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  • How to Keep Chickens Cool in Summer | Chicken Coop Tips

    While chickens are fairly robust animals, summer can be fatal for your feathered flock. It’s important that all backyard chicken owners are able to identify when their chickens are in distress and what to do about it. As chickens are unable to sweat, they use other ways to try to reduce their body temperature in summer.

    panting chicken Chickens panting in hot weather

    Chickens will pant when they are hot to try to remove moisture from their bodies by evaporation. They also hold their wings out slightly to get cool air closer to their bodies. If you visit your chicken coop and find your chickens looking lethargic and their combs are faded and dry, it may already be too late as they are likely experiencing heat stress. The best thing is to be proactive before the harsh summer weather arrives with the following tips to ensure your chicken coop is summer-ready!

    1. Provide a cool supply of fresh water

    The most important thing when it’s hot is that your chickens have a clean supply of fresh water in their chicken coop. They drink more than you’d expect in summer (around 500ml) which can be twice as much as in the cooler months. If you think about the water component in eggs (75%) and how moist their manure is, it’s no wonder that water is so important. Chickens also need water for regulating body temperature and for their digestion. A lack of water can result in stress for your chickens, which will then impact their egg production.

    chicken drinker Chicken with a clean supply of cool water

    Make sure your chicken drinker or waterer has a nice wide opening at the top. You can then insert a freezer block or a frozen soft drink bottle filled with ice to keep the water cool. The freezer block can be replaced daily. If your chickens are allowed out of their chicken coop to free range in your yard, position your drinkers as close to the area where they tend to sit in hot weather. In our case that would be their favourite bush outside our bedroom window, where there is shade and the soil is cool.

    2. Make sure there is adequate chicken coop ventilation

    I recently wrote another article about chicken coop ventilation to highlight the importance of ventilation in both summer and winter. Many people think that as long as their chickens are not in direct sunshine, then they will be fine. Some chicken coops on the market have only a small door for the chickens to come and go from their housing area and very little ventilation to let the hot air escape. Again, chickens need more ventilation than perhaps you may realise.

    coop with ventilation A chicken coop with side ventilation panels and third side completely removed for maximum ventilation

    Ideally you want a coop that allows for an entire side or wall of the housing area to be removed in summer to allow for maximum ventilation. Positioning your coop under the shade of a tree will also help but it’s the ventilation that’s often overlooked.

    3. Frozen treats for cool chicks!

    When it’s very hot, it’s not a good idea to give your chickens lots of treats such as meal worms or sunflower seeds, as these will increase their body temperature with digestion. The exception is with cool or frozen treats such as berries, zucchini, corn or watermelon. Our chickens get quite excited when they see us delivering some watermelon to their chicken coop. At summer time, a frozen slice is even more welcome as a refreshing treat for your birds. You can get creative and put fruit and water in ice cube trays to freeze or you can simply give the chickens the entire piece of frozen fruit or vegetable to peck at.

    4. Provide a dust bath to keep cool

    The reason why our chickens’ favourite place in hot weather is the bush outside our bedroom window is because the soil under the bush is in the shade and loose enabling them to have a wonderful time ‘bathing’ in this dirt, to access the cooler earth below. Chickens use dust baths to reduce their body temperatures as well as to help deal with mites or lice that might be bothering them. Even if you do not have a very large chicken coop, it is important that you provide access to a dust bath. Loose dirt or sand is best in hot weather so that they don’t have to use up too much energy trying to create an appropriate dust bath.

    5. Bucket of water or hose just in case!

    If you notice a particular chicken really struggling in the hot weather, panting and drooping, then give them a quick dip in a bucket of water, making sure you keep their head above the water! Sometimes a chicken just won’t do what it should to keep cool and decide that the hottest part of a chicken coop is the best place to sit. If possible, block of these areas so they simply can’t make bad choices! Sometimes forcing them to cool down may be necessary to save their life. Some backyard chicken owners like to spray their chickens with the hose or use a mister to keep them cool. It’s quite fun to watch chickens enjoying the relief from the hot weather.

