Advice For Chicken Owners

We decided to ask for tips from our friendly and helpful members on how to take care of our beloved flocks.
By sumi · Feb 8, 2014 · Updated Sep 7, 2016 · ·
  1. sumi

    Every day, Backyard Chickens (BYC) Community receives hundreds of questions from old and new chicken raisers. Since BYC is a terrific source of practical and useful information, we decided to ask for tips from our friendly and helpful members on how to take care of our beloved flocks.

    Pic by ImaChickenGirl

    Buying your Flock

    There is a lot of differing opinions on where is the best place to buy your chicken. Some will say it's best to buy chicks from hatcheries. Others would suggest you buy from a reputable breeder. Then there are feed stores, shows, meet-ups… Here are some points to consider before making your decision:

    • First, know what role you expect your chickens to play. Do you want them to be meat producers? Do you want them for meat and eggs? Do you want them simply for eggs? Deciding this before buying your chickens will help you determine what type of breed to buy, the kind of coop that you will need, etc. This article will help you choose the breed that is right for you.
    • Be careful when buying chickens at a swap meet or from someone you don’t personally know. You might end up getting a diseased bird or a bird with some health issues, or an older hen that is past her productive years. If possible, take a more experienced poultry keeper with you advice you when purchasing birds.
    • Decide on what breeds you really want to get and stick to them. A flock with a mix of breeds can sound tempting, but some breeds do not mix well together. If you are planning to have more than one breed, do some research before buying new birds.
    • Plan ahead. Remember that chicks grow very quickly. Don't buy too many chicks at once because you may not have room for all of them. Make sure you have a big enough brooder for them to stay in for up to 6 weeks.
    • Pick a breed appeals best to you, you're the one that has to take care of them everyday rain or shine. You'll do better with them, be happier, and stay with poultry longer. Extreme climate? If you want them bad enough you can make them work. Chickens are a lot tougher than people give them credit for.

    **When Adding Chickens to your existing Flock**

    When adding new chickens to your flock, make sure to quarantine them away from your existing flock. Keeping the new chickens away from the old will lessen the risk of the old contracting any disease or pest the new birds may carry. It is recommended to keep them quarantined for a month, just to be on the safe side.

    Pic by sluggospud
    Providing a Comfortable Coop for your Chickens

    Before you buy your chickens, make sure you build/buy them a decent home. In building a coop, here are some tips that will surely be helpful:

    • The number one advise chicken expert will give you in building a coop is to make it the biggest that it could be. As you get the hang of raising your chickens, you will have an addiction of adding members to your flock every now and then. From 3 chickens, you’ll find yourself tending for 10-15 chickens in no time. You can always build a temporary wall if it's too large, but building additions is much more difficult. So, make your coop bigger! This article give a good rundown on how to manage space in the coop.
    • Remember these three important things when making a coop: dryness, cleanliness and ventilation. Your chickens must be kept in a dry coop to help control disease and health issues. Also, give your coop as much ventilation as you can, without making it draughty. A dirty coop and a pile of wet droppings can provide a perfect breeding ground for disease, so keep the coop clean and the dirt under control.
    • A bed of straw in the floor of your coop could quickly turn into a dusty, moldy, poopy mess. Pine shavings are a better choice. Pine chips are even better.
    • Pine shavings in a nest box don’t usually work out well. They will scratch it all out onto the floor. For nest boxes, straw would be a better choice.
    • Putting newspaper under a pile of shavings or bedding in the coop means that you can roll up the poop and remove everything at once, making cleaning the coop much easier.
    • Lastly, make sure that all coops are PREDATOR PROOF! Use heavy gauge hardware cloth and try to avoid chicken wire. Chicken wire does not stand the test of time and your chickens, especially the roosters might injure their combs when they stick their heads through the wire. Coyotes and dogs can chew right through most chicken wire. Here are some tips on preventing losses to common predators & pests.
    • If you are the DIY type, visit the chicken coops section for brooder and coop designs.

