7 Natural Chicken Keeping Mistakes New Owners Make

7 Natural Chicken Keeping Mistakes New Owners Make

The second we got our farm, natural chicken keeping became a priority.

 

The egg itself is said to be the perfect source of protein, and chickens are so easy to keep that they make sense for any farm.

 

Natural chicken keeping also has the added benefit of saving you money, as long as you do it right (and there certainly are times when it’s best to not cut financial corners.)

We’ve saved by using fermented feed, herbs to keep our chickens healthy, and using food we could easily grow on our farm.

 

Buuuut….

 

We also made mistakes. 

 

At one point, we went 6 months with no eggs. That’s a huge bummer, believe me!

 

We’ve also had chickens stop laying in nesting boxes—and had to figure our way out of that one! (hint: placing eggs where you want them to lay helps!)

But we improved and got better.

 

Trust me, as a chicken owner, you will make mistakes (which you’ll learn from and get better from!)

 

As I’ve gained more experience in natural chicken keeping, and become a resource for new hen owners, there are certain mistakes I see time and again.

 

Here’s the top 7 natural chicken keeping mistakes that you can avoid—and the chickens you have hunting and pecking in your backyard will thank you!

 

1. Worrying too much about the GMO/Non-GMO debate

 

I frequently get emails from new owners who want to know whether they should provide non-GMO feed, or who don’t know what to do because they can’t afford organic non-GMO layer mash.

 

The bottom line is the quality of your hen’s diet is the most important thing. If you can’t afford organic, non-GMO feed, then just opt for what you can afford.

 

While people will tell you that natural chicken keeping begins with feeding non-GMO, organic feed, it’s also about using naturally-found herbs, fermented grain and vegetables, or even crafting your own feed to raise healthy hens.

 

It’s more important that you enjoy your “pets with benefits” and feel good about them—and if you’re stressing about not being able to afford organic feed, or if you’re putting yourself in financial distress over it, then keeping a backyard chicken flock won’t be any fun. 

 

Do your best, and enjoy the parts of natural chicken keeping that are within your budget and time constraints.

 

2. Getting a rooster so your hens lay eggs

 

Every so often I encounter new owners who believe they need a rooster to get eggs from their hens, and that roosters are a part of natural chicken keeping.

 

One of the nice things about owning hens is they’ll lay eggs whether a rooster is present or not—you only need a rooster if you want eggs to hatch. 

 

(If you’re wondering how chickens mate, it’s pretty wild.)

 

Getting a rooster isn’t a bad idea, and it helps your hens feel safer and completes their social hierarchy, but you definitely don’t need a rooster to start all natural chicken keeping.

 

Which is good news if your town doesn’t allow them!

 

3. Underestimating chicken predators

 

Every time I hear about a new owner who loses their flock to a formidable predator, I feel terrible for them. 

 

There’s nothing more heartbreaking than working hard to raise a natural, healthy chicken flock only to have it ripped apart in one night by a raccoon. 

 

I’ve found that a lot of new chicken owners don’t realize just how crafty predators can be, and how much energy they’ll exert to get a free dinner.

 

Part of natural chicken keeping is making sure your flock stays safe. 
Sometimes new owners think chickens will be fine left to their own devices, but hens are pretty much defenseless against chicken predators

 

Usually, they either run away or fly up away from predators. Other than that, they don’t have many natural defenses.

 

You might not realize that predators aren’t just wild animals—domestic cats and dogs can cast an eye at your flock.

 

We made the same mistake, until we started losing them to our dog! I’ll never forget the day we learned that our dog, who was so great with people, was a chicken killer.

 

So, even if you don’t have wild predators, remember that a secure coop and run will help prevent your flock from becoming a chicken chew toy.

 

4. Assuming chickens will fend for themselves and stay healthy

 

Probably one of the biggest mistakes I see is when new owners assume that natural chicken keeping means letting the hens forage for their own sustenance.  

 

Natural chicken keeping doesn’t mean allowing your hens to fend for themselves, and if you go this route, you run the risk of unhealthy hens, no eggs.

 

You won’t believe how many emails I get from owners who aren’t getting eggs and have no idea that diet is the issue.

 

You might also lose chickens to predators as they stray further and further from their home.