    Helpful Links:

    • UK Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs – Heat Stress in Poultry
    • View our range of chicken coops at Royal Rooster which offer great ventilation in hot weather

    (Article updated November, 2016)

  • Why it's Crucial to Ventilate your Chicken Coop

    Most backyard chicken owners will realise the importance of having their chicken coop well ventilated in hot weather. Fewer would realise that ventilation is still very important when it's freezing outside and even when snow is falling!

    coop with weather panels A chicken coop with protection in winter but still adequate ventilation.

    Chickens generate a great deal of moisture, both from the water vapour from their breath as well as from their manure. It may not occur to you that chickens don't really urinate as such, but produce very moist manure. Chicken manure is 75-80% moisture. They produce much more moisture than many would expect. As such, their chicken coops can easily get quite humid from the heat and moisture they produce. Damp air holds germs and viruses which can then lead to respiratory problems in your chickens.

    Ventilation in Winter

    Respiratory illness and frostbite on a chickens’ comb or waddle are the biggest issues that result from not having adequate ventilation in a chicken coop during winter. Chickens can actually cope quite well in very cold temperatures if the air in their chicken coop is dry. If you live in such a cold climate that you think insulation of your chicken coop is necessary, then it's even more important to make sure you have enough ventilation as insulating your coop can trap moisture and actually make the situation worse for frostbite. Chickens actually wear a heavy feather coat in winter, so unless you live in a very cold area, then insulation is not often necessary.

    Ammonia Fumes

    Unless you want to be removing all the manure as your chickens make their 'deposits' then there will be some ammonia released into your chicken coop. Ventilating your coop takes away the ammonia which can cause damage to the tissues of a chicken's respiratory system at surprisingly low levels. If you can smell the ammonia, then more ventilation is needed. A mobile chicken coop is also a good solution as moving the coop to new areas, means that there is not the opportunity for the mature to build up to such a degree.

    Draft versus Adequate Ventilation

    The main thing in winter is to prevent chilling due to direct wind but still allowing enough ventilation to take away the moisture in the air and the ammonia fumes. A coop should be tight enough to keep the wind out but ventilated near the top to let the fumes out. A nice bedding of straw or wood shavings will help retain warmth in the bottom of a chicken coop. Chickens' have an insulating layer of warm air between their feathers and their body, trapped in their down. If a direct breeze is blowing on them, this insulating air is not retained and the chickens will get cold.

    A removable ‘weather shield’ is a good way of further enclosing your chicken house in winter but allows you to easily ventilate your coop in summer.

    Summer Heat & Ventilation

    coop with ventilation A chicken coop with side ventilation panels and central 'wall' completely removed for maximum ventilation

    Australian summers can be very severe and chickens don't always chose the best place to stay out of the heat. Once we had an old chicken shed where the chickens were housed and some decided that the back corner of the shed where it was the hottest and least ventilated was actually the best place to sit. Of course that didn't end well, poor chickens! We've learnt that ventilation is so very important for your chickens and heat stress is a very real thing with very sad consequences.

    It's best if a chicken’s body temperature is around 23-27 degrees Celsius as they start having problems if they get up as high as 32 degrees (90 Fahrenheit). Larger breeds with more feathers also find the warm weather more difficult. Ventilation, extra shade if possible and of course a constant supply of water are essential in summer.

    What sort of Ventilation?

    The easiest and most cost effective form of ventilation is passive ventilation. This simply means that you have openings with cross ventilation so the air naturally works is way inside your chicken coop.

    Unfortunately many chicken coops on the market have not factored in adequate ventilation. You need more ventilation than you'd think. If you have a four-sided housing section for your chickens, you'd want at least one whole side of the house to be removed in summer, especially in Australia. Ideally it would be good to have further sections that allow for ventilation or a raised floor that also allows for air-flow would be ideal. A chicken coop that claims that it’s insulated doesn’t necessarily mean that the coop is well ventilated. These are two different things.

