Households started to grow chickens 7,000 to 10,000 years ago. But people have been growing chickens commercially since the early 1900s. So, you might be wondering whether it is hard to raise chickens at home.
Raising chickens near home is not hard, but ensuring a healthy and sustainable environment is crucial. You want to give them daily attention and some series time commitment to provide a proper healthy growing environment.
Here, we come up with a complete guideline for growing chickens from beginning to end. Our guideline includes experts’ suggestions to take care of birds in the best manner. Don’t miss this post if you plan to raise chickens in your backyard or open space!
Why Should You Raise Chickens?
Raising chickens involves a lot of benefits. The followings are common reasons people prefer to grow chickens.
Healthier and Tasty Eggs – The first obvious benefit is enjoying tasty and healthy eggs. You ensure a greater source of protein for your family. Also, it doesn’t cost you as much as local stores do. Plus, they last longer than commercial eggs.
Getting Of Insects and Pests – Chickens love to eat insects and pests. Apart from eating healthy foods, they protect your beautiful garden. You will get double benefits for single action!
Chicken Manure as Fertilizer – Chicken manure contains a good amount of organic matter, nitrogen, and macro- and micronutrients. They can be a source for your garden soil and make it more balanced.
What To Consider Before Getting Chickens?
Everything needs a plan, and so does chicken raising. The followings are essential aspects you want to consider before growing chickens.
Long Term or Short Term?
The average lifespan of chickens can be anywhere from 5 to 10 years. But wild breeds usually have a lifespan of 3 to 7 years.
Regular care is a must to grow healthy chickens for a long time. You want to invest time and effort if you plan to keep them for a long time.
How much space do chickens need? A regular chicken usually requires 3 to 5 square feet of space. They also need spaces for nest boxes and outdoor runs.
Larger areas are better for them to wander around. Keeping chickens in small spaces will result in quarrels and bullying among them, which creates an unhealthy environment.
A dry and well-ventilated environment is a must for growing chickens. Ensuring a properly warm climate is crucial, especially during the laying session of the hens. Otherwise, they will not produce eggs.
Besides, you want to provide optimum raising conditions by ensuring an ideal level of air quality, humidity, and light. Otherwise, it will result in poor growth and development. You may need a chicken coop light with a timer if you have poor lighting conditions.
You need to be serious when it comes to growing chickens. Regular cleaning is a must to ensure a hygienic environment. Chickens are prone to get attracted by various deadly viruses. Plus, you may need to regularly use additional cleaning products to disinfect the coop.
Chickens Illnesses and Injuries
You get a lot of enjoyment from growing chickens. However, it has some cons too. They are sometimes affected by various illnesses and injuries. Cloacal pecking, bone fractures, spinal injuries, and foot injuries are common among them.
You may suddenly see a few of them become sick and die within a short time. Always prepare yourself to handle the situation. Take ill chickens to a veterinarian whenever you notice abnormal behaviors. Also, have a decent idea of where to get a veterinarian quickly.
Choosing The Right Chicken Breed
Chickens vary in their traits. When raising chicken, selecting the right chicken breed is crucial. You want to choose a perfect regional climate to ensure the bird is flourishing.
The first key aspect you can’t overlook is climate. You will find both hot-tolerant and cold-hardy chickens. However, some breeds can be grown in different weather conditions. Rhode Island Red is one of the most popular options among them.
Choosing a particular option requires you to consider where you live in. The following is a table of a few common chicken breeds.
|Hot Tolerant Chickens||Cold-hardy Chickens|
|Campine||New Hampshire Red|
|Easter Egger||Green Queen|
|Rhode Island Red||Australorp|
Regardless of the type of chicken you want to grow, each lays eggs. The same goes for ornamental chickens. But egg size and production of chickens vary from each other.
If you are a large family, you either need more eggs (if it is small or medium) or more giant eggs. Here is the list of different types of egg sizes and their size variations.
|Egg Size||Weight Range|
|Extra Small||Less than 40g|
|Extra Large||62-65 g|
|Extra Extra Large||70-75 g|
Not all chickens lay eggs every day. Some may lay two eggs per day, while some produce a few eggs per week. But, you want to ensure a healthy environment and balanced diet to help them lay eggs regularly. The following are various hens and their laying habits.
|Chicken Breeds||Regular Laying Habit||Starts Laying Eggs|
|Red Star||300-360 eggs per year||At approximately 22 weeks|
|Australorp||250-300 eggs per year||At approximately 16-20 weeks|
|Plymouth Rock||200-220 eggs per year||At approximately 16-22 weeks|
|Rhode Island Red||200-300 eggs per year||At approximately 18-20 weeks|
|Leghorn||300-320 eggs per year||At approximately 18-20 weeks|
|Orpington||200-280 eggs per year||At approximately 22-26 weeks|
|Sussex||180-250 eggs per year||At approximately 18-20 weeks|
|Chantecler||150-220 eggs per year||At approximately 20-24 weeks|
|Brahma||130-150 eggs per year||At approximately 24-28 weeks|
|Penedesenca||160-200 eggs per year||At approximately 12-16 weeks|
Chickens have different personalities. Some are aggressive and fearless, while some are calm but friendly.
If you have kids at home, choose friendly and watchful breeds. Australorps, Cochins, Faverolles, Australorps, Ameraucanas, etc., are the best family-friendly chicken breeds. Compared to regular-sized species, they are smaller.
Lakenvelder, Wyandotte, Brahma, Dorking, Thai Game Fowl, etc., are pretty aggressive. They have huge muscular bodies and sharp claws. These breeds are fight-prone and always show consistent aggression.
