Keeping chickens happy and healthy, requires a bit of maintenance. Often I tell people that the requirements are somewhere between keeping a cat and a dog. The other day, I was glancing at the latest addition of the Martha Stewart Magazine. Each month she proudly shares her private calendar with her readers. She details everything from yard work, travel and yoga lessons. I thought it might be easy to create a similar guide for backyard chicken keepers like myself.
Like most pets, chickens require daily care. Even when we are on vacation, we like to have a neighbor check in on them by collecting eggs and replenishing their food and water. Usually, finding someone to chicken sit is never a problem due to the reward of freshly laid eggs; cats and dogs can't do that!
I also like to mark my calendar for the less frequent duties. This helps me to stay on track and recall when I last did a particular chore. So, here is how we do things at Tilly's Nest.
Fresh feed and water~Always be sure that your flock has plenty of fresh food and water. It is a good idea to refill the waterers each day with new clean water.
Open the coop and close coop~I prefer to lock the flock in the coop during evenings for their own safety from predators. Early each morning, I open the coop door and at dusk I close the coop door. The best part about chickens is they usually put themselves to "bed".
Overall health check~Spend a few minutes each morning making sure that everyone comes out of the coop and that they all seem to be eating, drinking and acting like themselves. This is a very quick easy way to assess whether any chicken feel under the weather.
Gather Eggs~ If possible, I recommend gathering eggs a few times per day. This helps to ensure that they stay fresh, prevents hens from going broody and discourages egg eating.
Weather~Check to be sure your flock is prepared for hot days, snow storms, wind and rain. If you are like me often you add a tarp to the run on not so nice days and close the windows just a bit to prevent a wet coop interior. A shade tarp also works nicely in the hot afternoon sun.
Light tidying~I try to scoop up any "messes" that I notice. For example, I will clean off the roosts in the morning if I find they have been freshly soiled.
Treats~Chickens love treats. They are a great source of entertainment, prevent boredom and also diversify their diets.
Clean coop/tidy up~Each week I clean out the coop and replace the shavings. During the cold Winters, I have been known to go sometimes two weeks. It just depends on the amount of snow outside.
Refill Oyster Shells and Grit~These two important supplements are necessary for chickens to make strong egg shells and digest their food properly. They should have a constant supply that they can take from as they need. Small mounted plastic dishes work great for this. I top them off once a week.
Raking out the Run~Each week I gently rake out the run, fill in any dust bathing holes and remove any materials that don't break down, such as old corn cobs.
Stock up on supplies~ Each month I take a trip to the local feed store and pick up a 50 pound bag of feed and scratch. I replenish the oyster shells and grit and pick up a fresh bale of pine shavings. I also love to check out new products and supplies.
Inspect and repair coop and run~Weather, predators and chickens can cause the coop or run to need repairs. Once a season, you should inspect and make repairs as necessary.
Prepare for changes in weather~As the seasons change, so does the way you care for your chickens. This is the time to prepare changes in temperatures and housing needs.
Deep Clean your Coop~This is the time to deep clean your coop. Scrubbing down roosts, walls and floors with a bit of Dawn detergent, water and a splash of bleach.
Replace used items in your First Aid Kit~You should have a first aid kit for your flock. Injuries and illness can happen very suddenly. Be sure all medications have not expired and be sure you are fully stocked, especially with those frequently used products.
Remove excess soil in the run to compost~Each week after I clean out the coop, I toss the soiled shavings into the run for the girls to help compost. They enjoy scratching in the shavings and it keeps them busy for hours. Each month, I remove the excess from the run and place it on the side to "cure" for at least 4 months before I place it in my gardens. I do however, in the Fall apply it directly to the barren raised vegetable beds. When planting time comes in May, the waste is cured.
I created this chart based upon the above schedule. Feel free to copy, print it and pin it close to your chicken keeping supplies. When you complete a task just check it off. The best part, is that you can print a new one year after year and you'll never forget when you last did something.
|Click on the photo to enlarge and print|
Photo and Chart Credit: Tilly's Nest