There are very few issues that elicit opinions as strong as the housing of hens. Professional egg farmers have struggled with this issue for decades. Cages have huge
benefits to chicken health and comfort in a lot of ways, but obviously restrict movement and are, in a word, boring. Loose housing allows the hens to move around, scratch, dustbathe and fly, but they also end up dealing with more disease, fight a lot, and suffer a LOT of fractured bones.
These issues are different than those faced by people with a couple (or several couples 😉 ) of chickens in their flock. Professional farmers invest huge amounts of money on a housing strategy that fits their management style. These housing systems (either cage or aviary or free-run) are the product of decades of experience, research and engineering by big companies with big budgets. They are constantly evolving and improving, and are absolutely fascinating when you consider the innovations that have been developed to fix a myriad of problems that used to exist. If you are putting up a shelter for your flock, you won’t have access to this type of resource.
Since every backyard is different, it is more effective to think of what a good housing system will provide for your hens, rather than describing an effective coop. There are
many ways to skin a cat, and HOW you provide for your hens needs is less important that THAT you provide for them. An ideal hen-house will do the following:
- Provide access to fresh food and water
- Protect the hens from excess cold, heat, predators and vermin
- Provide a place for hens to lay their eggs
- Maintain hygiene for both the hens and the eggs
- Protect the immediate environment that the hens live in
If you are thinking of beginning a backyard flock, or are considering re-tooling your current setup, keep an eye on this blog….I will address each of these issues in detail over the next few posts. As always, if you have specific questions, please don’t hesitate to chime in.