About jv_admin

Jim Vyse Arks was born over 10 years ago and since then over 10,000 poultry houses have left Jim’s Hampshire workshop. Jim is dedicated to ensuring that all his chicken houses and duck houses are attractive, robust, and practical whether you choose a standard or bespoke design. The high quality tanalised timber meets all Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) standards so your house will last year after year and as a small, specialist company you’ll be sure to get the poultry house of your dreams The popularity of Jim Vyse Arks has now spread across the world with houses being shipped to France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, the Channel Islands, the Orkneys, and even the Falkland Islands!

Summer Treats for Your Hot Chicks!

We all love a treat from time to time and your chickens are no exception to this rule. Occasional treats are a great way to bond with your birds and they can be useful if you’re trying to help them beat the heat this summer.

chickens in the grass

As a general rule you shouldn’t give chickens treats when it’s hot as digestion promotes increased internal body temperature. However, frozen and cooling foods can be particularly welcome when the weather hots up.

Here’s a quick list of frozen treats that will help them keep cool:

  • Frozen mint ice cubes – it’s long been known that mint has cooling properties both for humans and animals. Freezing chopped up mint leaves in an ice cube tray and giving them to your hens will give them something to do and help them cool down. You can also add extras such as peas and diced strawberry to the ice cubes for an additional treat.
  • Frozen berries – try throwing a handful of frozen berries into a bucket of cool water and watch your hens go mad for them!
  • Frozen fruit smoothie – if a frozen fruit smoothie sounds delicious to you then it probably will to your hens as well. Including a bit of natural yoghurt can also help your hens’ digestion.
  • Frozen watermelon – you can cube it, slice it, or cut it into quarters, then put it in the freeze until frozen and give to your flock as a fruity frozen snack.
  • Frozen veg – vegetables such as sweetcorn makes a great frozen treat. Freeze it in a muffin tin and put a few portions out in the morning to keep your hens occupied throughout the day.

frozen sweetcorn

Remember, treats alone won’t keep your hens cool so you’ll need to take other measures to ensure your hens are happy and healthy in the heat. Here’s a little reminder of some of the tips we gave you a few weeks ago:

  • Provide as much clean, fresh water as you possibly can, especially in shady spots where your hens will hide in the hottest part of the day.
  • Increase ventilation in the coop by opening all doors and windows. You may also want to leave the chicken house windows open overnight if it’s safe to do so.
  • Create some shade using tarpaulin, patio umbrellas, wind breaks, and ornamental plants in pots.
  • Keep bedding in the chicken house to minimum – save the deep littering for the winter!
  • Give your hens a shallow paddling pool so they can cool their feet and avoid the hot earth.
  • Make sure your chickens have a shaded area to dust bathe in. Not only do they do this to keep clean, but it also helps them to keep cool.

chickens drinking

Have you got any tips for helping hens to stay cool in the summer? We’d love to hear from you if you do!

 

Photo credits: Pets4Homes and Pinterest 

How to Choose a Duck House

When it comes to choosing housing for ducks the same basic principles to choosing a chicken house apply. However, there are a few differences between chickens and ducks that mean you’ll need to buy a house specifically designed for ducks.

You’ll get what you pay for

First things first, buy a quality house. We all like a bargain but when you realise you’re replacing your cheap house every few years you’ll wish you’d spent a little bit more money.

Generally speaking you can expect to pay around £150 – £300 for a high quality duck house. Obviously you might find yourself shopping during sale periods and get a cheaper house, but be prepared to increase your budget for a better house.

duck house

Appearance isn’t everything

Your ducks won’t care what their house looks like so you can have a duck house that is as simple or as elaborate as you like. As a bare minimum the house needs to provide your ducks with adequate shelter from the elements and as much protection from predators as possible.

When choosing a duck house, you’ll need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the house easily moveable?
  • Does it provide good ventilation?
  • It is quick to clean and simple to maintain?
  • Does it provide a high standard of welfare? Consider space per duck, nest boxes, doorways etc.
  • Is it made of top quality materials?

If you can answer “yes” to all of these questions then you should have a house that is practical, safe, and that will have a long working life.

The exits are here, here, and here

Ducks have a tendency to rush out of the house as a group in the mornings and they aren’t very good at forming an orderly queue! This means that you’ll need to choose a house with a wide enough door to prevent injuries when entering or exiting the house.

