Chicken Care Food, Water, Clean Coop, Roaming Area,
that's all there is to caring for chickens.
It's easy and fun!
Floor: I use woodshavings on the floor. Thinner in the summer and thicker in the winter. I clean out the coop completely of all litter a few times a year. Before I put down wood shavings, I sprinkle lime on the floor to help neutralize odors . For lice and mite control, I use Diatomaceous Earth on the floor, on the roost shelves, and in the nestingboxes. Diatomaceous Earth is a natural, non-chemical insecticide that is safe for pets and people. But if you have a problem of lice and mites that requires the chemical insecticides, here is a link for different chemical remedies: Chemical Insecticides
Nesting boxes: I put straw in their nesting boxes. I change it whenever it looks like it's getting dirty. I put in a good amount, they always rearrange it into a nice nest. When I have hens that are starting to lay, I put fake eggs or golf balls in the nests. They seem to get the idea that's where they should lay their eggs. But I still have a couple of young hens that like to lay in the corner on the floor.
Roosts: We made shelves above the nesting boxes that catch the night droppings when they're roosting. I used to put wood shavings on that also, but I found that using cat litter is easier and less wasteful. I use a slotted cat litter scoop to separate the droppings from the litter. In the fall, I put the dropping in my garden in the fall. The other times of the year, I just dump the bucket in the woods. When I used wood shavings, I would have a huge pile at the end of winter. Now it's hardly noticeable.
Nestingboxes and Roosts
Food and Stuff:
Food: I start my chicks on a medicated 20% protein chick starter food for eight weeks. Then I switch to a nonmedicated chick starter or an 18% protein grower food for another 8 weeks. I don't give the chicks any scratch only their chick food. Scratch only has about 8% protein and the chicks need more than that to grow to their best potential. The percentages stand for the protein content in the food.
At 16 weeks, I give them 16% layer crumbles. I like crumbles better, I think there is less waste than with mash. At this age, I start to add treats to their diet, such as scratch and scrap fruits and vegetables etc.
Grit (small, crushed rocks): I always have grit available, but especially in the winter when rocks and stones are harder for them to find. Grit acts like teeth in their crop to grind up the food.
Oyster shell: I give the laying hens oyster shell. It gives them extra calcium that they need to help produce strong egg shells. I also give them washed, crushed egg shells for extra calcium.
Scraps: Any scraps, such as fruits, veggies, bread, and milk, can be given to them as a treat. You still want their main diet to come from the layer crumbles.
Scratch: It has various grains. The protein level is not considered to be enough to substitute their layer food. I use it as a treat in the morning, I scatter it all over their yard. It gives them something to look for.
Free Range: I like to let the chickens out of their pen in the late afternoon. They love it and they get to look for bugs and seeds. I've noticed a difference in their egg quality. Richer looking yolks.
Free Range Chickens
Lice and Mites: Check a couple of the chickens now and then for the pests. If one has it chances are the whole flock will have lice/mites. Check under the wings and around the vent area. If you find any, here is link for remedies: Chemical Insecticides or try using Diatomaceous Earth It's also important that they are given an area of dry, loose ground to dust in. This also helps control the lice and mites.
Light: To keep egg laying production near normal, hens need around 12-14 hours of light.
Moult: In the autumn months, chickens will go into moult. Loss their old feathers and grow back new ones. They will stop laying eggs, their combs and wattles will lose color and shrink. Some hens will start laying when the moult is complete, others might not start again until spring. It depends on the breed, diet, and lighting. I think it's a good idea to let the hens moult first before adding extra light to the coop.
Coop: We covered the windows with plastic to keep down the drafts. When it's cold out, I close them in every night. But every morning I open their door, they're not happy being cooped up. They start to peck at each other.
Water/ Food: I use a light bulb fountain heater to keep their water from freezing. Which I talked about above in the water section. Sometimes when it's really cold out, in the morning before I let them out of the coop, I give them their layer crumbles with added warm water. I mix it up for them like a warm cereal. They love it! Always give it to them in several containers, so they won't fight over one.
When the temperatures get well below freezing, after I close them up for the night, I put on a infrared heat lamp on a timer for a couple of hours to help heat it up. The coop is insulated, so it does stay above freezing all night.
Pen: In the winter, we've wrap the outside small pen in plastic to help keep down the drafts. In the spring the plastic will come down. The chickens are still able to go into the larger pen through a slit that we cut in the plastic.
The small pen also has an awning over it, so the rain and snow stay out. The awning stays on all year. They like to hang out under it when it's raining, or if there's a hawk or owl nearby.
For more information on the coop and pen, visit the Coop page.
Before we enclosed their pen with plastic and the awning , when it was all snowy out, the chickens wouldn't have gone out of their coop, but now they can go into their pen, scratch the dirt and even dust bath. This winter we put some straw and green hay in the pen. We didn't even break it up for them, by the end of the day they had it spread all over. Also, they loved eating the green hay. When I scatter the scratch around, they spend more time looking for it now with all the hay and straw on the pen floor. They don't fight as much now that they have more room and they are kept busy scratching around.
When we have a real bad cold spell and the high temperature for the day is 5 degrees, I don't let them out of the coop for that day. They stay inside where it's a little warmer. Sometimes I leave the heat lamp on for them through the day. I'm not a chicken farmer, they're my pets. I spread scratch around inside for them and give them treats to pick at like a bird bell, apples, etc.
Pen in the Winter
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