Happy Hens at Home
28 Mar 2019
Georgie Heggie from our Perth store has had hens since she was 8 years old, and currently has over 100, including breeds such as Scots Greys, Scots Dumpys, German Langshan, and Old English Game. In 2009, Georgie (and her German Langshan) won the title of Supreme Champion at the Scottish National Poultry Show.
Here are Georgie’s top tips for happy hens at home:
Choose the right sized coop – any of our staff will be able to advise based on the number of chickens you are planning. It is best to have one nesting box for every four to five chickens, averaging out to at least 1,100cm2 floor area per chicken. Make sure that the outside area they are kept in is large enough and also fully secured with good quality fencing. To keep your chickens safe at night and out of danger, keep the coop secure and locked at night while they sleep. Chickens cannot defend themselves from wandering predators.
While some people like to use hay or straw in the nest boxes, I prefer to use shavings throughout. As well as absorbing all the waste, as a routine when I’m cleaning out, I always put Dynamite all over the hen house, especially in all the cracks to help prevent and kill red mite and lice by breaking down the waxy coats of the mite, resulting in them dehydrating and dying. Biosuper can be used to freshen the bedding and be used as a disinfected that kills the ammonia.
To ensure that your birds have a happy and productive life, they must have a nutritious balanced diet. I feed ad lib Harbro Layers Pellets, and give a bit of Harbro Mixed Corn as a treat at night. The feed is best kept under cover. Ensure there’s always fresh water available, checking in the summer that it’s not empty and in the winter in case it has frozen. I disinfect feeders and drinkers once a week using Virkon 5. Grit and oyster shell are also given to the hens, they are not the same. Grit helps to grind the food down into a digestible mush. Oyster shell ensures the hen gets enough calcium in its diet to always have strong, healthy eggs.
Caring for your Hen
Worming your hens is essential to prevent a drop in egg production and weight loss. Round worm is the most common type, and they look like spaghetti. A prevention routine of wormer every 3-6 months will be beneficial.
Free-range hens are known to lay their eggs outside the nesting box, making you search for them in unusual places around the yard. To encourage them to lay in the coop, shut them inside it for a week so they relate the coop to their home. Another top tip is to place other eggs, or a fake one, in the nesting box to show the hens.
After a while, you’ll start to understand the behaviour of your hens, how they appear, and how much they are drinking and eating daily. However, if you start to notice any abnormal eggs, uncharacteristic feather loss, or a change of colour, this could be a sign of illness or another issue.
Relax and have fun!
It may seem like a lot of work, but once you get into the routine and swing of keeping hens you will realise just how easy keeping hens really is. As well as eggs, they will provide you with lots of entertainment.
All 21 Harbro Country Stores have registered Animal Health Advisors who are available to give advice on a full range of bird health products. Many of our stores will also be able to supply you with hens.
Contact your local Harbro Country Store for more information and advice.
We have 21 stores throughout Scotland, find your nearest one here: