Friday, March 20, 2015

Raising Backyard Chickens-Care and Maintenance

Chickens are surprisingly easy to take care of.  There are some daily chores that will need to be done as well as some maintenance each month in order to maintain a happy, healthy flock.

Daily.  Make sure you supply your chickens with fresh clean water daily.  This is essential.  Chickens do not like dirty water  It's  important to always have clean water available so your chickens do not get dehydrated. .Make sure food is readily available as well.  Laying hen pellets or crumbles should be the bulk of your chickens diet and should be available at all times.  There are many different brands of chicken feed out there.  It's all about your preference.

Along with pellets you should offer your chickens oyster shells.  This provides them with the added calcium for egg production.  Grit should also be available.  Grit, which are tiny rocks, help the chickens gizzard grind up food.  Both of these should be offered to your chickens.  You can either mix them in with the feed or you can offer in separate feeders.

Ideally chickens should be allowed to free range daily to add variety to their diet.  They will find plenty of things to eat while wondering around the yard.  However, free ranging isn't always an option for people.  Chickens will eat just about anything.  You can toss out your kitchen scraps.  Chickens will pick through and eat what they want.  You can put the remainder in a compost pile so that the run doesn't become a smelly mess.

It's important to take a few minutes each day to look over your birds and make sure everyone is healthy.  It's pretty easy to tell if a bird is not well.  She usually will be away from the flock, not eating, her comb could become pale in color.  Separate any bird that is ill immediately as to not infect the rest of the flock.  If she is ill, chances are some of the other birds will know and they could start picking on her.

One last thing to do each day is to collect the eggs.  This is the best part!  We check for eggs twice a day.  Usually early afternoon (most of ours tend to lay in the morning) and then again at dusk when we put them away for the night.

Monthly or as needed.  Cleaning your coop is important to maintain healthy chickens.  I use the deep litter method.  I add a bale of straw to the house and then add pine shavings on top.  Every couple weeks I add more pine shavings.  About 3 times a year I completely clean the house, removing everything and starting the process over.  I add clean pine shavings to the nesting box every few weeks.  Once a week or so I use a shovel to clean out any clumps and fluff up the bedding that is in there.  I have 11 chickens currently.  This schedule works well for me.  You may need to clean more or less often depending on the side of your chicken house and the amount of birds you have.

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