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Keeping chickens: an Omlet Eglu Chicken Coop Review

This post is a collaboration with Omlet.

If there is one thing that’s unexpectedly brightened up my 2020, it’s chickens. Adopting chickens back in February was (probably) the best decision I made this year. These adorable, quirky little birds are just bursting with personality, and I really can’t imagine being without them.

And now I’m ready to improve my set-up and expand my flock.

Chickens like to be with other chickens… except when those chickens are new, or sick. In which case, chickens like to decide to demonstrate who is boss by mercilessly attacking the other chickens. (Eventually, a new status quo is established, but it’s pretty brutal in the moment.)

Back in February I started out with 4 chickens, but Billina sadly died of old age in September. She was sick off and on for the last few months, which involved quarantining (in a converted cardboard box in my office) and then reintroducing her to the flock a number of times – and in the space of just a week she’d go from accepted member of the family to UNPRECEDENTED THREAT.

Which was all a big drama for everyone.

And she wasn’t the biggest fan of the cardboard box (as soon as she started feeling better, she let me know).

The good news is, she lived out her very last days as a happy chicken hanging out with her friends, but it got me thinking about having a better future setup for new, sick, injured or possibly even broody chickens.

(Aside from the chickens-fighting-with-other-chickens factor, it is good practice to quarantine new chickens from existing chickens to reduce the chances of passing on diseases to one another).

Long story short… I decided a chicken tractor would be a useful addition to my setup.

A chicken tractor isn’t an actual tractor, it’s a moveable chicken coop lacking a floor. They are called tractors because the chickens dig up the top layer of soil – and then they can be moved to another area with fresh grass and bugs to eat.

Chicken tractors are often a rectangular or A frame design, with a shelter/house section. They are are great for:

  • Quarantining sick, injured or new chickens;
  • For mumma chickens to raise their baby chicks;
  • To allow chickens to graze a particular patch of garden whilst stopping them get access to those bits they are not supposed to be grazing (like the veg patch).

They can be used as temporary or permanent accommodation for chickens, depending on how often the tractor is moved, or whether the chickens are also allowed some free-ranging time and space.

Traditionally they are made of wood and wire, I’ve also seen some made entirely out of metal – and then there’s the Omlet options, with the houses made out of plastic and the runs made out of metal mesh.

Why I opted for an Omlet Eglu chicken tractor

There are a few reasons why I prefer the Omlet option over the other options.

  • Omlet make modular products, which gives them flexibility. My chicken tractor is an Eglu Go UP, which means the house is raised off of the ground – but it can be removed from the frame for ground dwelling. This makes it suitable for chicks (who are too small to climb up stairs), and also quail… and even rabbits. Being modular, it can also be dismantled for storage.
  • You can add components or remove them according to your needs, such as extending the run, or removing the wheels, or adding handles. They also sell spare parts – something I always check for.
  • The plastic house part is insulated, which makes it more suitable for the Perth climate than a metal house, which could bake the poor chickens.
  • It also packs down reasonably easily. Whilst I wouldn’t say it flatpacks, it is easy to disassemble for storage if required as opposed to a rigid structure that’s moveable – yet also permanent.
  • You only need a hand-held screwdriver to assemble – hurrah! I have zero DIY skills to build a wooden A frame chicken tractor. (I do feel a bit of shame about this, as I’d love to be some kind of handy upcycler, but it is not me. I would have no idea how to start putting one together from scratch.)
  • Being plastic, the Omlet is super easy to clean and completely weatherproof. Wooden chicken coops get covered in poop, and wood is not easy to clean. If I’m using it to quarantine sick birds, this is not ideal. Wood also needs to be treated every year to stop it deteriorating. And wood can harbour red mite – a chicken pest.

Omlet Eglu Go UP – a review

Omlet sent me one of their Eglu Go UP chicken coops to review, and also provided me with a 10% discount code to share with you (the code is TREADING10) – which will work on their Australian, UK, Irish and USA sites.

Omlet have three different chicken coops:

  • the Eglu Go: the original Omlet chicken coop which sits on the ground and is attached to a fox resistant run. Can house between 2 and 4 chickens, depending on the size of the breed.
  • the Eglu Go UP [this is the one I chose]: the same Eglu Go house, but raised on a frame (it’s accessed by a ladder) which allow the chickens to go underneath.
  • the Eglu Cube: a bigger and squarer chicken coop, also raised on a frame – big enough for 10 small chickens, but too big for me and my needs.

I chose the Eglu Go UP because Perth is a hot climate, and the space under the raised house provides a nice shady spot to dust bath. Also, by raising the house off the ground, and allowing the chickens to roam underneath, the same roaming space has a smaller footprint, making better use of the space and takes up less garden.

