Now that you’ve bought your chicks you need to know how to take care of them. Here are some tips if you’re new to raising chicks:
Providing a Comfortable Coop for your Chickens
- The number one advice chicken expert will give you in building a coop is to make it as big as possible. As you get the hang of raising your chickens, you will want to add new members to your flock every now and then. From 3 chickens, you’ll find yourself tending for 10-15 chickens in no time. You can always build a temporary wall if it’s too large, but building additions is much more difficult. This article give a good rundown on how to manage space in the coop.
- Remember these three important things when building a coop: dryness, cleanliness and ventilation. Your chickens must be kept in a dry coop to help control disease and health issues. Also, give your coop as much ventilation as you can, without making it draughty. A dirty coop and a pile of wet droppings can provide a perfect breeding ground for disease, so keep the coop clean and the dirt under control.
- A bed of straw in the floor of your coop could quickly turn into a dusty, moldy, poopy mess. Pine shavings or pine chips are a better choice.
- Pine shavings in a nest box typically don’t work well. The chickens will push it out onto the floor. For nest boxes, straw is a better choice.
- Putting newspaper under a pile of shavings or bedding in the coop means that you can roll up the droppings and remove everything at once, making cleaning the coop much easier.
- Lastly, make sure that all coops are PREDATOR PROOF! Use heavy gauge hardware cloth and try to avoid chicken wire. Chicken wire does not stand the test of time and your chickens, the roosters might injure their combs when they stick their heads through the wire. Coyotes and dogs can chew right through most chicken wire. Here are some tips on preventing losses to common chicken predators and pests.
- If you are the DIY type, here are some great ideas for building your own coops.
Taking care of your chickens
- If you’re not a nutritionist, don’t mix your own feed, and don’t let supplements or “treats” make up more than about 10% of the food you provide for your birds. Provide a good balanced feed. Purina Start and Grow provides an 18%-protein ration perfect for raising laying chicks from hatch to laying age (18-20 weeks).
- Chicks can drown easily in water bowls. Fill water bowls with clean pebbles or marbles to prevent accidental drownings.
- If you want to be able to pick your chickens up and pet them, you have to start doing so right away and on a regular basis. This will help them to get used to being handled.
- Don’t wait until it’s dark to put the chickens inside the coop. This is when a lot of predators attack so make sure you tuck them in early. There is always one chicken that will resist your efforts to get them inside the coop. Make sure everyone’s inside before locking them up for the night.
- Keep everything clean. Cleanliness in the area may be harder to maintain with all the droppings but remember to clean out their coop, run, feeders and waterers as needed. This will keep them cleaner and less likely to get parasites or get sick.
- An unsupervised chicken flock can create destruction in your landscape & garden quicker than you can imagine. Say hello to uprooted plants, gravel all over the place and dirt craters.
- Almost any dog coming across free range chickens, will kill chickens. Supervise and/or train your dog(s) to leave chickens alone.
- Spend time getting to know your birds. Watch their behaviour, droppings etc. It can save their lives if you’re able to notice the even the slightest changes & warning signs early on.
- Put together a sufficient first aid, preventive, and medical kit for your birds. See here for more on chicken first aid kits – handy and essential supplies, and how to use them.
- Lice and mites are a common and fatal issue whether you have 5 chickens or 500. Make sure you take the necessary precautions.
- Deworm your chickens regularly. Some poultry keepers recommend deworming every 6 months.
- If you notice something off about your chicken, do a check up right away!
- Check the body weight, color of the comb & wattles, crops and droppings of your chickens regularly and make sure you know what it should look and/or feel like. When you see that something is not right with your chicken, isolate it immediately.