Introduction to the Eglu

Reader Contribution by Alethea Morrison Of Storey Publishing
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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!

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.

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