More Space

I know that you’re all curious about the second ramp that you see on the HenCam.

hencam1 (1)


This is what is around the corner.



It’s a rabbit hutch.

On paper, my coop and pen fit the space requirements for the flock. With the passing of the two old hens, you’d think that there would be even more room. However, the weather has been awful, so they’re spending more time inside. And, the group dynamics has changed now that Buffy and Twinkydink are gone. Betsy can no longer hide from the Ladies by squeezing behind the old girls. (Do not read into this that the old hens protected Betsy on purpose. They did not. However, Betsy is a smart little bird and she knew that if she hid behind Buffy or Twinkydink, that the Ladies wouldn’t chase her there. The Old Girls didn’t like the Ladies in their personal space, and pecked at them if they came too close, but they were used to ignoring Besty.) Betsy, now in need of some other sort of buffer from the Ladies, joined Phoebe under the nesting boxes. Phoebe, being a mild-mannered little bunny, turned her back to Betsy, but found still found her presence annoying. Unlike the late, great Candy, Phoebe does not imperiously hold her own with the hens. She needed a new quiet spot. So, I put the hutch into the pen, thinking that Phoebe would appreciate a new haven, and that I’d alleviate some of the social pressure.

It’s nice and cozy. I put rabbit food, fresh hay and shavings inside.



Of course, the animals do not follow my script. Phoebe does like the hutch – to sit under. Once in awhile she goes inside for a snack, but she doesn’t want to stay in there. Twiggy does like the hutch – to lay her eggs in the hay. Nancy Drew has laid an egg in the shavings. And Betsy? She continues to annoy everyone. They peck at her, but it’s not serious. No one actually takes a pull of any of her pristine white feathers. She skitters here and there. If the flock truly bothered her, she’d be hiding in the nesting box. So far she hasn’t taken a step inside.

I had wanted to wait to write this post until I had better photographs, but knew that I had to assuage your curiosity (I believe my readers are also suffering from mid-winter doldrums!) At best, I took this one of Twiggy going down the ramp. You’ll have to imagine the rest.



This small addition has improved everyone’s mood. Chickens are curious animals that like to investigate new things. It doesn’t take much to improve their surroundings by adding a shelf, a perch, or a nesting box in a new place. Think about what you can do for your animals during these mid-winter doldrums. Ideas? Tell me here.


  1. First, yesterday when I was watching the hen cam I saw one of the Easter Eggers trying to make an escape. She flew to the top of the fence and her escape was foiled by the bird netting. ;-)

    Last week when we had over 10 inches of snow and bitter cold weather and the hens and two ducks were confined to the coop for a week (snow is gone now YEAH) I did my tried and true “keep them busy” method.
    1. I spread a flake of wheat straw about the coop. They love scratching for the odd wheat grain.
    2. I spread some scratch all around the coop and then lightly rake it into the straw and pine shavings. This way it is not sitting on top of the bedding and they have to scratch and look for it. This is best done at dawn when the hens are still on the roost and don’t get in the way of the rake. This seems to keep them busy most of the day. When I go out at night the bedding has been scratched every which way but upside down.
    3. I have a old wash tub in the coop with dirt for dust bathing.
    4. I have a couple old ladders just like Terry’s that a prop up on a couple sides of the coop just to give more perching space during the day so if a hen wants to get out of each others way they have more options than the regular roosts. I remove them when the hens are not confined to the coop as they get in my way. I place them in the run as day roosts.

    That’s what I do and have never had any blood shed. Which is a good thing.

  2. We love it! Phoebe’s bungalow is very nice! We noticed the hanging bell wood toy. My rabbit has a hanging bell toy too. Snoopy enjoys licking or “ringing” the bell and not really interested in chewing the wood on it. My rabbit finds pine cones and pine needles to be favorite nibble treats. Occasionally, Snoopy will toss the cones around with his teeth! A funny game to watch!

