How To Take Care Of Egg Laying Hens the EASY WAY Urban Poultry
What’s up guys, welcome back to OCA bode. Most of you know them already, but behind me are our backyard chickens. And today I’m here to give you a really simple lowdown of how we take care of our backyard chickens. So as with most of our videos, we did write a blog post to go along with this video. So if you guys prefer to read, instead of watch, you can just click the link in the description and that’ll take you right to that blog post with most of the information that I’m about to go over. So I like to think that there are four big basics to chicken care. Those basics are food, water, shelter, and protection. There are a lot of different ways to go about each of these components, but we like to take the approach of less is more. And we like to try and work with nature rather than fight against it.
If you guys have ever heard of permaculture methods, those are kind of the guidelines that we like to go by. One thing that I wish people understood about chicken care is that it’s actually a lot less intensive than a lot of people think it’s also a lot less smelly too. I’ll go into that in a little bit. I’m going to tell you guys everything we include for taking care of our chickens in our daily routine, everything we do on a weekly basis. And then there’s a couple of things we do just two or three times a year as well. So we have 17 chickens in total, but of course, depending on how many you have, you’re going to be doing certain things more frequently or less frequently. And of course, depending on the infrastructure you have as well in this video, I’m going to be talking about taking care of egg-laying chickens.
Specifically taking care of meat. Birds is a little bit different and obviously ducks are going to require a little different care than turkeys and chicken. Okay? First of all, let’s talk about food. So in order to take care of egg-laying chickens, you’re probably going to want to get a calcium fortified food or use some kind of calcium supplement. We get our food from a local farm and fleet store. We sometimes get it from tractor supply too. It’s usually about 11, 12 bucks a bag. I’d say we go through a bag about every nine days to two and a half weeks. Now, depending on how many times we let the chickens out to free range in the yard, they’re going to eat less of that food. The more time that they have to find their own in the yard. But of course that comes with some caveats because they tend to destroy the garden any chance they get, sorry, I have to keep moving the camera because the sun’s moving.
So hopefully it’s not too strong. The second big component of taking care of chickens that you’re going to want to think about is of course water, water is extremely, extremely important to chickens. When push comes to shove, they can be kind of decent at finding their own food, finding their own water when they are confined is obviously going to be a much more difficult chore. So having a reliable watering system for your chickens is going to be really, really important. I’m going to show you guys exactly what we use, and I’m also going to link the exact waters we use and why we use them as opposed to other ones. We’ve tried the third big component to taking care of backyard. Chickens is going to be sheltered. So obviously they’re going to need shelter from the elements we live in Wisconsin. So obviously it gets really, really cold here during the winter.
So shelter is huge for our chickens to help keep them warm. We’ve had weather all the way down to negative 15 degrees where the chickens have been outside and still been fine. We had a super cold snap where the temperature was actually down to negative 30 degrees for a few nights. We did go a little bit crazy and we put them into 10 inside for a few days when that happened. But most of the time our chickens do remain outside with access to a coop all year round, or just put some greens in their forums. So they’d kind of stay within view for you. And then we’re more interested in the chickens than we are in me talking right now. The last component that is super, super important to backyard chicken care, and maybe what you might not be as used to, if you’re used to just caring for dogs and cats is protection from predators being that they are very much prey animals, pretty much every omnivore and carnivore.
The animal kingdom loves to eat chicken. So everything will eat them. Given the first chance it gets. So I’m going to show you guys how we provide protection from predators to our chickens as well. All right, let’s get a little bit more into each of those topics. I’ll tell you what we do every day, what we do every week and what we do a few times a year, okay, right off the bat. I want to show you guys that we have two different pens for our chickens. Most people have a coop and a run, and that is what we have. And then a lot of people will free range. We have an added layer. So in between the coop, the run and the whole rest of the backyard that we have, that we do sometimes let them free-range in, in between. We have this kind of bigger pen that we like to let them out for most of the day.
