Having a flock of chickens requires some daily and monthly tasks to ensure your hens are happy, healthy and safe. Chicken care doesn’t have to be hard, and these tips can help you make sure you’re giving your chickens everything they need.
1. Check water and clean/refill as needed. You’ll want to make sure your hens always have a clean source of fresh water. Shavings, straw, and poop can get in the water and muck it up. Make sure you clean the waterer if it’s slimy. Use dish soap and water and rinse well, and bleach or use an oxygen bleach product as needed to sanitize. This is important, as chickens don’t like to drink dirty water.
2. Feed your chickens from a large hanging feeder and add chicken feed as necessary; if you prefer you can feed them a set ration each day.
Because of the avian flu alert, water and feed must be offered in a covered area at the moment, so that wild birds cannot share it.
3. Collect eggs daily to ensure they are as clean as possible, this will also minimize cracked eggs and freshness. There’s no need to wash your freshly collected eggs. They stay fresher for far longer if they aren’t washed, due to having a natural protective coating.
4. Spend some time with your flock observing them to ensure they look healthy with bright eyes, smooth feathers and are active and alert. If any of your birds look lethargic and don’t want to go in to roost at night, check for red mites.
1. Manage bedding. How you do this depends on the litter method you are using. For city and suburban flocks, you’ll want to change the bedding in the coop at least monthly.
Rural and larger flocks can use the deep litter method. For this method, you begin with three to four inches of bedding and each month, or when droppings build up, you add more bedding until you have 6 inches or more of bedding. With this method, you remove all the bedding twice a year and start over.
2. Freshen nest boxes. Remove soiled bedding with poop or broken eggs and put in fresh bedding material. This helps keep your hens laying in the nest boxes, as well as making the job of cleaning eggs easier.
3. Clean and sanitize waterers. Scrub the waterers with dish soap and warm water, rinse well, and sanitize with your choice of sanitizing solution, but the simplest is one part of bleach to 10 parts water.
1. Clean and sanitize coop. Once or twice a year, remove everything from the coop and wash down all surfaces with one part of bleach to 10 parts of water. You should also do this in between flocks. Some people favor a sprinkling of diatomaceous earth (DE) in the coop to cut down on mites and keep the hens healthy. Get food-grade DE and don’t worry if the hens eat it; it is perfectly safe and even good for them.
2. Prepare for winter. Making sure your hens are ready to not just survive but thrive in the cold winter weather is an important part of maintaining your flock. Get heaters for your waterers if necessary. Consider whether you want to use a light to keep your hens laying in winter. Make sure you have roosting space for everyone; this is how hens stay warm. You should not heat your chicken coop.
Keeping in the rhythm of these chores will keep your hens happy, healthy and laying plenty of farm-fresh eggs.
Avian influenza (bird flu), a disease of birds, has been identified in wild birds in England in 2018. All poultry keepers are required to review their biosecurity, sign up for disease alerts, and register their birds with APHA. Keepers must report any unexplained deaths or sickness to their vet.
All keepers must follow the detailed legal requirements on strict biosecurity, whether they have commercial flocks or just a few birds in a backyard flock. Click here to view best practice biosecurity advice.
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