General Advice on Chicken Health, Advice and Care of Chickens

Chickens are pretty omniverous, I’ve even heard of one that specialised in catching mice, but it is very important for the chickens health to have a balanced diet. Unless you are very expert, the best way to achieve this is to base your chickens’ diet on one of the propriety pelleted feeds. This can be fed in conjunction with suitable grain such as corn or wheat, the consensus of opinion being to feed the pellets in the morning via a protected feeder (it’s important to keep the food dry), then the grain in the afternoon as a scatter food.

Feed at a rate which allows a little left over at the end of the day, which will assure you that every bird is getting enough. Fresh greens are very popular with the birds and certainly of benefit (yolks won’t be yellow without them, unless you add a dye to the food, like many commercial egg producers). If you can't get your birds onto grass regularly give them some cabbage or similar.

Once you’re sure the birds are properly nourished a few treats will do no harm and be much appreciated: kitchen scraps such as bread and cereal for example, or sunflower seeds.

It is important for the health of your chickens health to provide fresh, clean water which must be available during the daylight hours. This is best achieved by one of the propriety drinking fountains which keep a reserve of clean water which fills up a small trough, making it harder for the water to be fouled. If you lock your birds in at night, it is not necessary to make water available.

Hens need (flint) grit to grind food in their crop. Some will be included in a good quality food, but its a good idea to supply some in a suitable container. Also in the food will be a source of calcium, necessary for eggshells, but many poultry keepers like to supply extra in the form of ground oyster shell, usually mixed in with the grit.

The chicken house will need to be cleaned regularly, exactly how often depending on the density of birds and the time of year, but ideally once a week. The floor of the chicken house should be covered with sawdust, though this is a misnomer: it is very important that it should be dust-free wood shavings as chickens have delicate respiratory systems. For the same reason clean, dry wheat straw, not hay, should be used in the nesting boxes, preferably on a layer of sawdust. The floor can be lined with old newspaper first, then sawdust, droppings and all can simply be rolled up. Even easier if your poultry house has sliding floors.

Poultry droppings make one of the best garden manures, though used fresh and direct, in quantity, can be too strong for plants so best allow them to rot down with the old straw and sawdust – it really shouldn’t smell. It is very important to keep all the crevices clean and watch for signs of infestation by red mite or fleas.

Page 2