 

Sometimes I read advice that it’s natural to allow a chicken flock to feed itself because our ancestors did it, but it’s simply not true.

 

For example, what happened in the winter with snow on the ground and nothing growing? Were the hens foraging then?

 

Natural chicken keeping doesn’t necessarily mean throwing chickens in your backyard and forgetting about them until you want eggs, but it’s a common mistake I see new owners making.

5. Thinking oyster shells and grit are the same thing

 

When I read Facebook posts from people trying to explain natural chicken keeping, they frequently say something like “give your hens oyster shells or grit to help them digest.”

 

While you should offer both to your chicken flock, oyster shells and grit serve two different purposes.

 

Oyster shells are used as a calcium supplement so your hens can form healthy, hard egg shells. 

 

Without some sort of calcium supplement, your hen might become deficient in the mineral.

 

She then might start to lay soft shell or other abnormal eggs, or she might start drawing calcium from her own bones to lay natural normal-looking eggs.

 

Grit, on the other hand, helps your hen digest food, and without it, she might develop an impacted crop or even sour crop.

 

Your hen will swallow the grit, and it will make it’s way into her gizzard, where the stones will sit and help “chew” whatever food she’s eaten.

 

So, each serves a very different purpose, and shouldn’t be confused (but both are equally important for your chicken.)

 

6. Using vinegar to clean wounds

 

While vinegar works well in natural cleaning solutions, it’s not a good idea to use it in wounds. 

 

I do see this advice from time to time, and it’s a common issue in my area.

 

Even my vet asked me whether I use vinegar to clean wounds when I brought a rabbit to see her, and was relieved to hear that I don’t use it.

 

Vinegar doesn’t have the same bacteria-killing qualities as alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, for example, and it simply won’t be as effective in preventing an infection.

 

You’ll be doing your chicken a disservice by using it.

Failing to learn about common illnesses and how to treat them

 

Although many of my readers DO try to learn about common chicken illnesses before getting a flock (and a hearty high-five to them!), many owners out there DON’T—and then use Facebook groups as a way to diagnose their chickens.

 

Similarly, about once a week I get a message over Facebook from an owner who asks me to diagnose their sick chicken—something that’s virtually impossible to do over social media.

 

While I feel for every flock owner out there with a sick hen, and it’s natural to want answers, don’t wait until you’re in trouble to learn about chicken illnesses.

 

There’s many natural remedies out there for common illnesses, but the time to learn about them is not when you have a sick chicken.

 

Learn about common ailments and how to treat them (natural remedies or conventional) before or as soon as you get your flock—life will get a lot simpler, and you’ll be better prepared to help your hen when she’s in trouble.

 

While as a new flock owner, you will likely make mistakes, natural chicken keeping is full of rewards—just give it your best shot!

I’d like to hear from you!

Is there anything on this list of natural chicken keeping mistakes you would add? Leave a comment below!

9 Ideas To Feed A Flock So Every Chicken Gets Food

9 Ideas To Feed A Flock So Every Chicken Gets Food

A chicken’s gotta eat, right? Especially if they’re layers. They must have the calcium required to put the shells on their eggs. The trick is making sure that every bird in your coop is getting exactly what they need. How can that be done? 

In this article, you’ll discover some ways you can make sure each and every one of your chickens eats enough so they’re healthy. Here’s our best tips to help ensure that each chicken is filling their belly!

How Much Food Do Chickens Need?

For reference, one adult hen or rooster eats roughly 1/4 pound of feed per day. This amounts to about 1.5 pounds per week. For hens, you’ll want to provide a high-quality layer feed (this is the feed we use). It should be a complete feed, meaning it has the right amount of protein, vitamins, and minerals so your chickens stay strong. For pullets (female chickens that aren’t laying eggs yet), you should feed a 16% grower feed or you can continue feeding their 18% protein chick starter feed (this is the chick starter we feed because it has herbs).

For layers, it’s also very important to provide a calcium supplement. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, “laying birds require 3.5%–6% calcium because of the nutritional demand for laying eggs (a typical egg requires ~2 g of calcium).” You can easily provide extra calcium with oyster shells, or even eggshells. 

Keep track of how much your chickens are eating. If you go to check on them, and there’s significantly less feed being eaten by the flock, it could indicate a problem. You can learn more about feed here.

