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Why Are Chicken Eggs Different Colours?

The ancestor of all chickens is the Red Junglefowl, Gallus gallus, a native of South-east Asia. All Junglefowl eggs have shells of a creamy white colour. And yet, as any chicken keeper knows, the eggs of domestic hens can vary widely.

Many years ago British chicken egg producers realised that shoppers favoured brown eggs, and turned their noses up at white ones. It was even said that brown eggs were more nutritious (which is not the case – all chicken eggs have the same nutritional value).

This tyranny of supermarket brown eggs continued until about 20 years ago, when a niche market was created for eggs from specific breeds. Chocolate browns, blues, and even the much-maligned whites, all began to appear on the shelves.

But for anyone familiar with backyard chickens, this was nothing new. Pearly whites from the Sussex and Leghorn, lovely blues from the Ameraucana and Cream Legbar, red-brown beauties from the Barnevelder and Welsummer and the dreamy greeny-blue of the Araucana and Favaucana are all in a day’s egg-collecting.

But why, given the fact that those ancestral chickens all laid creamy white eggs, do these different colours exist?

Egg Painting – the Natural Way

An egg takes around 26 hours to fully form inside a hen. Twenty of those hours are dedicated to toughening and colouring the egg shell. Layers of calcium carbonate provide the toughening – which is why hens need plenty of calcium in their diets – and the colouring is down to pigments. Calcium carbonate is naturally white, so any other colour has to be ‘painted on’, from the inside.

Breeders have created hundreds of chicken varieties over the centuries, and each of these has distinctive plumage and colouring. The pigments that give feathers colour sometimes go hand in hand with specific pigments for colouring egg shells too.

For example, the Ameraucana carries the blue pigment biliverdin, and this is painted onto the shell in the later stages of the egg’s development in the oviduct. Both the outside and inside of the shell have the same blue colour.

This is not the case with a standard brown egg. Crack one open and you’ll notice it’s white on the inside. The pigment responsible for brown colouring is protoporphyrin. This is present to a greater or lesser degree on the majority of chickens. Even eggs of a creamy colour have a hint of protoporphyrin in their shells. Hens carrying an excess of the pigment – such as the Delaware and Marans – produce fabulous chocolate brown eggs.

Many hens lay brown eggs dappled with darker brown spots and streaks. The Neera and Welsummer are good examples of this. The effect is causes by the egg turning as it makes its way through the oviduct, and it is a common feature in the eggs of many wild bird species. It is details like this that enable owners to recognise eggs from their individual birds (in a small flock, that is!)

When the two types of pigment – the blue and the brown – are mixed together, the result is a greenish blue or olive colour. If the brown pigment is light, as in the Favaucana and Araucana, the eggs are a soft greeny blue. With a darker brown in the mix, the olive colour is increased, as in the aptly named Olive Egger.

What Colour Are Your Chickens’ Earlobes?

It can come as a shock to learn that chickens have earlobes. Even more surprising to hear that these lobes give a clue to the colour of egg shells.

The earlobes are obvious, once they’ve been pointed out. Chickens have three types of ‘wattle’ – the red crest, the wobbly ones on the throat, and the ones on the side of the head, towards the back – the earlobes.

White earlobes are found on hens with white or otherwise pale plumage. These birds have relatively small amounts of pigment, hence the light feathers. The same rule applies to the eggs – no pigment, and hence white eggs. Meanwhile, hens with brown or reddish earlobes lay brown eggs, and ones with a creamy, pearly, shiny white earlobes lay blue eggs.

These days, ironically, it is the non-standard-brown eggs that command the higher prices in the shops. And yet once you get a clutch of golden-yoked, grass-fed, free range chicken eggs cooking side by side in a pan, you can’t tell which shell produced which egg. When it comes to chicken eggs, beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder – and the earlobe of the chicken!


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Why Do Chickens’ Legs Not Get Cold in Winter?

Watching chickens scratch at the frozen ground or strut through the snow, you might wonder how they manage to keep their feet and legs warm. After all, this is one part of their body with no feathers to keep it cosy (unless you happen to have a feathery-legged breed such as the Cochin, Brahma or Silkie).

Surprisingly, the simple answer to ‘How do they keep their leg warm?’ is ‘They don’t!’ Those skinny, bare legs have scales, which retain heat to a certain extent, but they will still get very cold if the bird stands still for too long.

And that’s the important detail. A chicken keeps its legs warm by moving, and by not keeping all its toes on the ground for too long. These parts of their body lose heat rapidly; but the solution is quite simple.

Perching is the most effective way of retaining heat. A hen hunkers down when roosting, and her legs are tucked into her warm body. If space allows, install a flat perch too. A piece of wood with a 10 cm width will enable the hens to roost without having to grip the perch, which in really cold weather will prevent their toes freezing. (The lucky ones will simply snuggle down in a nesting box, which is the chicken equivalent of a thick quilt!)

But of course, a hungry hen doesn’t want to waste the whole day perching, so even in the coldest spells she will make a lot of contact with the ground.

One-Legged Hens

Like many other birds, chickens often adopt the ‘one leg’ look, tucking one of their limbs up into the warmth of their bellies. This reduces overall heat loss and stops feet and toes from freezing on the icy ground.

An upturned pot, a log, pallet or other slightly elevated space – cleared of snow or ice – will help the hens get the circulation going again, without having to catch their breath on the frozen ground. Like all birds, chickens are warm-blooded, just like us, and their own body heat soon works its magic. Indeed, with an average body temperature of around 41°C, chickens can remain active in the coldest weather.