What I love about the Omlet design though, is that if I changed my mind later on, I could simply take the house off of the frame, and place it on the ground. (I’d need to modify the run to make it compatible with the house – and close the gaps, but that’s not too hard.) I’ve thought about getting quail in the future, and the Omlet Eglu Go is ideal for quail when placed on the ground (they don’t do ladders) and with the perch tray removed.

Setting up the Omlet Eglu Go Coop

Predicted setup time (according to Omlet): 30 mins; actual setup time (according to me): 50 mins.

Tools required: a handheld screwdriver.

The house comes flatpacked as a series of panels, with some metal screws included to hold it all together. No polystyrene in the box, hurrah!

(The run comes in a separate box.)

The instructions were great, really detailed and easy to follow – although I did have to check everything fifteen times, which is why it took me longer to set up than expected.

The house comes as two sides, a base, a roof, a back and a front – and some green external cladding (they also have a pink option) that insulates the coop.

Screwing it together was relatively straightforward.

Once the house is screwed together (but before the outer green cladding goes on) the stand needs assembling – the frame that the house sits on.

There is also the option to add wheels to this frame, to make the coop easier to move around the garden. You hold the opposite end and maneuver the coop into the position you want. If you’re intending to keep the coop in the same place, you probably don’t need the wheels. You can also lift the coop with two people as an alternative.

Once the frame is assembled and the wheels attached, the house sits on top and is held in place by two sturdy metal holding plates. The green cladding clips in place, and the house is done.

Wondering how the chickens get into their house? With a ladder, of course!

Next, assembling the run.

Setting up the Omlet Eglu Go Coop Run

Predicted set-up time 2 hours, actual set-up time 2 hours.

No tools at all required for this bit.

The run is made up of a series of welded mesh steel panels that securely attached to the coop. There’s also a mesh ‘skirt’ that can go around the edge to help deter predators (I haven’t used the skirt as I’m fortunate enough to live in an area without foxes).

The mesh panels clip together with plastic clips. That might not sound super secure and it’s a little wobbly whilst it’s being put together, but once it’s all in place it’s pretty sturdy.

The clips can be opened and closed to allow for the run to be dismantled. Being plastic, I am sure the bending of the joint will slowly weaken over time, and also degrade in (Australian) sunlight. A follower on Instagram told me that after 4 years in the Queensland sun her Omlet coop clips have started to break. Replacement clips are available, or you could use wire, string, or something else to secure it all in place.

It’s helpful to have two people to assemble this – one to hold the pieces in place whilst the other clips them together.

The coop can be purchased by itself, or with a 2m run, and any number of 1m extensions can be added. I added a single extension to make my run 3m. The longer it is, the more awkward it would be to manuevre the coop/run around the garden, but 3m is fine.

A quick tour of the Omlet Eglu Go UP chicken coop

The door to the chicken coop can be swung open and shut with a liftable and turnable knob placed in the roof.

The side panels have vents, so closing the door does not affect air flow, but it helps keep the chickens secure – a great feature if predators such as foxes or snakes are a concern.

At the back of the chicken house there is a removable panel which can be taken off by turning the big knob at the back, and this gives access to the coop.

The internal tray is removable and slides out, and is made of two parts (the top one is grey, and the bottom on is green). On the top part there is a nesting box area, set slightly lower than the rungs, and then the rungs. (Chickens prefer to perch on flat or wide beams, so these work well.)

There are gaps between the rungs so their poop drops into the bottom tray. The two trays separate easily, and the whole thing can be hosed down to clean.

Honestly, cleaning this coop is a dream.

And of course, to test it out… I have two new chickens.

These two have come from friends who are travelling around Australia for a year. The orange feathered chicken – a solid Isa brown called Dorothy – was too busy eating to pose for pictures. The grey chicken, Betty, is the sister of Alison, my existing Araucana chicken.

Oh and fun fact – araucana chickens lay blue eggs!

Final thoughts on the Omlet Eglu Go UP

I’m really impressed with this mobile chicken coop. It’s well designed, sturdy and secure. The coop is completely weatherproof, and easy to clean. (I can’t stress enough how easy to clean it is.) And whilst I expect some colour fading in the sun, it’s robust and made to last (the house is UV stabilised, and the run is metal), and a zero maintenance option.

If you have zero or minimal DIY skills, it is a great no fuss option.

I love the fact that it’s adaptable (by placing on the ground and removing the perch tray, it becomes suitable for quail or rabbits) and modular, and that the company sells spare parts.

There’s also a thriving second-hand market for these items so if you no longer need it down the track, it’s easy to find a new owner. (That said, it’s less easy to find Omlet products second-hand, as they get snapped up quickly and are often priced similarly to new products.)

