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|
16 thoughts on “Caring for your Flock on a Daily, Weekly, Monthly and Seasonal Basis”
What great advice, I had no idea there was so much involved in keeping backyard chickens!
How many chickens do you have? About how often/many eggs are laid daily/weekly? (I understand that it might change based on season)
Hi Luke. We keep a small backyard flock of eight. Each breed lays at different rates. Some lay 5 eggs per week, others lay three. I would say on average I get about 4 eggs per day. Chickens lay best during their first two years of life.
A wonderful schedule; thanks for the detail. I have saved this blog in my Pearl&Millie Folder!
Glad you like it 🙂
What do you recommend to have on hand for a chicken first aid kit?
This is a great question Kristin. I would recommend a few things, but I think that I will do a post next week on this very subject. We had all had a discussion over a year ago as to what we all keep in ours. I will gladly share soon 🙂
Thanks. This is very helpful to newbies like me. I'm still struggling with trying to figure out a good coop and run cleaning method. With only 4 hens, it seems like I'm throwing away a lot of clean shavings but can't figure out how to separate clean from soiled like you can with a horse. ; )
Hi Maery. In our little coop I use about 1 1/2 of a 5 gallon bucket full. Each week I do add it to the run and the girls get busy composting it for me. To me, everything all seems to blend together. I agree, I think it is impossible to sort. You might be able to get better mileage from the shavings if you clean what is on the ground out first. Then put the shavings that were in the nesting boxes on the floor and then replenish the nesting boxes with clean shavings. Might that work?
Hi Maery Rose,
If your coop has a dirt floor, the shavings can stay on the ground all winter – keep adding more as needed. Depending on how many hens/ how big your coop is, this should work well. Just use a rake to fluff and turn the shavings, and they will break down over time. Any food and droppings add to what will become great compost for spring. I put down fresh shavings in late fall and haven't cleaned then out yet. The coop smells good and the girls are all healthy and happy! This only works with a dirt floor, so may not be helpful in your situation.
FWIW, I use clean chopped straw in the nest boxes.
Elizabeth & the Oak Hill Girls
What great advice. Some day I hope to be able to use this advice when I have a small flock of my own hens to take care of.
Oooh, a lady after my heart. I am a spreadsheet geek!! I love your chicken calendar. Off to find your first aid kit article now. We are gearing up for our first chickens!! Yard eggs, again and at last!
Hi Cindy! You might not find that post on my first-aid kit as I have yet to write it. But you know, I love your idea of letting folks know what I have included in mine. Look for the post coming over the next week or so. ~Melissa
Hs the first aid post been posted yet?
Yes! Here is the link: https://www.tillysnest.com/2013/02/a-backyard-chicken-first-aid-kit.html
I'll add it to the post as well. Thank you!