You’ll also need to provide your ducks with a ramp if the house isn’t at floor level. They can’t negotiate steps or ladders like chickens can so giving them a ramp into their house ensures they can get in and out safely.

Runs and enclosures

If you don’t have the space, or you don’t want to let your ducks have access to your whole garden, you’ll also have to think about the run or enclosure they’ll be in.

How big the run is depends entirely on how much space you have but the bigger the better. They’ll need room to waddle around, forage for food, stretch their wings, and of course, room for their pond.

You could choose a single unit run and house, like this bantam duck ark designed especially for small breeds, or you could opt for a large enclosure that contains their house. As long as the house is safe, and as predator proof as possible, your ducks will be happy.

duck ark

If you’re struggling to find a duck house that suits your needs you could also look into bespoke options.

Eight Reasons to Keep Ducks

Keeping chickens has undoubtedly become extremely popular in recent years but that isn’t the only option if you want some feathered friends to share your garden…have you thought about ducks?

Here are our top reasons why keeping ducks could be the best thing you ever do:

  1. Delicious eggs all year around

As tasty as chicken eggs are, duck eggs are usually richer and creamier, which is why they’re so popular with bakers. Plus, their eggs are bigger, containing even more nutrients and goodness than chicken eggs.

Ducks also lay all year around, unlike chickens that stop in the winter, so you won’t need to buy eggs even in December.

duck eggs ducks

  1. They’re cheap to keep

Once you’ve had the initial outlay of a suitable duck house and other equipment you’ll need, ducks are incredibly cheap to keep.

Depending on how many birds you have, one bag of feed could last you for weeks and they’re experts at finding their own food in the garden.

In fact, if you’re looking for free pest control, then a couple of ducks could be the answer.

  1. Ducks are made of tough stuff

For some reason, and I’m not enough of an expert to know why, ducks are generally less susceptible to disease and infection than chickens. They cope well in extreme weather conditions and if they do become ill, they usually recover fairly quickly with minimal human assistance.

  1. Your neighbours won’t notice you have them!

Although most female ducks do make the classic “quack” noise they only do this when startled or frightened. The majority of the time ducks are silent or make quiet noises.

If you’re worried your neighbours won’t like the cackles and squawking that hens make, then duck might be a better choice.

  1. They don’t need that much water

Many people think you need a lake, or at least a large pond, in order to keep ducks but depending on which breed you keep that isn’t always the case. In fact, Indian Runner ducks are reportedly happy as long as they have enough water to dunk their heads in, although we’d recommend giving them more.

A child’s paddling pool, a sawn in half barrel or an old bath tub can all make suitable “ponds” for backyard ducks. As long as the water is deep enough for them to get their whole head under then your ducks will be happy.

ducks in trough pond

  1. Ducks make friends more quickly

Many poultry keepers can’t resist adding to their flock after a while and this can cause disruptions to the pecking order. However, ducks seem to accept new additions to their group more calmly than chickens so if you think you’re likely to expand your brood, ducks are a more tranquil option.

  1. Ducks have great personalities

If you talk to anyone who keeps ducks, they’ll tell you all about their ducks individual personalities. Different breeds also have different personality traits, so it’s worth doing your research before starting your flock.

  1. They make loyal friends

Dogs might be mans’ best friend but ducks come in at a close second. Sometimes it can take them a while to trust you, but once they’ve imprinted on you and see you as part of the flock, you’ll have a friend for life.

tunnel of ducks

If you’ve been convinced that ducks are a great idea then it’s time to get shopping for the duck house of your dreams!

 

Photo credit: Ziwani Poultry, Pinterest, Wikipedia

How to Spring Clean Your Chicken House

The weather has warmed up and that means it’s the perfect time to get outside and give your chicken 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.

chicken coop cleaning tools

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

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 a well ventilated chicken house should help keep the bacteria to a minimum, all chicken houses will 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 recycling your old newspapers and using them to line the floor before putting bedding on top.

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 – perfect if you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to rake up the mess from your garden.

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. Give everything a thorough scrub and soak before refilling with fresh food and water.

chicken feeders and waterers

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 movable 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.

chicken and egg notepad

 

Photo credits: Hen Cam, Read My Chicken Scratch, Etsy

Keep Your Hot Chicks Cool this Summer

Chickens usually adapt well to varying temperatures and if you live in the UK you won’t often find yourself having to deal with extreme weather conditions. Though, it’s still worth having a few tricks up your sleeve for when the sun does come out this summer, no matter how rarely that may be!

