I have noticed a spike in new Chicken owners on the forum and wanted to post something that covered most of the best Chicken Keeping tips I have learned since I was a kid. I am also hoping that others would post their own chicken keeping tips. I will include links when I can as I don’t have time to type this all up. Keep in mind this has been my experience, feel free to share yours.
The Best Way to Keep Chicks IMNHO anyways- in an old used stock tank that no longer holds water in the garage (because chicks are dusty, loud, and yeah they can smell a little). Add some shavings – some water, a feeder, a heat lamp clamped to the rim and some chicken wire mesh over the top (especially if you have dogs!) and voila! They can stay in there till they have grown up feathers and can go outside.
Chick Waterier Tip – add a couple of marbles to the water tray part so the little suckers can’t drown themselves! Especially if they are smaller chicks, pheasants, or quail. Don’t worry about buying special ‘chick’ winterers.
Chick Feed – Just feed medicated, I know, I know, it’s NOT organic. But they will have a much better chance of living that way and as soon as they go outside THEN you can do organic. I keep them on chick feed till they have grown up feathers and can go outside with the big girls. Also i don’t worry about grit unless I am feeding them bugs, grass, and other goodies – which I usually am so I use, cleaned sand or chick grit. This will save you money by not having to buy replacement chicks.
Roosters – are best when raised with the hens they will be going in with. If you have more than 11-12 hens you need two roosters to cover the eggs. A pair of roosters will get along best if raised together. Never put up with a mean roo! If he is ruff on the hens or you – introduce him to the chopping block and make yourself some chicken stock and can it. Roosters are literally a dime a dozen. Get rid of any mean ones. Some crow a lot others don’t – if you have one that does and you don’t like it, get rid of him. If you don’t care about having fertile eggs you don’t NEEED a rooster. Your hens will lay perfectly fine without one.
Use DE to Help Deter Pests it’s cheap and organic. The small amount you would need to add to the chickens feed, or sprinkle in their coop, or in their dust pan won’t kill their lungs. Remember chickens don’t live very long and it would take a long exposure to large amounts of DE for your hens to develop lung problems from only DE.
5 Gallon Bucket Nest Boxes – Laid over on their sides and secured to the wall or floor of the coop. Handy, cheap and my hens LOVE them: http://communitychickens.blogspot.com/2010/11/bucket-o-chicken.html
You Can’t Beat a Nipple Waterier for out in the Coop in the summer. It’s clean, it efficient, its gravity fed, you can provide days’ worth of water so you can go camping if you want and the chickens learn how to drink from them fast. Do it yourself here for cheap: http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/supremo-waterer
Raise Your Own Meal Worms – Don’t spend your hard earned money on those silly dry ones at the feed store!!! It’s easy – I promise and cheap. It gives you a cheap source of protein for your hens and they will go NUTS for live meal worms: http://www.sialis.org/raisingmealworms.htm
Egg Shells Don’t throw them away!! Eggshells are entirely compostable. However, instead of throwing them into the compost bin, why not feed them back to your flock? They are a great source of calcium for your flock and you can’t beat the price, free. Simply dry them in the sun on a newspaper, then use a rolling pin to crush them into bite size pieces for your chickens. Crushing them ensures that your chickens will no longer recognize them as eggs. This is important because you do not want your chickens to start eating their freshly laid eggs as a source of calcium. You can also throw the dried shells in your Magic Bullet, pulse them a few times into powder then sprinkle them around the base of your tomato plants. My tomatoes love it. You can also mix egg shell powder into your homemade dog food to give your dog’s a little calcium boost.
Keep Track of you Flock, Production and Costs – using a spreadsheet like this : http://www.scribd.com/doc/34814337/Egg-Production-Chart-cwk-DR
For Fly Control – make your own fly/yellow jacket traps out of used 2 liter pop bottles, simply throw away when full since it’s not toxic. Avoid sweet bait if you don’t want to accidentally trap honey bees. Meat will get more wasps and yellow jackets, rotten stuff will get hornets and flies: http://tipnut.com/wasp-trap/
Make Your Own Chicken Feeder – Don’t waste your money on the ones at the feed store they will only attract mice and make you mad! Make a homemade feeder that you can even hang if you want out of a 5 gallon bucket and relish tray or feed pan these are so much more cheaper and hold more food: http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles2/slate119.html
Make Your Own Regular Chicken Waterier I could NOT believe what they are charging for chicken waterier in feed stores!?! Make your own and for heaven sakes save some money. Say you don’t want to do a nipple waterier, you want a regular one but one you can use on a heater in the winter?? Well, a metal pan is the trick so here you go: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXW-4dHtPPs
Use a Chicken Tractor These are a great inexpensive way to keep chickens. They provide a safe area for your hens and/or meat chickens to range. It’s also a great for you lawn or any area that would benefit from some bug control, aerating, and fertilizer. How sturdy yours will need to be will depend on the type of predators you have in your area. My chickens need to be locked up at night in a coop for their safety, but one of these may work just fine for someone in a different area. http://thedeliberateagrarian.blogspot.com/2006/08/talkin-bout-my-chicken-tractor.html
Practice Deep Bedding your Chickens for the Winter – a sustainable bedding method it will save you money and provide you with nearly ready fertilizer to use in the spring. Here’s how: http://smallfarm.about.com/od/farmanimals/a/deeplitter.htm & http://www.purelypoultry.com/blog/the-deep-litter-method/
Read on health benefits here: http://www.avianaquamiser.com/posts/Chicken_health_benefits_of_deep_bedding/
In the Summer use Lawn Clippings for Bedding.
You can also Use the Paper out of your Paper shredder for Bedding
Use Wood Stove Pellets instead of Pine Shavings in the winter and spring when it’s wet. They will save you a bundle. The pellets absorb water keeping the coop dry and then expand into sawdust. I put in just enough pellets to cover the floor in my coop and it later expands to 3 inches of sawdust. This uses a little over a half a bag. Cost of Wood Stove Pellets (not wood pellets they market as animal bedding – it’s the same dang stuff and they charge you a premium for it) $2.50 a bag – if I buy by the bag, if I buy by the ton I can get that down to under a $2 a bag. Cost of a bag of Pine Shavings: $7. Wood pellets last me three times longer than pine shavings too. They are also a super great option if you ‘deep bed’ your chickens like I do because in the spring when you pull the bedding out the sawdust dang near ready to go in the garden – it breaks down faster than shavings so it spends HALF the amount of time in my composter.
Don’t Forget to Feed Table Scraps – Almost anything that comes off your table (except maybe chicken – gross) can be fed to your chickens. Anything my dogs don’t eat my chickens get, we waste nothing. I will even pour bacon grease over their feed in the winter to give them some extra calories; they love it and are healthy. Chickens are omnivores, in the wild they will eat both meat and plants, granted some people don’t like the idea of their chickens eating meat, but it’s completely natural and I have never once seen it lead to chickens that peck on each other. Chicken usual peck on each other as a result of stress, confinement, overcrowding, or parasite infestation NOT as a result of them eating your left over meatballs.
DIY Chicken Coop Plans: Here is a site that has some poultry barn, shed, and coop plans – if you have the time and talent, save some money and build your own chicken coop. We built our out of recycled material and spent maybe $20 : http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/extension-aben/buildingplans/poultry I know there are other free chicken coop plans out there so if anyone has some they would like to add post away!
Did I miss any? What are your own backyard chicken keeping tips??