Post Your Nifty Tips and Tricks You've Learned Along the Way that Makes Chicken Keeping Easier

Lady of McCamley

Free Ranging
10 Years
Mar 19, 2011
7,509
5,603
522
NW Oregon
I'd like to start a thread for posting "nifty tricks and tips" you've learned along the way so that we have a spot to read through for ways to make life easier in chicken keeping. (I did a search on BYC and didn't find a thread exactly like this...or it was so buried a new one might be nice).

I'm looking for those "ta da" moments...you know, after you've been doing it this way for so long, and then...ta da...you realize there is a much, much easier way as a moment of ingenuity strikes to make life easier for taking care of your chickens. Or something you've learned from others and want to share the secret with us. Or even some old faithfuls.

The idea is to start a log of bright ideas so we can look through to glean for tricks to make our chores easier.

I'll get the thread started with a couple of tricks that have worked for me, and I am looking forward to gleaning from you clever folks out there.

1. Use your old feed bags as coop liners. I have wooden coops that are raised...ie to about knee to hip height for ease of cleaning...which I am very glad for but still found the poo and feed mush can get ground into the wood and hard to clean off. I worry about the build up over time creating an environment ripe for bugs and disease. The wire mesh was even worse as poo would get stuck and dried on the mesh...a big bummer to clean off. Then I had a "ta da" moment and found that if I cut open my old feed bags and lay them down on the coop floor THEN place the wood chips over that, it is VERY easy to simply slide the whole thing out for cleaning. You grab the bag, fold a bit, and the whole thing swoops out. One 50lb bag cut open flat pretty much fills my coop floors (I have 3 to clean!). When the bag liner gets soiled, I simply replace it. It is helping to keep my wood coop floors MUCH cleaner. I still place Permethrin poulty dust under and on top of the feed bag for bug prevention, and spray the wood with Orange Guard...but wow, no more bending over and scooping/scraping out poo and chips. My back has never been so happy at the thought!

2. Let the birds dust themselves with poultry dust for prevention and light infestations. This sounds dumb...but it is so easy I didn't trust it even though I'd seen it recommended from others. For prevention especially, but even if you have a light infestation of lice/mites, regularly sprinkle the poultry dust on their favorite dusting area. Reapply through the day...I had been hand applying this on 20 birds!!!!! From the can!!!! What a mess...but I've seen that letting them do it themselves is REALLY doing the job. If there is a moderate to heavy infestation on a bird, still apply directly to the affected bird. That's best done with a duster made from an old nylon sock (as I gleaned from someone else on BYC). But keeping the dusting powder on their dusting area has really cut down on the need to dust all the birds by hand.

3. Heated dog bowls for the occasional sub-freezing weather! I live in an area that only goes below freezing for a few weeks out of the year, so generally I don't have to worry about months of frozen water containers. Because of that, I didn't want to pay the big dollars for those heated chicken waterers, and having burned a coop to the ground with a heat lamp, I wasn't going to put one of those into the coop to keep the water unfrozen. But as the years roll around, I am finding those 2 to 4 frozen weeks (depending upon the year) can be a real hassle if you are hauling water out repeatedly during the day to keep chickens in liquid water. Amazon.com sells an inexpensive outdoor heated dog bowl (big blue, 1 1/2 gallon) for about $20 that works like a charm. I do run an extension cord out to the coop, but it isn't like having a heat lamp to fall into straw so I'm not concerned with a short starting a fire. (What? If a fire sparks..the bowl will melt and the water douse it?) The dog bowl is also wired to go off if the temperature rises. Anyway, for the $20 I found this winter much more livable and worry free as those heated dog bowls allowed me to not worry about hauling water to the hens.

4. Use Broody Hens to Incubate and Brood Chicks! Artificial incubation and heat lamp brooding enables chicken keepers to completely control when they raise chicks, but it is a lot of effort and mess (with some fire risk from the heat lamps). While not everyone can take advantage of a broody hen, if you can, by all means do! Hens do a GREAT job of hatching and caring for chicks. I've personally witnessed that the chicks grow faster, are overall more vigorous, and develop better with far fewer (to date none) incidences of pasty butt, coccidiosis (as they are exposed more naturally) and other typical "chick hood" diseases vs. my "green house" heat lamp broods. Overall research indicates broody hens tend to have better hatch rates than artificial incubators too (typically 80 to 100% vs. 50% unless top of the line incubators are purchased). Flock integration is much easier as mom leads the way, and there is no need to slowly adapt them to the environment. I've had broodies hatch and raise chicks in sub-freezing weather (teens and 20's with 6 inches of snow on the ground in the outside runs) and no one seemed to notice they shouldn't be running around in the cold coop without a care or a heat lamp in sight. Amazingly, the chicks not only survived but thrived. If you can purchase a reliable broody type breed (Silkie or Cochin) or are lucky enough to have a regular volunteer, your life is free, free, free from the fire risk of heat lamps and the brooding cage mess in the garage (said by one who burned a coop down to the ground from a heat lamp accident).

