If you have any experience with keeping chickens in your backyard, you know that they quickly become part of your family and, like a family member, you’ll want to do whatever you can to keep them happy and healthy. Even if you consider yourself a chicken keeping expert, you may want to ask yourself, “what can I do better?”
Below are six tips that you as a chicken keeper should follow in terms of feeding your chickens, protecting them from predators, and keeping their coop clean.
Tip 1: Monitor Salt Intake
One of the most important nutrients to monitor closely in your chickens’ diet is salt. Too much salt can be poisonous for your chickens, resulting in wet and runny droppings and a decrease in egg production. Too little salt, on the other hand, can result in more feather pecking and plucking, declined egg production, and an overall loss of appetite.
It’s crucial to balance the level of sodium in your chickens’ feed and in any supplements you give them. According to the University of Florida, some of the most common ingredients in store-bought chicken feed like sunflower meal and corn gluten meal already contain high amounts of sodium. This means that, in order to maintain an even balance of sodium in your birds, you should reduce the amount of sodium you feed your birds through supplements.
Tip 2: Tame Hens When They’re Young
If you keep chickens in your backyard, chances are that you want them to become tame pets for you and your family. Taming your birds will make your chicken keeping experience more enjoyable and will help you form a bond with your birds.
Taming your chickens is easiest to do when they are young. Try using treats to tempt your birds to come closer to you until they are eventually comfortable enough to eat right out of your hand. This will also help them become more comfortable with the idea of being held.
Keep in mind, though, that some breeds of chickens are more social than others. The Silkie, for example, is very tolerant of being held and may be easier to tame.
Tip 3: Train Them to Use the Nesting Box
If you’re used to keeping chickens, you’re probably also used to getting eggs right from your backyard instead of from the grocery store. It can be frustrating, then, to find broken eggs inside your chicken coop. Because chickens don’t instinctively know to lay their eggs in the nesting area you’ve set up for them, you’ll have to train them to use the nesting box.
Training your chickens to use their nesting box is easiest when the chickens are still young. Ideally, you should begin training as soon as your chickens start laying eggs. Place ceramic eggs in the nesting box to encourage your chickens to lay their eggs in the same place. You can even monitor your chickens closely and, as soon as they lay an egg, place it in the nesting box to train them.
Tip 4: Use Apple Cider Vinegar to Clean the Coop
Cleaning your chicken coop can be a daunting task. It’s important not only to clean the coop regularly but to also use a cleaning product that is safe for animals. Apple cider vinegar is a great product to use to clean your coop because not only will it disinfect your chickens’ home but it is also completely safe for your birds to consume (it even has several health benefits for chickens)!
Pour some apple cider vinegar into a spray bottle and use it to get rid of grime that has built up within the coop. Don’t forget to spray it on bedding and in nesting areas to get rid of mites, lice, and other bugs that might be crawling around.
Tip 5: Use CDs to Deter Predators
In terms of predators, most chicken keepers know that raccoons, foxes, and dogs pose the biggest threat to the safety of your birds; however, birds of prey, such as hawks, can be equally as dangerous. It’s likely that you don’t have time to constantly keep an eye on your birds while they’re roaming around your backyard.
To deter hawks and other birds of prey, try hanging up old CDs around the yard. The reflection will deter larger birds from even flying near your yard. Do not, however, use mirrors instead of CDs. This can start a fire in your backyard.
Tip 6: Start with Pullets
Anyone with experience in keeping chickens knows just how fragile baby chicks are. Chicks require a higher level of attention and care than adult chickens. Because of their fragility, not all chicks will make it to adulthood.
Instead of starting with baby chicks, purchase pullets instead. Pullets are chicks that are around 18 weeks old and have typically already started laying eggs. Pullets are tougher and more self-sufficient than baby chicks, but they are still young enough to train and tame.
Keeping chickens in your backyard can be an extremely rewarding experience, especially if you are open to adopting some new techniques in order to improve the health and well-being of your birds. By following these expert tips, you can make sure your feathered family members stay safe, healthy, and happy.
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