    Pic by poorchiknfarmer

    Taking Care of your Chickens

    Now that you’ve bought your chicks and built them a great home, all you have to do is know how to take care of them. Here are some of the tips that our members came up with:

    • If you are a newbie, it is recommended to ask questions from those that have been there the longest, then follow their advice. There is no substitute for experience as it is the best teacher and what sounds good in theory over multiple decades may not always turn out the best.
    • Chickens will eat anything! They are living garbage disposals. They will eat anything from burnt food, leftover food, fish carcasses, pumpkin rinds, etc. Just make sure not to feed them toxic and poisonous foods and plants. This chicken treat chart is full of suggestions for safe, healthy chicken treats.
    • Feed a good balanced commercial feed (preferably with some sort of animal protein, chickens are omnivores). If you're not a nutritionist, don't mix your own feed, and don't let supplements or "treats" make up more than about 10% of the food you provide for your birds.
    • It's best to ensure that all their basic needs are met before winter hits - especially if you're in a northern climate. This thread has some checklists, tips and advice to help you prepare for your first winter.
    • Buy water heaters for your chicks before winter hits. Also, make sure to try them out before winter to see if they work properly.
    • Don't wait until it's dark to put the chickens inside the coop. This is when a lot of predators attack so make sure you tuck them in early.
    • There is always one chicken that will resist your efforts to get them inside the coop, when you really need to get them inside. Make sure everyone's inside before locking them up for the night.
    • Keep everything clean. Cleanliness in the area may be harder to maintain with all the poop but remember to clean out their coop, run, feeders and waterers as needed. This will keep them cleaner and less likely to get parasites or get sick.
    • Chicks can drown easily in water bowls. Fill water bowls with clean pebbles or marbles to prevent accidental drownings.
    • If you want to be able to pick your chickens up and pet them, you have to start doing so right away and on a regular basis. This will help them to get used to being handled.
    • An unsupervised chicken flock can create destruction in your landscape garden quicker than you can imagine. Say hello to uprooted plants, gravel all over the place and dirt craters.
    • Spent time getting to know your birds. Watch their behaviour, droppings etc. It can save their lives if you're able to notice the even the slightest warning signs early on.
    • Almost any dog coming across free range chickens, will kill chickens. Supervise and/or train your dog(s) to leave chickens alone.
    • Clipping the wing does not always keep chickens from flying. It often only slows them down. This article explains how to clip and trim chicken wings to prevent flight.
    • Put together a sufficient first aid, preventive and medical kit for your birds. See here for more on chicken first aid kits - handy and essential supplies, and how to use them.
    • Lice and mites are a common and fatal issue whether you have 5 chickens or 500. Make sure you take the necessary precautions.
    • Deworm your chickens regularly. Some poultry keepers recommend deworming every 6 months.
    • If your hen is laying eggs, feed it a premium quality layer feed with additional calcium and that should do it. Keep feed available all the time so they can eat how much they want/need (especially during winter).
    • If you notice something off about your chicken, do a check up right away!
    • Check the body weight, color of the comb & wattles, crops and droppings of your chickens regularly and make sure you know what it should look and/or feel like. When you see that something is not right with your chicken, isolate it immediately.
    • Be sure to separate any sick birds from the flock at the first sign of illness. You don’t want other chicks to get the disease too.
    • Make sure a sick chicken eats and drinks sufficiently. This may sound like common sense but it can take all the difference between life and death within a few short days.
    • If needed, your house could be the perfect make-shift coop for ill and injured chickens.
    • Consider vaccinating home hatched chicks and ask hatcheries if they vaccinated the chicks before shipping and for what diseases. Vaccinations can save you a lot of losses and heartache in the long run.

