Egg Harvesting and storageCaring for backyard chickens can be a fulfilling and enjoyable experience, as these feathered friends can provide fresh eggs and entertainment. However, it is crucial to conduct thorough research and prepare adequately before bringing home your first flock.
If you are a beginner, this guide will provide you with tips and guidelines on how to properly care for your backyard chickens, ensuring that they remain healthy, happy, and thriving. From choosing the right breed to setting up a coop and providing proper nutrition and healthcare, we’ve got you covered.
Housing and Shelter
Chickens need a safe and comfortable place to roost at night, protect them from predators, and shield them from harsh weather conditions. The type of housing you choose will depend on the number of chickens you plan to keep, the climate in your area, and your personal preferences. Some common options for backyard chicken housing include:
- Chicken coops are stationary structures that provide a permanent home (Image above). They can be purchased pre-made or built from scratch using a variety of materials, such as wood or PVC pipe.
- Chicken tractors are portable structures that allow you to move your chickens around your yard, giving them access to fresh grass and insects while keeping them safe from predators.
- Chicken runs are outdoor enclosures that give your flock a place to roam while keeping them contained and protected.
Small Chicken Coop and Run simultaneously, Image by ChickenMan
CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
No matter which type of housing you choose, it should include and consider the following features:
- Appropriate Size: Spacious enough to allow your birds to move around comfortably. A good rule of thumb is to provide 2 square feet of space per chicken.
- Ventilation System: Good ventilation helps prevent moisture buildup and reduces the risk of heat stress in chickens. Lack of proper ventilation in a coop can cause respiratory issues, mold growth, and ammonia buildup from chicken waste.
- Nesting Boxes: Hens should have one nesting box for every three to four hens. Each nesting box should be 12 inches by 12 inches and filled with soft bedding, such as straw or wood shavings. Nesting boxes should be cleaned regularly to prevent the spread of diseases.
- Location and safety: Protect your flock from predators by building a safe and secure coop. Locate the coop in a safe area, away from predators such as foxes, raccoons, and hawks.
Feeding and Watering
Feeding and watering your backyard chickens is essential for their health and well-being. Here are some tips and guidelines to ensure that your flock is getting the proper nutrition and hydration they need:
- Provide a balanced diet that includes a mix of grains, protein, and vitamins. You can purchase commercial feed or create your own mix. It is also important to give your birds access to fresh greens, fruits, and vegetables, as well as occasional treats like mealworms or scratch grains.
- When feeding, it is important to consider their age and size. Chicks will need a starter feed that is high in protein, while adult chickens will need a layer feed that is high in calcium. Make sure to store the feed in a dry, cool place to prevent spoilage.
- Always provide clean, fresh water. You can use a water dispenser specifically designed for chickens or simply use a shallow dish. Make sure to change the water daily and clean the container regularly to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
- In hot weather, you may need to provide your flock with additional water, such as by placing a frozen water bottle in their coop.
- Chickens should have access to food and water at all times. However, it is important to establish a feeding schedule to ensure that they are not overeating or wasting food. Typically, chickens will eat 1/4 to 1/2 pounds of food per day, depending on their size and age.
- If you are raising hens for their eggs, you may want to provide them with additional calcium to ensure strong eggshells. This can be done by adding crushed eggshells or oyster shells to their feed or providing a calcium supplement.
- You may also want to provide your flock with a vitamin supplement, especially if they are not getting a lot of fresh greens and vegetables.
- Keep an eye on your chickens’ eating habits and weight to ensure that they are healthy. If you notice any changes in their appetite or behavior, it may be a sign of illness and you should seek veterinary care.
Egg Harvesting and Storage
Collecting fresh eggs from your backyard chickens is a rewarding experience. However, it is important to follow proper techniques to ensure the safety and quality of the eggs.
- Check for eggs at least once per day, ideally in the morning.
- Collect eggs as soon as possible after they are laid. This will help to prevent the eggs from becoming dirty or contaminated.
- Handle eggs gently to avoid cracking and breakage.
- Clean eggs if dirty, gently wipe them with a dry cloth or sandpaper. Do not wash them, as it can remove
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap before and after handling eggs. This will help to prevent the spread of bacteria.
- Store eggs in a cool, dark place. The ideal temperature for storing eggs is 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Refrigerate eggs in the refrigerator at a temperature of 40°F or lower.
- Discard any cracked or dirty eggs.
- If you are going to be away from home for more than a few days, ask a friend or neighbor to collect your eggs.
Health and Wellness
Maintaining the health and wellness of your backyard chickens is essential to ensure they lead a happy and productive life. Here are some tips to help keep them healthy:
- Provide a balanced diet: Chickens require a well-balanced diet that includes a mix of protein, grains, and vegetables. Commercial feed is available and is formulated to meet their nutritional requirements.
- Freshwater: Provide clean and fresh water at all times, ensuring that the water container is large enough to accommodate all of your birds.
- Regular exercise: birds need exercise to stay healthy and happy. Provide them with enough space to move around and forage for food.
- Clean living environment: Regularly clean the coop to prevent the buildup of bacteria, which can cause diseases.
- Parasite control: Regularly check your flock for parasites, such as mites and lice. Treat any infestations promptly to prevent them from spreading.
- Vaccinations: Consult with a veterinarian to determine if your feathered friends need vaccinations to protect against common diseases.
- Observation: Monitor your chickens’ behavior and appearance regularly. This will help you identify any potential health problems early on and seek prompt medical attention if necessary.