Thursday, 28 June 2018
2011 Talking chickens: Plastic v wooden houses
Need help choosing a chicken coop? Chicken expert Andy Cawthray picks the best of the bunch Andy Cawthray Wed 12 Oct 2011 11.31 BST First published on Wed 12 Oct 2011 11.31 BST https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/gardening-blog/2011/oct/12/talking-chickens-plastic-wooden-coop The Eglu chicken house The Eglu chicken house: easy to clean, but will it help prevent red mite? Photograph: Alamy In recent years a new player has emerged onto the backyard poultry housing market: the plastic chicken house. One of the biggest claims you will see in the advertising literature for these new plastic constructions relates to the poultry keeper's nemesis, red mite (Dermanyssus gallinae). For those that are not familiar with this little devil, it's a small ectoparasite that feeds on the blood of poultry and other bird species. In the right conditions it can complete its life cycle of egg to egg-laying adult in seven days, so populations can explode if they're not dealt with quickly and effectively. And they can survive without feeding for up to nine months. All this makes red mite the bane of the poultry keeper's life and something that is capable of killing your flock. For those familiar with it, you will no doubt be itching by now, in the knowledge that they are not opposed to trying out a human as a potential host. I've seen one or two adverts that stake the claim that plastic housing is red mite-proof. Don't be fooled by this. The consensus is that red mite lives in cracks in the housing and come out to feed on the birds blood at night when they are roosting; but this isn't not the whole truth – red mite can and will live on the bird if the conditions are favourable. Let's face it, the other widely-held belief is that wild birds transport red mite. Well if red mite are only present on birds when they are asleep, how can they be transported to poultry and poultry housing by wild birds - sleepwalking sparrows perhaps? Agreed, a house that minimises the cracks and crevices stands a fair better chance of not harbouring a red mite population, but that doesn't mean you or your poultry will necessarily be red mite-free: very little other than vigilance and good animal husbandry will stop the charge of the mite brigade. Where plastic house construction does come into its own versus wood is when it comes to cleaning and annual maintenance. The cleaning of plastic houses is much easier than wooden housing, and maintenance is practically zero. Many of the plastic designs can be cleaned out, washed and dried in under 30 minutes, while wooden housing will take significantly longer to dry, especially in the depths of winter. This advantage should not be underestimated. In the height of summer your flock may not require the house for the whole day and so cleaning and drying times won't be relevant, but on bad weather days you won't want the house out of action for too long or for the birds to face roosting in a soggy house. So what's to be said for wooden housing? The cost of a high quality wooden ones will be in the same region as the plastic designs (avoid the poorly constructed cheap and nasty wood built houses mentioned in my last post), so there's little in it from a price perspective. It boils down to design. Plastic housing represents a fraction of the market when it comes to available options. Wooden houses offer a far greater level of flexibility and modification with housing available not only to meet the specific needs of your specific breeds, but also the needs of your garden. They are also far easier to repair should the need arise. Wood is a naturally breathable product and a well-designed wooden house will not suffer from condensation, which can be a problem in poultry housing. Inadequate ventilation coupled with a non-breathable material such as plastic will result in moisture running down the walls, resulting in a damp floor litter that leades to fungal growth and respiratory disorders in the birds. The plastic v wooden debate has been going on in the poultry world for a few years now. I use both and they each have their pros and cons: in the end it can be down to personal preference. As long as the house is designed with both the keeper and the poultry in mind, and preferably designed by somebody whose experience of poultry extends beyond a visit to the butcher, then they both wooden and plastic housing serve their purpose in equal measure. Here's my pick of what's on the market. A chicken house by Green Frog Designs A plastic chicken house by Green Frog Designs Green Frog Designs This firm is relatively new to the plastic poultry housing market and when it launched I was very interested to see what they had on offer. The range of housing has expanded over the last year or so, with new designs being added to the portfolio. Where they get the edge is the house comes flat packed and is easy to build and take apart, and the products are almost entirely constructed from plastic made from recycled industrial waste. The Dell chicken ark from Smiths Sectional Buildings The Dell chicken ark from Smiths Sectional Buildings Smiths Sectional Buildings When it comes to practical wooden poultry houses this small family-run firm produces some of the best, with a range that caters for a small trio to housing for 300 birds. Visiting the website will confirm how seriously they take the construction and specification of their housing. It's very apparent in the final product that small-scale commercial poultry keeping knowledge has been successfully applied to a garden keeping solution. An Eglu chicken coop by Omlet An Eglu chicken coop by Omlet Omlet Love or loathe the contemporary design, there is no disputing the popularity of Omlet's Eglu poultry houses and their appeal to some people. These houses are designed predominantly with the first-time family keeper in mind, and suited to urban gardens. They are a solid twin-walled construction moulded from recycled plastic, making them simple to clean and manage, plus they come in range of colours to suit the liveliest of tastes. The Dorset Ranger by Flyte So Fancy The Dorset Ranger by Flyte So Fancy Flyte So Fancy This Devon-based business offer a huge range of wooden poultry houses all handcrafted and finished to a high standard. They give due consideration to combining function and form, producing a house that's not only practical but also makes a pleasant addition to the look of the garden. With housing available for a flock of three birds through to larger 15-bird houses, it's apparent these were designed by poultry keepers with the backyard keeper in mind.