The leg-warming process is helped by other tricks, too. Fluffing up the feathers retains body heat, by trapping small pockets of air which are then heated up by the bird’s warm body.

Some owners give their hens a supper of corn and grains, which take longer to digest than a standard pellet or other chicken food. Part of the digestion process involves producing heat – a kind of internal hot water bottle!

In general, hens will eat more food in the cold months, as more of their energy is spent keeping warm. Some owners like to supplement the birds’ diets with extra protein or a little suet, to increase their fat levels for the winter. Fat retains heat, and the whole bird benefits – not just the legs (which will remain as thin as ever!)

Help With The Heating

You can help your hens keep their toes cosy by making sure the coop is clean and dry. Clear out any snow dragged in on the birds’ feet, and keep an insulating layer of straw on the floor. You can give the birds extra protection by insulating the coop – although there should still be some ventilation, to allow the gases released from the birds’ droppings to escape.

You can install an automatic door to help keep the living quarters snug. Heaters are also available – but never use anything other than a heater designed specifically for hen houses. It’s also best to use these only if the temperature gets below 40°F, otherwise hens may get used to being cosy all the time, and that could be disastrous if the heater fails and the birds are suddenly exposed. Heat-pampered poultry can die of cold shock.

A coop should be draft-free, but not completely sealed, as ventilation is important for healthy hens. During the day, a sheltered spot in the run or garden will help them take a breather and warm those long-suffering legs.

Chickens are amazingly hardy, and although not exactly warm, their legs will be able to cope with anything the average winter throws at them. As long as they can toast their toes on a nice perch every now and then…

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Are Your Chickens Happy in Their Wooden Coop? Take the test.

Are your chickens happy in their wooden coop?
Is your chicken’s coop strong enough to survive the winter?
Is it time I upgraded my wooden coop?

These are all questions many chicken keepers ask themselves when facing the reality that their wooden coop may not be up to another winter. 

Take this short test to see whether your wooden coop is suitable for the winter.

Wood absorbs water, does it seem heavier to move in the winter? 

A = Yes, either I’m getting weaker or my coop is definitely heavier in the winter

B=  Yes, but I solved it by getting someone else to move the coop for me. 

C = I’ve given up trying to move it. 

D = Nope, I spent the summer sanding and varnishing my chicken coop and now it’s more waterproof than a Norwegian fisherman’s beard.

Have you had to pour boiling water onto locks to get them to open?

A = Yes, my coop deicer kit is more comprehensive than the one I use for my car.

B = Boiling water would have been a better idea than the brick I used to hit the sliding bolt which slipped and went straight through the greenhouse. 

C = I religiously grease all hinges and bolts every few weeks to keep things moving. 

D = I have very carefully aligned my coop to the morning sun so that the bolts and hinges have defrosted by the time I get out. On cloudy days I resort to the kettle. 

Has your wooden coop grown over winter?

A = It’s funny you should mention that, yes the doors all seem too big for the frames and nothing opens or shuts properly any more. 

B = Yes, all the panels seem to have swollen a bit and I’m a bit worried about what will happen when they all shrink again because I filled all that extra space with another couple of chickens. 

C = Mostly seems fine, but the bottom sections are looking a bit soggy. 

D = Thanks to my painstaking varnishing and siting of the coop on some free draining pea shingle it’s in tip top condition. 

Is the roof leaking? 

A = I’ve already fixed the roof a few times this year, and it’s leaking again.

B = Yes, but this is the first time and I think it’s easy to fix. 

C = At the moment I don’t have any troubles with the roof. 

D = My wooden coop is brand new and I don’t expect to have any problems this winter. 

Is it cold and damp inside?

A = Yes, it does feel cold inside and the bedding gets damp quickly. 

B = It is a little chilly in there, but my chickens huddle together for warmth. 

C = I have no problems with dampness, and I have a lot of chickens to keep each other warm.

D = The coop keeps warm well overnight once I have shut the door, and my chickens are outside during the day. 

Did you have difficulties with red mites in summer?

A = Yes, I had to clean and treat the coop and my chickens regularly and I am dreading this summer. 

B = No more than usual, I’m used to it and tackled the problem as best I could.

C = I did have some mite issues over summer but I have a solid cleaning strategy in place.

D = The red mites didn’t cause a problem in my coop this year. 

How long does it take to clean?

A = It’s an all day task which I dread doing so it doesn’t get cleaned regularly in winter.

B = It does take quite a long time, so it’s not fun in winter but I know my chickens appreciate it. 

C = It takes a few hours to do but the whole family helps. 

D = It doesn’t take me long at all and I have a good system in place.


The results…

Mostly A’s = If you experience repeated issues with your wooden coop, like red mite, a leaking roof, or poor ventilation, then these problems are unlikely to disappear overnight, and will only get worse in poor weather conditions. Consider upgrading to a plastic chicken coop for faster cleaning and red mite removal, better insulation without compromising ventilation, and happy chickens all-year round. 

Mostly B’s = You’ve done well to keep going with your wooden coop this far, and seem to be willing to overcome the problems involved in owning a wooden chicken coop. The coop itself may be able to survive another winter, but are you and your chickens happy about it? The most important thing for you to do here is keep an eye on any dampness inside the coop and ensure that the coop has plenty of ventilation to keep the water particles moving through without making your chickens super cold. 