Nothing beats the feeling of having different colors of eggs in a single basket. A lot of breeds usually lay light or dark-brown eggs.
But Mediterranean breeds like Ancona, Leghorn, Spanish, Minorca, Andalusian, etc., are well known for laying white eggs. The followings are various chickens and their egg colors.
|Chicken Breed||Egg Color|
|Orpingtons||Light brown to pink|
|Altsteirer||White / Ivory|
You might be wondering which chicken breed to grow for your exterior house. A lot of options are there. But not all birds are perfect for conditions.
First, determine your area’s climate and environmental condition to select the best one. The followings are the top chicken breeds many aspiring chicken farmers prefer.
- Orpington: This bird is perfect for all-purpose as you get eggs and meats. They have a friendly personalities and weigh around 2.7 to 4.6 kg. In addition, this docile and friendly breed laid large light brown colored eggs. They are pretty cold hardy birds.
- Australorp: This bird is pretty gentle and well-behaved. Their average weight is between 2.2 to 3.1 kg. They can live for around 6 to 10 years if you care for them properly. The calm bird lays light brown eggs. They are notorious for egg production.
- Isa Brown: It can be one of the best choices if you love to enjoy a lot of omelets. This relatively quiet and sweet nature breed weighs around 1.80 kg to 2.72 kg on average. But they have a shorter lifespan and live only 2-3 years. Their egg color is light brown.
- Sussex: This unique bird is well-known as one of the best backyard poultry keepers. They are friendly and calm in nature. You can grow them in various environments due to their higher adapting capabilities. Their average weight is 3.2 to 4.1 kg.
- Silkie Bantams: This breed is one of the best kids’ chickens. They are smaller than normal-sized chickens, weighing around 1.4 to 1.8 kg. The beautiful and soft bird lays white/cream color with occasional tinting. But, they can live up to 7-9 years with proper care.
- Red Ranger: If you can ensure ample space in your backyard, Red Ranger appears excellent. This tri-colored bird doesn’t need special care. They weigh around 4 to 5 kg. Plus, their egg color is light brown. They are less aggressive than regular farm chickens.
- Rhode Island Red: If you are looking for a modern hybrid breed, Rhode Island Red can be a great choice. This beautiful chicken is an excellent pick for quality eggs. They lay brown-colored eggs and weigh around 6.5 pounds to 8.5 pounds.
- Silkie: This white-colored bird is notorious for its calm, friendly temperament. They weigh around 1.4 to 1.8 kg. Their egg color is cream or white and has small to medium size. In addition, the white breed lives approximately 7 to 9 years on average.
- Brahma Chicken: This breed is approachable and pretty gentle. They can thrive even in cooler climates. Their average weight is 9.5 pounds to 12 pounds. Additionally, they lay medium-brown eggs. Their lifespan is around 5 to 8 years, depending on how you care for them.
- Welsummer Chickens: this friendly, busy nature and intelligent chicken is perfect for growing in urban and rural areas. They can be as large as 15 pounds. Their egg color is dark or deep reddish brown. They usually live around 6 to 9 years if you maintain a harmonious environment.
- Ancona Chicken: If you are looking for chicken breeds that love the company of humans and pets, Ancona chicken is one of the best choices. Their average weight is 4.5 pounds to 6 pounds. They lay entirely white eggs. With proper care, Ancona chicken can live up to 8 years.
- Leghorn chicken: This breed is a bit noisy, chatty, curious, and aggressive. But they are notorious for laying up to 320 eggs per year. Their egg color is white. They have an average weight of 4.5 pounds to 6 pounds. The bird usually lives around six years on average.
Should You Choose Hatching Eggs, Chickens, Pullets, or Layers?
When it comes to growing chickens, you have many options, such as hatching eggs, chickens, pullets, or layers. But all are suitable for all conditions.
You have to choose a particular option depending on your climate, location, surrounding environment, and other factors.
Hatching Chicken Eggs
Some people prefer to start from scratch. Do you want to hatch chicken eggs of your own? It can be an exploring journey and a rewarding experience. But the key is knowing the right way to handle them.
Make sure to collect fertile eggs. It must contain an embryo. Otherwise, it will fail to hatch. Hence, research properly and get information from some experienced poultry men.
Get an egg incubator if you don’t have any hens at home. It usually takes 21 days to complete the entire procedure. The main job of this machine is to control the humidity and temperature and hatch the egg slowly.
Make sure to incubate eggs within 7 to 10 days. Delaying the process will reduce its hatchability. Once seven days pass, the ability to hatch eggs reduces by 0.5% to 1.5% each day. Add one hour extra incubation time for each day passes.
Raising Baby Chicks
Another simple option is getting baby chicks and growing them. Fertile eggs are already hatched. You just buy them and take care of them accordingly. Raising baby chicks requires following some standard procedures to keep them healthy and have optimum growth.
01. On-time Caring: Baby chicks need continuous attention and monitoring. They require special care during this period. If you go outside for any critical work, keep a person close to them to look after them.
02. Comfortable Temperature: Baby chicks need around 90- 95 degrees of temperature for their first week. Keep a heat lamp or heater near the brooder guard to provide a comfortable temperature. Reduce the temperature by 5 degrees Fahrenheit each week until they are matured.
|Age of chicks||Ideal Temperature|
|Hatch to 1 week||95 °F|
|1 to 2 weeks||90 °F|
|2 to 3 weeks||85 °F|
|3 to 4 weeks||80 °F|
|4 to 5 weeks||75 °F|
03. Cooling Device: If you want to grow baby chicks during the summer, ensure they are not affected by too much heat. Otherwise, it will cause heat-related death. Keep the heater in one side or corner and the cooling device in another to make a comfortable environment.
04. Water: The average water consumption of a baby chick is 1.5 to 2 times its food consumption. Make sure the water is clean and fresh. Usually, a one-quart waterer is enough to feed 20-25 baby chicks.
05. Feed: Baby chicks to the right foods from the very beginning of their hatching. You can feed them grains, seeds, pulses, bugs, worms, and vegetation. Ensure they have a minimum of 18% protein during their first week. Feed them food on time every day.
06. Bedding: Before transferring baby chicks to the coop, they need bedding temporarily to ensure hygiene and a cleaner environment. Commercial-grade beddings are available for baby chicks. Make sure it is at least 4 inches thick.
If you don’t have enough patience to take care of baby chicks, pullets are the best choice. The best advantage is that you don’t have to maintain a strict routine to water, feed foods, and a balanced temperature.
They have already grown up, but their age is less than one year. Most household chicken farmers prefer to use Starter pullets. These chicken breeds are yet to lay age. They usually complete twenty weeks of their lifespan but still growing slowly.
However, they will not start laying eggs immediately. Depending on the breed time, you have to wait at least a few weeks or even a year. The best thing is raising pullets is knowing the nature and characteristics of each breed in-depth, including their likes and dislikes.
Layer chickens are the best choice if you want to get eggs immediately. They have already passed 20 weeks and will lay eggs soon. But, you may feel confused about differentiating between layers chickens and pullet chickens.
You can identify these egg-laying birds through their physical structure and body movements. For example, a healthy layer chicken has a warm, full, bright red comb. Compared to pullet chickens, layer chickens have a larger and fuller comb.
Its vent area is usually round, puckered, and small. Also, their feathers are glossy and clean. You will notice stiffness and closeness between the pubic bones
Which Is The Best Place To Buy Chickens?
You can buy chickens from both physical and online chicken hatcheries. Cackle, Stromberg, Murray McMurray, Moyers, J&M, Meyer, Townline, Happy Feet, etc., are top online chicken hatcheries.
You can’t overlook key aspects when buying baby chicks, pullets, or grown-up chickens. The following are the most critical factors you must give special attention to while purchasing chickens.
Study about the Brand
Don’t jump to a particular brand rapidly. Research properly and know details on the specific hatchery brand, especially their health record. All chickens must be vaccinated to avoid common fatal diseases.
Be Conscious While Choosing Breeds
Choose a combination of both male and female chickens for future reproduction. It is easygoing when choosing pullets but hard when buying several baby chicks. You may end up having a massive number of roosters.
Determine What You Want From Chickens
Some raise chickens for eggs, some for meats, and some for both. But many household owners grow chickens as a hobby, like raising ornamental breeds. Hence, you must be clear about your choice and select chicken breeds based on them.
|Best Chicken Breeds For Meat||Best Chicken Breeds For Eggs||Best Ornamental Chicken Breeds|
|Bresse||Rhode Island Red||Polish Chicken|
|Egyptian Fayoumi||Plymouth Rock||Phoenix Chicken|
|Delaware||The Golden Comet||White-faced Black Spanish|
|Chantecler||Austra White||Ayam Cemani|
|Buckeye||Lohmann Brown||Yokohama Chicken|
|Naked Neck||Black Star||Sultan Chicken|
|Jersey Giant||White Leghorns||La Flèche Chicken|
|Freedom Rangers||Red Sex Link||Old English Game|
How Will The Brand Deliver Chickens?
Baby chicks are sensitive. They may die due to keeping them in an uncomfortable environment for several hours during transportation. The transportation system must ensure well ventilation.
Also, the containers used to carry delicate chickens need to be unique. Their inner area should be soft to comfort chickens, while the outer zone should be strong enough to handle vigorous shaking and movement.
But if you also want to protect them from heavy wind. These tiny breeds may die through suffocation. The hatchery brand must deliver the chickens with all the essential equipment until you set them up in your place.
Know the Chicken Breed Lifestyle
Some chickens are ideal for winter conditions, and some are for hot weather. It is best to buy chicken breeds from your nearby hatchery. They can cope with the environment more effortlessly.
You can’t raise high environmental temperatures chickens in low environmental temperatures. The breed will die within a short period. Even heating or cooling gadgets will not be that effective as it involves humidity level, air quality, and many other factors.
How to Set Up Your Chicken Coop
Do you need to create a chicken coop for the baby chicks or pullets? You must do it before the chicken arrives.
Some chicken farmers prefer to use primary nesting, where birds can move the whole day freely. However, this approach is only practical if there is no predator.
Determine Your Chicken Coop Size
But, the first job is choosing an ideal chicken coop size. So, how big a chicken coop do you need? It depends on various factors, such as their physical growth, personalities, lifestyle, temperature, temperament, inclement weather, etc.
If you want to add run space, the cooper size must double the actual size. For example, a standard breed chicken usually needs around 4 square feet of coop space. But, 8 square feet of coop space is required to add run space.
In contrast, giant breed chickens require around 8 square feet of coop space for each bird. If you want to add run space, make it double. The solid rule for the coop is, “Bigger is better.” It will ensure better chicken well-being.
If you are looking to buy a chicken house for 4-6 chickens, then read this guide.
DIY Chicken Coop
You can get a simple prebuilt chicken coop online from $250 to $350. But, the structure might not be compatible with your chicken breed.
Apart from ordering chicken coops commercially, you can make them of your own. However, DIY chicken coops will cost more than ready-made options. Their price can be $300 to $500, depending on the size and materials.
The main advantage of a DIY chicken coop is customizing it based on your preference. You can keep some parts of the cage larger for growing bulky chickens. In contrast, small-sized chickens will be raised in the small section.
Chicken Coop Kits
It is time-consuming to make DIY chicken coops. The best alternative option is using chicken coop kits to create within a few hours.
However, the process is still the same for building the cooper frames, walls, and locks, creating thicker frames, and developing a solid door. Chicken coop kits usually save time as many parts are already put together.
Another critical aspect to remember is that this type of chicken coop will not be as robust as your homemade coop. If your surrounding areas have serious predators, choose a commercial-grade coop or make it your own.
Cleaning and Maintaining Your Chicken Coop
Now that you have your chicken coop ready. It is essential to regularly clean and maintains the coop so that you can keep the chickens healthy and free of diseases.
How to Clean a Chicken Coop?
Never keep your chicken coop dirty and uncared. It can lead to different types of diseases and even cause death. Keep the chicken coop clean and healthy to ensure an optimum healthy environment. Here are steps to follow in cleaning a chicken coop.
Step 1: Remove Dirt and Debris from the Floor
Get off all dirt, manure, food remaining, feathers, and other objects from the floor. It may take several hours, depending on the size of the coop.
Put additional effort into scraping off chicken manure from the floor surface. Some people think cleansing solutions will make the bird drip softer. Unfortunately, they don’t!
Step 2: Apply Water to Make the Hard Debris Softer
Now, apply water in all areas using your garden hose. Keep the water pressure level minimal to avoid spitting water.
But if the dirt and debris are hard to remove, increase the pressure gradually.
You may need to clean the coop several times if dirt and debris do not disappear in one session.
Make sure the main chicken coop and nesting boxes have any disinfection issues.
Step 3: Use a Natural Solution
You can use natural solutions like vinegar to make the hard debris softer
However, avoid using bleach or harsh chemicals because they contain toxic items that can harm chickens.
Mix vinegar with equal water and apply it to areas where debris has become hard. Now, grab a thick-bristled broom or hand brush to scrap the floors and walls gently.
Continue it for several minutes for all areas as long as you see all dirt and debris removed. You can also use natural chicken coop deodorizers for that.
Step 4: Apply Water and Dry the Floor
Finally, apply fresh water using your garden hose.
Get off any standing water between the floor of the chicken coop. Let it naturally dry via sunlight.
Once it is fully dry, apply the bedding materials carefully. Now, put all equipment back in its original place. Bring back the chicken breeds serially and let them wander around.
We have already mentioned how to clean a chicken coop. But there are some regular, monthly, and annual that you can’t overlook. Keeping your chickens in a clean and healthy condition will ensure optimal growth.
A daily-basis cleaning will save you from long-term cleaning. It takes only a few minutes to do this job. Your birds will feel happy and healthy.
Make sure to get off food remaining from the feeder at the end of the day. Avoid keeping the food overnight. It may invite predators like rats, cats, etc. Always serve fresh foods and water in the early morning.
Chickens’ manure contains bacteria and germs that can make the birds sick. Remove chickens’ poop daily using a trowel or a handy tool. Wipe the leftover with a rug. You can use the manure in your garden soil as they contain potassium, calcium, nitrogen, and phosphorous.
Collect eggs from the laying area every day. Some eggs may break if you start collecting eggs only once or twice a week. Chicken breeds may feel unhappy as you suddenly get off them.
Are your chickens laying eggs? Make a habit of changing nesting materials at least once a week. Fresh nesting materials will make them cheerful and comfortable.
The best part is that it will help them to lay better-quality eggs with more rigid shells. It will also prevent minimal contamination and Bacteria development.
Due to chickens’ movements, old nesting materials become too soft and prone to brittle. Eggs are more likely to break as the bottom area doesn’t support the eggs to stay in a secure position. Aggressive movements of birds may result in eggs’ breakage.
Another essential task is cleaning the chicken feeder and waterer once a week. It will prevent bacteria buildup. So your birds will enjoy fresh food and water without any contamination.
Don’t forget to get dirt and dust from the ceiling and walls of the coop. You can use a stiff brush to ward off the cobwebs and dirt from the wall.
Apart from daily and weekly jobs, you want to do some monthly jobs. Some chicken poops that don’t go off from regular cleaning will become harder.
Use natural DIY cleaning solutions to make the floor surface softer. Scrape off the debris and chickens’ manure using a trowel. Finally, apply water to the ensure floor surface using your garden hose.
Also, don’t forget to clean the coop’s ceiling, walls, and windows that you may have skipped during the weekly tasks.
Another important job is cleaning the roosting bars that may have a good amount of debris and chicken poop. You can use natural cleaning agents like a mixture of vinegar and water to clean the bars effortlessly.
Usually, you don’t clean a chicken coop from top to bottom every month. After all, it is a time-consuming task. However, it would be best if you did it semi-annually.
This bi-annual cleaning is vital once the winter season is over. It will help you freshly welcome the spring season.
Use a stiff brush to clean the entire floor of the coop. Remove all dirt, debris, feather, and nesting materials from the floor surface.
Don’t forget to clean the feeder, waterer deeply, and other equipment you set up inside the coop. Avoid changing all items once the cleaning is over. The chickens may feel like they are brought to an entirely new environment.
Bonus Tips for Chickens’ Coop Maintenance
- Make sure to wear a mask and a pair of gloves while cleaning the chickens’ coop. Their body may contain viruses and bacteria that may enter your body.
- Avoid using any harsh chemicals to clean chicken coops. It may cause series issues for the birds if they consume the ingredients.
- Always use natural-based cleaning agents to clean the chickens’ coop. You can find various harmless cleaning solutions both online and offline.
- A chicken coop has various types of equipment. Make sure all of them are working correctly. Give a cross-check. If anything needs repair, do it immediately.
- Avoid feeding your chickens tap water if their pH level is less than 6. These flocks need around 6.0 to 6.8 pH levels of water. Otherwise, it will negatively affect their growth and health.
Feeding the Chickens
Several studies showed chickens have nutritional diseases due to a lack of balanced diets. A proper diet will keep your chicken healthy and happy, ensuring better reproduction.
What To Feed Chickens?
Chickens eat a wide range of foods. In addition, they can consume both plant and animal matter. Birds rely on various foods to get sufficient energy and nutrients.
Unless you let your chickens freely wander throughout the day, ensure a nutritionally balanced diet. It can be fruits, vegetables, grains, leafy, greens, etc. However, the nutrition level will vary based on the chicken’s age.
|Age (Week)||Approximate Feed Consumed Per Chicken (Pounds)|
|Week 1||0.15 pounds per day|
|Week 2||0.30 pounds per day|
|Week 3||0.60 pounds per day|
|Week 4||0.80 pounds per day|
|Week 5||0.95 pounds per day|
|Week 6||1.2 pounds per day|
|Week 7||1.3 pounds per day|
|Week 8||1.5 pounds per day|
|Week 9||1.5 pounds per day|
Chickens Aged Between 0 To 8 Weeks
Baby chicks need to eat food with higher protein to ensure early growth. They need a bit more protein than pullets and laying hens.
Initially, they need 20% to 22% protein. But you can decrease it by 17% to 18% within six weeks. Higher protein ensures better muscle growth and bone integrity.
But avoid feeding them too much protein. Otherwise, it will cause liver problems and kidney failure. Hence, follow the recommended diet chart when buying foods.
Chickens Aged Between 8 To 20 Weeks
Once eight weeks passed, the baby chickens became pullets. Chicken pullets usually need 17% to 18% of protein. As long as the chickens are not laying eggs, they keep growing.
The period can be 20 to 24 weeks. Once they start laying eggs, they are fully grown up. You can feed healthy grower feeds to your pullets that contain a good amount of proteins, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.
But natural foods are okay too. Sunflower seeds, scratch, corn, chickweed, earthworms, insects, slugs, kale, turnip greens, chard, lettuce, swiss chard, squash, pumpkins, etc., are great too.
Chickens Aged More Than 20 to 24 Weeks
As soon as your chickens lay eggs, they become fully mature. Depending on their breed type, they usually need around 12% to 16% of protein.
It can be 14.94 gm to 17.84 gm depending on their physical activities, breed, and other factors. But, a little bit more protein might be necessary during times of molt. Apart from protein, layered chickens need a good amount of calcium, phosphorus, and salt.
Usually, 3.2 to 3.8 gm of calcium is enough for a layered hen. Calcium directly affects eggshell quality as well as egg production. The phosphorus amount needs to be 32% per kilogram of diet. After all, it is necessary for metabolic and structural function and bone and eggshell formation.
Oyster Shell for Harder Eggshells
Layered hens need a little bit more nutrition during their laying session. You can feed them Oyster Shell to help chickens produce strong eggshells. The rich food contains around 38% calcium, making chickens’ bones stronger and healthier.
But consistently feeding this supplemental calcium in the correct quantity is essential. Make sure to serve the food in a separate container alongside the chickens’ feed. So, hens can effortlessly find it and consume a sufficient amount.
There is no hard and fast rule regarding how much Oyster Shell to feed. Nevertheless, you don’t want to over-feed them. Usually, 4% of calcium is needed for every 100 grams of chicken feed. Consuming too much calcium will cause extra uric acid in the kidneys and block them.
Chicken Scratch: More Than a Supplement
Many chicken farmers feed Chicken Scratch to their breeds during the colder months. It helps the birds to produce heat and stay warm.
It is also an excellent choice for additional nourishment. However, it can’t be more than 10% of their dietary plan. Avoid feeding them in every feeding session. In fact, many experts recommend not providing it on a daily basis.
If they need extra nutrition, you can rely on regular chicken feed. Feed Chicken Scratch only once a day. It can be before bedtime to add a little boost of heat overnight.
Don’t feed a “Complete” Chicken Scratch to your breeds. Mix it with regular chicken feed. Otherwise, it will cause health problems and various deficiencies.
Chicken Grit to Improve Digestive System
Chicken Grit is a must if you want your chickens to eat peacefully. It helps them comfortably digest foods like grains and kernels by mashing them before they go to the stomach.
This natural-based supplement breakdowns food items and ensures a smooth digestion function. As soon as you start feeding large particle-sized feed to your birds, you can feed Chicken Grit.
A regular chicken needs around 30 to 50 grams of Chicken Grit annually. But, a few breeds may consume more than this quantity to grind foods better. Feed them every day to ensure a balanced diet.
We’ve written a comprehensive chicken feed guide for our readers. You can find more details, tips, and tricks on chicken feed there.
Chicken feeders are bulky containers mainly used to keep chicken food and help birds eat food without waste. Choosing a well-designed feeder is vital to prevent foods from spreading over.
Chicken feeders come in various types. Each of them has pros and cons. But choosing a particular option depends on your chicken breed’s requirements.
Automatic Chicken Feeders
If you have large-size breeds, automatic chicken feeders are one of the best choices. You don’t need to command the device manually. It saves time and effort. However, it requires technical knowledge to set up and operate the automatic feeder.
Any power cut issues will stop the device from working immediately. Also, regularly following the maintenance task is crucial to ensure smooth functionality.
Small-sized coops are not perfect for accommodating automatic chicken feeders. It seems excellent for commercial-based poultry firms. After all, it involves a reasonable budget.
