Are you wondering how to care for chickens? I read so many books from the library and blog posts before I got chickens. Now that I have chickens, I really want to share what it is really like. Everything from feeding them, to the nitty gritty like dealing with poop!
First thing’s first, before you get chickens you need to get the materials. I do not suggest starting with chicks…
Supplies you will need before getting chickens
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- Transportation – You will need a cage to transport them in the vehicle, right? I use a large dog cage. You can also use a poultry cage. I like the one I have because it has two doors. They are supposed to be side doors, but I turn it so that one of the doors is on the top, making it perfect for loading and unloading with new farms animals, err um I mean chickens. I may or not be now wanting, goats, pigs, turkeys, and more! Lol 🙂 If you don’t know yet I might as well tell you chickens are the gateway animals to homesteading/farming.
- Chicken Coop – Once you have a chicken coop what do you need to do? You will need bedding. Pine shavings work fine it is my favorite thing to use. I also have used hay in the chicken run, because sometimes a get a free bag of it!
- Bedding – I mentioned this above, but I wanted to make sure it gets put on your list. Pine shavings is a favorite among many chicken owners.
- Feed – Laying hens and Roosters will eat what we call layers. Starter/grower is for chicks, and finisher is for birds who are not yet laying.
- Water- Yes, tap water is just fine. I fill up their waterer with the garden hose!
- 5 Gallon buckets or equivalent to hold the food, and treats.
- Feeders and waterers (These are the ones I have and like!) – Here are the ones I recommend. Make sure you have enough for the amount of birds you have. When you buy them they usually will tell you how many birds they will be able to supply water and food to. I have a couple of waterers scattered around the property, just to make sure they stay hydrated!
- Treats – scratch, meal worms, and even scraps from your kitchen are all wonderful treats for chickens. Avoid anything moldy, like moldy bread. Yes, the chickens will eat anything. They are like trash compactors! Only give a small amount of treat per day. Too much can give chickens diarrhea.
There are a few things they should not eat:
- Dry beans/Raw beans
- Mold is a big no, no
- White potatoes – Some sources say that chickens should not have them due to a toxin called solanine
- Green potatoes or the eye of potatoes, these are also bad for human consumption!
- Green tomatoes
- Avocados – some sources say they can eat only the meaty part of the avocados can be consumed by a chicken and even then in moderation. They should not eat the skin or the pit! Other sources say to avoid avocados all together.
- No apple seeds, Johnny! – Apples seed contain cyanide. So do the pits in cherries, pears, peaches, plums, and apricots. Avoid them if possible!
- Rhubarb – is said to have oxalic which can possible soften the shells of our precious gift that the chickens give us. Soft eggs is no bueno!
- Onions, may cause anemia, jaundice, and even lead to death.
- Citrus and spinach are said to limit calcium absorption. This would mean soft eggshells.
- Iceberg lettuce, can cause diarrhea. Stick to higher nutritional contented greens such as kale, cabbage, or collards.
- Other ideas of things to steer clear of: Anything that is not healthy for you ie; candy, fried food, super salty, or super sweet foods; also think about keeping their pesticides and other chemical exposure to a minimum! Using organic fruit and/or vegetables will help! Limit things like rice, pasta, and bread because they have very little nutritional value.
- Dairy, chickens don’t drink milk, not even from mother at birth right? So they really don’t have the stomach for it. It is a good idea to avoid it.
The next thing I want you to think about is are you going to free range. There are so many things to think about. Check out my blog post on this very topic. Should I Let My Chickens Free Range. It is very important that you think about this and have an answer before your birds arrive. There is no wrong or right answer, only what works for you and your girls.
Important: Something I failed to understand when I got my chickens. I am hoping that you can learn from my mistake here…
If you plan on free ranging your chickens, make sure you keep them in caged in their coop/run area, for at least a week, before you let them roam wild. That way they know where to sleep, and lay eggs. Otherwise, they will run into the woods and you will have to nab them in the dark. Yes, I had to do that. My girls made a nest in a tree and decided they would sleep there instead of the
very nice makeshift chicken coop that I made for them!
How to care for chickens
In the morning you will need to go out, and open the coop door. If you are free ranging your birds, you will also be opening the chicken run door also.
Check to make sure they have food and water. My hens expect a snack in the morning. They have fasted all night and apparently for that they deserve a treat! I usually grab two handfuls of scratch and throw it on the ground for them.
Throughout the day, you should check for eggs. I like to check on them also, just to make sure they are all ok.
At dusk, your chickens should go into the chicken coop to sleep. If they didn’t you may have to wait until it gets dark to pick them up and put them in the coop, they cannot see in the dark. They will probably scream. You are most likely not hurting them, they are just scared because they cannot see. Lock up the coop tight for the night.
If you are considering getting chickens there are a couple of things that surprised me that I want to talk about. Chickens are hilarious. When you talk to them, they cock their head like a dog when you make a funny noise. They are so interesting, and fun. I never knew they would be a fun animal to have around. They make me laugh everyday, and are a blessing to our family. We all love them. Also, we have those big cockroaches here, a lot of them! Since getting chickens we are seeing less and less of them. The wonderful thing that chickens do is diminish the bugs. If you live in a hot climate like we do, I am sure you won’t mind the chickens eating them!
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