How to Raise Backyard
Chickens - FAQ for Backyard Chicken Care
Backyard chickens used
to be something that everyone did in the past. People kept chickens, a
pig and grew vegetables in order to put food on the table. If you had
the space you kept a house cow too. Today we grow useless lawn instead,
and spend the same number of hours maintaining it as we would a
vegetable garden with nothing to show for it.
People keep chickens today for a number of reasons. I, for one, keep
chickens because I want fresh eggs that have been produced in a clean
environment from chickens who are allowed to free-range and are not
medicated in any way. My eggs have lovely orange yolks, my girls lay
and egg about 6 days out of 7, and although I spoil them with
sweetcorn, spinach, cabbage etc. and it may not always be cost
effective to have them, I wouldn't have it any other way.
My backyard chickens also provide me with some wonderful, free manure
for my garden.
Raising backyard chickens is easy as long as you follow
some simple rules:
- good feed
- clean hen coops
- plenty of fresh
water with a little cider vinegar in the water as a boost to your
- dose of yogurt for the digestive system
Backyard Chickens and Hen Coops
You cannot keep chickens unless you have adequate shelter for them.
Your hen coop should shelter your chickens from the wind, rain,
draughts and sun, as well as from snakes, wild birds and foxes.
constructed our hen coop with small diameter square wire specifically
to protect our chickens from snakes as we live in an area where there
are a lot of these horrible creatures.
Your hen coops should
also have good drainage and ideally on a concrete floor. If your coop
doesn't drain and is always wet this will breed disease.
you need to protect your backyard chickens from draughts and wind, on
the other side, your chickens should also be given good ventilation to
their hen coops.
Finally don't overcrowd the coop. Only stock
the hen coop with the right number of chickens to keep down the chance
of illness and disease. Now that the children have gone off
pursue their own lives there is just my husband and I at home, and we
have 3 laying hens that keep us in enough eggs. When we have a surplus,
which isn't that often as I also do a fair amount of baking, then I
give the eggs away to friends and neighbours who don't have chickens of
If you are raising chickens in your backyard or homestead, then
read up on how to care for them with these questions and answers. See
how to avoid chicken diseases with good chicken
care and management. We have a lot of other pages on raising backyard
chickens. See the links for these at the bottom of the page.
We have several pages on raising
successfully, along with some pages on
free chicken coop plans
, so grab a cuppa, and spend some time
getting to know your chickens.
How to Raise Backyard Chickens - Liver Disease
have hens which seem well in every respect up to the time of their
combs changing color, when they die within three days. The combs turn a
faint yellow, almost white; they are heavy, have their usual appetite
up to the lost 24 hours. I have treated by giving small doses of Castor
oil in the drinking water, feeding on dry mash with
plenty of green feed. There is no tendency to lameness nor limp neck.
The droppings are loose and very white.
The hens are victims of
jaundice, which is a form of liver
caused by over-feeding on rich starchy foods that also causes hens to
become over fat. However, at the end of the laying season and the
beginning of the molt you will lose some hens, even when
kept under the best conditions, and especially hens that are fairly
old. What you have done for them is fine, however, if your hens don't
improve in a couple of days the hatchet cure is the only option.
Healthy Backyard Chickens
How to Raise Backyard Chickens - Rupture of Oviduct
have had two other hens die suddenly when on the nest. The second one
- we opened and found one egg broken near the vent and another with
shell formed ready to be laid.
Rupture of the oviduct was probably the cause of the hens dying on the
nest and is due to the same condition in the hens; that is, the
straining to expel the egg necessary in the engorged condition of the
internal organs from being too fat.
Feeding Backyard Chickens Melons
feeding chickens, have
"stock melons" or "citrons" any merit as a green food for laying
hens? Are the seeds of the above bad for hens?
Stock melons are fine for feeding backyard chickens if other succulent
materials are scarce, but they are inferior to alfalfa and other
clovers. The seeds won't do them any harm.
Feeding Rape and Vetch to Backyard Chickens What
time do you sow rape and vetch and are they good for chickens?
They are good for backyard chickens or for any other stock that likes
greens. They are winter growers and should be sown
in the fall as soon as the land is moist enough to keep them growing,
or just as soon as you can get it moist either by rainfall or
Neither plant likes dry heat or dry soil.
Backyard Chickens and Preserving Chicken Eggs
What is a good way to
preserve eggs for home use?
