Chicken Questions and Answers

Information on Backyard Poultry

Can you get lice from chickens?

No. Lice are picky eaters. An entomologist would tell you that they are "host-specific ectoparasites"—that is, a chicken louse only lives on the outside of a chicken. Known in some circles as cooties, they can't survive on humans or on non-bird domestic pets. However, fleas and mites are a different issue.

Reasons why baby chicks die?

Baby chicks die for one of two reasons. Either they are not healthy enough to survive or you failed to care for them properly. The sad fact when you are first starting out with chicks is that you won't know what you're doing. You can read books and get plenty of information and that really does help, but there are many things that can go wrong with your chicks. Experience is the best teacher. It's likely that you'll experience losing some of your chicks the first time out.

With chicks, it's very important for them to be warm. You'll need to keep them at a relatively warm temp between 90-95°F for the first week or so and then drop the temperature slowly as they get older. They should be draft free so place some kind of wall around them to contain the heat and prevent drafts. Cardboard works well for this. A heat lamp or even 100 watt bulb placed close to a crate will generate enough heat in a small space to keep them warm. Don't put it so close they can get burned. Cover your brooder to contain the heat if necessary. Use common sense to prevent roasting your birds or starting a fire.

Food and water needs to be available 24/7. Dip their beaks in the water to show them where the water is.

The bedding for the chicks should be something they can get some traction on, otherwise you end up with spraddle-legged chicks that can't stand. Old rags, towels, or even paper towels work. They also need to be clean, which requires cleaning the bedding so it doesn't get too dirty. [I use old towels and change them everyday by shaking all the loose stuff off, and putting in a clean one. When I have enough, I wash them in hot water with detergent and a bit of bleach in the washer. Ed.] Chickens are not particularly hygienic creatures and they poop on everything. Avoid using anything to line their brooder that they can eat (like sawdust) until they know what their food is.

One problem that afflicts chicks is pasty butt. Some chicks get blocked on the butt end with poop, which then dries. You have to clean it off or they will die. There are two basic ways to approach this problem. One is to loosen the dried poop with a warm, wet rag (like a washcloth) until you can pick it off or simply rip it off like a bandage. It's probably more painful for the chick, but at least it's over with. Manhandling chicks is hard on them too.

For the most part, chicks are pretty durable as long as you are attentive to these minimal requirements.

Keep snakes out of the coop?

If you live in an area where predators like snakes, raccoons, and rodents are a problem, you'll need to build a chicken coop up off the ground. Pouring a concrete floor would be best as it prevents tunneling activity.

As you are probably aware, the snakes are probably after the eggs and honestly, we think you should get a dog.

How do I clean the coop?

About twice a year you need to really clean the coop thoroughly. Remove all bedding, nest materials, feed and water containers from the coop. For a cleaner, a concoction of 1 part bleach, 1 part dish soap to 10 parts water will work well. Also, a strong citrus cleanser will do the trick. After cleaning, rinse well and let dry before replacing with fresh bedding. Do the same with the feed and water containers: clean thoroughly and rinse well, and replace with a fresh supply. On a monthly basis, remove the feces (these can be put in a compost bin or used as fertilizer) and change the bedding in the coop and nest. Too much ammonia buildup can be dangerous to chickens.

How old do my chickens have to be to lay eggs?

Hens begin laying eggs at 18 20 weeks of age and a healthy chicken will lay about one egg a day.

Should I clean eggs? How should you clean fresh chicken eggs?

Chicken eggs should not be cleaned until you are ready to eat them, because the outer coating will make the egg keep for much longer. When you are ready to eat them, simply use a little hot water and your hands to get excessive dirt off.

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