So part of my daily routine is letting them out of their run in the morning and letting them kind of hang out in this pendant area. Your problems with predators are all gonna depend on what kind of environment you live in. We’re really fortunate in that we live in kind of a small town, so we’re surrounded by farmland. And for that reason, I think the wild animals tend to keep pretty much to themselves. They tend to stay out in the farmland. We don’t get nearly as many raccoons here or possums that we used to get in the suburbs all the time. Skunks. We just don’t get a lot of those predators here. And Hawks are obviously a big predator of chickens, but they have trees over this pendant area. And in three years that we’ve been doing this, we have never had a Hawk attack. We actually did have a Hawk come and hang out in our yard once, which was weird that it’s an attack, any chickens, but fortunately they tend to stay out of the way. So this is how I get in. We just pull this simple little gate out of the PVC pipes in the ground. And then I put that gate right back in.
And of course the girls are going to come and say hi, because they think we have food for them. Somebody just picked me in the back. Okay. After I let the chickens out of their run in the morning, the first thing that I do is I feed them and I change out their water. So I like to keep two waters available at all times, just in case one were to get knocked over. So we keep one inside their run, and then we also keep another one in their pen. This one tends to get dirtier a lot faster because they kick around these chips that we have in their run. Um, so I’m going to go dump this out and fill it with fresh water.
Now I do swap out their dirty water for fresh water every day. But one thing I also recommend doing is cleaning out the waters maybe every week or so. It kind of depends on where you live and what your water is like. But usually the inside of that water is going to get kind of grimy and gross over time. Now I did link these chicken waters below you guys can find the whole shopping list of all the chicken stuff that we use. And we recommend in the description. But I also linked it in the blog posts, because like I said, if you live anywhere where it’s going to freeze bringing fresh chicken water every few hours after it turns to ice is going to get old so fast. And there is no trick, really the floating water bottle thing, doesn’t work, floating, ping pong, salt, water, all these weird tricks that people have tried.
Really. The only thing that we have found that works is these heated waters. They’re so easy to set up and we do swear by them. And they’re the only reason our chickens make it through the winter with minimal effort. So definitely check those out in the link below. If you live somewhere where it’s going to freeze during the winter, you guys may have seen the nipple drinker, watering systems. We used to have one, um, that we use with a five gallon home Depot bucket. And then we put those little nipple attachments on them that the chickens Peck at to get water. We don’t use those anymore because we have a chicken with cross beak and she cannot get water with the nipple drinkers. Her beak just doesn’t fit like that. So for that reason we don’t use them. But when we did use them, they were great.
They were a little bit less mess. Didn’t have to clean them quite as often, but we are not willing to call our little CrossFit girl just for the sake of an easier water. She is. Well-worth just buying these waters and instead, okay. After they have lots of fresh water, the next thing I do is I give them a big scoop of chicken layer feed. This is our chicken, chicken coop. We actually hate our chicken coop. And if you’ve seen our video, why we hate our chicken coop, then you know why basically we kind of put it together at a scraps and it was definitely a very cheap, but it’s not the most functional. So if you’re building your chicken coop from scratch, or if you’re shopping for different coops, I would recommend checking out that video after this one so that you don’t make the same mistakes that we did. We keep all their they’ll take any food in this shed that Ian put together,
I will give them an extra scoop. Tonight
Gets so excited for her food. She always shows me where to put it,
Put it in here, mom put it in here.
So rep Tara is starting to go through her molt early, which is she’s missing her tail feathers. And the other chickens were picking at her a little bit. So normally she does have a tail. I like this chicken feeder, because if you want to, you can open the top and add more food kind of poop up there right now, but you can pull the whole thing with food. And that’s what we do. If we’re just going out of town for a day or two, we don’t really have somebody come take care of them. If it’s just a few days, because we can fill that feeder, they’ve got a few waters we set up in their run, um, and they can just hang out in their run for a few days. So if you guys are looking for a feeder like that, um, we did try a few different Peters before we landed on this one.
I do recommend it. So I’ll link that for you guys in our chicken kit, as well as in that blog post, we get this chicken food from our local farm and fleet what’s important is that it’s layer feed. So it is fortified with extra calcium so that it gives them nice hard shells for their eggs. So this is how our coop works. It has a big door in the front. It has a nest box on the side, and then they also have this sliding door which can open or close the coop. And that’s where they come out into their run. Like I said, we are not proud of our chicken coop. It is kind of thrown together in a very messy way, as you can tell right now, the next group is going to be much prettier and much more functional, but it was very cheap.
