10 Common Chicken Problems Solved
Where there are chickens, there are rodents. Rodents are drawn to what they consider their pot o’ gold — the feed bucket. If you think you don’t have rodents, take a visit to your chicken coop around midnight and multiply what you see by ten. The most common rodents are mice and rats.
Chickens don’t eat in the dark, so store your feed out of the chicken coop every night in a secure shed or building. Use a clean metal container like a garbage can. Feed can be left in original bags they come in, within a metal container, or feed can be poured directly into a clean metal can for more room.
The best rodent control is prevention. Keep the area around your chicken coop, compost pile, and garden free of spilled feed, weeds, garbage, piles of wood, and junk. If you keep this area tidy, you lessen the chance of rodents taking up residence and nesting.
Take care of the poop.
A manure box is invaluable in your chicken coop. It’s similar in concept to a cat’s litter box. Chickens roost above their manure box every night, dropping their manure below. Large operations (like the one shown) have large areas covered with grating that serve the same purpose as the manure box.
You can customize a manure box to your chicken coop and measurements. It’s a shallow wood or plastic box with half-inch wire hardware cloth framed lid over it; this wire lid is removable. The wire mesh lid is removable. Place your bedding inside your manure box. Some of your chickens’ manure will fall through the lid to inside the manure box, and some of the manure will remain on top of the screen lid.
Spend less on bedding.
Many different types of bedding materials that can be used for a chicken coop. It is an individual choice usually based on what works best for you and what is conveniently available in your area.
If you use an easy rotating system within your chicken coop, you can extend the use of your bedding, which keeps costs down. If you use this rotation — nesting boxes, to chicken coop floor, to manure box, to compost pile — you’re getting the most out of your bedding.
Worm your chickens regularly.
If chickens are free-ranging, they’re even more likely to eat intermediate hosts such as earthworms and snails that have parasitic larvae, and parasite eggs that mature into parasitic worms.
Worm your chickens when they reach 18 weeks of age. Following up with a regular worming schedule, once in the spring and once in the fall, is a good practice.
If you choose to use chemical dewormers, consult with your poultry veterinarian or local feed store first, as a chemical dewormer must be indicated safe for egg-laying hens on the label/directions. Follow directions carefully and do not ingest eggs laid following the treatment for the recommended time period specified.
Deny predators access through windows.
Chickens need windows in their chicken coop for air circulation, seeing out, and sunlight. Windows in a chicken coop can be a vulnerable part of a chicken coop to predators, if they aren’t sufficiently reinforced.
Don’t use chicken wire for protecting your chickens. Many predators such as raccoons can rip open chicken wire. Quarter-inch wire hardware cloth is a much stronger, sturdier, and protective screening material to use over chicken coop windows. Use half-inch wire hardware cloth for other areas like framed outside pens.
Return the rooster you got by mistake.
If you have a rooster that you accidentally purchased from a feed store, call the store first, and arrange for the store to take the rooster back. Other options are contacting small local artisanal farms or 4H leaders in your area, researching and contacting specific poultry breeders in your area, posting on Craigslist, or joining forums.
Watch out for wet areas.
Chickens don’t do well with dampness and continual wet areas in their chicken coop and out in the garden. Damp conditions can lead to disease and illness in your flock. Wet areas make for muddy areas, and harbor insect propagation such as flies and mosquitoes.
Protect your feed.
Chicken feed is going to be your biggest ongoing cost in raising chickens. You want to provide your chickens feed that’s in good condition at all times. Don’t simply leave your chicken feed in its original bag. A feedbag isn’t enough protection against dampness, bugs, rodents, and some chicken predators. Store feed in a clean metal container dedicated for chicken feed, and within a building or a storage shed where it’s dry.
Create enough shade.
If you aren’t able to situate your chicken coop close to protective trees that shade, or plant other landscaping close by to shade, use shade cloth. Shade cloth is versatile and comes in long sheets of material. It’s reasonably priced. It even comes in different colors. You can purchase shade cloth at most nurseries and home improvement stores. Shade cloth blocks out the sun enough to give a chicken flock protection from the blazing summer sun.
Shade cloth can cover a portion of a chicken coop and an adjoining secure outside pen. If you have situated your chicken coop around trees that shade, you have a natural shade situation.
Select the right chicken breed.
Aligning yourself with chicken breeds that match your environment, your intended purpose for raising chickens, and preferred qualities goes a long way in creating a rewarding experience with raising chickens. Chickens are a responsibility and a commitment of many years.