Accessories in the Hen House – Bedding, Feed and Lighting

A fully equipped hen house from the inside, with laying nests, water and feed troughs, chicken ladder and poles.
With a well-equipped hen house, chickens don't lack anything.

Feeding and Drinking Place in the Hen House

For the feeding of the chickens a feeding place must be furnished outside and inside, since the animals must remain in the barn in bad weather and be fed there, too. It should be ensured that the feeding area outside is covered. If the food is simply scattered in a dry place, care must be taken that everything is eaten so that no mice and rats are attracted by the remaining feed.

Chickens must have access to food and water at all times!
  • Ideally, the feeding and drinking area should be covered.
  • Food can also be spread on the ground in dry places, but only enough to be completely eaten by the chickens to avoid attracting mice and rats.
  • The minimum dimensions per hen for drinking bowls:
    Water trough lengthwise: water trough width per laying hen at least about 3 cm.
Water trough round:
 water trough width per laying hen at least about 2 cm.
  • The minimum dimensions per chicken for feeding troughs:
    Feeding trough lengthwise: feeding trough width per laying hen at least approx. 16 cm
    Round Feeding trough: feeding trough width per laying hen at least approx. 5 cm.

(Source: Book “Keep chickens – species-appropriate and natural”)

The feed and drinking vessels of the chickens must be placed in the barn so that the chickens can easily reach them. Furthermore, they must be placed draught-free and not too close to the entrance area, so you don’t trip over it when you enter. Also the chickens should not dig in bedding and feces. It is best to place the feeding trough and the water trough slightly raised or even hang them up. This prevents feed from getting wet due to splashed water and from softening or possibly getting mouldy.

Chicken inside the hen house while eating.
Clean drinking and feeding places are very important.

A simple wooden trough with a feeding mesh, which can be opened, is completely sufficient for the feed. If you are technically skilled, you can also build the trough yourself. To prevent the chickens from sitting on it or from scuffing out feed, it is advisable to install rotating wooden slats on all sides. It should be noted that the amount eaten by a large breed hen is 120 g of dry food per day. Therefore, the capacity of the feed trough must be designed according to the number of chickens. In principle, only flawless, in no case mouldy, fermented or otherwise spoiled, chicken feed is to be fed. These things belong in the garbage and by no means in the food bowl of your chickens. If sour milk is used to feed chickens, do not use a trough made of galvanized sheet metal. The acid of the milk attacks the sheet metal and toxic water-soluble zinc compounds are formed, which impair the health of the chickens.

With the food itself, you have to decide whether to give complete or supplementary food. The complete food contains all components for a balanced chicken diet. With supplementary food, however, one has to think about a balanced diet. What does the food bag contain and what else do I need to feed in addition? In most cases it is grain.
The feed bag should indicate the mixing ratio.

Stone or plastic vessels are equally suitable for water. Also drinking troughs made of hot-dip galvanised or enamelled sheet metal. Unsuitable containers are tin cans, margarine cups and tin plates. These vessels are too light and are quickly overturned by the chickens. This results in puddles of water contaminated by faeces. This must be avoided for the health of the chickens in any case.

A self-made base made of concrete or other material can stabilize the drinking trough. If your chickens knock over the trough, try a raise.

The water must always be fresh. There are also watering troughs where fresh water flows in at any time. 10 hens need about 2 litres of water per day. With 20 hens, it’s already 5 liters.

A hen and a cock running around in the grass.
Chickens love to be out in the countryside.

The Green Fodder, Juice Fodder or Roughage

Depending on the size of the chicken herd it can happen that the green fodder in the garden is no longer sufficient. And in winter there is little or no green fodder available. Then green fodder like leaves of green or brussels sprouts, leek and red and white cabbage should be offered in the hen house. It is also possible to feed hardy lettuce varieties.

Also the leaves of dandelion, chickweed, clover or turnips are often eaten.
Small chopped carrots can, too, contribute to the health of the animals.

It is best to fill the green fodder into a rack, which is fixed to the wall and not scattered directly onto the stable floor. A wire basket, which is attached to the ceiling and hangs so far down that the chickens can eat without stretching too much, is also suitable.

If you feed turnips, you can impaled them on nails or sticks – but be careful that no one can get injured passing by.

The Grit in the Hen House

Hens love finely chopped straw for picking.
For chickens finely chopped straw is ideal for picking.

All grain eaters, including chickens, need small stones for digestion. These sharp-edged pebbles, quartz or limestones are called grit. If this grit is mixed with some charcoal, it additionally helps against diarrhoea and other digestive disorders. Added lime helps the formation of the eggshells and contributes to bone formation.

If you build a grit box yourself, you should divide it into three compartments. The above mentioned additives are filled into each of these compartments. The chickens then pick up what they need.

The Litter in the Hen House

Every chicken wants to scrape and peck. It’s congenital behavior. Therefore, when setting up a hen house and enclosure, possibilities for this must always be created. Outdoors, in the chicken run, the chickens always have the opportunity to scratch and forage. If, however, they cannot go outside due to the weather, then it should also be possible to flock in the stable or in the attached winter garden. 
To do this, the floor must be covered with bedding. The bedding should consist of short cut rye or wheat straw and ecologically sound wood chips. Peat should not be used, on the one hand for nature conservation reasons, and on the other hand because it is very dusty. However, peat substitutes are available from specialist retailers.

Sawdust (only chemically untreated wood), peat substitutes, cereal straw, ground corn cobs, leaves, ferns, hay flowers and chopped hay are also suitable. The litter should not be too dry and not too moist but should disintegrate finely (no lumps should form in the hand). The bedding layer should be about 10-15 cm high. If additionally a few grains are scattered, then the chickens can scratch and peck to their heart’s content.

Artificial Lighting in the Hen House

Hen is walking up the ladder into the red hen house.
Enough light should also be provided in the henhouse.

If special importance is attached to the laying performance of the chickens, one should adhere recommendations regard the lighting. 3 watts are required per square metre of stable floor space. Perches and stable floor must be evenly illuminated. Fluorescent tubes are well suited and consume less energy. These must be suspended at a height of 1.8-2 m but not lower than 1.5 m. The animals should receive a total of 13 to 14 hours of light a day (natural and artificial light together). Morning lighting is most suitable for the animals. However, it should be noted that the lighting always should take place at the same time. Automatic control is therefore a good idea.

But those who do not attach too much importance to an increased laying performance of the chickens should not interfere in their biorhythm and leave it to the chickens when they want to get up in the morning and go to bed in the evening.

This is what the conventional, commercially available trough for chickens look like. One version in plastic and the luxury version in metal. Of course, you can also build your own water trough. It is always important that the trough cannot fall over. And please renew the water regularly to prevent contamination and diseases.

And here are two versions of a feeding trough for chickens. Of course, this can also be built by yourself. Please always consider the number of chickens. With a large herd, it is better to buy one or two more feeding troughs.

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