Self Sufficient Living

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Basics

Food

Modern day chickens are descendants of jungle fowl and are omnivores, it is very important for them to get a balanced diet. Unless you are expert, the best way to achieve this is to base your chickens’ diet on a pelleted feed. For laying hens feed layers pellets and for chickens for the table feed growers pellets plus a suitable grain such as corn or wheat. Most chicken keepers feed the pellets in the morning or on demand via a feeder (it’s important to keep the food dry we keep ours inside the hen house), then the grain in the late afternoon as a scatter food.

Feed at a rate which means the hens can clear up all the scattered feed in about 10 minutes so nothing is left for vermin to eat. Fresh greens are very popular with the birds and certainly of benefit (yolks won’t be yellow without them, unless you add a dye to the food, like many commercial egg producers). If you can't get your birds onto grass regularly give them some cabbage or similar.

Once you’re sure the birds are properly nourished a few treats will do no harm and be much appreciated: kitchen scraps such as bread and cereal for example, or sunflower seeds.

Drink
Fresh, clean water must be available during the daylight hours. This is best achieved by one of the propriety drink feeders which keep a reserve of clean water which fills up a small trough, making it harder for the water to become dirty. If you lock your birds in at night, it is not necessary to make water available over night.

Grit
Hens need grit to grind food in their crop, some may be included in a good quality feed, but it’s a good idea to supply some in a suitable container. Also in the food will be a source of calcium, necessary for eggshells, but many poultry keepers like to supply extra in the form of ground oyster shell,we use this and cockle shells too, this is I mix in with the grit which we collect from the beech if you are lucky enough to live near the coast, it make a good afternoons walk for the kids too..

Cleaning
The chicken house will need to be cleaned regularly, exactly how often depending on the density of birds and the time of year, but ideally once a week. The floor of the chicken house should not be covered with sawdust instead use dust-free wood shavings as chickens have delicate respiratory systems or use clean, dry wheat straw, (not hay) and straw in the nest boxes. The floor can be lined with old newspaper first, then shavings or straw, droppings and all can simply be rolled up.
Poultry droppings make one of the best garden manures, though used fresh and direct, in quantity, can be too strong for plants so best allow them to rot down with the old straw and shavings – it really shouldn’t smell. It is very important to keep all the crevices clean and watch for signs of infestation by red mite or fleas.