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Raising Chickens - Caring for Adult Chickens
Keeping adult birds requires that you have housing that protects the birds from wind, rain and snow and also provides shade on the hottest summer days. Their instinct is to roost at night so perches are also necessary. Wood 2-inch poles 24 inches off the floor work well for this and you should keep at least 12 inches of bedding underneath to catch the droppings. The total length of the roost should provide 6 inches for each bird. If you need more than one roost, put them 12 inches apart. My mobile poultry houses have a wire floor so bedding is not necessary under the roost. The droppings simply fall through to the ground. While their house needs to be tight against drafts, there needs to be plenty of ventilation so the chickens have fresh air and ammonia fumes produced by the droppings can dissipate.
I also provide nesting boxes for my hens to lay eggs in. Lining them with straw makes a soft place for the hen to sit and the egg to fall. You will need 1 nest per 4 hens, approximately 12-iches x 12-inches. My mobile coop has custom nesting boxes built into the sides that open from the outside to make egg collecting easier, but there are nesters that you can purchase. I put a plastic egg in each nest to encourage the hens to lay there.
It's best to have an area or 'run' attached to the coop that is enclosed with wire to keep the birds in and predators out while allowing the chickens to have access to the outdoors to forage and dust themselves to stay clean and free of mites. Many people allow their birds to range free during the day and then close them up at night to protect them from predatory animals. If you have pets or neighbors in close proximity, free range is probably not a good idea unless you provide a means of pasturing them and confining them to your property. I use an enclosure made out of fence netting about 30-inches tall with an electric wire along the top that is powered by a small solar panel. This 'electric' fence is safe for use around people yet can contain and protect your flock during the day.
As with the chicks, you will need to provide fresh water and food everyday and keep them clean. During the winter you need to make sure the water is not frozen and in the summer, when consumption is higher, make sure the water does not run out during the day. If you have mostly hens for fresh eggs, providing them with lay pellets (15 – 18 percent protein, completely balanced) will keep them producing s steady supply of eggs.
And speaking of feed, all chickens like to scratch in the dirt with their feet. This is how they forage, turning up bugs, seeds and worms to eat. You can give them a feed called 'scratch' once a day that is made of cracked corn and other grains to supplement their diets with additional vitamins and minerals. Throw this out on the ground and the chickens will come running – scratching is their favorite thing to do. If your chickens have access to the outside for foraging, they will probably be able to pick up enough gritty sand or small pebbles to digest their food with, but if they are confined you will have to provide purchased grit for them and some crushed oyster shell to add extra calcium in their diet to keep their eggshells strong.
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