Free-range poultry houses
developed systematically (I
was fascinated by an old b/w
film being shown on a ‘loop’
and watched it three times
through!). At one time, when
chickens were not much more
than an incidental, they might
be housed in the loft of an
animal barn, and gain exit and entrance via a precarious-looking ramp running down the side of a
building. However, as the years progressed, poultry houses peculiar to the area were developed.
These houses were bright and airy.
Ventilation is a prerequisite in any
chicken shed and they were,
typically, some 3.5m high at their
apex. Plentiful windows situated
along their fronts could be opened
and closed depending on the weather
conditions and, in some cases, were
further enhanced by the addition of
an open-fronted, roof-cover
sun-lounge’ in which birds were able
to dust-bathe and feed in inclement
weather. The hardiest and bravest,
did, however, always have the option
to take their exercise outdoors and
peck and scratch about as nature
Perfect and practical
Despite having been brought up with chickens kept by my grandfather in similar conditions in the
UK, I had almost forgotten about the ‘incidentals’ associated with successful free-range poultry-
keeping. Here I was reminded of the little ‘tricks of the trade’. For example, dropping-boards set
under the perches keep the floor litter clean and are far easier to scrape off as part of the daily chore
rather than, as one might otherwise need to do, rake through periodically and remove.
Wooden feed troughs (not the easiest to keep clean and hygienic, but in common usage at the time)
were prevented from becoming full of faeces by the simple addition of a ‘roller-bar’to thwart birds
from scratching in the food and perching on the sides.
Open drinkers were (and still can be) kept clean by placing them on a frame set on legs just a short
distance above the floor, around which are set rails or solid boards on which birds can stand to
drink. As everyone who keeps chickens knows, a drinker set on the floor will soon become full of
scratched litter – and this easily-made addition to the house ‘furniture’ also has the added benefit of
keeping birds active and occupied.
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At the museum, there is a
renovated poultry house
typical of the area
A part of a poultry house as
it might have looked in use