It’s that time of year again when we say goodbye to summer and welcome in the cooler, shorter days of Autumn. For many pet owners, Summer is a great opportunity to spend quality time with our animals, playing outdoors and enjoying the warmer weather. However, the change in season doesn’t have to mean that the fun has to stop!
It’s fundamental that you continue to keep your pets exercised throughout the year, and animal runs are great for this, giving your furry friends the freedom to roam within a safe and confined environment. Omlet supply a range ofruns for chickens,rabbits andguinea pigs, which are all predator resistant, so you shouldn’t have any concerns about safety in their run this Fall. Although runs are fantastic for providing your animals with more space, adding a few extras over the next coming months can help to keep both you and your pet/s entertained. Here are our top tips on what you can do to make your runs more fun this Autumn.
For Guinea Pig and Rabbit Runs
Set Up a Vegetable Hunt
Cavies and rabbits love their fresh veg, so why not make a game out of it! You can try hiding their favorite pieces of veggies around the run and have them go off to find it. This game will not only be an opportunity for you to spend some quality time outside with your pet, but they get to join in with the Halloween festivities of a scavenger hunt this autumn as well!
Get a Play Tunnel
Play tunnels can be attached to your guinea pig orrabbit’s run to give them a new way to exercise, designed with the natural behavior of these two animals in mind. In the wild, both guinea pigs and rabbits would live in burrows, a hole which they dig to take temporary refuge underground. Watch as your piggy or rabbit has fun bouncing around, in and out of their tunnel.
Use a Shelter
Shelters can be a great addition to your run this season. TheOmlet Zippi Shelters for rabbitsandguinea pigs are weatherproof, meaning that your pet will be protected from the elements of wind and rain. Both species have a natural desire to seek a hiding space in a hole, so you can be assured that they are having fun, while feeling safe. Furthermore, the Omlet play tunnels have connector rings, which mean these can easily be attached to the Zippi Shelters, creating a fun maze for your furry friends!
Guinea Pig and Rabbit Toys
Who said toys were just for cats and dogs? Try giving anew toy to your small animal, which will help to bust their boredom this season. Toys for guinea pigs and rabbits can simply be hung up in their run and will keep them active, engaged, and curious.
For Chicken Runs
Chickens can have toys too! A bored chicken can lead to flock bullying, so at this time of year it’s even more important to keep your chickens entertained. Naturally, as the weather drops, these animals get increasingly restless, with less grass and weeds for them to forage on, as they enjoyed over summer.A chicken peck toy is one option to keep your flock happy, also providing them with mental stimulation.
Make Use of Your Autumn Leaves
The fallen leaves of autumn in your garden or backyard may not mean anything to us but they can actually be a great source of entertainment for your chickens. Build up a pile of crisp fall leaves in your chickens’ run, and watch them have endless hours of fun pecking. You can even add some sunflower seeds to your pile to have your flock hunt for.
Provide Your Chickens With a Pumpkin For Their Run
It wouldn’t be Fall without pumpkins! You can place half a pumpkin in your chickens’ run for them to have as a special treat. Your flock will have no problems pecking at the pumpkin raw, so there’s no need for any cooking; simply slice the top of the pumpkin off and then in half, to place outside in their run. Something to be cautious of here however, is to make sure that you remove any pumpkin remains from the run once finished to avoid any unwanted visitors such as rodents at night.
Get a Chicken Swing
A chicken swing is another way to make your chickens’ run more fun.The Omlet Chicken Swing will have your chicken in their element, as they get to grips with their new toy. Not only will this run accessory provide them with plenty of entertainment, you’ll have just as much fun watching them hop on and off and swing back and forth.
Hopefully after a bit of guidance, you’ll have a few new ideas on how you can make your pets’ run more enjoyable this season! As the end of the season brings colder weather, don’t forget to have a read of the Omlet guides on keeping your guinea pigs,rabbits, andchickenssafe and warm when they’re outdoors.
It’s often hard to tell if a hen is laying. Hens do not produce the same number of eggs each week throughout the year, and there may be health- and environment-related changes to egg production, too.
It’s useful to know when a hen stops laying, as you can then give her a quick health check to identify the cause of the interruption. But how do you tell which chicken is not laying eggs? In a coop of six hens, in which the daily average number of eggs is five, it’s not immediately obvious which hens are laying.
Seven signs that a hen has stopped laying
1. Age. This is the most obvious cause of a drop in egg production. Over her egg-laying years, a hen’s production will tail off. This is natural, and it does not mean the chicken has reached the end of its usefulness. All hens play a part in the social order of a coup, and a bird reaching the end of its egg-laying life will still be as feisty, active and lovable as the younger birds – and she’ll still lay the occasional egg.
2. Molting. This occurs every year once a hen is 18 months old (although younger birds may shed feathers, too). The signs are very clear – lots of feathers lying in the coop, and bare patches appearing on the hen. During this time, chickens need to produce lots of new feathers, which is a physically demanding process. Consequently, egg-laying is reduced, and sometimes there will be several days without an egg. The molt tends to occur in the autumn, but it depends on when the hen first started laying. Molting takes 8 to 12 weeks, occasionally longer.
3. Vent. A dry vent – the hole through which the hen lays her eggs – is a sign of no production. In a hen that is still laying, the vent will be moist.
4. Abdomen. If the area below the breast bone is hard, it means the hen is not laying eggs.
5. Comb and wattles. A healthy laying hen tends to have bright red comb and wattles. These become duller when she is about to lay, but turn bright red again once she has laid the egg. If the comb and wattles are pale or dull looking all the time, it could be a sign of illness.
6. The food dye test. If you put a small dab of food coloring on a hen’s vent, the color will be transferred to the egg. The color that fails to appear tells you who the non-layer is. This is only practical in smaller flocks, though, given the limited palette of food colorings…
7. No eggs. This isn’t as silly as it sounds! If you only have a few hens, and they are different breeds, you will often come to recognize which eggs are produced by which hen. In this case, the sudden disappearance of one particular egg-type will tell you who’s not laying.
Five reasons why hens stop laying eggs
1. Temperature and sunlight. Seasonal factors play a part in egg production. As the daylight hours lessen in autumn and winter, hens tend to lay fewer eggs. In the depths of winter, the low temperature becomes the cause, as a hen needs all her energy to produce body heat. With her resources diverted to this essential function, egg-laying is put on hold.
2. Stress. Any form of stress will tend to interrupt or stop egg production. Stress can be brought on by several things, including parasites, bullying, injuries and fear (of noisy dogs, for example).
3. Diet. Poor diet can impact egg production, too. If a hen is laying, she needs all the essential nutrients – not just calcium – to produce eggs. Top-quality layer’s pellets will contain everything the hen needs. A hen that fills up on treats before filling up on pellets may become malnourished and stop laying. It’s a good idea to let the chickens feed on their pellets first thing in the morning and last thing at night, and only offer corn and treats in the middle of the day.
4. Broodiness. A broody hen – that is, a hen who has decided to sit on her eggs in an attempt to hatch them – will stop laying. There are several ways of discouraging broodiness, but some hen breeds are more prone to it than others. If all attempts to dissuade her from leaving the nesting box, you have the consolation that after 21 days – the time it would take for a fertilized chicken egg to hatch – the hen’s self-inflicted ordeal will be over and she will resume normal life – including egg-laying.
5. Change of routine. If you move the hen house or introduce new birds to the flock, or if one of the hens dies, the birds’ routine and pecking order will be interrupted. This often causes them to stop laying for a short time, until their social lives settle down again.
Four ways to encouraging laying
1. Comfy coop. The first thing to do is to make sure the hens’ environment is adequately equipped and comfortable. Check for red mites, as an infestation of these nocturnal parasites can stop egg production. Reduce drafts and make sure there is no bullying going on – often a sign of an overcrowded hen house.
