Some weeks ago I posted on how our hen run was still green and that I was moving a fence and some mini-greenhouses around to protect the grass. Since then, it has slowly died back and is now barely visible – in fact the grass might be on its way to dying off completely. Whatever the reason for this might be, the floor of the chicken run is now a rather soggy mess of bits of compost and barren soil.
It’s also gotten much cooler and I’ve seen both Carmen and Geraldine standing on one foot, presumably because the ground is cold. Though we’ve tried putting in some things for them to hop around on we felt it wasn’t enough. The sun has sunk lower in the sky and barely hits one corner of the run most days, making the area cold, damp and not at all very pleasant.
We’ve just recently received the advice to lay down a layer of dead leaves and/or bark chippings on the ground and we plan on doing that shortly. Our own answer to the situation was a little bit more labour intensive but something that we feel is going to be really effective both in winter and summer: the Hubster built the hens a sun deck.
The back corner of the run is the area that receives most of the autumn sun but generally the light level is several feet off the ground. By creating a raised patio, we could provide the hens with a dryer place to stand and soak up the warmth. We also hope that the structure will provide the ground underneath a bit of shelter from the rain since it’s one of the hens’ favourite places to hang out in.
The construction is rather simple and inexpensive. I paid £5 for the wood and the Hubster put the entire thing together in an afternoon. A triangular frame was screwed into the run’s supporting posts and then a surface area was created using flat boards. Another long board was used to create a ramp and smaller pieces were sliced and nailed in to give the ramp a bit of traction as the hens walk up and down. I couldn’t believe how great it looked when it was finished and I was excited to finally be able to see the hens from the house – until now they’ve been hidden behind a wall at the end of the garden. By being able to get up higher the hens are able to see the whole garden and house now too. This must make their world a much more interesting place to live in.
As you can see in the below photo, the platform was already getting a bit of sun on its first day. We watched all that morning from the kitchen windows to see if the hens would figure out how to use the ramp. Nothing happened for a good couple of hours but eventually plucky Miracel clambered up and had a look around. Shortly afterwards the other two followed and before long all three sat down on the warm boards to soak up the sun. Later on the Hubster went out to give them some bread as a treat and again they made their way up to their new patio no problem.
As usual the cats had to be involved in the project too. They kept watch on the construction from outside the run, occasionally reaching a toe through the mesh to snag you for attention. They’re also fascinated with the completed hen deck since they’ve seen the girls lounging around on it. I don’t want to think what’s going on in their devious little minds but I’m sure it has something to do with how close the birds are to the top of the run now. All I can say is thank goodness we built an enclosed roof over it or those hens would already be chicken dinner.
As I look out the window I can see Miracel and Carmen on top of the deck and Geraldine is fluffed up and perched on the ramp. It brings a smile to my face to know that our hens are content and happy to use their new ‘furniture’. It’s not a warm day today but the girls are still able to enjoy looking around at their surroundings and more importantly getting off the cold ground.