Not only are chickens extremely easy to raise, but they are also very productive. Chickens provide you with meat to eat, eggs for breakfast, and you can breed them for a profit. However, for first-timers, it is important to be aware of the mistakes you should avoid.
Failing To Predator Proof Your Coop
Predator attacks are awful, especially when you can’t avoid them. A lot of newbie chicken raisers fail to put the necessary precautions in place and can lose an entire flock overnight with one attack. The best way to protect your chickens is to predator-proof your coop. Here are some tips:
- Don’t use chicken wire because it doesn’t keep out small predators like weasels. Hardware cloth is the most effective way to predator-proof your coop.
- Do your best to close all small gaps because rats and weasels are known to squeeze through holes the size of an adult thumb.
- At night close all doors and windows and latch them.
- Cover the roof on the chicken run.
- Place hardware cloth on the bottom of the chicken run if you have dirt floors to prevent digging predators from coming in.
- Get a well-trained dog, it will scare any predators, and provide your chickens with around-the-clock protection.
- Your presence in the yard during the free-range time will scare off any predators. But it is not advised to stand outside for long periods of time during the winter months.
Night Time Chicken Count
Free-ranging is a great way to raise chickens, but it is also the easiest way to lose them because it gives predators easy access. Count your flock before putting them to bed, if there are any missing, you can search for them before it gets dark.
Chicken Coop Heat Lamp
In theory, a heat lamp makes sense, but in practice, they are dangerous. Many coop fires have started because of heat lamps killing flocks and destroying property. They are not easy to secure, and there is a risk that they will fall onto dry bedding especially when there are active chickens in the coop. There is no need to heat a chicken coop because their bodies are biologically designed to protect them from the cold. However, if think your chickens need some extra heat, call a professional to do the job.
Feeding Chickens the Wrong Food
Chickens are omnivores, which means they like eating all types of foods including dairy, meat, fruit, and vegetables. Although chickens enjoy variety, there are some foods they should not eat, here are some of them:
- Processed foods
- Junk foods
- Uncooked rice, pasta, beans
- Fried foods
- Citrus fruits
- Leaves from rhubarb, potato plants, and tomato plants
- Sweets, desserts, chocolate, candy
Using the Wrong Sized Coop
Small chicken coops don’t work well in a backyard. They are not sturdy enough, they don’t hold up well during bad weather, they probably won’t be big enough for your needs, and they give predators easy access. Even if you don’t plan on keeping a lot of chickens, too much space is better than not enough space.
The Wrong Temperature In The Chick Brooder
When first-time chicken rearers bring their basket of furry chicks home, they make the mistake of keeping the brooder too hot or too cold. The wrong temperature can be dangerous, and can cause permanent damage to your chickens; therefore, be sure to keep it at around 95 degrees F. Check the temperature often using an infrared thermometer, and adjust it if required.
Not Prepared For Extreme Weather
Chickens adapt quickly to weather changes, but extreme weather can be a problem. Since the weather can be unpredictable, it is advised that you are prepared for the summer and winter seasons. During the winter, protect your chickens from the cold, wind, and snow by insulating the coop with horse blankets, and adding extra bedding. When it’s really cold, feed your chickens hot oatmeal, and check for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
During the summer months, makes sure you have plenty of fresh, cool water available. If there’s a heatwave, give the chickens a frozen treat such as fruits or vegetables. Allowing your chickens to free-range will give them the chance to get out of the sun because they will find the coolest part of the yard to perch in.
Leaving the Garden Open
Chickens enjoy destroying gardens and as soon as they are given access, they will run riot and uproot all your hard work. The only way to prevent this is to protect your garden with a tall fence.
Not Using the Right Bedding
A lot of first-time chicken rearers assume any bedding will do for their little ones as long as it’s comfortable. But it’s important that you use the right bedding because anything else can damage your chickens. Don’t line the brooder box with newspaper for two reasons. First, it doesn’t absorb liquid, and second, but most important, it’s slippery. Without traction, chicken legs will splay which can cause spraddle legs. You should also avoid using cedar bedding because it is known to cause respiratory problems.
The best bedding to use for newborn chicks is paper towels; after a few weeks, start using pine shavings. They are easy to clean and very absorbent.
Don’t Leave Eggs To Accumulate
Collect fresh eggs from the nest boxes daily. In average weather conditions, twice a day is good enough. However, during the hottest months of the summer, and the coldest months of the winter, it’s important that eggs are not left outside all day, or eating them can become unsafe.
- Collect eggs three times a day during the winter months. Throw away any eggs that are frozen or cracked.
- Ideally, you should store fresh eggs at room temperature or keep them in the fridge. During the hottest summer months, the outdoor temperature far exceeds room temperature. To prevent any issues that can arise due to overheated eggs, collect fresh eggs three times a day.
It’s really exciting raising chickens. These birds will definitely keep you on your toes. As long as you are diligent in avoiding the above mistakes, you will have plenty of chickens to keep you company all year round.
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