And that way we got to just get chicks and kind of roll with the fun right away. We do leave our chicken run door open overnight. A lot of people don’t a lot of people close the door, especially if they have a known predator problem. I know predators are not really question of if, but they’re really a question of when, so I know that we’re taking a little bit of chance, but we do have the rest of the run really, really well fortified. So based on where we live, I’m not concerned yet fingers crossed. I’ll let you guys know if something changes. We’ve been doing this for three years without issue so far so good. But if you live in a suburban area or if you live out in the country where the predators tend to be, I would definitely recommend locking your chickens in every night and letting them out in the run in the morning, especially with supervision.
So when it comes to protection from predators, we always, always recommend this hardware mesh. Most people put up this poultry wire, which is what we originally did as well. Um, but that really doesn’t do anything, but keep chickens in it doesn’t really keep predators out. So definitely recommend this hardware mesh cloth instead. Okay. When it comes to shelter, one of the biggest things that chickens will need is a safely clean coop. And I say safely, because your chickens don’t need a pristine coop without a drop of poop in it. I see a lot of people, especially on YouTube, like to clean everything right before they film or right before they talk about their coop. That’s not realistic for us. We use what is called the deep litter method. I’m going to go into it a little bit, but I think I’m going to make a different video more about the deep litter method specifically. Cause it’s a little more involved than I can get into in about 30 seconds. So I’m going to give you guys a closeup of the litter in their coop, as you can see, they absolutely love it. What is cool about it is it has zero smell at all.
The deep litter method is basically a composting system inside of your chicken coop. So it’s a balance between green matter and Brown matter. I’m not a composting expert. So I’m going to give you guys a super quick lowdown, but basically you start out with a bunch of Brown matter, a bunch of carbon. I usually pile about four inches or so in there. And then over time as the chicken soil that matter, you just sprinkle a little more Brown matter, a little more shavings on top. That’s something that I do about once a week to be totally transparent. I actually do it probably more like three to four times a week, especially during the summer when they’re out in this run area a lot more, they’re hardly in their coop, but I would recommend about once a week, checking, seeing if it’s smelling and then you just add enough Brown matter to offset the smell.
What happens is over time, it breaks down. I’m going to show you the difference. So first I’m going to show you just what the regular shapings look like. So this is kind of the consistency of the shavings we get from tractor supply. And that’s what you start out pilot in the coop, excuse me, daily. And then this is what it breaks down into. So this is actually almost sand like texture. Um, and I would say, this is, this is on the drier side. You probably don’t want it quite this dry, but especially as we dig down what this is is it’s beautiful. Doesn’t smell at all. It’s actually beautiful compost for the garden. Um, we do put it on our garden and our plants absolutely love it. And I don’t think I even told you guys this yet, but that means that I only clean out their coop two times a year. I cleaned it out right before winter. And then right after winter, the rest of the time, if it starts to smell, and this is all I do sprinkle some shavings
And then the chickens usually mix it up themselves. If you really want to, you can add some corn in there, something to encourage them to scratch around, but I guarantee you, they love this stuff. They’re going to take care of it. Anyway, we use pretty much the same method in their run and in this kind of Pendin area, we just use wood chips that we get for free from chip drop, which we did a video on that as well. Um, but basically the chips take a longer time to break down, but that the same thing there, the Brown matter. But since there’s a lot more space out here, we just throw the chips out here. Um, and they last a little bit longer than the shavings wood and they handle the moisture from rain and precipitation a little bit better. So to recap, the shelter care, I basically once a week ish, if that much, I usually just sprinkle a little bit more of those shavings in the coop.
I definitely do that once a week during the winter, during the summer, it’s a little bit less, but then two or three times a year, we do a deep clean in the coop where we take probably about 90% of that deep litter out. And then we put it in the compost pile or we put it on the gardens. The gardens absolutely love it. And then we just put a whole bunch of fresh bedding in there. We do leave a little bit of the old compost in there just to keep some of the microorganisms that have taken a while to build up. Don’t necessarily want to start from scratch every time. If you don’t have to seriously, if you didn’t believe me that the garden loves it. That’s the garden that got the chicken compost from last year, we have some kind of plants scraggling along.
