We’re all familiar with ‘life hacks’, those simple but clever tips for accomplishing a task more easily and efficiently. They’re all about simplifying your life, reducing frustrations, and hopefully saving some money in the process. I’ve posted a few DIY projects in the past and thought I’d put together a few chicken keeping hacks to reduce some of the potential stresses that come with having chickens.
Short-Term Indoor Chicken Accommodation
There will come a time when all of us will need to keep a bird separate from our flock: sometimes it’s quarantining a new bird, caring for chicks that are vulnerable to weather or monitoring a sick bird. Lots of times folks don’t prepare for that eventuality and then are left scrambling to figure out how to provide a safe space for those house chickens.
I live in an area where folks don’t have basements. I don’t even have a garage or shed. What I did plan for when building my 13’x8’ main coop was to divide it into two sections. One side houses the flock with an entrance via an automatic pop door and the other area is where I keep supplies including feed, oyster shells and some shavings. I can easily turn the latter into a space for broody hens and chicks (there is a separate pop door out to their own enclosed 4’x9’ run) or infirmary. My coop is well insulated and has electricity, if heat or light is necessary. On occasion I’ve brought birds inside and fashioned a sick bay using a dog crate. My house is fairly small so accommodating one or two birds would be my limit.
Luckily I live in the Pacific Northwest so I don’t have to deal with frigid temperatures so I’ve usually been able to tend them outside. Some folks have to contend with torrential rains, windstorms, snow falls or even the aftermath of a fire, so bringing birds inside is imperative for their safety.
I’ve seen several handy ideas about how to have house chickens with minimal issues (i.e. messy shavings, smell, errant feathers, etc.): pop up tents, X-pens or even kids’ play pens.
Over the years my kitchen counter has served as a first aid station with birds sometimes soaking in my sink. This is not ideal but I’m pretty diligent about hygiene so it’s worked okay. In warmer weather I’ve managed to bathe birds outside in a bucket. Almost always I work alone so managing a flapping bird while attending to their vent gleet, bumblefoot, prolapsed vent, stuck egg or wound can take some skill. By now I feel well equipped to take on most emergencies, but there are definitely times a second pair of hands would make the job easier.
I remember once having to deal with my dog after he’d rolled in something disgusting. Given that I don’t have a laundry sink I ran a deep bath in my claw foot tub, careful to protect the bottom so his nails didn’t scratch the enameled surface. Just when I reached for the shampoo I realized I left it in the next room. I took several seconds to retrieve it and in that time he’d jumped out and made a beeline out of there. Needless to say, I was a bit grumpy at the mess he’d made and then got soaked as I lifted him back in the tub. Chickens can sometimes be equally resistant and messy.
Advice about Epsom salt soaks usually recommend 15-20 minutes in a warm bath. I’ve stood there, many a time, counting off the minutes on my oven timer. Some birds are quite placid and don’t fidget, others plan their escape route as soon as they hit the water, while some happy campers seem to enjoy the spa experience complete with eating soap bubbles and drinking the water. The latter is an issue if they aspirate and fluids get into their lungs.
This handy contraption kills two birds with one stone: it allows you to chill out and not have to hover over your patient and it keeps the bird from swallowing water. And the added benefit is it is far more sanitary than having chickens paddle around in your bath tub or kitchen sink.
Roost Bars & Droppings Board
I’ve never been much of a shopper and as I get older I endeavour to spend less and save more. Some of the impetus comes from being a long-time employee of a non-profit organization, without a lot of disposable income. More importantly, I’m a big proponent of recycling and freecycling. My first roost bars were made from tree branches, clothing rods and a baker’s rack I found in a Starbuck’s dumpster.
I was given this set of four tomato cage trellises and my friend Tracy turned three of them into a perfectly fitting U-shaped roost with the fourth trellis serving as an easily detachable ladder. All the roosts are hinged so I can lift and clip them to the wall for easy coop cleaning. One of them was mounted over the nest boxes so we angled the hinged roof to sit parallel with the bars and converted it into a linoleum clad droppings board. That’s also made for easy clean up and keeps my birds from pooping on the top of nest boxes.
If you’ve got some ideas for some chicken keeping hacks and would like to share them send them my way via the ‘contact’ button on the home page.