Regularly I get by email the question howmany chickens do fit in a purchased or handmade chickenhouse. So it seems useful to me to start with this thing. In general, the houses which you can buy in a shop are much too small. Rabbit cages would be great for hamsters, chickenhouses will be great for rabbits, etc . Most of the time I am shocked to see what people are selling online and what they call a chickenhoudse. or me personally I enjoy it when I see my animals enjoy their good life. To see Rabbits and chickens in too small cages I won’t feel happy. Offcourse this is personal, but I hope that most of the most people do think the same, but maybe that’s Utopia?
A few examples of chickenhouses from what I believe are not appropriate for an Orpington: Unless the chickens in the pens have a free range, then these houses are ideal:
I personally have the opinion that you must not keep a large Orpington into a closed/narrow run. Like you also don’t with goats, pigs, etc. These birds do need space/ free range. A chicken is originally an animal which rummages the food together. A healthy chicken wanders round allday. Offcourse this is also with Orpington-bantams, but because they are a lot smaller, you could keep them in a closed run, but realize that they will not be very happy in a too small run.
Houses like this will not make chickens very happy when they don’t have a free range-area:
It is also important that a run is not very low above the ground, cause Chicken do love to run and make jumps and happy movements!
Chickens also do love higher levels; they like to sit on higher levels, like beams and boards.
Keep in mind that if your chickens can walk in the garden, they will plow everything! They will destroy your garden within no-time and you will find their shit everywhere. If you want to avoid that, you should turnoff a piece of the garden, especially for the chicken:
With the night-cage I mean the cage where the chickens roost during the evening/ night , but it’s often also the place where the egg-boxes are.
Most of the time the nightcage is not very big, but when your chickens do have to drink and eat in it, it has to be larger offcourse.
If you choose a nightcage on high feet, it’s ideal because than they can sandbathe under it, but they also will find protection against the warm sun of wet rain.
If you live in an area where foxes, ferrets and other species are active predators, it is recommended that you make a door which you can close in the eveningto keep the chickens safely locked and that the foxes further may come to nothing.
It is also very important to make a ventilation grille in the night-cage, to get proper ventilation (no drafts!) in the house and to not give bacteria a chance to go brew.
It is also recommended to whitewash the chickenhouse inside with ground paint / primer (still well down and is not expensive), because than you can detect the pesticides quicker, and it also gives more light in the chickenhouse.
Everyone knows the statement “go on the roost with the chickens ‘, which means that someone is going to sleep when it’s gettings dark, like the chickens do. So it will not surprise you that chickens do like to sit on a perch/ beam during the night.
But what’s the right beam for a perch? Often I see people using rounded beams. And also often too small/ narrow ones.
Aswell large Orpingtons and Orpingtonbangtams do like to sit on hughe beams/ perches: square bard of 70mm x 70mm ( 50 x 50 is also fine ) but take care the corners are rounded and without splinters.
Chickens also do like these perches outside the nightcage, so you could use them in the nightcage but also outside.You will see the hens will gratefully use them ( for good sunbathing or something similar ).
Chickens do need sand to scratch but also to sandbathe. This is something they really like to do as soon the sun starts shining. So please take care that you give them the availability to do this. In a cage on legs you can easily make a sandy ares under it, your chickens will be grateful to you!
Nesting / egg- Boxes
Nesting Boxes are often the nightcage fixed or attached in the nightcage. We ourselves have a potato-box in the pigpen on the shelf (there is always a certain hen who wants to lay her egg there ), 2 large and small in the henhouse and also a few chicken under the porch (see the photo ‘s above).
Especially in the summer but also in winter the chickens do like to lay their eggs in the boxes outside. The disadvantage may be that the eggs are stolen by magpies or other birds (only during the mating season). A potato-box filled with straw can also serve as an excellent nesting box!
A healthy chickenbody is 70% water. So it’s very important that they always have fresh cold drinkingwater. I my self do like to use the special ( overturning) drinkingbuckets, but I also use the new system: drinkingnipples and I also have a special pig-trough for the pigs and the chickens also do drink out of that. The message is; make more sources where they can drink!
Read more about this system!!
Cleaning the drinkingbucket
It is also advisable to clean the bucket once in a while. With a brush you can clean the front part, but the inside of the bucket is more difficult. If you still want to take a once in hand, you can use pebbles, stop quite a few pebbles in the bucket and the bucket substantially fool up and down in the round, the stones you can use after just shaking out of the bucket.
Since chickens like tombs, including those in their food, it is advisable for one to buy chicken feed silo. These are available in different sizes, depending on needs. Since the chickens do their digging event will exhibit behavior, it is advisable to enter a silo or to hang on to increase places to prevent it falling over.
Baby-chickens of 0 – 6 weeks old I feed special food for baby-chickens. In Holland this is called babychickenfood I.
Baby-chickens of 6 weeks and older do have to eat Baby-chickenfood II.
When young birds are at a stage that they could start laying, you have to put them on lay-food.
It’s very important to give chickens the right food. Young birds do have to grow and their bones have to develope. All they need is in the special food.
As soon as hens do start laying they need the special layfood, because that contains all the ingredients for good eggs.
Stomach Pebble / grit
When chickens do have a free area to to scurry around, thay will also find grit on the ground and eat it. If a chicken does have a closed area they will not find the grit, so it is very important to ensure that sufficient stomach gravel / grit in the cage is present. A chicken does need this for the production of eggs and also for proper digestion.
Chickens love fresh greens. When they walk in a meadow or lawn, they always pick up little bits of grass and by swallowing it. If you picked grass to give the chickens, please cut the grass with a scissor before you give it to them! It’s very bad for them to eat long grass, this can cause several problems! Chickens love wall (Stellaria Media), also known as “chickenweed”.
Chickens love apples! Cut the apple into slices and enjoy! Chicken do love apples, but it contains a lot of sugar, so don’t give it too often.
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