2. Light. Some chicken keepers install lights in the coop to encourage laying in the colder months of the year. However, bear in mind that a chicken can only lay a finite number of eggs in its lifetime. If she’s naturally programmed to lay 1,000 eggs, encouraging her to lay regularly throughout the winter will simply reduce her laying life.
3. Eggs. If an apparently healthy hen isn’t laying, she can be encouraged by leaving eggs in the nesting box, or placing rubber ones, or even golf balls, in the spot where she is supposed to lay. The sight and feel of these will encourage her laying instincts.
4. Reduce stress. Discourage dogs from disturbing the hens, and make your run and coop are as predator-proof as possible. Equally important, make sure the run isn’t overcrowded, and provide enough roosting space in the coop for all the hens to rest comfortably.
If your hens are free-ranging, they will sometimes lay an egg in a quiet corner of the backyard. This can become habit-forming, and if she’s doing it in secret, you may reach the incorrect conclusion that the hen isn’t laying.
A healthy hen who does not appear to be laying may be the victim of egg sabotage. A predator, a human thief or an egg-eating chicken might be removing the evidence of her labors. The best way of preventing this is to encourage your hen back to the nest box for laying. In crowded coops, a hen will sometimes seek an alternative laying place if the boxes are all full when she feels the urge to lay.
As a hen ages, she will produce fewer eggs. If you are uncertain of the age of your chickens, there is a simple test you can conduct that might sometimes give you a clue. Place your hand gently on a hen’s back. If she immediately squats down, it means she is still fertile and therefore producing eggs. Hens squat when they are mating, and it is an automatic response.
Although egg production drops as a hen ages, it will often continue throughout her life. The occasional egg from an old hen always reminds you what a wonderful friend she’s been throughout your long time together!
Your chickens’ coop should be a space for your flock to eat, drink, lay eggs, and sleep. It should also be a place for your chickens to feel safe and be protected from the outside elements or any danger. However, sometimes chickens may suddenly decide that they do not want to go into their coop at night, which can be for a number of reasons. Here are some explanations as to why this could be happening.
A Broody Hen
Hens can get broody, regardless of if you have a rooster. Although many hens will decide to stay in the nest of their coop so that they can sit on their eggs, others like to search for a quiet space away from the coop, which can mean remaining outside the coop all night.
Moving a broody hen can be highly stressful for them, so should you decide that it’s best to move your hen inside the coop, due to safety concerns, you need to take great care when doing so. One way to start is by collecting your hen’s eggs regularly (twice a day). Be sure to wear leather gloves when doing so, as a broody hen is likely to be aggressive around you as they are very protective of their eggs. You’ll also want to reduce the light supply when you move her, as the moving process situation will be less traumatic in the dark.
Predators such as foxes, cats, rats, and badgers could be one reason as to why your chickens have stopped going inside the coop at night. These animals will spook your flock, with smaller predators such as badgers having the potential to gain access inside the coop by climbing over the fencing, or squeezing through small openings in the coop’s wiring.
Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to deter these animals and have your chickens back in their coop every night. One option is to get a motion sensitive light installed, which will scare off any unwanted guests. Alternatively, take a look at the Omlet chicken coop range. All of the Omlet coops are predator resistant, which will reassure you that your chickens will be safe from any night time visitors. With anti-tunnel skirts that lie flat on the ground, and heavy duty steel weld mesh, these features will help to prevent animals from digging in. You can also purchase the Omlet automatic coop door which shuts your chickens away in their coop at night to keep your flock secure, enclosing them until the time you set for the door to open in the morning.
An Overcrowded Coop
Chickens need their own personal space, hence why many chickens are also kept free range. Not only is overcrowding an unpleasant experience for chickens, causing them to avoid the coop at night, it can also lead to further complications such as the build up of ammonia and an increase in disease. The solution? The more space the better! For size reference, the Omlet Large Eglu Cube chicken coop can comfortably accommodate six large hens or up to ten bantams.
Tensions Amongst Your Chickens
Unfortunately, bullying amongst chickens happens, and isn’t actually too uncommon of a problem. Chickens naturally create a pecking order, whereby the flock will establish themselves in a social hierarchy of strongest to weakest chicken. However, if aggressive behavior continues after the head rooster, or the dominant hen in their absence, has found their way to the top of the ladder, you may be dealing with a bully. Common signs are missing feathers from a chicken’s back, unusual weight loss, reduced egg production, or blood from where the victim has been pecked, all of which could lead to a chicken/s refusing to go into their coop at night.
To stop the bullying, and therefore get your chickens back in their coop at night, first try to establish the cause. Common reasons for bullying can be an injured or ill bird, having a large flock, or your chickens being bored. However, should the bullying continue after attempting to resolve what you believe to be the cause of conflict, you can purchase anti-pecking spray, which will discourage feather pecking. Alternatively, separate the bully from the flock. Isolating the bully for a week may mean that they lose their dominant position in the hierarchy once they are reintroduced.
Mites and Parasites in the Coop
Pests are a very common cause for chickens to have stopped going to their coop at night. Red mite in particular is a likely culprit, a parasitic mite that lives inside chicken housing and lays eggs in cracks near nests. They can make your chickens restless at night, as they live inside chicken coops and crawl onto the chickens to feed on their blood as they sleep. Only active during warmer weather, red mites are also more likely to strike wooden coops.
Red mites are not the easiest thing to get rid of, however, one solution is to purchase red mite treatment, which works by immobilizing pests with its sticky consistency. Rest assured, it’s also completely safe to use in the chicken feeding area, so you do not have to have any concerns about your flock digesting the product.
Luckily, chickens are creatures of habit, so once you’ve identified the cause, you should be able to get your flock back into the coop at night in no time!
Are you a long term Eglu or Walk in Run owner? Omlet products are known to be extremely long lasting, but we do recommend checking over your coop and run every year for signs of wear and tear, and to remember the little maintenance needed to keep your coop in tip top condition and your pet happy and healthy. You may have also missed some of the new products we have developed over the years to make the coop and runs even better. Take a look at ways you can upgrade and improve your Eglu below!
When you carry out your regular deep clean, make sure you have a quick walk around the run and check the security and stability of the run panels. In time, the run clips can age and become weaker. If you notice that run clips are cracking when you open them or move the coop and run, or that there are some clips falling to the ground, you should consider refreshing all the run clips on your coop.
We have now made it super quick and easy for you to find the right pack of run clips for your Eglu or Walk in Run. Take a look here.
If you purchased your Eglu before summer 2019, you may not have benefited from the new Ladder Grips we have designed to resolve the problem of some chickens disliking the metal coop ladder, or being too small for the steps. The ladder grips replace the black friction strips, clipping on securely and easily to provide a wider platform for chicks to climb up on.
You can buy ladder grips for your Eglu Cube here or for your Eglu Go UP here, for $5.99.
Autodoor and Coop Light
We’re sure you haven’t missed the Automatic Chicken Coop door that can be attached straight onto your Eglu Cube or Walk In Run, but have you seen that you can also attach a coop light to guide your chickens in at night? The light is powered by the control panel of the Autodoor, and will automatically come on 5 minutes before the door closes. As soon as the door has closed for the night, the light turns off.
In high winds and torrential rain, old run covers can take a beating. If you have had your run covers for some time and they are looking a bit worse for wear, it might be a good idea to invest in a new set of covers to ensure your chickens continue to be fully protected from the elements.
Discover our wide range of run covers for all Eglus here.
We have also introduced new feeders and treat dispensing toys in the last few years, which your chickens are sure to love.