I look forward to the posts of others
Lady of McCamley
 
Last edited:

bugflipper

Songster
9 Years
Apr 9, 2010
228
22
113
Predation
Actively protect your fowl by preventing problems before they arise. Learn what animals are indigenous to your area and what baits they readily come to. Research what traps would be best for you and the non target animals that may come to your place. Cage traps are often the solution for most. You can dispatch the predator or take it for a long ride. It is much better to trap the animals before the fact than to scramble and try to get rid of them afterwards. New animals will present themselves to replace the ones that are gone so it's an ongoing process that you will become quite effective at.

Protection
Your responsibility to the animals you keep is to provide food, water, shelter, safety and security. Make the pens stronger than you would think needed. You can never predict what natural events can happen or the resolve of a hungry animal bent on not starving any longer. How many posts are there on here of help, a dog, hawk, owl, cat, raccoon, fox, possum or so on got my chicken. If this happens you are to blame as you are responsible for their well being and safety. Build the pens stronger than needed. Be aware that eventually if you let them out of that pen that you knew the consequences when they get eaten or harmed in any way and you were fine with it.

Prevention
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We've all heard that plenty of times. So how does it apply? Many ways change water frequently. Control rodents. Keep the area clean of feces. Place a tbs of apple cider vinegar in the drinking water per gallon to prevent worms and improve overall health. Provide a safe secure non stress environment so they don't succumb to illness.Sanitize their coop, waterers, roosts and feeders. Periodically check for mites/lice and take precautions to prevent them. Observe the flock often to see if anything is out of the ordinary. Circumvent problems before they arise.

Culling
I read all kinds of posts on what to do about bad behavior. The most effective solution is culling. If there is one mean animal harming others or people. If there is one hen eating eggs. If there is one animal eating feathers. Aggressive behavior is hereditary if you do not deal with it sooner you will have it in abundance if you wish for the line to continue. If only one animal is eating eggs or feathers, or laying shell less eggs then it has a deficiency. Sure it can likely be cured but why allow an isolated issue to become a major concern for an entire flock several generations down the line? We tend to want to treat them as humans. This simply will not work and will give you a very bad experience for years to come. Passing the offender off to be a problem to someone else is also not a viable solution as it is your responsibility to begin with. Not to mention you are responsible for weakening the breed by doing so. As an aside culling tastes pretty good.

Chick Health
Use a ceramic heat emitter. They are more efficient and have a much longer lifespan. Lower the heat source closer to the ground so that a temp of 120-150 is reached directly on the ground under it. Chicks will find the comfort zone where the heat is just right. They can also come back from exploring, eating or drinking and quickly recharge without having to rest under low heat for extended durations. What that means is they have a much higher metabolism and build muscle faster. They are healthier and less prone to sickness or dying. Doing that and providing them with vitamins/electrolytes plus a tsp of sugar per quart of water will create an environment where sick/dead chicks are an extreme rarity.
 

SoProlix

In the Brooder
5 Years
Apr 7, 2014
49
5
31
Olympic Peninsula, WA
What a great idea for a thread! I'm sad there haven't been more responses.

I'm sure a lot of you already do this, but it didn't occur to me right away and made a huge difference: nipple waterers in the brooder.

I planned to have buckets turned nipple waterers in the coop, but was using those little plastic waterers you see everywhere in the brooder because the bucket wouldn't fit. I finally got so fed up and worried about their health (they were filling the waterers with poopy shavings faster than I could change the water) that I made one with an empty milk jug just for the brooder. I've also seen some clever bike water bottle holder turned nipple waterers elsewhere here. Never going back to open waterers again ever. Hanging the feeders at shoulder height also cut way down on wastage.
 
Last edited:

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom