How To Raise Chickens Days 60 Onwards
Give yourself a pat on the back because you’ve done a great job in raising your young chicks into healthy chickens ready to lay eggs.
You’ve also had your coop set up, and are ready to care for your flock to ensure they are healthy and happy.
Much of what you learned in chapter 4 about raising baby chicks will still apply, but here is what you need to know about raising chickens after the 60 day mark (this is the last chapter in our ultimate guide to raising chickens in your city)
To Free Range Or Not? That Is The Question
Your chooks new home will depend on your situation but generally you have 2 option: put them in a coop (build one of buy one, which we talk about in the next chapter) or have them roam free in a corner of your backyard.
Having free range chickens doesn’t mean that you let them out and they come and go as they please (much like your pet cat), it simply means that are allowed access to the outside of their coop freely.
If you have a small courtyard or lawn space that’s relatively private and secure, free ranging is a great idea – however it’s a good idea to check with your neighbors first!
Whether you choose to free range or not depends on where you’ll be raising your chickens: sometimes its not a great idea due to predators or unhappy neighbors, and in these cases building a large chicken coop is the way to go.
It’s easy to see that Free range chickens are better, however it’s not always an option, especially when you have a limited space.
If you can’t go free range, do your best to provide your chickens with a large run where they will be protected but can still run around and get plenty of exercise
Feeding Your Chickens
What To Feed Your Chicken
If you want lots of nutritious eggs you’ve got to feed your hens balanced and varied diet – which is easy considering chickens will happily eat just about anything.
If you’re looking to save money on feed, buy in bulk or find a local chicken feed mill and buy directly.
In addition to pellets your chickens should be eating a variety of fruits and vegetables and table foods such as rolled oats, cooked pasta, breads and legumes.
Unsure of what you can and can not feed your chickens? Read our guide on the do’s and don’t of feeding your chicken, which has a printable guide that you should print off and keep handy.
Hydration – make sure your chicken water supply is always topped up with clean water at room temperature, out of direct sunlight.
Learn how to keep your chicken water from freezing here.
How Often & How Much You ShouldFeed Your Chicken
Unlike certain other animals (such as dogs) chickens will only eat until they are full, so overfeeding them is rarely and issue at all.
Most owners simply fill their chicken feeders with a few days worth of food and keep them topped up – which is easy to manage and hands off.
The other option is to feed them twice a day (morning and evening) which will allow you to control the amount they eat and will also avoid pests being attracted to the chicken feed.
This way of feeding also encourages chickens to eat and sleep in their coop which may be ideal based on your circumstance.
A guide on how much your fully grown chicken will eat:
- An average sized chicken will eat 3/4 cups (3/4 lb.) of chicken feed per day
- A large chicken will eat 1 cup (1/3 lb.) of chicken feed per day
Feeding Challenges In Winter
Chickens tend to eat more when they’re cold and less when they’re warm, meaning you’ll see them feed more often in winter.
The biggest challenge in winter however (providing you’re in cold enough climate) is keeping them hydrated as their water can and will often freeze over, so make sure you refill there water throughout the day with slightly warm tap water.
FREE DOWNLOAD: HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN CHICKEN FEED
Looking to save a little money and be a little more self-sufficient while raising your chickens? Start by making your own chicken feed!
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Cleaning Your Chicken Coop
It’s important to clean your chicken coop every week to every two weeks. A regular cleaning schedule will keep your chickens feeling happier and healthier, and it will also make you (and your neighbors!) happy by reducing the smell from the coop.
Cleaning may not be the most fun part of the chicken raising experience, but when done correctly, it doesn’t have to take long!
Cleaning your chicken coop on a regular basis is also one of the best possible ways to reduce the risk of disease, infection, and parasites in your chickens.
And doing it a few times per month will even keep the eggs your chickens lay cleaner, which means you and your family and friends will be eating much healthier eggs, too.
It’s easy to clean a chicken coop if you follow these step by step instructions:
- Gather your cleaning supplies and put on rubber gloves.
- Lock chickens out of the coop so that you can have time to clean uninterrupted.
- Remove roosts from the coop.
- Using a hand broom and dust pan, remove dirty wood shavings; these make great additions to a compost bin.
- Scrub the floor of the coop with a mixture of water and white vinegar.
- Spray everything with a protective spray made to keep away lice and mites. There are many commercially available anti-parasite sprays available online and they are all great.
- Let everything dry and then you can optionally, place a tablespoon of calming “nesting blend” all-natural herbs into each nesting box to help chickens stay happy and reduce the risk of fungus.
- Dump clean wood shavings into the coop & Allow chickens back in. Easy!
Chicken Predators & How To Stop Them
You are probably already well aware that chickens are prey to many larger birds and animals. It is an unfortunate truth that chickens are often lost due to improper planning for the possibility of predators.
Don’t be careless, and remember that even though you are raising backyard chickens, there are still plenty of predators that could easily be a threat!
The most common backyard chicken predators include:
- Domestic dogs
- Domestic and wild cats
- Rats (prey on chicken eggs)
- Hawks and owls (may carry off younger chickens)
- Snakes (prey on chicken eggs)
If you suspect you have rodents or vermin in your household from the above list, put measures in place to remove them as soon as possible, or your flock of hens will be at risk!
The following general guidelines will help prevent the presence of predators in your back yard, while also keeping your chickens and eggs safe:
- Do not keep wood piles or any other areas of debris in your yard. Predators can easily hide in these.
- Always fence in your chicken area. When chickens are in your back yard, you may already have a fence in place. If not, place 5-foot mesh around the space for your chickens.
- Consider closing in your chicken area with a mesh roof to deter flying predators.
