Call us : 01264 356753
Posted on 23 July 2018 in Chicken Housing and tagged under , ,

You’ll see from our website of which type we’re more fond but this is an important debate in the poultry keeping world so we’re going to discuss the pros and cons of each material.

Fantastic plastic or wonderful wood – the debate between poultry keepers continues on a yearly basis and there are strong supporters on both sides. 

Remember, which ever style of house you choose it’s important to make sure you buy a good quality house that gives your chickens the space, comfort, and security that they need to stay happy and healthy.

Let’s take a look at wooden chicken houses first:

Wooden chicken houses

Wooden houses are obviously more traditional and some poultry keepers would say prettier too. A high quality wooden chicken house will robust, practical, and less likely to blow away in a storm than a plastic coop.

One of the most common complaints about plastic chicken houses is that they aren’t breathable and reports of condensation are frequent. You won’t get this problem with a wooden design as wood is naturally breathable.

If you have specific needs you’ll also find that a wooden house is more flexible as they can be built to order. In fact, our own bespoke order service is very popular with our customers!

Customisation in terms of colour is also easier when you have a wooden house. You can paint them any colour you like and if you change your mind you can sand the paint off and start again, or simply paint over the original colour.

painted chicken house

And now for the plastic chicken houses:

Plastic chicken houses

In recent years plastic houses have become increasingly popular, especially with urban chicken keepers and school or college poultry projects. The bright colours make them popular with children and removable lids make it quick and simple to collect your delicious eggs.

They’re also easy to clean, give a contemporary look to your outdoor space, and can be cheaper to buy and maintain than their wooden counterparts.

Plastic coop fans often tell you that the biggest plus point of having a plastic chicken house is that the risk of pesky red mite is removed.

However, if you think that a plastic hen house will make your flock red mite proof, unfortunately you’re wrong. Red mite can not only live on the bird but it can also live in the cracks of the house, hiding from prying human eyes.

Lurking in the cracks allows the red mite to sneak out at night and feast on your flocks’ blood whilst they sleep so the truth of the matter is that a plastic house isn’t always a red mite free house.

plastic chicken house

Plastic or wooden? We’d love to hear your opinion on which material you prefer for your chicken houses.

Keeping chickens is a fantastic pastime, one that people have flocked to in recent years, and chickens could make a fantastic addition to your garden and your family.

Here are the most common questions people that are new to chicken keeping ask:

#1 – Do I need permission to keep chickens?

If you live in the UK then you shouldn’t need permission to keep chickens. However, some old houses have bans on keeping chickens so it’s important to check the deeds to your house first.

You might also want to phone your local Environmental Health Officer just to cover all bases. And of course, asking your neighbours if they mind is the polite thing to do!

#2 – What do chickens eat?

Chickens are omnivorous which means that they’ll eat pretty much anything! The majority of your hens’ diet should be made up from a commercial pellet or layers mash which you can buy at your local feed merchants and some pet shops.

You’ll also find your hens look for their own food including grass, worms, and bugs.

#3 – How much do chickens eat?

The exact answer to this question depends entirely on the number of birds you keep and their age, sex, and breed but here’s a rough guide:

  • Laying hens = 4/6 ounces of food per day
  • Bantams = 2/3 ounces of food per day

Larger breeds, such as the Buff Orpington or Jersey Giant, need more feed and all chickens will need an increased food intake during the colder winter months. Chicken keepers usually make sure food is available at all times so that hens can help themselves throughout the day.

#4 – How do I put my chickens to bed?

Chickens usually put themselves to bed at dusk, although this doesn’t always mean they’ll go to bed in their hen house!

For the first few weeks you may need to herd them in at “bedtime” or lay a trail of food to the chicken house door for them to follow. Chickens are creatures of habit and it shouldn’t take them long to get into a routine.

If you keep your chickens in a run then you could also try not letting them free range for a couple of weeks. After this point they should know where “home” is and put themselves to bed without you needing to get involved.

raised chicken house

#5 – How long do chickens live?

