Hens are fun to farm – they entertain you, give you fresh eggs, eat the pests in your garden and provide you with some great fertilizer. If kept well, they form a part of your little feathery family that brings life to your otherwise lonely backyard.
But before you delve into the joyful part, you need to know the secret behind raising a successful flock: the health of hens. That’s not too much of a big deal, though – hens are easy to maintain and as long as you know the basics of keeping your hens happy and healthy, you’re good to go.
So, without further ado, let’s get right to the point and discuss steps to keep your hens healthy.
Monitor your hens’ feed – keep it healthy
Ever heard the saying ‘you are what you eat’? Well, that pretty much applies to your hens as well.
Being omnivores, your hens will eat anything they’re fed. But it’s important to monitor the diet you give them; it should meet their nutrition requirements according to their age group.
Generally speaking, you should use a commercial poultry feed that contains most of the nutrients required. This type of feed contains grains and vitamins required for optimal growth. Additionally, you can feed them fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, bananas and apples.
When first born, hens are started off with a starter feed. When they turn 8 eight weeks old, this is then transitioned into a grower feed. When hens start laying eggs, they are to be given layer feed which contains the calcium they need to form the shells of their eggs.
Avoid certain feeds
Hens eat everything they get their beak on, but you shouldn’t actually feed them everything.
You should avoid giving your hens feed that is high in sodium chloride or fat. Eating garlic and onions can alter the flavor of the eggs they lay, and avocados can make them ill. Additionally, you should not give them chocolate – you love it, but your hens don’t.
Provide clean water
Cleanliness of water is an important factor that contributes to their health. Often, pathogens enter the bodies of hens through the contaminated water they drink.
Therefore, you should make sure you provide your hens with clean drinking water daily, so they're not only hydrated but also safe from germs. In the long-run, this is an essential step to keep your hens healthy.
Let your hens dust-bathe
Just like you need your daily shower with water, your hens need to bathe in dust. For this purpose, you should provide accommodating areas, such as a small patch of loose dirt in your backyard or a pot filled with dirt.
Use natural supplements when needed
At times, your hens may show symptoms of deficiencies. You can rectify these lacking nutrients by giving them dietary supplements, some of which include:
Give them space … clean, dry space
It’s natural to give your hens less room when you’re keeping them in your backyard. But really – that larger coop is worth the investment.
The trick to keeping diseases away from your hens is to give them a large and clean space to live in. Smaller spaces can lead to hens fighting amongst one another for room and resources. Dirty places can attack their respiratory systems, and wet coops encourage the growth of fatal germs.
Therefore, regularly cleaning droppings from the coop and maintaining cleanliness is an important step in keeping your hens healthy. If possible, provide them with a larger area to live in, and use sand as bedding to ensure the area is dry.
De-stress your hens to keep ‘em healthy
Humans aren't the only ones who tend to get stressed – your flock can too. When stressed, hens will refuse to leave their coop and reduce the production of eggs. In worst-case scenarios, stress can prove fatal … and no one would wish that on their feathery family.
There are several things you can do to de-stress them, such as:
Steps to keep baby hens healthy
At one point, the eggs laid will hatch into chicks, and you’ll find yourself monitoring the health of baby hens.
When you do have chicks to look after, you should ensure they have access to food and water at all times. The waterers used should be shallow to avoid the risk of your baby hens drowning. Additionally, you may want to keep your chicks away from adult hens to prevent the latter from picking on the former.
Use supplemental lighting when needed
The life cycle of hens depends on the amount of light provided. To lay eggs, a hen needs around 14 hours of sunlight.
When natural daylight is deficient, you can use supplemental lighting such as LED bulbs. This is usually common during winter months when daylight does not exceed eight hours.
However, you must take care that your youngsters do not receive too much daylight; this may cause them to attain sexual maturity too soon and lay eggs when their bodies aren’t ready for it.
Raising a flock of hens in your backyard is a rewarding thing to do, but you must pay close attention to the health of your hens, ensuring they receive everything they need. This includes optimal nutrition, clean water, sufficient daylight, clean spaces and stress-free environments.
If you manage to keep a check on all those factors, you’ll be raising a happy and healthy feathery family that will keep you entertained for good!