Chickens are not the most demanding animals. They usually can live off by themselves even with minimal supervision from their owners. They can definitely do well, providing they have a shelter to stay, fencing for protection from predators, water, and food.
Moreover, keeping chickens is somewhat cheaper than perhaps raising a dog in the house. Chicken food is relatively inexpensive. Also, chicken does not require a lot of pet care necessities. However, for farmers that do want their poultry to thrive for maximum production, some chicken farming tips could serve some magic.
First, choose to start chicken farming with chicks or adult chickens instead of eggs. Also, while you are at the decision-making stage, decide on a breed, preferably a dual-purpose one. It is also a good tip to start a minimum of three to six chickens.
Furthermore, prepare your poultry farm with a simple but adequate chicken coop. It also helps to set up a routine with your flock beforehand. And as you start operating your poultry farm, prepare to prevent the development of wet litter from keeping your chickens healthy. Additionally, provide an abundance of clean water daily and manage your chickens’ feed. Lastly, establish proper environmental management in line with maintaining your chickens’ health.
Chicken farming has been swiftly becoming more popular among hobbyists and homesteaders. A major contributing factor for this is the chickens’ low maintenance requirements. However, not because it is easy to start a chicken farm does it mean that it will always succeed. One must know the best options to take in all the steps it takes. Thus, this article provides and explains the best chicken farming tips.
Begin chicken farming with chicks or adult chickens instead of eggs
There are four options for when you are to start keeping or raising chickens on your farm.
The first option and probably not the best one, is purchasing hatching eggs. This means that you will have to incubate the eggs for about 21 days or more. Also, within that 21-day course, you will have to attend to the eggs, most likely a couple of times per day. This is to ensure that the eggs are turned and are kept at the required temperature or humidity. Usually, incubating and hatching eggs are options that are better for already expert chicken-keepers.
The second option and probably the best among beginning chicken farming tips is purchasing newly-hatched chicks. These chicks are the most inexpensive to buy. Besides the cost, they can easily be kept and raised. You will only need to have a chick brooder, covered in fresh bedding, and has sufficient food and water in appropriate feeders. Also, these baby chicks cannot regulate temperature by themselves yet. However, simply placing a brooder or heat lamp in their interior can easily remedy this concern.
Four to six months old pullets
These chicks or pullets are the ones that have been reared for adulthood. Usually, they are sold at their point of lay. This means that as you purchase them, they are likely to lay their first egg any moment soon. However, because they are about to lay should they require more time, care, and feed as you start keeping them.
This option is the most expensive among all the others. If they are even cheaper, those will be rescued or ex-battery chickens, which are found in shelters or rescue sanctuaries. These chickens are likely less expensive than pullets but are more expensive than baby chicks still. However, in terms of care, they require less of it. They can actually be free-ranged in a fenced chicken run, and they will return inside the coop at night.
Select dual-purpose breeds
Usually, chicken breeds are classified into whether they are to be raised for their eggs or their meat.
Chicken breeds that are best for egg production come in greater variety than those that are for meat. Among the various options, the best are White Leghorn hybrids and Blue Andalusians. However, Brown-egg-laying Plymouth Barred Rocks and Rhode Island Reds, and blue-egg-laying Ameraucanas or Easter Eggers are also competitive egg layers.
On the other hand, among the chickens which are raised for their meat, Cornish Cross chickens are the best. They grow well at a relatively faster rate compared to other breeds. However, they will require more feed as they need it to grow in size.
Nevertheless, one of the most useful chicken farming tips is selecting dual-purpose breeds. The breeds mentioned as egg layers can produce meat as well. Likewise, the meat breeds can lay eggs but not as efficient as actual egg layers. However, there is a bunch that is actually relatively good as egg layers and meat breeds. These include Plymouth Barred Rock, Sussex, or Buff Orpingtons. It helps to choose them if you want to benefit from both eggs and meat at an acceptable production rate.
