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Easy Chicken Care Tasks to Make Part of Your Routine

Having a flock of chickens requires some tasks that you need to tend to on a regular basis. These chores will keep your hens happy, healthy, and safe. Chicken care does not have to be complicated.

Daily Chicken Care Tasks
Check the water, and clean/refill it as needed. Make sure your hens always have a clean source of fresh water. Chickens dont like to drink dirty water, and they can dehydrate if they are without a clean drinking source even for a short time. Shavings, straw, and poop can get in the water throughout the day and muck it up. 

So refresh the water if you notice any debris or sliminess in the container. Use dish soap and water for regular cleanings, and rinse well before refilling. Also, you can use chlorine bleach or oxygen bleach as needed to sanitize the water container, as long as you rinse it thoroughly.

  • Feed the chickens. You can free feed your chickens with a large hanging feeder, adding the chicken feed as needed. Or you can feed them a set amount each day.
  • Collect eggs. Collecting eggs daily ensures that they are as clean as possible. It also minimizes cracked eggs and maximizes freshness.
  • Observe the chickens. Spend some time with the flock, observing the chickens to make sure they are healthy. Active, alert chickens with bright eyes and smooth feathers are a good sign.
Monthly Chicken Care Tasks
Manage the bedding. How you do this depends on the litter method you are using. For flocks that only have a small area, typically change the bedding in the coop at least monthly. But flocks in larger spaces can use the deep litter method. For this method, begin with 3 to 4 inches of bedding. Each month (or when droppings build up), add more bedding until you have 6 inches or more. Then, remove all the bedding twice a year and start over. Moreover, you can compost chicken litter for use in the garden; it is rich in nitrogen.

Freshen the nest boxes. When the bedding in the nest box becomes soiled with poop or broken eggs, pull out the dirty parts and put in fresh bedding material. This helps to keep your hens laying in the nest boxes, and it makes the job of cleaning eggs easier.

Sanitize the waterers. At least monthly, you should give the water containers a deep clean. Sanitize them with your choice of solution; the simplest is 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. Then, scrub the waterers with dish soap and warm water, and rinse well to remove any remaining bleach and soap before refilling with fresh water.

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Poultry Health & Management for the Small Flock

Whether for eggs or for meat, in order to have success with your small or large poultry flock, you need to make sure you start and end with a healthy flock. This is best done through proper management and prevenattive practices. However, as a livestock owner, it is likely that you will have to deal with sick animals at some point. 

Being able to identify a disease issue in your flock will also aid you in the decision-making process and in preventing continued outbreaks. With an extensive number of diseases and disorders that could enter your flock, use this as a guide on how to manage and prevent some of the major diseases that could impact your small flock.

Understanding Disease Transmission
Diseases are something we work hard to prevent, but on occasion they manage to creep into our flocks. Direct causes of disease can be either infectious or non-infectious. Infectious causes of disease include pathogenic viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi, and protozoa. Indirect, non-infectious, causes of disease include nutritional imbalance, injury, toxins, and excessive stress. Effective control of disease requires an understanding of how diseases are introduced and spread.

Pathogenic bacteria enter the body of the chicken in several ways; through the digestive system, the respiratory system, and through cuts and wounds. Depending on where the bacteria settle and the conditions they encounter, the infection they cause can either be chronic (long term), or acute (short term, frequently resulting in death). Viral pathogens generally enter a chickens body through the respiratory or digestive system, but can also gain access through the eye or a wound, including an injection site. 

To Know Abnormal, We Must Know Normal
With so many diseases to keep track of, it is more important to know how to identify sick poultry in order to prevent diseases from entering your flock in the first place. Observe your flock regularly so that you know what is normal and abnormal, looking not only at appearance but behavior as well. 

Early detection is critical in controlling spread of disease and future outbreaks. Once you observe clinical signs of disease (i.e.  the more obvious indications that thereís a problem), it is usually too late. Refer to the table below for some of the early signs that may indicate a problem before compared to normal behavior.

Normal

  1. They are curious, whimsical, and are constantly pecking around and scratching at the ground.
  2. Their wattles and combs should be bright in color, eyes clear, and feathers shiny.
  3. Chickens usually lay aobut one egg a day.
  4. Depending on size and type of bird, they will usually consume around 1/4 pound of feed per day (more for turkeys).
  5. They will drink on average 1 quart of water per pound of food consumed  more in hot weather.
Abnormal

  • Lethargic, inactive, depressed, or segregated from the rest of the flock.
  • Appear dull, droopy or sunken.
  • Reduced egg production.
  • Decreased weight gain/weight loss. 
  • Decreased feed and/or water intake.
Clinical signs of disease may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Lameness; Paralysis of leg or wing
  • Labored breathing, wheezing, gasping, or coughing
  • Swollen combs or eyes
  • Red, runny eyes
  • Nasal discharge
  • Death

Prevention is the Best Treatment
You can prevent a majority of bacterial, viral, and parasitic diseases by controlling the environment in which you raise your chickens and by practicing good animal husbandry techniques. Extremes in the environment cold, heat, humidity; overcrowding; access to toxins and rodents can all contribute to diseases and disorders in the flock, such as cannibalism and heat stress. 

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