A Checklist for Happy Hens…
By Mary Murray
This is a follow-up to my post on spring cleaning the chicken coop (which I’m happy to say has been crossed off our to-do list!).
A friend of ours just picked up her chicks and is so excited…keeping chickens has really caught on! She’s asked me to share our how-to’s for keeping our little flock happy. Some of the tasks we do daily, some less often, but before you know it, they’ll all become second nature.
1. Make sure the run is secure (no predator digging in the night), then let the hens out for the day.
2. Rake the bedding to freshen it up.
3. Refill feeder and waterer (rinsing out if needed), check level of grit…does it need refilled?
4. Gather eggs.
5. In summer: throughout the day, see if waterer needs refilled with cool water. In winter: check to see if the water has evaporated from a heated waterer, or has frozen.
6. Look hens over…do they appear healthy?
7. Once hens have settled in to roost at night, secure doors and nest boxes, close windows and ramp.
1. Clean roost (we find a wire brush works well).
2. Remove soiled bedding under roost; replace with fresh bedding.
3. Thoroughly clean waterer and feeder; refill.
4. Check supplies of feed and grit…purchase both if needed.
1. Closely inspect run, roosts, doors, ramp, and windows…do they need repaired?
2. Are locks on doors and nest boxes secure and working?
3. Are pine shavings/straw heavily soiled? If so, remove all bedding, then add fresh to the coop floor, as well as in nest boxes.
Once a year…
1. Let the hens in the run; close their entrance door to the coop to begin a thorough cleaning.
2. Open all windows to let in fresh air; remove feeders, waterers, and gather eggs.
3. Remove all bedding material, empty nest boxes, and clean the roost with a wire brush.
4. Once bedding is removed, broom out any cobwebs, dust, or remaining shavings from the corners. Haul used bedding to a compost bin or till into your garden.
5. Disinfect coop surfaces with a mixture of 1:10 bleach and water (one cup of bleach for every 10 cups of water). A spray bottle makes it easy to apply this mixture to all surfaces. Wipe the interior down, and let dry completely.
6. Examine coop for any roof leaks or drafts, then double-check all D-clamps and square lock pins on nest boxes and doors to make sure they are secure.
7. See that the windows are in working order, and if the roost needs repaired.
8. Remove vinyl flooring for cleaning. We placed a vinyl flooring remnant over our coop’s wooden floor…it keeps the wood underneath dry and makes cleaning much easier. I simply pull out the flooring, scrub with a 1:10 bleach/water mixture, rinse, and let it dry completely. (Note: vinyl flooring is for adult hens only and not a good choice for chicks as they can easily slip on it.)
9. Once everything is thoroughly dry, replace the vinyl flooring, top with fresh bedding, and fill nest boxes.
10. Feeders and waterers are then scrubbed clean, and then reattached to S-hooks on chains that are hanging from the ceiling (both should hang level to the hens’ backs).
11. Give the run a once-over and look for any signs of outside digging, bent or broken wire, and general wear and tear. Make repairs where needed.
I hope sharing our to-do list is helpful as you start your own list. Once you get in the habit of caring for your hens, you’ll discover what works best for you. There are a lot of different checklists available for keeping your hens happy in their home…this is just what works best for us. You can always combine different lists to come up with one that’s just right for you!
Some things are second nature…for example, I look over the run each morning and would certainly make any repairs then, not waiting until it comes up on my monthly to-do list. However, having a handy checklist that’s broken down like this one, means even if I get busy, I’ve taken care of the important things that need doing.
Feel free to comment and share your own checklist ideas…there’s always something new we can learn!
Mary is a Midwest farmgirl who enjoys the simple pleasures of living in the country. “For us, living where there is plenty of room for gardens, animals, and for kids to play and explore is the best kind of life.” You can visit Windy Meadows Farm at www.windymeadowsfarm.blogspot.com .
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