Say hello to Marvin, my little buddy and the very first chick I hatched.
Marvin's chicken coop, painted the same colour as our 150-year-old farmhouse
Marvin came into our lives in the first week of spring. The day after he was born, we had a foot of snow on our doorstep. His mum, Tui, decided to go broody early and I knew her eggs wouldn’t survive the freezing spring. So I decided to take the remaining few, create a DIY incubator (using a cake tin lined with hay and a lamp) and hatch them myself. Marvin was the only chick who survived.
He has been a wonderful buddy right from the start. From just a few days old, he would run to me whenever I tapped my fingers, thinking I was trying to teach him something. For the first eight weeks of his life, he slept in a cardboard box by the fireplace with a hot-water bottle. (Believe it or not, I got up to refill it once or twice a night for the first two weeks; it was a bit like having a newborn again.)
He has become my gardening friend and hangs around my two boys all the time, checking out what they’re up to in the sandpit.
A month ago, I decided Marvin was old enough to sleep outside. So I got him a chicken coop and painted it the same colour as our 150-year-old farmhouse in the hills close to Arrowtown. We now have matching homes. Marvin loves his new coop – he sleeps in the same corner each night and walks out his door and down his plank every morning, eager for breakfast.
Marvin is such a clever chick he has even written a children’s book about his adventures called Marvellous Marvin! It’s available in all good bookstores, and all of ‘his’ author profits go directly to charities HUHA (Helping You Help Animals) and Garden to Table.
SPACE. The minimum welfare standard is one square metre of coop per 10 birds. But most prefer closer to three birds per square metre.
MOBILITY. A mobile hen house offers more options, even if kept in one spot. Look for one that is easy to lift or carry or on wheels or skids.
GOOD VENTILATION. A dry coop is essential for good health; diseases and pests mostly prefer the wet. A hen enclosure needs proper ventilation since chickens expel a lot of moisture when they breathe out.
EASY TO CLEAN. Plastic or painted wood is much easier to clean and treat for pests than raw timber. Light colours, or greyed colours made with Resene CoolColour paint, ensure a coop doesn’t get too hot.
PERCHES. These need to be rounded, five centimetres in diameter, secure and easily removable for cleaning with at least 17 centimetres of perch per bird.
NEST BOXES. A suitable nest box is dark, at least 30 centimetres wide and 35 centimetres high, has a lip at the front (so a bird can snuggle behind it) and a 20-centimetre-deep bed of wood chips, hay or straw.
SECURITY. A secure and lockable door keeps birds safe from predators overnight.
FEEDERS AND WATERERS. An auto-feeder prevents pest birds and rodents from stealing substantial amounts of feed. Look for waterers that are sturdy, self- filling, and easy to clean.
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