Signs Your Hens Aren’t Eating Enough

Some obvious signs your chickens aren’t eating enough include:

  • Low weight/Easy to feel bones
  • Pronounced keel bone
  • Reduced egg production
  • Abnormal eggs
  • Disheveled feathers
  • Depressed personality
  • Keeping eyes closed

Low weight/Easy to feel bones

If you’ve noticed your hens have lost weight – maybe you pick them up, and they feel lighter, or you suddenly notice you can feel their thigh bones through their skin – it’s possible they aren’t eating enough. 

You might wonder how much your chicken should weigh. Truthfully, it depends on the breed. For example, Mille Fleurs weigh about 2-3 pounds, while Jersey Giants can weigh 10 pounds. In this article, you’ll discover the average weight for most chicken breeds. You can print it out and keep it handy. It’s always a good idea to keep records of how much your chickens weigh (to make it easy, we’ve created these downloadable sheets). Assuming they’re in good health, weighing your chickens monthly should be enough (if they’ve been sick, and you’re trying to get weight back on them, then you might opt to weigh them weekly.)

Pronounced keel bone

I personally use the keel bone (also called the breast bone) to keep an eye on my flock. If I pick up a hen and notice her keel bone is pronounced, she goes on a high fat/high protein diet (for example, black soldier fly larvae) until her weight is ideal. 

The keel bone is a good indicator of whether your poultry are underweight. Image is an illustration of a turkey skeleton.

How should the keel bone feel? Like there’s some padding on each side of it. You should still feel the bone itself, but it shouldn’t feel like there’s a dramatic dip on either side. If my hen “just feels bony” in that area, I get concerned. It’s a quick and easy test to check if your flock is getting enough calories. 

This is also an easy test regardless of breed. Every chicken, whether they’re a tiny Serama bantam or a huge Brahma, should have some substantial muscle on each side of their keel bone. 

Reduced egg production

Sure, this is something that comes with age. And for some chicken breeds, this happens as days get shorter. But if you can’t identify any other reason why your hens might have stopped laying (you can learn about all the reasons here), then she might not be getting enough calories. 

Imagine going to collect eggs from your hens on a beautiful summer day, only to find that one of them hasn’t produced anything. If it is a one-time occurrence, that’s not a huge problem. It’s something to watch, certainly. But not the end of the world. If she doesn’t lay over several days, on the other hand…you might want to bump up their feed. This is especially true if most or all of your hens stop laying.

A quick and simple fix is to offer layer feed around the clock. If you want, you can also add high protein & high fat treats.

Abnormal eggs

If your hens are laying, but the eggs are abnormally shaped, such as wrinkled or soft shelled, or if your established laying hen lays “fairy eggs,” this could be a sign that your chickens aren’t getting the necessary nutrients. (Fairy eggs are common for brand new layers to produce, but your adult layer shouldn’t be popping them out consistently). 

It takes a lot of energy to produce an egg. If your hen doesn’t get calories from her feed or from free ranging, she runs a higher risk of laying eggs with shells that aren’t smooth. It’s time to increase her feed. You can learn more about what different weird-looking eggs mean in this in depth article.

Feather damage 

Feathers are durable and tough, but damage to them is often the first indication of something that might be wrong (as long as it’s not molting season). Picking at feathers, or even out-of-season molting, could be a sign that your birds’ diets are not ideal. Additionally, if your hen has a disheveled appearance, for example if her feathers are broken or ruffled, she might be lacking important nutrients. 

Don’t confuse this with molting (although you should definitely provide a feather supplement during a molt). Chickens who lose their feathers and then regrow them can definitely look disheveled. However, this is expected, and occurs in the fall/winter. If your hen has an unkempt appearance at other times of the year, her diet might be the reason.

Depressed personality/Keeping eyes closed

Sometimes our hens seem “off.” They’re usually bright and cheerful. But if you enter their coop, and they just seem depressed and low energy, you might have a problem on your hands. Similarly, unless she’s trying to take a nap, your chicken should be interested in her environment. But if your chicken keeps her eyes closed – even after you rouse her – she might be sick. You’ll have to rule out illness first. If the vet clears her, then try increasing how much feed you offer, especially if you feel her keel bone (using the test above). It’s possible she doesn’t feel well because she’s hungry!

