all CHICKENS should be examined
by a veterinarian. Please monitor your pet and call us if you have any concerns. Some signs include: eating less or not eating at all, appearing uncomfortable, fluffed or quieter than normal, and dropping in egg production.
Some of the most important pieces of making sure your chicken is well taken care of include:
Chicken Care Instructions
In general, we recommend the following diet for chickens:
- Chickens cannot thrive on seed, chicken scratch or cracked corn diets. These items might be very tasty to chickens, but they cannot meet all of your pet’s nutritional needs. Diets based manly on fat and carbohydrates can predispose your bird to develop obesity, liver, heart and kidney disease, as well as deficiency in calcium and vitamin A.
- Pellets, such as Harrison’s Organic Chicken Food, serve as a far superior basis for your chicken’s diet because they are complete with the necessary nutrients. Pellets should be 75% of your bird’s diet.
- In addition to a pelleted diet, fresh greens, fruits and vegetables provide important vitamins and give your chicken variety. Fresh fruits and vegetables should be no more than 25% of your pet’s diet. Avoid vegetables rich in carbohydrates, like potatoes, corn, and yucca, as they predispose to weight gain.
- Fruits and vegetables to avoid: Avocado (toxic and lethal) and cruciferous vegetables (e.g. cauliflower, cabbage, garden cress, bok choy, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts) as they bind with iodine and might predispose to goiter. Fruits rich in vitamin C (e.g. orange, tangerine, etc) should be given only sporadically, as they increase the absorption of iron and might lead to liver disease.
- Obesity can be a common problem seen in pet chickens, especially those fed primarily a seed and corn diet. Just as in humans, obesity in birds can lead to other serious health problems and should be avoided. A pelleted diet supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as the opportunity to exercise, will help your bird avoid becoming overweight.
- Treats such as mealworms or earthworms may be offered occasionally. You chicken will love it!
- Human foods and table scraps should never be fed to backyard poultry (i.e. pizza, cheese, chicken wings, hamburger, cookies, crackers, rice, pasta, beans, chocolate, etc.).
- It is important that a supply of fresh water is always available and that feeders and waterers are kept clean.
Housing design can affect bird care, comfort, welfare, and well-being. The design of a chicken coop should be easy to clean, protect the birds from predators, and provide adequate space for the birds. The ideal structure would have a dirt or solid floor and be insulated with washable walls. Ideally it should have access to an outdoor run as long as birds are protected from predators. The coop should be well-ventilated with screened windows and doors or a small fan. The birds should have the option to be inside or protected during hot or cold weather. Litter should be absorbent and loose (ex. pine wood shavings, straw, shredded newspaper).
- Wash your hands with soap and water after handling eggs, chickens, or anything in their environment.
- Maintain a clean coop. Cleaning the coop, floor, nests and perches on a regular basis will help to keep eggs clean.
- Collect eggs often. Eggs that spend a significant amount of time in the nest can become dirty or break. Cracked eggs should be thrown away.
- Eggs with dirt and debris can be cleaned with fine sandpaper, a brush or cloth. Don’t wash eggs, because colder water can pull bacteria into the egg.
- Refrigerate eggs after collection.
- Cook eggs thoroughly. Raw and undercooked eggs contain Salmonella bacteria that can make you sick.
- Know the local regulations around sale of eggs. If you sell eggs, it is important to follow local licensing requirements.
- Always check with your veterinarian before medicating chickens or consuming eggs laid by medicated chickens. Medications may pass from the hen to the egg and cause problems when consumed by a human.
- In the 2 weeks leading up to laying, and while your chicken is laying, it is very important that she has free-choice access to your oystershell/limestone calcium source. Egg-laying requires a tremendous amount of calcium. If it is not adequately supplemented in the diet, your chicken will mobilize calcium from her bones, especially the long bones of the legs. This causes the bones to be weak, and they may actually fracture.
For disease prevention tips visit see the USDA “Backyard Biosecurity: 6 Ways to Prevent Poultry Diseases.”)
Chicks for backyard use should ideally be purchase previously vaccinated for Marek’s disease in ovo (in the egg) or at one day of age.
We recommend a yearly examination along with a fecal test.