Having raised chickens since childhood, finding the best ways to tend to them is a rewarding and sometimes challenging hobby of mine.
Tips for Rearing Healthy Backyard Chickens
Has the idea of raising chickens in your backyard piqued your interest? You are not alone. Like a lot of others, you are considering a fun hobby which will provide you with healthier and better-tasting eggs and meat than you will find in most supermarkets.
But before jumping in feet first, there are some things you need to take a look at to avoid a foul experience for both you and your new chickens. Be sure to set up properly before bringing your birds home to roost. You need to be ready for their arrival to a new surrounding; moving from one location to another can be stressful. Being ready ahead of time can help save a lot of anxiety on the part of both you and your new chickens.
Raising Chickens: The Basics
The food you will give your chickens will depend on the kind of chicken that you have. As a rule, feed your chickens a diet that is "complete." It should contain foods that your chickens will need, like carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, and if you can afford it, vitamins. There are two kinds of feeds: conventional and organic. Either can be purchased online or at your local agricultural poultry store.
Waterer and Feeder
Purchase a waterer and feeder that are suspended a few inches above ground level. This helps to keep your chickens from jumping on top of the feeders and getting their dirty feet all over the container. An automatic refill feature is also included in some models, which is very reliable during times when you want to fly the coop for a couple of days.
A Place to Sleep
No matter how absurd it seems, you have to provide them with the proper bedding to keep them warm and comfortable. This doesn't mean that you have to buy them sheets from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Proper bedding can be a pile of clean hay or old used newspapers. If you wanted it to be extra special, there is bedding that can be bought online or in poultry stores.
Bedding is best inside the coop where it can provide chickens a soft surface to roam around in. Bedding is also good for your flock since it absorbs the odor and droppings. You don't want a foul-smelling coop, right? Another advantage of the bedding is that it helps save the eggs from cracking, making it an area where eggs are safe to land.
There are a lot of bedding varieties, but whatever you choose, always make it a point that it is at least two inches thick and is truly absorbent.
If you see your chickens digging a shallow hole and creating a mess with dirt, they are dust bathing! Chickens enjoy bathing in dust. These dust baths are beneficial to the chicken. Did you know that when chickens take dust baths, they are actually protecting themselves from parasites and other creatures that live inside their legs and feathers? For them to be healthy, it is necessary to have dust baths.
The perfect spot to do their thing is a dry area in your chicken run that has patches of fresh ground and dirt. If your area is entirely cement, worry not, because there are artificial dust baths available in agricultural stores.
Everything You Need to Know About Raising Backyard Chickens
- The pros and cons of raising backyard chickens.
- Local chicken laws that apply to you.
- How to choose the right chicken breed.
- How to build a chicken coop.
- How to buy chicks.
- What to do when the chicks arrive.
- How to introduce new birds to the flock.
- How and what to feed your chickens.
- How to prepare for summer and winter extremes.
- How to keep your chickens healthy.
- How to prevent the spread of bird flu.
- Dealing with the death of your backyard chickens.
1. The Pros and Cons of Raising Backyard Chickens
There are a lot of reasons why someone would or wouldn't want chickens in their backyard. Here are some of the more common debates on having backyard chickens:
The Benefits of Raising Chickens:
- The Cost Is Incredibly Cheap Compared to Other Animals
When we say cheap, not only does the chicken itself count but also the maintenance involved. Compared to keeping a dog or a cat for a pet, it is much cheaper to take care of several chickens. Mainly this is because they are not choosy when it comes to food. You can feed them scraps and table leftovers and they will happily gobble it up. With as little as $2 a day, you can buy a lot of chicken feed.
- You Can Get Something From Them
In terms of eggs, it is seldom that you encounter a hen that can't lay eggs. Eggs are a good source of iron, which is good for the brain. You could either sell these eggs or keep them in your fridge.
As meat, every part of a chicken can be eaten. In cases of those who don't want to eat their pets or sell them off, you can even raise them as pets and for exhibition purposes.
- They Are Low-Maintenance
Unlike dogs who need everyday grooming and cats who need your undivided attention, chickens need none of those tedious daily necessities. You don't have to bring them to your vet to get shots and vaccines regularly. All you have to do is feed them and supply clean water every day. Their coops only need to be cleaned at least once a week or twice every month depending on the number of chickens that you own.
- They Give You Free Fertilizer and Pest Control
These are two more things that chicken raisers love about owning chickens. When you allow your chickens to roam around your backyard, it is in their nature to peck on whatever catches their interest and satisfies their hunger. Chickens love anything that comes from the ground, especially the things that are moving. They eat insects, bugs, worms and the like. For them, these are special treats. Furthermore, it is in their nature to eradicate their internal wastes anywhere they please. Their poop is considered natural fertilizer and can be utilized to grow plants and root crops in a healthy state.
The Drawbacks of Raising Chickens:
- They Are Not the Best Guard Pets to Have
While chickens can coo and make familiar sounds, it is not in their nature to bite or chase anyone they see who looks suspicious. All they can do is grow, eat, and lay eggs. They are also not the ideal pets you would want if you need an emotional response like a waggling of the tail or the purr of a cat.
- Chickens Are Messy
Their poop smells terrible, and that smell can reach certain areas in your house. If you're the type of person who doesn't want to go through sometimes long hours of cleaning, chickens aren't really the pets for you.
- One for All, All for One, Including Diseases
In terms of chicken health, this is a con. When one chicken catches a virus, normally all the others get it too. If one dies because of a viral infection, it is expected that many other chickens living with that infected chicken are also at risk.
2. Local Chicken Laws
The first thing you should do is check out the local ordinances (especially if you live within city limits). Most cities have laws on how many chickens you are allowed to raise as "pets." For instance, some rules dictate that hens are allowed but roosters are not.
There is no sense in making any long-term plans if you will be breaking laws you don't know about. You also may want to check with your neighbors to see how they feel about you raising chickens in your neighborhood. You may find that some of your neighbors do not want to be bothered with the noise and smell. Others may be willing to put up with the inconvenience in exchange for a few fresh eggs from time to time.
3. Choose the Right Chicken Breed for Your Purpose
Chickens are wonderful animals. They are like the coconut. You see, the coconut can be used in many ways—from the leaves to the roots. In more ways than one, chickens are bred and raised because they can reap a lot of benefits. In Asian countries, chickens are eaten from beak to feet, making it one of the most sought-after poultry products in the animal community.
Chickens are not only used only for food, but for ornamental purposes as well. It all depends on the owner of the poultry farm if she's going to raise chickens for food or exhibition. Whatever the purpose is for these critters, you will eventually settle on one simple question: what breed should you get?
There are actually four ideas to consider when choosing a breed: egg production only, eggs and meat combined, exhibition, and meat only. Aside from these four, people also count chickens as a hobby and enjoy watching and caring for their chickens.
For Egg Production
If you are concerned only with eggs, White Leghorns, Red Sex Links, and Golden Cornets fit the bill. These breeds lay eggs in very well.
An interesting point: If you want white eggs, choose a chicken breed that has earlobes that are white. If you want brown eggs, choose a chicken breed that has red earlobes.
For good meat, you have to purchase a breed that grows quickly and weighs a good amount, like the Cornish Cross. This kind of chicken is a cross-breed between the White Cornish and White Plymouth Rock breeds. These two breeds weigh four to five pounds by six weeks and weigh more than 6 pounds within 8 to 12 weeks.
For a Combination of Eggs and Meat
Breeds that are dual purpose are generally a combination that possesses the talent of vast egg production and also grow larger and faster than other breeds. Some popular examples are the Plymouth Rock, Wyandotte, and Sussex. These are both English and American breeds, so they can be found everywhere.
These birds are appreciated for their eloquent beauty and physical features. Usually, the chickens that are chosen for exhibition during fairs are crossbred for particular features. Exhibitions shows for poultry raising are very popular in places in the Midwest United States. In these shows, chickens are judged based on their color, ideal breed type, body weight and shape, and other key traits.
