Many people are discovering the joys of keeping chickens – they can be affectionate, low-maintenance companions with unique personalities. Chickens are also a great source of fresh eggs and can help with pest control in your garden. Here are some tips to ensure your new feathered friends stay happy and healthy.
What is the best way to keep your chickens happy and healthy?
Provide a secure coop
Your chickens need a safe and secure coop to roost at night. The coop should be well-ventilated, predator-proof, and have enough space for all of your chickens to roost comfortably on rounded perches. You will also need at least one nest box per 4 hens.
Give them space to roam
Chickens need space to scratch, peck, and forage. Ensure they have access to a spacious outdoor run or free-range area to explore and find food.
Feed them a balanced diet
A balanced diet is essential for your chickens’ health. Of course, chickens will eat grass, scraps and insects. However, you will also need to provide them with good-quality chicken feed that contains all the essential nutrients such as grains, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals they need, as well as plenty of fresh water. For laying hens, calcium in the form of limestone flour needs to make up 4-5% of their diet, as they put a lot of calcium into egg shells.
Foods to avoid feeding to chickens
Avocado, green potatoes, rhubarb leaves, parsnip, parsley and celery are all poisonous to chickens, so they should not be fed.
Keep their environment clean
Clean out their coop and nesting boxes regularly to prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria. Provide clean bedding, such as straw or wood shavings, and remove any soiled bedding promptly.
Monitor their health
Watch for any signs of illness or injury in your chickens, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, or abnormal behaviour. If you suspect one of your chickens is unwell, isolate them from the rest of the flock and seek advice from a veterinarian.
Give them attention and affection
Chickens are social creatures that enjoy human interaction. Spend time with them, talk to them, and provide them with toys and enrichment activities to keep them mentally stimulated.
Monitoring the health of your chickens
Even when you provide excellent care and practice biosecurity, your chickens can still get sick. So be on the lookout for indicators of some common illnesses:
When to see the vet
If you notice your chicken is sick, it has probably been off-colour for several days. Chicken have a preservation reflex to hide illness from their flock mates to avoid being picked on, so it is important to seek vet care straight away if you notice any of the following:
- Severe or persistent lethargy: If your chicken is extremely weak, unresponsive, or has been lethargic for several days, this may indicate a serious illness that requires veterinary attention.
- Refusal to eat or drink: If your chicken has stopped eating or drinking for more than 24 hours, this may indicate a serious health issue that requires veterinary attention.
- Respiratory problems: If your chicken is having difficulty breathing, has severe coughing or wheezing, or is exhibiting other respiratory symptoms, this may indicate a respiratory infection or other serious illness that requires veterinary care.
- Severe diarrhoea: If your chicken is experiencing severe or persistent diarrhoea, this can quickly lead to dehydration and other serious health problems that require veterinary attention.
- Abnormal or severe bleeding: If your chicken is bleeding from the beak, vent, or other areas, this may indicate an injury or serious health issue that requires veterinary care.
- Neurological symptoms: If your chicken is exhibiting seizures, convulsions, or other abnormal neurological symptoms, this may indicate a serious illness or injury that requires immediate veterinary attention.
- Unusual behaviour: If your chicken is showing unusual behaviour such as extreme aggression, disorientation, or loss of balance, this may indicate a serious health issue that requires veterinary attention.
If you are unsure whether your chicken needs to see a vet, it is always best to err on the side of caution and seek professional advice, give us a call or make an appointment at your local Anexa clinic.