    Check out the range of chicken coops made by Royal Rooster that are well ventilated and also offer winter protection.

  • Keeping Chickens as Pets

    Kids love having pets and parents love that pets can teach children responsibility, kindness and empathy. If you don’t already have a pet, it’s likely that your children are regularly pestering you about getting a dog or a cat or even a rodent, rabbit or guinea pig.

    The pet that may not have immediately come to mind is the humble backyard chicken.

    boys-and-their-chooks Just hanging out with the chickens!

    Keeping chickens as pets is a growing trend world-wide, and it’s not difficult to understand why this is the case. For some it may be the desire to get back to basics and being self sufficient, but for many people it’s the realisation that chickens make great company, are inexpensive to keep and contribute to the household financially with their daily supply of eggs and fertiliser for the garden.

    We have kept chickens in our backyard for many years. Before our first son was born we discussed the idea of getting a pet. We ended up postponing this decision, as we really weren’t sure what we wanted. As both of us came from a farming background, we naturally got ourselves a couple of chickens not realising that these would be the pets that we were looking for all along!

    aiden-eggs-caleb Our boys love collecting the eggs and cuddling their favourite chicken!

    You’ll find that chickens quickly become part of a family and are doted on by children. Chickens are inexpensive to purchase, inexpensive to feed and don’t need to be walked daily or require training! With around 270 eggs per bird in its first year from breeds such as Australorps, you can also look forward to delicious breakfasts and favour filled cooking.

    We recently re-considered getting a dog or a cat for our children but realised, after talking with friends, quite what a commitment it would be in our already hectic lives! The number of dogs and cats that end up in animal shelters after being abandoned, just confirms that many families purchase a cute puppy or kitten not quite realising what they’re getting themselves into!

    Our nephew Max with his beloved chicken 'Sizzle' the frizzle. Our nephew Max with his beloved chicken 'Sizzle' the frizzle.

    Our children have always been very taken with our flock, with a favourite morning activity including a visit to the chickens with the kitchen scraps and the chance to count the daily deposit of eggs in the straw filled nests.

    While our birds are normally housed in a mobile chicken coop (great part of the permaculture process) we sometimes let them ‘free range’. Our son’s favourite chicken named ‘Opal’ loved being cuddled and would happily join us inside our home if we left the door open by mistake.

    It won’t be long after getting backyard chickens, when you’ll find yourself with more eggs than you can use, happy, responsible children and yourself an advocate, ‘spreading the news’ of this amazing backyard pet.

  • 5 Tips for Adding New Chickens To Your Backyard Flock

    If you’re thinking of adding a few new spring chickens to your backyard flock to boost the egg count, here are 5 tips to make the transition process as easy as possible for you, your older hens and the new additions.

    Most people are familiar with the concept of a 'pecking order' in chicken society. Many people however, do not realise the implications of adding new chickens to an existing flock, which has previously established each member's place within the chicken hierarchy.

    Inside CR2 smallYou might not realise it, but chickens know whom they are allowed to pick on (those beneath them in the hierarchy) and which other chickens they must be submissive to. Adding new chickens throws the hierarchy into confusion, with a new order needing to be established. During this phase, fighting will occur amongst the chickens in order to determine who is submissive and who is dominant, and in the end, which bird will be the 'top chook'.

    1. Use two coops side by side

    If you happen to have two chicken coops (or chicken tractors) or are able to borrow a small coop for a week or two, you have the option of putting your new chickens in this second coop, which can then stand alongside your main coop. This gives both groups of chickens the opportunity to get familiar with each other, without any physical contact. After a week or so, you can then integrate the new chickens into the main coop. While it's likely that there'll be some fighting, it will be less intense due to the precautionary, 'familiarization' stage that you've undertaken.