How Can I Help Every Chicken In My Flock Get Food?

Observation

This is kind of a bizarre tip. But it is nonetheless important. In fact, it’s pretty critical! Before you can figure out how to help chickens who aren’t eating enough, you need to know why they’re not eating enough! So, watch your chickens for a few hours. Figure out their social structures, and diagnose the problem that’s preventing some hens from eating. If you notice there’s some flock members who aren’t able to get to their dinner, you can troubleshoot ways to ensure that everyone is fed. 

For example, if you notice a very bossy hen keeps your little bantams from the feeder, you can add more feeders (more on this below).

Or, maybe you think you’re providing enough feed, but really aren’t. Maybe they run out after 10 minutes, and there’s nothing left for the weaker flock members.  But you won’t know unless you observe.

You’ll also get a better understanding of the eating habits of your birds. Pay attention to the amounts of feed that you’re putting into their feeders, or distributing on the ground, and you’ll get a sense of the amounts being eaten – or worse – not being eaten. 

I’ve found that observation is very important in my own coop. For example, my bantam Cochin hens love staying up in the loft in their coop. They don’t really like coming down. We used to have a lot of roosters in the coop. Staying above the crowd was safer! 

Now that there;s fewer roosters, they still prefer to stay above the fray at mealtimes. They just don’t like being overwhelmed. However, they don’t always eat as much as their flock mates. So, I take extra care to put a bowl of feed where THEY can access it. 

Similarly, my frizzle bantams are lower on the pecking order. They can’t really fly, and will crowd into a corner at mealtime. Having multiple feeders – and strategically placing them – keeps them full all the time. But if I hadn’t watched how each individual chicken acts at mealtimes, I would never know!

Only Keep As Many Chickens As You Can Reasonably Care For

This seems like an obvious thing, but chicken math is a real issue. If you suddenly end up with 100 chickens, you’ll probably have a hard time keeping an eye on all of them. Little problems can creep in and become big problems. For example, if you have a large flock, you probably have a pretty well-established pecking order. Your alpha chickens eat first, and the more passive hens eat last. It’s also possible your bossy brood won’t allow the weaker flock members to eat at all. Yes, it happens!

Only raise as many chickens as you can reasonably keep an eye on. This goes double if you’re a busy person who doesn’t spend a ton of time at home! You must monitor their health, and do a physical check regularly.

Money is another concern. The more chickens you have, the more money it costs to feed them. If you’re on a budget, just get a few hens. You’ll have an easier time making sure everyone gets enough to eat. Nothing is worse than stressing about how to pay for a ton of chicken feed every week! In our area, if we had to purchase a ton (literally 2,000 pounds) of feed, it would cost $200-$300 each week. And that’s from a grain mill (which typically charge a lot less), not a farm store like Tractor Supply. 

Hand Feeding

Hand feeding is a fantastic way to make sure that your birds are eating, especially if you have a friendly flock. By being in control of the dispensation of grains, pellets, and goodies, you can manage exactly which chickens get what. It’s also a great way to bond with your flock! Some treat options are layer feed, black soldier fly larvae, or other treats

Hand feeding chickens is an easy way to give them extra calories. It’s also an easy chore for kids, and a great way to teach your children about raising chickens.

The biggest drawback to this method of feeding is time. Hand feeding is incredibly time-consuming, especially when we’re talking about large flocks of hundreds of chickens. This idea is probably best with small flocks of 3-5 chickens. 

Multiple Feeders

Having multiple feeders is critical if you have a larger flock OR if you have bullies in your coop. I personally install 2 feeders for every 6 chickens. You can hang the feeders or simply use a bowl (we use a LOT of bowls because they’re easy to clean). For wall feeders, I personally like Duncan’s feeders because they’re durable and hold a lot of feed. I also use large dog bowls, rubber livestock bowls, and feeders that hang from the ceiling. If you’re interested, you can check out our complete list of recommended feeders. 

Look out for chickens who feel overly possessive and decide that the feed trough is theirs. These chickens will peck away any other birds (ducks included). In this case, a long trough or multiple dishes can certainly make it a challenge for the possessive chicken to peck everyone away.

I just distribute their layer feed among each bowl (this is the layer feed we use).