For experienced chicken keepers the sight of their hens sunbathing is a happy one, after all, who doesn’t like to top up their tan! However, this can be a surprise to novice chicken keepers, and as much as chickens love to sunbathe, sometimes the heat can get a little much.

Liquid refreshment

Dehydration is a big cause of death in chickens and unfortunately sometimes a chicken is too far gone to be saved. Keep your eyes peeled for any signs of dehydration and know what to do if one of your flock does become ill.

Signs of dehydration include:

Lethargy
Gasping/panting with their beaks open
No interest in food
No reaction to stimuli

If you do find a dehydrated hen the best course of action is to move the bird to a cool, dark, quiet place and provide water with electrolytes. You may need to help the bird drink every 10-15 minutes over the next few hours.

Once the bird is drinking by itself you can give it watered down food. You’ll need to keep in for the next 24 hours and provide water and wet food at all times.

To try and make sure your hens stay happy and healthy, here are our top tips to help keep your flock feeling fresh when the weather gets warm:

Chickens love cold drinks too

If you find yourself reaching for an icy cold drink in the summer then why not make one for your hens?

Use the cooling blocks you can get for picnic hampers or freeze water in a small plastic container, then place in a bowl of drinking water. The blocks will keep the water cool all day and provide a refreshing drink for your birds.

Make some shade
Chickens need to be able to get out of the sun to cool themselves down so make sure there are plenty of shady spaces available. You can create shady spots using tarpaulin, old patio umbrellas, or even plastic table cloths.

jim vyse chicken shelter

A Jim Vyse Chicken Shelter

Don’t feed “heavy” foods

Just like we don’t like to eat big meals when it’s hot chickens don’t either. Foods such as corn take longer to digest, therefore creating a higher body temperature and making your hens hot.
Swap to pellets and try giving treats such as frozen or refrigerated strawberries and watermelon.

Give them a “bath”

In this case we don’t mean a water bath, we mean a dust bath. Dusting bathing is essential for chickens to stay healthy, especially in hot weather. If your chickens aren’t able to create a dust bath themselves by digging holes in the garden then provide them with a shallow tray or box containing sand.

chicken dust bath

Add electrolytes to water to combat dehydration

You can buy electrolytes for chickens from most country stores or online chicken supply shops. You would usually use them if you had chicks but in hot weather chickens of all ages can benefit from electrolytes.

Keep their coop cool

All chicken houses should have good ventilation but if possible you should increase this during the summer. Open all of the doors, vents, and windows during the day and if safe to do so, consider leaving vents and windows open at night.

You can also direct the sunlight away from the chicken house by placing a sheet of reflective foil on the house roof in the mornings. You could use the screens usually seen on car dashboards for the same effect.

Let them chill out

Interacting with your chickens will make them excited and run around more so keep interaction to a minimum. If you do need to move them or catch them try to do this first thing in the morning or before they go to bed when it’s cooler.

chickens in a swimming pool

Don’t try this at home!

An Exclusive Interview with Jim!

Here’s how it all began – an exclusive interview with Jim of Jim Vyse Arks!

Jim Vyse with chicken house

Can you tell us how Jim Vyse Arks began?

I’m originally from a farming background and spent over 30 years being involved with dairy cows and milking equipment. Then, a mid-life crisis encouraged me to change direction!

A friend suggested I put my carpentry skills to good use and before I knew it I was making chicken houses. A few adverts later and my houses were spreading across the UK.

The rest as they say is history!

What makes Jim Vyse Arks stand out from its competitors?

I have always believed that providing our customers with a combination of practical designs and sensible prices is the key to success. When you add in an attractive design that looks great in a garden, orchard, or field you’re on to a winner.

I think that’s why Jim Vyse Arks has carved a niche in the market and been successful for over 10 years.

Where is the most exotic destination a Jim Vyse Arks’ product has been shipped to?

We’ve had our products go all over the world, including Swiss Chalets in Switzerland and Arks in the Orkneys. Personally I think that sending two shipments of Swiss Chalets to the Falkland Islands has been the most exotic location so far.

We also regularly send products to France, Italy, Spain, and the Channel Islands.

Of all the poultry houses you’ve created, which has been your favourite and why?

Since we began I’ve created over 10,000 houses for every species of poultry imaginable, so it’s hard to choose a favourite.

However, if I really had to pick it would be the Standard Duck House, one of our most popular products.

standard duck house

I also really enjoyed designing and building this large bespoke chicken house and run. 

bespoke chicken house

Who or what first inspired you to get involved in poultry keeping?

