Predators – foxes, cats, hawks and snakes
One of the most important aspects of owning chickens is to ensure you protect them from predators. The main predators for chickens are cats and foxes, and if you live in the country you may also have to protect them from hawks.
To keep them safe, make sure you lock your girls away at night (a place that is secure and where the foxes and cats can’t get into). Chickens will take themselves off to bed as soon as the sun sets, so ensure you lock them away around this time. And whatever you do, don’t get lazy and forget to lock them away at night. Foxes are opportunistic and will take full advantage of your mistake. Trust me, I learned this the hard way and it was incredibly upsetting.
While foxes primarily scrounge for food at night time, they can also pay you a visit during the day. So to keep your chickens safe while they’re scratching about in their run, it’s a good idea to dig your run fencing into the ground at least 30cm to help stop the foxes from digging underneath and gaining entry. If you’re able to completely enclose the bottom of the run with wire, that’s even better.
If you have cats that roam the area, it is a good idea to have a fully enclosed chicken run for your girls as both cats and foxes are great climbers and can easily scale a standard fence.
If you have hawks that frequent your area, you may need to look at netting the enclosure, but wire would be better and will keep out most other predators too.
(Just kidding, not much of a predator)
Snakes don’t usually make a bee-line for the chicken coop but may find their way through any reasonable sized gaps looking for mice, rats or eggs. Remove your girls’ eggs daily, keep your chicken coop and run clean, remove any food scraps if they’re not eaten within a day and this should keep the rodents away, and thus the snakes. If you do get snakes in your area, opt for a 10x10mm wire on your chicken coop and that should keep them out.
Pest control – rodents, mites, scale and worms
The best preventive measure for keeping away mice and rats is to ensure that there is no excess feed lying around. Remove any uneaten scraps and put it on your compost, and generally keep the coop and run clean.
When it comes to mites, chickens can get these a couple of different ways by either having contact with wild birds (such as pigeons) or they may be in the wood you’ve used to build the coop if you’ve used old timber.
You can deter the wild birds by using netting to enclose your chicken run. Wild birds usually hang around to try and steal the chicken feed so if you’re not able to fully enclose the girls run, then make sure the wild birds can’t access the feed. A foot-press feeder is a good option, or simply moving the feeder into the coop might work depending on your setup.
Also, ensure your chickens have daily access to dirt for a natural dust bath. They’ll scratch up the dirt and fling it over their feathers to keep themselves clean and prevent mice and lice. It’s incredibly cute to watch. If they don’t have access to a patch of dry dirt, consider filling a long shallow container with a few inches of dirt and popping it in their coop.
If your girls do get mites, make sure you wash and disinfect your chicken coop using a disinfectant bought from a poultry supplier. Don’t use domestic cleaners. Spray your chickens using the appropriate product (again, from your poultry supplier) making sure you treat all your girls at the same time. Also note that depending on what product you use, you may not be able to use the eggs for a period of time. So opt for a natural remedy wherever possible.
Scaly mite infects the legs. I have to admit I have not had this issue with my girls before but I have had friends that have had to deal with this.
To remove the scaly mites, you need to wash your girls legs (all the girls, not just the one or two that are infected) with a mix of apple cider vinegar and warm water and give them a very light scrub. Make sure you dry the legs thoroughly then apply Vaseline to the legs which will suffocate the mites. There are also dusting products you can get from your vet or fodder store that you can use to help rid your chickens of mites.
Worming – yes that’s right chickens need to be wormed. It is incredibly easy to do, most worming applications can just be add to their water. Do this twice a year and they’ll be sweet.
Keeping your own chickens may seem a little overwhelming, but to be honest they are pretty easy to look after. If you give them a secure home, keep their coop and run clean, provide good food and clean water, allow them access to dry dirt and worm them twice a year, you’ll have a happy flock that will provide you with eggs for years.
We can help!
Download our free guides to help you get organised and stay on top on things .