Smooth wooden floors are the an­swer, and there’s one type that’s best of all.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Your Poultry - Source: www.thinkveg­eta­

A hen’s body tem­per­a­ture is around 40-41°C and they pre­fer a tem­per­a­ture of around 21°C – the chicken orig­i­nated in the jun­gles of Asia so they do like it fairly warm com­pared to live­stock. to. The dis­ad­van­tages are a dirt floor can quickly be­come un­pleas­ant when cov­ered in fae­ces, and muddy when there is rain or spilt wa­ter. It can also har­bour all types of bac­te­ria, moulds and par­a­sites which can be a ma­jor source of in­fec­tion for young chicks or newly-in­tro­duced birds. Even if you cover the dirt with lit­ter of some sort, your flock will soon scratch it away down to the earth for dust bathing or search­ing for spilt food.

If the coop is per­ma­nently sited with a dirt floor it may be dif­fi­cult to clean out with­out re­mov­ing some top­soil, and ro­dents can also eas­ily bur­row un­der from out­side. It is im­pos­si­ble to dis­in­fect an earthen floor in case of a disease out­break like coccidiosis.

Smooth wooden floors may be the an­swer for most coops. Marine ply­woood is ideal as it is damp and rot-re­sis­tant, but other ply­wood prod­ucts coated in var­nish or a sim­i­lar type of wa­ter re­pel­lent can work. • The best lit­ter for the floor is any­thing dry, ab­sorbent, eas­ily turned over to aer­ate, and easy to clean out. • The best lit­ter sys­tem for a big­gish coop for ease of man­age­ment is the ‘deep lit­ter’ sys­tem, a thick layer of (prefer­ably) wood shav­ings which can ab­sorb the mois­ture from fresh drop­pings, es­pe­cially un­der the perch lines. • Do not al­low drinkers to be spilt or leak onto the floor. • Turn the lit­ter reg­u­larly at the start to en­sure it mixes the fresh drop­pings or get the birds to do it by scat­ter­ing their evening grain ra­tion on the floor. The prin­ci­ple is to get the lit­ter to heat up and act like a com­post heap, with ‘good’ bac­te­ria break­ing down the new ad­di­tions of drop­pings.

Man­aged prop­erly, this sys­tem can re­duce a thor­ough clean-out to an an­nual job, and you will have a lovely, well-de­com­posed com­post/fer­tiliser for your gar­den.

This in­cludes perches, nests, feed­ers and drinkers.

Perches are not es­sen­tial and many com­mer­cial coops do not have perches in­stalled, but they are use­ful for a cou­ple of rea­sons: • they en­cour­age the birds to jump up to find a safe nest­ing place; • they en­able the more timid birds to have a safety spot; • they raise birds up from ground level where they are vul­ner­a­ble to rats, hedge­hogs and stoats.

The perch it­self should be flat with rounded edges and wide enough to sup­port the birds’ feet, with the toes flat from the back toe to the first joint of the cen­tre toe, which in turn sup­ports its body­weight com­fort­ably. A perch where the birds toes curl round un­der­neath and is only just wide enough for the cen­tre of the foot is too nar­row.

Al­low 10-15cm of perch space per bird, and place the perches higher than the nests to en­cour­age birds to go higher, or you may find they will sleep in – and dirty – their nest­ing boxes. Have the high­est perch rea­son­ably close to the roof; that’s where your roost­ers will perch and it may dis­cour­age the early morn­ing ser­e­nade be­cause they need to stand up at full height to crow. If the perch is close enough to the roof, they can’t stretch up and out prop­erly.

A ‘cur­tain’ made from strips of feed sacks or old tyre in­ner tubes, tacked across the en­trance to darken nest boxes, may help pre­vent vent peck­ing by oth­ers when a bird is lay­ing. How­ever, don’t add any kind of ‘cur­tain’ un­til af­ter young birds have es­tab­lished where to lay.

If you’re not into mak­ing your own nest boxes, you can buy ones with an easyto-clean plas­tic in­sert that al­lows an egg to roll away, keep­ing the egg clean and pro­tected un­til you can col­lect it, an ideal so­lu­tion if you have egg eat­ing hens.

If you find birds ini­tially lay on the floor in­stead of in nest boxes, lower the nests to floor level if pos­si­ble, or work to make sure the birds can more eas­ily ac­cess the nests. A perch set out from the nest boxes makes it easy for a bird to walk along and de­cide which one to use. You may have to block off a favourite cor­ner of the coop if all your hens in­sist on lay­ing there, or place a box there and grad­u­ally move it to where you pre­fer them to lay.

A broody cage built into the cor­ner of the coop, with an airy mesh or wire floor, to­gether with a food and wa­ter source is another good idea, or leave a space to hang a suit­able cage (like an pos­sum trap) so a hen can still be with her friends, but

Shred­ded kale with sul­tanas and al­monds

Kale should have a fresh colour with moist, crisp, un­wilted leaves. Re­move any thick stems on the kale be­fore you start cook­ing as they can be a lit­tle tough. Kale can be sub­sti­tuted for cab­bage or spinach and makes a great dish when sautéed with gar­lic, a lit­tle soy and a sprin­kling of chopped roasted nuts. method Heat the but­ter in a wok or large fry­ing pan. Add the kale and stir­fry for 3 min­utes. Add the wine and sea­son well. Re­duce the heat, cover and cook gen­tly for 5 min­utes un­til the kale is ten­der. Stir in the sul­tanas, al­monds and crème fraiche and stir­fry for a fur­ther minute. Serve with a hearty stew.

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