Mostly C’s = Sounds like you’re a veteran wooden chicken coop owner and know exactly what you’re doing! Keep an eye on the typical problems areas throughout winter, and make sure you’re keeping up with the cleaning, especially if you have lots of chickens sharing the coop. In spring, reevaluate how your coop held up during the colder months, if some damage is done, or some of your chickens got ill, consider why this might be and look to other housing options. 

Mostly D’s = Your wooden coop is likely in its early days, or you have spent lots of time and effort in preserving it as best you can. It’s still worth checking around all the problem areas before the worst of winter hits, and looking at potential accessories which could improve your chickens’ home. For example, an Automatic Chicken Coop Door can be placed on the wooden coop door so that it can be shut earlier in the evening once all your chickens have gone to bed, even when you’re not yet home. This way your chickens can begin to roost in the warm with no blowy drafts, and they will also be safe from predators once they’ve gone to bed. 

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How the Weather Forecast Can Help Chicken Keepers

While most people check the weather forecast to help them plan their week activities or outfits, chicken keepers can also be using it to predict what accessories their coop needs to ensure their girls are as comfortable as possible. 

From sun to snow, wind to wet, the breakfast time weather reports and the handy app on your phone are all giving you helpful hints that you might be ignoring.

🌡 TEMPERATURE 🌡

Firstly, the most obvious indicator: the predicted temperature for the coming 10 days. Depending on what time of year we are in, this can be super helpful or utterly confusing if it is varying drastically. But let’s think about what we can act upon.

In winter, if the predicted temperature is at below 32 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 5 days in a row or the temperature is near freezing and you have very few chickens in your coop, you may want to consider attaching the Extreme Temperature Blanket to your Eglu to give your chickens some extra help with keeping warm, without limiting the coop ventilation. 

During hot summer months, when temperatures can be above and beyond 85 degrees Fahrenheit daily in some countries, it is wise to move your chicken coop into an area that is in the shade for as much of the day as possible. For your chickens, daily health checks are essential to ensure they are not suffering with the high temperatures. If your coop is attached to or inside a secure run, you can leave your coop door open to increase airflow at nighttime without your girls being exposed to predators.

☀️ SUN ☀️

When the sun is shining, it is tempting to cover your chickens’ run with shades so that it is completely protected from the sun inside. However, this can have the opposite effect on what you intended. Instead of shading and cooling the area, lots of shades create a tunnel which traps the heat, like a greenhouse. 

It is best to keep them in a shaded area, and protect one side of the run from the sun. If your chickens are out free ranging most of the day, make sure that they have access to shady patches in the garden, and that their food and water is also in shade. 

❄️ SNOW ❄️

Exciting for some, but for others a weather warning for snow can be very disappointing. You may want to consider sheltering your coop’s run with clear covers to prevent as much snow getting on the ground inside the run as possible. If snow is predicted for the foreseeable future, you may want to prepare for long term icy conditions and bring your coop closer to the house so it is easier to check on your chickens, and they can benefit from some of the shelter your house might provide. During the snow, be sure to dry off damp feathers and remove any chunks of ice from claws. Increase the amount of bedding and food you are giving your chickens too as this will help them stay warm. 

If you have time, it might be wise to consider how effective your chicken coop will be against the bitter cold. If you have a wooden coop, check if it is water-tight and well insulated. If you are not confident in your wooden coop, consider upgrading to a sturdy plastic alternative, like the Eglu Cube. It’s twin-wall insulation works in the same way as double glazing to keep the cold out of the coop, and the heat in during winter. The plastic material is waterproof and super easy to clean out quickly (especially important on chilly winter days).

☁️ CLOUD ☁️

The most boring of all weather forecasts, but often a rest bite from other more extreme conditions. During winter, a few cloudy days should raise the temperature slightly and give you a good opportunity to clean out your coop and thoroughly check on your chickens and make any changes needed for whatever the forecast predicts for the coming days.

🌧 RAIN 🌧

Some weather reports are more helpful than others when it comes to the exact timing and chance of there being rain. But if you’re looking at days of 90% chance of heavy showers, it would be wise to act fast and get some protective clear covers over the run. If the ground under your chickens’ coop and run is already extremely muddy and wet, you might want to consider moving them to a new patch of grass, and maybe even laying down a base material, like wood shavings, to prevent it developing into a swamp!

💨 WIND 💨

How you react to a windy forecast completely depends on the wind speeds predicted. Light winds, less than 25 mph, shouldn’t cause much of a problem. You might want to add some windbreaks around the base of your Eglu and a large clear cover down the most exposed side. However, in extreme high winds, the worst thing you can do is completely conceal your run, particularly a larger Walk in Run, with covers from top to bottom. In a large run, the mesh holes allow the wind to flow through without causing any issues to the structure, and a clear cover round one bottom corner of the run will provide chickens enough shelter. If you cover the run completely, the wind will be hammering against it and is more likely to cause the structure to lift or move. 

If your chickens are in a smaller run attached to their coop, we recommend moving it to a position where it will be most protected from the wind and any falling debris, for example, against a sturdy building wall. The Eglu’s wheels allow you to easily move the coops around your garden to suit the conditions. If you are keeping your chickens in their Eglu coop and run, and not free ranging during dangerous weather conditions, consider adding some entertaining toys and treat dispenser for them to prevent boredom, such as the Peck Toy or Perch


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Chicken-Keeping Challenges In The Year Ahead

Backyard hens usually spend their entire lives outdoors. This means they have to cope with everything the year throws at them, from blazing summers and sub-zero winters to year-round downpours.

