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In today’s economic climate many people are turning to chicken keeping as a way to save money and move towards a more self-sufficient way of life. However, chicken coops and hen houses have become expensive, and it can be difficult to see how money can be saved when faced with the initial investment. However, there is a solution. By using some garden junk and a little imagination you can create a perfectly comfortable coop and have your hens laying in no time.
Create a frame using lengths of scrap wood, making sure that your coop is big enough for the number of hens you want to keep (current recommendations are four square feet per hen). Lay old fertiliser or compost bags over this frame and cover with a layer of inexpensive chicken wire to secure. Don’t forget to leave flaps for the chickens to get in and out, and for you to collect the eggs. This can be done by weighing down the opening sections with heavy battens and securing with a simple wooden peg.
Inside, create a wooden perch from a round pole (an old broom handle is perfect), and secure eighteen inches from the ground. There should be at least twelve inches of perch per hen.
Nest boxes can be made out of anything large enough to comfortably accommodate a hen. You will need one nest box per three hens. Old dresser drawers, buckets and pet carriers are perfect. Cardboard boxes can be used, but must be replaced regularly to avoid rot and insect infestation.
Access to the outdoors is essential to keep your hens healthy and happy. The cheapest option is to free-range them, but if you are proud of your flower beds or worried about predators, a run can be a good choice. A strong frame of wood off-cuts covered with chicken wire can be assembled quickly and cheaply. You may want to secure it to the ark, or create a door for easier access. There is no need to buy expensive hinges and hooks to do this - some tough garden twine will do the job.
Fertiliser bags can be used to create shade for your hens. Just lay them over a section of the run and secure with clothes pegs. You can then alter, move or remove the shade depending on the weather.
A feeder can be made from any large container. Just punch holes or slots at the bottom for the food to come out. A larger base will be needed to catch the food. Hang the whole thing six inches from the ground.
By now your hens will have shelter, warmth, food and fresh air, and should be happily laying plenty of eggs. You can add extras such as dust baths, broody coops, or even a ‘thatch’ roof made from thin tree branches - the choice is yours. As you discover the joy of chicken keeping, you may end up wanting to provide your hens with more sophisticated lodgings. But until that time arrives, your hens will be perfectly happy in their homemade house.