How often do I need to clean my chicken's coop?
You'll soon find out that when a chicken needs the toilet, they will go anywhere and everywhere, and often! So it will be no surprise that there'll be fresh droppings in their coop each day. The best thing to do is clean as you go, so when you go out to feed your chickens or collect their eggs, just clean out the droppings too.
They are quite messy animals so a thorough clean will need to be done about once a week using an animal-friendly disinfectant. Make sure you clean into all the corners of the coop as anything that is missed is an ideal breeding ground for parasites — and you don't want your chicken falling ill! Perches, nesting baskets and any feeding bowls will also need to be cleaned and replaced. The coop should be treated with a sprinkling of mite powder which should keep the nasty parasites at bay, plus it's recommended that nesting baskets are also treated with a louse powder each week.
Check your chicken's eggs each day — if they start getting dirty, that's a clear sign that your coop needs cleaning out more.
Just incase you didn't know: Chicken droppings are rich in nitrogen and can be added to a compost heap!
Can chickens be handled?
Many chickens won't like being handled, but if you have plenty of interaction with them from a young age you may find that they become very tame. Some chickens will let you pick them up, and some will even sit on your lap for a short while to be petted. Normally, chickens will learn quickly that their owners bring them food, so will follow you around like you are the leader of the flock. They can also get very confident with stealing food, especially if you are eating outside with them — don't be surprised if they jump up and steal things out of your hands!
Will my chicken fly away?
Generally, because of a chicken's size, they struggle to fly. They can jump, flap their wings and gain a bit of height but not for long. Over the years chickens' wings have become shorter and heavier, and because they can feed so readily off the ground, they have everything they need without having to fly. Smaller birds might be able to gain a bit more height and fly a bit further, but this is still far less than the flying abilities of other birds. If you are worried your chickens will fly away, put up high fencing or a roof over their outdoor run.
How many chickens can live together?
Chickens are sociable animals and are best to be kept in smaller groups — they will normally develop a 'pecking order'. You should try not to mix different sizes as the smaller chicken will probably end up being bullied by the others, and this can also happen when you add any new chickens to an established group. Cockerels aren't needed for production of eggs, as hens will lay eggs without them — however they won't hatch.
If you do notice that one of your chickens is being bullied, separate it from the others but always keep it within site of the main flock — this will prevent it being bullied even more when you reintroduce it back into the group.
The amount of chickens you house together will depend on the size of house that you have provided. For example, if you have a house with a run that is approximately 4m x 3m, you won't want to have any more than 12 chickens in that space as ideally they need approximately 1 square metre per chicken. Two hens per family member should provide you with more than enough eggs.
How often will my chickens moult?
Chickens moult on average once every year and this usually happens during the summer months. You will notice that your chickens will start to look a bit shabby as they shed and re-grow new feathers, however your bird will look much better afterwards! This process isn't a sign of illness, so don't panic when they start looking a bit unkempt. However, if it takes a long time for any feathers to re-grow, there could be a problem — check the appearance of the other chickens in the flock and you'll soon know if there's something wrong. Consult a vet if this is the case.