You can preserve eggs in a cool cellar, eggs will keep very
well in a mixture of common salt
and bran. Use equal parts, mix well, and as you gather the eggs from
to day pack with big end down in the mixture and see that the eggs are
Waterglass eggs are good enough for cooking purposes, but when
boiled anyone that knows the taste of a strictly fresh egg can tell the
difference in an instant; when fried the taste is not so pronounced,
but it is there just the same; besides, when broken, they are a little
watery. This watery condition passes off if left to stand for a few
The best way is to use the waterglass method, is one quart of
waterglass to ten quarts of water. Boil the water and put away to cool,
when cold add the waterglass, mixing well, and store in 3 or 5-gallon
crocks in a cool place. They will keep six months if good when put in.
In all cases the eggs must be gathered very fresh, for one stale egg
will spoil the whole lot, so great care is needed. For more
information see our page on spring time on the farm.
Backyard Chickens and Lice Treatment
How do you dip hens to
To dip chickens you must have a very warm day, or a warm room
where you can
turn them in to dry. Be very careful that the liquid does not get in
the fowl's throat. It is best to make the hen
sit down and with a sponge wet the back and head thoroughly, then under
the wings and breast; if there are nits, don't be in a hurry to take
the hen out, but let the dip get to the nits and skin on the abdomen.
If the water is too warm it will be dangerous, as some fowls
hearts; that is the only danger, providing you dry them quickly.
Give them a final shower using some tea-tree oil in the water.
A tablespoonful in a liter of water should do it. Add a couple of drops
to the feathers on a daily basis until the invasion clears up.
your chicken coops out and clean thoroughly including perches, hoppers
Curing Backyard Chickens of Eating their Feathers
What is the cure for
Feather eating is the result of being bored or a shortage of
The best way to cure it is to give your chickens exercise. Boil
some oats until soft, and when cooked stir in salt enough to taste and
about a quart of good beef scrap; feed this for breakfast several
Make them scratch for the rest of their food in deep litter
and give them sour milk to drink if you have it. The object is to give
them some interest. See that the fowls are supplied with mineral
matter, such ash shells, bone meal and
some sand if it can be had. It is surprising the amount of sand that
chickens will eat when carried to them in yards, so there must be a
necessity for it, and if they cannot get to it, it pays to carry a good
once in a while.
Cannibalism in Backyard Chickens
can I do to cure my chicks of eating each other?
Some kind of animal food is necessary when the chickens begin
toes, wings and vents. But the meat must always be cooked, the least
bit of raw meat drives them wild as does the blood they can bring on
each other. For that reason a strict watch must be kept to detect any
before they get to that stage.
Remove all weak chicks as they always go for the weakest, and
as soon as one
chick is picked on for a victim, remove it at once. Paint the toes
bitter aloes mixed with water. It is best to
buy a powder, then dissolve in a little water and paint wings, vent and
toes. They won't take many pecks at them when they find they are so
Feeding Backyard Chickens Sunflower Seeds
is the food value of sunflower seed as a ration for fowls, mostly
laying hens? Should sunflowers be fed whole or crushed?
Sunflower seed is rich in oil, having the same proportion as
otherwise it rates in value the same as grain. A little, not too much,
fed whole is a nice treat for the fowls and is said to make
their feathers shine for birds for shows.
Clipping Backyard Chickens for Cleanliness
My chickens foul all
the feathers below the vent; they appear healthy, but
do not look nice. What can I do?
Take a pair of scissors and clip the fluff away from that part
abdomen, give a teaspoonful of olive oil, and notice of they have any
discharge that is of an offensive color or odor.
Sometimes it is nothing but pure laziness with hens of the
large breeds that
causes this matting together of the fluff below the vent. We rarely see
hens of the
small breeds so affected. Whenever a hen soils her feathers clip her at
and, in fact, it is a good custom to follow up in any case. When hens
are very heavily fluffed it interferes with the fertility of the eggs.
In such cases there is not anything for it but use the scissors.
Backyard Chickens - Bowel Trouble in Young Chicks
What is the cause of
bowel trouble in young chicks, and what to do for
Bowel trouble in very young chicks is usually caused by a
chill. It is
very hard for us here to believe chicks get chilled because, not
feeling the cold ourselves, we forget that chicks have really undergone
a violent change from incubator to the outside atmosphere.
Great care should be taken in moving chicks from incubator to
brooder oven, and also in seeing that the brooder itself is warm and
fit to receive the chicks. If one is careless in these
matters the chicks feel the change and suffer from bowel
Sometimes, of course, the trouble may be traced to the food,
but more often it comes from a chill. The best way to cure it is to
remove the chicks to new ground at once, or if in a brooder, clean it
out well and spray with some disinfectant. Boil all the water that is
given to the chicks and feed boiled rice once or twice a day in which a
little cinnamon is mixed. Do not put in too much or they will not eat
it, keep all meat away and just feed dry chick feed and boiled rice. No
oatmeal or any other cereal but the rice; if chicks won't eat it, feed
dry chick feed and boiled water and a little lettuce.
