Chicken Health / Chickens / Management

Ten Tips for the New Year


If you have chickens or are just getting started, here are ten tips for keeping your flock healthy in 2013.

1. Provide plenty of fresh water with ACV.

Whether you choose to provide an open waterer or water nipples or cups, make sure that your flock has plenty of water year round.  Keep waterers unfrozen with heated water bowls, uncoated light bulbs, or by bringing waterers into the house overnight.  Pour a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with the mother into each gallon of drinking water to improve nutrient absorption and keep the water clean longer.

11-week old Basque Hen pullet ranging

2.  Provide plenty of greens.

The orangey color of the yolk is from carotenoids derived from greens such as grass or alfalfa, as is the yellow of legs, skin, and beaks.  Make sure that they have access to fresh or dried greens year-round for their health and yours.

3. Provide animal protein.

Despite proud “vegetarian-fed” labels, chickens are not actually vegetarians.  Chickens need to eat animal protein, often in the form of bugs but also small animals such as rodents and lizards.  If your chickens can range on healthy land, they will provide this for themselves.  If not, you will want to find a source of animal protein such as dried mealworms or occasionally canned tuna.  You can also raise earthworms, mealworms, or black soldier fly larvae.


4. Try fermenting feed.

Fermenting increases the availability of nutrients in food.  As a wet mash, fermented food also stimulates the growth of villi in the intestine to increase nutrient uptake.  As a bonus, the beneficial microbes also help to reduce the prevalence of disease-causing bacteria in the digestive tract.  Make a soupy mixture of food and water, add a good starter like apple cider vinegar with the mother, wait about three days, strain and feed.  (Did you know ferments are good for you, too?  Every culture in the world traditionally eats some cultured food.  Try making your own homemade sauerkraut!)


5. Feed your breeders right.

By simply providing extra nutrition to your breeding chickens, you can greatly increase your chances of hatching chicks which hatch strongly, hold up well in the brooder, are less susceptible to disease, have well-formed feet, legs, and spines, and grow robustly.  Epigenetic influences can improve or weaken a flock in just one generation.  Breeder nutrition also enhances virility and fertility.


6. Move the brooder outside.

By rearing chicks outside with a minimum of supplemental heat, they will feather out faster and grow to be hardier.  With access to the outdoors, they will also practice foraging and protective behaviors sooner.  Use a contact brooder like the EcoGlow as soon as it can keep the area directly under it at the proper temperature overnight.  In warm climates, you can put them outside with an EcoGlow as soon as they hatch.  In more moderate climates, you may keep them inside for a week before moving them outside in early spring.  Make sure you check your coop and run to close up any chick-sized holes.


7. Use deep litter.

Deep litter is alive with microorganisms which help to process poops and keep the air fresh.  These microorganisms also provide B vitamins to chickens scratching in the litter and actually create a small amount of heat to soften winter temperatures.  Begin with six inches of dry material such as pine shavings (not cedar) and add another inch to ½ inch each week.  Be sure to keep the litter dry and protected from leaky windows or waterers.

8. Renovate the dust bath.

Chickens dust bathe to discourage parasites and keep themselves clean.  Try giving them a place to bathe with all the amenities: protection from precipitation; access in all weather; deep, loose dirt; and bonus powders like wood ash or DE.


9. Give them more space.

Chickens would be in heaven if they could roam the jungle freely like their wild kin.  Barring that, they thrive in conditions closest to their natural state.  Find the balance of freedom and safety that works for you and try to provide as much room to roam as possible in your situation.  The exercise is good for their mind and muscles.  The pecking order will relax as lower-ranking members move further towards the edge of the group, and the density of pathogens will decrease.


10.  Put the chickens to work.

If your chickens are only giving you eggs, you are missing out on one of the major benefits of chicken-keeping: compost.  Keep your kitchen and lawn scraps and build a compost pile in the run.  The chickens will turn and enrich your compost.  You can remove material to age in another location and then use it in your garden.  If you don’t keep a garden, your neighbors might appreciate the rich compost and offer you their scraps (which may reduce feed costs) and perhaps barter some of the fruits of their garden in return.

Shared with:

The Chicken ChickNatural Living Mamma
Down Home Blog Hop

26 thoughts on “Ten Tips for the New Year

  1. Will you expand on your comment “build a compost pile in the run”? I would be somewhat hesitant to put all the waste from my kitchen, which includes coffee grounds, potato peels, and sometime things that have “aged” a little too long in the frig, right into the run. And do you chop things (i.e. long carrot shavings) first? I do keep my run covered in leaves (collected from my neighborhood in the fall), which the chickens do a lovely job of shredding before I put them into my compost bin.

    • All excellent points. While coffee grounds and potato peels are definitely not something I would “feed” to a chicken, they are in my compost pile. My pile isn’t in the run, but my chickens free range and tend to my compost pile daily. They pick through and take what they want and then move on. If they have appropriate things to eat, it is unlikely that they would eat so much of something unhealthy for them as to cause a problem, but I am sure stranger things have happened. I personally do not chop long things for them either. The only thing which I avoid because of possible crop impaction is hay in the coop or nest boxes.

      If your chickens are confined to the run, it would probably be best to avoid things you wouldn’t want them to eat. They might get bored and try things they otherwise might not. Leaves are, of course, fantastic for them to scratch through. Any untreated lawn clippings, garden waste, vegetable peelings and ends, crushed egg shells (which I do not cook, just crush), old-but-not-moldy food, and so forth would be just fine.

      Thank you very much for your question, Barbara!

  2. Wonderful advice, thank you. I haven’t raised chicks yet, always buying 6 week old pullets, and am grateful for any information to keep things simple and the way nature intended.

  3. Great tips for chicken enthusiasts! I would love to have you join in several hops that I host or co-host! Starting today there is the seasonal Winter on the HomeAcre Hop at:

    This gives you a chance to bring out archived posts on winter subjects 🙂
    Tomorrow is Wildcrafting Wednesday, you’ll be able to find it from my homepage at:

    And on Thursday I host The HomeAcre Hop, another good place to bring out great posts that you would like to share again. I’d love to see posts on homesteading, farming, cooking, homeschooling…the list goes on 🙂 You can also find that on my homepage. Hope you can join us for all of these fun hops!

  4. Pingback: Ten Tips for the New Year | amy elizabeth's Good Chicken Keeping

  5. Lots of great tips in your post, thank you! Right now, our ‘ladies’ are not moving around much, they don’t like the snow. Even though we’ve compacted a path for them, they still see some white and won’t leave their coop! Come spring (or the first melt) they will be out again scratching and playing in the compost pile.
    Saw you sharing at Tilly’s Nest
    Debbie 🙂

    • Sometimes I think they don’t recognize the snow as the ground! My strategies vary. Sometimes I shovel, sometimes I put down leaves, and sometimes I make a trail of scratch and sunflower seeds from their pop door out into the run! Thank you for stopping by, Debbie!

  6. Pingback: Homemade Mondays Week 11

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