Having a flock of chickens requires some tasks that you need to tend to on a regular basis. These chores will keep your hens happy, healthy, and safe. Chicken care doesn't have to be complicated. Learn about some of the essential tasks to make sure you're giving your chickens everything they need.
Daily Chicken Care Tasks
- Check the water, and clean/refill it as needed. Make sure your hens always have a clean source of fresh water. Chickens don't like to drink dirty water, and they can dehydrate if they're without a clean drinking source even for a short time. Shavings, straw, and poop can get in the water throughout the day and muck it up. So refresh the water if you notice any debris or sliminess in the container. Use dish soap and water for regular cleanings, and rinse well before refilling. Also, you can use chlorine bleach or oxygen bleach as needed to sanitize the water container, as long as you rinse it thoroughly.
- Feed the chickens. You can free feed your chickens with a large hanging feeder, adding the chicken feed as needed. Or you can feed them a set amount each day.
- Collect eggs. Collecting eggs daily ensures that they are as clean as possible. It also minimizes cracked eggs and maximizes freshness.
- Observe the chickens. Spend some time with the flock, observing the chickens to make sure they are healthy. Active, alert chickens with bright eyes and smooth feathers are a good sign.
Monthly Chicken Care Tasks
- Manage the bedding. How you do this depends on the litter method you are using. For flocks that only have a small area, typically change the bedding in the coop at least monthly. But flocks in larger spaces can use the deep litter method. For this method, begin with 3 to 4 inches of bedding. Each month (or when droppings build up), add more bedding until you have 6 inches or more. Then, remove all the bedding twice a year and start over. Moreover, you can compost chicken litter for use in the garden; it is rich in nitrogen.
- Freshen the nest boxes. When the bedding in the nest box becomes soiled with poop or broken eggs, pull out the dirty parts and put in fresh bedding material. This helps to keep your hens laying in the nest boxes, and it makes the job of cleaning eggs easier.
- Sanitize the waterers. At least monthly, you should give the water containers a deep clean. Sanitize them with your choice of solution; the simplest is 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. Then, scrub the waterers with dish soap and warm water, and rinse well to remove any remaining bleach and soap before refilling with fresh water.
Semi-Yearly Chicken Care Tasks
- Deep clean and sanitize the coop. Once or twice a year, remove everything from the coop, and wash down all surfaces with 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. You should also do this in between flocks or if a member of your flock comes down with a contagious disease. Some people favor a sprinkling of diatomaceous earth in the coop to cut down on mites and keep the hens healthy. Get food-grade diatomaceous earth, and don't worry if the hens eat a little bit; it is perfectly safe for them.
- Prepare for the winter. Making sure your hens are ready for cold winter weather is an important part of maintaining your flock. Get heaters for your waterers if necessary. And consider whether you want to use a light (to mimic daylight) to keep your hens laying in the winter. Also, make sure you have roosting space for everyone; this is how hens stay warm. You should not heat your chicken coop.
Maintaining the rhythm of these chores throughout the year should keep your hens happy, healthy, and laying plenty of farm-fresh eggs.
Clauer, Phillip. Successfully Raising a Small Flock of Laying Chickens. Penn State University Extension
Johnson, Daniel. How to Build Chicken Coops: Everything You Need to Know
Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Poultry House. Cornell Small Farms, 15 Apr. 2019