Backyard Chickens - Quick Roosters and Laying Hens
How can I get the young
roosters off quick and the hens to lay in
These two happy results come from correct methods of poultry
from the ground up. To get the cockerels off quick, they must be
hatched from strong-germed eggs, incubated properly and kept growing
first jump out of the shell. To get eggs in winter the pullets must
come from the same conditions. Very few hens will lay in the early
under any conditions.
Keeping Backyard Chickens in the Orchard
Kindly advise me about
keeping hens in an orchard. I would like to know
if they will injure the trees in any way if kept in large numbers. In
what way would they benefit the trees?
the point of view of the trees there is no doubt that they would be
advantaged by the presence of the poultry, providing the coops are not
allowed to interfere with the proper irrigation and cultivation. If it
is practical to handle the fowls in coops without causing the soil
around the coops to become compacted by continual tramping, and if they
are not kept on the ground long enough to cause an excessive
application of hen manure, which is very concentrated and stimulating,
the result would unquestionably be beneficial.
From the point of view of the tree, this benefit would depend
on how long the
fowls were kept around the tree and how they are cared for in such a
way that the soil should not get out of condition physically or too
chemically for the satisfactory performance of the tree. If the
backyard chickens can be moved frequently, and if they are only put in
place when the soil is in such condition that tramping around the coops
will not seriously
compact it, the presence of fowls would be an advantage.
On the other hand, if the coops are to be kept in place for a
long time and all the ground
outside of them crusted and hardened by tramping and the soil under the
coops overloaded with droppings, the trees will become very stressed
and therefore keeping chickens in the orchard would not be a wise
Caponizing Backyard Chickens
Can three to four month
old cockerels be caponized successfully in
summer, and if so, what care, feed, etc., do they require afterwards?
The birds should be between two to three months, not over
you have some very large variety that matures slowly. Size is equally
important as age, and a bird you wish to caponize should not weigh more
than one and a half pounds. The work can be successfully done in the
but the fowl must be kept without food or drink for at least 24 hours,
longer is better and keep in shady place.
After caponizing, feed the bird what soft feed he will eat up
and let him have plenty of water.
Then leave him to himself as he will be his own doctor. In two or three
days look them over and if there are any wind-balls, simply prick with
a needle to let the air out; this may have to be done two or three
times before the wound heals up, but after it has healed, treat just as
would other chickens and feed them about twice a day.
There is nothing made by trying to rush nature; it takes
fifteen months to grow a good
capon of the large breeds.
My chicks are about
three weeks old and have always been strong and
sturdy, but when taken sick first appear a little dumpish, then the
head seems a little heavy and the neck lengthens out. As the disease
advances they become staggery.
Your chicks have eaten soured food, decayed vegetables or
Baby chicks are just like other babies and the same care should be used
that their food be always sweet and fresh. Wet food should never be
given chicks, nor raw meat nor anything the least bit tainted or
Backyard Chickens and Open-Fronted Chicken Coops
In what direction can
I place an open-fronted chicken coops?
North or northeast is the proper direction to face the open
fronts of chicken
houses and coops when the prevailing winds are from the south and
southeast in the winter, and from the west
and southwest in the summer. The occasional north winds or "northers,"
may be called dry winds, in fact, are an indication of dry weather, and
so do not harm the fowls even when cold.
The upper half of the north-end or slide of poultry houses
with inch-mesh covering the open space and the eaves extending several
inches as a
protection is good. In case of an unusual storm from that direction,
of burlap may be tacked to the edge of the extending eaves, and to the
lower part of the opening. This will admit plenty of fresh air while
force of the wind. It is also good to have a large trap door for the
use of the backyard chickens, in the solid lower part of the open end,
and the large door, for cleaning and sunning the house, in the west
Mating Backyard Chickens
I have fine roosters a
year old; would you advise keeping them for mating with the same hens
next season, or do you advise selling each year and getting fresh stock?
The young males will be all right to mate with the same hens
- that is, if they come through the molt with vigor. They will be just
two years old and at their best. The molt is the test for both, hens
and cocks. If they show no signs of ailing or weakness during that
period, it is proof of the proper stamina and vigor.
How old must a Chicken be for Mating?
At what age may a
cockerel be mated with hens?
From nine months to a year is the proper age to mate a Leghorn
Cockerels of the larger breeds should not be mated before a year old.
Backyard Chickens and Laying Problems
Why is my back yard
eggs that are watery and light-colored?
