Why did the chicken cross the road? We may not know the answer to that question, but, because our clinicians see a fair number of chickens, we do know a lot about them. In celebration of National Chicken Month, we would like to share some tips and tricks for caring for your chicken ladies (pro-tip number one – chicken men are roosters). We’ll talk about the importance of following city ordinances when keeping backyard chickens, providing a proper environment for your chicken friends, breeds that do well as backyard fowl, and, of course, the importance of veterinary care in the life of your chicken ladies.
Backyard Chicken Basics
When deciding to become backyard chicken farmers, it’s important to ensure that you’re following all local ordinances. In Oakdale, MN, for example, you have to contact the police department and follow their instructions, including filling out an application to keep animals. After that, you’re free to create a chicken chateau (AKA a chicken coop) to protect your birds from weather and predators. Laying chickens need nest boxes. One per four or five birds should be sufficient. They also need a high place to roost. There should be a well-insulated area with a light bulb or heat lamp for the winter months as well as ventilation for fresh air. Your chickens should have a minimum of three to five square feet of space per bird, including outdoor space.
Your chickens may hunt and peck for insects, but they also need prepared chicken feed to fulfill their appropriate vitamin, mineral, and protein nutritional needs, as well as grains, fruits, and vegetables to have a well-rounded diet. A healthy diet for laying hens also needs to include crushed oyster shells for egg production and grit for digestion. An especially critical part of a chicken’s diet is clean, fresh water. Chickens need to be fed and watered daily and their eggs picked up twice a day. They should be let out in the morning and put back into their coop each evening to protect them from predators. Of course, their coop and pen need to be cleaned at least weekly to maintain a sanitary, odor-free environment.
Good breeds for backyard chickens include Rhode Island Red, Wyandotte, Ameraucana, and Orpington chickens. Backyard chickens generally stay healthy. A healthy chicken will be active, alert, and have bright eyes. They will move around except on hot days, when they’ll seek shade. Healthy chickens will also talk and sing quietly throughout the day. Each chicken’s eating and laying habits are different, so you will have to get to know each chicken individually.
Chicken Health and Veterinary Care
If, for any reason, your chicken doesn’t act normal – if she doesn’t run to the food as normal or she wheezes or sneezes – it is important for your chicken to come to Homey Gnome Veterinary Clinic for a check-up. Possible causes of illness to chickens might include things that can also affect humans and other animals. It’s possible for a chicken to develop an infection caused by bacteria, mold, fungi, parasites, or viruses. It’s also possible for your chicken to develop a noninfectious illness because of chemical poisoning, a hereditary defect, or nutritional deficiency.
If you want the company and community of other chicken people, you can connect with them through the wonders of the worldwide web. But, if your fowl is feeling foul, we’re here to help!
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