Keeping hens has never been more popular, so here are five top tips to keep your feathered friends laying all summer
Tucking into a breakfast of freshly laid eggs from your own chickens is a pleasure many Brits enjoy, and lockdown has made keeping hens even more popular. According to research from specialist company ChickenGuard, an estimated 1.5m households now keep chickens as pets, up 200,000 in a year.
Although hens, if looked after correctly, can be relied upon to lay every day, there are a few important things to consider to make sure you have a steady supplies of eggs.
Here are five tips to keep your girls happy:
Daylight hours: The launch of British summertime generally increases egg production and more daylight equals more eggs. So if your coop is particularly dark, allow your hens access to pen runs for as long as you can in daylight hours.
Nutrition & Water: The right food is vitally important for the quality of your eggs as well as production, as too little protein, calcium and salt can stop hens laying. For instance, calcium is vital for the bones of your hen and the condition of the shell of her eggs, so using a limestone or oyster shell grit will help. Water is also vitally important. Many new pet owners may not realise, but hens can drink up to 500ml of water a day during hotter days. Make sure the water is kept cool, and in summer replace it three or four times a day.
Nest Boxes: In the coop, if you have three or more chickens, you will need a box for every three laying birds. The nest boxes should be dark and the chicken should be able to stand up and turn around quickly.
Age: Chickens only produce eggs until a certain age; usually around six or seven years old. There is no definitive way to know how old the hen is, so be patient with a hen if she stops laying. Maybe she has got to an age of retirement.
Safety and Fear: A happy hen is a laying hen. Many pet chickens will have been reared in built-up areas, so they are likely to be more acclimatised to the random noises around them. However, their safety is vital to reduce fear and ensure the hen is comfortable to lay. Ensure all runs are secured, be aware of local dogs or cats that could appear near the coop and scare the hens. Also, make sure you secure the coop at night. Many coops are surprisingly easy for a fox to circumvent, so installing an automatic coop door reduces the risk that the door is left open after dark.