Bantams are one chicken breed that outnumbers larger fowls during shows. They have characteristics that judges adore; they take less space, are easier to feed, eat less, and are easier to handle. Even though their eggs are small, they are good for eating like other ordinary eggs. Some of the popular breeds of bantams are the Wyandottes, Cochins, Old English Game, and Plymouth Rock.
Bantams are not the only birds that have the right to the exhibition chicken throne. Larger fowl breeds also share the limelight because of their great features. Some of these breeds are the Leghorn, Rhode Island Red, and Black Australorp. These breeds vary in their type, size, color, comb type, and shape.
4. Building a Coop
A coop is what you normally call a chicken house. It's their kingdom and castle. So you have to make sure to keep their house maintained at "four-star" level since good houses will help your chickens grow up healthy and happy. To keep it the way it should be, there are specific requirements to learn in order to build a coop that will satisfy both you and your chickens.
Make It Predator-Proof: By design, the coop must be secure from any kind of predator. Every single angle in the pen (sides, top, and bottom) must be structured to withstand the wrath and longing of predators who are always on the lookout for a free meal. When selecting a wire mesh, be sure it is the right one, since predators vary by location. These creative creatures will scour the area of your coop unnoticed just waiting for the time when they can attack. You have to make sure that the coop is impenetrable because some predators (like raccoons) can easily just reach out for their prey and swipe them.
Make It Rat-Proof: This requirement continues from the first, but for a different reason. Aside from predators, you have to secure the coop from nasty rats. These animals can burrow through the ground and come up from below. If the coop floor is not blocked, these rodents will slip into the hen's quarters to steal the food you provide for your chickens. Rodents are attracted to the food you're giving your chickens and the droppings they excrete, so they can be hard to keep out unless you plan for them.
What's more devastating is that these pesky rats love eggs. So, whenever laying season comes, they gather for a buffet of free food. Want to get rid of them? Good idea, but prevention is better than cure. Preventing them from coming into the pen is better than getting rid of their presence after it happens. All you need to do is construct a sturdy floor under the coop or bury a fence about 12" deep around the hen's house. Be sure that the materials you will use for the fence and the floor is thick or hard enough to make it impossible for them bite through.
Protect From the Elements: Make sure your house has the right ventilation and protection from the elements. Build your coop in such a way that is is not drafty or breezy. Also, seasons will change and so will the weather. That is why your coop must be built to endure the local climate changes.
Provide Roosts and Nesting Boxes: Roosting poles must be provided for your hens to slumber. These poles should have approximately 2" wide rounded edges. You also must allow an 8" to 10" space between every bird. Make sure to put in nesting boxes to encourage egg laying. One typical nest box will hold three to four chickens. Place the boxes several inches above the ground and do not let them touch the soil. Put these nesting boxes somewhere private where no one can bother them while they're doing their thing.
Give Enough Room: Your coop must be roomy and spacious. You should plan for 2-4 square feet for every bird. There should also be space where the feeder and the waterer can hang about 7-8 inches above the ground.
Make your coop easily accessible for you, but only you. Predators and rodents are not allowed. Easy accessibility can help you clean the coop so that bacteria and bugs do not fester. Making use of sturdy walls and a strong door will prevent unwanted visitors.
Before buying your first chicken, make plans to build (or buy) a chicken coop and maybe a large chicken run area. A proper chicken coop design will protect your hens from the weather, outdoor predators and from the chickens themselves flying the coop. Put some serious thought into the location. Many people cannot stomach the idea of a chicken coop (with accompanying smells) so close to the home.
5. Buying Your First Chickens
You can always start small if your budget is limited. Remember to consider your available capital as well as your time investment. Remember: Hens do not produce eggs on demand. There may be a waiting period, and you have to plan for that.
Some people find it advantageous to buy day-old chickens because they are cheap, however, these little birds have a higher likelihood of death. They are also higher maintenance and sometimes require foster mothers or artificial brooders.
Also remember that when chicks are young, they cannot be easily sexed, therefore, you may end up with more roosters than hens, which isn't practical if your plan is to raise a lot of eggs.