    Pic by breakout

    Some suggested reading, articles, links and discussions:

    Informative discussions on aspects of chicken keeping: Topic of the Week Thread Archive

    General Chicken FAQ's

    Incubating and hatching eggs:
    [Article] Hatching Eggs 101
    [Article] Step by Step Guide to ASSISTED Hatching

    Raising chicks:
    Some causes of EARLY CHICK MORTALITY
    Pics of chick brooders
    Good treats for baby chicks

    Vaccinations, emergencies and diseases:
    Helpful References & Links
    The Great Big Giant Marek's Disease FAQ

    Coops and housing:
    [Article] Building a Chicken Coop? Do's, Don'ts and Things to Consider.

    Egg laying Problems and Cures:
    [Article] Common egg quality problems
    [Article] Why are my hens not laying?
    Six Tips on Breaking Your Egg Eater

    Raising birds for the table?
    Choosing a Meat Bird
    Meaties 101
    How to Butcher a Chicken

    Share This Article

    Papa John59, 007Sean, N F C and 6 others like this.

Recent User Reviews

  1. 007Sean
    "Excellent article"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed May 13, 2019
    An excellent article for beginners and old hands alike. Straight forward, easy to understand, well written.
    sumi likes this.
  2. N F C
    "Good Advise for New Poultry Owners"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Mar 21, 2019
    sumi likes this.
  3. J-mama
    "Excellent reference!"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Mar 9, 2019
    Great advice and links! So informative
    sumi likes this.


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  1. Jack Speese
    Love the pics! But I'd advise anyone considering a mixed flock with turkeys like the one shown to be sure blackhead isn't endemic in your area. I've found that most breeds of chicken raised together from day old chicks on get along very well, even ones of different sizes and temperaments, as long as everyone has plenty of space. Except that you don't want more than one rooster (inevitably one becomes dominant and more aggressive with age and will mercilessly pick on the subordinate ones), and Polish and other crested breeds may get their crest feathers pulled if mixed with other breeds. And I can't say enough about protection from predators. I don't let my birds free range because there are simply too many hawks around. I don't recommend chicken wire either, as larger predators can tear it and it inevitably rusts. Hardware cloth is ideal but it is expensive and hard to work with. I found turkey wire to be a good compromise. It too is strong and doesn't rust. I covered the turkey wire on the sides of my pen with chicken wire to keep small chicks in. But I did use hardware cloth for the windows. One place I wouldn't use hardware cloth is for the floor of a raised pen. It's too hard on their feet. The wire used to make rabbit hutches would be better.
      The Chicken-Boy likes this.
  2. Abriana
    Great article! I would edit and add some people that are really good at answering questions, like @KikisGirls
  3. Chickenlover2017
    Wow great job!
  4. Gavinthesheep735
    Good article like the photos
  5. Cali Farms
    Very nice article. To add to this article about where to buy chickens from, there's a new online poultry auction site that needs help spreading the word. There's already sellers and auctions with plenty of bids.
    It's called (American Poultry Auctions)
    This is a great site to buy your chickens and other poultry from.
    1. The Chicken-Boy
      Yes, however be *very* carful about buying birds from unknown places as you could mess up the balance of microbes (Coccidiosis and the like) and make all your chickens sick.
  6. Glenda Heywoodo
    Glenda Heywood
    It's showtime! The judges are ready, are your chickens ready?
    The morning of the show is a flurry of cooping in and grooming. Your birds should be clean but now the final "make-up session" begins. You'll notice a big difference between the birds thrown in from their carriers at the last minute and the ones that really sparkle after some detailed attention from their owners.
    We carry our grooming tools in a small plastic bucket with a handle so everything is easily found and it's easy to tote from coop to coop. These are the tools we keep in our grooming bucket:
    ◦Baby wipes
    ◦Paper towels
    ◦Small comb
    ◦Silk cloth
    ◦Show Sheen or Shine Spray
    ◦Cotton Cloth
    ◦Baby oil or Baby Oil/Rubbing Alcohol
    ◦Clear nail polish
    ◦Spray bottle with water
    ◦Make-up Wedges
    ◦Magic Eraser
    We have found that grooming is easiest with one person holding the bird and the other grooming. I know it can be done with only one because experienced breeders do it all the time! Get a firm, comfortable grip so you don't lose any chickens down the aisle!
    We start with their feet because even with a thick layer of shavings in their carrier, their feet tend to be dirtiest. We use a combination of paper towels, baby wipes a wet magic eraser to get their legs and toes back to the point they were after their bath. If there is any really stubborn dirt, you can use the spray bottle to soften it.
    Once they are clean, we use baby oil on their legs to make them shine. We've even been told we could use clear nail polish on their toenails, but it didn't work very well. It would have to be fast-dry polish because otherwise it would just be a mess!
    The important thing to remember is that you are enhancing the qualities of your bird, not faking or changing them to look different than they are. Pulling out an off-color feather is different than coloring a light feather black with a marker!
    One of the most noticeable things we do during our grooming is to touch up the comb and waddles with VetRx or a combination of baby oil and rubbing alcohol. It really makes the red of the comb pop. Be careful not to get the oil on the feathers. Using a make-up wedge really helps speed up the process, especially if you have a breed with large combs.

