Chicken Supplies: Nest Boxes and Feeders
Chicken Supplies Equipment
Apart from the house and run, nest-boxes, feeders and drinkers are the main items of equipment. They can be bought new or second-hand, or you can make them yourself.
A hen’s instinct is to lay its eggs in the darkest part of the house. By providing boxes under the windows, you will prevent the eggs being laid in the litter, where they would get broken or lost.
If it is difficult to find a dark spot, hang heavy cloth, with slits cut in it, over the front of the boxes.
Put the boxes on a stand 18 in. (455 mm.) above the floor, with an alighting perch a few inches in front of the nests.
For six birds provide two nest-boxes, each measuring about 12 in. (305 mm.) wide, 15 in. (380 mm.) from front to back and 14 in. (355 mm.) high.
Fasten a 21 in. (65 mm.) batten along the front to prevent the eggs rolling out.
Twelve birds will need three boxes of this size. Eggs may be broken if the pullets have insufficient nesting space.
Since feed accounts for 75% of the cost of producing an egg, wastage must be kept to a minimum. The best means of doing so is to provide your birds with the correct feeder.
An old washing-up bowl, for example, is not suitable. The hens will clamber into it and scatter the feed over the run.
There are several types of feeder available, and though you can make a suitable trough it will cost very little more to buy one. The feeder should be large enough to accommodate all your birds at the same time.
To calculate this, multiply the number of pullets by 4 in. (100 mm.) if you are providing a rectangular feeding trough. Thus, six pullets would need a double-sided trough at least 12 in. (305 mm.) long.
Rather less space is needed for tubular feeders.
Depending on design, feeders should be suspended or mounted at a level about 1 in. (25 mm.) above that of the birds’ backs. This will cause them to stretch up to obtain their food, helping to reduce the amount of scattering.
If you are installing the trough type of feeder, buy or make one large enough to hold a day’s feed for your birds without being more than a quarter full. The rim of the trough should be turned inwards for 4 in. (12 mm.) to provide an anti-waste lip.
This is not nearly so critical as the feeder. In fact, a bucket with a brick at the bottom to prevent overturning is quite adequate, though there are both fount and trough vessels on the market.
Whatever type is used, wash and refill it with fresh water daily, allowing about 4 pints (2L) for six pullets. The water should be cool, so place it where it will be out of direct sunlight.
A valuable, but not essential, refinement is that of providing electric lighting to increase the output of eggs in winter. Starting with about three-quarters of an hour each evening in late September, increase this gradually to provide a 14 hour ‘day’ in midwinter.
Lighting ensures that pullets lay to their full potential. Without it, you will probably lose up to 60 eggs from each pullet during the winter, and this loss will be only partly made up during the following spring.
Some rearers or agents offer a beginner’s kit consisting of a house with perch and nest-box, run, feeder and drinking vessel, together with the number of pullets appropriate to the size of the house. For the newcomer, this is worth considering — especially as the price should be lower than when buying the items separately.