Chicken keeping is an important part of the sustainability curve here. I have not bought a store egg in well over a year now as all gifted from the girls, our happy hens.
Hens are just like the rest of us. If they are in the mood to do good work, they typically do. If they aren’t, well they typically don’t. And if you think a cat can be stubborn, they don’t hold a candle to a stubborn ole hen! So how does a hen stay in the mood to work? By keeping her body fine tuned and hydrated. Fine tuned with enough nutrition to satisfy her hunger, but not enough to sit on her hips, making her fat and lazy. I rarely give my hens more than 1/3 pound of purchased, dry organic feed per day. Typically it is a lot less than that because I have kitchen scraps and garden compostables to toss to them. They much rather have scraps and compostables than dry feed anyway and this saves us a lot of cash on feed. I keep saying I am going to figure out exactly how much I am spending on feeding these lovely ladies, I just haven’t yet, but I am pretty sure it is less than you would expect for urban chicken keeping.
Our hens forage but unfortunately they don’t have the luxury of free ranging. Being nestled just inches inside the city limits does just that, it limits us on managing our hens outside the coop. Surrounded by lovely neighbors and their sweet pups and kitties keeps me shepherding my tiny flock every morning as they bug hunt. In just two to three hours per day they can clean up a whole slew of insects, worms and dandelions. I am so thankful chickens love dandelions and foraging is their favorite thing to do!
So that’s about nutrition. What is more important than a good feeding routine for healthy, happy, egg laying hens? Hydration! I often hear comments about how energetic my chickens seem to be. And it is true, they are quite feisty. Now, during the dog days of summer in hot and humid Middle Tennessee, any chick, including myself, will be looking for a cool shade tree. While there is plenty shade provided for our hens, I have found it is the water that’s more important than anything else. I have a simple but consistent way to hydrate my chickens that seems to keep them healthy, happy, and laying a lot of eggs!
This is my water routine :
EVERY day- Pour out leftover water from day before and wash the container with soapy water. I just use cheap *Dawn dishwashing liquid. I do believe this single practice has been what has helped my hens stay energetic, aware and healthy.
EVERY day- Give fresh cold water to the brim of the squeaky clean water container.
Every FEW days- Add a couple teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar (with the mother) to the water. This acts as a natural antibiotic that cuts bacteria.
Extra hot Summer Days- about mid day pour out water and refill with fresh cold water with ice added. They will surely thank you for this! I also sometimes add some cold cucumber, melon, or whatever I happen to have cold and sharable in my fridge.
Extra hot Summer Days that make chickens feel lethargic and sickly- Add electrolytes to the water. You can buy electrolyte packets at chicken supply stores like Tractor Supply Co or your local Co-Op, but I just make mine using the recipe Lisa Steele at Fresh Eggs Daily shared. (If you have not discovered FreshEggsDaily yet, check her out. She is a world of information on good chicken keeping.)
Frozen Winter Days- Keep a close watch on the water container. Have several containers inside where they won’t freeze, and ready to swap out with frozen water. Chickens do not lay near as many eggs in the winter time and do drink a bit less but they still water. Don’t waver on the hydration rules just because it is freezing cold outside!
So obviously, nutrition for your hens is a very important basic element in chicken keeping. But the moral to this post is basically to provide your girls with an abundance of good, cool, and clean water daily to ensure healthy hens that will have plenty energy to provide you with one good egg per hen about every 28 hours or so.
Happy Egg Collecting, Y'all!
HOMEMADE ELECTROLYTES FOR CHICKENS RECIPE
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
8 teaspoons sugar Whisk the above ingredients together. Add 6tsp of electrolyte mixture to 1 gallon of water, or 1.5 tsp to a quart of water. Offer to chicks or adult chickens for several hours as their sole water source and then offer plain water for several hours. Repeat until symptoms subside.
'LIVE SELF SUFFICIENTLY, LOVE OTHERS PURPOSEFULLY, CARE DEEPLY FOR MOTHER EARTH AND HER CREATOR"