IN­SPI­RA­TION FROM OMLET

Iconic hen house de­sign­ers Omlet have a new £700 model on the mar­ket - and we have one to give away to a lucky reader! San­dra Kes­sell re­ports

Your Chickens - - Contents -

Where to start? We have so many good­ies in this is­sue!

We are de­lighted to team up with the mas­ter­minds be­hind the iconic Omlet brand to present an ex­clu­sive fea­ture about their new-look Eglu Cube hen house. This has been such a pop­u­lar prod­uct, it has been hard to beat. But the com­pany has come up with a num­ber of de­sign im­prove­ments. One lucky reader will win the re­de­vel­oped hen house and run worth £700.

It’s a dozen years since Omlet, the peo­ple be­hind the Eglu, the funky chicken house, caused a splash among ur­ban hen lovers (see ‘The Omlet story’ on the next page). In the in­ter­ven­ing years, the busi­ness has thrived, grown and ex­panded into new ar­eas. So what’s be­ing hatched at Omlet HQ?

The ware­house and of­fices in­clude a room marked ‘re­search and de­vel­op­ment’ that is packed with tools, ma­te­ri­als, bits of card­board, draw­ings and the odd pro­to­type.

Over the last dozen years the Omlet prod­uct range has ex­panded to in­clude more types of coops and a ven­ture into the pet mar­ket, both in the UK and abroad.

There’s a ham­ster dwelling, Qute, that wouldn’t look out of place as a piece of fur­ni­ture in a mod­ernist home; the Bee­haus – an al­ter­na­tive type of hive – plus var­i­ous ac­ces­sories to make an­i­mal own­er­ship eas­ier and more en­joy­able. Some of these, such as a high vis­i­bil­ity chicken jacket, ap­pear at first glance to be very un­likely suc­cesses, while oth­ers, such as shel­tered feed­ers, make per­fect good sense – so much so, you won­der why they haven’t been built that way be­fore.

“We wanted to bring chicken – and pet-keep­ing – into the 21st cen­tury,” he says. “We felt noth­ing had been re­designed since Noah built the ark. There seemed to be a feel­ing among the tra­di­tional chicken keep­ing com­mu­nity ‘Why do you want to change it?’.”

Change things they have, think­ing about what’s best to smooth the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween hu­man and an­i­mal (or bird) and even get­ting one hoary old farmer, whose wife had per­sisted in her re­quest for an

Eglu, to change his mind about its ben­e­fits over the home­made hen­house he had of­fered to build for her.

“He wrote to tell us it’s a re­ally good chicken house,” says Jo­hannes. “De­spite the ini­tial push-back, every­one has come round to it. A lot of chicken breed­ers use our range, they seem to be com­pletely ac­cepted. We’re not just de­liv­er­ing in Chiswick and the sub­urbs of Lon­don, we have or­ders from all over the coun­try – and abroad.”

Jo­hannes is a lit­tle rue­ful when he ad­mits that he thought the Bee­haus would take off the way the Eglu once did. De­spite mak­ing a splash in the met­ro­pol­i­tan me­dia, and count­less col­umn inches warn­ing that bees are in dan­ger, there’s not enough en­thu­si­asm for ur­ban bee­keep­ing – yet. It’s some­thing Jo­hannes puts down to peo­ple’s fear of their chil­dren be­ing stung. (We dis­cuss the like­li­hood of this – we have three wild bees’ nests on our patch but in over a decade have had only a hand­ful of stings, usu­ally be­cause a bee was be­ing in­ad­ver­tently squashed.) It may take a while to change peo­ple’s per­cep­tions and the Bee­haus is as prac­ti­cal and well thought-out as all the Omlet prod­ucts.

New ideas

Twelve years since they launched it, as tes­ta­ment to its thor­oughly tri­alled con­cept, the orig­i­nal Eglu is still avail­able and a ver­sion has been adapted es­pe­cially for rab­bits and guinea pigs, the re­sult of many peo­ple stop­ping by the Eglu stand at a pet show to com­ment how bril­liant a hutch it would make.

“If enough peo­ple tell you some­thing, it’s worth lis­ten­ing,” laughs Jo­hannes, though he points out that peo­ple who told them a brown Eglu would sell well were wrong – the few that were made ini­tially stayed stub­bornly on the shelf and were even­tu­ally with­drawn from pro­duc­tion al­to­gether.

There’s also a squarer, more flat-pack ver­sion of their first baby, called the Eglu Go, which is bet­ter suited for the lo­gis­tics of world­wide distri­bu­tion.

Now it’s their best-sell­ing prod­uct, the Cube, a raised hen­house on wheels that in­cludes a run – which can be put to­gether with other

com­ple­men­tary prod­ucts, in­clud­ing a walk-in cage – that has been in their sight­lines for the last two years.

How­ever, they have taken their time in re­de­vel­op­ing their most pop­u­lar prod­uct – if some­thing works well, is it worth try­ing to im­prove?

“When some­thing is best-sell­ing you have to be re­ally cau­tious,” says Jo­hannes.

But as you might ex­pect of four highly mo­ti­vated in­di­vid­u­als whose friend­ship has lasted through univer­sity and into the busi­ness world, they were never go­ing to let things drift along.

Now they’re ready to un­veil the Mark II ver­sion. Gone are fiddly locks and the need to slide the roof to ac­cess the in­ner house it­self and in their place there are per­son-friendly, preda­tor-foil­ing catches and sim­pler mech­a­nisms. The door seals have been made even more wa­ter­proof, so that the most mis­er­able Bri­tish sum­mer (or mon­soon – Omlet’s prod­ucts are now a global favourite) won’t dampen feath­ers. Dou­ble catches now pro­tect a sin­gle slide-out lit­ter tray. The wheels and ma­noeu­vring mech­a­nism have been im­proved and the lad­der into the coop is longer and slip re­sis­tant. All these things amount to small tweaks you might be hard-pressed to spot un­less you have both it­er­a­tions side by side, but they’re de­vel­op­ments, nonethe­less.

Trans­for­ma­tion

What has also trans­formed busi­ness in the last decade – in­clud­ing the busi­ness of hen­keep­ing – is tech­nol­ogy and how peo­ple in­ter­act with com­pa­nies. You can buy pretty much any­thing on­line now. The in­ter­net is also the place most of us turn to for in­for­ma­tion if we don’t have a re­as­sur­ing ex­pert on hand to talk to face-to-face. Omlet has be­come a go-to site for such help, but re­as­sur­ingly, on shelves laden with equip­ment such as egg racks, brightly coloured soft toy chick­ens and of­fice plants, there are well-thumbed, beau­ti­fully il­lus­trated Vic­to­rian tomes and mod­ern how-to man­u­als on poul­try keep­ing and breed­ing – tes­ta­ment to how se­ri­ously every­one at Omlet takes their work and role in the chicken keep­ing com­mu­nity.

As a back­room of­fice staff en­sure the com­pany’s web pres­ence and IT sys­tem works around the world, around the clock, a num­ber of of­fice staff take calls and man­age the helplines (speak­ing in dif­fer­ent lan­guages as they do so – an­other sign of the in­ter­na­tional suc­cess of the com­pany). There’s a hu­man

ABOVE: The re­de­vel­oped Eglu Cube. See page 9 to win one!

TOP AND ABOVE RIGHT: The new-look Cube

PHO­TOS COUR­TESY OF OMLET AND JAMES KES­SELL

Easy and fun for kids!

The cosy nest­box

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