50 Poultry-Keeping Tips For Chicken Owners

We look back 10 years, through 50-plus issues of Chickens magazine, for 50 poultry-keeping tips for you and your chickens.

by Roger Sipe
PHOTO: Twin Sails/Shutterstock

When the first issue of Chickens magazine rolled off the printer back in the spring of 2010, I was a bachelor living in California. I had no kids and no plans to have any.

But now I’m now happily married, living back in Indiana where I grew up, with the two best boys anyone could ever have the privilege of raising (chips off the old block!).

Things change, but one thing remains constant: Good poultry-keeping tips are still good poultry-keeping tips. So we thought it would be fun, 10 years and more than 50 issues later, to go through each issue and find some great information to share.

Whether you’re new to the magazine, have been with us for every one, or didn’t even know we published a chicken-specific print magazine, here are some poultry-keeping tips from the past decade of Chickens magazine.

1. Overcoming Common Problems

Keep a small area around the coop clear of snow and ice during the winter, so your chickens won’t have to freeze their feet just to stretch their legs. From Issue No. 1, Spring 2010

2. A Breath of Fresh Air

Make sure your chickens have some access to fresh air during the day outside of the coop, especially when temperatures rise.
No. 2, Summer 2010

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3. Surviving Fowl Weather

Keeping water in its liquid form can pose a significant poultry-keeping challenge when temperatures take an icy dive. Some people will paint the waterer black and shine a heat lamp on it. This keeps the water thawed and also provides some warmth for the birds. No. 3, Fall/Winter 2010

4. Brooder Room Basics

If your chicks are huddled together directly under the heat source, your brooder is probably too cold. You’ll need to lower the heat lamp closer to the chicks. No. 4, Spring 2011

5. Coop Construction

Before building your coop, install a pad of cement pavers to put the coop on. This prevents any predators from digging underneath. No. 5, Summer 2011

6. The Basics of Biosecurity

Observe your birds daily for signs of sickness, and be prepared to act if illness or death strikes. Isolate a sick bird from your other chickens immediately. No. 6, Fall 2011

7. News & Notes

If you run out of uses for eggs before your hens have stopped laying them, you can freeze them. To prevent the yolks from turning gummy, add 1⁄2 teaspoon of salt for each cup to be used in general baking or breakfast dishes. No. 7, Jan./Feb. 2012

8. First Week Survival Guide

A rigid, plastic kiddie pool filled with dry bedding can be a good temporary first home for up to 25 baby chicks. No. 8, March/April 2012

9. Healthy Eggs for Healthy Eating

Choose a consistent time to gather the day’s eggs. The longer eggs sit in the nest box, the more likely they will be walked on or defecated on by your flock. No. 9, May/June 2012

10. Marvelous Manure

The compost should be composed of a healthy carbon-to-nitrogen balance of brown material, such as straw or coop bedding, dried leaves or dried grass, and green material, such as chicken manure, green grass clippings and kitchen scraps. Chicken manure is so high in nitrogen, so you may be successful using a one part green to one part brown mixture. No. 10, July/August 2012

11. First Aid for Fowl

If your hen is going through a difficult molt, you might consider fencing her in a separate area of the yard, so the other hens don’t injure her. No. 11, Sept./Oct. 2012

12. Chilly Chickens

Frostbite is a cold weather-specific poultry-keeping challenge. Protect combs and wattles by coating them with petroleum jelly or another heavy moisturizer every few days.
No. 12, Nov./Dec. 2012

13. Cold Weather Tips

Another cold-weather poultry-keeping tip: Collect the eggs as often as you can. Chicken eggs are composed of nearly 75 percent water, so they’ll freeze and crack quickly once exposed to the cold air. No. 13, Jan./Feb. 2013

14. Raising Your Own

To develop and hatch successfully, eggs should be incubated at a temperature between 99 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit and 50 to 65 percent relative humidity. No. 14, March/April 2013

15. It’s Time to Clean House

Use a mixture of leaves and pine shavings for the floor area. This mixture also makes great compost when moved out and aged. No. 15, May/June 2013

16. See Saw Make Cuts

You’ll need more than just chicken wire to keep your flock safe. Invest in a welded, galvanized, 14-gauge wire fence for your run’s outer walls. No. 16, July/August 2013

17. The Days of Our Lives

Old hens cannot process nutrients as efficiently as younger birds, and their bodies can get depleted of minerals. Offer calcium in oyster shell form, free choice, even if it’s supplemented in their feed. No. 17, Sept./Oct. 2013

