Domesticated chickens originate from junglefowl that live together in flocks. To successfully re-home hens, your choice of coop and run must meet their natural instinctive needs and behaviours, providing safety from predators and plenty of room to roam outside. Coops and runs come in all shapes and sizes and can be made from a variety of materials. Just because a coop is attractive doesn’t mean it will be well built or a good place for your hens to live. The hen’s welfare has to be the main factor in your choice.
We take in pets chickens that have been given up by thier owners however the majority are rescued from farms, ex-commercial hens. Each year millions of hens from the egg industry are sent for premature slaughtered at around 18 months old, they are replaced with young birds to keep egg production high. Once a hen lays less than 5 eggs a week, they become uneconomic for the industry.
Egg laying hens are have been selectively bred to maximise egg production. This means that they lay on average 314 eggs a year, naturally they would only lay 20. An egg is similar to a period in a mammal, if it was fertilised by a cockerel and the hen was broody sitting on her egg, it would hatch in to a young hen or cockerel. We aim to rescue as many as we can, to find them loving homes as pets. We often rescue hundreds at a time. Please let us know if you would like to take on some chickens, they make great pets and are becoming increasingly popular.
Chickens sleep and lay their eggs in the coup, so you will need the right sized for the number of chickens you would like to re-home. An absolute minimum is 1 square foot of floor space per bird (9cm). Chickens will need enough space to move around comfortably, perches to roost at night and egg boxes to lay their eggs in safety.
Size – The size and breed of the hens makes a difference on the space available. Always take the lowest number of hens that is recommended by sellers of coops.
Ventilation – inadequate ventilation is a major health hazard, they need at least 2 ventilation points/air vents in the structure, preferably near top of the coop to reduce draughts directly on the chickens.
Predators Proof– look out for design features to keep chickens safe from foxes, for example a coop that is raised off the ground gives better protection from predators and lockable/bolted doors. Chickens most vulnerable during the day when in the run so need a well-protected run.
Perches – As they originate from jungle birds, hens like to perch as high above the ground as possible to feel safe from predators. They also like to roost close to each other in winter to share warmth. A good coop needs enough perches so hens can all perch at night and which are wide enough to accommodate more than 1 hen. Perches need to be comfortable with slightly rounded edges so their feet can comfortably grip. Perches should preferably be at least 3-4cm wide and wooden to retain warmth.
Nesting boxs – a hen will always prefer to be alone in the dark to lay an egg, since they are vulnerable at this time. A good coop will have a separate nesting box with easy access to collect the eggs.
Construction – chickens need a well built and sturdy coop.
Practical – Choose a design which is easy to clean with a removable floor and removeable perches.
A chicken run is where hens spend most of the day. You need an absolute minimum is 1sq meter per hen. We recommend offering much more if possible. Overcrowding can lead to illness and injuries well as affecting their behaviour negatively (boredom, depression, squabbles and pecking). Consider the following when choosing a suitable run:
Construction – needs to be well built and sturdy and anchored to the ground. Any metal parts need to be made of galvanised steel.
Predators Proof – Chickens need to be safe from predators. Ideally the run needs to have a mesh base and cover on the top to prevent predators digging under the fence or jumping over (foxes, birds of prey and other climbing predators).
Cover – A section needs to have covers to provide shelter from both rain and sun.
Dust Bath – access to a dry area of soil/sand for the hens to have dust baths
Activity – The run should have items to keep hens interested with perches to climb, and things to peck at