    2. Introduce new chickens at night-time

    It has also been found that introducing new chickens to a flock at night-time can help to minimize the fighting that occurs. Grab a torch and place the newest additions amongst the older chickens on the perches. At night-time the chickens are less likely to start a fight to establish the pecking order. In the morning, the chickens seem to be less aware of the new additions.

    3. Distract birds with special treats

    If night-time isn't a practical time for you to integrate your chickens, you can at least take measures to distract the older chickens while you introduce the new birds. Feed the chickens some fruit or veggie scraps, fresh weeds or grain to keep them busy and less aware of what is happening.

    DSCF16124. Add chickens of a similar size/ age

    Also keep in mind that there will be less fighting if you introduce new chickens that are of a similar age or at least a similar size to your older hens. If your new chickens are considerably younger and therefore smaller, they will almost certainly be picked on by older chickens and less able to defend themselves. The closer the chickens are in size/ age the less fighting that will take place.

    5. Don't add a second rooster

    Remember that one rooster will rule the roost. If you're thinking of adding a second rooster to your flock, you might like to think again. Roosters are quite possessive of the chickens in their coop and will fight with the new rooster, even to death, to eliminate the threat of this new male in their environment.

    Practically it really isn't necessary to have several roosters, as one can adequately 'service' quite a number of chickens for fertilization purposes. I'm sure many owners of backyard chickens would also agree, that one very early morning wake up call is quite adequate - two roosters belting out a tune at 6am would be too much for you and your neighbours to take, no matter how much you love your backyard chickens!

  • Who Rules the Roost in your Chicken Coop?

    If you've ever found the time to sit and observe the interactions of backyard chickens, you'll no doubt understand where the term 'pecking order' originated. While you might debate who 'rules the roost' in your home or workplace, you can be sure that there is a clear 'King' or 'Queen' that dominates your backyard chicken coop.

    white chicken2The concept of a 'pecking order' was coined back in the 1920s by biologists who discovered that backyard chickens maintain a hierarchy with one chicken pecking another of lower status. In the absence of a rooster, one particular chicken will dominate all others. The 'pecking order' concept was transferred to human behavior in the 1950s.

    Chicken domination

    While owners of backyard chickens may not be aware of such a hierarchy, the chickens most definitely know their place in the coop society. If you have chickens in your backyard, take a moment to simply look at the condition of their feathers. There will be one chicken that will stand out with its beautiful crop of feathers entirely intact.

    If you take a little more time to sit and watch the action in your chicken coop, you'll see that this 'top chook' has been given the right to peck any other chicken in the flock, with no retaliation. While you may not be able to make out the order entirely, there is a definite hierarchy.

    In flightEach chicken knows whom they are allowed to dominate and whom they need to step aside for in terms of eating first and having the privilege of the best laying boxes and perches. The favourite laying boxes and perches are generally those that are the highest in the chicken coop, and therefore the greatest distance away from predators.

    Chicken coop introductions

    If you've just taken the step to acquire backyard chickens or are about to do so, be prepared for a short period of intense fighting between your new pets. This fighting determines whether a chicken is dominant or submissive and therefore where they sit in the pecking order.

    Interestingly, if you remove a chicken from a well-established flock for only a day and then put that bird back in the chicken coop again, fighting amongst the entire flock will reoccur to re-establish the appropriate pecking order. This is also found to occur when a chicken is injured, with their place in the pecking order significantly down-graded as a result.

    Adding New Chickens

    Of course when you add new chickens to an existing flock of chickens the pecking order needs to be re-established. While it's unlikely that you will be able to prevent fighting completely during this phase of introduction, it pays to try some of the strategies that have been found to help your old and new chickens get to know each other. This includes introducing new chickens at night-time; distracting older birds with treats; and using two coops for a short period side by side (see other articles on this topic coming soon!).

     

  • Is a Rooster Needed in Your Chicken Coop?