18. Mothers Know Best

Some good nesting-box materials to consider include wood shavings, sawdust, shredded paper and grass clippings from a non-treated lawn. No. 18, Nov./Dec. 2013

19. Build a Better Feeder

For growing birds too small to reach your newly built feeder, place a block of wood in front of the feeder to serve as a step ladder. No. 19, Jan./Feb. 2014

20. Coming Home to Roost

In cold climates, round perches put birds’ feet at a greater risk of frostbite. In these areas, use a flat, wooden perch that forces birds to spread their feet out so their toes are kept warm by the chickens’ breasts. No. 20, March/April 2014

21. Planting for Poultry

Leave the stems on your homegrown grain, and dry them upside down in handful bundles. When winter weather keeps your hens inside the coop, hand bundles of dry grain, high enough that the chickens have stand on tiptoes or hop to reach them. This poultry-keeping practice will provide healthy exercise that may also improve winter egg-laying. No. 21, May/June 2014

22. Keep Your Poultry-Keeping Cool

Chickens generally won’t even touch water that registers above 90 degrees, so when the air temperatures are high, it’s time for ice cubes or ice blocks in your chickens’ water. Vitamins and electrolytes or plain Pedialyte added to the water in extreme heat can help your chickens cope better with the heat. No. 22, July/August 2014

23. What the Shell?!

When a chick grows to egg-laying maturity, it’s time to switch from a grower feed to a layer feed. Layer feed has a higher level of calcium in it than a grower feed. No. 23, Sept./Oct. 2014

24. From Sea to Shining Sea

Ensure your birds have adequate places to hide from predators when they range, and lock up your chickens well before dusk to avoid “the killing hour” when predators feed before dark. No. 24, Nov./Dec. 2014

25. Eggstraordinary Ideas

Here’s a poultry-keeping bonus—eggshells can work wonders in the garden to keep some pests, such as slugs and snails, away from plants. No. 25, Jan./Feb. 2015

26. This Little Light

Don’t keep an egg out of the incubator (or out from under a broody hen) for more than five minutes. Each time you remove an egg, you expose it to potential harm: the bacteria from your hands, for instance, and especially inconsistent temperatures and humidity. No. 26, March/April 2015

27. Off to a Good Start

Young fowl need good traction on the brooder floor, or you will have damaged legs and slipped tendons on the hocks. Wood shaving and chopped straw are good bedding choices. No. 27, May/June 2015

28. Shoo, Fly!

Whenever possible, keep waterers out of the coop. The use of poultry waterer nipples inside the chicken run is enormously helpful in maintaining a dry chicken yard while offering the flock fresh water and preventing flies from sullying the water supply. No. 28, July/August 2015

29. Sell & Swap Talk

Examine each chicken carefully before buying it. If the seller doesn’t want you to handle a bird, don’t be shy about asking him to display it to your specifications. No. 29, Sept./Oct. 2015

30. Prepping for Winter

Reduce fire hazards in and around heating sources. Use poultry-safe heat lamps with guards, if possible, and on a timer to control the temperature. No. 30, Nov./Dec. 2015

31. Looking for Natural Remedies

In the event of an attack, bring the injured hen inside somewhere warm and quiet, and give it a quick once-over to assess the damage. Call the vet if that’s the route you choose to take, and then clean the wounds as best as you can with saline solution. If blood is flowing, apply a generous amount of cornstarch directly to the wound to stop the bleeding as quickly as possible. No. 31, Jan./Feb. 2016

32. The Need to Feed

Grit is an important poultry-keeping ingredient, and you should include it in chicks’ diets to help them properly digest food. (Chickens don’t have teeth, so they seek out tiny stones that grind up food in their gizzards.) Free-ranging birds can find grit in their environment, but for brooder chicks, supplementary grit is mandatory to help them digest their food. No. 32, March/April 2016

33. Case of the Missing Eggs

Hens require at least 14 hours of light to maintain egg production. To keep the gals laying all year, use artificial lights to augment the natural sunlight when the day length decreases. No. 33, May/June 2016

34. Upcycling Eggshells

Sterilized eggshells, crushed or powered, can be star cleaners around the house. Make a cleaning paste by mixing sterilized, finely pulverized shells with a little lemon juice, vinegar or water (plain or soapy). The nontoxic abrasive can be used on pots, pans or wherever you might use a store-bought abrasive cleaner. No. 35, Sept./Oct. 2016

35. Boredom-Busting Super Treats

Active birds, especially in the winter, are happy birds. Allow birds to keep themselves busy by foraging to keep them from activities like pecking each other. No. 36, Nov./Dec. 2016

