How to Take Care of Chickens
Is it possible to take care of chickens without being an expert poultry farmer? Yes, it is. However, if you want to have them as pets, you should understand that they’re very different from cats and dogs. Just the same, they’re amazing animals that with a personality and intelligence that will surprise you.
If you choose to have a group of chickens on your property, you must understand their care thoroughly. These birds have very specific needs that not everyone can provide. Let’s see what they are.
Can I have chickens at home?
Hens are a domestic subspecies of the species known as Gallus gallus. It’s a galliform bird of the Phasianidae family, whose origin is in Southeast Asia.
Despite this, just because it’s a “domestic” animal doesn’t mean that this bird is suitable for all homes. In addition, to have a hen, you must be aware of the attention that you’ll need to provide. First of all, you have to ask yourself: “Can I have chickens at my home?”
This question is very important and it’s the first question you always need to ask yourself. This is so because in certain places, the keeping of these birds is prohibited or you need a special permit. For example, if you reside in the middle of the urban nucleus of a city, you probably can’t raise chickens.
At the same time, even if having chickens is allowed in your area of residence, you always have to comply with certain rules. This is especially true if you have neighbors nearby. In certain cases, if you want to include a rooster in the pen, you should keep in mind that it’s a very noisy animal. They can be very disruptive first thing in the morning.
What’s more, it’s important to know if there’s a maximum number of chickens you can have. Finally, if you don’t own the property where you want to have chickens, always ask the owner for permission.
How to take care of chickens: Where will they live?
Once you’re sure that it’s possible to keep these birds in your home, it’s important to conduct an analysis of everything you’ll need to care for chickens. Having these farmyard animals requires an economic investment, as well as time to tend them.
These birds also need space. It’s not only about setting up space for a chicken coop. You also have to provide them with a large area where they can enjoy the outdoors. Finally, there are certain municipal rules that require hens to be at a certain distance from the actual house.
It is essential to consider regional regulations before raising any farm animal.
What should the chicken coop be like?
The chicken coop, space, or shed that’s available for the protection of the chickens, must guarantee the safety of these animals. That means that it must be enclosed and hygienic.
A good structure is the only way to keep away predators and small rodents that can spread certain diseases to birds. In addition, the chicken coop has to be a place where the animals can stay dry, away from the cold and sun, and free from stress.
The shelter for these birds must also have good ventilation. However, you must also avoid drafts. Furthermore, it has to be large enough to accommodate all the chickens without overcrowding.
Most chicken owners keep the feeders in a somewhat elevated location, as this will prevent other animals (such as the rodents we mentioned above) from reaching the food. In addition to the feeders, it’s important to place some wooden planks or perches on the wall for the chickens to climb on, as they like heights.
In addition to the above, you can’t forget the nesting boxes, of which there must be 1 for every 4 hens. This is where these birds lay their eggs, so they must have bedding material, such as straw. At the same time, the nesting boxes should be large enough for the hen to be comfortable.
Another important characteristic of the chicken coop is that it must be easy to clean, as you need to maintain hygiene in the long term. It’s a good idea to spread shavings, straw, or another similar substrate on the ground every few days, as this material absorbs moisture from the animal’s stool.
Feeding the chickens
A fundamental aspect in order to know if you want to take care of chickens correctly is their diet. These birds are omnivorous, so don’0t fall into the widespread misconception that they only eat corn, worms, and grass.
The basis of their diet will be preparations that consist of various cereals. However, to complement their diet, you can also give them fruits, vegetables. What’s more, they can also eat meat, fish, and eggs. Of course, as for the eggs, it’s important to boil and shell them. If not, they’ll develop the habit of pecking and eating every egg they themselves lay.
You can also offer them the eggshell itself, and in fact, it’s very beneficial, as it provides them with calcium. However, for the same reason that we already mentioned, you should crush it before giving it to the hens so that they don’t associate it with the eggs they lay.
Clean and fresh water must always be within reach. Finally, we need to clarify that hens eat small samples of gravel that they collect from the ground they peck. These have an important function, as they help them in the digestion of food by staying lodged in the gizzard (they don’t have teeth). However, if you want to help them in this regard, you can add a mineral supplement to their food.
Chickens are common victims of parasites. For this reason, if your chickens develop any symptoms (fallen feathers, lightened crests, decay, and others), you can use dewormers that you acquire in animal products stores or veterinary centers.
In addition to this (and taking into account the regulations of the place where you live), sometimes you need to vaccinate the hens. In the event that vaccinations are mandatory, a veterinary professional will administer them following a strict schedule.
At the same time, taking care of chickens also implies being aware of the signs that may indicate that they’re sick. For example, although it’s normal for hens to lose more feathers than usual on certain occasions due to weather changes, on other occasions when the molting becomes excessive or occurs in patches, this usually indicates that something isn’t going well with their health.
In addition to this, other symptoms that could signal disease in the animal are:
- A color change in the beard or crest
- The bird doesn’t lay eggs
- The eggs come out misshapen
- Lack of appetite
- The animal has mobility problems
Other tips for caring for chickens
When it comes to caring for chickens, it’s important to know the behavior of this animal. This is essential, as it’s the responsibility of their guardians to allow them to develop their natural behaviors as the primal beings that they are.
These behaviors include hiding, digging, climbing high places, or sunbathing. They also enjoy dirt bathing and eating insects off the ground. These birds are quite intelligent and easily understand what their schedules are. In addition, they quickly get used to responding to the call of their caregivers and they like to interact with them.
For all these reasons, if you want to buy chickens, you should also consider the time that you can dedicate to them. Between feeding, cleaning, egg collection, and interaction, chicken care takes at least 2 hours a day.
Chickens should leave the chicken coop each morning and return to it when the sun goes down. However, they should be able to go in and out of the coop as they wish, except at night. It’s true that these animals are capable of getting along with other animals. Even so, you can never be 100% sure in this regard, as they’ll always come out on the losing end if any problem occurs.
Taking care of chickens has many advantages, as they get rid of insects and some pests (such as snails or slugs) and provide compost and fresh eggs for the home. In order for them to carry out their functions and for you to be able to enjoy them, they must be healthy. And this will depend on the care offered by the owner. Don’t neglect them and you’ll discover that these animals have an incredible temperament.