Start with a minimum of three to six chickens
Chickens are social animals. They thrive well in a flock. Therefore, it is never a good chicken farming tip to start with just one or two in your yard.
If you are buying eggs, on the other hand, the same rule will apply. Do not just buy one or two, or else you are likely to incubate for unsuccessful eggs. Also, no one ever gets to know what the gender of the chicks is inside the eggs. Two eggs could hatch as two male chicks, which most farmers do not aim for. You need to make sure that you are to hatch female eggs so that you will have potential egg layers. Therefore, starting out with at least six eggs is a rule of thumb.
Keep your chicken coop simple but adequate
You do not need an elaborate chicken house. A fancy coop does not mean that you are giving out for your chickens’ best health. What they need is a shelter that will provide them the following.
Protection from pests and predators
Not only are chickens good prey for wild and bigger animals. Their feed is also appetizing treats for rats and mice. Therefore, you will need your coop to be as secure as you can make it. Even a modified barn or doghouse can be a safe chicken coop with proper fencing and cover. There are a variety of wires and netting to fence the perimeter or line the coop’s window panes for evenings.
A place for roosting
Chickens gather to sleep at night on roosts or perches. Often, a flock’s behavior is that they sleep on the same perch. Therefore, you will have to make sure that the coop has enough space for perching or roosting according to the flock size. Nonetheless, there will be some chickens who will prefer sleeping by themselves if they feel safe enough.
Nesting boxes for egg layers
This is a must for all chicken breeds as hens will always need a place nest. Usually, one nesting box could serve for three hens. However, as the hens tend to have favorite spots and fight over them, it is better to have extra. So, layout as many nesting boxes to accommodate the number of egg layers in the flock.
Space to move around
Chickens tend to get bored. When it happens, they will exhibit aggressive behavior and bully each other. To prevent this from happening, give them some outside time for their well-being. Not only will they have fun roaming around, but they can also forage some food to add to their diet.
Set up a routine with your flock
As mentioned, chickens are not the most demanding animals. They do not need every second of every day of your time and attention. What they need though are a clean environment, plenty of clean water, and sufficiently filled feed dishes throughout the day. They may seem quite a lot, but as the chicken farming tip suggests, you may just establish a routine.
Allocate a specific time daily for when you are to change or refill food and water feeders. Also, allocate time for when you are to clean the coop. By establishing a routine for your easy management, the chickens will also get used to the routine. Thus, chicken farming only gets easier over time.
Prevent the development of wet litter
Litter is the chickens’ bedding inside their coop. It is placed for several reasons, such as providing warmth on cold weather and aiding for easy coop cleaning. However, as a habit, the chickens are most likely to peck at the litter as they do on many objects. This means that the litter condition will affect their intestinal health. Thus, it helps to add establishing litter management on your chicken farming tips list.
Moreover, wet litter is a breeding ground for pathogens that results in diseases to the chickens. Increasing wet litter problems also increase ammonia levels in the coop, which can be detrimental to the chickens’ health. Thus, you will need to have to manage litter moisture conditions to prevent grave potential concerns.
To prevent the development of wet litter, you will have to consider the type of material as well as the quality of the litter. Also, as waterers are placed within the coop, it helps to use those that are leak or spillage proof. Other than that, lighting management, ventilation, and temperature can also be factors to consider for preventing wet litter.
In addition, you also need to watch out for too dry and dusty litter. This could potentially indicate that the chickens are not drinking enough water. Additionally, dust can lead to respiratory health problems.
Provide an abundance of clean water daily
Generally, chickens’ daily water consumption is bigger than their feed consumption. In fact, drinking water accounts for about 70 to 80 percent of the chickens’ everyday drinking needs. Therefore, it is no question that water is the most crucial nutrient for poultry. Consequently, one of the most vital chicken farming tips as well to provide the chickens lots of clean water daily. With this, challenges in the poultry farm will be reduced, and poultry performance will be maximized.
