How to make hay work in your hen house
IN LAST MONTH’S ISSUE, we ran a story on coops and stated that hay was the worst of the commonly-used flooring/ nest box options as it is not absorbent and so tends to stay wet, encouraging bacteria and moulds.
But Janis Cusack, a long term poultry breeder who organises the Wanganui Poultry Club, wrote in to stand up for hay, saying she has been happily using it in her hen houses for 17 years with no issues.
“We have found that a lot of chook people are not particularly well off and if they do have an income, few want to splash a lot of dollars on chooks.
“Your reasons for other bedding are exactly why I recommend hay to everyone: easy to access, easy to clean away etc. We have a lot of new people coming into poultry and they want to be able to start simply. You want something easy for them to start with, not something expensive/hard to access.
“After shifting from an area where straw was readily available at a reasonable price, I have used hay exclusively for all chook house floors and nest boxes with no worries. We now make our own hay for cattle and use the previous year’s crop for the chook houses. We put a shallow layer 3-5 cm deep on the wooden floors of Pekin bantam and silkie houses… every month or so we pack the soiled hay into feed sacks, that we then leave for several months before using in the vege garden as compost. Works a treat.”
NZ Lifestyle Block poultry expert Sue Clarke recommends wood shavings as the best flooring and nest box option, but says if you are using hay, it’s important to:
• make sure it is sweet smelling, free of mould and store in a dry place, off the ground, away from wild birds or other birds to avoid mite infestations;
• replace all the nest material frequently, especially if birds sleep/poo in the nests or when an egg gets broken as the dampness from this will encourage mould growth quickly;
• if hay is used on the floor, encourage birds to scratch it over often to keep it aerated and to aid breaking down – scattering grain on the floor daily will encourage them to turn it over;
• be vigilant for mites and clean out all bedding and nest material before spraying insecticides to kill mites.