In days gone by, hens, ducks, geese and turkeys were kept on most farms, closed in at night andusually left to roam freely around the farmyard during the day. This meant they could forage for scraps, insects, seeds and eat grass, so needing very little extra feed. Hens and turkeys would take dust baths in turf mould, sand or dry soil so they rarely had any problems with mites. Ducks and geese would waddle off to the nearest stream for most of the day, returning to lay eggs and of course for any extra food that was made available to them. Predators were rarely a problem as there was usually someone out and about tending the farm, and the family dog was also a great deterrent.
Modern day living means that most people need to keep poultry in a secure environment. This can be done either by wiring off a pen securely or by using a house that incorporates a built on run. The first option is best as you are not as restricted by size, but birds will live quite comfortably in a confined space if looked after properly. If space isn’t a problem then Large Fowl Hens need about 10 square meters per bird for the winter months to give a continuous supply of grass throughout and save you about 25% on your feeding bills. At the height of the growing season about 3 square meters per bird will keep them in grass, so leaving you plenty of room for any chicks a broody hen may hatch.
With housing the bigger the better. As a general rule for Large Fowl Hens I would recommend a minimum of 3 square feet per bird or maximum of 3 birds per square meter, remember in wet weather hens will remain inside most of the time and will need room to move around. Housing should be well ventilated, this will help stop birds having any respiratory problems but try and avoid draughts on the roosting area. Cold weather is not a problem for most birds, they will survive in temperatures as low as -18 °Cas long as they have plenty of food and water. For roosts a distance of 10 inches or 25cms per bird is ample. Nesting boxes should be a minimum of 12 inches square or 30cms, and I box is required for every 5 hens although you may find more than that will use a favourite box.
I would advise feeders to be left inside if possible, this will avoid attracting crows and magpies in large numbers unless of course you have a covered run.In order to get the best from your hens you need to feed good quality layers pellets or mash as their main diet, it contains all the necessary ingredients for a constant supply of eggs. There are 3 types available, standard, G.M. free and organic with the latter being the most expensive. Grain and scraps are great for poultry but only as a treat. I keep a constant supply of layers pellets with my hens at all times, and in the evenings as a treat I give them a handfull of wheat and kibbled maize and any scraps I have available. The hens love this and always meet me with great enthuasium no matter what the weather.