It’s also important to include some feeders that can be accessed from all sides. For example, if you use feeders that hang on the wall, your hens will only be able to eat on one side. But if you also have feeders that hang from the ceiling, your layers have multiple opportunities to eat their grain. It’s also harder for bossy chickens to chase away flock mates, because they’ll probably be too busy eating their own meal.

Trough style feeders make it easy to feed multiple chickens. Flock members can access the feed from both sides.

Hanging feeders off the ground also makes it difficult for chickens to kick dirt or mud into their food (feed that drops from the container, on the other hand, are fair game for dirtying).

If that doesn’t work for your flock, you can opt for long troughs. They’re easily accessible from front and back, which ensure that each hen has enough time with the feed.  You will probably have to clean them more often, but you’ll sleep better at night.

Even one-at-a-time feeders can promote even distribution of feed to all in the flock. Many are automatic or contain a pressure trigger that opens when a chicken steps on it. Over the course of a whole day, this ensures that feed is available to all. Whichever strategy you choose, it’s important to ensure an even dispersal of feed to all. The best feeders are those that can satisfy the needs of many birds at the same time. 

Not sure how to add multiple feeders to a smaller coop? One way to manage limited space is by going up, rather than out. If you create a triple (or quadruple) floored loft for your birds, you could set up feeding stations on each level. The chickens might develop a favorite feeding place, and refilling their feeders might required some creativity, but overall, this would be a very creative use of space. 

Scatter Their Feed On The Ground

Owners who want their chickens to have the full free-ranging experience can opt to distribute their birds’ feed right into the earth of the pen. This encourages the hens to root, peck, and scratch, all of which are very good for them. By spreading the distribution of feed all throughout the penned area, no single chicken can get all the goodies. Setting the flock loose in an exhausted garden can also accomplish this goal. Your chickens will tear up weeds, till the ground, and feast on any remaining produce. Chickens make for amazing gardeners – it couldn’t hurt to use them for a task they were built for!

One of the biggest drawbacks to this method is that can be quite messy, and your chickens might eat something gross. Chickens poop a lot, and if all of their food is on the ground, some of it is bound to get pooped on. Then, in addition to healthy bits, your layers will also get some unhealthy bits as well. Another drawback is bad weather. Not every backyard can be in lovely sunny 60 to 70 degree climates every day. Most yards will experience rain, possibly some snow, and both extreme heat and cold. All of this can create challenges. 

Separate Chickens Depending On Age & Need

Chickens need different feeds depending on their ages and purposes (for example, chicks vs. 12-weekers vs. 2-year-olds, broilers vs. layers). If you feed your chicks along with your layers, it’s likely your birds will get the wrong food. It’s simplest to keep adults and chicks separated. 

It will keep them eating the right food. Just ask any physical trainer, and they’ll tell you that what you eat is just as important as how you exercise. It is exactly the same for your chickens. It also reduces the numbers in your flock at mealtime. Smaller numbers mean more food for each individual. It ensures every bird has greater access to the feed that you’re giving them. 

Similarly, if you have some bossy hens who are overweight, and some very passive hens that are more scrawny, you might want to keep them separated at meal time. You can be sure each chicken gets exactly what they require to be healthy.

Not everyone has the space to separate their chickens depending on age. Luckily, we’ve provided an article on what to do in such a situation. The secret is balance. Ask “what’s the best feed for all the chickens in my flock?” You’ll probably decide on a 16% grower feed, as this is a decent balance between chick needs and adult needs. The hens will need a calcium supplement (which can be supplied separately), but at least everyone gets enough food. 

Variety

Just giving all of your birds chicken feed from a store can keep them eating, but it might grow old for them. Yes, this is really a thing! Imagine eating corn every day, in and out. You’d probably get bored too! 

By providing small amounts of treats, you’ll distribute all sorts of goodies and entertainment. You can try hand feeding their treats, and the variety will keep them engaged and happy. It also shows your love to them, and can satisfy certain needs that otherwise might be ignored in store-bought feed. Plus, it is just plain fun interacting with your birds this way!