    It might seem obvious, but have you ever wondered if a rooster is a necessary addition in your chicken coop for your chickens to lay an egg? There seem to be many myths or ‘old wives’ tales’ circulating about eggs and the rooster’s role in egg production. This article, aims to answer some of these commonly misunderstood issues.

    You may have had chickens in your backyard chicken coop for many years, or perhaps you're new to the chicken scene. Either way, some of the questions and related answers below might seem obvious, but read on, as it’s likely that you’ll be surprised at some of the answers.

    Fresh eggs Fresh eggs!

    No. Hens, like female humans, don't need a male in order to ovulate. If the aim is to produce baby chicks, then fertilization and therefore the rooster are necessary. A 'broody' or 'clucky' mother hen is also needed to sit on her fertilized eggs for a period of around 21 days. Sometimes chickens who have not circulated with a rooster, get clucky and sit endlessly on their eggs hoping for chicks to hatch. Unfortunately for these ladies, only disappointment will be the result.

    Are grocery bought eggs fertilized?

    If you purchase your eggs from a local farmer who has roosters running with the chickens (or this is the case in your own backyard), then it’s likely that the eggs are fertilized. In comparison, it is highly unlikely that grocery store eggs are fertilized as commercial egg producers do not keep roosters amongst their chickens.  Even if the eggs you purchase are fertilized, they won’t hatch into chickens. A broody chicken or an egg incubator are needed to keep the eggs at the right temperature in order for them to hatch. Fertilized eggs can be eaten because once they’ve been refrigerated, the chicken embryo will not develop.

    Does the discovery of a red dot in the yolk of an egg mean it was fertilized?

    You might discover a red spot amongst your fried eggs, but this does NOT mean that the egg was fertilized. This is an old wives’ tale. The red dot is simply a blood spot that came from the chicken when the egg was being formed. Broken capillaries in the reproductive system result in blood spots in the egg. If you purchase eggs from a grocery store, it is unlikely that you’ll come across this. ‘Candler’ inspectors at poultry plants routinely shine bright lights at eggs and remove all eggs that are found with a red spot. Years ago, candling was done by holding the egg up to a lit candle which is how this inspection process got its name.

    If you’re concerned about the health hazards from eating eggs like this, there’s no need to worry. There are no issues with eating the blood spots found in eggs. Egg producers remove eggs like this mainly because of consumer preference rather than any related health issue.  If you come across a blood spot within your egg, simply remove it. If it’s only small it’s likely to disappear when cooked anyway, and no one would be the wiser!

    If you'd still rather eat fresh, organic eggs from your own backyard... get a Royal Rooster chicken coop

  • Choosing a breed of chicken for your backyard chicken coop

    If you’re interested in getting backyard chickens, you’ve likely wondered what type of chicken is best for your backyard. As there are hundreds of breeds of chickens in existence, it can be a little overwhelming when deciding on a breed.

    Chook face smallChickens vary in lots of different ways including bodily size, feather colour, extent of feathers, comb type and egg colour. Breeds of chicken also vary in terms of their main use. Some are best for eggs, others for their meat, some are more for ‘decorative’ purposes, and some are considered ‘dual-purpose’.

    In order to determine which breed is best for your situation, let’s look at some of the most common qualities that owners look for in their new backyard pets.

    Eggs in basket 21. Egg size – do you want full size eggs for cooking or are you happy with a smaller sized egg?

    2. Quantity of eggs – some breeds produce more eggs on average in a year.

    3. Mother hens – certain breeds are better for rearing chicks.

    4. Family friendly, docile chickens - will your chickens also be pets for your family?

    5. Standard breeds versus rare/ pretty chickens.

    Good egg size

    One obvious difference between standard and miniature (or bantam) chickens is the size of the egg they produce. A bantam egg is around a half to a third the size of an average egg from a full sized chicken. Bantams also produce fewer of these smaller eggs in a year. For example the Isa Brown breed of chicken will produce around 260 eggs per year, compared with only 150 small eggs from various breeds of bantam chickens. So if eggs are important to you, it’s best to go for a full standard sized hen.