You’ll find more information about the Eglu Go UP (and all the other pet products that Omlet make) on their official websites (and don’t forget, if you choose to make a purchase you can save 10% with the code TREADING10)

Omlet Australia / Omlet Ireland / Omlet UK / Omlet USA

And of course, if you have any questions about the Omlet chicken coop – or if you wish to share your own experiences – I’d love to hear from you so please get in touch and leave a comment below!

Why I’m Keeping Chickens (for Zero Waste)

I’ve loved the idea of having chickens since my days of renting an upstairs apartment. I was hopeful in my last place that it might be possible, but being a strata (7 units on a single block with 7 owners and opinions – plus tenants in the mix) there needed to be consensus, and alas – there was not.

Since I moved, chickens have been back on the plan, and three weeks ago, they moved in.

Now clearly I’m no chicken expert (!) – although side note, I did read a lot of books on the subject first, more on that in a second – but I thought it might be interesting for you if I explained why I’ve got chickens, how chickens fit with a zero waste lifestyle and what you might like to do if you’re thinking of getting chickens, too.

Why chickens?

Lots of reasons, actually! Chickens have a lot going for them.

Reducing food waste.

Chickens are great munchers of food scraps. They can’t eat everything – they won’t eat rotten or mouldy food (and it is dangerous to feed them this) – but they’ll eat cores and seeds and rinds and stems and bits that might otherwise head to the compost caddy.

Pest control.

Chickens are omnivores and will eat all kinds of insects: grasshoppers, cockroaches and caterpillars, for example. They will actually also kill and eat mice. Because I want to grow food in my back garden, chickens can help keep the bad insects under control.

They are also great for managing fruit fly, which live in the soil for part of their life cycle (the larva and pupa stages) and can wreck fruit crops. Not that I have any fruit trees producing fruit yet, but I will.

Lawn control.

Chickens eat grass. A flock of chickens can easily destroy a lawn – which in my case, is exactly what I want. Much better that it gets eaten than sent to landfill. As well as nibbling the tips they dig around and scratch it up (and poo on it) so it doesn’t stand a chance. Hurrah!

(The bit of lawn I do plan to keep is definite chicken no-go zone. For obvious reasons.)

Chicken manure.

All this eating has to end up somewhere! Chicken poop is high in nitrogen and good for the garden. It needs composting before adding to plants (it can burn young roots).

Chickens make great pets.

I love the idea of having chickens around, rustling around the garden and foraging for insects and eating my weeds. They are much more self-sufficient than dogs or cats.

Eggs.

I left this until last because although it might seem to be the most obvious, there are plenty of other reasons to keep chickens. I’m not particularly fussed about the egg part, as I don’t buy eggs as part of my grocery shop (I occasionally eat eggs from friends with chickens, and sometimes if I order breakfast out).

Most of the eggs I get I intend to give away to family and friends that might otherwise buy eggs. I’ve eaten some too. I’d rather use them than waste them, but I still don’t eat that many.

I know vegans who keep chickens and eat their eggs only (because they know how the chickens are fed and treated ). I also know vegans who keep chickens and leave the eggs for nature (chickens will actually eat their own eggs), but this works better if you’ve got more space. Broken stinky egg in the coop isn’t going to be fun for anyone.

Just to be clear, unless you have a rooster as part of the flock (which isn’t necessary and isn’t allowed in most urban areas), the eggs are infertile. A chicken’s shelled menstruation, as a vegan once told me. So eating eggs doesn’t kill unborn chicks.

Getting started: do some chicken research

Personally, I’m not into ‘winging it’ (no pun intended) when it comes to keeping live animals. I’d rather have a good grasp of the basics and have an idea at least of where to look and where to go if I run into problems. Of course we can’t learn everything beforehand, but having a basic understanding goes a long way.

Read chicken books

I literally borrowed every book in the library to do with keeping chickens (and one of keeping quail) as well as borrow another from a friend. There was lots of stuff in there that was irrelevant for me, such as raising chicks, showing chickens at competitions and – no thanks – how to eat your chicken (I don’t eat meat anyway, but eating your pets seems a little wrong).

But there was lots of useful tips too, and it was helpful (honestly!) to read conflicting opinions on things.

If you’d like to read up on keeping chickens, I found these three books to be the best:

Backyard chickens: how to keep happy hens, by Dave Ingham (Australia)

Chickens: the essential guide to choosing and keeping happy, healthy hens, by Suzie Baldwin (UK)

Keeping chickens: getting the best from your chickens, by Jeremy Hobson (UK)

(All were available at my library.)

Find people in your neighbourhood with chickens

I have lots of friends who keep chickens, so this was easy for me. One in particular (who has been keeping chickens for 5 years, and has a flock of 12) lives two streets away.

It’s handy to have people in your nieghbourhood to ask questions, and also to pop round and look at their setup (they can give you advice about predators, sourcing things like food and advising on good local vets in a way that a book never could).

