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
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.
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.
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
Easy and fun for kids!
The cosy nestbox