Chickens are really pretty low maintenance. Much less work than a dog, pretty similar to a cat – and they pay you back in tasty eggs! So what is involved in taking care of chickens?
Daily Chores – 5-10 minutes
Collect eggs – Once a day is fine. When a chicken lays an egg, there is an invisible membrane around the egg, called a bloom. As long as you don’t wash the egg, the bloom will remain intact and will keep out all bacteria. With the bloom intact, eggs do not need to be refrigerated, so leaving them outside in the coop for a few hours will not harm them. In the winter, you may want to collect eggs twice a day because unless you have a broody hen sitting on them to keep them warm, they can freeze. You can still eat a frozen egg if the shell is intact, but sometimes during freezing the shell can crack and it’s best to toss those eggs.
Check the water & feed – I fill and clean the water font every 2-3 days and fill the feed bin as needed, but I check both everyday while I’m out getting eggs. How often you need to fill it will depend on how many chickens you have and how big your feed bin is. On my way out to the chickens I bring with me any kitchen scraps or treats I might have for them.
Health check – Spend a minute or so just looking your flock over. Is anyone acting funny (sneezing, breathing loudly, listless, tipsy, limping, unusually aggressive, etc). If you can catch illness early, you could avoid a tragedy.
Open & Close the Coop – Around dusk each night, the chickens will retire to their coop for the night. Then we go out and close the coop door to keep them safe overnight. In the morning before my husband leaves for work, he lets them out. Our run is secure, so sometimes on hot summer nights we leave the door open for extra ventilation. If you have some money to spend, you can get an automatic coop door that can be programmed to open and close at certain times!
Weekly Chores – 10-15 minutes
Rake the chicken run – rake up the run and bring to the compost pile
Clean the coop – I use a modified deep litter system in my coop using pine shavings. Once a week I scoop out any piles of waste, add some more shavings and use a metal rake to stir the shavings around.
3-4 Times per Year – 45-60 minutes
Deep clean the coop & run – Completely empty the coop of all shavings. Use a scrub brush & non chemical cleaner (I use white vinegar) to thoroughly clean the floor, walls, roosts & nest boxes. I spray some Poultry Protector in the corners and around the edges to keep away mites and let the coop air dry before filling with clean shavings & letting chickens back in. Inspect the run for any loose wire or spots where predators could get in. I use sand in my run and about once a year I buy about 20 new 50 lb bags of sand at Home Depot to level out the run from all the chicken’s scratching and digging.