This varies from breed to breed and of course depends on whether your chicken is injured or becomes ill. Generally a healthy bird will live for between eight to 15 years, although chickens have been known to live for as long as 20 years.

#6 – How many eggs will my chickens lay?

Again, this depends entirely on the breed and age of your chickens. Commercial hybrids, such as the Warren, could lay 320 in a year. Pure bred or rare breeds tend to lay fewer eggs.

You’ll also find that hens lay fewer eggs as they get older but most breeds are fairly productive layers during their first laying year.

eggs

#7 – Do I need a cockerel to get eggs?

No, and your neighbours would probably appreciate it if you didn’t! You’ll only need a cockerel if you want to start breeding your chickens and need fertilised eggs.

#8 –  What do I do if one of my chickens is ill?

Because chickens are prey animals they don’t usually start to look ill until it is quite serious. This means that if one of your flock does become ill you’ll need to act quite quickly.

Remove the ill bird from the flock, place it in a warm, quiet place with food and water, and watch for any changes. If your hen doesn’t improve then consult a chicken friendly vet – finding one can be a challenge, so it’s worth sourcing a good vet before you purchase your chickens.

#9 – What do I do with my hens if I go on holiday?

The easiest option is to make friends with another chicken keeper and take it in turns to look after each other’s flocks when you go away. Another option that is gaining popularity is to send your chickens on a “hen holiday” where they’ll be cared for until you return.

A quick internet search should turn up a company that is local to you.

chickens on suitcases

#10 – How big does my chicken house need to be?

This is another question that entirely depends on the number of birds you have and their breed. As a general rule your run or enclosure should provide 2/3 square feet per bird. If your birds aren’t going to free range then you should look at an enclosure that gives them 10 square feet per bird.

 

Last week Jim gave you 10 things to look for when buying a chicken house. This week he’s giving you 10 more things to look for so you’ll get the perfect home for your flock:

  1. Does your house have a low carbon footprint?

This might not seem important, but do something good for the environment and don’t ship a house in from China. In fact, Jim often delivers houses to local customers which even further cuts down the carbon footprint of the houses.

  1. Is your chicken house made from eco-friendly materials?

See point 1 – this might not seem important but you’ll feel better knowing you haven’t contributed to the loss of a forest. For example, all houses from Jim Vyse Arks are made from Forestry Stewardship Council approved timber, meaning the wood comes from a sustainable source.

  1. Is your chicken house attractive?

Although a more utilitarian design is often more practical than some of the elaborate models on the market, you still want a chicken house that is aesthetically pleasing if it’s going to be in your back garden. Don’t forget, wood stain or paint is an easy way to make your chicken house a pretty edition to your garden.

painted chicken house

  1. Is the door/pop hole big enough?

Last week one of my points was that you should check your chicken house is big enough for the breed of chickens you keep, particularly if you keep large breeds such as Brahmas. The same goes for the door, your birds shouldn’t have to squeeze through a too small door.

  1. Is your chicken house easy to maintain?

A simple design will not only be easy to keep clean but will also be easy to maintain. You don’t want to have to spend your weekends fixing your chicken house, or find that it is cheaper to replace than to keep well maintained. Pressure treated timber and heavy duty metal fittings will extend the working life of your chicken house and keep maintenance to a minimum.

  1. Is the roof made of a suitable material?

Rooves shouldn’t leak or harbour a red mite infestation, so avoid houses with felt rooves. Felt rooves, and those made from similar materials, won’t provide adequate protection from the elements and are tough to remove red mite from.

  1. Are the dimensions right for your space?

Check, check, and check again the dimensions of your outdoor space and of the chicken house you’re going to purchase. Drawing it out on the ground can help you visualise what the house will look like when it arrives.

  1. Do you need a run?

If your chickens aren’t going to free range, is the house you’re purchasing suitable to have an attached run? In light of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone, and the outbreaks in recent years, having a run may be something that will protect your birds in the long run.

  1. Is the run big enough?

Chickens need room to do “chicken things” so choose a chicken run that offers them as much space as possible. You might also want to let them free range occasionally if your outdoor space is safe and suitable.