- Never shoot at flying predators, as it may be illegal depending on species and your location.
- Store feed in metal containers that cannot be accessed easily (yes, that means a lock!)
- Do not leave food outside at night—including human trash, food for dogs or cats, fruit from trees, etc.
- Keep your coop in the open in your yard, and not near bushes or trees where predators could easily hide.
- Routinely check your coop for damage, and seal holes with hardware cloth.If possible, raise the coop about a foot off the ground. This will stop predators from digging under the coop walls.
- If you must have your coop on the ground, bury some bricks in the dirt, or make sure you line the bottom with hardware cloth.
- Consider adding a rooster to your flock. Roosters protect their hens, often by giving their lives, when necessary.
Sick Chicken – What You Need To Know
Although it is unlikely that you will have a major illness outbreak in your backyard chicken flock, you should still be prepared and well-armed with the information you need to handle any sick chicken that might appear.
Continue reading to learn about the most common illnesses, how to spot them and what treatment involves.
Prevention is better than the cure, so if you spot a hen with some of the following symptoms, act fast:
|Avian Pox||A virus, often spread by mosquitos or other chickens.||White sores on skin, on combs, and in the mouth; no egg production.||Keeping birds warm, dry, and hydrated.||Yes. Also, birds who have recovered from the disease cannot catch it again.|
|Cholera||Bacteria that is spread by raccoons or wild birds. Contaminated chickens can spread cholera to others.||Green diarrhoea accompanied by swollen joints and difficulty breathing.||Birds will die quickly.There is no treatment, and infected birds should be put down.||Yes, through the Department of Agriculture.|
|Botulism||Bacteria that can be found in food or water.||Tremors, paralysis, difficulty breathing, and quick death.||1 teaspoon Epsom salts in 1 ounce warm water can help if discovered early. There is an antitoxin available from veterinarians||No. It is important to find the source of the bacteria; check for rotting carcasses nearby.|
|Bronchitis||A virus that spreads through the air.||Sneezing and coughing, watery eyes and noes, and halted egg production.||Keep chickens dry, warm, and hydrated. Adults will often survive, but chicks usually will not.||Yes, for chicks younger than 15 weeks.|
|Mareks Disease||A virus spread by breathing the dust from contaminated birds.||Paralysis, tumors, and potential blindness.||There is no treatment, and infected birds should be put down.||Yes, for chicks as young as one day old.|
|Coryza||Bacteria spread through contaminated birds or water.||Swollen head and wattle, discharge from eyes and nose, swollen eyes, halted egg production, wetness under wings||None. Infected birds should be put down.||Not available|
|Thrush||Fungus spread through mold feeders or water containers.||Consistently ruffled feathers, white substance present in crop, halted egg production, increased appetite, inflamed vent.||Antifungal medication from the veterinarian. Remove and clean moldy areas in the coop||Not available|
|Newcastle Disease||Virus spread from other chickens; may also be carried on clothes or shoes.||Difficulty breathing, runny nose, watery or cloudy eyes, No eggs, wheezing, paralysed legs or wings, twisted head or neck.||There is no treatment. Older chickens will often recover, but chicks will not.||Yes.|
|Mycoplasmosis disease||Can be transmitted from bird to bird or from hen to egg.||Difficulty breathing, swollen joints, halted egg production, weakness, eventual death.||Antibiotics available from the veterinarian.||Yes.|
|Omphalitis||Bacteria from dirty surfaces, particularly strep or staph||In newly hatched chicks, drowsiness, weakness, and a sour smell are present.||Antibiotics may help, but chicks often die.||No. Sick chicks should be removed immediately, and handled with care (can transmit to humans)|
|ullorum||A virus spread on surfaces and through other birds.||White diarrhoea, difficulty breathing, halted egg production, inactivity.||None; infected birds should be put down.||No. However, there is a blood test which can check for the presence of this disease.|
Tips For Raising Chickens In Cold Climates
You may be concerned that backyard chicken raising isn’t for you, simply because you live in a cold climate.
It’s very simple to alter your chicken-raising experience to allow for cold temperatures and snowy conditions.
First of all, remember that your chickens do produce a little bit of body heat themselves, and that sunlight coming in through the windows of your chicken coop can help warm things up, too.
Also bear in mind that, at least for the first part of winter, the ground is not as cold as the air, so a chicken coop that is situated directly on on the ground (and not on stilts) will stay warmer longer.
Normal winter weather should not be a cause for concern, and in fact, some breeds of chickens (such as Rhode Island Reds) much prefer being outside in the cold and snow!
But how cold is too cold for chickens? And how do you know if your chicks are ready to go outside and brave the cold?
If temperatures will be dropping below freezing for a week or more, then it may be necessary to add a heat source to the chicken coop.
Keep in mind these few tips, and your chickens will be as happy in winter as they are the rest of the year:
- DON’T over-insulate your chicken coop. A little extra insulation is fine, but insulating too tightly can cause increased moisture in the coop and can lead to mold or respiratory illness.
- DO Allow chickens to go out into the cold or snow if they want to. Don’t force them to, but don’t force them to stay inside all winter, either!
- HEAT your coop with a heat source ONLY when absolutely necessary, such as a sudden and prolonged drop below zero. If you must use a heat source, check on the coop very often to prevent fires.
- ROTATE waterers often so that your chickens always have access to fresh, unfrozen water.
- Gather eggs FREQUENTLY to prevent them from freezing.
- PROVIDE SUET CAKES to your chickens for additional nutrition and entertainment during the cold winter months.
- CLEAN the coop MORE OFTEN when chickens are unable to spend as much time outdoors.