The trouble is in the feed somewhere. Too much green feed,
especially green feed that springs from wet, soggy ground, will
sometimes make the
eggs watery. Or if you are feeding more mash feed than dry grain, it
will have that tendency. Some people claim that the feed a hen eats
does not affect the egg at all; but if it does not, why do eggs differ
color and quality? Eggs that are laid by hens fed wholly on wheat, or
the by-products of wheat, such as bran, shorts or middlings, all have a
pale yolk. Now feed the hens some green feed - any kind will do - and
the eggs from the same hens will have a yolk several degrees or shades
Backyard Chickens and Diarrhea
Will you kindly tell me
the cause and cure for bowel trouble among hens?
The "quick cure" for chicken diarrhea has not yet been found.
is the only sure remedy. The first treatment in diarrhea (which must
not be confused with simple looseness of the bowels) should be
to clean out the digestive tract. Epsom salts is probably best for this
purpose where a number of fowls are to be treated.
Clean out by giving Epsom salts in an evening mash,
estimating one-third to
one-half teaspoonful to each adult bird, or a teaspoonful to each six
half-grown chicks, carefully proportioning the amount of mash to the
appetite of the birds, so that it will be eaten up quickly.
For a few days afterward, feed only lightly with dry grain and
tender greens, such as fresh-cut mustard and lettuce leaves. Keep
pure, cool water, with a couple of tablespoons of some cider vinegar
included - for drinking; also plenty of sharp grit.
Backyard Chickens and Limber-Neck
A very peculiar disease
is taking off my fowls. The head of the fowl
bends down to the breast and the fowl looks like it's dead. There is
also a slight discharge from the mouth. The head and tail droop and if
the fowl could stand up they would almost touch.
When a fowl loses partial or entire control of the muscles of
the neck it is
or wry neck
or crook neck.
Limber-neck is regarded as a symptom rather than a disease, and may be
due to a number of causes, such as bacteria in the dirt, a vitamin
deficiency of Vitamin A, toxins in the system, injury or it
can even be hereditary.
For a few days the fowls should be fed on some light greens
sweet milk in which has been dissolved a level teaspoonful of baking
soda to every pint of milk, and also
allowed plenty of crisp, tender lettuce or similar greens. A little
Epsom salts should be added to the drinking water for a few days. This
treatment, if done at the start will work, but if the
poisoning has had its course long, nothing will save the bird.
Backyard Chickens and Cloth for Brooding Houses
Would some good grade
of white cloth on a frame do as well, or would it
be better than glass, for a brooder house, or would it keep out too
Cheesecloth, not heavy cloth, would be better than glass, so
far as the
sun is concerned. There would be none of the overheating during the
middle of the day followed by the chilling at night which are caused by
a large expanse of glass. On the other hand, there should not be
openings on opposite sides of the house to create a draft. Also, the
rat and vermin question must be considered. It might be necessary to
have wire screens made to fit firmly over the cloth at night.
Grain for Backyard Chickens
What variety of
grain for poultry food would be the best to grow,
with and also without irrigation?
Wheat is a standard grain for poultry feeding, and corn is
largely used. Corn is very successful on lands which are winter-plowed
and harrowed to retain moisture, very satisfactory results can be
secured by summer growth without irrigation from planting as soon as
frost danger is over.
Backyard Chickens and Feeding Laying Hens
Should soft feed be
given to the mothers of chicks intended for
broilers? How about dry mash? How would you advise feeding animal
Cut out all ground feed, except perhaps a little wheat bran.
may not get quite as many eggs, they will all have good strong germs
and the chicks will stand forcing to the limit, while if you force the
egg output you reduce the vitality of the germs and livability of
The only way to feed hens whose eggs are intended for hatching
chicks for broilers is to feed whole grain and make them exercise for
it, good green feed, or, better still, sprouted oats, and feed beef
scrap in a hopper all the time.
At first, while it is new, they may eat
more than you would give them but don't mind that they will regulate
the quantity in a few days better than you can. Get a good grade of
scrap and keep it in a hopper that will not let rain in or keep it
under cover and feed all the wheat and oats they require; if you are
green feed give them a bale of alfalfa hay to work on.
Backyard Chickens and Dry Mash Recipe
Will you give me a
formula for a dry mash?
A good homemade dry mash recipe for chickens is as follows:
Wheat bran, 5 pounds; middlings, 2 pounds; cracked corn, 2 pounds;
charcoal, 0.2 pounds; alfalfa meal 2 pounds; bone meal, 1.5 pounds;
blood-meal 1 pound; meat cracklings, if ground, 2 pounds; ground
oats or barley, 3 pounds. Give oyster shell separately and supply
fowls with good sharp grit.
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