The Caddi Treat Holder is ideal for larger treats, such as fat balls or vegetables from your garden, and hangs in your run to keep food off the ground and prevent mess on the run floor. The Peck Toys are a rewarding, slow release solution for treat-dispensing which your chickens will be entertained by all day. The Pendant hangs from the run, while the Poppy is put into the ground – perfect if your chickens are fully free ranging.
We’re here to help
If you are unsure about the condition of your Eglu or your run, please contact our friendly and knowledgeable Customer Service team. They can give you advice on how to maintain your product, making sure it’s in top condition for many years to come!
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
While filming a segment of our television program Coop Dreams, around Austin Texas, we were taken on a field trip to a nursing home that had a chicken coop. Daily the residents would have ‘Chicken time’ where they could hold, pet and interact with the chickens. What we witnessed was incredible. The chickens were amazingly calm and the residents were transformed back in time to when they had raised or experienced a life with chickens. It was super cool to see chickens and residents so comfortable that they both wound up napping while the chickens were on their laps in chairs… And that sparked a curiosity.
The birth of Coops For Troops
Moved by what we experienced, we couldn’t stop talking about it and googling everything around chickens involving support and therapy. We found some amazing information and stories about how chickens can help with:
Loneliness – We’ve all experienced and been amused by their crazy antics and personalities.
Stress Relief – Whether it’s the vocalizations or the scratching and pecking there is something very calming about sitting with chickens.
Depression – A study of the UK organization Henpower shows that – people become less lonely and depressed when caring for the hens.
Loss of self-worth – There is a sense of purpose one feels when caring for and feeding chickens.
PTSD – Animals have been shown to be great in relieving the symptoms and elements associated with PTSD.
And after those Google searches we decided to launch Coops For Troops (Coopsfortroops.com) where we present veterans and military families with chickens, supplies and an Omlet chicken coop to help them start their journey into backyard chicken keeping.
Sixteen and counting!!!
Currently we’ve presented 16 Coops For Troops packages and are excited to continue passing on the amazing healing power of chickens.
We’ve presented in nine states to date and are sifting through the next round of nominations. Initially it was going to be a one and done event and a small segment in an episode of our Coop Dreams TV show but the response was so great it has spun into its own TV show.
Not only does this allow us to thank more veterans and deliver more coops but the weekly TV audience allows us to share this benefit to others who may be suffering and are in need of some help and relief.
Our viewers and partners help us to continue to pay it forward.
Coops For Troops episodes can be watched, for free, any day and anytime on our webpage by clicking the Video On Demand tab and clicking the Coops For Troops episodes. They can also be seen on our Coop Dreams YouTube channel.
We all know how chicken math works and that doesn’t change if you’re a veteran, a beginner or an experienced chicken keeper and it is so great to see so many of our Coops For Troops recipients grow and add to their flocks and continue to communicate to us how the addition of chickens has helped in quieting some of the symptoms these incredible individuals now carry.
Sooooooo… On this Veterans Day what can you do? Spread the word and pay it forward. If you know of someone in need maybe mention how the help may be found in these incredible, quirky and amazing animals.
We can learn a lot from chickens. They go to bed early, and once indoors they snuggle up together to keep warm. No messing about after hours. As a result, they’re ready for a fresh start as soon as the sun comes up.
The problem is, there’s often no early-rising human around at dawn to open the door of the coop and let the hens get on with a busy day’s scratching, foraging and laying. Equally, you might not be able to be there to lock the door behind them after they’ve headed for bed early in the bleak midwinter.
An open door in the chicken shed lets in the cold, and unless your coop and run are secure, some very unwelcome night visitors of the four-footed kind might come calling…
“Someone Should Invent An Autodoor For Chicken Sheds…”
Fortunately, the necessary security-cum-draft-excluder has already been invented. Omlet’s Autodoor attaches directly to the Eglu Cube Mk1 and Mk2 chicken houses. But it’s not exclusively for those models – the Autodoor works with any chicken coop, with a unique and clever design that enables it to be attached to whatever des res your chickens are living in.
Like many ingenious inventions – wind-up radios and wind-up torches come to mind, or solar powered garden lights – Omlet’s automatic chicken coop door opener is very simple. It’s battery powered, with both a timer and a light sensor for maximum flexibility and control. The Autodoor won’t instantly seize up when the temperature plunges, either. It’s been tested to work down to -4 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 degrees Celsius).
The Autodoor is also very easy to install. Its LCD control panel is separate from the door itself, so it can be placed in the best position for the built-in light sensor to do its work.
The door, once closed, is also very secure. It doesn’t use a string and pulley system, so it can’t be lifted up by hungry creatures hoping for a midnight chicken snack. Nor will they be able to squeeze through the tight seal once the door is shut.
Attaching The Autodoor
If your hens live in an Omlet Eglu Mk2 Cube or a chicken coop made of wood, the Autodoor comes with all the fittings you need. You’ll need a few extra attachments if you want to fit the door to aMk1 Eglu Cube, anOmlet Run or a set up involving traditionalchicken wire.
The control panel and light sensor attach via a robust cable, so you can choose the best spot for registering the daylight. The sensor doesn’t mean your hens have to be home before the sun hits the horizon, though. You can set it to close an hour after sunset, to suit your birds’ routine. Equally, it can be set to open an hour after first light, if your chickens are used to having a bit of a lazy start to the day. This makes sense when the days are particularly cold – the hens might want to take advantage of their cosy place on the perch for as long as possible before venturing out into the cold frosty morning.
The door will not open in the night, even if passing headlights, a security light or a torch beam shine on the coop. It has been designed to ignore these temporary bursts of light, and only open when there has been consistent light for an amount of time fixed by you via the control panel.
So basically, that’s your chickens’ winter worries sorted.
It’s possible that you have a stoical family member who is willing to be on guard at dawn and dusk every day throughout the cold winter months to open and close the coop door. Lucky you –that’s real chicken dedication!
For everyone else, the Autodoor does all the work for you when you’re not around. Or, let’s face it, it gives you the excuse and peace of mind to enjoy a weekend lie-in without having to brave the elements on morning chicken duty!
In the last decade chicken keeping has become a hit with families wanting a slice of the good life, propelling hens into the top ten list of pets. The reasons are clear: a supply of fresh eggs that’s the envy of your friends as well as teaching children important lessons of where their food comes from suggests that chickens really are the ultimate pet.
However, a recent survey found that over 60% of chicken keepers wish they could spend longer in bed in the mornings with many admitting they would be willing to pay up to $400 for a solution that could prolong their lazy mornings in bed! 1 in 6 couples even admitted to regularly arguing about who should let the chickens out. What will save the country’s chicken keepers from tiredness and possibly even divorce?
Introducing the brilliant new Automatic Chicken Coop door opener from Omlet. Designed to work with the best-selling Eglu Cube as well as any wooden chicken coop. Omlet’s Automatic Chicken Coop Door Opener is battery powered and combines both a timer and a light sensor, giving you the ultimate flexibility and control.
Omlet’s Head of Product Design, Simon Nicholls, said: “We know our customers love their chickens and always want the best for them, that’s why we designed the Autodoor so that the hens could get up when they want, which can be quite early in the summer. It was also important to ensure that it works as well at closing the coop at night and in all weather conditions too, so we carried out extensive testing in several different countries over 2 years to perfect the design.”
The unique integrated frame and door design comes with everything you need to attach it to your chicken house or run and has been tested to work down to -20 deg C. 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.
Sharon Burton, who has kept hens for 4 years in Oxford, believes the Autodoor has even saved her marriage! “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my chickens. I buy them the best food, I sprinkle dried flowers in their nest box to keep it fresh, but I always felt guilty if I didn’t hop straight out of bed at the crack of dawn to let them out and whenever I asked my husband Paul to do it he would pretend to be asleep! When Omlet asked me to test the Autodoor I was delighted, it’s saved my marriage!”
