DISCLAIMER: This is our usual husbandry advice but, as Defra has imposed an Avian Flu Prevention Zone requiring all birds to be housed or kept undercover until 28 February, please see our Avian Flu page for additional husbandry guidance.
Hen-keeping is incredibly rewarding and life-enriching! We want you to enjoy your hens, and to be flock wise, so here are some basic tips on keeping your hens happy and healthy.
- Commitment to daily care – hens are sentient creatures and therefore need commitment before you even think about keeping some.
- Secure accommodation – Wood or plastic? No matter which you choose the most important thing is that your hen house is protected against attacks from predators such as foxes and badgers. A sturdy hen house is best and will also need a nest box and perch.
- Daytime access to fresh water and food – an average-sized adult hen will need 100–120g of feed per day and feed can either be given in a rationed amount daily, or via a feeder that is large enough for several days’ feed. We recommend feeding birds within the hen house, but if you need to feed outside, put down just enough food that your hens will eat to help avoid the wild birds tucking in. Fresh water should be put down each morning and topped up as necessary.
- Daily coop clean – Don some rubber gloves and pick up droppings and patches of wet bedding on a daily basis.
- Weekly coop clean – A thorough clean should be undertaken weekly, including sweeping out bedding, and using a paint scraper to remove floor debris. A fresh layer of bedding such as Dengie Fresh Bed will make your coop cosy again.
- Good hygiene – Make sure your coop is cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis with a product such as Bio VX or Poultry Shield; this can be used monthly.
- Prevent wild birds and vermin stealing poultry food – if your hens’ feeder is in an exposed run it is essential there is adequate cover to protect the feed from rain and steps are taken to discourage wild birds from stealing the grain, such as rationing feed and cleaning up spillage regularly.
- Routine health care such as regular worming and treatment for parasites – routine worming should be carried out three or four times a year using a licenced product such as Flubenvet. Also regularly check your hens and their coop for external parasites such as red mite.
The most important piece of advice we can give you is to spend a bit of time watching your girls each day (it’s very therapeutic!) and you’ll quickly learn their normal behaviour and how to spot if one or more is out of sorts. Maintain good husbandry, and be flock wise.
All commercial hens are vaccinated against the following diseases:
- Gumboro disease
- Infectious bronchitis of various strains
- Newcastle disease
- Infectious Laryngio Tracheitis
- Egg drop syndrome
- Avian Rhinotracheitis
- Sometimes Pasturella and E. Coli
However, Avian Flu does not have a vaccine and therefore you should be aware of what to do in the event of an outbreak in your area. Please see our advice on Avian Flu here or below.
We also recommend all flocks, small and large, are registered with Defra. Registration will give you valuable information on what to do in the unlikely event of a notifiable disease outbreak. Click here to register.