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How To Start Keeping Hens

Saturday 22nd April 2023

The recent NZ egg shortage has made us rethink about where we get our eggs.
Maybe it is time to start keeping our own chickens 😊

chickens are full of personality, are enjoyable as pets and provide fresh eggs!

Chicken-keeping is an exciting hobby for people from all walks of life, and in any location. Backyard flocks are growing in popularity across the globe – winning the hearts of millions of chicken owners. Most people don’t realize that chickens are full of personality, can bond with their owners, and are very enjoyable as pets. They can learn basic tricks, are excellent at pest control, and make beautiful attractive additions to any garden.  And, as an added bonus, hens can provide fresh eggs for your family on a daily basis. Ready to take the plunge into keeping poultry as pets? With the right products from Appletons and Omlet and some preparation, keeping chickens can be an easy and enjoyable hobby for your entire family.

Where to Begin?

Chickens and the Law
Each council has its own rules and regulations regarding the keeping of chickens in urban areas so please check before buying. Most councils ban roosters because of the likelihood of offensive noise but they can also limit the number of hens kept. Check if your property has a covenant as this could exclude the keeping of poultry. Be a good neighbour and check before buying a coop and getting set up with chickens.

Choosing a Breed
Here in NZ the choice is either the reliable commercially bred hybrids (hyline brown or shaver brown) or the lovely rare heritage breeds of poultry.

Brown Shavers

The heritage breeds are becoming very popular these days as a backyard layer offering good laying ability alongside decorative looks. If you are looking for chickens with diversity in personality, plumage, egg colour and laying seasons then have a look at the beautiful heritage breeds. 

Choosing The Right Chicken Breed

We no longer sell heritage breed hatching eggs or pullets, however, we always have brown shavers available every 9 weeks if you are looking for a good basic layer. (Pickup only)

Brown Shavers are ideal if you are wanting eggs all year round

Tip: If you are wanting eggs all year round (and lots of them) opt for the commercial hybrids.
They are the working girls and will keep you and your family in eggs most of the year. 

We recommend purchasing young brown shaver pullets between 9 and 16 weeks of age

Starting with Pullets vs. Day Old Chicks

Some people choose to start with mature hens rather than with day old chicks. There are benefits to each, but first-time chicken keepers will likely find the most success with young pullets that are not far off starting to lay their first eggs.
When you start out with pullets/hens:

  • You know the gender of your birds, whereas most breeds of chicks cannot be sexed until they’re older (especially the heritage breeds)
  • Mature hens will already be laying eggs or POL pullets hens will very soon to be starting to lay.
  • Day old chicks require a minimum of 6-8 weeks in a special pen called a “brooder”, and must have a heat lamp or brooder plate during that time
  • Chicks in a brooder shouldn’t be left unattended for long periods of time, such as out-of-town trips, while hens are self-sufficient when left in a secure coop and run with enough food and water.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if you want to start with chicks or pullets. Keep in mind that chicks are heavily reliant upon their human caretakers – for everything from food, clean water, and a constant heat source. POL pullets or mature hens (ex battery maybe?) are much more resilient and require less of your time, so if you’re completely new to chickens, it’s usually easier to start with perching or POL* birds.

*point of lay

Tip: Purchase young brown shaver pullets between 9 and 16 weeks of age.
This is the best age to introduce them to your chicken coop, family and routine.

Where To Keep Them

Consider where you’re going to house your hens.
You’ll need to find a pretty level area in your backyard to set up their coop, and ensure that their area is free of any potentially dangerous vegetation. Chickens are marvellous insect-eaters, and will also gladly help with landscaping if left to forage around. Be mindul of where you have your veggie garden as you will want to keep them away from this or any manicured flower garden/s. If your chickens will be in one place consistently, you’ll want to ensure their run is well draining so it can cope will all weathers.

How to Chicken Proof  Your Garden

The Coop

Now that you’ve decided on what type of chickens you want to keep and where you’d like to keep them, it’s time to get the most important piece of chicken-keeping equipment: their chicken coop.

Poultry Housing

A quality chicken coop of any type is an investment, but a plastic chicken coop will last much longer than a wooden chicken coop. Not only that, but plastic coops are immensely easier to clean than wooden coops, and require no upkeep. Omlet’s Eglu Cube will never rot, need repainting, or major repairs like traditional wooden coops. 

Plastic coops are immensely easier to clean than wooden coops and will last longer

Tip: Contain your chickens. The golden rule is fence your chickens in or fence round your veggie garden or flower garden!

Eglu Go Chicken Coop

Eglu Go Chicken Coop

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Eglu Go UP - Raised Chicken Coop

Eglu Go UP- Raised Chicken Coop

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Eglu Cube - large chicken coop

Eglu Cube - Large Chicken Coop

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Kitset Mini Apex Hen House

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Kitset Batten Hen House

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Kitset Deluxe Hen House

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Kitset Batten Hen House

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Duo Apex Hen House

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Eglu coops and runs are the ultimate in easy care

Look for Easy Care

Most chicken keepers are not fond of coop cleaning day, but the Eglu Cube has made that a thing of the past. In just minutes, your Omlet chicken coop can be cleaned with minimal effort. Simply remove the bedding tray, empty into your compost and spray the tray with a pressure washer or a chicken-safe disinfectant to wipe clean. Refresh the bedding, replace the tray, and your chickens’ coop is clean once more! The Eglu Cube is easy to assemble and is ready for your hens as soon as it’s put together. Regular coop cleans go a long way to keeping any coop free of red mites and having happy hens.

