The iPod of hen houses?

Back in August, when we decided to move down to south Wales, one of the (far too many!) items on the Must Buy list were two chicken houses or arks, one for B’s Silkies and one for the laying hens, plus the Buff Orpington cockerel. The inclusion of Buffs automatically ruled out the majority hen houses as he’s quite tall, but I kept getting drawn back to the idea of a plastic house.

One of the main problems that can lead to ill-health in chickens is their housing. People have kept chickens in wooden housing for, well, forever, and a consistent problem faced by every generation of chicken is red mite, not to mention the host of other parasites that thrive in the normal conditions found in your average hen house – moist, lots of poo, millions of crevices to hide in and breed and every night, a fresh supply of blood to feed on. Chicken poo is quite horrible and runny and they shit everywhere and anywhere. All the time. So keeping said house clean and hygienic is near-on impossible.

But the problem with plastic is that it’s too hot in summer and too cold in winter with very poor ventilation in every season. But then the good people at Omlet designed a hen house that overcame these problems. It’s something about two layers and it does work – these houses stay cool in summer but keep warm and cosy in winter.

And they’re dead easy to clean out and unlike wood, if you scrub it clean (as you should on a regular basis), you can just use a towel to dry it in a matter of minutes. So even if you do get a pest problem, you can still clean it without having to use chemicals. The bastards have nowhere to hide!

The only problem is the price. The small Eglu is £360 while the larger Eglu Cube starts at £425 for just the house and is a whopping £595 with a run.

OUCH!

Don’t get me wrong – you can spend the same amount of money on traditional wooden houses, but the advantage is that you get a lot more room for your money. And more room means more chickens. The Eglu is only suitable for 2-3 medium sized hens, or 4-5 smaller chickens, such as Silkies and bantams. The Cube is suitable for 6-10 chickens, depending on the size of run you buy and whether they’ll be in there all time or if they can go out in a larger run during the day.

But it was the health side of things that swung it for me (plus the ease of cleaning and the fact you don’t have to treat it every year), so I abandoned my financial caution and spent a grand buying both.

They eventually arrived last week and Jennie kindly came over and helped me build them. I won’t go into details about the build, as it went wrong at every stage but the end result was not what I expected for the amount of money I’ve spent.

I won’t go into this now as I’m still talking to Omlet about the problems.

But I finally installed the chooks in their new houses this morning. Apart from one Silkie who got past me and is refusing to let me near her. The last time I checked, the bantams and good Silkie were a ok, if a bit disgruntled at not being out in the big run, but it’s only for a day or two until they get used to their new home and know where to go at night. But I am worried about the others. The three chicks and the Light Sussex pullet seem quite happy (again ignoring their dismay at not being able to go out into the large run) but Fatboy, Buffy and Willow haven’t made it down yet. Trouble is, there’s nowhere inside to put food or water so I hope they come out soon. The fact that they’re the same breed worries me as I don’t know how well their big feet are coping with the floor-level roosts which cover the whole base. I might resort to removing the roosts and just putting hay in the poop dray – which just undermines the benefit of having such a tray in the first place, so that really is a last resort.

As I said, I have some major reservations, but I’m hoping that can all be addressed.

If the chooks are happy (so long as they can be safe, warm and healthy in their new houses) then I’m happy.

I’ll keep you updated!

Update @ 9pm: I went out in the afternoon and tempted Fatboy down the ladder by producing some grapes and other fruity treats. Buffy had already figured out how to get down, which just left Willow upstairs in the house. I left them to it and went to check the pigs, and by the time I got back, the lure of slightly gone-off fruit proved too much and she’d joined the others on the grass.

I also managed to catch the naughty Silkie and put her in with the others. John Wayne (the bantam cockerel) was very pleased to get his full harem back!

I stayed at the farm until dark, just to make sure that they all went to bed, especially the ones in the Cube, who had to make the return trip up the ladder. The bantams and Silkies went to bed without any problems, as did all the other chickens. Apart from Willow who quite clearly (a) hadn’t been paying any attention about how she got down the ladder in the first place, and (b) where on earth all her pals had gone and how they got there! But with some verbal encouragement from Craig and I, she eventually made it and as I left, they’d all settled in for the night.

I’m still not convinced but the chooks do seem quite happy. If all is well in the morning, then I guess it’ll do. Though there’s still some stuff that needs sorting.

But I’m feeling a lot better about the situation than I have been all week. Which is good.

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10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by welshpurpletree on 7 October 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Jennie told me you had problems with the cube. How is the eglu though? Mine should be arriving on Friday

  2. The Eglu’s fine though the run was a real pain to put together and it’s very awkward to move once the run is attached. I think there’s a knack. I hope I find it soon!

    My major concern is the shelter provided by the shade, in that the shelter is pitiful and the feeder fills with water whenever it rains. My current solution is a tarpaulin, which is extremely unsightly but is doing the trick.

    There was water in the Eglu this morning but I don’t know how it got there. Probably though the open front door.

    We’ll see. I’m not enthralled.

  3. Posted by welshpurpletree on 7 October 2008 at 4:00 pm

    I’ve already thought of rigging up a tarpaulin over it to give them extra shelter, as the winter shade in Omlet is £20 and a couple of reviews have said it ripped. Someone on the Omlet forum has said they use a shower curtain, which could look a bit nicer.

  4. I’ve just come in for a coffee then I’m heading out to see what I can put together. If it works, then I might invest in some of these nicely priced (89p!!!!) clear shower curtains from Ikea.

    Jennie, if you’re reading this and feeling at all better, do you fancy a bit of retail therapy tonight?

  5. Posted by welshpurpletree on 8 October 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Let me know how you do it. I was thinking clear curtains would be good, so they still get lots of light and can see out.

  6. My attempts to put something together didn’t really work so I think I will go to Ikea this afternoon and get some shower curtains. Two will do the Cube nicely but, rather annoyingly, the Eglu is a bit big for just one (20cm short on the length, which makes no real difference as there’s the shade, and 50cm short on width at the door end) but way too small for two! I might have a go with one and see how it goes. Having said that, it’s 90p so what the hell!

  7. Change of plan. I’m trying something else. For now!

  8. Posted by welshpurpletree on 9 October 2008 at 10:28 am

    My eglu arrived this morning – a day early!

  9. Hurrah!!

  10. […] place to hold the run to the Eglu, but once that was done it was fairly straight forward.  Unlike Jo, we had instructions. Grampy & Daniel […]

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