Being hardy birds, they take much of this in their stride. But there are still ways of helping your flock through the changing seasons.

Winter

This is the most challenging time of year for any animal living outdoors. The cons outweigh the pros, but with a little bit of help from their human friends, chickens can shrug off the excesses of the season.

  • Although chickens cope well with the cold, they don’t thrive when it’s both cold and raining. Protecting the run with extra weatherproofing will help enormously. Keeping the birds in an insulated Eglu is a good place to start.
  • Keep the hens’ feet dry in wet weather by lining the run with wood chippings.
  • Chickens usually return to the coop at dusk. But in the winter you may find your birds trying to get more pecking time from the short days. If your hens are prone to wander in the dark, a high visibility hen coat will help you locate them – and also ensure they’re visible to anyone else, should they stray from the garden. The coats also keep the birds cosy, so it’s a double blessing in the winter. 
  • Roosting perches enable chickens to cuddle up in the cold – something essential on a cold night. Roosting also prevents their feet from becoming too cold.
  • In sustained sub-zero conditions, rub petroleum gel (e.g. Vaseline) on the hens’ combs and wattles, to prevent them becoming frostbitten.
  • Keep an eye out for coughs, sneezes, lethargy, or other signs of illness. A chicken with a weak constitution may be vulnerable when the cold weather kicks in.
  • Egg numbers will drop – this doesn’t mean you’ll have no eggs for breakfast, though. Three hens should till deliver eight eggs a week in the coldest months, but this will vary somewhat.
  • Make sure the hens’ diet remains healthy, and add some extra vitamins and minerals to keep their immune systems up to scratch.
  • Their water will freeze, so be prepared to break the ice, and have some spare water dispensers ready in case things freeze up entirely.
  • On the upside, winter might kill off any lingering red mite in coops and runs!

Spring

As the days lengthen, your hens will start laying more eggs. The garden comes back to life, and the chickens will find things worth scratching for in the ground.

  • Foxes will be hungry after a long, lean winter, so make sure your coop and run are secure. Automatic doors will ensure the hens are in and out at the right times, and will prevent predators from gaining after-hours access. The door will also let your chickens out in the morning, so that you can enjoy weekend mornings in bed as the days get longer.
  • With the warmer weather, the red mites start to gather… mite-proof your chicken shed before the situation gets out of hand!

Summer

It’s amazing, having seen your chickens happily cluck and scratch their way through freezing winter, to now see them equally happy in temperatures 20-odd degrees warmer. The main problem in summer is too much sun – but with plenty of shade in the garden, your birds will love the warm weather every bit as much as you do. A chicken coop that provides shade in itself, like the space under the Eglu Cube or the Eglu Go Up, is ideal for the summer months.

  • Keep the water supply topped up, as hens drink more in warm weather.
  • Provide a dust bath – either a dry area of ground in the garden, or a tray in the chicken run. Cat-litter trays make good baths.
  • Daily egg-collecting will discourage hens from going broody – something they sometimes do at this time of year.

Autumn

Although the summer has gone and winter lies ahead, this is actually a great season for chickens. There are lots of juicy bugs to scratch for in the still-soft ground and leaf litter. If you have any fruit trees, there are rich pickings for the birds in the shape of windfalls.

  • Hens often moult at this time of year, so they need a good diet to help them stay healthy and grow new feathers. Extra vitamins and minerals will help, and a little apple cider vinegar in their water will help ensure a healthy, glossy new plumage.

Chickens are a year-round commitment. Fortunately, they make it easy for you – these wonderful birds are pretty much happy whatever the time of year.

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How the Eglu Keeps Your Chickens Warm in Winter

In winter, one of the biggest concerns we see from our customers is: “how well is the Eglu going to keep my chickens warm?”. In this blog, we explain the science behind the Eglu’s carefully designed features, which ensure your chickens are kept nice and toasty in the colder months. 

Insulation 

Air is an amazing thermal insulator. Heat is conducted between an area of more heat to an area of less heat. The warmer molecules vibrate rapidly and collide with others, passing on energy. If the material the heat (in this case the body heat from the chickens inside the coop) is trying to pass through has few molecules in it then it will be harder for the heat to transfer through it. This is the case with air, and that is why it’s commonly used as an insulator in everything from walls and windows to cooking utensils and drinking flasks – and chicken coops!

The Eglus’ unique twin wall system captures air in a pocket between the inner and outer wall, taking full advantage of air’s great insulating properties. This solution stops the cold air from moving into the coop, and retains the warm air in the coop. The same process also keeps the chickens cool in summer by stopping the warm air from entering the coop and making it too warm.

Ventilation 

Perhaps even more important than the coop’s insulating properties, is how well ventilated it is. If the coop doesn’t have good ventilation, you run the risk of either having a nasty draft if the coop has badly positioned vents or large holes and openings, or a build up of moisture if the coop is too tightly insulated. Both will prevent the chickens from staying warm on chilly winter nights, and can cause unpleasant respiratory illnesses.

The Eglu coops are designed to let air flow through the coop, but without creating an uncomfortable draft for the chickens. The vents are positioned in such a way that your pets won’t notice the fresh air flowing through the coop, but the warm air evaporating from the animals and their droppings will move through the vents and prevent any moisture. 