Speaker 1 (14:11):
This used to be potatoes here. Um, but that was the chicken combos garden. And it is very, very happy. The other thing that I recommend doing on at least a weekly basis is letting them out to free range. If at all possible they love to free range. And I know it puts them at a little higher risk of predators getting them, but they love it enough that I try to spend some time out here babysitting while they can get out in free range. So that being said, let’s let these girls out now, cause they haven’t been out in about three days.
One other thing that you want to make sure your chickens have is access to a dust bath. So a dust bath is going to give your chickens a chance to clean themselves. It’s going to help them get everything balanced so that you don’t have to worry about mice. You don’t have to worry about parasites quite as much. And again, kind of on the lazy side of chicken keeping, I don’t have an actual dust bath that I organized for them. What we do have is we have a space under our run and because that area doesn’t get any moisture, it actually has kind of turned into its own dust bathing area. So whenever they want to dust Bay, they can go right under there. That’s where they usually hang out again because everything is balanced between green matter and Brown matter. It stays very dry, probably almost too dry to be an actually good compost pile.
But I see them dust bathing under there all the time. And then of course, since we let them out to free range, they find plenty of places to dust bathe in the yard as well. If you want to have a garden, you were going to have to fence it off because they find any and every piece of fruit or vegetable that you were ever going to eat spits. Do you want me to pick you up out of there, honey? You’re so polite. Thank you. Thank you, Spitz. Thank you for being so polite and they definitely found this pumpkin through the fence and annihilated. What would have been a very sweet little pumpkin? Oh well
I know a lot of people wonder about dogs and chickens guys. It is a complete myth that there is any specific breed that will do better with chickens than others, except for maybe livestock, guardian dogs like great Pyrenees. Um, otherwise, absolutely any dog can be trained to be well behaved around chickens. And not only that, but even protect them, our dogs, we did find chase off a Hawk. One time that was circling way far overhead. They’re both going crazy barking at it. I don’t know if they knew that it was going to attack the chickens or not, but it sure seemed like it. Both of our dogs wanted to kill the baby chicks. When we first got them, that’s totally normal dog behavior. We just had to train them to chill out. We had to train them that the chickens were ours. They’re not theirs. And then once they calmed down around the chickens, then we started sharing responsibility of protecting the chickens with them. And they absolutely loved their job. Now, any dog can be trained to leave. Chickens alone has nothing to do with breed has nothing to do with age. Please don’t dump your dog because you didn’t train it around chickens. Okay. Anybody can be trained. Yeah, both. You guys were very bad with the chicks and we got them. And within a week or two, both you guys were very good. I’m sorry.
Now we actually prefer to leave our dogs out with the chickens unattended because we know that they’re going to keep other predators away. Obviously we did not leave them unattended with the chickens right away, but after they prove themselves trustworthy, they have that job and they absolutely love it. All right, guys, the mosquitoes are starting to come out. So I have sweet miss Mabel here with me to summarize for you daily. What we do with our chickens, we let them out of their coop. We feed them, water them. And then if we have time, we let them pre-arranged. During the day, the end of the night, they put themselves to bed. We lock them back up and they enjoy a safe night in their coop weekly. I clean out their waters roughly once a week to make sure it’s not yucky, dirty water. And then if needed, I sprinkle a little bit of shavings inside their coop to help offset any odor.
If it pops up during the summer, that’s usually closer to every three weeks or so. And then lastly, two or three times a year, I just do a 90% clean out of the coop. I put it on the compost pile or in the gardens. The gardens absolutely love the chicken compost. And then it put a whole heap of fresh shavings in the coop and then a heap of wood chips into that pen for them. Obviously there is one big thing that’s missing from this chicken care chore list. And that is collecting the eggs. Kind of forgot to talk about that because I already collected the eggs today. You’re going to want to collect those eggs every day. Now there are some ways to further complicate chicken care. It’s kind of debated whether or not it’s worth it. I want to just touch on those ways really quick.
