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Mother Earth News Fair

Our FAIRS bring living wisely to life with hands-on workshops in organic gardening, country skills, renewable energy and more.

Introduction to the Eglu

Meet Amelia, Honey, and Tilda — an Ameraucana, Buff Orpington, and Rhode Island Red, respectively. We keep our little flock of three in an Eglu, which has an egg-shaped hen house attached to a wire-enclosed run. As a family with just a few birds, the predator-proof Eglu has worked out really well for us. With only three girls to lay for us, we don't have any to spare!

The house itself is made of plastic, which is easy to keep clean, and has a sturdy door with latches tricky enough to resist even the clever hands of raccoons. We've seen fishers, foxes, bears, hawks, skunks, and raccoons pass through our yard, and the only close call we had was a raccoon jiggling the door of the egg port. We chased her away and she either didn't come back or never had any luck getting into the chicken vault.

Photo of an Eglu by Alethea Morrison

The wire run is completely enclosed, with a domed roof to thwart flying predators. We once saw a hawk perched on top of the run, with the girls huddling for their lives inside the house! The run also has a collar that folds out along the ground to keep diggers from tunneling into the coop.

The drawback to the coop is that the house is so small it doesn’t make good winter quarters. We live in the northeast with long stretches of below-freezing weather, and while the Eglu’s house is great for sleeping, it doesn’t give the hens room to roam in an area that’s safe from snow and wind. To solve that, we move the coop into our garage in the winter, and pile hay in the run, which we muck out once a week. The advantage to that set-up is that we can leave the lights on to simulate 14 hours of daylight and we get eggs all winter.

We haven’t had much of a winter this year. By the middle of February it seemed like winter wasn’t going to come at all so we moved the coop outdoors again. Of course then it snowed. No matter though, the weather warmed quickly, and the girls have had a ball scratching in the thawed ground.

These three chickens have been great friends to us. They’ve been more like pets than livestock, really. We can’t bear to part with them, but they’re four years old and don’t lay reliably anymore. Since our coop can’t accommodate any more birds, we are laying plans to build a larger coop in the backyard. Rather than getting a heap of new chicks and having more eggs than we know what to do with, the plan is to upsize slowly, about three new birds every year or two to keep our refrigerator stocked. 

Photo of chickens by Alethea Morrison

We’ll have the Eglu to help us transition new birds into the flock slowly. Since we let our chickens roam freely during the afternoons and on weekends when we’re close to home, we figure they can meet during their free-range time and move into the same housing once they’re used to each other. Any tips on introducing new birds to an established flock are welcome!

Storey Publishing will bring several authors to both 2012 MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIRs. You can learn more about chickens in the book Chick Days by Jenna Woginrich. 

Please visit the FAIR website for more information about the Puyallup, Wash. FAIR June 2-3, and the Seven Springs, Pa., FAIR Sept. 24-25. Tickets are on sale now. 

You can also get FAIR updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages. 

jimmy harmon
4/17/2012 2:01:22 AM

First and foremost you must quarantine for at least 30 days if you aren't raising your birds from chicks. Next like the previous person posted place them in a pen inside your pen, then after they are big enough to fend for themselves wait until night when the girls are on the roost and then set the new bird right next to them. Sometimes the new birds will wake up in the morning and be like "why have I never noticed these other birds here before." and sometimes not, so leave your little pen in the big pen in case the younger birds need a place to hide. A ton of information can be found on backyard In fact I found this site from that site so I'm sure MEN wouldn't mind me giving that site a plug.

connie milliff
4/14/2012 2:11:36 AM

I put the new chicks in a pen (the eglu would work) inside my big chicken pen. The small chickens are protected from pecking, and the larger hens get used to their presence. After several weeks, I let the new chicks out into the main pen. There might be a little bullying, but not for long. If the larger hens are too aggressive, I keep the smaller pen inside with a small enough opening for the chicks, but too small for the grown hens. It gives the small chicks a refuge. It never really has been necessary. My large pen is about 14 x 14 including the house (which is 6 x 8). I have had about 20 banties in it, but now have 10 Americaunas and 2 banties.