BRIGHTON CHICKEN ARKS
When it comes to fowl housing I am of the opinion that to design, build and then ultimately market functional chicken housing worth the name you need to have been a poultry keeper. Being a ’Good Lifer’ in the late seventies I kept chicken and made my own housing. Initially making mistakes, mainly because I arrogantly assumed I knew more about what a chicken needed than the chicken did. The BRIGHTONS have been part of my repertoire for forty years of chicken keeping, building and selling poultry housing, during which time they have gone through several incarnations. The latest’s BRIGHTONS have a wider apex giving the birds more head room so making it suitable for larger fowl. New style below floor level nesting panders to the hens nesting instinct’s and now the cleaning access is doubled having full length doors in both the side walls.
The Brighton is my ark of choice, it’s easy to move. The birds are secure, and they’re under cover. Personally I don’t free range from the ark, preferring to keep the birds safe and move the ark daily onto a fresh patch. The fox will visit day and night so as the BRIGHTON is deemed safe during the day then it’s just as safe at night, so personally I don’t pull up the ramp at night, this way the birds get down at first light and tend not to get stressed. Note, this is what I do, you make your own judgment.
I have more to say on poultry keeping; link here to Fowl Keepers Fantasies. I wrote this article a long time back for our then brochure, it’s a bit dated (pre internet) and as is my style very much tongue in cheek, but on the basics it still remains relevant.
STYLE AND FUNCTION:
When creating any animal or bird housing we apply three criteria. Firstly, and most importantly, the house MUST pander to
the hen’s needs and nature given instincts. As with all creatures hens are ‘hard-wired’ to certain behavioural traits, which to ignore is foolhardy.
Secondly, the house accessibility and functionality should aid the keeper achieve a high level of husbandry. Awkward, hard to clean housing gets steadily filthier, until in the end, the welfare of the hens becomes an issue.
Lastly, ensuring we do not compromise the birds or the keepers needs, we strive to make our work aesthetically pleasing. Achieved by applying a critical eye to scale and proportions, the selection (and rejection), of materials, the routine use of sandpaper and adding those little bits of unnecessary detail, we accomplish the desired effect. Perhaps best summarised by a customer who said “yours is housing even our neighbour can be proud of”.
Hens like a low nest, their instinct is to scratch a divot in the ground litter under the cover of a bush and get hidden from view. Which is why the BRIGHTON nests are sited at the dark end of the ark and dropped below floor level. There are two nests suitable for medium size hens (like rescues) or bantams. However the partition can be removed making a single nest for large fowl birds. In our objective to make cleaning easy, the nests are fitted with night shutters which if used will bar the hens access to the nests overnight which stops night soiling, and whole nest front assembly is removable for cleaning.
The perch bar is a stout section with rounded edges making it ‘claw friendly’. The perching is removable for cleaning.
One of the advantages of the BRIGHTON ARK design is that the birds get the benefit of a covered run, giving them shelter from wind, rain, snow and as importantly shade from the sun.
The ramp is retractable and can the secured shut overnight.
Fresh air is vital to roosting birds, therefore air vents are cut into the gables at both ends to vent foul air (pun intended).
The more often you move the ark the less likelihood the birds will damage the grass beyond repair, and the sooner you will be able to reuse the same plot. In really inclement conditions you could even move the ark on to a hard standing. Handles at both ends make moving easy. If required the ark can be moved by a single person just move each end over a little at a time until the entire run is repositioned on fresh patch.
As said above, the perch bar and the entire nest assembly are removable. Both the side walls are hinged doors giving the keeper unobstructed access to the whole roosting an nest areas.
I learnt a long time back that to use cheap materials is penny wise and pound foolish.
All framing and cladding is pressure treated joinery grade red pine.
12mm thick tongue and grooved boarding.
20mm thick shiplap boarding
12mm thick MARINE grade ply.
12x12mm galvanised mesh.
The birds get a run of 1.2mt x 1.3mt (4 x4½ ft) plus the upstairs area. The 4x4 will accommodate three or four medium birds (like rescues) or up to five bantams including a cockerel. It could also house two or three large fowl hens but I would not recommend it to be suitable for a large fowl cockerel.
The birds get a run of 1.8mt x 1.3mt (6 x4½ ft) plus the upstairs area. The 4x6 will accommodate up to six medium birds (like rescues) or up to 7 bantams including a cockerel. It could also house three or four large fowl hens but I would not recommend it to be suitable for a large fowl cockerel.
‘FOWL’ OR FAIR WEATHER STAND.
No matter how often you move the ark in the depths of the winter or during periods of persistent rain inevitably the birds will churn the ground into a quagmire. Which is obviously detrimentally to the wellbeing of the birds, but also scars the turf which will need weeks to repair.
The FOWL OR FAIR WEATHER STAND is a pressure treated timber frame which holds the ark off the mud and forms a deep litter pit. Our advice would be set up a permanent inclement weather plot on a hard standing. To use a proprietary horse bedding for the scratching litter (AUBIOSE) which will need freshening weekly and totally changing every 4-5 weeks.
A removable marine grade ply shield that affords the birds some much needed extra protection in more extreme weathers. The shield can be located in either side according to the prevailing weather conditions.
The run abuts to the ark to give extra run space. The run is supplied with doors in both ends, so can also be used as a standalone run.
Although the timber we build with is pressure treaded or marine grade and will last many years, we think it prudent to once in a while apply a re-treatment. The treatment we both use and strongly recommend prevents future wood rot by forming a WATER SHEDDING layer over the timber surface.
When first applied the treater has both the colour and consistency of diluted milk, however it dries to be fully TRANSPARENT so can be liberally applied without showing brush or run marks. It is water based so it CAN BE APPLIED TO WET WOOD. Being MICRO POROUS it allows the wood to ‘breath’ and most importantly it says SUITABLE FOR ANIMAL HOUSING on the label!