One Apple cider vinegar, Apple cider vinegar is said to have antibiotic properties. It said to help chickens absorb calcium for their eggshells. It said to have a lot of different, good things. I used Apple cider vinegar. The first year that we had chickens. After that, I stopped using it because our chickens never got any worms. Our chickens have never had Bumblefoot. We want to go down. Our chickens have never had Bumblefoot our chickens. I’ve never been egg bound. The only thing we’ve had happened is we’ve had a couple little chicks have sour crop very shortly after we got them from the feed mill where they came from. So to me, it’s a pretty good indication that they got it before they got here. But I think that’s a pretty good indicator that this sort of permaculture way of caring for chickens is actually sometimes more effective than trying to keep everything pristine, clean all the time.
It’s also a lot easier to, that’s kind of a side note from the Apple cider vinegar. We don’t use it. I don’t think it’s harmful to use it if you want to, but I prefer to just change out their water a bunch so that they have really clean water. And obviously I don’t want to be having to put Apple cider vinegar in their water every single time. Another thing a lot of chicken owners will do is that they will give their chicken supplemental calcium. So a lot of people do this in the form of oyster shells. That’s another thing I did the first year that I had chickens. I had oyster shells out for them so that they would have harder eggshells. I don’t remember why, but I stopped giving them those oyster shells. And I never noticed a difference in their eggshells. There’s shells are still nice and hard.
In fact, I want to say that their shells got even harder after we started feeding them eggshells. Instead, a lot of chicken owners will swear that you should never feed your chickens. Whole eggs are cracked eggs or raw eggs. It’s not necessarily because they’re dangerous for the chickens. It’s more because there’s a theory that they will start eating their own egg. If they realize that they can eat them. That being said, I get my chickens back in their coop by actually breaking an egg, throwing it in the pen. I know it’s super lazy, but the girls go crazy. And I have never had an egg eater in my flock. I’ve been doing this for two years. So I have yet to find actual evidence that proves that they will start eating eggs from doing this. But I definitely know that the eggshells that they lay are a lot stronger because when that egg shell is covered with raw yolk, I know it’s disgusting, but they go crazy for it.
And they eat up those eggshells. Like I said, guys, I tend towards a more hands-off approach when it comes to chickens. Maybe that’s why I think of them as easier than dogs, cats, hamsters, gerbils, they’re seriously. The easiest pet I’ve ever owned. That’s probably because they stay outside and keep their mess outside. But I don’t want anybody to be afraid of owning chickens because it seems over complicated. A lot of people like to over-complicate the process, I think. But of course it is really important to do all your research take in as many different viewpoints as possible. And then you can decide what is best for you and your flock. So again, I wrote all these points in that blog post in the description below you guys seen click, that link will take your website. If you’re brand new to chickens and you need a chicken shopping list, I actually created a whole shopping list for you.
That’ll help get you on your way with all the products that we use. And we love for raising baby chicks and for taking care of our chickens. So if you guys want access to any of the ones that we use, the link to that kit is in the blog post below one other thing, of course, this isn’t required, but give those girls some treats. They work hard, laying eggs for you. So give them some greens. Ours love to eat. The weeds that I pick out of the garden. What they especially love is they especially love carbs. So like pasta, macaroni is always fun to feed them. Cause you can like feel the individual macaronis in their belly. After they’re done leftover table scraps and veggies, there are a few foods that chickens are not supposed to eat. So I would look up those foods if you don’t know them already, that being said, a lot of people debate whether or not chickens can eat certain things.
Speaker 1 (22:49):
I have seen my chickens eat plastic bags that have flown into their pen. I have a little baby chick. I went to grab this huge thing of plastic. She swallowed the thing I thought for sure she was going to die. And of course she was totally fine. If you guys aren’t already following us on Instagram, our Instagram handle is Oak underscore abode. And if you haven’t already subscribed to our channel, we would love if you would hit that subscribe button so that you can join us again in the future. If you guys have any questions about our flock, feel free to leave questions below. Or if you want to just tell us about the flock that you have in your chicken raising experience, feel free to leave a comment below. If you are getting into raising backyard chickens, you are not alone. You are in for a lot of fun. Do your due diligence research around a bit, but then just get your hands dirty and go get those babies.