Thinking about getting chickens- what do you think of this setup?

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Nicki85

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After getting my allotment this year I do not really need the two raised beds that I built in the garden.  I was thinking that I could get a hen house and fence in one of the raised beds with chicken wire and get three or four bantams.
So here is the possible set up...

Chicken house (like this http://www.theonlinepetstore.co.uk/prod_show.asp?prodid=2470&ref=blaircpc&gclid=CMa4xbmzzKcCFUEa4Qod3R0vCg ) (probably the second one 802 model- L880 x H770 x D900 mm.)
Sat next to a raised bed which is 2mx1m (half a foot above the ground...) which is currently just soil.
Then all fenced round up to about 5ft using chicken wire.

Questions...
Would the chickens be OK running around on soil or do I need to put bark down or something else?
Would a 5m fence without a top keep the chickens in?
Does 3-4 bantams sound too many for this set up?
How could I provide shade in this set up?  Would netting over half of the run provide enough shade or is the house enough?
I'd like to let them out into the garden when we are in.  We live next to a forest so lots of trees in/ on the boundary of the garden but there is a secure 5/6ft fence all the way round.  Are the chickens likley to jump on the trees and out?  Also will they ruin the garden?

Lastly, is it easy to build a house like the one in the link?  Or does anyone know of any similar that are cheaper?

Thanks in advance, just need to figure out the logistics of it all before rushing in! :wacko:


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Casey76

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Hi Nicki :)

I would ask the manufacturers for photos of the inside of the coop so you can see the internal arrangements - roosting bars nest boxes etc.  Otherwise it look quite well built - though the pop hole is not suitable for an auto opener if you decided to get on in the future.

A 5' fence *may* keep hens in, but bantams tend to be good fliers due to their lower body mass in comparison to wing span.  Certainly a 5' fence wouldn't keep a fox out, so you would have to think about increasing the height if the fence and bending the last foot or so out at an angle so the fox cant climb all the way to the top.

Thirdly the run space you are suggesting (2m) is insufficient for even 2 bantams.  DEFRA states that birds should have at least 1m each; however if they are going to be in a fixed runn then you really ned to give them as much space as possibel, 2 or 3m each is not unreasonable.  And this is separate to the space you need for feeders and drinkers, and other "enrichments" (i.e. dust bath, perches, space to hang up a cabbage etc).

If you can make a bigger space from them (and for 4 bantams I would recommend no less than 8m in a fixed run) then shade could be provided with a tarp, or "enviromesh"/debris netting if it didn't have to be water proof, or Onduline or coroline would be a more permanent solution.

If you have "launching pads" then certainly your chickens could escape into the forest.  I used to regularly have 9 birds almost 20 feet up my apple tree until I removed the "stepping stones."

In answer to your questions "Also will they ruin the garden?" the short answer is YES!  They will love removing amy mulch you have on borders, they will dig up your bedding plants and bulbs.  They will scratch up your lawn and poo all over your terrace/porch.  generally if your hans have access to the garden a lot of the time, in winter it will become a mud pit - I speak from experience.  I now have a large pen which is only for the chickens, that way I have my nice "front" garden, and the chooks have their own space at the back, which currently looks like a moonscape, but they are happy in theri space lol.

Well done for thinking about everything first, though.  It is a very sensible decision.  I can heartily recommend the Haynes Chicken Manual as a great place to start (I have no affiliation with the publication - I just rate it as an excellent book for beginners)


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joyfull

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as a follow on to Caseys points can I just add that chicken wire is not fox proof - you really need welded wire mesh and this needs to be either dug into the ground by at least 8 inches or bent a right angles and pegged down to prevent foxes digging their way in.
Staffies are softer than you think.

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Nicki85

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Thanks so far :)

Would I be better off getting a chicken house with run attached then?  That way I know how many chickens they are designed for and that is should be fox proof... Like an iglu or something?

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joyfull

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manufacturers always over estimate the amount of chickens a run can be used for - my first coop was an eBay purchase and besides falling apart within 2 years it said it was for 4-6 birds the only birds this run was big enough for 4-6 was if they were quails - it only just met Defra's minimum for 1 chicken  :(. The Eglu run is fox proof but again only reaches the minimum size run for 2 chickens although you can buy 1 meter extensions for it. If you are keeping them in a fixed place you would be better building a large run to enclose the eglu, however if you can move your setup every few days then the eglu run with an extension would be just fine and dandy for 3 chickens or 4 very little banties such as Sabelpoots or Belgium's  :D

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Nicki85

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Hmmm, I see.  Maybe I'd be best of enclosing all my raised beds (just over 2MX2M) so that should be enough room for three to four bantams.  Is that right?!  I was trying to keep one of them to grow carrots in but I could give them a go down the lottie instead I guess!

They will go out in the garden as well (about an 1/8 of an acre) but as it has lots of trees, wooden structures, a pond and lots of plants.. oh and coupled with the fact that we live next to a forest (thinking foxes) I want to be around so I can check on them!  I'd want to let them out for an hour everyday in to the garden at least to have a proper run round.

Does that sound OK to everyone?  There is a chicken breeder just down the road from us so I think I will pop in and have a chat with them as well.



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