How chickens keep themselves warm

Chickens, like many other non-migrating birds, have a layer of downy feathers under their visible plumage that they can fluff up to create air pockets close to their bodies. This will retain the heat, and will keep them warm during winter. 

Chickens also have a high metabolic rate that will speed up even more during winter, helping to keep their bodies warm. This is why you might have to feed your chickens a little extra during the winter months. 

Chickens are also able to decrease the blood flow to their bare legs to minimise loss of body heat. The overlapping scales on their feet and legs trap some warm air, so walking on snow and ice rarely causes chickens any discomfort. When roosting in the cold, the feet and legs are tucked in under the warm feather blanket, and the chicken might also tuck its head under a wing to get some extra body heat.

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If you buy one new chicken coop gadget this week…

…make it this one.

From the latest smartphone to super clever hairdryers, we often hear and read about the top new gadgets that we need in our lives, and more recently we are beginning to see amazing tech products for our pets! But what about chickens? Yep, even our feathered friends are getting a look into the future, and this is not something to be missed. 

If you buy one thing for yourself or your chickens this week, make it this. 

The Autodoor. 

This one simple addition to your chickens’ coop, can make a hugely significant difference to your life as a chicken keeper, and many users swear by it. 

Secure the Autodoor to your chickens’ enclosure; this can be the Eglu Cube house, Eglu run, any wooden chicken coop or chicken wire, and use the control panel to set when the door opens and closes, based on a specific time or a percentage of light. 

In the morning, the Autodoor will open with no fuss, allowing your chickens out of their coop or run to explore, graze and stretch their wings, especially useful in summer, when your chickens are wanting to get going far earlier than you. There’s no need to get up at 5am when you have an Autodoor. 

In the evening, as the sun sets, the Autodoor can be programmed to close at a time when you know all your chickens will have gone into their coop to roost, so they can be secured and safe from predators. In winter, when it can be dark before you get home, you won’t have to worry about having to hurry back in time to shut them in. The Autodoor can do it for you. 

Here’s 5 other reasons, you need the Autodoor…

  1. Battery-powered. No need to keep your coop close to a power source.
  2. Reliable in all weather conditions. This is a gadget that will take you from winter to summer, and back again.
  3. Built in safety sensors ensure no chicken is harmed when investigating their new gadget.
  4. Improves coop security and insulation. The horizontal door is far safer than it’s vertical, guillotine style competitors which can be easily lifted by predators.
  5. …and finally, the Autodoor is now 25% OFF when you sign up to the Omlet newsletter here. That’s a huge saving of $47.25! Find out more and get your unique discount code here.

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10 Things Not to Do in Winter if You’re a Chicken Keeper

1. Don’t shut your chickens in their coop

Chickens are built to be outside, and they are known to withstand some pretty extreme temperatures. Under the visible plumage birds like chickens have a layer of downy feathers that can be puffed up to create an extra layer of insulation that will keep them warm. 

Cooped up chickens will soon get bored and agitated, and even though you might be surprised that they choose to go out in freezing temperatures, you should definitely always give your chickens the opportunity to stretch their legs. 

Ensure chickens have a dry and sheltered spot in a secure run or in an area of the garden where they can spend time outside. We have plenty of different covers that makes this an easy job. Clear covers are ideal for winter as they will protect your chickens from wind and rain while still letting the light in. Put straw on the ground to prevent a build-up of mud, and install a perch or two for the chickens to rest on during the day. 

Close the door to the coop when all chickens have gone inside to roost for the night, or let your Automatic Chicken Coop Door do it for you. 

2. Don’t compensate for bad insulation by blocking up the coop

Well insulated coops, like the Eglus, will keep the chickens warm in winter by capturing the heat from the chickens’ bodies while not letting any cold air travel through the walls. They are also designed to let air flow through the coop to prevent a build up of moisture, without any nasty drafts.

Drafts and moisture are the two biggest winter enemies for chickens, as they make it difficult for them to stay warm and dry. If the coop is too tightly insulated the moisture evaporating from the chickens breaths and droppings will have nowhere to go. This humid environment – and the possible build up of ammonia – is really bad for chickens, and can lead to unpleasant respiratory illnesses.

Make sure that your coop is well ventilated, with vents that directs the air somewhere other than straight onto your chickens. 

3. Don’t heat the coop

Chickens are hardy creatures that will gradually adapt to lower temperatures, and heating the coop will mean that your chickens never get used to the cold. This will also make them less likely to actually leave the coop and get that exercise, fresh air and entertainment that they require to stay happy and healthy. 

Apart from the fact that heaters in the coop will always be a potential fire hazard, you also run the risk of your ill-adapted chickens getting a shock at a sudden drop in temperature if the power was to go off for some reason. This is much worse for them than having a slightly chillier coop. 

If you’re worried you can always add a bit of extra bedding to the nest box, or put an extreme temperature cover on your Eglu. 

4. Don’t leave eggs too long

Although the Eglu will keep your eggs warm and toasty, there is a risk that eggs laid elsewhere in the run or the garden will freeze in winter. Frozen eggs are not automatically dangerous to eat, but when the content of the egg freezes and expands, there’s a higher risk of bacteria entering through the cracks in the shell. 

Collect the eggs every time you visit your chickens to minimise the risk of a frozen yolk.

