We have compiled a list of what we believe to be the most useful tips for chicken farming, these general principles and rules should ensure you get the most out of your hens and give them healthiest and happiest life possible…
Keep things clean:
One of the most important things to remember when keeping chickens is that cleanliness inside the coop decrease the chances of your hens contracting infections, deceases and parasites. An easy way to make sure your coop remains clean is by replacing the wood chipping or hay inside the coop whenever necessary, we recommend every 2 weeks however if you can do it weekly even better.
Keeping your chickens environment clean will also improve your experience with the birds, a dirty coop can become very smelly and unpleasant as well as being an absolute disaster to clean.
We recommend removing chicken feed, along with any other food in the coop at night time, doing this will decrease the risk of rats paying you a visit. For more information on this check out our article on Does keeping chickens attract rats
Water in the coop can easily become contaminated, this is why changing it every couple of days is a good way to ensure that a good level of hygiene is maintained in your coop. If the water is left dirty for days, your hens may be drinking a contaminated water source which can lead to disease along with a decrease in egg production and a decline in health.
We can’t stress how important it is to keep things clean, however, understand that not everyone has the time, ourselves included. We’ve put a list together of the easiest coops to clean if you’re interested in upgrading or purchasing a new coop however don’t want to spend ages cleaning it check out our article on best chicken coops for easy cleaning.
Here is a quick step by step guide for how to clean out your coop properly, it’s fairly simple to grasp and doesn’t take long.
Step 1: Start off by removing all your hens from the coop, we usually let them out into the garden whilst going through the cleaning process. This will make your life a lot easier and help you get the job done quickly.
Step 2: Remove the contents of the coop, this will be anything from nesting materials to chicken dropping. We like to use a corse brush to sweep the waste into a bin bag. This is probably the most time consuming step, try to scarpe of all of the droppings for best results. Adding water at this point will only create more of a mess, this step is most effective when the contents of the coop are dry.
Step 3: Remove the nest boxes from the coop and rinse with water, if this isn’t possible then clean the nest boxes in a similar way to step 2. It’s inadvisable to use cleaning chemicals when going through this process as you could cause the hens some discomfort when they return to the coop.
Step 4: Once your satisfied the coop is clean, add a suitable amount of bedding and ensure everything is where it should be.
Step 5: Your coop is now clean, tempt your hens back into the coop with some treats.
To get the most and best-tasting eggs, you’re hens they must be given the proper nutrition. One of the best ways in which you can do this is by finding a good quality feed, however, adding addiction food sources to their diet has many benefits you may be unaware of. We discovered that our hens pretty much eat anything we eat; leftovers from last night dinner, fruit that has gone past his best as well as rice are all examples of foods our chicken eat regularly. In fact, anything vegetarian is alright for them to consume.
Feeding your hens leftovers and unwanted foods within your household also has many benefits, not only are you being environmentally friendly, but your chicken’s eggs will also taste better. We defiantly found this obvious after incorporating a wider range of foods into their diet the flavours and colours of the eggs improved. If your are skeptical about this don’t take our word, give it a go yourself.
Feeding your hens leftovers is great however not a replacement for chicken feed, think of it more as an enhancer. Your hens need the right chicken feed in order to achieve that high egg production, if the layers feed is restricted form their diet you will notice negative effects shortly. This is usually a decrease in egg production combined with a decline in general health, something defiantly worth considering. For a more detailed and in depth guide on what to feed your chickens and why check out one of our other articles; what should I feed my chickens.
Hens need to have specific basic needs and requirements met for survival and egg production. They are food, water, a secure place to lay eggs, interaction with other hens and enclosed areas to sleep (coop). However, if you want your hens to lay free-range eggs then a run also has to be provided.
One of the most important things is to have are good food/water dispensers, these don’t have to cost a lot but are an absolute necessity, throwing chicken feed on the run/coop floor will invite rodents.
The hens should also have easy access to the dispensers holding the right amount of feed and water needed for the flock.
We recommend refilling your water every other day, this just ensures the hens have fresh water to drink. This minimizes the risk of catching illnesses.
