Everyone who doesn’t own a chicken seems to think that caring for chickens is complicated and quite a hassle. This is simply not true. Even novice chicken keepers will find that caring for a flock can be easy and stress-free.
Chickens have the same basic needs as any other pet which means they need food, attention and shelter. Some chicken tasks will require daily attention, but there are also many tasks that only require weekly, monthly, seasonal or even yearly attention.
Daily Chicken Care Requirements
One of the most important tasks you will have to perform is feeding your chickens. Chickens must have access to healthy food and clean, fresh water. You will need to check water bowls daily and refill or clean as needed. Chickens drink as much as a litre of water a day so making sure there is enough for everyone is crucial.
The next thing is checking your flock’s health. Look at their combs, check their feathers for mites and worm when necessary. If a chicken becomes ill, the rest of the flock can quickly get the illness as well so if you notice a chicken that seems a bit off, rather isolate and care for it separately before the rest gets sick.
The next thing is collecting your breakfast. Checking nesting boxes for fresh eggs is very important if you want your flock to continue laying and keep pests like rats away. Collecting eggs daily prevents your hens from becoming broody and ensures that the eggs stay fresh.
Check the eggs you collect for any abnormalities. If you have very young hens laying for the first time, don’t stress so much about weak eggs, at this stage it is normal. If your older hens, however, lay eggs with weak shells, no shells or that are small and deformed, you might have a calcium deficiency or an illness on your hands so act quickly to correct it by feeding extra shell grit and contacting your vet for further help.
- Who let the chickens out? Buck-Buck-Badaaaack!
If you allow your chickens to free-range, you will have to let them out every morning and make sure everyone returns at dusk. It is best to close them up at night to keep out all unwanted predators. Leave the coop open during the day so your hens can access the nesting boxes when necessary.
Monthly Chicken Care Tasks
There are some tasks that you will only have to attend once a month. This generally includes bedding changes, nesting box cleaning and coop disinfecting. If the bedding isn’t changed enough, the coop will start to smell and attract nasty parasites that can lead to health problems in your chickens.
Some find that coops with pans and trays are easier to clean. Any chicken poop you remove can be used as fertiliser in your garden and the bedding can go onto the compost heap.
Bi-Annual Chicken Care Tasks
Every six months you will need to do a completely clean and disinfecting of your chicken coop. This means that you will need to remove all bedding and feces, scrub down the walls and floor with a disinfectant solution and clean your perches and nesting boxes thoroughly. You will also need to wash the food bowls and water bowls to make sure everything is sparkling clean. Make sure to rinse everything thoroughly before you replace everything you removed.
Seasonal Chicken Care Tasks
There are a few seasonal matters to attend to when it comes to chickens. If you live in an area with very cold winters, you need to make sure to select a breed that is hardy enough to handle the cold. You will need to check combs and wattles for frostbite and apply petroleum jelly when and if necessary to prevent it.
Chickens generally adapt to the cold so don’t heat your coop, you will only be taking their ability to adapt away. That said, do make sure the coop is properly insulated before the cold hits. In winter you will also need to make sure that their water doesn’t freeze so checking water once or twice throughout the day is best. You can also move the waterers indoors to further prevent freezing.
During warmer months you will need to make sure that the coop is properly insulated against heat and well ventilated. Make sure your chickens have access to cool fresh water and shade to hide in when and if they should need it. Egg production may drop during extreme heat and should increase again once the worst is over.
Chicken care doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you break it up into smaller steps. If you can’t get everything done in one day, plan ahead what you will do when. Just make sure all daily tasks are done to keep your flock healthy.