Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hen Haven

I haven't completed very many projects this summer. Finanaces have been a wee bit tight around Stardancer Central, so the focus has been on maintenance rather than improvements. One exception, however, is a new hen house.

The old hen house was a modified shipping crate, roughly 8 feet tall, 8 long and 4 feet wide. It has served the purpose but is really much to large for housing only 6 hens. I felt a smaller, especially a shorter structure would make it easier for the birds to keep themselves warmer in winter and encourage egg production during winter. 

I spent a fair amount of time looking at photos and plans of hen houses others have created, and then combined the features I most liked into our own structure. I wanted easy access to egg boxes so we can collect our breakfast treasures without disturbing the birds or opening a huge, heat-stealing door. I wanted a cozy area in which the chickens can roost, feed and generally do 'chicken stuff', with just enough space to get the job done.

I also wanted to be able to clean the hen house conveniently. 

Once I knew what I wanted it was a matter of gathering materials and putting them together. The structure has a foot print of 16 square feet (4 feet squared). This is a bit more than the recommended 2 square feet per bird. Keep in mind they have immediate access to much larger run area, so the space inside the hen house needed be so large.

Here are some photos of the resulting hen house. Unfortunately I just finished it yesterday and have to spend today preparing to return to work. It probably won't be put into service until early in my next R&R.

Front view on new Hen House
 When I place the house in service there will be ramp leading from the open hatchway into the chicken run, making it easier for the birds to get in and out. The hatch is hinged so it can closed to confine the birds at night and protect them from marauding predators. The plexiglass window is unbreakable and provides the inmates with a good amount of natural light.

Side and nest boxes
A drop down door in the back of the coop provides access to the nest boxes for egg collection and refreshing next materials when needed. The roof overhangs the back by a few inches to prevent icing of the hinges during winter.

Open front
When it's time to add feed, refresh their water or clean out the house the entire front panel drops down to provide easy access to the main "living area".

I intend to install a light fixture on a timer, to provide full-spectrum light for 15 or 16 hours per day during winter, to encourage egg laying. I'm thinking the heated poultry water fountain we already use during winter may be sufficient to keep the house warmer than it would otherwise be. If not, I may install a small space heater with a thermostat. At the moment I'm thinking that probably won't be necessary.

If I were to do it again, I'd build less pitch into the shed type roof. Otherwise, I'm quite satisfied with it and looking forward to putting it in service early during my next R&R from work.

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