Through the years of chicken keeping, I have read many articles and blogs about the many different ways to care for your chickens. A lot of them were basic about coop care and the food to feed them. How to keep them safe from predators and how to keep them warm in the winter.
Other articles talked about a more natural approach to chicken keeping. These are things I was interested in and would practice off and on but never made it a priority. Really because I was just lazy. It just seemed like a lot of work and the way I was doing things, was just good enough.
This last winter was long and hard on us and our chickens. The snow was deep and it made it hard for me to clean it like I should. This resulted in mites, which I discovered when I was able to get in there and get the spring coop cleaning done. I am embarrassed to admit it, but yes my coop had mites.
I was determined to get rid of them, but I wanted to do it naturally. I didn’t want to use chemicals at all unless I absolutely had to. So I got on the internet and looked for natural ways to get rid of the little devils. All the websites I looked at said there was not a natural way to get rid of them. You had to use chemicals to do it. All of them said this but one. Fresh Eggs Daily was the only one I found that gave a natural solution.
For the coop, I cleaned all the shavings out and doused the floor, the walls and the nesting boxes in D.E. (Diatomaceous Earth). Then I sprayed the perches with a soap, oil, and water solution that the article suggested. For the birds, I used a garlic juice, essential oil, and water solution. I repeated the spraying of the perches and the chickens daily. Every other day I would stir around the shavings on the floor and the nesting boxes. And sprinkle more D.E. It took about a week, but my coop and chickens are now mite free!
All of this was a wake-up call to how I was taking care of my birds. “Just good enough” wasn’t good enough anymore. My girls work hard to give me eggs. But if I’m not doing my best to give them a healthy life, then the eggs they give me are no better than what I could buy at the store. I might as well give them to a better home, and just buy my eggs. But, this is not what I wanted to do. So I started down the road of natural chicken keeping. My first step was feed.
What I was giving them was better than most. But I knew I could do better. Here in North Idaho, we are lucky enough to have a local feed mill. They grow their own feed and source out what they don’t. It is all Non-GMO and milled right there in their own factory. It is an excellent feed that my girls absolutely love. I bought a bag last week, something I hadn’t done in months because I was just too lazy to make the trip to get it. When I gave some to the girls, they devoured it lol. So unless something better comes along, I will be giving this to my girls from now on. They also make a chicken scratch which I haven’t tried yet, but I will soon.
Fermenting chicken feed is something I have recently started doing and my chickens love it! As of right now, I give it as a treat as I do not have to room at the moment to do it bigger and as their only source of food, Though I do plan to sometime in the future. There are many health benefits in fermented foods, for humans and chickens. The fermenting process uses naturally occurring bacteria to break down the feed and increases the vitamins B, C, and K. The bacteria in the fermented feed is good for the gut. This good gut bacteria is like the bacteria you find in yogurt and the like. Studies have shown that chickens on fermented feed lay larger eggs and the shells are harder. This type of feed also boosts their intestinal health and immune system, making them more resistant to disease. You can find more information about it here.
HERBS AND FLOWERS
As you may know, there are many health benefits of herbs and flowers for humans. Those same health benefits in herbs and flowers can be used for chickens. I have only just started using herbs for my chickens so I do not have any of my own. But will as soon as the weather permits me to get outside and start planting. In the meantime, I bought the Coop Confetti from Fresh Eggs Daily. They smell wonderful and the chickens love them. I use them in the nesting boxes and sprinkle them on the coop floor. I also put some in their dust bath and sprinkle some in their feed.You can also put mint in their water to help keep them cool in the summer. Sprinkle herbs and flowers around your coop or hang them. They help to repel bugs from the coop and makes it smell wonderful.
Garlic isn’t only great for cooking and our health. It is great for chickens as well. Garlic is a natural de-wormer, a parasitic and an immune system booster. My chickens love it! I give it to them two ways. I put a clove of garlic in their water and free choice. When I first put it out for them, they turn up their beaks because the smell is strong. But once it has sat for awhile, they will devour it in a few minutes lol.
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
ACV Is not only good for controlling your high blood pressure. It is also good for chickens. It helps with their digestion, and assists in their intestinal health. It helps with calcium absorption and promotes repertory health. It also helps keep their water clean when added. It restricts the growth of algae and bacteria. Use a rubber tub or plastic water container when adding to their water. ACV will cause steel to rust. A tablespoon or two is all that is needed.
Ash from your fireplace, fire pit, or wood stove is an excellent addition to your chicken’s dust bath area. When mixed with D.E. and sand or dirt, it helps prevent parasites and helps keep the chickens clean. When they eat it, as they like to nibble in between the flopping around, they get vitamin K (helps in blood clotting) magnesium and calcium. It absorbs toxins and is a natural laxative so that helps flush those toxins from the body as well as any internal parasites. Only use the ash from clean wood. Not wood that has been chemically treated or presto logs. Do not us charcoal briquettes.
I have been using D.E. for years. I use it on the coop floor covered with the pine shaving and in the nesting boxes. D.E. will kill lice, mites, fleas and ticks. When ingested by the chicken, will kill any internal parasite they may have. Make sure when you do use it in the dust bath that it is thoroughly mixed in the dirt and ash. It is very tiny particles that float in the air and can be harmful if inhaled.
I have just really started down this road of natural chicken keeping. But in the few weeks that I have implemented these practices, I have already noticed a difference in the chickens. Dull feathers are now silky and shiny. Older hens who were not laying as much, are now laying more often. I have a couple of 5yo hens who would lay a couple times a week. One is laying daily now, and the other is every other day. My oldest hen, who is 6 years old. Used to lay a couple times a month. She now lays once a week. The egg shells are stronger and I now know they are better than they were before.
I am now a firm believer in natural chicken keeping and will continue to give my boys and girls the best I can because they give me the best that they can.