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Maintaining Your Flock of Laying Hens

Basic Ongoing Chicken Care

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Two Barred Rock pullets.

Two Barred Rock pullets.

Photo © Lauren Ware

Your chicks are pullets and roosters now and you just want to keep them healthy, happy and alive.Here are the tasks you'll need to continue to do as your hens grow and begin laying eggs.

Daily:

  • Check water and feed.
  • Collect eggs.
  • Spend some time with the flock observing them to ensure they look healthy.

Periodically:

  • Manage bedding. How you do this depends on the litter method you are using. For city and suburban flocks, you'll want to change the bedding in the coop at least monthly.

    Rural and larger flocks can use the deep litter method. For this method, you begin with 3-4" of bedding and each month, or when droppings build up, you add more bedding until you have 6" or more of bedding total. With this method, twice a year you remove all the bedding and start over.

    You can compost chicken litter for a season and use it in the garden. It is rich in nitrogen.

  • Freshen nest boxes. When the bedding in the nest box becomes soiled with poop or broken eggs, pull out the wet or soiled parts and put in fresh bedding material. This helps keep your hens laying in the nest boxes, as well as making the job of cleaning eggs easier.

  • Clean and sanitize waterers. Scrub the waterers with dish soap and warm water, rinse well, and sanitize with your choice of sanitizing solution, but the simplest is 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. The frequency of this chore depends on your personal germ philosophy. I don't clean mine frequently and my hens have always been very healthy. Others feel sanitizing as often as weekly is advisable.

  • Clean and sanitize coop. Once a year, remove everything from the coop and wash down all surfaces with 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. You should also do this in between flocks. Some people favor a sprinkling of diatomaceous earth (DE) in the coop to cut down on mites and keep the hens healthy. Get food-grade DE and don't worry if the hens eat it; it is perfectly safe and even good for them.

Keeping in the rhythm of these chores will keep your layers happy, healthy and laying plenty of farm-fresh eggs.

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