I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learnt about chickens along the way. We currently have 20 healthy chickens and 15 quails. Our chickens never get ill and we only lose them to mongoose or fox attack.
So here are my chicken learnings (so far)…
- They like to sleep up high (the more dominant ones on the highest branches/perches)
- There seems to be a head hen, as well as the rooster being in charge
- They return to their coop by themselves at night
- They aren’t vegetarian (they need animal protein) – I breed meal worms for ours, plus they eat left over meat, fish, slugs, snails and whatever else they can get their hold of
- They lay eggs when they are happy with their conditions. If egg laying goes down it’s either because they are too cold or hot, stressed (not enough hens for each rooster will do this also) or not getting enough food or the right food (like not enough protein or calcium)
- They all have their own little characters (often they are arseholes… especially to each other or smaller birds/animals) For instance, quails can’t be free with chickens… they kill them
- To prevent or treat parasites (worms) sprinkle a small amount of diatomaceous earth through their food daily, or a few drops of apple cider vinegar in their water, or out dried oregano through their food for a few days every month (or a combination of all of these). They will also help themselves to comfrey if they feel they need it
- Sprinkling ash (from the wood fire) around their coop before putting fresh bedding down to reduces issues with mites etc (and clean them out once a week in the winter and once every couple of weeks in the summer)
- The Rooster is their protector, not just their impregnator (the rooster will often sacrifice themselves to save the flock
- They are terrible food thieves!! Don’t leave and food bins, compost or plants unattended you don’t wish them to help themselves too
- There are loads of things chickens love to eat but won’t eat unless you cut them up for them (either they are thick and don’t realise there is something good inside or the skins are too hard for their beaks). They love tomato’s, courgette, squash etc, but only cut up!
- there are also things that are too hard for them, like stale bread, throw it in a bit of water before giving it to them to soften it up
- It’s better if you throw there food on the floor if you want to save money not buying grit for them. As they don’t have teeth they need grit/sand/small stones etc in their feed to help them break up seeds etc as they eat them
- Chickens don’t feel/taste spices, and as their are a lot of health benefits of spices for them, it’s fine to feed them left over and very spicy foods (mine love kimchi for instance)
- They don’t like newbies in the flock, so introduce new chickens to them at night when they are all half asleep
- Once it gets dark chickens are seriously sedated
- They love dust baths and in the summer damp ground to sit in to keep cool
- You can feed them back their own egg shells for calcium (just crush them up very small – no need to cook them first like some people suggest)
- Don’t let them see you take their eggs, they will start to hide them and you’ll find yourself in a daily egg hunt
- Don’t disturb them when they are laying eggs as this stresses them out and can reduce the amount of eggs they lay
- You can and should ferment their food (making it more nutrient dense, probiotic and reducing your food bill). I do a 3 day ferment on all there seed and grain and they also eat left over sauerkraut, kombucha scobies and kefir grains. There is a blog on my website more about how to do this, here
- Sunflower seeds heat the chickens bodies up a little, so, if you are like me and grow sunflowers for them, then cut the head off, let the dry out and save them as a treat for the winter months instead.
- Once upon a time I planted amaranth in the garden and now it’s self-seeded everywhere (and requires no watering, or taking care of in any way), I let it grow everywhere and pull a plant up every other day and throw it to the chickens and quails, they love the seeds and leaves.
- If a chicken goes broody (sitting on eggs) then let her stay there for a couple of weeks (so you collect more eggs from other chickens who will lay around her), then move her and the eggs somewhere separate so when the eggs start to hatch the babies don’t get killed by the other chickens
- If none of the eggs your chicken is sitting on hatch (after 21 days), then you can give the hen chicks you buy from somewhere else, as long as they are very young and they go directly under her. If you put them anywhere but under her (like by the side of her), she won’t believe they are hers and will kill them
- Chicken manure is amazing for your onions (and the whole onion family)
- You don’t need to buy straw for bedding, just put grass clippings, ferns or weeds (green or dry) into the coop as bedding instead (they’ll love looking for bugs in these too)
- If you are unsure if your eggs are fresh or not you can put them in water and if they float they are not
- If you put your eggs upside down (pointy side down) in your egg boxes they will keep longer
- If you wash your eggs they won’t stay fresh for very long (as you open the pores in the shell of the eggs and they quickly go off)
Thanks for reading and do ask any questions or add any additional learnings you have below.
For more healthy hints, tips and recipes check out my books on this link here.
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