Hens are a great introduction to any garden. They create athmosphere with their clucking and cockcoodowdledooing. Like pets they all have their different characters and are great for kids. They love the left overs from the family table and act as re-cyclers directly back to your plate in the form of delicious healthy eggs. Hens are relatively easy to maintain, and provide food in return for their lodgings. The henhouses vary in size from small mobile ones on wheels suitable for 3-6 lodgers to the larger immobile ones housing up to 16. The coops with wheels are ideal for small gardens and can be moved around onto fresh grass as the need arises, the immobile ones need bigger gardens.
The hen house I am about to describe was for a client who we had done landscaping work for previously. I will go into detail about the construction for DIY enthusiasts or give me a ring and I can organise one for any need. The design I came up with was for a re-cycled shed I saved from an old landscaping job to be connected to a double hen run. The double hen run would allow rotation for drying out and re-cuperation of grass sward.
The floor of the 6×4 shed was laid on blocks 16” above the ground and connected in each corner to 4×4 posts set into concrete. The shed is placed this high to add to the run and provide shelter. To change the shed into a hen house we started by removing the mineral felt from the roof and replacing it with polyester felt. Polyester felt is durable and unrippable, its expensive but will insure longevity. The holes for the nesting boxes were cut out on each side of the shed.
The holes must be at least 12” above the floor of the shed for the hens to be happy. The nesting boxes were created using ½ “ marine ply.
The top of the boxes were felted make sure the felt was turned back under the shed panel to insure no moisture entering. Hens like dryness if moisture gets in, the box it will not be used.
The door was placed onto the box with hinges including a bolt and housing for safe closing. The door will allow access to the eggs without disturbing the coop. Each nesting box had a height of 20”, width of 16” and depth of 18”. The perches were installed using 2” dowling. Two perches were installed side by side for access into the nesting boxes. They were placed 6” apart and 2” below the level. Two higher perches were then installed, one at 4” and one at 5”. The two higher perches must be at different levels.
Two holes were then cut out of the back section of the shed, these were for the trapdoors leading out into each run. The holes were 24” high and 18” wide. Each door was connected to builders twine through a pully to allow opening and closing of trapdoors while outside the run. Leading from the trapdoors to ground level were two ramps with grips for easy access.
The framing for the runs were then installed using varying sizes of pressure treated Scandinavian Spruce. Spruce is about the best of the softwoods and should be used where possible to insure longevity. The frame was then painted twice with Sadolins preservative. Again use a good preservative, Sadolins or Bondex being the best.
The two coats will give a gap of 5 years before next painting which will be made difficult due to the chicken wire covering. The two runs were 8’ wide and 32’ long. The chicken wire was connected to the frame using galvanised wire nails.
As foxes and mink are a problem in Glencree 24”x24” concrete slabs were laid around the perimeter of the run to stop intruders burrowing in.
On completion of the henhouse 14 hens and 1 cock were introduced to their new home and to this day are very happy. The eggs are collected every morning and the kids love when feeding times arrive. All left over vegetables, potato skins etc are now used rather then dumped. The free range eggs produced are very tasty and provide a surplus for extended family, friends and neighbours.