Chickens are amazing.
For the most part, they’re hardy and require little care and maintenance, a real plus for those who take care of them.
Even so, there are several things you can do to ensure that they’re healthy and happy. Flap along with me and discover how some simple tips can do wonders for keeping your flock in tip-top shape.
1. Get Out There Every Day and Watch Them
Daily observation is key. It gives you great insight into the overall health of your flock. You will:
- Develop a strong bond with the chickens
- Come to know their normal behavior and individual personalities and quirks
- Learn to recognize potential signs of illness
- More quickly catch any sibling rivalry
Healthy chickens are active, gregarious birds who thrive on interactions with their families. So, be on the lookout for any bird that is isolating herself.
Unfortunately, they can also hide any sign of disease until they’re so ill that they can’t mask it any longer. This behavior developed as a way to trick predators as well as siblings who may peck the weak among the flock.
If you have chickens, you’re bound to have a sibling rivalry. But, with the benefit of your daily observations, you’ll be well prepared to spot any bullying before it gets out of hand.
My Partridge Plymouth Rock, Phoebe, a quieter hen, spends her days happily cooing and wandering. She was at the bottom of the pecking order. However, after getting 6 new flock mates, Phoebe zipped up in rank and can be a bully at times. Thankfully, observation has kept me in the know, and my flock is healthier for it.
Don’t Miss: 3 Best Breeds for Beginning Chicken Keepers
2. Establish a Simple, Regular Cleaning Routine
Chickens thrive in a clean environment. And disease-carrying bacteria and viruses do not.
Your backyard birds are especially susceptible to respiratory illness. Dust is the prime enemy. Unfortunately, it is also inevitable in a chicken coop because of these factors:
- Chickens are notorious scratchers.
- Bedding ages and breaks down.
- Feather dust and dander float around and settle.
In my flock, Lucy, named for comedian Lucille Ball, and Ivy, a.k.a. Ethel, steal the show with their comical antics. They also love to stand on feeder rims. Then their feed spills, gets trampled on and results in dust.
Therefore, establishing a simple, regular cleaning routine is a priority:
- Daily tasks: Scoop droppings; refill water and feed; gather eggs.
- Weekly tasks: Wash waterers and feeders and allow to air dry.
- Monthly tasks: Replace bedding if necessary.
- Biannual (spring and fall) tasks: Rake out all bedding; scrape off any stuck-on waste; sweep floor; scrub walls, floors and roosts; add clean bedding.
3. Supplement With These 2 Health Boosters
Even though chickens eat exactly what their bodies need, a little help can’t hurt.
- Apple cider vinegar: Add 1 tablespoon per gallon of water (to plastic waterers only) several times a week. ACV is said to boost immunity, prevent disease, discourage parasites from invading your flock, help keep their digestive system functioning well and keep water cleaner. According to Lisa Steele, author of Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy Healthy Chickens…Naturally, “Studies have shown that the vinegar actually makes the water more palatable to hens.”
- Garlic: This powerful supplement also may boost a chicken’s immune system. Plus, it is said to eliminate worms, discourage external parasites such as mites and lice from taking up residence on otherwise healthy chicken skin and support the chicken’s fragile respiratory system. Crush 1 clove of garlic and drop it in the water or sprinkle garlic powder into the feed daily.
4. Provide 24/7 Access to Fresh, Clean Water
Water is vital to a chicken’s overall health. On average, a chicken will drink a half-pint of water per day. In warmer weather, that amount may increase to 1 pint. Laying hens especially require access to fresh, clean water at all times.
Chickens know what they like — and they do not like stale, warm water. In fact, they will turn their beaks away from it. Anything warmer than 90 degrees Fahrenheit will be ignored.
Without adequate water, your chickens may go into a premature molt or dehydrate.
These chicken keepers went the extra mile by installing a swing in the coop:
5. Let Them Out for Regular Free-Range Exercise
Chickens are naturally active. Those who lack stimulation and entertainment often become bored and act out by pecking siblings.
The good news: Regular free-range time can prevent misbehavior. Plus, you can’t beat the rich nutrition found in nature. So give your fine-feathered friends the chance to stretch their wings and thrive.
Here’s to a happy, healthy flock!
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Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of a 5-part series on chicken keeping for beginners. Previously, we listed The 3 Best Breeds for Beginning Chicken Keepers. Next, we look at 5 Signs of Illness in Your Chicken Flock.