    Quantity of Eggs

    Different breeds of chickens seem to be able to produce more eggs than others. As mentioned, the commercial hybrid ‘Isa Brown’ tends to lay more eggs per year compared with other chickens. Isa Browns can produce up to 300 eggs per year in it's first year. Then generally around 260 eggs per year, compared with 250 from the Black Australorp and around 200 from the Rhode Island Red. White leghorns are also a higher volume layer producing around 195 eggs per year. (This post was recently updated on 21 September, 2016)

    Broody Mother Hens

    From time to time chickens go broody or ‘clucky’ meaning that they tend to sit on their eggs in the hope that they’ll be able to hatch some chickens. Of course some poor hens still do this even though there’s no rooster in this pen to make this possible. While the chickens are broody they will stop laying new eggs and sit on their eggs, or whatever eggs they can find, for an extended period of time. If a chicken actually sits on fertilized eggs, in 21 days they will hopefully hatch into chicks.

    Often bantam breeds such as ‘Silkies’ regularly go broody, so these are a good choice if you want some hens to do the sitting. Other breeds such as Rhode Island Reds or Australorps have had their broody instincts bred out of them, so you have a chicken at maximum egg laying capacity. If you decide down the track that you’d like some chicks, purchasing some fertilized eggs and hiring an incubator may be the way to go, because it’s unlikely these ‘unbroody’ breeds will get broody just when you need them to.

    Family Friendly Chickens

    If you’ve got children, you might like to get a breed of chicken that doesn’t mind being handled. If you’re not too fussed about getting eggs and want the chickens more as pets, then various bantam breeds might be the way to go.

    Our nephew Max with his beloved chicken 'Sizzle' the frizzle. Our nephew Max with his beloved chicken 'Sizzle' the frizzle.

    Frizzles are unusual but attractive looking bantams that have curly feathers that point upwards instead of sitting flat again the body. Pekin is another popular breed of bantam that looks like a ball of feathers. They even have feathers on their legs and feet. These are very placid creatures and are excellent pets for children. Silkies are also very placid and make great pets for children. Like many bantam breeds, Silkies are great broody hens.

    If you want a breed of chicken that is great a great layer and also good with children, Australorps are a good choice. These are black in colour with a beetle green sheen to their feathers. They are great with children and other pets and lay really well.

    Standard Chickens or Unusual Chickens?

    The choice between getting standard sized, common chicken (such as an Australorp, Isa Brown or Rhode Island Red) or a more unusual breed still comes back to the issue of egg quantity. If you primarily want a reasonable sized egg with a good number of eggs per year, it’s best to stick with the most common standard sized breeds. If not, then there are many beautiful breeds to choose from! For something different there are even breeds such as the Araucana that lay pretty blue/ green eggs! You could even get a mix of different standard breeds: some orange, some black and some white just to make your backyard chicken coop look that bit more interesting!

    Useful link:

    • Backyard Poultry by Andy Vardy
      A great website which provides further information of different breeds including a chart explaining all the different features and characteristics of the many breeds available. This site also provides a useful forum and a great detail of information about keeping backyard chickens.
  • How to Fox Proof Your Chicken Coop

    fox and chicken Protect your precious chickens from predators

    If you’ve ever had a fox attack your chickens before, I know you'll understand how important it is to make sure your chicken coop is fox proof. It is absolutely devastating to find your pet chickens after a fox or a dog has ransacked your coop. Unfortunately, many people think that foxes only live in rural areas and are unlikely to be a problem in urban areas. This may be the case in your area, but don’t be too sure. Take steps now to protect your chickens, rabbits, birds and guinea pigs from these predators.

    Increased Foxes in Metro Areas

    There have been recent reports that numbers of foxes have significantly increased in some metro areas in Australia. Twice as many foxes have been trapped in the Perth area during 2016 compared with the past year. Increased urban development means that bushland areas are reduced which leaves foxes no choice but to head closer to the suburbs and houses.

