When it comes to raising chickens there are more than just a few dos and don’ts that can either make or break your flock.
The items below are by no means a complete list, but it’s a great place to start. Examine the list below and see if you are following our list of dos and don’ts for raising your chickens.
If you have any suggestions, please do share them with us in the comments below.
- Make sure you have enough space
- Check local laws
- Collect eggs often
- Provide fresh clean water
- Provide proper nutrition
- Check for mites and lice
- Clean the Coop and Run
- Check their waste to make sure their healthy
- Provide perches
- Proper ventilation
- Spend time with your chickens
- Provide security
- Start off with chicks
- Overfeed, provide improper nutrition
- Heat your coop
- Clean your eggs with soap
- Keep them cooped all-day
- Use disinfectants near your flock
Do Make Sure You Have Enough Space
Chickens aren’t like a clingy significant other; chickens need space. Not a lot of space, but some to maintain their happy go pecking selves.
How much space does a chicken need? Typically at least two square feet in the coop, and four square feet in the run, per bird. The more space the better, and the happier your chickens will be.
When looking for a spot to put chickens find a spot that has some shade, you don’t want to put your chickens in direct sun as they can overheat, and an overheating chicken whether when they are in your yard or in your frying pan is not a good thing.
Also, look for spots in your yard that will allow water to run off when it rains. Muddy chickens aren’t the happiest of birds, and this type of condition can bread bacteria and cause diseases.
You’ll find that most everyone can accommodate several chickens in their backyard even with limited space.
You can also have a house chicken if you don’t have enough space outside (I’m both kidding and not kidding about a house chicken). But they do have diapers for chickens. ( just a thought ).
The bottom line to this is to make sure your chickens have enough room to forage, flap their wings and dust bathe, and everything will be alright.
Do Collect Eggs Often
A-tisket a-tasket a green and yellow basket, or whatever color basket you feel like putting your eggs in works great. Just make sure you are collecting them often as you can.
There are a few good reasons why you want to collect eggs as often as they are laid ( once a day preferred ). Eggs get dirty, and the more time they can spend on the ground or in the nesting boxes, the better chance they have at becoming dirty or worse broken.
Not collecting eggs also has a chance at making your hens go broody.
While this is more breed-specific, and there are some hens that will never go broody like the Leghorn, and various hybrids.
You don’t want your hens to brood up and stop laying, so go ahead and collect those little delicious butt nuggets while you can.
Do Check Local Laws
Before you get all excited about creating your chicken flock make sure you can have them in your area.
Nothing is more depressing than having local law enforcement tell you that you’re not allowed to raise chickens in your area.
Finding out if you can raise chickens in your area is fairly easy. Typically only requires a quick Google search or phone call to your local town/city animal control.
If you live in the country or an agriculture area most likely you will be okay, but there still maybe some limits to how many birds you can raise.
Do Provide Fresh Water for Your Chickens
I know this might seem like common sense, but I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to provide fresh water for your chickens. This one should be at the top of your dos and don’ts of raising chickens.
Most diseases chickens contract are due to contaminated water. I highly recommend a decent waterer to help prevent a lot of these issues. You can often or not pick these up pretty cheaply at your local farm supply store.
Bowls of water are okay, however, chickens will often stand in the water and use the bathroom in it if you know what I mean. That’s not good for the chickens, and that means it’s not good for you.
I suggest cleaning their waterers several times a week, and if you use bowls of water, once a day would be ideal.
Do Provide Proper Nutrition for Your Chickens
Providing proper nutrition to your chicken is an absolute must. Depending on your goals and the age of your flock will determine their protein and vitamin needs.
Note: Even if your chickens free range I highly recommend to provide them with some supplemental feed. Your birds might not be able to find enough food in their territory to sustain themselves.
You also want to make sure you incorporate some grit in their diets. Grit aids in digestion, it collects in the croup and helps break down food for digestion.
You can think about grit as little bits of stone, it’s made of various different materials, like crushed oyster shells (also helps with providing calcium), coarse sand and other hard objects.
If you keep your chickens in a coop and run, giving them scratch grains are also an important part of their diets, while it doesn’t provide all the nutrition they need, it acts as a treat and allows them to have something to scratch and peck at.
Check out this article for a big list of what chickens should and shouldn’t eat.
Do Check Your Chickens for Mites and Lice
Your chicken’s comfort is pretty important, and not only will mites and lice make your birds uncomfortable they can also make them sick.
Mites and lice are fairly easy to recoginize and it only takes a moment or two with your birds to spot.
I highly recommend to check your flock out at least once a month. If you notice creepy crawlys on them you can treat them as soon as you spot it.
There are many remedies to this some problem, some natural others by commercial products.
Dust bathing can even help out with this problem which is something natural your chickens will do.
Do Clean Your Chicken Coop and Run
As the old saying goes cleanliness is next to godliness, however, for your chickens it doesn’t have to be spotless. You should however invest sometime picking up trash in and around the coop, raking the run when needed is also a good start.
For the most part, when it’s dry your chickens are going to be okay – rain brings mud and mud brings a big mess.