The temperature is already dropping rapidly, the nights are drawing in and we are just weeks away from the first frost. Although the fresh air and crunchy leaves may be loved by some, the signs of winter being just around the corner can be a worry for chicken keepers.
Now is the time to act! Get your chickens’ coop ready for the colder months before the freezing temperatures hit, and you will be able to rest easy knowing that your girls are warm and healthy throughout winter.
Take a look at some of our top tips for getting your chicken coop winter-ready…
Move your coop closer to the house
This is a simple step for making it easier for you to look after your girls and give them their daily health checks, which are even more important in the colder months. Choose a lightweight coop with wheels, like the Eglu, to make it even easier to move it around your yard.
Upgrade your wooden coop to an Eglu
The main benefit to an Eglu Cube Chicken Coop for chicken keepers in winter is the twin wall insulation found in the design of the plastic house. This works in a similar way to double glazing, by creating a barrier between the cold air outside the coop, and the air in side. The air between the two walls conducts poorly, which means inside the house stays at a consistent and warm temperature throughout winter, whatever the weather is doing outside. Chickens are very efficient at keeping themselves warm, all you will need to do is make sure the coop door is shut at night time.
…and to make sure your chicken coop’s door is always shut at dusk, even if you are not yet home, the Automatic Chicken Coop Door is a convenient solution for the Eglu Cube or wooden chicken coops. You can set the Autodoor to close at a specific time or light percentage to suit when all your girls have gone up to bed and the sun has set. The Autodoor runs off batteries and has been tested to work down to -10 degrees celcius so there is no worry, however cold it gets outside!
The other benefit to the Autodoor is that it will open again at dawn so you can head off to work early before the sun rises and your girls need to be let out, or you can stay in bed for even longer at the weekends without going out in the freezing cold to let your chickens out of their coop!
“The nights are drawing in and I couldn’t be happier knowing that my girls are safely tucked up in bed with their Omlet Autodoor closed behind them. The Autodoor has given me peace of mind, flexibility and a well needed lie in! Couldn’t recommend it enough!” – Hayley’s Lottie Haven
Chickens are very good at coping in cold temperatures, but don’t like getting wet, so it would be kinder for them to be protected from the elements when in their run by our clear covers and windbreaks. Available in a variety of sizes to suit your run length, the clear run covers protect your girls from wind and rain so they can continue to play whatever the weather, whilst still allowing light into the run.
Extreme temperature jackets
When the temperature drops below freezing for multiple days in a row during the very depths of winter, it might be wise to give your chickens extra warmth with an extreme temperature jacket. Poorly or older chickens, will definitely benefit from this extra support.
Prevent chickens getting bored when rain stops play with a variety of fun and interactive toys they can play with in all weathers. The Chicken Perch provides an easy outdoor perch which can be installed in their run (and protected by the run covers) for when your chickens can’t perch in their usual spots around your yard. The Chicken Swing provides hours of fun and again, can be easily installed in any run. While the Peck Toys and Caddi Treat Holder offer enriching entertainment as well as a rewarding flow of treats.
Prevent your chickens’ water from freezing with a water heater to ensure they have access to flowing water at all times. It is also recommended to provide extra layers pellets and treats during winter, as chickens will need more energy to keep themselves warm and lay their eggs in the colder months.
Red mites, or Dermanyssus gallinae, are without a doubt backyard chicken keepers’ worst enemies! They are nocturnal creatures living in cracks and crevices of the coop, and they only come out at night to feed on chicken blood. Most long term chicken keepers will have encountered these parasites, and can confirm that they are more destructive and difficult to get rid of than all other pests combined.
Getting Rid of Red Mites
If you have diagnosed a red mite infestation in your wooden coop, there are a few things you can do to try to get rid of them. Start off by giving your coop a really deep clean. Strip the house down as much as possible to get into all corners, nooks and crannies, and scrub with warm water. You will need to replace any felt or fabric parts and carefully clean perches, feeders and drinkers and other loose objects in the coop. Make sure that you get rid of all bedding that might have been infested.
If you can still see mites crawling out of crevices in the wood when the coop is drying, try hosing the coop and all loose parts down with a pressure washer. Leave to dry for 10-15 minutes and blast it over again to get rid of even more mites. Repeat until there are very few mites emerging after every wash.
Still not completely clear of mites? Time for the anti-mite products. Mix a mite specific concentrate with water using the manufacturer’s guidelines and apply this to the coop. Go heavy on areas where it is likely that the mites are hiding (corners and end of perches are particularly affected areas), but it is important that you treat the whole coop. When the wood is completely dry, apply plenty of red mite powder on your chickens, their bedding and their dust bath before you let them back into the coop.
In summer you will need to re-apply the powder every few days, and it in many cases getting ahead of the mites will mean deep cleaning the coop with detergents on several occasions over a period of two weeks. When autumn comes the mites become dormant and will not feed on your chickens, but they are unfortunately likely to reappear when the temperature rises again in spring.
Preventing Red Mite Infestations
When it comes to red mites, prevention will always be better than cure, and one of the few things you can actually do to keep these little creatures from hurting your chickens is to have a coop that doesn’t make life easy for them.
The smooth plastic surfaces of the Eglu chicken coop leaves very little space for the mites to hide. There are no corners or gaps that you won’t be able to reach with a hose or a pressure washer, which means that one deep clean of the Eglu should get rid of all dust, dirt and possible pests. By cleaning your Eglu on a regular basis you prevent red mites from ever becoming a problem for you and your hens, and you won’t have to spend all that time and money cleaning and disinfecting that you would if you had a more traditional coop.
The Eglu chicken coops have over the last 15 years been the solution for a lot of people who have tired of constantly trying to get rid of red mites from their wooden coops. Here are some of the things current Eglu owners have told us about battling red mites:
“I’ve thought about having an Eglu for two years but this summer’s red mite infestation was too much. I hate using chemicals/insecticides around my hens so I took the plunge and I’m really pleased.”Sue
“After having some terrible experiences with mites we decided enough is enough and time to buy a “mite free eglu” as advertised. We have been slightly put off by the price previously but now I wish I had one from the start! I couldn’t rate the omlet eglu cube any higher! What used to take 2 hours to clean and scrub a chicken coop now takes 10 minutes! We have not had any lice infestations since having the cube I absolutely love it and so do our chickens, just wish we had bought one sooner!”Amie
“The most important feature to me is the hygienic, easy clean & wash nature of all the surfaces. I would never buy a wooden house again having struggled with mites which hid in all the joints and gaps of the boards. There is nowhere for the mites to hide on the Eglu and cleaning is quick and easy. I’m certain that there isn’t a better house available for healthy hens.”Neil
Does the thought of mites make you itch? Watch our video about two neighbours having very different chicken keeping experiences this summer, showing some of the struggles that chicken owners with mite-infested coops are faced with:
As an Omlet Ambassador I’ve heard that line hundreds of times at trade shows and expo halls all across the United States. However, as a former DIY luxury chicken coop builder and longtime Omlet Coop owner I would like to set the record straight and explain why on Omlet Coop is the best purchase a backyard chicken tender can make.
This was my pride and joy:
A luxury coop that is Pinterest worthy and constructed of the best materials I could get my hands on. It has a radiant barrier roof that I shingled! It has a skylight in the middle that is UV blocking and tinted so as to only protect against the harsh and hot Texas sun. We used metal bracing on every corner to make sure we were squared up and secure. There are hundreds of screws holding up the double layer of hardware cloth. Literally, hundreds of screws. I used pressure treated wood that was rated for ground contact and further sealed with deck sealant. I used fiber cement siding that was rated to withstand hail impact and wind thrown objects. No expense was spared in building the Fort Knox of chicken coops that I thought would last a lifetime. I even ordered special chicken shaped handles for the coop doors:
Why is an Omlet Coop a better buy than building a DIY coop?
