Good daily chicken care begins with establishing a routine to keep your hens happy, healthy and laying eggs regularly. In this article we’ll explain the best practice in looking after your chickens so that they remain in tip-top condition.
Hens like nothing more than to be out and about so that they can exercise, forage, take a dirt bath and use their inquisitive minds. One of the first things you need to do each day, therefore, is let them out of the coop and into the run. This needs to happen early in the morning because once light starts to enter the coop they will start to feel frustrated if they are locked in. Letting them out helps keep the hens happy and both physically and mentally healthy, whilst long hours of exposure to daylight increases egg productivity. If you find letting them out at a regular time difficult to achieve, one of the best ways to achieve a routine is to purchase an automatic door opener for your coop. Automatic door openers can either open the coop at a specific time of day or they can be activated by light, so that as soon as it is dawn, the coop opens. This is an ideal option for those who have busy morning routines with families and those who like a lie on at the weekend.
Fresh food and water
Once the chickens are let out, the next task will be to feed and water them. Hens should be given fresh, clean water every day as stale water can harbour bacteria and cause infections or even worse, it can harbour blue algae which is lethal to hens if ingested. Pellets need to be replaced and any left from the day before should be checked for dampness. Any other food, such as corn or greens should be fresh too. This again needs to be given in the morning as the chickens will be hungry when they wake up.
Daily coop clean
You only need to do a thorough clean once a week, but you should give the coop a daily check to make sure that it has not got too dirty. If it has, remove droppings and any old food on the floor and change bedding. Chicken droppings produce high levels of ammonia which can have drastic effects on the hens health. If you are able to smell ammonia then levels of the gas are probably toxic for the hens and the coop will need cleaning.
You will notice that most hens tend to lay eggs in the morning, often shortly after eating. If you can, it is advisable to collect the eggs as soon as possible after laying to reduce any breakages. Late morning is a good time to do this as most hens will have laid by this time. However, if you’re at work and can’t manage this time, do it as soon as you can when you get home.
Rounding up the hens
Hens will be content to stay out as long as it is light. They like to feel protected at night and most of them will naturally head back to the shelter of the coop once it dusk begins to fall. If you try rounding up during daylight it might involve a little bit of shepherding. However, it is very important that chickens are kept in the coop in the evening to keep them safe from predators. make sure you lock and secure the coop and run as some predators are clever enough to try force doors, chew through wire, dig tunnels and jump fences.
Weekly coop deep clean
Once a week the coop needs to be emptied, swept, hosed down and disinfected. This includes washing perches, walls, nesting boxes feeders and waterers. Any excrement that has gathered in the run also needs removing too.
Weekly chicken health check
Finally, keep an eye on your hens every day for signs of illness of distress. Check each bird more thoroughly once a week to look more closely for illness, parasites or injury.
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