Keeping chickens healthy is not at all a difficult task, but there are some important basics to remember. If you keep these few things in mind, your chickens are sure to lead long, happy lives – and even better yet, their egg production will be more reliable!
- Diet and exercise.
With how much you’ve heard doctors, nutritionists, personal trainers, and your mother keep nagging you about this – it should come as no surprise that it’s equally important for keeping chickens healthy.
Determining the ideal chicken diet is as easy as imagining what they would eat in the wild, and adjusting it to be as close as possible. Chickens, if left to their own devices, would mostly consume grass, various weeds, and plenty of insects. A lot of this is easily provided with free-ranging time, and by adding a chicken run to your coop.
Because your chicken’s natural diet would contain a significant amount of proteins and healthy fats, it’s important to choose your chicken’s feed wisely to ensure that it can step in to provide the same nutrients while your chickens aren’t out in the yard finding it themselves.
Chickens may not need to take a daily multivitamin like we do, but variety is a necessity for keeping chickens healthy. This, in addition to exercise and entertainment, is easily provided with their time in the yard.
High-quality commercial feeds supply enough nutrients that frequent supplementation is not necessary. My personal favorite commercial feed mixture is H&H Soy-free Grain-Lay, an organic feed mixture that is based off of high-protein whole grains, rather than feeds that are cheaply formulated with a corn base.
Primarily corn-based feeds are often lower in quality and lack many of the nutrients necessary to live long, healthy lives and lay strong-shelled, flavorful eggs.
Boredom and stress can be detrimental to anyone’s happiness, but in serious cases, it can be a not-so-silent killer for chickens. They may become stir-crazy; picking more fights with one another that can be as small as a few plucked feathers to fatally wounding another bird.
Stress and boredom are easily alleviated with the addition of a chicken run, enough space to explore, an area where they may freely dust bathe, and/or free-ranging time in an open space where they can forage and do all of their natural activities.
- Know the sometimes subtle signs of illness.
Birds, in general, all seem to tick the same way in one aspect: some illnesses do not show obvious signs until it’s too late.
Why? If every little ailment was readily visible to the naked eye, predators would target the weaker birds, and their numbers would drop faster than they could keep up with. While it’s annoying for us as poultry owners, this system is very efficient in the wild!
An important part of keeping chickens healthy is developing a keen eye for the small changes in behavior, so that you can catch illness before they develop into something serious.
Watch for things such as lethargy or sleeping more frequently, a drastic change in stool consistency and color, or even a pale comb and wattles. There are some other symptoms to watch for that I will go into further detail with very soon, so stay tuned!