Final Thoughts

While this article is designed to be preventative, rather than reactionary, a wise chicken keeper knows that their flock will need constant supervision. Chickens are incredibly social animals. Each one has their own personality, and sometimes their personalities get in the way of what is best for the flock, even in spite of your best efforts to keep them all healthy and hearty. Hopefully, it will never get to a point where your birds are visibly suffering, but in case it does get to that point, at least you’ve got these tips to help redistribute your feed to all.

7 Best Chicken Feeders: Buyer’s Guide To No Waste Feeders

7 Best Chicken Feeders: Buyer’s Guide To No Waste Feeders

For most people, finding the best chicken feeders may seem like a reasonably easy thing to do, and in many ways, it is. But there’s different factors to consider before buying one.

 

In this buyer’s guide, I’ll show you the best chicken feeders, and factors to consider before you make a purchase.

 

 

Best Chicken Feeders: A Buyer’s Guide

 

** Top 7 Feeders We Recommend **

The best feeder for YOUR chickens largely depends on your flock.

 

For example, your chickens may be prone to knocking over water, fighting over feeders, and pooping all over the place. You also might work a lot, and not return home until well after dark.

 

The best, and most appropriate, feeder addresses these quirks, and helps you raise healthy chickens.

 

Where can I buy a chicken feeder?

You can buy chicken feeders from an array of locations near your hometown and even browse through an extensive selection online and have it shipped right at your door.

 

  • Amazon (ships nationally)
  • Your local farm store
  • Tractor Supply (nationwide locations)
  • Orschelns (locations in the midwest)
  • True Value (nationwide locations)

 

Why do you need a chicken feeder?

Chickens aren’t at all fussy when it comes to eating – in fact, most hens couldn’t care less if you dumped their food on the ground.

 

But the mess they create – and the vermin it attracts – means it’s easier to just invest in a reliable way to offer food to your flock.

 

A quality chicken feeder cuts down on food waste (which eases the strain on your wallet), and ensures your flock is properly fed at all times.

 

It’s also more hygienic, and reduces the likelihood that your fluffy butts will pick up bacteria from exposing their food to their own waste.

 

Bear in mind that you also might need multiple chicken feeders, especially if you have a large flock or bullies. One per 6 hens is usually adequate.

 

What to consider when choosing a chicken feeder?

When perusing options on Amazon or at your local farm store, keep the following questions in mind:

 

  • Are your chickens baby chicks or layers?
  • How many chickens do you have?
  • Do you have bullies?
  • Are your hens super messy (or do you hate messes)?
  • Do you work all the time?
  • Or, do you worry they won’t have constant access to feed?

 

This is so you can estimate the size and quantity you’ll need, as well as what features your new feeder should have.

 

Some other things to think about:

 

Strength

How much weight can the feeder hold? How much will you feed at a time. For example, if you’re planning to put 20 pounds of grain into it, make sure that weight won’t be too heavy.

 

Will the your flock’s food stay dry and fresh?

Wet and/or moldy feed can be prevented by buying a weather-proof chicken feeder. This reduces the chance your hens will eat grain full of mold and bacteria that can harm them.

 

** Best Weather-Proof Chicken Feeder **

 

Is it easy to clean?

This is especially important during summer because flies and maggots LOOOOVE old chicken feed. Note that even though metal is sturdier, plastic and PVC are easier to clean.

 

This prevents disease and abnormal eggs from being laid.

 

Are there any sharp edges or anything that can hurt your hens?

I don’t typically recommend chicken feeders that automatically close when your flock is eating. These feeders also have a tendency to tip over, causing waste and attracting rodents.

 

So, check out your potential feeder and make sure it won’t harm your flock.

 

** Safest Chicken Feeder **

 

 

How many feeders do you need?

This will depend primarily on the type of feeder. If you opt to use regular galvanized or plastic hanging feeders, then one per 6 chickens is fine.

 

However, as a precaution always keep an eye out that all your flock members are getting enough food.

 

How much should I spend on a chicken feeder?

You can spend as much or as little as you want. Chicken feeders can even be as basic as a dish or a bowl or as fancy as a golden automatic feeder.

 

If you’re on a budget, you can even fashion your own homemade chicken feeders, and there are many resources online.

 

Typically, you won’t need to spend more than a few dollars on a gravity or galvanized feeder, but automatic feeders can run a couple hundred dollars.

 

** Best Budget Feeder **

How often should I clean my chicken feeder?