36. For Maximum Wellbeing

Catnip, pennyroyal and fennel can be used to repel insects. Grow them around your chicken coop or crush and sprinkle them inside. No. 37, Jan./Feb. 2017

37. Watching out for Stress

The key to reducing stress in new mothers is the same across species: Support them! Mother hens should be given quiet, safe quarters to sit in their clutches for the three weeks of incubation and for the several weeks after hatching. Offer her food and water in the nest; otherwise, a committed mama may rarely get off the nest to take care of herself—a poultry-keeping problem. No. 39, May/June 2017

38. Having Patients

Separating a symptomatic bird will hopefully keep the rest of your flock from also becoming ill. Separation will also prevent your other birds from bullying and attacking the ailing animal, as flock pecking orders can restructure as a result of a weakened member. No. 40, July/August 2017

39. Gimme Shelter!

This is a poultry-keeping basic that bears mention: Provide your flock with a dedicated home. Housing them with other animals—especially larger livestock—can result in fretful temperatures, accidental injury and even death. Bunking your hens with other birds, such as turkeys, is also not recommended, due to possibility of illnesses such as blackhead disease passing between bird species. No. 41, Sept./Oct. 2017

40. A Season for Freezin’

Normally, farm-fresh eggs can be left out at room temperature for a few weeks on the kitchen counter and still be fine to eat because the bloom or natural coating on the eggshell keeps out air and bacteria. However, if you collect eggs that are cold to the touch, condensation will probably form on the shells once they start to warm up, which can make the properties of the bloom ineffective, so it’s good poultry-keeping practice to refrigerate your eggs in the winter. No. 42, Nov./Dec. 2017

41. Show & Tell

Weeks before your show, you should train your birds to be accustomed to being in a cage and handle them a few times each day as a judge would. No. 43, Jan./Feb. 2018

42. Chicken Health, From A to Z

Birds of different ages need varying amounts of water. The older a bird is, the more water it typically needs. In summer, keep waterers out of direct sun. In winter, take precautionary measures to make sure the waterers don’t freeze. No. 44, March/April 2018

43. Salad Salute

Bugs and greens provide the nutrients that make the yolks of backyard hens so nutritious and beautifully orange. Look for ways to make sure your hens are getting enough greens in their diet. No. 45, May/June 2018

44. When the Heat Is On

Avoid giving chickens dietary additions via treats during hot weather. Otherwise, body temps will increase from calories burned during digestion. No. 46, July/August 2018

45. Eggs for Later

One way to preserve your hens’ bounty is by freezing excess eggs. The simplest way is by scrambling raw eggs in recipe-specific portions, pouring them into plastic freezer containers or freezer-safe canning jars, and popping them into the freezer. They’ll keep for about nine months. No. 47, Sept./Oct. 2018

46. Cold Chicken

Chickens need to eat more in winter to generate body heat to stay warm. So, during the winter, leave feed out all day, allowing them to eat whenever they like. It’s also beneficial to modify their diet slightly to increase the amount of protein and fat they consume. No. 48, Nov./Dec. 2018

47. Had I Only Known!

If you’re keeping chickens primarily for eggs or meat, you need to replace the flock every couple of years. If space is limited, you also need to decide whether to keep the hens as pets, butcher them for food, take them to be slaughtered, or have a source where they can live out the remainder of their non-producing lives. No. 50, March/April 2019

48. For a Healthy Flock

For some breeds and some flocks, a quality feed alone is not enough. Supplement your birds’ diets with oyster shells for added calcium and grit for aiding digestion. Both are usually available wherever other poultry-keeping and farming supplies are sold. You can also purchase them easily online. No. 52, July/August 2019

49. Being Good Stewards

Have you ever hatched your own chicks? Built a chicken tractor? Taught a classroom of first graders about chickens? Tried that garlic scape pesto deviled egg recipe you swore you’d try? Good chicken-keepers keep growing. The more experiences you put under your belt, the more you can understand the many facets of life with chickens, seeing them in a new way each time. No. 53, Sept./Oct. 2019

50. Boredom Busters

Straw bales can be used to create barriers between feeders and waterers to promote walking or jumping by placing hay bales in such a way that birds can either jump over the bales or walk in an S-shape to get to food and water. However, this should be done under careful supervision to make sure no birds go without food and water. Alternatively, you could just place food and water far away from each other to increase walking distance. No. 54, Nov./Dec. 2019

That’s a lot of poultry-keeping tips to take in! Thanks to all our readers for supporting Chickens magazine this past decade. We hope you stick around for the next 10 years. Our best is yet to cluck.

This story originally appeared in the November/December 2019 issue of Chickens magazine.

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