Invest in a Sturdy Chicken Run

If your hens need a space to call their own, you can opt to attach a run to the Eglu Cube. Their run can be extended in increments with our Eglu Cube Run Extension Packs. Or, if your space allows, consider a Walk In Chicken Run for your flock. All of our chicken runs have anti-tunnel skirting that helps prevent predators from tunnelling in, and are constructed of heavy-duty welded wire instead of flimsy mesh. Omlet chicken runs are designed to withstand the elements, predators, and weather events. Add optional chicken run covers to give your hens shelter from rain, snow, sun, and wind. Or, add a cover for your Walk In Run to fully shield your flock from the elements.

Contain your hens with an Omlet chicken fencing system

Omlet Chicken Fencing

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Customisable walk-in chicken runs by Omlet

Omlet Walk-in Chicken Run

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Add an Autodoor for Peace of Mind

One of the best things you can add to your chickens’ setup for both you and your flock is an Autodoor. This coop concierge lets your hens out in the morning and tucks them in at night – so you never have to worry about getting out of bed or being home by a certain time. And, the unique horizontal opening mechanism of the Autodoor by Omlet adds an extra layer of security to your chicken coop. The Autodoor can follow a schedule determined by the sun or the clock. Simply program your Autodoor on the easy-to-use control panel to follow whichever type of schedule you prefer. Multiple daylight options can be chosen, closing at or before dusk, and opening when the sun rises or shortly after. The time schedule is easy to follow, allowing you to select specific hours for the Autodoor to open and close.

 Add an optional coop light to give your flock a soft glow to help them head in for bed. The coop light comes on 5 minutes before the Autodoor is scheduled to close. Chickens naturally gravitate toward light when the sun sets, so a night light helps stubborn hens in particular find their way to the roost when it’s bedtime.

Omlet Autodoor
An Omlet Autodoor lets your hens out in the morning and tucks them in at night

Tip: Feed your hens the best feed you can buy. A premium feed containing naturally occuring proteins with a high crude protein content. What you put in is what you get out. Premium feed equals lots of eggs.

Mental and physical stimulation is great for helping your hens stay healthy and happy

Busy Hens are Happy Hens

Chickens are low-maintenance pets, but still enjoy entertainment. Mental and physical stimulation is great for helping your hens stay healthy and happy. Plus, added accessories make it that much more enjoyable to watch your hens play and exhibit their natural behaviours.

Omlet has a variety of chicken toys and accessories. Accessories like the Chicken Peck Toy are great for elevating snacktime and keeping the bottom of the run clean. Keep scratch grains and other small treats inside the peck toy to make rations go farther and reduce waste. The Caddi Treat Holder is perfect for serving fresh veggies and leafy greens, or homemade chicken treats to your hens. Hang the Caddi Treat Holder from any run, and bring it inside to refill with your flock’s favourite treats.

Add a dust bath bowl to your run. Dust bathing is an important part of keeping chickens healthy and clean. It is a brilliant way for your hens to keep on top of external parasites. Once fully coated in dust or sand, the chicken will have a shake-down, a quick preen of the feathers, and they’ll be all done and dusted. Literally. In addition to these physical benefits, dust-bathing is also thought to be mentally rewarding for hens. It helps them relax, and is a way of socialising too, when a group of hens bathe together.

Busy Hens are Happy Hens

Perches Add Levels of Fun

Like most bird species, chickens enjoy perching to get a better view of the world around them. The Freestanding Chicken Perch can be placed anywhere, and is easy to move anytime. Convenient and sturdy screw pegs anchor the Freestanding Chicken Perch in the ground for stabilized perching. The screw pegs can easily be unscrewed for relocating the Freestanding Chicken Perch to keep your hens on their toes.

 If you have a Walk In Chicken Run, Omlet’s PoleTree Customisable Chicken Perch is perfect for adding a variety of levels to your flock’s space. Add perches of various lengths, treat holders, and peck toys to hang from pre-drilled holes in the ends of the PoleTree’s smooth eucalyptus wood perches to customise your chickens’ experience. The PoleTree is perfect for utilizing aerial space in a Walk In Chicken Run, and adds visual appeal to create a truly unique environment for your flock.

Pole tree
chickens enjoy perching to get a better view of the world around them

Join the Omlet Chicken Keeping Adventure

We want you to enjoy your chickens from the moment you bring them home and for years to come. That’s why Omlet has invented products that not only keep your flock healthy and happy, but are designed to bring you closer to your chickens. The Eglu Cube, Walk In Run, and Autodoor are all thoughtfully and purposefully crafted to keep flocks safe and content while making chicken keeping easy and enjoyable for their owners. Let Omlet help you get started on your chicken-keeping adventure, and enjoy the journey to the fullest.

Omlet Eglu Coops are thoughtfully and purposefully crafted to keep flocks safe and enjoyable for their owners


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