I do, however, recommend keeping their waste as it makes excellent fertilizer, scope up and throw it in a compost pile for net year.
Do Check Your Chickens Waste for Health
This maybe one of those things that you don’t really want to do, but in fact you should do often. Checking your chickens waste for signs of disease, worms and abnormalities will ensure you have a happy thriving flock.
Things to look for:
- Unusual color
If you see signs that your chickens poop is not normal try to remedy as fast as you can. Separate the chicken that is showing signs of blood in their poop as they could have a parasite called coccidiosis that is deadly and can spread rapidly throughout your flick.
Do Provide Perches for Your Chickens
Chickens prefer to be high off the ground when they sleep. Not only does this provide comfort to them, but it adds a layer of protection from predators, and makes them less likely to be exposed to pathogens, bacteria, mites, and lice.
Perches don’t have to be high off the ground, a foot or more is okay. You’ll also notice how essential perches are to the pecking order of your flock. You’ll see the higher the chicken is in the pecking order, the higher they perch they will take.
You can make perches out of any material. Tree branches, PVC pipe, you name it. Just make sure it’s sturdy enough and stable enough to support the weight of several birds to perch at once.
Do Provide Proper Ventilation for Your Flock
Chickens are very adaptable to climates; however, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t provide some comforts to them.
Adding a vent to your coop to let out excess heat in the summer is a great way to keep your flock cool.
I would suggest a vent that can be closed in the winter so their body heat can remain inside the coop so they will stay warm.
Do Spend Time With Your Flock
There is no other person that is going to understand your flock more than you. This is why it is essential to spend time with your flock and see how they interact with each other. Time spent is also a bonding experience and will build trust between you and your flock.
Knowing your flock will allow you to more swiftly spot problems so you can address them.
A few things you should look out for.
- Excess Bullying
- Unusual Behavior
- Sluggish / Sick Behavior
If you notice sick behavior in a bird consider isolating them from the flock until their symptoms improve.
Do Protect Your Flock
The safety of your flock should be a no brainer, but it is often one of the most disregarded aspects of raising chickens. Indeed, you want to protect your flock as best as you can from the many dangers that lurk in the shadows and the sky.
A couple of notes and tips for you to think about.
- Chicken Wire is designed to keep chickens in and will not keep most predators out.
- Some predators will dig under your run to gain access to your flock
If you have enough space I recommend looking into introducing a guard animal to watch over your flock.
To learn more ways to predator proof your coop keep an eye out for our article about predator proofing.
Don’t Start Off With Chicks
I know that look – I’ve seen it before. You know that look of “awe how cute.”. I’ve seen it a million times in my wife’s face and eyes, as we walk past the chicken pens in our local farm supply shop. While I agree that baby chicks are incredibly cute – beginners should not start off with baby chicks.
Baby chicks are high maintenance they require a lot of work, and attention. I can’t recommend to beginners to jump in and start off with baby chicks, it’s in fact very difficult and time consuming to raise them from these stage to the point of laying (POL).
Don’t Overfeed Your Flock
Your chicken’s diet is critical to their health, overfeeding them with poor nutritional items, such as bread, and other unhealthy chicken treats can lead to decreased egg production, deformed eggs, and erratic behavior.
Consider only giving treats on occasion and in a limited form.
For a detailed list of what to feed your chickens check out our post on what chickens eat.
Don’t Heat Your Coop
Heating your coop isn’t necessary, in fact it could be detrimental to their health. Your flock needs to learn how to climatize, and providing a heating source in the winter will prevent that from happening.
Chickens are very adaptable creatures, and can withstand some pretty harsh low and even high temperatures.
As long as you have multiple chickens in your coop, their body heats will produce enough warmth to get them through the night.
You also pose a risk of setting fire if you are not careful or use a wrong heating source.
If you live in an area where it becomes sub-zero consider a very well insulated coop with an automatic door to keep them inside.
Don’t Clean Your Eggs with Soap
I know eggs can get a bit dirty from mud, dirt and everything else. However, you should avoid cleaning your eggs with soap.
Eggs are poreous they will absorb the detergergents that you use to clean them. That isn’t good for you, and you will be able to taste the soap once you cook the eggs.
A simple rinse under the tap is okay to clean your eggs, my wife even uses soft sand paper blocks to clean the eggs that she collects.
Don’t Keep Your Chickens Cooped Up All Day
Do let your chickens roam the run and yard as often as you can, a happy chicken is a free chicken.
Nobody likes to be cooped up in the house all day, and neither do your chickens. Allowing your birds to wonder around a bit will allow them to stretch their wings and be chickens.
Remember, a scratching and pecking chicken is a happy chicken.
Don’t Use Disinfecntants Near Your Flock
While I admit, chickens can get a little messy to raise, especially when the weather turns rainy. You should never spray disinfectants near your chicken’s coop or run when you are cleaning them.
These chemicals are very harsh and poisonous to your birds, it can result in lack of eggs, eratic behavior and death.
If you feel you must use some type of cleaner on your coop, use dawn dish soap.