DIY or Rectangular Wooden Chicken Feeder
Do you have some carpentry knowledge to put several wood panels together? Apart from being pocket-friendly, you can customize the size based on the number of chickens you feed.
Larger wooden chicken feeders allow you to feed a good number of birds at a time. It will save space as you won’t have to make too many feeders.
However, they are prone to get dirty within a short period. Plus, wooden-based feeders attract moisture, likely to develop bacteria if not cleaned the feeder regularly.
Metallic feeders are the best choice if you prefer an easy-to-clean and durable option. Their window size is wider to accommodate a lot of birds.
They are mainly made of galvanized steel to ensure long-lasting durability. This simple equipment comes with a handle to hang and transform food effortlessly.
Metallic chicken feeders come in various sizes. In addition, they can hold 10 to 50 lbs of chicken feed. Rats, bugs, and insects are less likely to get inside the feeder.
Regarding baby chicks, tray feeders are one of the best choices. They have a simple but unique design. Baby chicks can wander around the feeder and eat whenever they feel like eating.
This type of feeder is an excellent choice for brooding purposes too. It maintains hygiene. Doing so will eliminate infection issues. Its sophisticated design prevents chickens from toppling inside the feeder. The bottom area has slip-resistant legs to keep the tray securely in place.
Round Hanging Chicken Feeders
Some chicken breeds waste a considerable amount of food. This round-hanging chicken feeder is a perfect choice. Make sure to adjust the height perfectly. But keep it a few inches above the ground.
A single-hanging poultry feeder is enough to feed 12 chickens. It can hold up to 12 lbs of chicken feed at a time. However, not birds will like this feeder.
Monitor your chicken movements and inspects whether all breeds are eating from the same container. You need to change the feeder if they are not eating from it.
Watering the Chickens
A chicken needs to drink around half a liter of water per day. But, it can be as high as one liter during hot summer days. Too much water consumption will cause water intoxication.
However, older chickens drink more water than younger ones. In addition, layered birds need twice much water compared to non-layered ones.
Chickens usually drink more water during the daytime and less at night. They consume a noticeable amount after waking up.
DIY Chicken Waterer
Making DIY chicken waterers is simple. It doesn’t require you to spend much. In fact, many items are already available in your house.
You can create a DIY chicken waterer for under $40 to $60. The followings are the simple step you need to follow.
Step 1: Drill Holes At the Base. Grab a 3-gallon or 5-gallon bucket, depending on how much water your chickens need. Drill two holes from the bottom zone. Each hole needs to be in the opposite section.
Step 2: Add a Feed Pan. Now, take a large feed pan. Its dimension should be slightly larger than the bucket. Place the bucket on top of the pan.
Step 3: Secure the Pan Position. Apply adhesive on all sides of the bucket to ensure it stays in place. Let it dry properly. Now, add water inside the bucket until it is complete.
Step 4: Add a Lid on the Top. Place a lid on the bucket to create an airtight seal. You can also add a locking system if your chickens are too aggressive.
Automatic Chicken Waterers
DIY chicken waterers are easy and affordable to make. But the main problem is contamination issues. Water quality degrades when it touches chickens’ manure, food, and other debris.
Your birds are more likely to be affected by water-borne diseases such as septicemia. It mainly occurs from viruses and bacteria. Automatic chicken waterers are the best solution to this problem.
Your birds can enjoy fresh and clean water all the time. Water is less prone to get contaminated. However, you want to clean the water pot still regularly. Doing it every day is a solid rule of thumb.
Chicken Water Nipples
It is a small device that allows chickens to drink water without making any mess. It doesn’t automatically release water.
Instead, chickens need to peck at it. Water will come out through the tiny tube. The device doesn’t release too much water at a time, only a few drops.
If you live in an area with higher water bills, chicken nipples are the best choice. They can hold around 5 gallons of water on average.
The mess-free water container requires minimal cleaning. After all, water becomes less dirty in this upgraded water.
Heated Chicken Waterer
Water is more likely to freeze during the winter, preventing chickens from drinking water continuously. The best option is investing in a heated chicken waterer.
This handy device features a thermostatically controlled system to automatically make the frozen water hotter. It uses electrical power to increase the temperature of the water.
However, its functionality stops automatically and remains stable once the water reaches a convenient temperature. You don’t have to worry during the summer season. No need to use a separate waterer!
Collecting and Storing Eggs from Your Chicken
You can’t just randomly collect the dirty chicken eggs and store them immediately inside your refrigerator. It has a procedure to follow.
Plus, chickens lay more eggs during scorching and cold weather. You need to change your egg collection approach based on the climate. The followings are steps to follow to collect and store eggs.
Collecting the Eggs
Once your chickens start laying eggs, make sure to keep the coop clean. It allows them to lay eggs comfortably.
Visit the chicken coop early in the morning to collect eggs. Avoid waiting too long. Chickens may break eggs when they move aggressively. Plus, the quality of eggs may deteriorate over time during extremely hot or cold temperatures.
Go to the chicken coop another time before noon. Some birds may lay eggs in the late morning. Get the fresh eggs quickly. If an egg is damaged or broken, collect it immediately. Also, clean the nesting area properly.
Sometimes, you may want to give a visit in the late afternoon, especially if you have a good number of layered chickens. Don’t wait overnight to collect eggs. Also, keep an eye on naughty breeds that have developed a habit of eating their own eggs.
Eggs may contain chicken poop, dirt, and food debris. Use a soft brush to clean eggs gently. However, you don’t need to scrub each egg as many remain fresh. Avoid putting too much pressure while cleaning them. Otherwise, they may break.
