Chickens are easy to care for. Keep in mind a few things and your flock will not only be healthy, but thrive!
When we first welcome our chickens to our property, we knew absolutely nothing about how to care for them. Learning as you go isn’t something I recommend when it comes to caring for an animal. Luckily, we were able to rely on my husband’s knowledge of poultry from his time in industrial poultry farming (read a little about that in our About Me). We fine-tuned our knowledge for our flock and here’s what we came up with – a guide to general care.
In order to properly digest their food, chickens forage for grit and rocks to bread down what they eat so it can be properly digested. Since our chickens don’t free range, it’s all the more important for them to get this. So when necessary, be sure you’re supplementing with grit.
Laying hens also need a high protein and calcium diet. Since we feed our chickens kitchen scraps and feed, we’re sure to buy a feed formulated for egg-laying hens. When hens are molting, some suggest upping their calcium consumption to as much as 20 percent!
And of course, every animal needs access to clean drinking water. When temperatures drop drastically, we supplement our water with this Durvet Vitamins powder or apple cider vinegar (we like this brand).
Up until our third year keeping chickens, lice and mites were our biggest threat to our chickens. To prevent them, we regularly clean our coop and use diatomaceous earth in our coop (I use food grade because I wanted something I knew would be safe for animals and children).
Our third year keeping chickens is when predators became an issue – you can read all about that in this post. Live traps and working with your area animal control would be my biggest recommendations in limiting external threats to your chickens.
Finally, you can pursue natural options like pumpkins and herbs for things like dewormers.
Poultry, by nature, are notorious for having sinus issues. Just like humans, they’re sensitive to viruses and bacteria that can lead to things like sneezing, runny noses and sinus infections. In a chicken, this can result in swollen eyes and puffy nasal passages.
The best thing you can do for your chickens to prevent issues like this is to keep your coop clean. We use pine shavings, and the dust that’s kicked up from them in combination with the dander from our chickens creates quite the combination for our birds sinuses. Not to mention – they poop in their coop!
A dust bath is an incredible preventative measure. Chickens in particular don’t care for getting wet. So similar to cows or horses throwing themselves around in the summer, chickens will fluff themselves in the dirt and use that grit to get in between their feathers to bathe themselves. You can give your chickens a greater advantage by manufacturing your own dustbath. In ours, we use equal parts soil, sand and diatomaceous earth. The sand is an added level of grit to really get them clean and the diatomaceous earth will slice through mites and other bugs that may be present.
There is a longer list for things chickens need that deserve their own pockets of research – protecting hens from roosters, cutting a rooster’s spurs, clipping chickens wings, pecking injuries and muscle spasms. It’s also key to remember chickens are prone to injury, too! If they free range and have access to fences or bushes and briars, cuts and scratches will injure your birds just like it will you. You can use a sort of antibacterial spray like this one to tend for a number of those scenarios!
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If you’re looking to start your own homestead, check out my Making a Microhomestead Ebook! It’s geared toward anyone who lives in city limits but doesn’t think they can start a microhomestead. You can! Making a Microhomestead has all the questions you need to ask to get started. It also has a list of things you can do to get started if you don’t have land! Because homesteading isn’t just for outside.
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