Free-range or Run:
Whether you keep your hens free-range, where they sleep in a coop and roam freely during the day, or contained within a run will depend on your circumstances. Free-range is great if you have the space but hens can be happy in a run, providing they are not overcrowded, and they will also be safer from predators.
There is a fantastic range of hen houses available. Some have integral runs, others have detachable runs and some are designed to stand inside an enclosure or be used for free-ranging birds. Wood is the traditional material but now there are modern plastic ones that provide a practical alternative. These are easy to clean, long-lasting and do not need protecting from the weather. Please see the following page for more details: http://www.durham-hens-poultry-supplies.co.uk/hen-houses-15-c.asp
We use wood shavings. They are more expensive than straw but last longer. Bedding should be changed regularly (every 1 or 2 weeks). We mix Smite
powder into fresh bedding to keep the coop free of insects. Wood shavings, straw and hay are available in our shop.
Choosing your hens:
Hens for laying eggs are usually purchased at point of lay (16-24 weeks old). Most hens start to lay between 20-26 weeks but this depends on the breed, e.g. some pure breeds such as Buff Orpingtons will not lay until at least 30 weeks of age. Buying at point of lay means you have the hen for its full laying life and hens do lay most eggs in their first year. It is worth buying good quality, young hens that will lay well. It can be frustrating to feed and look after older hens when they do give you eggs in return (you get what you pay for!). It is worth noting that some hens, such as ex-battery hens, find it difficult to adapt to a living in a mixed flock if they have not seen other types of hens early in their lives. Our hens are kept in sheds with other breeds so tend to mix well. Please see our 'Hen Breed
' pages for details of the breeds we stock.
Hens should always have access to layers pellets or mash at all times; they will not overeat these. Please note that hens are healthier and eggs are more prolific and tastier if you use a good quality feed. We recommend Garvo layers pellets or layers mash. Each hen needs approximately 1kg of food per week. Do not limit their food or egg production will fall. In the summer hens do not require any other food, although free-range hens will forage and small amounts of mixed corn or wheat can be fed as a treat. In the winter layers pellets/mash should be combined roughly 4:1 with mixed corn or wheat, both of which are higher in calories. The extra calories are needed to keep hens warm and therefore help egg production during cold spells. Too much however can make your hens fat and prevent them from laying! Fresh water should be available at all times - allow at least 1/3L per hen each day. Mixed poultry grit
should be given to hens in runs. It comprises small pieces of flint that aid digestion and broken oyster shells which provide extra calcium. A separate container should be used for grit or it can be scattered on the ground when dry. We have layers pellets, layers mash, wheat, mixed corn and mixed grit available for sale.