The floor of your coop must have some sort of coverage to prevent smell and dirt from accumulating excessively, we recommend using wood chips as they help with drainage of water and do a good job at keeping the place as clean as possible. We found wood chips to also be perfect for, inside the coop, this helps significantly when you come to cleaning the coop.
Another key requirement your hens must have is a secure place to lay eggs, this can be anything from in an inbuilt laying box to a DIY project you do yourself, it doesn’t matter as long as its secure and filled with hay it will do the job just fine. A quick tip is to remove your hen’s eggs daily, this should help minimize the chances of them being damaged or the hens consuming them. Yes if your new to getting chicken, expect this to happen once or twice.
Having a suitable place for the hens to lay eggs is very important it must be separate and secure if you want them to lay comfortably, it will also mean they lay in the same place everyday making your life easier when you pick them up.
Another essential your hens must have is interaction with other birds, it’s key if your want them to remain happy and healthy. We recommend keeping three or more hens, this will mean you get more out of the hens in terms of eggs however they also remain content.
A coop is another essential which you can’t do without, chickens must have a secure place to sleep if you want to get the most out of them. A coop not only provides a place to sleep but also gives protection from the weather and possible predators such as foxes, cats, coyotes, etc.
Having a run for your hens is not an absolute essential as they can survive without one however if you can, we’d defiantly recommend giving your hens an enclosed outdoor space where they have the ability to roam freely, this will not only make their eggs free range but also give them a much better quality of life.
Choosing the right breed:
Although all chickens lay eggs selecting the right breed for your back garden will improve your experience of having chickens. Factors such as temperature and yearly egg yield may influence your decisions on what breed to get. Certain breeds are better and worse at coping with harsher climates and immunity to disease, we would recommend if its your first time keeping chickens you should go with a simple breed such as the Rhode Island Red.
These birds are tough chickens that have a fairly high egg yield and are easy to look after, perfect if its your first time keeping hens or if you are looking or some hens with high egg yields. The range of breeds to choose from are extensive so we’d defiantly recommend doing some research before purchasing.
A few things to consider are the temperature of where you live, your environment (city, suburbia, countryside), if your have children and are keeping them as pets then certain breeds are much more friendly with humans. We defiantly noticed this, breeds such as the White Sussex were much happier in the presence of humans however layed slightly fewer eggs per year.
For a more detailed explanation and evaluation on the best chicken breeds check out one of our other articles Best chickens for egg production.
Looking after chickens sometimes involves applying lice treatment to their feathers as well as occasionally clipping them. This is a simple and easy process however important to know as chickens can sometimes fly for very short distances which depending on your coop might mean that they fly away into another garden or just off your premises.
We recommend that you do try to make your coop concealed for the most part however understandably free range hens need space so preparing for the occasional hen trying to fly off somewhere is a sensible idea. Its perfectly normal for hens to sometimes squabble and fight which may leave some chickens with patches of missing feathers, this isn’t really a worry unless it becomes extremely severe. An easy way to minimize this is by feeding your chickens the correct nutrients they need to heal quickly and effectively.
However, if you notice that a hen has lost more than 50% of its feathers then separating the hen from the rest of the birds should fix the problem, if this doesn’t work then the hen may have caught a decease of illness. The only thing you can do at this point is to separate it from the flock to ensure its doesn’t pass on any diseases.
There are lots of feather and lease treatments on the market, some effective and some not so much however if your keeping your chickens in the correct environment this problem shouldn’t affect you regularly. We understand that sometimes your hens may get sick or contract fleas so using the right chemical to eliminate the problem is crucial. You can find chicken lice powder at most farm shops and its widely available online. Here is a link to the one we used (check price on Amazon)
So there you have it, we hope this short list of tips and information about the basics for keeping chickens was helpful and hopefully has changed your mind about some misconceptions associated with keeping chickens. If you found this article useful, feel free to check out some of our others at @easyhens.com
David Cameron is a passionate chicken enthusiast. Growing up, he always wanted to be a veterinarian and loved animals. After graduating from veterinary school, David spent over 40 years as an equine veterinarian. He and his wife retired a few years ago and moved to North Carolina. Here, David’s love of chickens grew even more – he now has 7 chickens and 6 quail. If you have any questions about chickens, feel free to reach out.