Published 15.12.2021

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Create safety in the hen yard

Follow these three tips to make the hens feel safe in the outdoor run

It is crucial that the outdoor areas are designed in a way that considers the nature of the hens for them to feel safe and fear-free.

Hens are natural prey for birds of prey, so they are fearful by nature and constantly on guard, but it is possible to provide them with the safety they need.

The most important aspect is focusing on stimulating the natural foraging behavior, providing safe areas where they can hide in and giving them a proper view of the hen yard, so that they can orientate themselves against any dangers.

Establish hide between popholes and vegetation

An open area between the popholes and the vegetation in a hen yard makes the hens go out. In the outdoor run, the hens prefer to stay near cover in the form of bushes or trees. The farmer can place a mobile object which act as a hide, making more hens go outside and spread out in the hen yard.

For example, setting up some boxes in the area between the popholes and the vegetation. This provides the hens with opportunity to seek shelter and safety close to the barn. In this way, it is expected that more hens will feel safe accessing the outdoor run.

Euro pallets that are stacked against each other like an inverted V and tied together with ropes or the like can also be used. It has the same effect and allows the hens to seek shelter or safety when potential dangers threaten.

Make the hen yard attractive with trees and bushes

An attractive hen yard motivates hens to get outside. A hen yard with lots of vegetation offers an attractive environment for the hens where they can both seek shelter, forage and perform natural behavior. By planting bushes and trees in the hen yard, you provide safety to the hens, which by nature are forest birds.

If fruit trees and berry bushes are planted, you also stimulate the hens' natural foraging behavior, supplement their feed and offer them occupation, so that the occurrence of unwanted behaviors such as feather pecking, and aggression is reduced.

In addition, the hens receive a diverse feed composition and can pick up part of their feed in the hen yard themselves.

A good distribution of the hens in the outdoor area is also preferable, and this can be achieved by focusing on the function of the vegetation. You can put berry bushes and fruit trees that are tolerant to high nutrient levels close to the popholes where the manure distribution is highest. In addition, planting in rows ensures that the hens both have a good overview of the area and feel safe.

Corridors of grass between the trees in the hen yard

Corridors of low grass between rows of trees in the hen yard allow the hen to have a clear view of the area, so that it will feel less stressed when moving around in the hen yard.

When the hens feel safe and have a good overview of their surroundings, they will most likely risk moving further away from the house and spread out which will give a better use of the outdoor run. The open grass corridors between the trees also allow the hens to quickly seek shelter in the vegetation in case of a threat.

Cut the grass on a regularly basis so that new fresh grass is always available for the hens to forage in. This will also reduce the risk of mice setting up in the outdoor area.

Offer water and follow the rules

If drinking water is available in the outdoor area, more hens will come out and spread in the hen yard. However, you should pay special attention to the legislation for water in outdoor areas which has become stricter due to the danger of avian influenza.

Access to water for every 150 meters is recommended, but if you have an outdoor area of less than 150 meters, the hens' access to water can be limited to indoors according to current legislation. If your outdoor area is larger than 150 meters, it is a legal requirement that you find another solution, so that you can offer access to water in the outdoor area.

For example, by placing water on the outside of the hen house or in the winter garden. It will be a case-by-case assessment whether the poultry has easy access to enough drinking troughs.