Friday, December 3, 2010

Chicken Hovel

I haven't talked about the chickens lately, for two reasons. I'm mad at them for still not starting to lay eggs, and they were living in a shameful hovel. Well, they're still not laying, but I have substantially improved their hovel.

Behold the shame!

Careful viewers may figure out that that wall is made out of two hollowcore interior doors.

Once I ripped those down, you can see the mouse nest ceiling more clearly:

Why would you put a ceiling in a chicken shack?? I ripped out some of it and decided the risk of contracting hantavirus was worse than the presence of the ceiling. I also yanked out the horrible broken perch.

Then I went for a ride!

Then I slapped $14 worth of chipboard back on to the gaping hole

and made a nice little door

put the feeder in the house

and installed a high-class perch.

Total cost was literally $14. The frame and wire for the door came out of the "good" junk pile. The perch was a curtain rod for the heinous curtains that were in the front room when we moved in. The cute brackets were junk left in the barage, and I found the hinges somewhere.

It's still a hovel, but it's much less shameful. The whole thing is just sitting on the ground, so it might blow over in a big wind and leave me with a dozen poulet à la presse, but it'll do for now I guess. I just can't sink more money into it when I really want to demolish it and build a better house.

Now: lay eggs, you bastards!

Tomorrow I will amaze you with pictures of our woodpile.


  1. Chickens got quite an upgrade :) Looks nice.

  2. In general, chickens don't lay eggs (or lay few eggs) in cold weather.

  3. T'aint the cold.

    'Tis the light--or, specifically, the lack of light.

    Hens need about 12 hours of light to lay eggs steadily. Less than that and the egg-production is sporadic. They also shut down production during a major moult. My hens are *finally* starting to lay again, now that their feathers are mostly grown back in and I've got a light on them again.

    Hens do have a limited number of eggs (lifetime total) so if they lay them all early in life, they won't lay any when they get old.

    I figure that it's likely that the local predators will get a bunch of mine before they become old ladies, so I've got a light on them. The light/heat also kept them from freezing when the weather was cold and their bums were still bald from the moult!

  4. AareneX is right about the light but I have to keep the temps in the chicken house around 40-50*F. That's a pain (and expensive) when the highs were about 5*F for the past week. The lights are on a timer so they get about 14 hours of light.

    My silly 4 girls have decided that they are going to molt so I must buy eggs until they are finished.

  5. Hmm, definitely the light. It gets cold here in the north and the chicks don't seem to mind it too much.

    Anyhow, love reading about your world. :)

  6. Aarene is right ! Hens are daylength sensitive and don't lay many eggs in the short days of winter. If you are patient and have some time you mimic longer days with lights but you have to be *very* consistent. That's how we're able to have commercial egg production in the winter and it's part of the reason battery houses don't have windows.

  7. Concur with Jason. We had until recently a commercial egg production business, until my wifes heart attack!! She is fine now, but we sold up. So, if its any help, hens need a minimum 15 hours daylight each day. They need consistent light, and protection from draughts, the temperature can have an effect but, its the rain and wind that does the damage. feed: needs to be consistent, and good quality, laying hens get fed layers pellets, this increases the production.

  8. Love the classy upgrade on the henhouse! Hopefully the ladies will appreciate it so much that they'll start to lay, but as others have pointed out, chickens don't lay as well in the winter. Another thing to consider is age - my heritage breeds didn't start laying till 6 or 7 months. In addition, what do you feed? I only feed scratch grains, scrap veggies, and whatever bugs and grass they find - no laying pellets. I know this decreases egg production but I'm OK with that since I don't like what's in most laying pellets.

    The good news is that eventually, they will lay. Really, promise! ;)

  9. speaking of feed, I find that my hens lay *nicer* eggs when they get lots of fresh vegetation--either from the lawn (they are in chicken tractors during the warm months) and/or from kitchen scraps. The color of a fresh-food-fed hen's egg is a richer, darker orange (not pale yellow, like store eggs), and the flavor is better.

    Knowing that my chickens need fresh veggies helps the rest of the family shop and buy more vegetables for ourselves, because then hens eat all the ends, tops, and leaves!

    WV: begod
    well, isn't that what we're doing when we tamper with the lights and the temps?!! >g<

  10. I bought two remote-control battery operated LED closet lights for them today. We'll see if that's enough light. The remote works from the patio, so it shouldn't be a hassle to turn it on from 4-9 - that'll give them about 14-15 hours of light. I hope it works!

    These are Leghorns, not some nambly-pambly heritage breed. (I'd like to get into heritage chickens, but these guys were the right price at the right time! If I can get half-grown chickens to survive to lay eggs, I'll feel much more confident about ordering day-olds.)

    I feed layer pellets free-choice out of that 5 gallon bucket - once I get excited about having chickens again, I'll start offering them more fresh veggies. Right now I'm still mad so a lot of scraps end up in the compost bin. We had totally free range banties when I was a kid - they ate like Aarene and Jen's chickens, just scratch and whatever bugs and plants they could find. The eggs were out of this world!

  11. I know nothing about chickens, or near nothing anyway, but their house looks much improved.

  12. I read "Chicken Hovel" and fell out laughing. Glad you're staying away from the Hanta Virus, and the ladies have a classier hovel in which to roost, until their grand palace can be built.

    (don't tell them though: "Chicken Palace" sounds a little like a fast food restaurant)

  13. Well, I'll bet they are just loving their upgraded digs!

    Chickens always lay less when the sun is scarce. I have 20 hens and get MAYBE 5 eggs a day during the fall/winter. Once it stays lighter longer each one of them lays an egg a day.

    I could put lights in the hen house to force them to continue laying, but it's hard, hard, hard on their bodies to lay eggs year round. That's one of the many reasons the hens at commercial egg factories don't live for very long.

    Can I make one tiny suggestion for your Chicken Hovel? Instead of the round rod, put in a perch made with a length of 2x2...the square shape is easier on their feet and they can rest on the flat part of it better. They can't grip the round very well.

  14. Jane - Aarene hasn't mentioned it in a while, but her hens live in the Winter Palace. The thought of little autocratic czarina chickens in their Winter Palace cracks me up every time.

    Jenn - if I can find or (big if) remember to buy a 2x2, I'll swap it out for them. I am the world's worst at wandering around Home Depot, buying stuff for every project but the one I'm working on... sigh!


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