This week’s read question is “Are there any common chicken practices that you believe to be harmful or just less-than-ideal? Certain coop setups, feed, nesting materials, etc.”
As far as “chicken practices”, I am only assuming that the reader means commercial practices in hatcheries and chicken processing plants. Since we are small backyard chicken parents, I will be the first to admit that I know nothing about the practices in commercial facilities, so I really can’t speak to that. I have seen articles on Facebook about overcrowding, feeding them steroids for bigger chickens (meaning bigger chicken pieces to sell to consumers), etc. and I don’t agree with any of those things at all! I realize that we eat these little guys and gals and that we, as consumers, contribute to the demand for chicken to eat, but I believe there are farms that are more caring and I am going to make it a point to find some local organic chicken farms to purchase my chickens for eating! Thanks for that question, it has really made me more aware of what I am eating and where and how the chickens were raised!
Now, coop setup. This totally depends on how much room and money you have! Just my opinion. We have 2 chain link fence dog kennels configured into a 10’x30’ are for our chickens.
We live in a neighborhood, so they can’t free range all over the place, but we do let them in our fences in back yard to semi free range in the evenings while we are outside cleaning coops, tending to the plants, and letting our little dog Mike run around.
Ideally, when we have our own property, I plan to purchase a small, pre-built shed to turn into a “chicken house” with a large totally enclosed run for them with a door in the shed to go in and out. To me, this is the ideal coop set up! With a walk in door in the shed it makes it much easier to clean, gather eggs, and I will use the front end of the shed to store feed/cleaning items. Sort of like these (on a smaller scale)…
Photos found on Pinterest
Some coop/bedding choices are:
- Straw and Hay – a very popular choice, soft for the hens and eggs, inexpensive, and durable.
- Pine Shavings – readily available and very affordable, this is what we use. They dry very quickly, and can be scooped out easily. They are also great for the compost pile after cleaning out the coop!
- Cedar Shavings – they work much like pine shavings, except for the scent and chickens respiratory systems. There are differing opinions on whether cedar is safe for chickens, therefore, not an option for us.
- Sand – a great choice as nesting box bedding if you are committed to spend time sifting it! I have a cat and I detest the litter box, so this is not an option for me as we have to sift litter inside already! As a ground layer for the outside run, I would LOVE to have sand, when we own the property where our chickens live 😉 It dries super fast and the hens would love it for dust bathing!
- Grass Clippings – they could be free but clippings tend to stay more moist. This will make them smell more. Also, if you don’t know where the clippings came from, they may be full of pesticides or chemicals! The chickens will pick at it and that could be dangerous!
- Recycled Paper – again, not a favorite option of mine since there is ink in the paper and can also be slippery when wet. The main drawback is that when a hen lays, the egg is wet and the paper will stick and dry to the egg!
For the Nest Box – pine shavings are our choice. One nesting box for 3-4 chickens is ideal.
Some ideas for nesting boxes are:
- Covered or uncovered cat litter boxes
- Pet carriers (you can find these at yard sales or thrift stores)
- 5-gallon buckets obtained from restaurants or other sources, on its side
- Plastic dish tubs
- Plastic milk and soda crates
- Wooden crate (harder to clean than plastic)
- Old drawers from a dresser or desk
- Plastic storage tub – cut a hole in the lid and lay on its side
Chicken Feed: totally a personal choice as to what you think is best for your flock. We chose Nutrena Layer Feed from Tractor Supply. It has all the nutrients and egg hardening properties for “adult” (over 16 weeks) hen! We do have 2 that are just under 16 weeks and have also been eating this feed. I’m thinking now I should go buy this. I just realized they are NOT 16 weeks old yet – still a few weeks to go! We tried the pellets first, but our flock seems to like the crumbles better!
So, I think this week’s Fun Fact Friday is a wrap! I hope I answered the questions of “Are there any common chicken practices that you believe to be harmful or just less-than-ideal? Certain coop setups, feed, nesting materials, etc.”!!
Next Friday we will be looking into our final reader question…”What would be your number one tip for new chicken owners?” – please come back next week and join us!