The following routine tasks will give you an idea of what you will need to think about doing at the various times if you keep chickens. These are my routine tasks:
- Fresh food and water needs to provided. Pelleted feeds can stay fresh for a week inside a hopper so that they are dispensed ad-lib as the hens require food, however it will soon go mouldy and cause disease if it is not kept dry. Place food containers under cover or purchase a rain hat to keep the rain off. Clean water containers with a small hand brush before refilling them with fresh water.
- A quick 1 minute health check – stop for a minute and observe. Make sure everything appears normal.
- Collect eggs and keep an eye out for broody hens over the spring and summer months.
- Scatter a handful of corn per bird in the late afternoon as a treat.
- Essential: Close the pop hole at night and open it in the morning to protect chickens from predators (especially foxes). Open the coop as soon as you are awake and it is light outside, close it at dusk as soon as your chickens have gone to roost for the night. An automatic doorkeeper has been one of the most useful items I have bought to lock up my chickens at dusk and let them out in the mornings. It is one of the more expensive items I have bought but it is very reliable (the batteries last well over a year) and I am not in a panic trying to get home as it gets dark and the best bit…. I get to have a little extra sleep in on the weekend!
- Chicken houses should be cleaned out at least weekly to prevent a build up of organic matter, which puts your birds at more risk from respiratory problems and disease. Between May and October, check perch ends and cracks for Red Mite. They are very common and the sooner you find them, the easier it is to get rid of them. You can read more about cleaning out on this page here.
- Clean feed hoppers – a wipe will sometimes do.
- Provide fresh greens at least twice a week, more often if chickens don’t have reasonable free range or if grass is short / there is snow on the ground.
- Check grit hoppers and top up as necessary.
- 5 minute check: Pick up a couple of birds and give them a quick health check. Check that they haven’t lost weight and examine between their feathers, particularly around the vent area for lice.
- Check your stocks and re-order as necessary.
- Give 2% Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) in the water for one week a month. I always do this on the first week of every month so that I don’t forget.
- Feed Verm-X monthly at 2.5g per bird.
|Month||Jobs to complete
|January||Think about breeding. 2 to 3 year old chickens are best for breeding as they have resistance to disease and their eggs are now a good size. Get incubators tested and ready for use if you plan on hatching this spring.
Add a vitamin supplement to the water if the weather is cold and rub Vassalene into large combed cockerels such as Leghorns to protect against hard frosts. Provide regular greens when the ground is frozen. If snow falls, clear the ground immediately in front of their house so they can get out.
|February||Order spare heat lamps for brooders, chick crumbs and anything else required if you are going to incubate.
Add a vitamin supplement to the water to birds that are breeding or if the weather is cold. Continue rubbing vaseline onto the combs of large combed cockerels if necessary.
Provide regular greens when the ground is frozen. Check fertility of eggs in incubator.
|March||Collect eggs and start incubating to get new stock. Fertility should now be at its best and all hens should be laying by now. Add gravel, sand or wood chippings to well used ground as it turns to mud in the rain. Worm the flock with Flubenvet.|
|April||Spring clean chicken houses. Set broody hens and tend to chicks if you have hatched them.
If you have a cockerel, fit poultry saddles to hens so they don’t lose feathers from their backs.
Build or buy any new housing required for new birds. Remember not to mix young chicks / growers with older birds but let them out on warmer days for a couple of hours around mid-day to get some fresh grass.
|May||Red mite season begins – start preventative red mite treatment. Let chicks / growers out onto grass in covered runs and make sure they are locked up at night.|
|June||Continue preventative red mite treatment.
Inspect fencing fully as June to September is a popular time for fox attacks. Make sure birds have shade and their water is not in the sunlight so they can cool themselves off by drinking.
|July||Continue preventative red mite treatment.
Get any painting or treating of houses done when the sun is shining. As chicks can be sexed, remove unwanted cockerels as they will cost you to keep and won’t be productive.
|August||Continue preventative red mite treatment.
As chickens come into moult, give them extra vitamins, a handful of dried catfood (for extra protein) and ACV to help them to grow new feathers.
|September||Continue preventative red mite treatment. Move this years hatch (now pullets) to their new accommodation or integrate them with the flock as they will soon start to lay. Worm the flock. Repair houses and runs that need fixing before the winter. Replace sand or chippings if used in smaller runs.|
|October||Red Mite Season Ends – Stop preventative red mite treatment as weather turns cold. Review stock levels: Don’t over-winter stock that isn’t going to be of use next year. Remember young cockerels who get on fine now will become competitive and start to fight in the breeding season.|
|November||Make sure you have sufficient water containers for the freezing weather to come. Consider visiting some of the poultry shows that are held during the Autumn. Make sure hen houses are draft proof.|
|December||Add a vitamin supplement to the water every other week if the weather is cold. Provide regular greens when the ground is frozen and extra corn so they have more fat (from the maize) to produce more heat. Ensure hens can get shelter when the weather is bad, especially in cold winds and rain.|
Do you have any routine jobs I have missed from this list? Please leave me a comment below.
hi im getting six chickens they are having a very nice coop and run , when i get them am i best to keep them in for a day then let them out to get use to there new home
Yes, you can keep them in but often, I find you can let them out if they are securely fenced in a pen and put them in for a couple of nights if they don’t find their way in themselves and then they soon get the message.
Thank you – what a great website! This has really helped me. Will save this page to help me when i need it!!
My three light sussex girls seem content and lay well. One of them is very dirty round her rear end. Can I put a water tray in the run, do hens paddle? Does she need help to clean herself? Any help very welcome. Thanks
No, she will only drink for it. Chickens will take a dust bath but not get wet. What you can do though is wash her yourself. Stand her I warm water and use baby shampoo. Make sure she is fully dry when you finish. Use a towel and then a hair drier. They are usually quite calm and don’t seem to mind this. This is after all how chickens are prepared for a show.
I have had my six chickens for a week. It took a few days to get them used to going to bed but the past couple of nights they go to bed at 21:25 and I go and shut them in.
The problem is I would like them to go in earlier as by the time they go in it is past twilight and Charlie Fox is creeping about the field. They are surrounded by an electric fence but I don’t for minute think this is a fail safe for them!
How can I encourage them in by 20:00 when its not quite dimpsy? It also means I’m not waiting to go to bed because they haven’t. I let them out by 06:30, and leave their feeder down all day til about 19:30 when I pick it up and give them a few handfuls of corn. They like the corn but they don’t go to bed!
Any advice greatly appreciated.
You could try scattering some corn or treats in their house to see if they will go in for those?
What plants complement chickens? I know they will get pecked at but would be of benefit to chickens
Most greens are eaten but the most beneficial is actually grass and the insects that they find in grass.
Grass can make up a significant amount of their protein intake when it is fresh and growing in spring.