Why worry about keeping your chickens happy? Well, for one, they tend to fight less with each other when they’re content. They also tend to lay eggs more regularly. So happy chickens means happy chicken owners!
If you’re new to raising chickens, you’ll be relieved to know it doesn’t take much to keep your chickens happy. Here’s a list of the top ten chicken-pleasing essentials:
1. Make sure your chicken coop is large enough for the number of chickens you have. The goal should be at least 4 square feet per chicken, but even more is better. Cramped spaces tends to encourage fighting among the flock.
2. Give your chickens place to roam outside the coop (a protected chicken run or a safe yard). They need a place where they can nibble, scratch and hunt for juicy treats (bugs, slugs, weeds, etc.) to eat. (Hint for a happy chicken owner: If you value your garden, keep your chickens out of it…yes, they’ll eat the weeds and bugs, but they’ll also eat the plants, flowers and vegetables!)
3. Treats. Yes, they’re just like us humans. Treats make us happy, right? Chickens are no different. Treats for them are worms, bugs, fruits, vegetables, breads, and many other table scraps. Most chickens also love cracked corn (which you can get at the feed store when you buy chicken food), but don’t overindulge them–too much of a good thing can sometimes be bad (I give my 10 chickens a small handful or so of cracked corn to SHARE. I throw it out on the ground and let them scratch for it–they LOVE it.)
4. Fresh water. (You wouldn’t want to drink poopy water, either, would you?) Keep your chicken’s water cool in the summer, and thawed in the winter.
5. Roosts. Make sure you have enough roost space for every chicken to have a spot. Roosting makes them feel safe.
6. A chicken coop that is SAFE from predators, wind and rain. Most chickens can’t tolerate much, if any wind, and don’t like being wet, either.
7. A calm environment. (Chickens are happier if they don’t have a dog barking at them day and night, for instance.)
8. If it gets really cold in the winter, give them some warmth. A heat lamp or insulation on the chicken coop walls work well. I’ve heard of some people who even give their chickens a wood stove to keep them warm!
9. Daylight. (It takes about 14 hours of daylight to coax an egg out of your chicken). Adding windows to your chicken coop will help light the coop on the short, dark winter days. If needed, add a light in the chicken coop so the chickens can get their allotted daylight requirements.
10. A bit of dirt. Chickens love to scratch around in dirt. It’s like their style of chicken entertainment! They also use ‘dirt baths’ to cool off in the summer heat and to help control bugs infestations.
As you can see, it really, it doesn’t take much to make a hen happy. Food, water, shelter, safety and an occasional treat…and your rewards will be fresh eggs, fresh fertilizer and plenty of reasons to laugh and smile as your chickens entertain you with their funny behaviors and great personalities!
Kerrie Hubbard lives in Portland, Oregon with 10 chickens, 1 cat and several small raised bed gardens. Her website, City Girl Chickens ( http://www.citygirlchickens.com ) is an urban guide to raising chickens in your backyard or other small spaces.
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