We asked veterinarian Jan Pol, the star of Nat Geo WILD’s “The Incredible Dr. Pol,” what are five tips he would give to backyard chicken-keepers.
1. Keep It Clean
First, of course, is start with clean, healthy pullets. Get them from a reputable hatchery or store. Don’t put them in a dirty pen, even if it has been empty for a couple years.
2. Set Things Up
Make sure pullets are warm (but not hot) and have clean water and food. Put [feeders and waterer] on a board or something higher than the floor. Otherwise, [they] will be full of bedding in no time.
3. Size Matters
When the chicks get bigger, make sure the area gets bigger, too, and that they have roosting spaces enough for all the chickens. Once the chickens start laying eggs, there should be enough nest boxes, and they should be clean and kept clean.
4. Lighten Up
In the winter, there should be a light in the coop to give them daylight for about 16 hours per day [if you want to keep up laying production].
If there are not enough chickens to keep the coop warm, then you also need a heat lamp. Many other heat sources get so dusty that they stop working. Even the heat lamp needs to be dusted off regularly.
5. Stay Secure
And last of all, chickens are on the bottom of the food chain. Everybody and everything eats chicken! So make sure the fences are varmint-proof because many animals will get in a coop and just kill chickens for fun.
If you have a chicken die, don’t panic. However, if you have more than one die in a short time, let a veterinarian do an autopsy. It is easier that way to make a diagnosis than on a healthy live bird.
I hope some of these points will help you keep a healthy backyard flock!
To learn more about Dr. Pol, please visit his website: www.thedrpol.com. This article originally appeared in the March/April 2021 issue of Chickens magazine.