Well folks, we've completed our first year of keeping chickens and I finally feel like I'm getting the hang of this whole farm thing! Although we lost Pam just a month ago, there has been much success in our flock. I have seen the younger hens grow into their personalities and they've grown much more comfortable being around me. We are getting ready to go out of town this next week, so I am having a friend take care of our pets. She told me that she doesn't have much experience with chickens and my reply was, "Neither did I at first!" You'd be surprised at how simple these feathered friends really are! There are a few basics of chicken keeping to take note of and I thought, what better time to share them than today! Here are five things to know when starting your flock.
This egg apron has come in handy when collecting the handfuls of eggs we get! I don’t often have time to collect eggs everyday so when I go out to the coop, there is usually more than one day’s worth of eggs from our girls. Rather than stuffing my pockets with eggs and risking a cracked egg (which has happened on more than one occasion!), I can tie this apron around my waist and, voila! The eggs are safe and out of the way! I got this apron as a Birthday gift, handmade by my sister-in-law. Isn’t she crazy talented?! She loves to crochet and often spends time making gifts for family and friends. She made me the cutest pot holder that looks like a fried egg (so cute, I’d rather display it in our kitchen then use it!). Having an "eggpron" isn't a must, however it makes collecting eggs a bit easier. Give me an "eggpron" and good pair of boots, and I'm ready to take on whatever chicken adventures come my way!
Feeder & Waterer
One thing I learned about chickens is that for the most part, chickens eat when they are hungry, stop when their full, eat what they like and ignore what doesn’t appeal to them. That being said, they quite enjoy most of the fruit and veggie scraps we toss out to them. I ordered this feeder and waterer from Amazon. This allows for the girls to have the food and water they need without having to rely on me daily to keep them satisfied. I check their food and water when I check for eggs (about every other day) and refill as needed. Having a full-time job prevents me from spending mornings with then like I dream of, but something as basic as a bulk feeder and waterer gives me peace of mind!
A Cozy Home
Nesting boxes are a key component for a flock as they are the place where hens go to lay eggs. We have three nesting boxes for our five hens so there is plenty of room and opportunity throughout the day for them to each sit and lay. I like to fill our besting boxes with straw so it’s nice and comfy for them. I change out the straw about every other week, when it starts to accumulate poo but other than that, the hens seem to love their little clubhouse. We build this structure about three feet above ground so that the girls would not only have safety inside, but also a shelter below.
Chickens love to roost on places above ground. That’s why we have put bars, branches and even this cute little bench in their area for them to enjoy. Roosting is part of a chicken’s instinct to be above ground to avoid attacks from predators and remain safe while they sleep. During warm summer nights, the girls love to roost out on this bench at night time. All five fit perfectly here.
Dust baths are a great natural way for chickens to keep themselves clean and pest free. Dust baths can be made from a variety of components, but ours is a mixture of sand, dirt (preferably a sandy soil), wood ash and diatomaceous earth (DE – make sure it is food grade). Wood ash or charcoal (when consumed), helps to absorb toxins as well as internal parasites. It also contains vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin K, calcium and magnesium, which are all great additives for a chicken’s diet. DE helps to kill mites, fleas, ticks and other harmful pests that can be deadly for chickens. It’s important to use a small amount of DE in a dust bath as it can be harmful if inhaled. I mixed all of these ingredients together in a wheelbarrow before pouring into the dust bath area. We found these old rims on our property and I thought they could be recycled into the perfect dust baths! I think the girls quite enjoy their little home.
Now that I've shown you the basic "ins and outs" of chicken keeping, I have to tell you where I get all of my chicken keeping wisdom. I get the majority of my chicken keeping tips and tricks from Fresh Eggs Daily. My friends, Lisa is a chicken (and duck) raising genius. Chicken keeping has been in her family for five generations! She's written books about raising chicks and keeping chickens. Thank you Lisa for sharing your wisdom!
For general questions or inquiries about purchasing your own handmade "eggron", please email firstname.lastname@example.org.