Planning for the size of your flock depends on a couple of things, like available room and height needed for the coop. You should plan on 2-4 square feet per bird, plus enough room for a run. Space to move about freely and the proper amount of exercise is essential for the health and happiness of your chickens. You should expect to need at least 50-100 square feet for a decent size chicken coop and run.
If you are raising hens for eggs, keep in mind that egg production starts to drop off in the fall and picks back up in the spring. You will still get eggs, just not as many.
6. What to Do When the Chicks Arrive
The chicken coop is ready, now all you need are the chickens. Here are a few helpful tips on what to do when the chicks finally arrive.
Tip #1: If you buy the birds from someone else, you have to examine them very well. They must arrive in a condition that is nowhere near "diseased." If you noticed that the babies arrived in poor condition, refuse delivery and/or send them back.
Tip #2: Before putting the baby birds inside, the brooder must have its proper temperature of at least 90 degrees. Make sure the area is warm and maintain this temperature for a week before your chicks arrive. After that, you can reduce the temperature 5 degrees every week that passes for the first five weeks. Keep in mind that there should be enough space where the chicks can move freely either to or from a source of heat if needed. This is advisable especially during extreme temperatures.
Tip #3: Fill the fountains for the first time with fresh, clean water with an additional half cup of sugar for every gallon filled. This will help boost the baby chick's energy. It is not recommended to add any chemicals regardless of what advertisements tell you.
Tip #4: Mix some fine grit feed and water with a ratio of 1:10. Fill available lids with food not more than a quarter-inch, then mix in the fine grit mixture. To finish it off, sprinkle a very generous amount of grit mixture or feed on top of the material that covers the litter.
Tip #5: Poultry, however you look at it, can be the source of thousands of microorganisms which are potentially harmful. With this, you have to be very careful and certain precautions must be followed. Proper handling must be practiced to prevent the spread of different kinds of oral or fecal transmission from fowl to person. Adults should provide proper guidance to young ones about how to properly handle their poultry. Avoid bringing any poultry within the vicinity of your family space. Wash your hands and any part of your body that came in contact with the poultry with water and a trustworthy soap.
Tip #6: When removing from the box or shipping container, dip the chick's beak into the water and food mixture to familiarize them with where their nourishment comes from. Do this one chick at a time, taking the bird from the box to the feeder and then placing it in the brooder. Once again, be sure that the brooder is already warm enough for the baby to be placed safely.
Tip #7: Observe the chicks for a couple of hours after transferring. This will help you identify how they adapted to the new environment they are in. Is it sufficient or are their needs lacking? Are their activities normal for the weather? Changes can be observed just by looking at their behavior. If they crowd over the brooding area, it means that entire area is not warm enough. If they get too far from the heat and go in areas that aren't covered by the warmth, it means that the heat is too much for them.
If you are convinced the situation is good enough for your new chicks, you can now breath a little easier.
7. Introducing the New Birds on the Block
To raise chickens, there are procedures and adaptations to attend to. One complicated instance is introducing a group of "new" birds to a flock of old birds. It's like managing to merge two restaurants when one is Italian and the other is Chinese. Stress will come along, and that is not an assumption but a fact.
Many poultry owners who think that they are ready to expand their chicken farm will take certain measures when importing birds that come from the outside. Adding new breeds into your peaceful and comfortable neighborhood of chickens can put a quite a rumble between the old and the new.
Admit it, nobody likes newcomers. And adding these newcomers into a flock of hens or roosters that already have certain territories inside their coop can be a big mess. The newcomers will try to take their place too, and the oldies will try their best to protect their area.
Fret not, for this kind of attitude and feud lasts for only a couple of days. After that, adaptation can take place. You can't avoid this kind of predicament from rising, but you can do certain adjustments that can make all of you happy and stress-free.
There are numerous peace-making strategies to help both parties adjust to each other. Wouldn't it be nice to see your new and old birds in one space without having to stop them from pecking one another?
Tips for Introducing a New Chicken to the Flock
One very good strategy is to let them see each other without having any physical contact. How? If you have a run (which is basically attached to the coop), you could put your old chickens there and then put a border (chicken wire) between the run and the coop, and then put your new chickens inside the coop. This way, they are able to see each other without the chaos. Be sure that both parties have access to sufficient food and water. You can do this for about a week.