    Next we work on the feathers. If you have a bird with muffs, you'll want to comb out any dirt or food that has gotten into them and then fluff them up nicely. A toothbrush or a small comb works well to do last-minute cleaning.
    Shiny feathers are healthy feathers and you want to really make them sparkle! A silk cloth really brings out the shine. The more you wipe, the better they look. If you want an extra touch of shine, you can use Show Sheen or shine spray as well. We spray a cotton towel then wipe them down with that.
    Check for any wayward feathers that have gotten flipped or twisted or that stick...
  7. Glenda Heywoodo
    Natalie Ross (Texa) and Glenda Heywood
    This is a common occurrence in conditions where humidity was 'off' during brooding/incubation. For future reference, you might want to look into that if you incubate or have babies hatch. I'm going to assume this one is incubated and kept inside.
    First, because of possible lack of mobility and movement, make sure this guy has his first doses of food and water as any baby should. Then you can make a little chicken-shoe of cardboard and medical tape to correct his foot. Glenda Heywood posted a wonderful article by KT THompson on "chicken orthopedics" here at the board. I'll post it here below.
    In the mean time, again please make sure that he is eating and drinking. Facilitate that with a damp mash if he's not. You might have to show him how. It might help to separate him with one buddy, the smallest and meekest of the other hatchlings, or two buddies so that he isn't pushed away from the feeder but has enough 'peers' to keep him interested in what they're eating! smile
    Please feel free to email me or Glenda Heywood about this information or KT's article that she posted here before.
    ---------------- Glenda's post -------------
    Orthopedics for Poultry Made Easy for Beginners
    "D. C. Townsend" [email protected]
    These treatments have been tested and proven effective. I developed them for peafowl but they
    may be used for any poultry. The key to success is to begin treatment promptly. In some cases delay
    will kill or cripple the chick.
    Sometimes a peachick hatches with toes rolled into a fist. They may straighten out on their own
    in the first day of life. If they do not do so, I make a CHICK SHOE (see illustration below) from
    black pipe cleaner available in the crafts department at Wal-Mart. I use black ones because
    bright colors are more likely to be pecked by other peachicks. One packet of Westrim Crafts Chenille
    stems costs 89 cents and will last for years. Any kind of half inch wide tape can be used to attach the CHICK SHOE to the toes, but I prefer Johnson and Johnson First Aid clear tape. I cut a piece a quarter inch long for the middle toe. I cut another piece the same length and split into two quarter inch-wide pieces for the other toes. Eight hours of treatment is usually enough time to end the problem on a day-old peachick.
    Not Actual Size
    Not Actual Size
    In the 1995 hatch, I had a number of peachicks with a kink in the outer toe of one or both feet.
    They were well past a week old when I decided that I must do something about it. I made HALF SHOES of black pipe cleaner. I tore off a quarter inch-wide stripe of duck tape several inches long and secured
    the HALF SHOE to the middle and the outer toe. Several days of treatment were needed. Some of the
    HALF SHOES came off and had to be taped on again, but all treated peachicks had straight toes at the
    end of the treatment. There is a young peacock that I missed treating. Now it is too late...
  8. Glenda Heywoodo
    I have been asked about what do you breed to a frizzle poultry bird?
    Well I raised Frizzle for many years and found the best way is this
    (A)) Frizzle Rooster to a smooth hen(this hen can be a smooth out of the frizzle mating either A or B)
