Some people think that caring for pet chickens is complicated. However, even novice chicken keepers will find that caring for your flock can be easy. Your pet chickens will have the same basic needs as any other animal or pet. There are some tasks that will need to be handled on a daily basis to ensure their health, but there are also some tasks that should be performed on a monthly, yearly and seasonal basis to keep your hens and their coop happy and healthy.
Daily Chicken Care Requirements
One of the most important daily tasks in chicken care will be to ensure they have access to feed and fresh water. In addition to ensuring they have access to water throughout the day, you must also make sure their water is clean. Chickens as pets can be somewhat choosy and will not drink water that is dirty. When your chickens are not drinking enough water they can easily become dehydrated and this can lead to illness or death.
You must also check on your flock daily to ensure they are all active and appear to be healthy. Chickens can become ill quickly and it is always best to stay on top of such matters. If you notice that your chickens do not appear to be bright and healthy, it is important to consult your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Of course, gathering your eggs from chicken nesting boxes is another task that will need to be handled daily. When collecting eggs; keep in mind the importance of refrigerating them promptly and storing them with the pointy side down. This will help to maximize freshness. When collecting eggs you may notice that some of your eggs have feces or dirt on them.
There is no need to scrub your eggs; in fact, this can actually remove a delicate membrane that is meant to protect the egg from bacteria. You can gently rub them under warm water to clean them. When refrigerated, eggs can be easily kept fresh for two to three weeks. You might also find it helpful to mark your eggs lightly with a pencil to remind you of the date they were collected.
Keep in mind that eggs should be collected from the chicken nesting boxes on a daily basis in order to prevent your hens from sitting on them. Collecting your eggs regularly will also help to prevent them from enticing predators.
As a quick note, you should be aware that the first eggs produced by young hens are typically not what you might expect. They will likely be small and the shells may also be weak. Some first eggs may not even have shells that are intact. This is not a sign of illness or that you are not providing a sufficient diet. This is quite normal and before long your hens will be producing fine eggs.
In the event you choose to open the door to your chicken coop to allow your chickens out during the day, make sure you take a few minutes at dusk to ensure your chickens have all returned and then close and secure the door. This will help to protect your chickens from possible predators.
What about times when you need to be away from home? Should you have someone check in on your pet chickens? You can certainly do this if it gives you greater peace of mind; however, provided that your hens have access to enough water, food and space, it is entirely possible to leave them for a few days. They will continue to lay eggs while you are gone; however, they should be fine for just a few days. Fresh eggs can actually be kept on the kitchen counter or in an Egg Skelter for a few days without spoiling if the temperature doesn't exceed 25 degrees celsius. If you wish to let your chickens free-range during the day whilst you're away, check out the automatic door opener!
Monthly Chicken Care Tasks
There are some chicken care tasks that you will need to tend to each month. Generally speaking, the bedding in the nesting boxes and chicken coop will need to be changed monthly for sanitary reasons. If the bedding is not changed fairly frequently it can cause ammonia to build up and this can be dangerous to your chickens, resulting in respiratory illness.
You will also need to take care of removing the faeces or droppings from your chicken coop or chicken house. Many people find it much easier to place pans or trays under the roosting poles to help in making cleanup easier. Our range of coops come already fitted with this easy use cleaning accessory! So you can simple lift out hose and place the tray back inside. You can easily use it as fertilizer in your garden!
Bi-Annual Chicken Care Tasks
Every six months you will need to clean your chicken shed thoroughly. This means you need to remove the bedding as well as all of the nesting materials and containers for the feed and water. Many experienced chicken keepers choose to use a solution of one part bleach, one part dish soap and ten parts water for cleaning. Remember to make sure you rinse all items well and allow them to dry before you replace them or fill with fresh bedding. If you are a bit hesitant about using harsh chemicals on your chickens home try our all natural, homemade chicken cooper cleaner!
Seasonal Chicken Care Tasks
Regarding Chicken care, there are also a few seasonal matters that need to be taken into consideration. If you live in an area that experiences cold months, it will be even more important to make sure you have selected the right breed, as discussed in a preceding chapter. It should also be noted that chickens will generally adapt to cold weather over a period of time as their metabolism will change with the change of the seasons. This is why it is not necessary or even a good idea to heat your chicken shed or chicken house. If you do so, this will make it impossible for your chickens to adjust to the colder temperatures.
With this said, there are some precautions that will need to be taken during the colder months. Every few days, it is a good idea to rub petroleum jelly on their wattles and combs to protect them from frostbite.
You will also need to ensure the water supply does not freeze. This is extremely important. Remember that your chickens will not be able to survive long without access to fresh water. One option is to provide electricity to your chicken coop and use a water heater. Another option would be to bring the waterer indoors every night and then return it to the chicken shed the next morning. You should also check the water once or twice throughout the day to ensure it has not frozen.
During the cooler months, you will need to take care to ensure your chickens are provided with protection from cold drafts. Chickens do surprisingly do well in the cold; however, they absolutely cannot tolerate drafts. Drafts can quickly result in the death of even the hardiest of chickens. This is why it is imperative that you protect their living space from possible drafts. One way to do this is to enclose their chicken coop or yard with plastic sheeting.
Just as drafts in the cooler months can be a health risk to your chickens, so can excessive heat during the warmer months. You will need to ensure your chickens have access to water that is fresh and clean at all times. This cannot be stressed strongly enough. You will also need to provide your chickens with shade and ventilation. Keep in mind that it is fairly common for egg production to drop during times of extreme heat. This is certainly an indication that your hens are experiencing some stress, but generally egg production will increase once the heat wave has receded.
To learn more about keeping happy and healthy backyard chickens have a peck at our ultimate guide right here!