    As manufacturers of chicken coops, we’ve had many customers tell us about the brazen foxes in their area and the devastating results. Some have come as close as a back porch in the early morning, and that’s in a metropolitan area! Others have reported that foxes are game enough to even eat the food that is left out for dogs and cats. I would strongly suggest that all owners of backyard chickens safeguard their chickens, before, not after a fox is noticed in the area.

    Predator Proofing a Chicken Coop

    The best way to keep foxes out of your chicken coop depends largely on the style of coop and run that you have. If you have a mobile chicken coop that has a run attached to a housing section, it’s important to make sure that foxes can’t tunnel underneath the outer edges of your coop. Even if you’re on reasonably hard soil, foxes can be quite determined to access your coop.

    Fox proof floor in coop Chickens safe inside their mobile coop

    One of the best things to do in this case is to wire a large mesh floor to the base of your coop. If it’s attached to the base itself, it will be able to be moved along with your coop when you move your chickens to a fresh area of your backyard. Chickens love to have area to scratch, so you want to make sure that this mesh floor has large enough squares to still allow your chickens to scratch, but small enough that a fox won’t be able to enter. We’ve found that mesh with 10cm x 15cm rectangles is ideal. If you stood this mesh upright, a fox may actually fit through, but when it’s wired to the base of your coop, a fox will not be able enter the coop due to the angle of their burrowing.

    The other option is to create a mesh ‘skirt’ around the edge of your coop. This allows your chickens more room to scratch, as there’s no need to have the mesh under the coop as well, but makes moving your coop a little harder. We’ve tried both methods and the skirt is very cumbersome, but may be the preferred option by some.

    It’s also important to make sure that your mobile chicken coop is made from strong enough mesh. Unfortunately, some of the imported coops that we've seen on the market are made using very light ‘aviary’ style mesh. We’ve been told about foxes that have chewed through this thin mesh to gain access to the chicken coop. So just make sure that the coop you purchase, or make, has strong enough mesh. I would suggest mesh that is 2.5mm thick. We’ve found that this cannot be damaged by foxes trying to chew through, or children who love chickens and clamber all over the chicken coop!

    Fox Proofing a Fixed Chicken House

    Fox proof fence in ground A fence placed into a trench and backfilled to stop digging foxes from gaining access

    If you’ve got a chicken house that stays in a fixed position, the main issue is making sure that the run area is fox proof. Most people with a traditional chicken shed and run erect a permitter of high chicken wire to form the run. This wire should have holes no larger than 80mm in diameter. As this style of run generally has no ‘roof’, it’s important that the walls are high enough to prevent a chicken from flying over as well as to prevent a fox from entering (around 1.8m high is generally adequate).

    The other important consideration is that the chicken wire at the bottom of the fence is dug into the ground, not far below the surface to a distance of about 50 or 60cm.  As mentioned, foxes will dig to gain access to your chicken house. If the wire is dug into the ground, the foxes will hit the wire when they start to burrow and eventually stop trying to get inside your coop when they realise that they keep hitting the wire barrier. Another way of achieving this barrier is to but something heavy like wood or concrete sleepers on top of the mesh at the bottom of your fence.

    For more reading, from the perspective of humanly controlling foxes, Brisbane City Council's article explains that a fox-proof poultry pen is the best way to keep your chickens safe. An article from Unley City Council about foxes in Urban and Urban Fringe areas is also helpful to understand the fox problem and how it affects our pets.

    If you're concerned about foxes, be sure to purchase the ‘fox proof floor’ upgrade with your Royal Rooster chicken coop to keep your chickens safe! 

    (Article Updated November 2016)

  • Do chicken coops attract mice and rats?

    I love backyard chickens but I’m definitely not a fan of mice and rats. Just because you have chickens in your backyard, doesn’t mean you also have to have mice or rats in your chicken coop. Obviously it’s not the chickens themselves that attract mice or rats, it’s the spilt or poorly stored grain or pellets that can attract these unwanted visitors.