As with most things it all goes back to my childhood. Many years ago I won, what was supposed to be, a table cockerel at a village fete. Readers will be pleased to know he joined our family flocks and never made it to the table, providing much pleasure and amusement to the family for several years.

Do you still keep your own poultry?

Unfortunately I don’t have the time I would like to devote to chickens or ducks at home, but my neighbours keep me up to date with latest trends in poultry keeping and provide me with manure for my garden!

In your opinion, what makes a good chicken house?

A practical design made from durable materials, which combines a high standard of welfare, good ventilation, and is easy to clean and control disease.

What is the top piece of advice you would give to someone shopping for a chicken house?

I think taking our motto of “attractive, robust, and practical” provides a very good guideline for buying a chicken house.

What has been your career highlight since starting Jim Vyse Arks?

Seeing products in the press or on television (our blue and white painted Goose House was featured on the Alan Titchmarsh Show and model Jemma Kidd has a chicken house that was pictured in Elle Decoration) has to be right up there.

alan titchmarsh goose house

However, my favourite part of the job is getting to travel around the UK and meet such wonderful and welcoming customers when I deliver their purchases. I’m privileged to be able to leave the workshop and explore the UK when I get orders for places I haven’t been or don’t know well.

Finally, how do you like your eggs?

The best way to have eggs has to be slightly runny scrambled eggs because you always use more that way!

Jim Vyse

Easter Recipe – Chocolate & Spice Hot Cross Buns

Chocolate and Spice Hot Cross Buns

If you’re considering doing a spot of baking this Bank Holiday weekend how about a modern twist on a traditional Easter snack?

These delicious Hot Cross Buns make an “eggstra-special” Easter treat for young and old a like!

hot cross buns

Recipe from BBC Good Food:

Ingredients

  • zest and juice 1 large orange
  • sunflower oil, for greasing

For the dough and crosses

  • 225ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 50g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 1 large free range egg
  • 450g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 tsp fast-action yeast
  • 50g golden caster sugar

For the flavouring and glaze

  • 140g raisins
  • 100g chocolate, 70% cocoa solids
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 tbsp golden caster sugar
  • 100g plain flour

 

Method

  1. Make the dough first. Heat the milk in a pan until steaming. Remove from the heat, and drop in the butter. After a couple of mins, beat in the egg and half the orange zest. The liquid should be just warm for step 2.
  2. Mix the strong flour, yeast, 1 tsp salt and the sugar in a large bowl, then tip in the liquid and stir to make a soft dough without dry patches. Flour the work surface and your hands, then knead the dough for 5-10 mins until smooth and elastic. Use a stand mixer or processor if you like. Oil a large bowl, sit the dough inside it, then cover with oiled cling film. Rise in a warm place for about 1 hr or until doubled in size.
  3. Put the raisins and half the orange juice in a small pan or covered bowl, and either simmer for a few mins or microwave on High for 1 min until hot. Cool completely. Break the chocolate into a food processor with the cinnamon and 2 tbsp sugar, then pulse until very finely chopped. Mix in the rest of the zest. If you don’t have a processor, chop it by hand or grate it, then mix with the other ingredients.
  4. Turn the risen dough onto a floured surface and press it out to a large rectangle, a little bigger than A4 paper. Scatter it evenly with the chocolate mix and the raisins, which should have absorbed all of the juice (drain them if not). Roll the dough up around the filling, then knead it well for a few mins until the chocolate and fruit are evenly spread. Some raisins and chocolate will try to escape, but keep kneading them back in.
  5. Grease then line a large baking sheet with baking parchment. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape into buns by pinching each ball of dough into a purse shape, concentrating on making the underneath of the ball (which will be the top) as smooth as you can. Put the buns, smooth-side up, onto the baking sheet, leaving room for rising. Cover loosely with oiled cling film and prove in a warm place for 30-45 mins or until the dough has risen and doesn’t spring back quickly when prodded gently.
  6. Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. To make the paste for the crosses, gradually stir 6-7 tbsp water into the plain flour to make a smooth, thick paste, then put in a food bag and snip off the end to about 5mm. Pipe the crosses, then bake for 20-25 mins until the buns are risen and dark golden brown.
  7. Mix the rest of the orange juice with the remaining sugar and let it dissolve. Brush the syrup over the buns while they are hot, then leave to cool. Eat on the day of baking, or toast the next day.