As transition day comes about a week after their first introduction, you can now "join" your chickens in one area. A good idea is to try to transfer the newcomers to the resident flock's territory during the night when all the birds are sleeping. Upon waking up, the old chickens will notice the new ones and they won't try to start a fight because they are too groggy to start one. Not a strategy that has been proven effective, but it's worth the trying.
Distraction techniques are always effective in some way. This can alleviate tactics of war coming from the resident chickens. If you don't do this, the old hens will chase the newcomers till all their feathers come off. That would be devastating.
Some good distraction techniques are:
- Cabbage Heads: Cabbage heads can do the trick. By hanging a piece of whole cabbage just above their head, chickens will peck at it until everything is finished. That is if they don't get exhausted by jumping at it to reach it.
- Obstacles: Make the newcomer chase an obstacle for the pursuing party. Add large branches inside the run and coop to slow them down.
- Space: Let them all run around at a wider and freer range. The oldies will be so thrilled to dig for grubs and insects they wouldn't even notice that there are newcomers roaming around.
8. Feeding Your Backyard Chickens
Chickens can eat almost everything, from meat to vegetables. You can give them dog food and they'll eat it with full gusto. You can give them pig food and they'll devour it without hesitation.
Chickens are also good cleaners of garbage tidbits. They can even wipe out every insect, worm, or anything little and more vulnerable than they are in your yard. The good thing about raising chickens in your backyard is that it needs no feeding qualifications other than vitamins and boosters.
You can also feed grains to your chickens. Scraps of food and peelings also work. You see, feeding isn't hard as long as you save some of your own leftovers for your poultry to feed on. Chickens are also intelligent; they know when the bucket of treats is coming by for lunch.
You can feed your chicken in many ways. You can put it in a container that is big enough to accommodate their number during mealtime. Scattering their food isn't a bad idea either since you won't have the worry that it will go to waste and remain scattered. Bones with tiny bits of meat are also their favorite.
Now, when it comes to hens laying eggs, calcium is required for their diet. During the months when laying season is about to start, you can feed your hens calcium just by including crushed clam shells to their meals. But do not give them clam shells that are whole. They may be at risk of recognizing these clam shells as their own eggshells. So you have to see to it that the clam shells are thoroughly crushed into pieces before giving it to them. These are available in your local feed stores.
The most advisable food for your chickens are feeds, pellets, corn, and grains. Meat, fruits, and vegetables can be given out too, but chickens can't have all the fun eating everything you can possibly give them. Their diet must also be kept in check because there are certain kinds of food that aren't advisable for them to eat. These foods can either be harmful or worse, deadly. Aside from the foods mentioned below, most other feedings are safe.
If you were given the opportunity to eat your entire neighbor, would you do it? Same reason why chickens will object if served large pieces their own kind. But they will not know if it is mixed in with their food. They never will. It is okay to include chicken bones in their meals, but the consequences can be very bad if they are given large amounts of parts of the spinal cord and brain. This may lead to the development of encephalopathy which can cause a host of negative symptoms and possibly death.
Common fruits that you SHOULD NOT feed your chickens:
- Apple: An apple every two weeks given to 4 birds is fine, but expect digestive problems if this routine is done regularly.
- Peelings of Potato: Chickens don't really like the idea of eating roots crops. The taste isn't that enjoyable either.
- Orange Peelings: The toughness of this is generally too much for them to take.
- Tomato: Given in small quantities, tomatoes can be good. But be careful, because if given in excess it might affect the chicken's droppings.
- Banana: For some reason, they just don't like them.
These are just some of the foods that aren't really advisable to give to your chickens. Just take note: Root plants aren't on top of their list; hard fruits can never be favorite; and if given in large quantities, any type of food will give their digestive system a hard time.
Proof That Chickens Will Eat Anything
9. Precautions During Winter and Summer
Even though it may seem like chickens are fragile creatures, they have certain characteristics that can let them survive through many types of weather. But you have to take note that not all chickens are alike.