  3. We had a couple of days last week of pounding rain and strong wind so the chickens spent them confined rather then then free-ranging as usual. In an effort to keep some of their outside coop( which is all roofed) more protected from the rain blowing in, I added a piece of plywood to the back outside wall of the coop(it is a raised coop). It is a raised coop so I also leaned a piece of plywood against the inside wall opposite. This gave the hens a separate room to hang out in under their house with openings at either end so no-one got blocked in. Hope this gives you a picture. The hens loved it so much….held their vip meetings and chased the uninvited members out. I am keeping the inside piece up much to their delight. They are quite often all gathered in there in the mornings before I liberate them.

  4. How did you get the hens to be so comfortable around phoebe? Whenever I let my bunny hop around in the run while I clean her hutch, the chickens freak out! What can I do to make them comfortable around her?

    • My hens would also freak out if once in awhile I set a bunny down amongst them. Phoebe started out in a hutch in the pen, so she could see the hens and they her. After a week, she was allowed to come and go with the hens at will. They live together and so know each other well.

  5. I’m experimenting with home-made “flock block”. I don’t have my own flock yet, so my test subjects are the flock that are kept by the man I currently buy my eggs from. My findings so far: 1. Nutritionally, it’s far superior to many of the commercial blocks. 2. As a treat, it was apparently a big success. (after the initial “What IS that?” reaction from the hens when it was first introduced in the coop) 3. As a boredom buster, it was a bit of a disappointment: When he went back an hour and a half later to check on progress, there was no evidence of it ever having existed, except for 2 pie plates it was served in. In it’s defense, these were trial size blocks, and there are about 70 chickens in his flock. :-) I hope my trial size blocks will keep 4-6 chickens amused for at least the better part of a day.

  6. I’m not a fan of flock blocks (for those who don’t know, these are like suet cakes for chickens.) They’re too full of foods that I don’t like to feed in excess, if you leave them out at night you’ll be feeding the mice and other critters, they get ruined in rain, and vegetables are far better for your hens!

    • In the UK you can get hard blocks for pecking without fat but I make my own using mainly pellets with a little corn and grit and mix with flour and a beaten egg and bake at a low temperature until really hard. It just makes a change we have had such rainy weather recently the girls need something to keep them amused!

      • That’s the kind I made too: water, eggs & crushed eggshells, mashed pumpkin, several different grains and seeds, raisins or cranberries, a little bit of molasses and cinnamon … all baked until very hard. All good stuff, but in a form that takes work to eat.

  7. Well, right after Christmas at the farm, I threw the girls a fraser fir that didn’t sell. They had fun looking for gifts underneath it.

  8. Terry, with all the nasty weather we have been having in the northeast, I am amazed at how clean your coops are!

    • Thanks for noticing. I skip out any manure in piles at least every other day. This past weekend I shoveled out all of the old Koop Clean bedding (it went onto my pumpkin patch) and replaced it with fresh. The hens appreciate it, and I like spending time in a barn that smells good.

      • I’m sure your girls all appreciate your hard work, they stay so clean!

  9. I live in Dallas and while it was really cold here, it was nothing like what y’all had. My chickens were able to get out if the coop and stretch their legs and do all of the things that my chickens do.

  10. We store up dozens of bags of leaves in the fall. We put these outside in the pen after each snowfall. If the weather is really bad, we’ll put gone by winter squash in the coop of 17 hens to keep them occupied.

    I don’t feed too many goodies here because I need to keep the Rate of Lay up, currently between 81 – 100%. So the leaves work well to keep them occupied, while not interfering with their nutrition needs.

    Having multi-level roosts helps provide more space in the coop too, and places to get away. Our single pet chicken has periodically claimed the favorite nest box as her’s, as her hidey hole. Knock wood, no one is being picked on so far in this flock.

    • One year I tried that leaf trick, which I think is an excellent idea. The hens wouldn’t go near them! Left them in the run for two weeks and they never did like them. You never know with chickens.