Experience should not be underestimated when lives are on the line
Omlet was founded in 2003 and has been innovating since. That is over 16 years of experience in building chicken coops. That is 16 years of predicting and preventing predators from getting chicken dinners. The average DIY’er that I meet at trade shows or talk to on forums such as BackYardChickens.com is a first-time chicken owner who hasn’t witnessed the creativity and determination of predator animals such as raccoons, foxes, and even neighborhood dogs.
Included in the price of each and every Omlet coop is 16 years of research and development to give us chicken tenders the best possible home for our flocks. That is 16 years of perfecting the Omlet Coops that get delivered to front doors all across the World. I cannot emphasize this enough because it is the most important factor in why I chose Omlet over DIY’ing another coop. It is not 16 years of making the same old coop over and over again like you’ll find at Tractor Supply or the local hardware/feed store. It is 16 years of constant innovation and stalwart dedication to making the safest coop on the market. While you read the rest of this please ask yourself whether you think a few google searches, a Facebook group, or in my case a Pinterest post can compete with 16 years of on the ground experience with thousands of models sold and tested across not just the US but the world at large. Think about the chickens you will soon be bringing home to live in the coop. Do you trust their lives to a weekend DIY project? Also, if you have kids and they are involved with the chickens then please consider the trauma of them waking up some day to find that a raccoon has turned their favorite hens into a recreation of a CSI episode with a headless hen as the victim. The cost may be steeper up front, but I can personally assure you that it will be more than worth it in the end for the peace of mind, the portability, the cleanliness, and so many other reasons.
DIY may seem like the cheaper route but I can assure you that the first time you wake up to find your favorite hens dismembered by a racoon or de-feathered and half eaten by a fox the last thing on your mind will be how you saved a couple bucks here and there. Why go through the heartbreak of losing hens and then spend the next couple days having to drain your wallet to renovate and repair the coop? Also, once a predator gets into your coop once they will keep coming back for more. They will poke, pull, and attempt to gain access in any way possible since they now know that an all you can eat chicken dinner is just inside. Why not stop them the first time so they never even consider coming back?
The most commonly encountered coops on the internet are constructed of wood. Wood can either be treated or untreated. Treated wood is wood that has been infused with copper products under extreme pressure in order to give it a few extra years of protection against Mother Nature.
However, treated wood does not protect against the ammonia rich droppings left behind by fluffy chicken butts. Chickens do not urinate and defecate separately like us humans do. Instead they combine the two acts and their droppings are highly concentrated and highly corrosive to many materials. This results in an accelerated rate of decay and decomposition of any and all wooden components of a DIY coop. This is a hugely important point to consider because decaying wood is similar to rotten wood in that it is incredibly fragile, and fragility is not something any chicken owner wants when it comes to their coop. The only way to circumvent this is to be diligent in replacing decaying panels as soon as you notice the first signs of decay. Mind you, this requires purchasing more materials, expending more of your time performing the labor to remove the decaying parts and reinstalling the new parts, and adds undue stress to your flock as you tinker with their home.
Of note, there are various sealants and paints that can be used on both treated and untreated wood, but my firsthand experience showed that these only served to prolong the inevitable as they too decayed. Furthermore, I would caution against their use as they can become a health hazard for your flock. Chickens will eat just about anything they can fit into their beaks so as the paint and sealant begin to crack, chip, and flake off the chickens will pick at the cracking paint or sealant and will quickly eat any flakes they can knock off or catch on the ground. I am not a veterinarian, but it certainly doesn’t take one to warn against the well-known dangers of ingesting paint.
Omlet coops are made out of a high-density plastic polymers that are non-porous and designed to be durable against both Mother Nature and any mother hen. The corrosive droppings from your chickens do not affect the durability of the Omlet coop and will not cause it to degrade or deteriorate with wood. It will stay strong for decades or more without any need to repair, replace or renovate.
Chicken wire, I would like to just say to stay as far away from this as possible because every week I hear from people who used chicken wire only to discover their coops broken into and flock decimated. Chicken wire is good at containing chickens but is absolutely worthless for keeping predators out. Raccoons can reach their hands through it and can pull it apart in under an hour. Coyotes, foxes and neighborhood dogs can easily bite and pull it apart. Snakes slither right on in without trouble.
The other wire that people commonly use is hardware cloth. This is what I used when I first built my own coop and it does work for a while. However, over time it will sag, and it is not meant to bear weight well. It can prevent predators most predators for a while but it is far from impenetrable and without proper installation and constant checks it can easily fail and need replacing.
The run components are made from welded steel panels. I could go further into detail about these, but I think the picture below is worth a thousand words:
It was a sad day when I had to leave behind the Pinterest quality barn-inspired coop because we sold the house and couldn’t haul off the coop without hiring a forklift and crew to load it onto a flatbed.
Thankfully, that will never happen with Omlet Coops. They are portable when fully assembled and they are also so easy to disassemble and flat pack that I can now fit our multiple coops and run attachments into the bed of my pickup truck with ease. In fact, I had to do just that when we moved from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Austin, Texas.
Modular and Expandable with ease
One of the hardest parts about designing and building a DIY coop is that you have to know how many chickens you want from the start. That may seem like an innocuous task but there is a phenomenon known to chicken owners as “chicken math.” It is something I have encountered first hand and been a victim of. In what started with 3 chickens has now since expanded to 31 chickens and counting. Our barn inspired chicken coop was meant to house 5-6 hens at a time and any sort of expansion would be extremely costly and require cutting into, and compromising the structural integrity of the original coop to attach any expansions on it.
Our Omlet coop expanded with us and we are already saving up for another full-size WALK-IN-RUN to add. Attaching any sort of expansion or add on is literally a 10-minute job. Due to the modular structure of the Coop and the Walk-in-Run all that has to be done is clip on the new expansions to the existing ones.
The total cost of the Pinterest coop that I build was around $1600. It fit 5 chickens comfortably and held up for just short of 2 years before we started to have to replace parts and deal with decay.
Chicken coops from Tractor Supply range from $250 to over $1,000. However, most of these have wooden components that will break down and need replacing so you will have to throw money at it regularly to keep it functional.
There are a handful of plastic polymer options at TSC but none of them allow for attaching a run, or any sort of modular upgrades that will allow you to grow your flock or custom tailor your coop to your yard. Therefore, you will end up spending well over the cost of an Omlet coop for something that is not designed to fit together and is not as adaptable and flexible as a product from Omlet’s ecosystem.
Peace of mind knowing all of the “What if’s” have been accounted for.
As stated above, Omlet has more experience in this field than any DIY’er. They have answered all of the if, and, buts, and what ifs with first hand experience. The peace of mind that comes with being able to purchase an all in one coop that will last for decades, keep the flock safe, and be adaptable to your future needs is worth more than saving a few bucks by risking all of that.
Using a steam cleaner to clean any Eglu can be a very effective way. It will not affect the plastic, whereas all surfaces are cleaned, disinfected, and all killed mites, insects and dust are blown away by the power of the steam. As a bonus the surfaces will be dry in no time, because the plastic is warmed up.
Deep-cleaning an Eglu Go once or twice a year is extra easy if one follows these steps:
1. Take of the top panel (lid)
2. Unscrew both side panels and bumpers, and take these off as well. For a complete cleaning you may want to disconnect the run as well.
3. You now have access to all inner and outer surfaces. Clean them thoroughly with the steam cleaner, if required using an old dish brush as well.