To manage your chickens’ water intake, the following management factors should be considered:
- Quality and mineral content of the water
- Height, pressure, and accessibility of the waterers or drinkers
- Cleanliness of the waterer regulators before flock placement and throughout the production
- Flushing water lines in between flocks throughout the production
- Eradication of bio-films and buildup of mineral
- Maintenance of waterer or drinker equipment
Manage your chickens’ feed
The chickens should have easy access to their feed. Their feed must be stored on proper chicken feeders. Otherwise, their feed will be prone to being wasted and littered on the ground. One of the things to consider when choosing a feeder is the feeder line-height. It should correspond to the height of the chickens for smooth access and to guarantee that everyone can access the food.
Also, sufficient feed access can be achieved by following the recommendations of the feed line manufacturers. Usually, they recommend the number of chickens that can feed on the feed pan or line of trough feeder.
In addition, as mentioned, chickens naturally peck on litter as a habit and especially if their feed runs out. So, it is important to avoid running out of feed. To do so, you can activate trigger feed pans and/or monitor feed bin levels during coop checks.
Establish good environmental management
A good environment for the chickens includes several components. These are temperature, ventilation, relative humidity, and lighting.
The coop, particularly, has to adjust to the different seasons. For example, during the winter, its interior temperature should be warm for the chickens. To achieve this, you can install heat lamps in which the chickens can flock around for warmth. On the other hand, during the summer, installing more ventilation is a must. Good air circulation within the interior of the coop will keep the most favorable temperature. Therefore, if you feel like the coop is too hot, you can add more holes to help it cool down.
Manage your chickens’ health
Chickens have no concept of clean. They tend to messy animals, especially at the chick stage. Therefore, it is the chicken keeper’s job to keep the poultry environment clean and sanitized. This should be significantly observed for the chicks as they are the most susceptible to health risks. This is because they tend to scratch their food around or get their poop or bedding in their feeders. Therefore, as mentioned, it helps to use feeders and waterers that have spill-proof features.
Also, as the chickens are given outside time, they will habitually peck on the soil, grass, worms, and insects. In line with this, they should be provided with grit to help with their digestion. Also, grit helps ensure that the chickens do not get an impacted crop.
Additionally, you can feed your chickens with medicated feed. This is a feed that contains medication, for example, coccidiostat to prevent coccidiosis infection. Coccidiosis is a disease in the digestive system that can lead to potentially fatal damage. However, you can always opt for vaccination. If the chickens have been vaccinated, you may not use medicated feed and provide an un-medicated one instead. Feeding them with medicated feed even though they have been vaccinated may lead to negative health reactions.
How can the spread of diseases be prevented in your poultry farm?
The spread of diseases in a poultry farm can be controlled and prevented through a set of well-defined bio-security measures. This should last throughout the broiler production – prior, during, and after bird placement. An effective set of bio-security practices covers hygiene as well as vermin and insect control on-farm. It helps control disease transmission within and between barns. You should isolate the flock from other birds that may be potential disease carriers. Moreover, always quarantine new or returning flock members for fourteen days or so.
What are the best sanitation measures for your poultry farm?
An unsanitized environment risks bringing diseases to the chickens. Significantly, the most susceptible to diseases are the chicks, which are the future of your flock. Therefore, you would want to make sure that the environment they grow in with the other birds is clean and sanitized. This should cover the chicken coop, poultry equipment, and all that come in close contact with the birds. Thus, chicken-keepers should always wash their hands and use clean gloves for both their own protection and the birds’. Also, farm equipment should be washed and disinfected as well, ideally before every use and weekly.
To sanitize equipment, you can use a regular household disinfectant as long as it does not leave a residual film. You can use a ten by ninety bleach and water mixture, which should thoroughly be rinsed after the clean-up procedure. Additionally, a lot of homesteaders have been starting to use vinegar as an alternative to bleach. Just make sure to remember to rinse the equipment being sanitized afterward as well thoroughly.