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.
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.
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!