5. Don’t ignore the water

As goes for all animals, you will want to give your chickens constant access to fresh water, even in winter. They won’t drink as much during the colder months, but here that’s actually a disadvantage, as the water is more likely to freeze if not touched regularly. 

Bring the drinker inside overnight and take it out when you go to check on your girls in the morning. If the temperature goes below zero during the day, check the water as often as you can, and break the ice or change the water if it has frozen. 

There are several water heating solutions available on the market. There are heaters that you can easily plug into an outdoor power source, but there are also battery powered heaters you can put in the water. Just make sure the chickens are not able to peck their way through the heater.

If the temperature stays around zero, you can put something floating in the water, like a tennis ball. As the floating object moves, it will break up surface ice as it forms on the water, which will stop, or at least slow down the freezing process.

6. Don’t put off cleaning the coop

Hanging out in the garden is not as tempting in winter, but you will still need to make sure the chickens’ house is nice and clean. It is likely that your chickens will spend more time in the coop in winter and produce more droppings there, so keep an eye out and change your routine accordingly. 

7. Don’t limit the fun

The chickens might not venture as far out in the garden as they normally do, and the opportunity to forage for bugs and other treats will be limited when the ground is frozen or covered with snow. This can lead to chickens getting bored, which might result in aggressive feather pecking and egg eating.

You will need to make sure that they have plenty of fun things to do in their run. We have lots of boredom busting accessories in our shop. Put up perches the chickens can sit on and try the super fun Peck Toys or the Caddi treat holder for gradual treat-dispensing hentertainment. Or, if you feel your chickens might be the adventurous kind, why not put up a Chicken Swing they can enjoy together?

8. Don’t stick to the same feeding schedule

Your chickens will most likely eat more in winter, as they need the energy to keep warm. Give them some extra food, and make sure it doesn’t freeze in the feeder. For an extra snack, sprinkle some corn on the run in the afternoon to add both calories and some foraging fun. Or why not try this yummy chicken porridge that will warm their tummies on cold winter mornings.

Also make sure that you provide plenty of grit. As chickens don’t have teeth they need it do digest their food. The rest of the year they find and swallows little stones and pebbles as they peck around the garden, but if the ground is frozen this will be much harder.

9. Don’t ignore combs and wattles

All chickens, but particularly breeds with large combs and wattles, run the risk of frostbite on these sensitive body parts during winter. It’s not necessarily dangerous as it’s normally just the tips that get affected, but can be a bit uncomfortable. To prevent this, apply petroleum jelly to the combs and wattles during cold spells. 

10. Don’t take covers off when the sun is shining

If you’re in the habit of taking the covers off the chickens’ run when it’s sunny, it might be a good idea to stop doing this in winter. Clear covers in particular will create a lovely sunroom feeling on the run when the sun is out, and your girls will love having a warmer spot to retreat to. Covers will also stop cold winds, so we would suggest keeping them on permanently in winter.

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Gift Guide – For The Chicken Keeper

If you have a chicken keeping loved one who’s notoriously difficult to buy for, something for their chickens will probably be very well received. Take a look at our gift guide below and find something for every budget. 

Eglu Cube – For someone very close to you this is an amazing gift that will surely go down a treat on Christmas morning. Whether they’ve been wanting to start keeping chickens for as long as you can remember, or perhaps already have a wooden coop which they can often be heard complaining about; the Eglu Cube is the dream upgrade for any chicken keeper. Suitable for up to 6 medium-sized chickens, the Eglu Cube is super quick and easy to clean. The house features twin wall insulation to keep inside the coop warm in winter and cool in summer, and draft-free ventilation to keep fresh air moving through the coop without exposing your chickens to a cool breeze. The secure run is predator resistant and gives chickens a safe place to scratch about when they aren’t able to free-range, and can be accessorised with run covers, perches, hanging feeders and more! Choose from a purple or leaf green house, available from $679.


Do they already have a Cube? These accessories are a great addition to their coop. 

The Automatic Chicken Coop Door makes life just that little bit easier, especially in winter, and will go down a treat with tech lovers! The door can be programmed to open and close automatically by a certain time of day, so that chicken keepers can relax in the knowledge that their chickens are roosting in the safety of their coop even if the owners are stuck at work. With the light setting the door can be set to open at dawn and close at dusk, so the humans can have a well deserved lie in while the chickens start their busy day. The Autodoor can also be fitted to any wooden coop or run so makes a great gift for any proud chicken owner. 

You can now get the Autodoor with a the Omlet Poppy and Pendant Peck Toys in our Stay Buys! Was $213.98, now only $201.49. Buy here!

The Eglu wheels are a practical present for Omlet chicken keepers who want to easily move their Eglu around the garden. If they already have wheels, run handles can make it easier to grip the run for moving, especially during the colder temperatures. 

Unfortunately the end of the year doesn’t mean the end of winter, and all chicken keepers will appreciate some covers to put on the run, in preparation for the rainy months ahead. Not only will covers keep the girls dry and out of the draft, they will also prevent the lawn from turning into a mud bath. Choose the heavy duty covers for ultimate protection from wet weather, the clear covers to allow for sunlight and shelter, or the Combi covers for the best of both worlds. 


Little gifts for any chicken keeper

The Ultimate Hentertainment Bundle, made up of a 1m Chicken Perch, Poppy Peck Toy, Caddi Treat Holder and Chicken Swing, contains absolutely everything a new chicken keeper would need to keep their chickens from getting bored. This eggcellent hentertainment package is now only $71.95 (before $86.95) in our Christmas Star Buys

The new Limited Edition Hivis Chicken Jacket, designed to look like a traditional Christmas Jumper, will ensure chickens are safe and seen when crossing the road this December, while keeping hens super cosy – perfect for the festive season.

