We must be all guilty of behaving as though once we have bought something rather expensive we expect it to last forever. Of course, no matter what it is regular maintenance is required to keep it in working order. Working order for a poultry house means it remains robust and safe for birds to stay in.

The majority of poultry houses are made of wood and some are a better quality than others. Well built, stronger constructions will last longer than cheaper designs, some of which can be rather flimsy.

All housing will need an annual maintenance check because weather can take quite a toll on natural products. I have managed to keep a garden shed, which was adapted to provide a chicken house, in good order for 10 years but then repairs came to the point where a new one would be more cost effective.

Watch for rot

If poultry houses are kept just off the ground it can be beneficial. With a little space underneath the house there will be just sufficient room to safely slip a little rodent control underneath and if on legs or runners, the actual housing floor will remain much drier and therefore last for longer. Wet rot and dry rot can soon penetrate the housing, especially if the area is affected by driving rain. Dampness can not only induce rotting but will also encourage fungal spores and whichever kind they are it is better if they do not exist.

Smallholder:

Check all around the poultry house for any signs of damp or rotting. If it is apparent that damage has been done, transfer the poultry to other overnight accommodation whilst remedial work is done. Cut out the perished parts and treat the surround with an appropriate spray to prevent further rot. When thoroughly dry, board up the hole fixing it securely. The bottom corners of the walls and around the top of the house where the roof meets are often the first places to get affected.

Using felt

Traditionally, felt has been put onto a poultry housing roof and certainly this is useful material to use and relatively cheap. However, in very windy areas as well as felt nails it is advisable to put adhesive on first then secure batons across the felt.

Smallholder:

A very useful alternative to felt is onduline. This comes in sheets and can be sawn to the lengths required. It is more expensive in relation to felt but should last much longer as it is stronger.

Doors and windows

Examine the pop-hole to make sure that the hinges and hooks are intact. These wear over time and hinges can become rusty, eventually breaking off. Do not be tempted to put the task of repairing it off for another day because a prop or brick against the pop-hole closure may not be good enough to exclude a fox and certainly not a badger, which is a much stronger and more determined animal.

Wood maintenance

Once all repairs are completed give the housing a good coat or two of wood preservative. This will not only help protect the wood from the weather and deter deterioration but the house will look much more presentable and smart as well.

Smallholder:

If the poultry house is large and static, clean up where the birds enter the house and lay wood chippings or a few concrete paving slabs around the area. This will help keep mud at bay and the birds will not take so much dirt inside. Mobile units can be moved and positioned on free draining clean areas. For housing that is not made from wood check that wear and tear are not putting your birds at risk. Even the strongest new materials may have weaknesses if something heavy has fallen onto or knocked into it.

Take a good look at fencing

Wire fencing is pretty longstanding but the galvanization does not last forever and weather corrosion can result in rust, which eventually means the wire will break and then you are left with holes in the fencing.

Give particular attention to the bottom of the fencing, clearing any weed growth around it to make sure that the wire is still in situ and sound. So long as the majority of fencing is in good condition, rusty patches or any holes in the fencing can be sealed over with new.

It is a good idea to take the new fencing from one post to the next, so that the wire can be stapled into place, thereby making the repairs more fox proof.

Wire staple clips are quick and ideal for connecting strands of wire netting together but these do tend to corrode quicker than actual staples. Small plastic cable ties can come in useful and although not particularly smart will last longer than any type of string.

Be careful if using nylon string as this can deteriorate and with little strands breaking off can provide a hazard in the environment.

Tall wooden posts do have a limited life particularly the part that is in the ground, for this will probably be where the post rots first. If other posts along the side of the fence seem in good order and one or perhaps two are not sound, then insert another post alongside the frail one, nailing or screwing it to the original post. This will get over having to remove the original post and disconnecting the wire.

Wire fencing will always be much stronger and reliable if no cutting and re-connecting has taken place.

However, with electric poultry fencing or netting, occasionally re-connections need to take place and there are repair kits that prolong the life of this kind of fencing.

Wires can be mended with the help of metal ferules and replacements for various types of electric fencing and netting are available.

When checking the electric fencing also make sure that no shorting is taking place. Weeds and other greenery can soon cause problems and electric fencing will only keep your poultry safe so long as it is working perfectly.

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This article was written for Smallholder magazine by poultry expert Janice Houghton-Wallace. For more articles from her, subscribe here, call 01778 392011, email subscriptions@warnersgroup.co.uk or buy from a newsagent.