Build a Chicken Pen
Build a chicken pen to keep your flowers, vegetables and other plants looking good rather than being hen-pecked!
Chicken runs give hens the space they need because birds that are overcrowded tend to stress themselves more easily and can stop laying. Chickens need space, the more the better, although this will inevitably depend on the area of backyard available for them.
Unless you are already familiar with keeping hens you should get proper advice and guidance from poultry experts before designing your chicken runs and coops. This will ensure that your chickens are happy and healthy.
The hen pen should have plenty of green vegetation growing in it for the chickens to eat, otherwise you will need to feed them on a daily basis. Remember that chickens also need access to water, because they tend to sweat easily especially in warm weather. If their beaks are open and their wings splayed, they need a drink.
Hens are placid animals that are easy prey for many types of predator, including raccoons, weasels, foxes, hawks, rodents and neighborhood dogs and cats. It is your responsibility to provide proper shelter for your hens, so your poultry housing must be designed to give them a safe environment in which to live and lay.
There is nothing complicated about a chicken run, but it needs to be made properly. For example, if the wire mesh is not buried sufficiently in the ground, rats will be able to dig underneath and get access to the chicken shed. Then you will miss out on those nice fresh eggs for breakfast!
Check the perimeter regularly, because it is not unknown for dogs or foxes to work away at the wire over time to make a large enough access hole. We positioned our hen coop and pen so that they could be seen from the kitchen table, a lesson learnt from bitter experience.
You might want to think about installing some sort of drainage for the chicken pen as well. Over time chickens can make quite a mess, made worse by wet weather. Ideally the run should be sited on slightly sloping ground, which will help keep the area reasonably dry. Some poultry keepers put tarpaulins or even permanent roofing over their chicken runs but this can be expensive and is not really needed if the area is large enough.
Instead of a permanent run you could think about making a chicken tractor or portable chicken coop, sometimes also known as a chicken ark. This is a small structure, usually triangular in cross-section, which combines a coop or nesting box with an attached run.
The tractor can be moved around to give the hens a constant source of new insects and vegetation, and to preserve your backyard. It also gives your garden free fertilizer! However, because the tractor has to be mobile it can be quite small, perhaps no more than eight feet long and four feet wide, so is suitable for only a few hens at a time.
These portable chicken sheds are very cheap and easy to make, however, so you could consider having several dotted around your backyard if you have lots of hens.
From experience it makes sense to get expert advice before starting to build a chicken pen, unless you are familiar with space, feeding, shelter and health requirements for keeping chickens. You might want to get a set of good chicken pen plans to be on the safe side.
None of it is complicated, but you owe it to your hens to keep their chicken housing and living environment safe and comfortable. They will reward you with a regular supply of tasty free-range eggs.
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