Poultry

With keeping chickens comes the responsibility of providing them adequate housing. This article covers important considerations for buying or building the  perfect chicken house for your poultry.

Because many plans for building poultry housing are already freely available on the internet, this article will concern itself more with what's required to keep poultry safe, happy and productive in terms of space and amenity requirements. Armed with this knowledge, you should be able to build, modify or purchase a chicken coop that’s suitable to your poultry’s needs and will keep them safe and contented.

What makes poultry happy/unhappy?
Research now provides a very good idea of what makes poultry happy and productive. Interestingly, the findings closely reflect the behaviours of the wild red jungle fowl of Southern Asia, from which all domesticated poultry are descended. In the wild, red jungle fowl form small, complex social groups. Much of their waking time is spent foraging over large distances, taking dust baths and preening themselves. Prior to laying they seek secluded spots for nest building and at night, they fly up into trees to avoid predators and roost. 

An ideal chicken coop for keeping chickens

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For free-range laying hens, it seems stocking them at 10,000 birds per hectare does not dramatically increase bird stress, provided the farm is well-managed and there is sufficient indoor space for the birds to rest after foraging or dust bathing.
 
The latest paper, still awaiting publication, to come out of the Poultry CRC’s research project Outdoor stocking density in free-range laying hens: Effects on welfare ind
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A chicken tractor (or arc) is a cage that can be moved over a paddock or garden beds. It is half-way between a fixed chicken coop and permanent free-ranging.
 
The chickens have access to fresh pasture and insects, but are also confined to a certain area. The term “chicken tractor” was first used by Permaculture co-founder Bill Mollison to describe the effect of putting chickens in a small open-bottomed cage, and allowing them to till and fertilise the garden, instead of using a tractor.
 
Since then the meaning of the term has broadened.
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Chickens are a great addition to the family and will contribute in many ways, such as producing eggs, fertilising your garden and devouring food  scraps.

The most trouble-free chickens are bought from a reliable commercial supplier and are vaccinated and at the point of lay (16–18 weeks).

Chickens need to be kept in a well-drained and well-ventilated pen and it’s vital to make the pen safe from all potential predators. 

If you wish to keep chickens inside their pen you need to clip one wing’s feathers, not both, to prevent them from flying. 

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Hearing the clucks and murmurs of a contented hen happily scratching for grubs and insects in the leaf litter under a tree or hedgerow can be one of the more satisfying moments of small farm living.

Being able to collect an egg from her each day is surely the icing on the cake.

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On some free range egg and broiler (meat bird) farms the outdoor range is a fenced open field with no overhead cover for birds. This does not allow the birds the opportunity to seek shade/shelter while in the range. The number of birds in the range depends on the availability of overhead cover and it is possible to get the birds out of the shed and improve their ranging ability by installing shaded areas.

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