I thought I would explain how I care for my chickens. I am not a chicken expert! The things I do are based mostly upon the suggestions given to me by the couple from whom I initially got my chickens and by trail and error. I’ve had my chickens for 8 months and they seem to be happy and healthy.
Below is a picture of what the coop and run I inherited looked like. The run is 12′ x 20′ with hardware cloth dug down about a foot all the way around it. The run has been filled with bags and bags of leaves upon initial set up with new leaves added whenever I could find them as the months went on. Once a week I turn the leaves with a pitch fork. The coop is 4′ x 8′ with the 6 nesting boxes that can be opened from the outside. In the coop there are perches made out of sanded 2″x2′s” for the hens to roost.
Because we have had so many visits from the black bears, the top of the run is framed out with 2×4′s and then covered with metal panels with 2 inch squares, which is covered by chicken wire, and then topped off with shade cloth. This seems to be working, the bears walk across the top but do not get in.
The chickens have constant feed and water available to them. I am happy with the feeder but hopefully soon I will be changing the waterer to nipple waterers. I am constantly battling with the one I have. I made nipple waterers for my brooder earlier this year, click here to check it out. Now I just need to make a larger model for the hens.
This winter I have provided supplemental light for the hens so they would continue to produce eggs. I have two 60 watt lights on a timer. I change the timer as needed to ensure 15 hours of light. I have the lights outside the coop, one shining on the coop and the other on the run. The one on the run is merely for me to be able to monitor for bears. The last time the bear came I used my air horn and scared it away. At this time I have 22 laying hens and get 12 to 16 eggs a day.
I live in the suburbs so my hens are not free range. When I first got them I would let them out for short periods of time and move them around the yard. It didn’t take long to realize this was not going to work. My dog, Kahlo, would try to get them and then would enjoy their dropping once they were moved to a new location. I decided that Kahlo would have to share her back yard with them. The chickens get the back portion of the yard and Kahlo the front, with neither party infringing on the others territory. The hens get to come out of their run and enjoy this area whenever I am home. Their area goes back into the woods and measures 50′ x 60′. When the hens first got their section of the yard, a lot of it was grass. It took them about 2 1/2 months to destroy this. I see pictures of other people’s hens living on what looks like nice grass. But I have not had the same experience. What grass the hens didn’t consume down to the roots was dug up as they moved their dust bath area from one place to another. Now they have to be content with getting greens from my garden, which seems to be fine by them. I did mulch one section of their area but now I think sand is better. I can clean up the sand area much easier then the mulched. Below are pictures of what their area was to what it now has become. Please forgive the fact the bottom picture isn’t merged properly.
I have a 3 foot welded wire fence around my gardens and across the back of the chicken area, with just a short little fence across the front. There are lots of wooded areas around my house, filled with animals who would love a chicken dinner, such as coyotes, black bears, domestic cats and dogs, hawks, and even a florida panther was once spotted in my sub division. All this to say I am not comfortable allowing them to roam the woods. Thankfully the hens seem content to stay in their designated area.
The good part about all those many, many bags of leaves I toted to the chicken run is that they turn to compost. Once a year the coop and run get a deep clean with all materials removed and the coop thoroughly cleaned. The other day I removed all the now composted leaves out of the run and into my west garden boxes that were waiting to be filled. I calculated I moved approximately 100 cubic feet of compost out of the run and into the garden. Now I will be collecting more leaves and refilling the run, and the cycle will begin again.
I think this covers how I take care of the chickens. I’d love to hear how other take care of their chickens.
Below are some update pictures of the hens.