    Rodents are looking for food, water and shelter. If your chicken coop provides a secluded corner that your chickens can’t access, food and water, these little creatures might just decide to stay. Interestingly, chickens are actually omnivores which means that they eat both vegetable and meat materials. Chickens happily eat insects, worms, carcasses as well as seeds, grains, weeds and other plant material. This means that a mouse that is a bit slow running through the coop, might find that he becomes a light snack for one of your chickens. I wouldn’t however, rely on your chickens to keep your mouse problem under control.

    Owners of backyard chickens should always take preventative measures to keep away these undesirable visitors that can bring with them a range of diseases.

    Keeping mice out of the chicken coop

    While the first, logical thing to do would be to prevent mice actually entering your chicken coop, this is much easier said than done! Mice can fit through very small spaces, so small that we may overlook potential access points because we assume that they’re too small.

    If you have a fixed chicken coop made with iron walls, a concrete floor and fine mesh, you may be able to keep them out. But if you’ve got a mobile chicken coop or you regularly free range your chickens, there’s likely to be a tiny gap somewhere for these determined creatures to find their way in. So physically keeping mice actually out of your chicken coop may not be really possible, but there’s still other ways to keep them under control.

    Mice love spilt feed 

    Our chickens enjoying their new drinker and feeder set Our chickens enjoying their new drinker and feeder set

    One of the key factors in keeping away rodents is to make sure that you have an adequate feeder that doesn’t allow the chickens to spill a great deal of feed onto the ground. As owners and manufacturers of ‘Royal Rooster’ mobile chicken coops, we regularly had customers asking for suggestions about how to prevent their chickens from scratching lots of grain onto the ground. Your chickens can cost you a great deal more than necessary in the way of chicken feed. Most chickens naturally love to scratch at their feed which means a lot of it ends up on the ground and then wasted. 

    To be honest, we were also having issues with our chickens wasting lots of feed. We were determined to overcome this problem and so decided to design our own feeders. A key part of the design of our feeders is the special dividers in the middle of the feeding tray. These dividers make it much more difficult fro chickens to ‘swipe’ the feed onto the ground.

    Chickens will naturally try to sort their grain mix to find the tastiest piece of grain or seed. We’ve found that these feeders significantly reduce the wastage of grain. The chickens are forced to peck at the feed to eat it, rather than ‘explore’ the grain mix and make a great mess in the process. We’ve found that having a feeder that prevents feed wastage is a key factor in keeping away the rats and mice. So while they may physically be able to come into your coop, if  you can get your spilt grain under control, you’ll also have your mice problem under control.

    Can I take away the self-feeder?

    If you have a really bad mice problem, you may be tempted to just feed your chickens at one point in the day by scattering their feed on the ground. Unfortunately, chickens do much better if they have a regular, continuous supply of feed that they can access throughout the day. Self-feeders are really the only easy way to ensure they have a continuous supply available.  Rather than taking away the self-feeder all together, it is much wiser to invest in a feeder that limits the amount of grain spilt.

    How should I store my feed? 

    The very popular drinker and feeder set - made to overcome feed wastage, dirty water and to take up very little room inside a coop. The very popular drinker and feeder set - made to overcome feed wastage, dirty water and to take up very little room inside a coop.

    You also need to make sure that your grain or pellets are stored appropriately in a sealed container. Rats and mice can be fairly determined if they sniff out some food that they’re interested in. I’ve discovered a lost Tupperware container in our garage, hidden behind a cupboard that was completely chewed through for the mice to gain access. Tough plastic or even wood is no problem for mice or rates. Be sure to purchase a strong container, ideally made of metal such as an old-fashioned garbage bin or 44 gallon drum to store your grain.

    Where to find greater feeders that reduce feed wastage... we've made our own! Have a look at our very popular Royal Rooster drinker and feeder sets.

     

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