Treats – We have plenty of boredom busting treats, perfect as stocking fillers for all chicken keepers.

Egg skelter – For chicken keepers and keen bakers, this lovely kitchen eggcessory will go down a treat. As well as looking good, it is also incredibly practical and will help ensure eggs are used in date order! Shop the colour range here.

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How To Make A Dust Bath For Your Chickens

You might not think it necessary to actually make a dust bath for your chickens. They seem to do it for themselves. Whenever there’s a dry spot of earth they’ll peck and scratch at it, and then crouch down, fluff out their feathers and shake their wings to cover themselves in dust.

That’s fine. But there are ways of making the dust bath even more enjoyable, and more effective too. A bit like trading in a bucket of cold water for a power shower!

Why Do Chickens Need Dust Baths?

Just like a human bathtub, a dust bath is all about cleanliness. It’s not only chickens who like to hit the dirt – you may spot other birds such as sparrows and blackbirds taking a dust bath too. The dust or sand absorbs surplus moisture and oils on the skin. It also deters parasites such as mites and lice by coating the insects’ breathing pores or simply driving them away.

Once fully coated in dust or sand, the chicken will have a shake-down, just like a dog after a dip in a river. A quick preen of the feathers, and they’ll be all done and dusted. Literally.

In addition to these physical benefits, dust-bathing is also thought to be mentally rewarding for hens. It helps them relax, and is a way of socialising too, when a group of hens bathe together.

Things To Add To A Dust Bath

Many owners convert an old cat litter tray, or the base of a disused bird or small mammal cage, into a chicken dust bath. These can be a little shallow though, resulting in the bath contents being scattered around. An old tyre can be used, or an old crate or wooden box. It should be 20 to 30cm high, which is enough to contain 10cm of ‘dust’ plus extra height to prevent the stuff spilling out.

The dust bath should be placed in a sunny spot. This seems to be an important detail, and chickens will seek out a sunny dust bath even in the winter. The bath tub should be filled with non-clay-based, chemical-free soil (sandy is ideal), and kept dry. It will become fine and dusty in no time.

Wood Ash – One of the best things to add to the soil is wood ash. It contains vitamin K, calcium and magnesium, which is great for the birds’ health. It also absorbs toxins from the pores, so acts as a kid of medicine. Chickens will usually eat some of the ash too. This is fine – those nutrients work inside as well as out.

Diatomaceous Earth (Food Grade) – This natural, silica-rich powder has powerful anti-parasite properties, killing mites, lice, fleas and ticks. Hens will bathe in it, and it can also be added to their food.

Fine sand – Even if you have sandy earth in your area, adding fine sand will improve the dust bath. It cleans feathers very effectively, and also helps deter those pesky parasites.

Dried herbs – While very much optional, herbs bring health benefits to hens. Lavender, rosemary and thyme and mint are gentle insecticides, helping yet again with chicken parasites. Rosemary and thyme are also anti-inflammatories, and are thought to help keep hens’ respiratory systems healthy. Oregano and sage help boost their immune systems, and parsley provides a vitamin boost. Mint can help the birds keep cool in hot weather, and is also, due to its strong smell, thought to deter rodents and insects. And all that green stuff helps produce brilliant yellow egg yolks too. 

For dust-bath maintenance, all you need to do is clean out the droppings each day, and refill the bath every week or so, depending on how heavy the usage is. If you provide your chickens with the ideal bath, you won’t see them for dust!

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Why Are My Chickens Not Laying?

Most people decide to keep chickens because they’re looking forward to a supply of fresh eggs. So when the hens don’t deliver the goods, it can be worrying, baffling and frustrating.

In most cases, patience is the simple answer. There are a number of reasons why hens might not be laying, but the commonest are simply to do with age. They will not start lying until they are six months old and thereabouts. The exact timing depends on breeds. Some, such Australorps, Golden Comets and Leghorns, begin laying early, between 16 and 18 weeks. With some of the larger breeds such as, Orpingtons, Plymouth Rocks, and Wyandottes, you can wait up to eight months for the first eggs to appear.

Another complicating factor is the time of year. Hens that reach egg-laying maturity in the autumn or winter may not lay until spring. This underlines another common answer to the “Why are my hens not laying?” question – most breeds tend to stop producing eggs, or drastically reduce their output, in the colder months.

In the Mood to Brood

Sometimes a chicken decides to sit tight and wait for her egg to hatch. In this maternal mood, she is known as a broody hen, and will stop producing eggs. This is handy if you want to hatch chicks, as the hen will happily sit there for the three weeks it takes to hatch an egg. It’s less handy if you want her to produce more eggs, though.

The hen can either be left for three weeks, after which she will resume normal service, or you can gently discourage her. Placing a bag of ice cubes or frozen peas underneath her can do the trick. Some chicken keepers recommend placing the hen in a wire cage or dog crate, with food and water. This is a little uncomfortable, and will usually beak the brooding habit.

All Change – Moulting and Ageing

All hens have a time limit on their laying. On average they will produce eggs for three years.

Most hens take ‘time off’ for winter, and also for moulting. Many breeds undergo what’s known as a hard moult, losing their feathers over a few days and growing a new set quickly. Others may undergo a ‘soft’ moult, losing a few feathers at a time.