4. Clean the bumpers, panels and top lid in the same way.
5. Re-assemble the run and the coop.
This cleaning method has been used for several years now by our Dutch team-member and is guaranteed to keep your Eglu in top condition, without damaging any parts!
If you’re a first time chicken keeper getting started this spring, you will likely be wondering what exactly you need to take care of your new pets. Some things will depend on your garden and how many chickens you will be getting, and others are a standard essential for all chicken keepers. We’ve put together this handy guide for everything you need, plus there is a checklist at the end for you to use when shopping.
First things first – housing. Your choice here will mainly depend on the number of chickens you plan on getting. At Omlet, we recommend a plastic chicken coop to reduce the risk of red mite infestation and to keep your girls completely weather protected. The traditional wooden chicken coop may look nice but they are harder to maintain, keep waterproof and red mite free.
Our Eglu chicken coops not only look great (available in purple or green), but they are also completely weatherproof, twin-wall insulated, and super easy to clean, making it virtually impossible for red mites to survive.
The Eglu Go and Go UP are a good starting point if you are only planning on getting 2 to 4 chickens. The house is the same, with a pull out droppings tray, nesting area, roosting bars and easy open back door, the only difference is that the Go UP comes on a stand with a ladder up to the coop, making the run taller, giving more space for hentertainment and allowing your chickens to roost off the ground.
The Eglu Cube is our largest coop. It is suitable for up to 10 smaller bantam breeds such as Pekins, 6-8 medium sized hens like the Rhode Island Red or 4-5 large breeds like the majestic Cochin. The Cube also has a back door and pull out droppings tray, plus a side egg port for you to easily collect your eggs from the nest box (which is big enough for 3 chickens to lay at once).
The Eglus are available with a fox resistant chicken run made from strong steel weld mesh, impossible for predators to break. A unique anti-tunnel skirt sits flat on the ground and prevents animals from digging in. Choose your run length based on how many chickens you will be getting and how often you will be able to let your chickens free range. If you start with a smaller run to begin with and realise later on your chickens need more space, we have run extensions available, or you may want to consider a larger Walk in Run to give your chickens lots of space and make it easier for you to spend time with them and look after them.
A number of accessories are also available for your Eglu run including wheels and run handles to make it quick and easy for one person to move the coop and run to another area of your garden.
Something else you may want to consider for your garden set up is Chicken Fencing. Although, not predator proof, chicken fencing allows you to section off an area of your garden to keep your chickens in one place. This is especially useful if you have a larger garden that you don’t want your chickens to get lost in, or if you have a vegetable patch or flower bed to protect. This is best used when you are home or at a time when you know foxes are not about in your area, so you know your girls are safe free ranging outside of their coop run.
Like any other animal, chickens can get bored and need good sources of, what we like to call, hentertainment to keep them occupied when you are not around.
Our Rocky and Elvis Peck Toys slowly release treats over time while being pecked and offer hens great boredom busting fun. The Omlet Chicken Perch can be placed anywhere on any chicken run, and allows your hens to fulfill their natural desire to perch from the highest point available while in their run during the day.
For spring and summer time you may want to consider a shade for the run to give your chickens a cooler area out of the sun where they can chill out.
For winter, an Extreme Temperature Blanket is ideal for keeping the coop warm when temperatures drop below freezing for multiple days in a row. There are also a number of run covers and wind breaks available so your chickens can still enjoy time outside while being protected from the elements.
For laying hens you will need to provide layers pellets which offer the protein content they need to stay healthy and regularly lay eggs. A fully grown chicken will typically eat about 120 grams of layers pellets a day. You will also need to provide grit which is essential for helping chickens digest their food, as they do not have teeth.
Corn is a great treat for hens but should be limited as it is high in fat. Other treats, such as fruit, green veggies and cereals should also only be given in limited supply to avoid chickens filling up on those rather than the layers pellets.
It also important to ensure fresh water is available at all times – checking and refilling it daily.
Our Eglus all come with a feeder and drinker but you may want to consider buying extra to offer another area in your garden for when they are free ranging, especially important for chickens who don’t like to share with their coop-mates!
There are lots of different types of bedding available on the market, and which you choose is entirely dependent on your personal preference. Some to consider include dust extracted wood shavings, straw, chopped cardboard, Aubiose and Easichick.
When you give your chickens’ droppings tray and bedding area its weekly clean, you might want to consider sprinkling some Diatom Powder around to prevent any bugs making a home in your chicken coop, and adding some BioDri to bedding will help to sanitise the litter, make it last longer, and reduce the growth of bacteria.
Deep clean your whole coop once a year with a disinfectant such as Johnson’s Clean ‘n’ Safe to ensure the coop is spotless.
Last but not least: Chickens!
When you have everything in place and are ready to get some chickens, we strongly recommend looking to charities to rescue an ex-battery hen. While these hens may be a little more wary of their new home and the strange environment they are not used to, they will soon come round and settle in and be a great layer for you and your family.
A lot of chicken keepers are worried about their chickens during cold winter days. Chickens are usually well adapted to the cold and as long as their coop is dry on the inside, they feel happy and warm in the Eglu.
Of course there are a few things to look out for and prepare for during the winter, so we have spoken to Stefanie, who is going through her second winter with the chickens in their Eglu Cube this year. She tells us about the preparations and adaptations she makes for when the weather gets icy and how she and her chickens get through the season.
Omlet: How long have you been keeping chickens and how many have you got?
Stefanie: We have been keeping six chickens since February 2018.
Omlet: What is your favourite thing about keeping chickens?
Stefanie: I love that we have our own, freshly laid eggs every morning.
Omlet: You live in an area of Germany that usually gets very cold and snowy in winter. How cold can it get in winter and how much snow do you have at the moment?
Stefanie: We live in Lohberg, in the south of Germany. The temperatures are usually between -5 and -15 degrees centigrade in winter (5f), so it does get very cold here. We currently have around 50cm of snow, which is normal for this time of year.
Omlet: What changes did you make to the Eglu Cube to get it ready for winter?
Omlet: Do you change the daily food and water routine during the winter?
Stefanie: We make sure to feed them more regularly and keep an eye on them to make sure they definitely eat enough. They eat a lot of fresh lettuce, and I like to give them warm food to help them keep warm. Keeping an eye on the water is extremely important as it easily freezes.
Omlet: Do the chickens use the run more or less in the winter than they do the rest of the year and do your chickens like snow?
Stefanie: My chickens don’t like snow at all, so that’s why they mainly keep to the covered areas of their run, where it’s dry.
Omlet: Do your chickens lay eggs in the winter?
Stefanie: Our six girls don’t lay as much as they usually do during other times of the year, but even though we have a lot of snow, we still get around two to three eggs every day.
Omlet: Do you add a light source to your coop?
Stefanie: Yes, we do have a light in the coop as it gets dark very early these days.
Omlet: As chickens love scratching and foraging for food, do you give them some other entertainment when it’s snowy and icy?
Stefanie: Yes, we tend to spread some corn in the covered areas of their run. This keeps them entertained and offers them a chance to scratch naturally.
These are great ideas to keep your chickens happy and healthy during the winter. Have a look at our video of top tips for chicken keeping in winter:
On a cold winter’s day, when there’s a heavy frost or a thick blanket of snow do you ever wonder how your chickens manage without central heating and a mug of cocoa? It’s natural to worry if your hens will be comfortable when the temperature dips below freezing.
Unsurprisingly, chickens will look for shelter when the weather’s bad so the first thing you can do to keep your chickens cosy is make sure they have a winter proof chicken coop. In this respect choosing the right chicken coop is similar to choosing your own house. You wouldn’t want drafty windows and doors, a leaky roof, and paper thin walls – and neither do your chickens. Many coops that are bought are fine during the summer, but unfortunately when winter comes they can leave their occupants shivering.We set about testing two very different chicken coops over the course of 3 nights in the Bavarian Forest in Germany. A place that gets more than its fair share of snow and ice.