    ...(B) Smooth Male (either out of frizzle mating or a regular smooth with no frizzle genes in his blood line) mated to Frizzle females.
    (C) Now here is why that is the ONLY way to mate good frizzles is because FRIZZLE TO FRIZZE= will breed curleys with very narrow tight feathers
    So if you are interested in breeding good frizzles of any breed, Use this advise.
    Say you want to breed SILKIE FIZZLES here is what I did
    To note that Silkies have different colorations of body parts than Cochins have: basically the frizzle genes are all you are wanting.
    I have done this and you select only females that have head type, feet and beak color and as close to silkie in body figure..t may tak a couple or three yrs of this selective breeding
    Possibly this day and age you will find a frizzled silkie to start with, if so which ever sex is frizzled use a smooth other sex bird to mate frizzle to smooth mating.
    Hope this helps. Come to my face book page for more articles on poultry.
    Glenda Heywood Cassville Missouri
  9. Glenda Heywoodo
    when asked this:
    Can someone please tell me how to use Ivomec Injection on chickens to control worms. I think that i saw white worms in poop
    I want to worm my entire flock
    Glenda Heywood answered
    it just means that you can't eat the eggs while giving Wazine for two weeks after worming them
    then in 10 days you will need to use the ivermectin
    actually you will need to not eat the eggs when using ivermectin also for two weeks
    ***OPTION 1
    it is safer for the hens to use the wazine now and amt for the water in the water and let it kill the round worms
    as too intensive wormer will kill many worms and poison the hens more
    as it makes a shock to their interna; system and the dead worms going to protein in the body of the chicken will poison their systems
    ***OPTION 2
    also you can use the 1% ivermectin and give it down the throat as well as a shot
    using propolene gycol as agent used with ivermectin injection kind
    this was told to me by my friend Randy Henry in Ca who used it a lot
    Ivomec 1% is water soluable and injectable, fast release and needs lowing down going thru the gut. that is why
    they use proplene glycol 3 drops to 1 drop of ivemec 1%. MIX GOOD ALWAYS BEFORE INJECTING
    ****OPTION 3
    5% pour on is oil based and only used on shoulder of the bird in drops. Slow release going into the skin of the bird
    Not inside the bird.
    Directions for 5% ivomec with oil base put on shoulder
    only not internally.
    (1 1 drop small bantam such as female OE
    (2 2 drops large bantam male like OE
    (3 3 drops most bantams
    (4 4 drops larger bantams and smaller commercial hens
    (5 5 drops commercial large fowl and smaller large
    (5 5 drops Large fowl chicken
    (7 7 drops larger males of large fowl breeds ofChickens.(A 5% oil type Ivomec Stays on the birds for at least6 weeks. and is the reason it is only used on the outside under the feathers on the shoulder of thechickens. Slow release time.(B 1% water soulable is injectable and can be used in the water.***OPTION 4 INFORMATION ON #2&#3CURTIS GEARY" <[email protected]>Question on Ivermec 1%I will try to answer your questions as fully as I can. Since we are using ivermectin in an off-label fashion, first I need to say the birds being given ivermectin should not be used for food and the eggs should not be eaten. I am only saying this because I am a veterinarian and this is an off-label use and I am not aware of any controlled studies on the subject of withdrawal times. So for legal and safety reasons don't cull and eat these birds.However, we eat beef, chicken, pork, etc. everyday that had previously been given ivermectin, but established withdrawal times have been (or should have been) followed. The information that is to follow is from my own personal experience and is not substantiated in any scientific journals as far as I know and is purely for informational use. (That's the end of my little legal/safety speech).**INFORMATION 5What can happen if too much ivermectin is given? Well, so far I haven't seen an overdose of ivermectin in...