Now, grab a bucket of warm water. The water temperature should be between 18° F to 20° F. Avoid washing them in cold water. It may cause contamination.
To sanitize the eggs, you can add a harmless cleaning agent in the warm water. Soak the eggs for 40-60 seconds. Finally, use paper towels to dry the egg appropriately.
Storing Chicken Eggs
Use cartons to store chicken eggs. Avoid keeping eggs in the older carton. They may contain dirt. Always use new cartons to store eggs. They can stay fresh for up to 5-6 weeks.
Maintain a sequence while storing eggs. Usually, you should eat the older eggs first, followed by the newer ones. This will ensure a balanced shelf life. You can write down the date of each egg collection date in each carton.
Ensure to maintain a temperature of 35° F to 40 ° F to store chickens in your fridge. Keep eggs in the shelves’ area. They are warmer than the interior zone. Avoid storing eggs near any foods that release bad smells.
Hatching Chicken Eggs
You have two options if you plan to hatch chicken eggs instead of eating them. Either keep the eggs near to chicken nest or use an incubator.
But a broody hen doesn’t hatch eggs all year round. Their hatching session works only in spring and beginning to mid-summer. If you want to hatch eggs throughout the year, incubators are the best choice.
However, a broody hen is a natural approach. It gives the chickens a more natural feeling. They can cope with the environment more quickly.
Chickens have a lot of predators. Both domestic and wild animals can harm and eat them. Birds like eagles, hawks, and owls can kill chickens. Whenever they see predators, they start running and hiding from them.
Rodents, house cats, bobcats, dogs, coyotes, opossums, wild cats, domestic cats, minks/weasels, skunks, snakes, raccoons, etc., are common predators of chickens.
Chicken Predators: Signs of Attack
You can effortlessly figure out whether predators attack chickens or not. You will notice scattered features in many parts of their body.
Sometimes, centralized wounds or blood in their vicinity are visible too. Their eggs might be cracked or missing. When animals attack chickens, they leave footprints around the birds’ houses.
Predator Proof a Chicken Coop
The first job is practically designing the chicken coop to give no chance for predators to enter the cell. Also, doors and windows must be strong. They need a robust locking system to prevent predators from entering the birds’ houses.
Otherwise, they may enter the chicken nest and harm, kill, or eat them. If you are living in a risky area, be extra careful. Predators don’t just kill or eat chickens. They also have many dangerous diseases. It may get into your bird’s body if it is contagious.
Dogs and Chickens
Not all dogs are predators of chickens. Most of them are friendly. But, you need to know the right approach to train them. Once they are used to it, they will not harm birds anymore.
However, if both or either of them is aggressive, it will be hard to train dogs. In such a case, you have no option but to keep them separately. Don’t let dogs enter the chickens’ territory.
Avoid free running the chickens if your dog breeds are too aggressive. Create a separate zone for your puppy. You can offer dogs toys, especially when they are too unruly.
Protection against Predators
You can take a wide range of preventive actions depending on the predators. Ensure the free-range area has a tall and strong fence to protect chickens.
The height of the fence should be around 5 to 6 feet. It prevents predators from jumping inside the free-range area. You may need to use chicken wire to create a robust physical barrier.
If your dogs or other pets are too aggressive, use an electric fence that will control their movement but not injure them.
Handling Common Diseases in Chickens
Chickens suffer from various types of diseases, such as Infectious Coryza, Fowl Cholera, Salmonellosis, Avian Influenza, Marek, Coccidiosis, Newcastle, Fowl Pox, etc. They catch these different diseases for many reasons. Let’s learn about them!
This disease is pretty common in layered and meat chickens and mainly occurs from the bacterium Haemophilus Paragallinarum.
It affects the respiratory system of the birds. Common symptoms are minimal activities, frequent sneezing, facial swelling, etc. Newer-generation antimicrobials are most effective in treating this disease. But always consult with an expert veteran before giving any medicine.
Avoid keeping healthy chickens with infected and susceptible breeds. Also, follow a standard sanitation method to keep the chicken coop in tip-top condition.
Another common disease is Marek’s Disease. It mainly occurs from a chicken herpes virus. Younger breeds are more prone to catch this disease. The virus is not easily noticeable unless you do a test.
Unfortunately, it is not curable. Once your chicken is affected by this disease, it will carry it throughout life. However, chickens with Marek’s Disease can live up to 65 weeks or more, depending on their physical condition.
The best preventive action is vaccinating old baby chicks when their age is 4-7 days. It is an effective way to prevent this clinical disease. Make sure to keep your chicken coop well-ventilated and adequately cleaned regularly.
Pasteurella Multocida is the main culprit of this severe, highly contagious disease. You will notice various symptoms, such as stiffness, quick breathing, ruffled feathers, lethargy, and enlargement of wattles.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease. Chickens are likely to die within 6–12 hours. If you notice any common symptoms, separate the ill birds immediately. Otherwise, the Pasteurella organisms of chicken breeds will spread the disease to others through contamination.
Make sure to buy chickens or pullets from a repeatable hatchery. Keep the chicken coop always clean and free from infections. Dirty chicken nests are more likely to invite diseases.
Chickens have this disease through a contaminated environment. In addition, contamination occurs through foods, animals, and eggs. A Gram-negative bacteria causes this problem. Your birds may feel weaker once they are infected with Salmonellosis.
Salmonellosis also causes diarrhea. They will lose weight. Plus, their egg production reduces dramatically. Birds may have purplish combs and wattles. Sometimes, infected flocks die within 5 to 10 days.