Keeping the hens well fed, and adding a little extra protein to their diet, will keep them healthy during this time. Their physical efforts are concentrated on growing new feathers, which is why the egg supply tends to drop during the moult.

This underlines another important point – a nutritious diet, centred on a fortified chicken feed and plenty of calcium, is vital. If hens are malnourished, egg production will drop.

Sick Birds Don’t Lay

If your hens are neither too young nor too old, not moulting, not brooding, and not hunkering down for a cold winter, the reason for the drop in eggs may be illness. Parasites – lice, mites, fleas, internal worms – can cause bodily stress that impacts their laying.

Stress can also be brought on by bullying, too much handling, injury, noisy children and pets in the garden, or poor environment. Making sure the hens have a space where they can stay happy and healthy is vital. A setup such as the Eglu coop and run, along with suitable perches, feeders and other essential accessories, does the trick.

There may be other underlying health issues at play, though. Check out our pages on chicken health for more advice on diagnosing and – where possible – treating problems.

Vanishing Eggs

It’s just possible that your non-laying hens are laying – it’s just that you can’t find the eggs. There are two reasons for this. Free-ranging chickens often ‘go native’ and begin laying eggs in a spot in the undergrowth, rather than in the coop.

Check under shrubs, in long grass, and any secluded corner of your plot of land. If the AWOL laying has been going on for a long time, there may be a few eggs out there in the wilderness. Check their freshness by placing them in a bowl of water. If the eggs lie on their sides, they are fresh. If they are more upright (between 45 and 90 degrees), but still resting on the bottom of the bowl, they are not fresh, but still usable. Any that float have passed their sell-by date!

Eggs may also disappear if a hen acquires a taste for them. Egg-eating amongst chickens can be a sign of overcrowding or poor diet. Once she has acquired the taste, it can be difficult to stop a hen eating eggs, and she may need isolating to stop her pecking at her neighbours’ eggs. The isolation may also induce slight stress, just enough to interrupt her own laying, which may in turn break the habit.

Normal Egg Service Resumed

Don’t worry – unless a hen is very old or very ill, her egg-laying should soon resume. Owners can aid the process by making sure they’re giving the birds everything they need. They keys to a good egg supply are good food, a good space – and patience!

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Should I shut the door to my Eglu at night?

Here at Omlet we often receive calls from aspiring chicken keepers who are seeking chicken keeping advice before getting their first birds. Some of the most popular questions we get asked are, what should I feed my chicken with or how can I protect my chickens from predators? One question that keeps coming up is, do I need to shut the Eglu door at night?

Often people ask us this question because the idea of adding another task to their daily routine might be one of the reasons which puts them off chicken keeping. Much like you wouldn’t like to sleep with your front door open, unfortunately for chicken keepers, nor do your chickens, therefore most nights we would recommend you close the chicken coop door.
But having to close the door doesn’t necessarily mean that it would need to be done by the chicken keeper themselves! Have you ever thought about automatic door system? Well luckily for chicken keepers, Omlet has recently launched a new Autodoor which will solve all of these problems.

Even though our Eglus are specially designed to keep your chickens warm in winter with a unique twin-wall insulation system which works in a similar way to double glazing, leaving the door open overnight would let the cold enter inside which might result in having frozen eggs after a freezing winter night and could make your chickens feel unwell. Which is why we strongly recommend you use the handle on top of the Eglu and simply lift and twist it to close the door in one convenient motion each evening after having made sure all of your flock is inside. 

As important as it is to close the door to protect your hens from the cold, it is also important to do it to protect them from potential overnight predator attacks. Most predators would wait for the night to attack your chickens therefore by simply closing the door it would protect your flock from being attacked by predators such as racoons, foxes and coyotes.

Having said how important it is to close your chicken coop overnight we understand that not everyone has the luxury of being at home every night to close the coop door especially for people working late shifts that are often home well after the sun sets. That is why we recently launched an automatic chicken coop door that can be attached directly to any wooden chicken coop, wire or the Omlet Eglu Cube Mk1 and Mk2.

Much like a personal chicken coop concierge, the Autodoor will always make sure your chicken’s coop is securely closed at night even when you’re running late. Whether you decide to use the light or time mode, the Omlet  secure and safe Autodoor will either open and close at dawn and dusk or at specific times that you have programmed it to. In addition to being designed to be used in different modes the Autodoor has a unique safety sensor detecting any blockages to prevent your chickens from being injured when they decide to stop half way through the door.
Benefits of the Omlet Automatic Chicken Coop Door:

  • Easy to install, no maintenance required
  • Operated by light sensor or timer
  • Powered by battery
  • Works with all wooden chicken coops
  • Improves coop security and insulation
  • Compatible with the Eglu Cube
  • Reliable in all weather conditions
  • Built-in safety sensors
  • Can be used with any chicken run or mesh

To summarise, closing the coop door is definitely the recommended action for every chicken keeper in order to protect their chickens from the cold and predators however this task can easily be completed by an Autodoor.
Check out the review below to see what one of our Autodoor owners thinks of this new product:

Thank you Omlet for a wonderful product and great service. The door arrived quickly, very well packaged and my concerns over fitting it were unfounded as I was able to complete the task completely unaided. The door is easy to operate and means my girls are safely tucked up at dusk and I do not have to get up ridiculously early to open the coop and stop them hollering!” – Wendy

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