This post was most recently updated on March 1st, 2020
Like any pet owner, you want your animals to be happy and healthy. Making chickens happy is pretty easy when you know how. There are some simple things that you can do to help ensure that your chickens are kept as happy and healthy as they can be.
Please read: This information is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or prevent any disease. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions in partnership with a qualified health care professional.
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You are probably asking yourself, which are these steps I can take to ensure my flock remains happy?
What causes unhappy chickens?
Unhappy chickens may fight, stop laying or just sit around looking sad. If this sounds like your flock, it is always worth making sure that your chickens are not unwell. There are some natural solutions to keeping your chickens healthy here.
If your chickens are not happy, it is quite possible that they are stressed. Stress for chicken is typically caused by their environment. Some of the types of stress that may make your chicken unhappy include:
This may arise if your chickens are constantly being exposed to physical stressors. For example, if you have kids always running around trying to catch your chickens, or a dog chasing them around.
This may occur if you keep your chicks in an overcrowded coop, or if you have too many roosters.
This may occur if your flock is always exposed to the risk of predators such as predatory birds, dogs and, cats.
This may occur if your chickens are always exposed to the risk of exposure to diseases. This mostly occurs if your chickens are living in unsanitary conditions. It can also occur if your flock does not have access to clean drinking water.
This can arise if you provide inadequate feed to your flock or even if your chickens have improper access to food. Perhaps your feeders are set at an inappropriate height. Nutritional stress can also occur if you are constantly changing the type of feed you give to your chicken.
This type of stress mostly occurs if your chickens are living in the wrong type of environment. For example, the coop may be damp and cold, too bright, windy or it may even be improperly ventilated.
These are the major stress factors that may be making your flock unhappy. Chickens show that they are stressed and unhappy in many ways. Some of the most common signs of stress and unhappiness in chickens include:
• Your chickens are always making sounds showing they are alarmed
• Your flock is always on running away when they see humans
• If you are rearing layers, they may suddenly stop laying eggs, or their eggs maybe lumpy and wrinkled
• You may also notice constant fighting in your chicken coop
• Your flock may also be underweight and malnourished
• You may also notice a drop in the number of chicks being hatched because your roosters have become temporarily infertile
Which Steps Should You Take to Make Your Chickens Happy?
The best way to ensure that your chickens remain happy is to ensure that they are not exposed to any type of stress. Wondering how to make chickens happy? Here are the top steps I have taken with my flock and managed to keep them happy.
1. Build Your Coop Properly
First, you should ensure that you build your coop properly. You can engage the services of an experienced handyman or poultry expert when building a coop.
Ensure that your flock will not be exposed to wind, rainwater and, damp conditions.
Additionally, if you have some laying hens, ensure that you build sufficient nesting areas that are dark, warm and secluded. Allow 1 box for every 4 hens.
There are brilliant chicken coop plans available from here
2. Avoid Overcrowding Your Coop
You should ensure that your coop is not overcrowded. If your flock has sufficient space, there will be fewer fights and your flock will also get enough exercise. One of the keys to happy chickens is giving them enough space to be chickens and all that entails. Room to move, scratch, peck and flap happily.
Different areas around the world have different requirements for chicken space. But a good guideline is 3 birds per square meter (3sq ft per bird) inside the coop, with more space for them out in the run or allow them to free range.
3. Provide a Balanced Diet for Your Flock
Chickens can eat almost anything. However, this is not to say that you should feed them any type of food you come across. You should buy nutritious, specially formulated chicken feed and provide the right portions for your flock.
With the right amount of food, your chickens will grow strong, healthy and they will also remain productive.
Laying hens will also need some form of calcium supplement, we use ground oyster shells, this helps provide the calcium for the egg shells, ensuring the girls keep their bones strong and healthy.
We have real issues with sparrows stealing our chicken feed, so we bought some Grandpa feeders and almost halved our feeding bill!
Additionally, do not forget to provide clean water for your flock. When feeding chickens, most people tend to forget to change the drinking water. Remember that dirty water increases the chances of your chickens being exposed to diseases exponentially.
To prevent water contamination, we love these waterers.
5. Provide Exercise Space for Your Flock
Want your chickens to love you? The best way to do this is to let your chickens out regularly so that they can run around the yard and exercise.
A chicken that exercises is a happy chicken. Further, if you let your flock out in the yard, they will get to forage for small pebbles and grains of sand that they need for good digestion.
However, when letting your chickens out, keep a close eye on them in case a predator decides to swoop in and keep your precious vegetable plants well fenced.
6. Provide Medical Care Promptly
A healthy chicken is a happy chicken. Ensure that you closely inspect your chickens for any signs of diseases and should you notice any sign that they are sick, ensure they get the appropriate treatment right away.
Most laying chickens from hatcheries have been vaccinated against several poultry diseases, but it is worth checking with your supplier.
7. Treat for Parasites Regularly
Routinely inspect the coop for any parasites and pests. You should treat the coop occasionally so that your chickens are not disturbed by pests and parasites.
If you live in and area that coccidiosis is an issue, you may like to feed a medicated feed, or add a cocci-stat to the drinking water intermittently.
8. Let them Bath
Chickens LOVE a good dust bath. It helps them control mites and ticks and it gives them something to do.
Check out this recipe for the ULTIMATE chicken dust bath.
9. Add New Members Carefully
The ‘pecking order’ is a real thing. A new hen will be subjected to the pecks of all the other chickens until she learns her new place in the flock. Having a rooster does help reduce the harassment of new ladies, but will not stop it completely.
Once you have put a new member in quarantine for a few weeks to make sure they aren’t unwell, you can move them in to the area the existing chickens are in, but keep her safe in her own pen for now. Once your ladies are used to her presence, you can let her out and let her join the flock.
Ideally, you would be introducing more than one chicken at a time, a group of 3 or 4 would be better, as it helps to spread the pecking order re-arrangment behaviour around a bit.
If you are bringing in new chicks, wait until they are at least 16 weeks old before introducing them to your new flock, anything smaller and the existing hens will simply kill them.
Chicks hatched by mama hens within the flock are fine, mama will defend and protect them.
10. Keep them Entertained
The best chicken entertainment is allowing them to have a good roam, peck and scratch around your property. If this is not possible, you can look at other options. Chicken swings, hanging cabbages and old balls are all ways to give your chickens something to do.
Chicken treat ideas include piles of compost full of worms, a handful of meal worms or some slugs off the plants in the garden.
3 Things Your Chicken Doesn’t Need to be Happy:
1. A sweater
You may have seen those photos of chickens wearing sweaters. Cute? Yes. Necessary? No. In fact, they are more likely to harbor mites and fleas, less able to clean their skin with a dust bath, and the sweaters may rub and irritate their skin.
Chickens have many ways of staying warm that include heat from other birds and her own feathers and fat layers.
2. Heat lamps
They aren’t necessary for adult chickens. Once chickens have their feathers, additional heat is not useful. They’re dangerous and can cause fires! They may also lead to perspiration that could lead further on to chills and frostbite.
3. Continual light
Even in the dead of winter, chickens don’t need light on 24/7. Personally we allow our chickens to moult and go off the lay as the days get shorter. But if you choose to add supplemental lighting, make sure it is on a timer so that your girls can get some sleep in the dark.
In conclusion, if you implement the tips I have provided in this post, you are guaranteed to keep happy and healthy chickens. Ultimately, for your chickens to remain happy, you have to ensure that they remain healthy, well-fed, stress-free and protected.