Clean the chicken coop every day. Use an effective cleaning agent to disinfect the entire birds’ house and their equipment. Make sure to remove broken eggs and dead animals immediately. Always maintain hygiene in supplying food and collecting eggs.
A particular virus named para-myxo causes Newcastle disease. It is highly contagious. You can quickly figure out this sickness if your birds sneeze, gurgle, or rattle. Their feces become unusually watery and look yellowish-green. The neck area may have twisting and tremors issues.
If the temperature is ambient, the virus can survive for an extended time. Chickens with Newcastle disease live up to 12 months. But, they may die within several weeks if felt too weak.
Use Newcastle disease vaccines to protect the birds. Usually, baby chicks at two weeks of age or older are suitable for this vaccination. Give another vaccine after 3 – 4 months. This will keep the disease under control.
Chickens are infected with Coccidiosis diseases through insects, wild birds, and other mechanical carriers. A microscopic parasite causes this illness. Coccidiosis will make birds weaker as they lose their appetite for eating. They have severe diarrhea conditions.
Also, their combs and wattles become pale. They have glazed, dull, or droopy eyes. Chickens may even die if the sickness continues for more than eight weeks. Thankfully, Coccidiosis vaccination is available.
But you need to give it to them in their early life. When you buy baby chicks, make sure it is vaccinated. Don’t give any chance to create wet, warm, and humid conditions for Coccidiosis to thrive. Keep the entire chicken house fully clean and hygienic.
Tips for Keeping Healthy and Happy Chickens
Happy chicken means healthy chickens! Letting your chickens mingle and encouraging them to play freely are a few ways to keep your birds happy. The followings are the top tips to keep your chickens happy, healthy, strong, and safe.
- Choose High-quality and Automatic Doors. Make sure the chicken coop has automatic doors. They will open and close automatically through the motion sensor during sunset and sunrise. Apart from saving time, it will make the life of chickens easier. More importantly, this offers optimal safety from predators.
- Keep Extra Space in the Chicken Coop. Extra space is always better for chicken coops. It ensures optimal birds’ comfort and keeps them healthy. Keep additional 1-3 square feet for each chicken when you do the space calculation. Adequate space is always necessary for sufficient air circulation and free movement.
- Plant Several Trees around the Chicken Coop. Chickens love to scratch around. They explore to taste various bugs and insects besides regular foods. Even if harmful plants or fruits are in their free range, they will not eat them. The birds are picky when it comes to eating green plants. You can plant cedars or apple trees.
- Always Maintain Regular, Weekly, And Monthly Cleaning. Many new chicken farmers ask how often they should clean the chicken house. Chicken coops require regular cleaning. These birds are prone to get infected by various virus that mainly occurs from dirty and moist environment. Always keep the coop in tip-top condition.
- Provide Fresh and Clean Foods and Water. Some new farmers think chickens can eat the same food for seven days. It is best to serve food each day in the early morning. Fresh food gives them more appetite to eat. Also, change the water after every two days. Food residue and other things may make the water dirty and contaminated.
- Don’t Serve the Same Food Every Time. Do you eat the same food every day? The same goes for chickens too. They usually love fruits, vegetables, and grains. However, maintaining a balanced and notorious-rich diet will not keep them healthy but also sustain their taste to eat foods regularly.
- Don’t Give Unhealthy Foods. Some foods appear toxic to chickens even though they are natural or appear healthy to you. Avoid serving avocadoes, citrus, green potato skins, dry beans, high salt content items, onion, garlic, uncooked rice, raw potato, etc.
- Regularly Communicate With Your Local Vet. Chickens need at least one health checkup per month. These birds are likely to get infected with various viruses. And if it is contagious, you could land into serious problems. Contact your local vet immediately whenever you notice any irregular behaviors in any breed.
- Keep Chickens Safe from Overheating. Chickens prefer to stay within 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit temperature. But that doesn’t mean you will overheat them during the winter season. The temperature should not exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Otherwise, it will be dangerous for them to live safely.
- Create a Free-range Environment. Free-range chickens are healthier than confined chickens. They develop strong muscles by wandering around. Most importantly, they intake fresh air, enjoy the sunshine, and eat fresh, natural foods that make them healthy and help them to cope with different environments effortlessly.
- Treat for Parasites Regularly. Sometimes, pests and parasites may disturb your chickens inside the coop. Regularly inspect the coop conditions and clean it properly. If your local area is likely to have any virus, give your birds medicated feed to protect their health.,
- Let Chickens Bath. Chickens occasionally love to take baths to get off dust, ticks, and mites. You can also do it by placing them in a sink for a couple of minutes. The bathing water temperature should be between 95° F and 100° F. Make sure to get off the moisture from their under feathers.
When it comes to growing chickens, we think it is a piece of cake. But it is not! Chickens need proper care. In fact, they are prone to get affected by various viruses and diseases. If you don’t take preventive actions, all of them may die within a few days.
We have already mentioned complete guidelines from top to bottom regarding how to grow chicken in a healthy and safe environment. Consider your local temperature and environment when choosing particular chicken breeds.
Most importantly, clean the chicken coop regularly. Also, make a proper plan before developing a chicken house. It must have adequate space. Manage fresh foods and water regularly and serve them on time to ensure optimal growth for your birds.
Eric Cooper is a passionate and experienced chicken farmer who has been raising chickens since childhood. Growing up, Eric spent countless hours with his father tending to their family’s flock, and it was during these formative years that he developed a deep appreciation and love for these remarkable birds.
Today, Eric is a seasoned expert in all aspects of chicken farming, with over two decades of experience under his belt. From selecting the right breed and building a coop to feeding and caring for his flock, Eric has honed his skills over the years and is committed to sharing his knowledge with others who share his passion.