Different numbers of chickens lay different quantities of eggs, and some produce more or less depending on the time of year and the climate. All breeds have one thing in common – their health and wellbeing has a direct impact on the amount, the quality, and the flavor of the eggs they lay. Therefore, chicken care and maintenance is essential if you want beautiful, flavorsome eggs on a regular basis. Happy chickens produce happy eggs. Let’s take a look at what caring for chickens at home involves and how to keep them in tip-top condition with our chicken care guide.
Chicken Care 101: Signs of Ill Health
When learning how to take care of chickens, whether meat birds or laying hens, you need to know what to look for so you can spot any signs of illness before it spreads or becomes serious. While chickens, providing they are kept in good condition, are fairly resilient, like all other animals, they can get ill. It often happens very quickly, too, so knowing the most common signs of illness is vital. Once you’ve had your girls for a while and, as a loving owner, interact with them and get to know them individually, you’ll know when they’re feeling under the weather because they display a-typical behavior – they’re just not themselves. But here are the most common signs:
- Disinterest – chickens are naturally inquisitive, so if they show no interest in you, their food, or anything else that normally sparks their interest – there’s something wrong.
- Lethargy – chickens are busy little creatures, so if they are slow or reluctant to move, it’s time to go see the vet.
- Hunched posture
- Huddling in corners
- Erect feathers
- Hiding their heads under their wings
Chicken Care to Reduce the Risk of Illness
Just like humans and other animals, chickens can get ill from and carry a range of nasties. Let’s look at how to care for chickens to limit the risk and keep your flock in good health, aside from providing proper nutrition, which we look at a little later. After all, prevention is better than cure.
Regular Parasite Treatment
If you have other pets or livestock, you should know the importance of a regular parasite prevention routine. Well, the same applies to chickens. They are prone to a whole host of internal and external parasites, including an array of mites and worms. These parasites have a dramatic impact on the health of your chickens, their egg productivity, the quality of eggs, and can lead to the untimely death of your chickens if not treated. Therefore, we can’t stress enough how important it is to provide the appropriate preventative medication on a regular schedule.
Caring for Chickens by Keeping Their Environment Clean
When you’re raising chickens for eggs at home, it’s essential that you keep their environment clean. Remove any uneaten food daily when you add new food. Old food rots, attracts pests, and carries bacteria – including, alarmingly, botulism, which is potentially fatal for humans and chickens. While this seems like a “chicken care for dummies” tip – it’s a vital one. Additionally, switch out the soiled bedding and straw regularly, as it smells bad, harbors bacteria, and draws flies, which result in maggots, and further complications. You can always add this waste to your compost bin, as it’s incredibly high in nitrogen, so is great for fruit, veggies, and flowers.
Seek Veterinary Advice
Another little “chicken care for beginners” tip – but one that’s often overlooked – if in doubt, seek veterinary advice. Get yourself registered with a good poultry vet, and get in touch with them if you have any concerns. Many people just have a little look online or speak to friends when their chickens are ill – but you risk the lives of your flock this way. It’s far better to be over-cautious and get hold of your vet who will either put your mind at rest if you’re just being a bit neurotic, or will examine your girls and provide the proper treatment.
Hank Will from GRIT Magazine shares some of his chicken care expertise: