your hen house during the autumn and winter months is a proven method of extending your chicken’s egg production period.

Solar hen house lighting kits are easily set up and because they don’t need to be linked up to a mains electricity supply they are able to be used even in the most remote areas.

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Shutting the door behind you

Whilst getting up early to let them out is part and parcel of having chickens everyone likes a lie in sometimes.

This is where automatic doors for chicken houses become a really useful accessory. They are set on a timer to open in the morning and then safely lock your hens in at night. This is a good idea if you don’t get home from work until after dark during the winter to keep predators out of your chicken house.

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Keep them where you want them

If your flock is free-range but there are parts of your garden you’d rather they stayed away from then you can invest in some electric fencing to keep them where you want them.

The poultry netting style of electric fencing for chickens is also a good deterrent for predators including, foxes, dogs, cats, and rodents.

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