Good housing is absolutely essential to keeping your hens secure and healthy. The house you choose should be substantial enough to withstand all weathers and particularly protect them against predators. Preferably choose one that does not sit on the ground as this can not only lead to damp, cold conditions inside the house, which is not healthy for the hens, but is also a wonderful place for rats and mice to make their homes and live undisturbed.

The henhouse should be considered an investment that will protect your birds and make life easy for you to look after them. Convention says you should allow 1 sq ft of floor area per bird in a house, you may allow more in yours if space is not an issue to you. It should have a large access door for you to be able to clean it. The Nest Boxes should be low down and in the darkest place of the house so that the hens can lay in privacy and undisturbed. Perches should be higher than the nest boxes, removable for cleaning, approx. 2 inches square and allowing at least 7 - 8in of perch space per bird. Good ventilation is also important to prevent respiratory diseases.

To keep the hens secure from foxes, badgers, mink or any other predators, a secure run area should be a consideration. This can be either a wired run attached to the house, a dedicated fenced run area with the house inside or an electric poultry net which will keep them secure and give them plenty of space. A large non-electrified fence needs to be dug in at the base and at least 6ft tall, Electric Poultry Netting is about 3ft 6in tall and is brilliant - no digging it in (a fox cannot dig under it without getting a shock) and it doesn't look like a prison camp, it can be moved when necessary and you can make the pen any shape you want.

You should consider, when choosing a site for the house, how to offer some natural protection for the hens from the sun, wind and rain. A good idea is to plant small trees in the pen to provide some shade (not bushes as they may be encouraged to lay under them), or place the house so they can shelter in the lee. For the very worst cold winter weather it may be an idea to keep the hens inside with food and water.

Keeping the house clean need not be a chore with the right house. We recommend using newspaper or old feed sacks on the base of the house and then a light layer of wood shavings or straw (not hay as it will encourage mould spores and lead to disease). This will then be easy to scoop out and replace regularly. Weekly cleaning is preferable depending on the number of hens and the weather, and once a month a clean with disinfectant and a good scrape. 

Nice thick layers of wood shavings are good for the nest boxes and should be kept clean for clean eggs. Always sprinkle Louse Powder and/or Diatom Powder into the nest box bedding to make sure the birds get a regular covering which helps to prevent lice.

We would always recommend timber housing and there are very good reasons for this. Timber will move and breathe with the seasons and therefore provide a healthy atmosphere for the birds with the correct ventilation. It will not be damp with condensation every time the temperature changes and will not suffocate them in summer or freeze them in winter. 

With good hygiene practice there is no reason why timber houses should be more susceptible to mites and disease than any other type. There are plenty of purpose made products on the market for cleaning to make sure your house won't breed diseases e.g. Poultry Shield Red Mite Eradicator, Stalosan F Disinfectant. Make sure you wash hands thoroughly or wear gloves when cleaning the house and handling the birds to treat them