Is my enclosure suitable for my hen to hatch chicks in?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by misspinklady, Apr 22, 2017.

  1. misspinklady

    misspinklady Just Hatched

    Apr 22, 2017

    I am here asking about my hen, Lady, and her raising some chicks.

    This is my situation: I live in Northumberland, England, I have 3 hens and they live in my back garden, in a coop and run designed and built by my older brother. Although it is very sturdy and has deep concrete foundations, we have had problems with rats in the past- digging into the coop for their food. They have also managed to work out how to use our tredal feeder, so we have no solution to the problem except poison outside the coop. Luckily, they have never tried to go for eggs. I let my hens out regularly whilst I watch them: unfortunately I can't have them free range due to foxes (and the rat poison).

    My 3 hens are my pets, and are very tame. There is Molly and Ginny, both roughly 1 year old, I have had them since they were 7 weeks old and handled them a lot. The 3rd is Lady- I have had her a year and a half but I have no idea how old she is: her last owners didn't know. She was not tame at all when I first got her, but is now almost as tame as Molly and Ginny.

    Last year, at about this time, Lady went broody for a good few weeks, Caught off guard, I didn't really know what to do. This year, she has done exactly the same eggs and the other day I found 15 eggs under her after coming back from holiday to find her broody (our hens, although we only have 3, are very good layers).

    I have been thinking about raising some chicks for a while now, wondering about incubators etc. but this was a perfect opportunity! I felt so bad last year, letting lady sit there day after day, when inevitably, nothing would come out of it for her.

    So after doing a bit of research, I went online and have ordered 6 mixed breed eggs (looking forward to surprises) from a recommended website. They are due to arrive on Tuesday, and I am like the mother hen myself, trying to prepare for them.

    When I first got Molly and Ginny they were only young - still with a little bit of baby fluff - so my dad and I made a very small enclosure. Completely rat and predator proof, we named it the 'Mini Cooper' (my dad loves his minis). It just has a little nesting box on one end. Nothing elaborate, but it did the job whilst Molly and Ginny were only little.

    Now, the mini cooper has come out of redundancy and I have decided to use it for Lady, whilst she is brooding over her eggs.

    Here is the large run, with the mini cooper next to it:

    Here is the 'Mini Cooper' with Lady inside it.
    [​IMG][​IMG] [​IMG]

    Basically my questions are:

    Is this little enclosure suitable for Lady to sit on her fertile eggs, and is there anything I can do to it to make it better?

    When the chicks do hatch (if they work), is this enough room for them, and how long will it be until they need a bigger area?

    What do I feed Lady whilst she is broody? She is normally on layers' pellets, but obviously she is not currently laying. Is this a problem? Currently I am feeding her a mix of corn and layers' pellets.

    Whilst Lady is in the nesting box, should I put a bit of wood over the door of the nesting box at night? I am not currently as I imagine it would feel very chlaustrophobic in there. Plus there is no vent. but what about when the chicks arrive?

    What sort of area should I keep Lady and her chicks in once they are older/ when can I let them live with Molly and Ginny? (bearing in mind the rats).

    Also, on another note: Any tips for getting rid of these rats?

    Thank you in advance, and I look forward to hearing back from you!

    Rosie x
    VHoff likes this.
  2. PD-Riverman

    PD-Riverman Overrun With Chickens

    Jan 14, 2012
    Conway SC
    Youe enclosure will be fine if you will place a piece of tin or something water proof on the top. It looks real similar to one of my 4 stall broody pens. I have set/hatched over 100 broodies in it. Each stall is 4ft long x 2ft wide with the broody box outside of that. I let her hatch in it and raise the chicks for a few weeks before I separate and move her back to the flock.

    Edited to add. You do not need to block her or the chicks. You will need a ramp, bricks, piece of wood so the chicks can get back into the nest when needed---if not they will be dead the next morning. I use 1/2" hardware cloth all the way around mine and if I had rats tunneling up through the bottom I would either put hardware cloth across the bottom or set the whole deal on pavers.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2017
    VHoff likes this.
  3. boskelli1571

    boskelli1571 Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 7, 2011
    Finger Lakes, NY
    Hi there and welcome! I'll take one question at a time - yes, the mini-coop nest box is plenty big enough for her.Why do you want to block the nest box at night?? Does the coop have a wire base? If not rats will be a problem. They can and will eat chicks....
    The coop should be big enough for a few weeks, not much longer - they grow like weeds.
    Diet - get rid of the corn, very little nutritional value, you can up her feed to 18%, make sure she has lots of water. She likely will only eat a couple of times/day while broody. Being broody takes a hard toll on a hens' body. Continue with the 18% for several weeks after she has hatched.
    Since the mini coop is small can you place it inside the big coop (or very close to) for the introduction period? In my experience, chicks with a broody Mum are usually fairly safe from flock mates - no-one wants to tick off a broody!
    Rats.....where are they coming from? If you can find the source it would help. Failing that, place 1/2 inch hardware cloth over the floor and extend up the wall about 6 inches. Fix in place. If you have any other holes or access points they will need to be closed up too. Check the coop inside and out for any signs of digging/gnawing.
    In the past when I have found rat holes into the ground, I will place the poison in the hole, fill with stones and dirt. That way they eat the poison while 'digging out'. If you put out covered bait stations, be patient - rats are neophobes and won't go near anything new, so leave in place for a good amount of time. Get a cat??

    Hope this helps a bit and good luck with your hatching project! [​IMG]
    VHoff likes this.
  4. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

    Nov 7, 2012
  5. misspinklady

    misspinklady Just Hatched

    Apr 22, 2017
    [​IMG]Thank you for all your replies - they are very helpful.

    Yes, the cooper has a wire mesh floor. I was just wondering if I should block them in at night because we close up the big coop at night.. seems like a daft idea to me now though haha
    Yes the coop does just fit through the door to the big coop, so I could put it inside for the introduction.
    That rat poison in the hole seems like a good idea! Thank you!

    Thank you, I have added a ramp so they can get back in now. Your little broody pens are similar to mine so that gives me hope :)

    The nest box is 12" deep and i'll put a bit more bedding in it. I hadn't thought about mites, but i'll make sure to do that.
    I had a friend who recently ordered eggs from this website and 5 out of 6 hatched - however, yes, if needs be there is a place I can get day-old chicks, about an hour from us.
    You are right about the size of our coop: I am only planning to keep one or two and give the rest away to a friend. I will build a temporary extension on the run until then.

    Thanks again!

    Rosie x
    boskelli1571 and VHoff like this.

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