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If you fancy doing something a little bit different when it comes to pets and have some space outside, you might be considering keeping a few chickens. Keeping your own chickens is generally fairly low-maintenance compared to other forms of livestock, and as well as meaning that you might be able to have free eggs on-tap at all times, you can also help to give a retired battery hen a second chance at life, and provide a free-range, happy space for them during their retirement.
As with any species of animal, it is vitally important to do plenty of research into what is involved in keeping chickens before you go ahead, which will mean leaning more about different chicken species, what they need to eat, and how to provide the most suitable living environment for them-and also, how to keep them healthy and well, and know how to spot signs of illness or problems.
In this article, we will share a short introduction to keeping chickens healthy and trouble-shooting any potential problems early on, in six easy-to-follow steps. Read on to learn more.
One of the best ways to be able to spot if something is wrong with any sort of animal before the problem becomes pronounced is to get to know them, and learn about what is normal for them. This is especially true for chickens, and while to the uninitiated a few chickens together will all look the same, people who keep chickens soon learn to tell one from another, and learn about their unique personalities too.
Get to know your flock so that you can tell them apart, and come to recognise what is normal for them-taking into account every element of each bird, including their standard behaviours, which chickens they get on with and which they might have the odd spat with, their weight, condition, and how they look.
Nobody enjoys cleaning out the cages of their pet, but keeping your chicken’s home clean is vitally important if you want to keep your birds healthy. Dirty, unkempt conditions can easily lead to problems with your birds’ health and condition, so set up a routine for cleaning them out, and stick to it!
Check the structure of their housing daily to make sure that there are no sharp edges or potential breaches that could admit a fox, and remove dirty bedding and other mess daily too.
Regularly clean out and replace the bedding and disinfect the cage, and clean and refill the food and water bowls daily too.
Because the domed containers usually used to provide chickens with water are very large and will usually last several days between top-ups, it is all too easy to let this slip and inadvertently leave your chickens without water, or with the same water for so long that it becomes stagnant and unhealthy.
Empty the water container, clean it properly and replace it at least every other day-every day is even better-and ensure that your chickens are never without clean, fresh water in a place that they know where to find it.
Seeing ex-battery hens getting a whole new lease of life when they are rehomed and able to wander around freely, scratch about and graze can be really rewarding, and it may be tempting to just leave your chickens to their own devices in this respect.
However, your chickens should have safe, fox-proofed housing that they can access whenever they want to, and it is also a good idea to shut them in at night to keep them safe.
During the day however, allowing your chickens to wander around in a safe, secured yard or garden that provides a range of things to do and grit to scrape about in is great, and allowing your chickens to live at least a partially free-range life will go a long way towards keeping them happy, which will in turn have a positive effect on their health.
Many people like the idea of having chickens in order to get eggs, and this is definitely one of the main bonuses of having your own flock! However, not all hens lay, and the yield from bird to bird can be highly variable, depending on their age, health, condition, and living situation.
Getting to know what is normal for each bird when it comes to their laying habits-such as how often they lay, where they are apt to lay, and if they ever have any problems-can help you to keep the eggs coming, and also, give you a heads up on any problems in the making with your flock.
Finally, like any animal, it is important to check your chickens over from time to time to look for potential signs of problems, such as bald areas, plumage that is in poor condition, or any other issues. Scheduling each bird for a check-up once a week can help you to nip any problems in the bud early on, and keep your flock happy, healthy and well.
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