While some can withstand winters, others prefer to sunbathe during summer sunshine and don't fair well in the cold. It will all depend on the weather you have when you decide to purchase your chicken. Knowing your climate is important so as not to waste money and time raising them to just have them end up in a chicken graveyard.
Preparing Chickens for Winter
During wintertime or in cold weather days, never try instantly heating your chickens just because you fear that they might catch a cold or freeze. You may find your flock dead in the morning. Chickens can adapt to extreme cold conditions because their body can change the metabolism as the cold weather approaches, but this takes time.
If you live in a place where winters are more prominent than summer or it is winter all the time, you should take certain actions for your chickens so it will not put any of your chicken's lives in danger:
- Frostbite: There is a risk that a chicken's wattle and comb can be affected by frostbite. To avoid this, you can rub some petroleum jelly or any moisturizer on the parts every other day.
- Frozen Water Supply: Look out for frozen water supply. You can't deprive them of water, and they will not drink from a frozen water outlet. Chickens also can't drink water with many impurities. It must always stay fresh and clean. You can put in a water heater or cleaner so that the water stays in its liquid form and safe. Or if you don't have one, you may want to bring the waterer inside the house then return it in the morning.
Preparing Chickens for Summer
If you live in places where summer is the only known season, your chickens are prone to excessive heat. With this, they will be at risk for dehydration. The major things that you have to look for during summer is that their water supply never runs dry and it remains clean. Also, don't let your chickens roam around without providing them a sort of shade. If there is no run, you must provide proper ventilation inside the pen.
During heat waves, hens would lay lesser eggs. If this occurs, it is a typical sign that your chicken is stressed because of the excessive heat. Their egg laying tendencies will go back to normal once the heat recedes.
If things get worse, you have to observe the behavior of your chickens. What kinds of behaviors are manifesting? If you've seen a chicken catch a cold or is acting a bit odd, isolate the chicken to prevent further spread of any diseases. Don't forget to provide water and feed to the isolated animal. Then, when things are manageable, consult with your vet. Tell him or her how your chicken/s are reacting and whether or not you observed the following:
- stool abnormalities (blood, worms and white droppings)
- sneezing and tears
- antisocial behavior (unable to mingle with the flock)
- loss of appetite
Tell your vet what you actually see, so that he or she can give you the appropriate answer to your dilemma. These are only bits of areas that you have to ponder upon regarding raising your chickens in winter or summer atmospheres. It's better to be safe than sorry.
10. Keeping Your Chickens Healthy
There have been different ideas on what to do with your flock daily. Raising chickens can be quite easy, but keeping them also requires maintenance to keep their environment safe and clean for both you and your chickens. Some owners hesitate to do such a grueling task, but in reality, it is one of the easiest works you can do to give your chickens the welcome they deserve.
In this section, you'll learn about what to do and what not to do daily. Here is a list of the bare minimum daily chores you should be doing:
- Keep their feed and water containers full at all times. Do not let them run out of these two essentials. They need these two things every single day to live. If you leave your house for a couple of days, be sure to leave enough food and water so that your chickens don't run out of and will not reach the point of picking on each other.
- Clean their water canister regularly. If their water becomes cloudy or dirty, they will refuse to drink it. In the long run, they will become dehydrated and eventually succumb to illness and die.
- Every morning, observe their health. Look at their physical attitude. Do they look bright, active, and healthy? If they don't look anything close to normal, then you should call or see the vet and ask for suggestions and answers.
- If you are the type who loves collecting eggs for breakfast or for selling, the moment they are laid you can get them from the coop. Put the eggs in the fridge immediately to maintain freshness.
- From time to time, you will need to visit their coop and take a good look at your chickens. Before you leave, make sure that things are safe inside and outside the pen. If you see rat holes, block them. If everything seems fine, be sure to close the door tightly. As dusk comes, that will be the time when all the chickens are in their nest and you will need to know they have a secure home. Protect the area so that predators will not have the opportunity to get in.
