Having a flock of chickens requires some tasks that you need to tend to daily and monthly. These chores will keep your hens happy, healthy and safe. Chicken care doesn't have to be hard, and these lists can help you make sure you're giving your chickens everything they need.
- Check water and clean/refill as needed. You'll want to make sure your hens always have a clean source of fresh water. Shavings, straw, and poop can get in the water and muck it up. Make sure you clean the waterer if it's slimy. Use dish soap and water and rinse well, and bleach or use an oxygen bleach product as needed to sanitize. This is important, as chickens don't like to drink dirty water.
- Feed chickens. You can free feed with a large hanging feeder and just add chicken feed as necessary, or feed them a set amount each day.
- Collect eggs. Collecting eggs daily ensures that they are as clean as possible and minimizes cracked eggs and maximizes freshness.
- Observe them. Spend some time with the flock observing them to ensure they look healthy. Bright eyes, smooth feathers, active, alert.
- Manage bedding. How you do this depends on the litter method you are using. For city and suburban flocks, you'll want to change the bedding in the coop at least monthly.
Rural and larger flocks can use the deep litter method. For this method, you begin with three to four inches of bedding and each month, or when droppings build up, you add more bedding until you have 6 inches or more of bedding. With this method, you remove all the bedding twice a year and start over.
You can compost chicken litter for a season and use it in the garden. It is rich in nitrogen.
- Freshen nest boxes. When the bedding in the nest box becomes soiled with poop or broken eggs, pull out the wet or soiled parts and put in fresh bedding material. This helps keep your hens laying in the nest boxes, as well as making the job of cleaning eggs easier.
- Clean and sanitize waterers. Scrub the waterers with dish soap and warm water, rinse well, and sanitize with your choice of sanitizing solution, but the simplest is one part of bleach to 10 parts water. The frequency of this chore depends on your personal germ philosophy. I don't clean mine frequently and my hens have always been very healthy. Others feel sanitizing as often as weekly is advisable.
- Clean and sanitize coop. Once or twice a year, remove everything from the coop and wash down all surfaces with one part of bleach to 10 parts of water. You should also do this in between flocks. Some people favor a sprinkling of diatomaceous earth (DE) in the coop to cut down on mites and keep the hens healthy. Get food-grade DE and don't worry if the hens eat it; it is perfectly safe and even good for them.
- Prepare for winter. Making sure your hens are ready to not just survive, but thrive in the cold winter weather is an important part of maintaining your flock. Get heaters for your waterers if necessary. Consider whether you want to use a light to keep your hens laying in winter. Make sure you have roosting space for everyone; this is how hens stay warm. You should not heat your chicken coop.
Keeping in the rhythm of these chores will keep your hens happy, healthy and laying plenty of farm-fresh eggs.