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We live in central New England, and purchased the henspa in early spring of 2006. We found it easy to assemble in less than 2 hrs, as advertized. In mid-June of 2006, we moved our nine 6-week old chicks into the henspa. We have lost three of our chickens due to predation (two while free ranging, and one literally scared to death while in the coop, by a fox which jumped on top of the sunroom), but our six remaining hens are still living in the henspa. We are currently building a stationary coop with a much larger run, and plan to move the hens into it when it is completed in a few weeks.
While the moveability of this chicken coop would appear to be a big plus, it is easily moveable only over very even, level ground. Our yard is not very level, so moving the henspa can be somewhat of a challenge, but still usually do-able by one person. Also, uneven ground means that there will sometimes be substantial space between the ground and the bottom of the coop, creating easy entry for small predators (and easy exit for hens which are not yet full grown, and for any full grown bantam chicken). This is not an issue if you move it every day, as daily movement seems to confuse predators. However, in climates such as ours where winter can be snowy, the henspa must be kept in one place. The Keeles recommend preparing the site by covering it with chicken wire that extends at least 16 inches from the edges of the coop, covering that with litter, and then placing the henspa on top. While this does stop predators from digging downward into the ground, it does not stop them from digging under the coop and sneaking in between the bottom of the coop and the chicken wire. So, we folded the wire up and stapled it to the coop. That makes it more predator resistant, but it is rather a nuisance to do this each fall, and to undo it each spring.
We feel that the henspa is a very poor choice for cold winter climates, even if you are able to put it somewhere, such as in an empty shed, where it will be protected from snow and wind. In cold, snowy, and/or windy conditions, chickens often choose to stay in the coop most of the day, even if allowed out. This coop is much too small for six hens in that situation. They need a larger protected area in winter. The manure builds up over the weeks and months, and, as designed, the inside of the run ("sunroom") and the downstairs portion of the coop are totally inaccessible to you for cleaning. To improve on it, we doubled the size of the sunroom to give the hens more space, and made the top open-able, so we could clean the run.
Another problem in winter: Once you place the coop on top of the bed of litter for the duration of the winter, the downstairs portion of the coop becomes a nice, dark, comfortable place for the hens to lay their eggs. Ours stopped using the nestboxes and began laying their eggs in the back corner of the downstairs. This area is totally inaccessble to you for egg collection and for cleaning. We had to remove the handle used for moving the henspa, and cut a little door into the side, through which we could gather the eggs. Cleaning this area, however, remained extremely difficult. We hated having our hens live in such filth!
The nipple waterer presents another problem. As mentioned, our chickens moved into the henspa at the age of 6 weeks. However, standard size chickens are not tall enough to reach the nipples until they are nearly full grown (about 4-5 months, for most layers). Until then, you must provide an alternate source of water in the coop. By the time they are large enough to reach the nipples, they are accustomed to drinking from the standard waterer, and reluctant to use the nipples. It took a long time to wean them off the standard waterer and get them used to the nipples. Depsite the reassurances of Mr. Keele, at least one of ours had great difficulty with that transition, and one actually went into a molt when we finally withdrew the standard waterer.
Another design flaw: The holes through which the chickens stick their heads to access the nipples are also easy entries for weasels, a problem in winter when you cannot depend on daily movement of the coop to confuse predators. We built a box around the water bucket to make those holes inaccessible to predators.
While the idea of pasture raising your chickens in this movable coop may be appealing, we feel it is ineffective as such. The scratching, foraging, and pooping of only 6 hens almost totally browns out the grass under the sunroom after just one day in a given location. We don't consider this to be "fertilizing the grass", as advertized. It destroys the grass. Come see our yard if you have any doubts! In order to maintain any green where the henspa has been sitting, you must be able to let the chickens run around outside of the coop for at least half of the day -- which we now do. So why do we need a movable coop? In order to save the grass from total destruction, we have to free range the chickens anyway!
While the henspa was a poor choice for us, we must point out that it could work out quite well in a different situation. In a warm climate area where you will be able to move it around all winter long, where the ground is flat and even, and within a large, fenced in area, where you can safely allow the birds to "free range" for at least half the day, the henspa would be fine. But even in such a situation, we still would not recommend this thing. A movable coop is not necessary if you are able to let the chickens run around. They will be pasture fed and their coop will stay clean. A good, solid coop which is large enough for you to walk in and clean, which leaves no dark corners inaccessible to you, and which has no holes to admit sneaky predators, is the way to go.
In early spring we purchased henspa--before their fire. It arruved with several broken pieces and an important part missing. As we worked on trying to put it together we found the instructions not very clear and in fact had one photo inverted so it was confusing. After we finally got the coop and yard together we found we wanted to make several modifications, such as opening the top of the yard so we can reach in for various reasons. There are several others we did but other owners might not want to do them. We would be glad to share if anyone wants to know.
We recommend that the Keels get their quality control together and write a new manual for construction. They are nice enough people to deal with but we would hope their product gets better.
All in all we are glad we have the henspa. Our construction team included 2 professional engineers and a social worker but we are happy with our $1000 purchase now. The chickens like it too. JDB
nancykeel Ringgold, VA (1 review) November 15, 2006
I live close to Egganic Industries where the Henspas are made. I know several people in the area who have bought their coops at the Egganic shop. They are all absolutely delighted with their purchases. Unfortunately there is the rush of orders during April, May and June, and Egganic Industries can't meet the stock demand immediately. They may have a backlog of orders for several weeks on some of their units at that time. Otherwise, they normally have stock on everything most of the year.
Note from the Garden Watchdog editors:
This comment was created by Nancy Keel, who is referred to as the wife of the owner of Henspa on their website. It is the stated policy of the Watchdog that companies can NOT pose as customers to inflate their own rating. The rating was changed from positive to neutral so that it would not affect the overall rating given by customers.
LarisaB West Seattle, WA (Zone 8b) (8 reviews) June 12, 2006
I ordered a HenHaven Stretched from them, and after a few weeks and lots of phone calls, everything did get sorted out, but I was left with a bad taste in my mouth. The product was adequate in the end, but the customer service was very, very disappointing.Company representative comment on June 13, 2006: Our service for this Henhaven customer was way below the standard that we have set for ourselves. We do not have an explicit warranty policy. We have an unwritten committment to keep working on every issue that comes up until it is resolved.