Unlike other pets, you can leave the chickens for days without much thought. You have to keep in mind that they need enough food and water to continue living happily for that time. If you came back after a time away and found eggs, they are still okay to collect and place in the refrigerator.
Here's a fact that you should know about an egg's freshness: It takes at least 12 days from the day that the egg was laid before it matures and an embryo develops inside.
Another thing that you should know about eggs is that upon collecting them, there will be chances that you'll see slight smudges of dirt or feces on the egg's surface. Do not attempt to scrub the dirt off no matter what, since the layer is important. One thing about eggs is that they are not brought into this world without protective barriers.
The bloom is the term that is given to the membrane that is located at the surface of the egg itself. The use of the bloom is to protect the egg from bacteria and microorganisms that may insist on penetrating the shell. If you scrub this, you take away the protective covering.
If you are that type of person who wanted things to always be spiffy clean, like that of the obsessive-compulsive type, you can clean the dirty egg provided it will be under warm water with a very gentle touch.
11. How to Prevent the Spread of Bird Flu
Chicken raising has its sacrifices and benefits. A good owner sees is the benefit beyond the sacrifices and problems. That would be fine for as long as you can handle whatever circumstances may occur. In cases of bird flu, the only way out is proper handling of your poultry and making sure that the place is very clean.
Poultry farm owners sometimes underestimate cleanliness. Sometimes, the more people tend to underestimate things, the more it becomes a serious matter. When its severity has come to its boiling point, it's too late to cool it down.
There are two causes of bird flu (also known as Avian Influenza): cold weather and dirty places. Why should you know the cause? To prevent the spread of the disease even before it develops in your very own backyard. Once you know the cause, it will be easier on your part to identify the different measure that you have to make to prevent the disease from spreading. If you get rid of the potential cause, then none of this will happen. That will be more convenient and less expensive than waiting for the outburst of the virus to act and terminate it, because the longer it goes on, the harder it is to kill.
You can't change the weather. That is a fact. Between the two causes, the weather is one thing that you can't point a finger at. All you have to do is adjust to the present environment. Flu, in general, is acquired mostly in cold areas. The colder it is, the easier it is for the virus to survive. But you can do something about it. You can't definitely change the weather, but you and your chickens can adapt to the environment. How? By giving proper nutritious food and immunizations. Vitamins are a big advantage for your chickens' welfare. If your chickens have all these intact, their immune system will be strong enough to fight any invading microorganisms.
Cleaning is common sense. You have to see to it that the environment inside and outside their pen is immaculate. Dirty, used pads must be replaced with new ones. Any haystacks filled with chicken poop should also be replaced. Be sure to use protective wears like boots made of rubber, gloves, and face masks that fit properly. In this way, if they have already caught the virus, you would have your first defense against it.
If all else fails and the disease is already spreading, you have to protect yourself from it. With or without the disease, you should follow these safety precautions. Just in case.
Hand washing is the universal precautionary measure to have. After being in contact with your poultry, always wash your hands with soap and clean water. Go through the routine of eating a healthy diet and having the right vaccinations (like a flu shot). Exercise shouldn't be compromised.
Once you have noticed that your chickens are manifesting some of the symptoms, an antiviral must be used to lessen the severity and symptoms of the disease. However, these drugs are not completely successful in avoiding instances of death.
Practice food safety tips, like eating only well-cooked chicken. After handling raw chicken meat, disinfect your chopping board with chlorine bleach (at least four to five teaspoons for every one gallon of water).
These are just some of the different measures to prevent the spread of disease. Be careful when raising, handling, or eating anything from a chicken, or your days of having these creatures may end.
12. Dealing With the Chickens' Death
If you raise many chickens, you are going to have to deal with losing one from time to time. It comes with the territory. Unless it is a special family pet, it's not practical to take every one of your chickens to the vet when they become sick. Most importantly, you will have to consider disposal of a carcass if they do become ill, since eating a sick chicken is not advisable.
There is also the real possibility of chickens that escape only to be found later, chickens that are taken by predators, and those lucky ones that just plain die of old age. It is possible to eat chickens that die naturally, but they tend to be tough old birds and you cannot be sure if they died of disease or not. If you choose to try, take safety precautions and be smart about it.
