The practice of keeping backyard chickens is becoming more popular. Who doesn’t enjoy fresh eggs every day? Here are our key tips on keeping your flock happy and healthy:
1. Feeding – Commercial, organic pellet (or crumble) diets should be the staple of your chickens’ diet. Pellets provide a balanced portion of proteins and minerals necessary for healthy, happy chickens and good egg production. Oyster shell is a natural and safe supplement to feed to help strengthen eggshells. Free-range chickens will also pick up gravel as digestive aid, but should also be offered free choice, like oyster shell.
Varying the diet beyond just pellets is essential, and allowing chickens to free range to eat grass, bugs and berries is great enrichment. If you live in a colder climate or hens don’t have access to a yard; providing fresh greens, vegetables, fruits and table scraps provide a varied diet.
2. Handling – Proper handling of birds and eggs helps prevent the spread of disease. Salmonella is a pathogen that can be transmitted to humans through direct or indirect contact with feces. It is wise to always thoroughly wash hands after handling birds or eggs. Eggs have a natural protective covering against bacteria called "bloom", so no need to wash them unless they are particularly dirty. If you must wash an egg, spot clean by using warm water and dish soap or an organic egg-cleaner.
3. Disease Prevention - Apple cider vinegar has been widely used in the chicken keeping community for decades as a cure-all. ACV acts as an immune system booster by lowering pH levels in the intestines and guarding against bad bacteria. It also acts as an antiseptic and kills germs that lead to common respiratory issues in chickens.
4. Parasite Control – Food-grade diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring crushed-fossil powder that kills hard-shelled insects such as fleas, ticks, flies, mites, and other bugs. It is completely safe to feed chickens and is even recommended as a de-wormer if added to feed. DE is generally sprinkled around dust bath areas, the coop and feeding locations, nesting boxes, etc..
5. Cleaning – It is essential to keep the coop, run, roosting and nesting areas clean to prevent the spread of disease like salmonella or parasite infestations. When cleaning these areas we recommend wearing a mask to prevent inhalation of the copious amount of dust produced by the birds. The sign of healthy fed hens, is a healthy dose of poop. We suggest cleaning the inside of your coop and nesting boxes every 2-4 weeks with Chicken Coop Cleaner. This will prevent the spread of disease and parasite infestations. Using pine shavings at the bottom of your coop will help make the job easier, as well as absorb bad odor.
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