A weekly clean up with warm soapy water is ideal. Grove Collaborative has wonderful all-natural cleaners that are economically priced and delivered to your door (on my first order, we got about $80 worth of free stuff).

 

You can use these in your feeders, waterers, and your chicken coop.

 

Plastic and PVC are easier to clean than metal, especially in the crevices.

 

Take note that if you buy a PVC feeder, thoroughly check that it is indeed easy to clean. Even though it’s convenient to have a chicken feeder PVC, some of the pipe feeders can be tricky to clean.

 

Should I hang my chicken feeder?

It’s entirely up to you. Hanging it keeps it cleaner because the chickens can’t poop in their dinner, and it keeps insects and rodents out of it.

 

Just remember that storing a lot of food in it will make it harder to hang well because of the weight. Always secure it to a stud or some other structural element that can support the weight.

 

How high off the ground should a chicken feeder be?

Your chickens should easily be able to reach their dinner. The point of hanging the feeder is to reduce waste, keep the feed clean, and provide a clean living environment for the flock.

 

You can also place the feeder on a cinder block to raise it off the ground.

 

However, if you have baby chicks, the feeder shouldn’t be off the ground at all as they won’t be tall enough to reach it.

 

Silkie chickens can’t fly well, so if you keep this breed, make sure they can reach the feeder, too.

 

Can it keep rodents out of my coop?

There is a possibility that it can prevent rodents from entering the coop because no-waste feeders mean that the feed doesn’t fall on the ground, and there’s no reason for them to enter the coop.

 

How do I keep rats out of my chicken feeder?

If you struggle with vermin, it’s best to use a feeder that closes right after the hens eat. Always make sure that the coop door is closed at night to stop rats and mice from entering and getting a free meal.

You can also spread herbs like PestsBGone to ward them off.

 

Do I need an automatic chicken feeder?

Like an automatic chicken coop door, having an automatic chicken feeder can make your life easier, especially if you work a lot and don’t have much time to visit your chickens, or worry that they won’t have constant access to their grain during the day.

 

Just check that it’s properly working every day, and remember that if they break, you will either have to fix it or buy a new one.

 

** Top 7 Feeders On Amazon We Recommend & Why **

 

Grandpa’s Feeders Automatic Chicken Feeder

Considered one of the best chicken feeders. Boasts a grill that stops chickens from throwing out food. Made from galvanized steel that’s built to last even during the toughest outdoor conditions. Keeps rats, birds, and mice away from feed. Can hold 20lbs of feed & can approximately feed 6 chickens for 10 days.

 

LITTLE GIANT Little Giant 17 inch Galvanized Hanging Poultry Feeder

A well-priced budget feeder that makes grain easy accessible.

 

Chicken Feeder Rainproof Outdoor -Metallic (25 LBS)

Rain proof and can hold up to 25 pounds of feed. Waterproof design, and can screwed into a wall or placed on a stand. Saves money by preventing costly feed from spilling.

 

Duncan’s Poultry 55 LB Chicken Feeder

Can hold up to 55 lbs of feed. Suitable for pellets, mash, and crumbles. Prevents roosting with a hinged gable-style lid. Made from heavy gauge galvanized metal.

 

Muddy Hill Farm Poultry Bucket Feeder for Chickens, Ducks Holds 20lbs of Crumbles, Pellet, Dry Feed.

Holds 20 pounds of feed. Includes a weather shield. Reduces feed waste. Easy assembly. Made from rubber & watertight.

 

Right Farm Products 20 lb Chicken Feeder

Can hold 20 lbs of feed. Good budget feeder. Made of heavy-duty plastic. Easy to refill.

 

Rent-a-Coop 20 lb Chicken Feeder

For chickens 12 weeks and older. (Younger/smaller chickens can crawl in the port). Weather-proof. Keeps out rats, mice, squirrels, and wild birds. 99% of feed stays in feeder. Holds 20 pounds of feed. Refill once every week for 8 hens.

 

Which is the best chicken feeder in your opinion? Leave a comment below!




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Fall In Love With Feeding Pumpkins To Your Chickens + Fall Coop Spray Recipe! [Podcast]

Fall In Love With Feeding Pumpkins To Your Chickens + Fall Coop Spray Recipe! [Podcast]

T’is the season for pumpkins…but do you know why they’re so healthy for chickens?