  1. Are there enough nest boxes?

Generally speaking you’ll need one nest box per three hens. Nest boxes need to be off the ground and hens prefer if the nest boxes are in the darkest part of the house, such as at the back.

 

Here are Jim’s top 10 things to look for before purchasing your chicken house:

  1. Good ventilation

Poor air flow can lead to hens that are too hot, too cold, or have serious breathing problems. Ventilation holes at the top of the house will let clean air in and draw stale air out without leaving the house draughty.

  1. Make sure your chosen house is easy to clean

Cleaning should be a quick job so you can get back to the important task – enjoying your chickens! Removable roof panels and nest boxes make it easy to give the house a thorough clean without it taking all day.

chicken coop cleaning tools

 

  1. A high standard of welfare

Welfare should be paramount when choosing any poultry housing. Ensure that you have a house which is the right size for the number of chickens you intend to keep. If you think you’ll be adding to your flock then you may want to consider buying a bigger house.

  1. Easy to access nest boxes (both for you and your hens!)

Well-designed nest boxes help keep eggs clean and make collecting them a doddle! Perches located higher than the nest boxes should discourage hens from using them overnight, keeping them clean for egg laying during the day.

chicken house enclosed run rear view

  1. Is your chicken house practical?

Pretty chicken houses are nice to look at but elaborate designs don’t always do the best job. A traditional, rustic looking chicken house that is well designed will always be better than something that looks pretty – and chicken houses are easily painted if you fancy some DIY!

  1. Is your chicken house robust?

Your chicken house should be made of good quality timber that will stand up to the Great British weather year after year. Structural exterior grade pressure treated timber ensures a working life of your chicken house for at least 15 years.

  1. Does the chicken house have enough perches?

Chickens need around 30cm each to comfortably perch so if you have a large number of chickens you may need extra perches. The perches will need to be 4 to 5cm wide, with rounded edges, and a rough surface to allow your birds to grip them securely.

  1. Is the chicken house big enough for your breed of chickens?

If you keep larger breeds, such as the Brahma, a standard chicken house design may not be big enough. You’ll need to look at the height and width of the chicken house, as well as the size of the door. You may want to consider a bespoke design to ensure their comfort.

  1. Can you move the chicken house easily?

Wheels and handles on larger poultry houses make moving them easy without the risk of damaging your back. Larger houses can have skids fitted to make moving them with a car, quad bike or tractor a simple task.

wheels on chicken house

  1. Is your budget big enough?

Cheap isn’t always cheerful and what you think is a bargain may end up costing you your hens’ health. Think of your chicken house as a long term investment. After all, chickens can live for 10+ plus years so you don’t want to be buying them a new house before every winter.

Posted on 27 November 2017 in Chicken Chat and tagged under , , ,

We recently received an email from one of our customers asking if we had any advice for her as her hens were no longer using the perches in their hen house.

We turned to you, our fantastically knowledgeable Facebook and Twitter followers, to see if you had any advice on encouraging chickens to use their perch. Here’s what you said:

“Are they ex-bat hens? If so, they probably won’t perch but will snuggle up in the nest boxes. None of our ex-bats have ever perched!”

“Mine don’t perch, they are ex bats. They did perch in their old house but the perches were only a couple of inches off the floor. They seem perfectly happy on the floor/ in the nest boxes so no worries here.”

“The hen might not know about perching, so pick up the hen, hover her over the perch then let her feet go on it and slowly take your hands away and let her settle? Just an idea.”

“Borrow a hen from a friend that does perch.”

“Block the nest box till morning, nest boxes are for laying not for sleeping!”

We thought your advice was great and our customer decided to try a lower perch, so we shipped one off immediately. Thank you to every one who took the time to reply and make suggestions to solve the perching problem.

Posted on 26 June 2017 in Chicken Chat and tagged under , , ,

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.

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.

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.

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

Posted on 19 June 2017 in Chicken Chat and tagged under , ,

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.

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.

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.

Posted on 3 May 2017 in Jim Vyse News and tagged under , ,

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

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.

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

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.

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!

Sign up to our newsletter and get 10% off!