You’ve finally set up the chicken coop of your dreams. Your chicks have arrived, your chicken run is clean and ready for action, and your mind is brimming with idealic thoughts of pecking backyard fowl dotting your perfect backyard. Likely your visions don’t include sickness and death, birds who will not eat or can’t stop fighting, or sneaky predators taking out your favorite birds. Yet these are dangers every backyard farmer faces. Here are a few handy hints to keep your flock happy and avert hen heartache.
Who Wants Chicken For Dinner?
Dogs love to chase chickens. Cats love to catch them too. Coyotes, raccoons, foxes, opossums, bears, weasels, hawks, owls, fishers, and snakes all enjoy a good chicken dinner too. Make sure that your property is securely fenced, if possible. Your chicken coop must be securely built to keep predators out. Holes invite snakes and rats inside. Poor fencing risks dead or injured fowl. If birds of prey are a threat, consider a covered chicken run. It’s highly beneficial for your chickens to have plenty of room to roam, but that area must be safe from animals and birds who wish to turn them into a tasty meal.
Plenty of Space Makes For Friendly Neighbors
Factory farms may keep their birds in tight, confined quarters, but this is terribly unhealthy. Give your flock plenty of living space. The bigger the better. Aim for at least 4 square feet in your chicken coop for each bird but if you can provide 8-10 square feet per bird, that’s even better. Provide each of your birds with a roost too. In addition to a spacious, ventilated coop which you’ll clean frequently (of course), give your chickens a safe, enclosed chicken run so that they can walk about outdoors and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. A chicken tractor is an excellent option; one can move the enclosure frequently to provide the chickens with fresh ground to peck and forage. Fresh bugs, anyone?
Good Food and Fresh Water Does a Body Good
Along with a clean, ventilated living area, some sunshine, and room to roam, chickens thrive when given good food and a constant supply of fresh water. High quality feed and good table scraps create a healthy bird. The statement “You are what you eat” can apply to your birds just as it applies to your family. Quality chicken feed and a variety of table scraps does well. Don’t over feed either. Too much food isn’t healthy for any species. Also avoid giving your chickens rotten food, raw potatoes and potato sprouts, chocolate, and raw meat. Keep their water container full of fresh water and make sure it doesn’t freeze in the winter. These simple steps will go a long way toward a happy, healthy flock of birds you’ll enjoy for years to come.