 

Do you know how to safely feed them? How about how to get them for next to nothing?

 

Well, get ready and get on the edge of your seat, because you’re about to discover just how beneficial pumpkin can be to your coop AND your wallet this season.

 

In this podcast, you’ll learn:

  • Why pumpkins are a great addition to your flock’s diet (but why they shouldn’t REPLACE their diet)
  • How to safely feed pumpkin so your flock gets the most benefit
  • Where to find pumpkins for free and how to ask for them
  • My recipe for a fall spray to help keep your coop clean and smelling fresh

 

Links we discuss:

These are the essential oils I use

 

Wondering if you can feed pumpkins to your backyard chickens? You can, and here's why you should!

 

Do Ducks Molt? Here’s What You Need To Know!

Do Ducks Molt? Here’s What You Need To Know!

We all know chickens go through a molt every year, but did you ever wonder “do ducks molt?”

 

In short, yes ducks molt. In fact, they molt quite a bit every year – possibly enough to build you a whole new duck.

 

In fact, I’ve gone outside and wondered whether the drakes, hens, and young ones had a pillow fight the night before and didn’t invite me!

 

Do ducks molt? Here's everything you need to know!

 

You might even wonder how such a little bird can have so many feathers hidden – more on that in a minute.

 

Our hen Henrietta, a Khaki Campbell is molting presently – and she looks quite a bit disheveled. Not sleek and bright like the younger ducks in her pen!

 

Like chickens, ducks molt to replace old feathers with new growth, and they do it every summer. So, expect it to be an annual event.

 

How do ducks molt?

Ducks molt different than chickens, and in the main summer molt, both duck hens and drakes will lose feathers.

 

Chickens molt by losing them on their head, neck, and back, and then regrowing them in the same top-down pattern.

 

Ducks, on the other hand, just lose their feathers all over the place and all at once, including their primary ones. They’ll also scratch and pluck them out with their bills to speed things along or just relieve the itch.

 

Henrietta has been caught with bits of plumage all over her bill – she dunks herself in water to clean it off!

 

Do ducks molt? Here's everything you need to know!

 

You might also notice your ducks aren’t playing or interacting as much – again, this is normal. Henrietta has been staying a bit back from the younger ducks as she loses her feathers.

 

Additionally, drakes (male ducks) will undergo an additional molt after the spring breeding season has ended – they will lose their fancy colored plumage for duller colored feathers – this is an evolutionary adaptation that protects ducks from predators.

 

Why do they lose so many feathers?

As you probably know, in addition to their primary plumage, ducks also have a large padding of down feathers (the same down you’ll find in coats and other winter apparel).

 

So, ducks will also lose their down during a molt, which is why it can look like a crime scene in their pen – and you might take a headcount, wondering how a predator got into the duck house.

 

Rest assured, it’s just natural feather loss.

 

In fact, ducks lose their primary feathers (such as flight) all at once. In the wild, they will be flightless for about a month – no big deal since ducks are usually close to water, keeping them safe from predators.

 

This is less of an issue for domestic ducks, although the sight of it can be overwhelming. Just grab the broom and sweep them out.

 

As Henrietta has molted, she’s looks very disheveled, and her color appears mottled – this is a result of losing feathers as well as loose ones that haven’t yet been shed.

 

Eventually, glossy new plumage will appear, and the ragged hen will look sleek and beautiful again.

 

Just remember, that the length of time it takes to complete a molt will vary from duck to duck.

What about egg production?

While your ducks molt, you might notice the hens’ egg production goes down – this is normal. Like chickens, growing new feathers requires a lot of protein for ducks.

 

We’ve noticed that Henrietta is laying less, and when she does lay an egg, they’re smaller. Again, this is totally normal, and once she’s done molting, production picks back up.

 

If your ducks stop laying completely, don’t worry – it’s normal, and they’ll start again eventually.

What should you feed during a molt?

When your ducks molt, it’s a good idea to give them extra protein. You can give them more feed, or offer treats of dried mealworms floating on water (it also provides extra entertainment). Giving them high-nutrient treats such as kale or parsley will help as well.

 

You can also switch to a higher protein feed.