If you’re not fortunate enough to already know someone with chickens (and even if you are), there are also online communities.

Join an online chicken community

There are heaps of forums dedicated to keeping chickens, and also plenty of Facebook groups so connect with people this way. (If you don’t have local friends with chickens yet, try connecting with local owners here.)

Forums and groups are a great way to ask questions and find knowledge; however it’s not always obvious which advice is right or who to trust. It also depends on the question and the consequence of wrong advice. Particularly with sick chickens, the advice of a vet will be better than trying a homemade remedy from somebody you don’t know whose chickens you’ve never seen.

Talks and workshops

It goes without saying: if you can get to a talk or workshop by a chicken owner, you’ll learn heaps. I went to one by a vet, and it was really helpful – there was a big focus on chicken welfare with lots I hadn’t considered before.

Getting ready for chickens: setting up home

There are a more things few things to consider before actually getting chickens and bringing them home. Including their home!

Rules and regulations

You’ll want to check with your local council whether chickens are allowed, how many you can keep and if there are any other restrictions (such as being a certain distance from the house, or away from fences).

The fences rule might seem arbitrary but actually, a lot of fences in Australia were sprayed with toxic chemicals such as Dieldrin right up to the 1970s. It’s worth getting eggs tested if you intend to eat them to check that your soil isn’t contaminated – whether with Dieldrin or something else. If it is, there are remedial measures (removing and replacing the soil, or building a concrete base for your coop).

Choosing a suitable home

It’s important to choose a home that’s suitable for the climate, and predator proof.

I’m in the fairly unusual situation of living in a suburb that doesn’t have foxes. Fox-proofing my chicken coop isn’t necessary, but for most people, it’s an absolute must. Some people may have to think about snake-proofing, too, and also birds of prey.

The only threat where I live is hawks, and they tend to only take chicks and maybe young ones, but not full-grown hens.

Ideally, chickens need shelter from the elements, a dark space to lay eggs, and somewhere secure and well ventilated to sleep. The need shade, access to dirt for dust bathing and also space in the sun.

I’ve read that chickens can manage on 1m2 per chicken. Manage maybe, but when you factor in all these things, plus the fact they will poop in this space too, more space is really better. Allowing them to graze somewhere else during the day makes for more sanitary conditions and happier chickens.

It’s possible to buy coops or make your own. I was very stressed about this, not having any skills to make my own but really wanting to find something second-hand over buying new. Even with plans, I think a DIY coop would take me months to build.

My prayers were answered when one of my readers (Alison) saw I was reading chicken books, and donated her second-hand but unused coop.

This is Alison’s Retirement Home for Second-Chance Chickens:

Another friend lent me some fencing so that I could create a run for during the day to extend the space. She also lent me a couple of feeders to use, and gave me some crumble (a type of chicken food) to get my flock started.

Honestly, I think she was impatient I was taking so long! I don’t like to rush these things…

Bringing chickens home

The books all write about going to reputable breeders, but I only want to rehome or rescue chickens (I don’t want to add more animals to the world). Factory farmed (battery) rescues aren’t recommended for newbies like me (both the books and an experienced friend told me this) and so I rehomed some chickens from a family who had a change in circumstance and could no longer keep them.

I took my friend with me when I got them (honestly, I’d never have caught them without her!) and she gave them the once over so that if there was anything that needed treating, we could deal with it. I wouldn’t know what to look for. One came with lice and mites, but we’re working on that and she has a clean area to dust bathe (which suffocates them).

I only planned on getting three, but there was a cute little teenager there who I couldn’t resist bringing with me…

She’s called Alison, and she is an araucana. The other three are all different breeds.

One is an ISA brown called Billina, who is the boss of the flock, mostly because she is the bravest. The others run for cover when I come, but not Billina. She trots up to see what’s on offer.

The black chicken is an Australian breed called an Australorp. She is huge with a black beady eye and she is called Dark Emu. Despite her size she is scared of everything. Half the time I think she has escaped because she blends in so well with the shadows.

The chicken with the collar is a welsummer called BossyBoots, mostly because she is bossy even though she is not the boss. She pecks at poor Alison (definite mean streak, this one). She is also extremely loud, announcing when she (or anyone) has laid an egg – and sometimes announcing even when there is no egg. People can hear her on the next street (I wish I was joking).

And that’s the flock! They’ve been here three weeks, and so far so good. It’s amazing to discover all their personalities and I’m very fond of them all already. Looking forward to more chicken adventures as the months unfold…

Now I’d love to hear from you! Do you have chickens? Tell me more! Are you thinking about getting them? Do you have any questions about keeping chickens, or any advice for newbie chicken keepers like me? Let’s get the conversation started: share your thoughts below!