The first chicken coop was typical of the type sold all over the internet. On first impressions everything fits together well and it’s attractively painted, it comes with a roosting bar and a nesting box and a run. It appears that this is a perfectly good chicken coop. However, on closer inspection it’s worrying to find that large sections of the wooden panels are only 5mm thick. There’s no insulation and nothing in the instructions regarding the suitability of the coop for year round use.
The second coop was the Eglu Cube by Omlet. This chicken coop is part of the Eglu range which all feature a twin walled construction providing an insulating layer all round the coop. Similar to the way ice chests are made, it feels extremely robust and heavy duty. You could say it’s agricultural quality in a hobby chicken coop. It looks the part – but would the Eglu keep the cold out and the warm in?
Identical digital thermometers were placed inside the Eglu and the wooden coop which would take readings both inside and outside the coops during the night. Cameras were also placed inside the coops to record the chickens. After the chickens went to bed the front doors were closed, in fact the Eglu Cube came complete with a rather fancy Automatic Chicken Coop door (coming soon) which gently closed behind the last chicken.
As it got dark the outside temperature dropped to -3.8℃. While it was getting colder outside, it was getting warmer in the Eglu Cube. Around an hour after the chickens had gone to roost the temperature inside the Eglu Cube was 8.3℃ and it stayed there all night. That’s a plus 12℃ temperature difference.
Unfortunately it was not as cosy in the wooden house. As the temperature outside dropped so too did the temperature inside the wooden coop. At 11pm it was -2℃ inside the coop. That’s only 1℃ warmer than the outside temperature. In fact the inside of the wooden coop stayed below zero for nearly the whole night, warming to just above zero by 7am.
If it was freezing inside you might be wondering how on earth the chickens survived. Chickens, as with all other warm blooded animals, have temperature-regulating mechanisms to keep their body temperature at a constant level (around 41-45℃ in a healthy adult hen), so they can cope with a certain amount of cold. Just like wild birds, chickens will fluff up their feathers when it gets cold; this traps a layer of air which insulates the chickens against the cold. This is why it’s so important that chickens don’t get wet during cold weather, as this prevents them from being able to fluff their feathers up. In addition a drafty coop will make it hard for them to trap this layer of warm air too.
They will also tuck their head under their wings and huddle together with their coop companions to keep themselves warm. On the in coop camera recording you could clearly see how the chickens select a roosting place, and then fluff up their feathers.
So if the chickens in the wooden coop were able to keep themselves warm even though it was freezing inside there’s nothing to worry about? Not quite, a coop that’s not insulated or draughty will place extra demands on your chickens because of the heat being lost. Chickens in a cold coop will have to increase their metabolism to turn food and fat reserves into heat at a faster rate than hens in a cosy coop. If the heat loss is extreme, or a chicken is not fully fit then over the course of several cold nights there is a risk that all the energy reserves are used up resulting in the chicken being unable to keep it’s body temperature high enough with potentially fatal consequences.
What this test shows is that properly insulated, winter ready chicken coop can make all the difference between a cosy night in the coop and one spent shivering to keep warm. As an added bonus hens that use up less energy keeping warm are more likely to keep laying.
Jo Page is a veterinary nurse who also runs the blog My Little Country Lifestyle, where she shares stories from her countryside life in the South West of England. Jo recently upgraded her old wooden chicken coop for an Eglu Go UP, and has written about her first weeks with the new coop:
“As a veterinary nurse I take the welfare of all my animals very seriously. As humans we have bred animals and birds to suit our wants and needs and on occasion this does mean they aren’t able to survive or thrive without human intervention.
The hens are also not ‘only a chicken’ they are birds I have chosen to keep for the benefit of fresh eggs and it is my responsibility to ensure their needs are met.
The Eglu Go UP is worlds away from the make shift house they had when we moved and much more superior to the coop and run at our previous house. Both were predominately made of wood and we have already had to dispose of one chicken house due to a red mite infestation which we could not clear. Red mite bite the chickens at dawn and dusk, can make them anaemic and effect egg production. They thrive in damp woody environments so traditional wooden chicken coops are a breeding haven for them.”
Winter is coming. If you’re new to keeping chickens you might wonder what you can do for your chickens to keep them happy and healthy during winter. Most chicken breeds cope well in moderately cold temperatures as long as they have a well-insulated and dry coop. Chickens normally acclimatise themselves to the cold weather, so you shouldn’t worry too much about your chickens getting too cold, especially if you have an Eglu which is well insulated. In fact, chickens are able to adapt better to the cold than they are the heat. But why not give your chickens a bit of extra protection during the winter, if only for your own piece of mind.
The basics of any chicken coop and run in the winter
Weather Protection and insulation. The coop must be weatherproof. As said, most chicken breeds don’t mind the cold at all but they prefer not to get wet. The chicken coop should also be insulated enough that it remains warm inside even in the midst of winter. If you have an well-insulated Eglu chicken coop you can increase the level of protection against the most extreme temperatures with our range of insulating blankets and jackets.
Ventilation. A well ventilated chicken coop will ensure that plenty of fresh air gets inside the coop. This will keep the odours down and avoids moisture build-up. When a chicken coop is too tightly insulated, not only will it retain heat, it will also retain moisture. Just make sure the coop is draft-free.
Rising damp. Rising damp can also be an issue for chicken coops. Coops should be raised off the floor to prevent the base becoming damp. If your coop doesn’t have legs fitted, you can place bricks under the coop to allow air to circulate and reduce damp. Always make sure you place or build your chicken coop and run on high ground that won’t flood during heavy rain.
Size of the coop. Make sure your chicken coop is not too big for the amount of chickens you have. When the coop is too big, your chickens won’t create enough body heat to warm up the space. Chickens huddle together and keep each other warm, so they don’t need a lot of space. Try not to open the door of the coop at night when your chickens are roosting. Be mindful that their body heat is keeping them warm and by opening the coop you will let out the build-up warmth. If you do have a large coop/stable and just a few chickens, you can put a large cardboard box on its side, half filled with chopped straw/wood shavings in a corner to help them conserve their body heat.
Run. It’s important (a part of) the chicken run is covered with a winter shade. You can even build a kind of greenhouse style addition to your coop, covering it with clear plastic. This will give your chickens a bit more space on nice days. Another tip to prevent the area under the run becoming muddy is to cover the area with bark chippings. Mud is a breeding ground for poultry worms so muddy areas should always be avoided.
Perches. Give your chickens have plenty places to roost. To prevent their feet will get too cold, you’ll need to give your chickens a place to perch in both their coop and run. The perches need to be wide enough so that the chickens can cover their toes with their feathers. This will provide them with a little extra warmth which will save them from the bitter cold.
Cleaning. Keep your chicken coop clean and dry. Clean the droppings from inside the coop daily and replace the bedding as necessary. By keeping the coop both dry and clean, you will help to prevent dampness which can cause frostbite.
Also take care of…
Water. It is important your flock always has a source of fresh, unfrozen water. Depending on where you live this can be quite challenging. To prevent you have to keep rushing outside to swap over your drinkers every few hours, there are heated waterers. You can also wrap the drinkers up in a layer of bubble wrap to keep the water unfrozen for longer. Don’t place the water inside the coop, this can cause damp.
Feed. During winter your chickens feed consumption will typically be much higher than in the spring/summer. Often chickens enjoy warm feed, like cooked lentils or warm oatmeal with some raisins or other small dried fruits. Give your hens extra corn in the afternoon as this will heat them up internally as they digest it overnight. To encourage your chickens to keep laying eggs in the winter, always have a good amount of food available. Layer pellets have the right nutrients your chickens need throughout the winter.