  10. Glenda Heywoodo
    Impacted Crop Flushing And Surgery
    from Backyard Chicken…/impacted-crop-flushing-an…
    Glenda L Heywood
    Joined: 4/2009
    Posts: 1,436
    When a chicken obtains a large crop.
    This is generally in the summer time, when much grass is around, or in the winter time when the birds are fed whole kernel corn.
    with grass it is likely to become wound up in a ball too large to go thru the opening in the crop.
    With whole kernel corn it is likely to be to large to go thru the crop.
    The corn issue or grain issue will occur in pigeons also.
    So many chickens eat till they are stuffed. The very day you notice the crop being large and hard or sqissy do this immediately.
    NOTE THIS if after you do the flush there is no change then go and do the surgery. Simply because the longer the bird is in pain from the blockage and nothing getting into the stomach for food it is closing the days for surviva.l.
    Here is my advise as it should be done immediately and that is to use the oil and massage. I mention this so that every one reading my article will have the way to
    Take and use two eye droppers of mineral or olive oil inther morning and two at nite. Do this for 3 days and see if the crop material ever ever moves.
    When using oli massage the crop to get the oil involved in the impactation.
    Also the oil will make some of it either go thru or maybe disolve some of the hardness.
    Get her on the milk and bread only. Do not over do it, but only feed her twice a day 1 slice of bread and milk, and yoguart.
    basically you got to FLUSH her literally with
    soda water
    1/2 cup baking soda
    i pint warm water mix good
    and using CHILD'S EAR SYRINGE ( as it has a small narrow tube on it for insertion into the back of the throat to the right side, so as not to strangle the bird)childs ear syringe to fill the crop
    Fill the syringe with the soda water mixture and insert the syringe into the back of the throat as denoted above.
    Have the bird (either chicken or pigeon) on a table in front of you.
    Then come up from under neath the crop on the breast with your hand and fingers tightly pushing
    and push hard to make the sour material come out come out the mouth. Your force has to push the sour material out as chickens or pigeons do not throw up.The bird will open her mouth BUT do not hold her upside down but straight looking at you, looking into her face.Do this flushing at least three times at this time. Seeing if the crop is still hard or full?If she is not full or hard crop Then take and put her in a cage alone for a week. Do not feed her for 24 hrs.Then the next day do this, if she has not hard crop.take slice of breadput 1/4 cup yoguart1/2 cup milkand put in plastic feeder so she can drink the yoguart and milk.Do this twice daily for the week. she should get good gut flora back and be okay.If the bird has hard crop or definitly fuller than normal do the surgery right then.I would do the...
  11. RodNTN
  12. morgannn
    When you buy a chick feeder, buy the long ones with the holes. I have a quart sized one with a screw on base and I had so much feed get wasted. My chickens were scratching out a ton of feed a day and then wouldn't eat it when it got all dirty and poopy. I even had it raised up but it didn't help. Once they moved out into their new run and got a different feeder they were not able to scratch it out and I saved so much feed.
  13. Jkraft
    Thank you!
  14. Chick-e-poo
    Thanks for the info
  15. HolleeG
    Really handy for my chicken preparations!
  16. chitabug
    Thank you. Great stuff I will be sharing with my family!
  17. Mountain Peeps

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