Did you ever want to get chickens, but thought it was too much trouble? Did the thought of housing them, feeding them and cleaning the coop put you off!?
There is no denying that there is some work attached to keeping chickens, but it’s nowhere near as bad as you think!
Once you have your coop set up and the ladies have moved in, you can begin to organize your routine.
Having a set routine will help you keep the chores under control and minimize time spent doing them, and can make raising chickens much easier.
Let’s take a look at the basics and how keeping chickens can be made even easier!
Hen Morning and Evening Routines
Most people are rushed in the morning- getting ready for work, getting the kids off to school etc., so it’s likely that you don’t have much time to spend with the hens.
The morning chicken routine will consist of opening up the coop at daybreak, checking feed and water and a little chicken talk with the girls- to save time you can fill a plastic jar with the feed the night before and then just empty this into their coop each morning.
The evening routine is much the same except for egg collection! This is just about everyone’s favorite part of chicken keeping!
Collecting those freshly laid treasures is always fun.
Several of my friends will come home from work and go and spend a little time with the ladies. They say this is the best form of stress relief- I wouldn’t disagree!
That is the ‘bare minimum’ of caring for chickens. There are of course other tasks that need to be done on a weekly basis at least. As with most things, the more chickens you have, the more consuming it can be.
Let’s take a walk through some of the things that can be done to minimize your task list.
Opening and Closing the Coop
You need to open and close the coop every morning and night without fail, otherwise you may be providing free chicken dinners to the local predators!
Many people have an automatic ‘pop’ door which open and close the coop door at a time preset by you. There are models that run on mains electric, battery and solar power.
As long as your birds are safely in the coop when it shuts, it’s a great idea. All of the testimonials I have read about these devices are very complimentary.
Of course, if you are fairly handy, you could make something similar yourself.
You would have to decide whether or not it fits with you and your birds. It would not suit my needs for instance since I have to put some of the ladies to bed myself.
Feeding Your Hens
A hen can average ½-1 cup of food per day. Depending on how many birds you have, it’s easy to get a large feeder that will be sufficient for a couple of days.
Inventive people have made tube feeders out of PVC piping. These feeders take up very little room and can be topped off without bending down or lifting the feeder.
If you have problems with your back or lifting and turning, this would be an excellent idea to use in your coop.
If you choose to use the store bought hanging feeders always buy large enough for two or three days of feed for the hens- this will cut down on your labor.
However, you should make sure that no feed is left on the ground at night as this will attract pests.
Yes, you have to collect your chicken’s eggs.
As if you’re upset about that, right?
But if it’s not a top priority for you, uncollected eggs can pile up. You must collect your hens’ eggs at least once a day, if not twice, depending on how many chickens you have and how often they lay eggs.
The best thing you can do to make your life a tad easier is to collect twice a day; once when you open the coop in the morning and once at night when you tuck your chickens in.
I won’t lie, it can be stressful to collect a ton of eggs at once and ensure none of them break.
So when you do collect, use fun collection aids, like aprons, baskets, or tubs. Make the experience fun, and easier on yourself. And don’t forget to enjoy your eggs!
Fresh, clean water is a must for your birds. Dehydration in hens will stop them from laying eggs for a period of time.
A hen can drink around a pint/day, more in hot weather. There will also be some spillage from hens bumping into the hanging drinker.
If you are a plumbing whizz, you could set up a water system with PVC pipe, chicken nipples and a flotation shut off. This would ensure a continuous supply of water.
Such an item already exists and can be bought at your local feed store. I’m not sure that this would function very well in freezing cold temperatures.
The biggest drawback to leaving water for several days is that it may become ‘slimy’ and start growing bacteria. An easy solution to this is to add apple cider vinegar to the water. The ratio is 1 tablespoon/gallon.
More colloquially known as poop! Chickens do a lot of this, especially when they are roosting at night.
What can you do about this? Well- you can’t stop them from pooping, so you have to make the removal of this by-product as easy as possible.
Most people use a ‘droppings board’. This can be anything from wood, mesh or plastic trays.
The idea is to catch the poop on a removal tray. You can then empty the tray as frequently as you need to.
Everyone has a different idea on what to use. I used old industrial baking sheets. They are durable, won’t bend or break and can be hosed down easily.
The area around the trays can get mucky too, so I clean it up and sprinkle with insecticidal powder.
Easy Chicken Bedding
Straw, shavings, shredded paper… there are many types of bedding for chickens. It really boils down to personal preference and cost.
Straw is the cheapest, but can be messy to clean up. However, if you have allergies this is probably not a good choice for you.
The easiest choice is pine shavings. They are very nice to work with and if you have a small coop they are reasonably cost effective too.
They are also easy to shovel up with a dustpan and brush, making them a good fit for easy clean up.
Shredded paper is very environmentally friendly. However, I have found that it is not very absorbent, sticks to the eggs and is generally a bit of a pain to deal with.
Some opt to use the deep litter method for bedding their chickens, especially in the winter. This is a way to help keep the coop insulated, as well as cutting back on coop cleaning.
The deep litter methods combine chicken waste and bedding materials and creates a composted base over time. Basically, more bedding is continuously added for a set amount of time, and then everything is cleaned all at once.
The composted litter can be used as fertilizer in gardens and for landscaping.
And as an added bonus to the chickens, the deep litter provides insulation from the frozen ground during the cold winter months. (and maybe even a little natural heat).
The hens- not you! If you have an extended run attached to the coop that is great. If there is only a very small area with the coop, it would be nice for the ladies to be able to stretch their legs once in a while.
You can provide them with all manner of thing to keep them busy– perches at different heights, chicken swing, old logs to peck at, treat dispensers etc.
The idea is to keep them physically and mentally active. Like humans, if birds have a sedentary lifestyle they will tend towards obesity- not healthy!
We have discussed in previous blogs how bored chickens can have some very anti-social habits, so you need to keep them busy.
The key point to remember is that once you have set their exercise park up- you can leave them to it!
Twice a year you should do a major clean of your coop. This really can’t be avoided. It consists of tossing out the old bedding and spraying down the floor and walls with a disinfectant.
Once it has dried, new bedding and nesting materials may be put down.
If you have a flock of six chickens, this really shouldn’t take too much of your time- a morning at most.
If you employ some or all of these labor saving devices and ideas, the amount of time that your chickens require for actual care is minimal- they are incredibly hardy and don’t really need much human involvement.
The humble hen doesn’t need yearly visits to the veterinarians’ office.
My ‘Easy’ Chicken Routine
My flock is around thirty birds. My routine is to let them out to pasture around daybreak, then go back to bed for a couple of hours!
When I visit with them later in the morning it’s time to top up water and see how they are all doing that day and collect any eggs.
I will visit again in the later afternoon to collect more eggs, have a chat with the girls, check on feeders etc.
At sundown, they are all either roosted or waiting for me to come and put them to bed! This evening check is head count and locking the coops up securely.
Each of these visits can be ten minutes in duration, it really isn’t time-consuming!
As you can see, when broken down piece by piece, the amount of time and energy your birds will ask of you is minimal.
You can spend as little time, or as much time as your day affords you. I prefer to spend as much time as I can with the ladies, it helps with bonding.
The more familiar the hens are with you, the tamer they will become, so if you want tame, touchable birds- hang out with them a lot!
Let us know in the comments below how much time you spend with your hens…