Slow down din­ner #1

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Country Smile -

I have a large slow cooker so if your one is small, you may need to ad­just quan­ti­ties to suit the size of your ves­sel. The le­mon flavour is quite strong so if you are not a fan of le­mon, just use a quar­ter.

What does a hen look for in a nest? Its height from the ground? Whether it’s safe from preda­tors? Its shape, the lin­ing ma­te­rial, the seclu­sion from the flock, or some­thing else?

As the col­lec­tor of the eggs, what do you want in a nest? Ide­ally, it should be easy to ac­cess with­out too much bend­ing or crawl­ing, some­where that is easy to keep ma­nure and mite-free, some­where that keeps the eggs safe, clean and un­bro­ken.

To com­ply with all the needs both of the hen lay­ing the egg and you as the egg col­lec­tor, we need to look at quite a num­ber of fac­tors and some­times reach a com­pro­mise be­tween both hen and hu­man. The wel­fare code rec­om­mends a min­i­mum of one nest to seven hens or 1m² of colony nest for 120 hens. But these are min­i­mum stan­dards and you’ll find it’s bet­ter to have at most 4-5 hens to one nest.

How­ever, if you only have 4-5 hens, it is bet­ter to have at least two nests so that they have a choice, even if they all choose to lay in the same nest – more on that later.

2Size­floor space be­low for bird move­ment, while also giv­ing some pro­tec­tion to the bird and her eggs from preda­tors like hedge­hogs and rats.

Hens like a perch rail set out in front so that they can walk along to view the nests be­fore they de­cide which one to use. If you have this perch on hinges, it can do dou­ble duty and be folded up to block the nest en­trance so birds can’t get into the habit of sit­ting in a nest box at night. It’s good training when birds are young to dis­cour­age birds from sleep­ing in the nests or roost­ing on the nest lip with heads out and bums in at night. It pre­vents them foul­ing the nest, and can also help to pre­vent mite build-ups.

The nest open­ing prefer­ably needs to face away from any open­ing like a win­dow in the coop to pre­vent bright light from shining into the nest. Too much light en­cour­ages other birds to vent peck when an­other bird is lay­ing.

If the de­sign of your coop doesn’t work, hang strips of black plas­tic, old feed sacks or some kind of eas­ily-re­place­able dark ma­te­rial along the front of the nests like a cur­tain which will help pro­vide seclu­sion.

what shape, colour and size of nest a hen prefers as it’s im­por­tant in large barn and free range flocks whether the egg col­lec­tion is mech­a­nised or car­ried out by man­ual means (hu­man backs must be taken into ac­count).

What sci­en­tists dis­cov­ered is that hens pre­fer nests to be low to the ground; the com­pro­mise is 50cm, a work­able height for a bend­ing hu­man. Birds also pre­fer un­painted metal­lic or wooden nests over black, blue green, yel­low or red.

In­side, they pre­fer a con­cave bot­tom so they can snug­gle in. This can be achieved by en­sur­ing there is a gen­er­ous lip along the front of the nest box and fill­ing it with plenty of lit­ter which en­ables them to mould a bowl shape in the shav­ings. If they can get their head down level with the lip so they are al­most hid­ing be­hind it, they feel more com­fort­able too.

The ideal ac­cess perch should be flat not rounded, prefer­ably wooden or metal (not plas­tic) and mea­sure 8cm wide and 2cm deep.

Tri­als on nest hole shape used tri­an­gu­lar, square and round open­ings. Although round was found to be quite well liked by hens, the con­straints of man­u­fac­ture on a large scale posed prob­lems, un­less large dis­pos­able card­board tubes in a frame were ob­tain­able. Round plas­tic buck­ets with a lip or half lid across the front might meet with ap­proval.

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