Combs and Wattles. If it gets extremely cold across the winters your chickens’ combs and wattles can be in danger of getting frostbite. Most hardy chicken breeds have small combs, but if you have breeds with very large, floppy combs you will need to gently rub petroleum jelly onto their combs and wattles. You will also need to keep an eye out for coughs, colds and general symptoms of being unwell. Read our chicken breed directory to find out which birds are best suited to colder climates.
Vermin. Remember at this time of year, there are hungry rats and mice attracted to the chickens feed and water. Take extra care with the storage of your feeds. Store feed away from the coop and keep it in an airtight container. If you notice any signs of vermin, remove the feeders and drinkers at night.
Boredom. It is more likely your chickens will get bored in the winter, when there are no grass and weeds to munch and fewer bugs to feast on. This will lead to mischief, like feather pecking, egg eating etc. Prevent boredom by giving your chickens a Chicken Swings, perches, piles of leaves and/or a mirror. Read our blog “Keep your hens entertained!” for more non-food ideas for keeping your chickens busy.
A familiar problem for backyard chicken keepers and commercial enterprises for laying hens, is infestation of the birds’ environment with Dermanyssus gallinae, also known as red (poultry) mites. Compared to other poultry parasites such as fowl ticks, lice and flies, mites are by far the most common, most destructive and difficult to remove. Red mites are nocturnal parasites and hide themselves in all kinds of gaps and cracks during the daytime. This makes the treatment of red mites harder and more complicated.
SIGNS AND DIAGNOSIS
Red mites are up to 1mm in size. The title “Red” has been given to this mite as it turns from grey to red after it had a blood feed. Once the infestation becomes significant, your chickens will become anaemic. Their wattles and the combs will start looking pale and their egg production will drop significantly. Red mites also cause skin irritation, feather pecking, weight loss and restlessness in the flock. Because of the mites your chickens will probably be reluctant to go to bed, because that’s where the mites are!
When checking your chicken coop for red mites, check the perch’s at the end and cracks and crevices. An even easier way to check is to run a white paper towel underneath the perches at night. If there are red mites, at this time they will be on the underside on the perch after feeding on your chickens and you will be able to see red streaks on your paper towel.
Prevention is always better than cure. But this is not always that simple. Wild birds or new chickens can transmit red mites to your coop. It’s a good idea to check for red mite routinely when you clean your chicken coop and use some preventative treatment to the coop. For example, you can use Diatomaceous earth as part of the weekly clean (DE is a 100% natural powder which dehydrates parasites it comes into contact with). All types of chicken coops can get red mite, however wooden coops tend to suffer from infestations the most.
Unfortunately red mites can survive for up to 10 months in an empty hen house, so leaving a coop empty for a while doesn’t usually fix the problem. Choosing your housing carefully can help prevent infestations. Omlet’s Eglu chicken coops are made from plastic which makes it very difficult for red mites to make a home. And in the event that there is a Red mite infestation, they are quick and easy to clean. A quick blast with a pressure washer should do the trick.
If you find lots of red mite in the coop, it’s time for a big clean up. The initial clean out will take a couple of hours for wooden coops, with a plastic coop it will take less time. Remove all birds from the house and strip the house down as much as possible. If you have a felt roof you will need to remove this and have your coop re-felted.
2) Mite disinfectant detergent
Mix a mite disinfectant detergent (such as Smite Professional Disinfectant 1 Litre Concentrate or Barrier Red Mite X 500ml Concentrate) with water (using the manufacturer’s guidelines). Apply this to the coop ensuring you get it in the cracks and crevices, concentrating where there are perch ends and concentrations of red mite. Leave for 15-20 minutes.
3) High pressure hose
Use a hose (preferably high pressure) to hose down the coop and the parts. Try to get in every nook and cranny as this is where the mites like to live. Leave for 10-15 minutes to dry. After this you will most probably see more mites, which have been disturbed, crawling out. Repeat this process until there are very few mites emerging after each wash.
Leave the house to thoroughly dry. It’s ideal to do the initial clean on a sunny day as the UV can kill some bacteria and will dry the house quicker. Put the coop back together and add bedding (dispose the old bedding in a plastic bag in a bin as the red mites will happily find somewhere else to live).
5) Red mite powder
Sprinkle the whole coop and your chickens with a red mite powder. Ensure you rub the powder onto the perches so any remaining mites will have to crawl through it to reach your chickens. Omlet stocks a large range of red mite powders and diatom powders to deal with red mite infestations.
6) Repeat red mite powder treatment
Re-apply the red mite powder every couple of days or when it has rubbed of. Red mite are only active during mild weather, so in the UK the red mite season usually falls between May and October. During the fall and winter, the mites become dormant and do not feed. But this doesn’t per se mean they are gone…
We have recently started working with the show Coop Dreams, providing them with a new setup of coops and runs for their farm. If you haven’t caught any of the episodes before we highly recommend that you check them out. Great source of knowledge if you’re thinking about keeping chickens and they also demonstrate problems and hurdles they come across in a funny and light hearted way, link is here.
In the meantime, we wanted to find out a bit more about where it all started and so Brad, the founder of Coop Dreams, has taken the time to explain to us, where and how this all began!
Soooooo… We are often asked when and how the TV show Coop Dreams started and that’s a tough question to answer because it has its initial roots way back in 1999 but really blossomed in 2014.
In 1999 I was fortunate to be asked to serve as the national spokesperson for the charity ‘Keep America Beautiful’ and speaking about conservation, recycling and reducing carbon footprints on a daily basis… That set the wheels in motion of recognizing the impact of the way we were living. Lots of changes happened over the next decade but fast forward to 2014 when we bought some land and actually began our homestead.
Not having a solid knowledge of homesteading we started searching for videos, books and blogs to help us learn… Admittedly I am NOT a ‘reader’ (Jackster is) and I do not process information well in that arena… So I began looking for videos and everything I saw had perfectly manicured lawns and flowers and incredible landscaping… Well that was pretty un-relateable and so we created a video series that would document our start for others… Showing the successes as well as the failures so people can connect… One thing led to another and pretty soon we were talking to the Discovery network about making it into a TV show… And here we are in the early parts of shooting season 4.
With that we have moved from the city to a 32 acre farm and built a barn and a small house. It has kind of exploded over these 4 years as we now have 3 dogs (2 rescues), 2 cats (That have walked out of the woods and adopted us), 3 horses, 4 goats and 36 chickens… Plus all of the deer, raccoons, foxes and other critters we share the land with.
Homesteading with Coop Dreams – If I was pressed as to why we do this and what we enjoy about it I think it would be the ‘honesty’ of it all. There is something very pure about raising your own food and caring for animals. Additionally there are no games with the animals we share our farm with. We love them and as long as we scratch backs and bring food – they love us. It is pure, honest and very comforting… I do not think I could go back to a life before this farm.
It doesn’t come without its challenges as with almost 50 animals we have to care for, someone is always sick or hurt… Something always need to be fixed or repaired… and there are NO days off. Additionally it is tough to lose an animal, painful to see any suffer and stressful to know when any are not ‘right’.
The other challenges come from being a part of the TV show. In being a true reality show we do not hide, script or cover anything up so our mistakes are out in the open for viewers and followers to judge, criticize and correct. We are grateful that the Coop Dreams community, which continues to grow, has been very understanding and helpful in both our challenging and tough times. I really think it is because it is so easy to see yourselves in us… We are not tv people, we are not perfect and we are certainly not experts… We are just a family that cares about their animals and are trying to live in a more compatible way with the environment.