Funny Chicken Videos: No Humans Were Harmed
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2010 Hal Gall
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on November 23, 2014:
Dust baths...I never understood this before. We used to have chicken in our backyard so I have observed them well but I never knew anything beyond my observation. This is really interesting to me.
Hal Gall (author) from Bloomington, IN on June 09, 2014:
@paulahite: Thanks. Hope it helps a few potential chicken farmers!
Paula Hite from Virginia on June 09, 2014:
Great lens with lots of info. I shared it on our G+ page today.
Hal Gall (author) from Bloomington, IN on January 13, 2014:
@sierradawn lm: Great idea! Thanks a bunch for the input.
sierradawn lm on January 13, 2014:
Excellent article on raising chickens. Here is a tip that I learned when raising my chickens: build two runs on either side of your coop. Just let them into one run at a time. After they have scratched up and fertilized all of the dirt in one run, eating all of the weed seeds and working up the soil, stick them in the second run and plant your annual garden in the run they have so nicely prepared. At the end of the growing season, and your garden is played out, let the chickens back into this run to eat the leftovers and new weed growth. Prepare the vacated run for your next annual garden.
Itaya Lightbourne from Topeka, KS on July 18, 2013:
Very extensive article with wonderful tips for raising chickens! :)
Rose Jones on July 10, 2013:
Another excellent poultry lens - bookmarked.
LouisaDembul on January 28, 2013:
I wish we could have backyard chicken, but we live in the city. It was so nice before with all those fresh eggs.
karen-stephens on November 25, 2012:
I love the idea of raising chickens. Angel BLESSINGS... XXO
Hal Gall (author) from Bloomington, IN on November 02, 2012:
coolaunt on November 01, 2012:
My brother raises chickens. The lens is amazing. I submitted it for consideration for a purple heart. There is excellent information and it is well organized.
Hal Gall (author) from Bloomington, IN on October 31, 2012:
@TheBLU26: It can get to be a pain at times, but well worth it!
TheBLU26 on October 31, 2012:
Great lens. I used to have backyard chickens and it was hard work but fun!
Hal Gall (author) from Bloomington, IN on October 13, 2012:
@bushaex: Yeah, I feel bad for Dusty Baker. So close so many times. Thanks for the comments and blessing!
Stephen Bush from Ohio on October 13, 2012:
I grew up on a farm in Ohio and one of my chores was taking caring of the chickens. You have done a wonderful job of covering all the bases (certainly better at covering the bases than your Cubs or my Reds!). Very well done! SquidAngel Blessings.
FallenAngel 483 on September 04, 2012:
Very informative lens. I used chicken poop on my garden this year and I can say it has done a great job making the soil more fertile.
Hal Gall (author) from Bloomington, IN on August 06, 2012:
@MacPharlain: I haven't fed them that yet, but it sounds like it would be good for them, especially considering some of the things I have seen chickens eat :)
MacPharlain on August 06, 2012:
Lots of good chicken raising info here. We had chickens when I was a kid until a fox or other predator got into the coop.
Have you ever fed your chickens black soldier fly larvae? There are some in my compost bin and supposedly they're good for chickens to eat.
lesliesinclair on July 11, 2012:
I like it all. Everything here to get a person started on successful chicken raising and maintaining.
Hal Gall (author) from Bloomington, IN on December 24, 2011:
@jimmyworldstar: I would stick to some straw or hay. :)
Anthony Altorenna from Connecticut on December 24, 2011:
Very thorough and packed with a lot of useful and informative tips for keeping a backyard flock of chickens.
jimmyworldstar on December 02, 2011:
Thanks for the detailed hub! My grandmother raised chickens but I've never really handled chicken (or chicks) before so this is helpful advice. I plan on putting some in my backyard, would pillows be alright for them to rest on?
kimbesa from USA on November 30, 2011:
Excellent...thanks! I'm learning a lot about chickens!
Surfer83 on October 20, 2011:
Love it. Good for people who has some space . Thank you for sharing.