Time Saving Tips for Chicken Keepers
Now more than ever, our lives are crazy busy. Keeping chickens doesn't have to be an time-consuming task. A few time saving hacks and you can get your life back.
Let's get stuck into it.
Time Saving hacks for the chicken coop.
1. Put a chicken dropping board in the coop
Keeping a clean chicken coop is very important for the health of your laying hens. Chicken faeces spreads disease. It also can spread infection and illness through the flock. Cleaning chicken poop can be a time-consuming job.
Chickens like to roost at night up high. By placing a dropping board directly under the roost, it can catch most of the droppings. Less faeces on the floor means less time cleaning the coop, and less litter use. And let's face it: cleaning chicken poo is not the most pleasant job in the world.
By using a dropping board, it should reduce your serious coop cleaning and disinfecting. Instead of regularly replacing the floor litter, you can scrape poo from the droppings board directly into a bucket every day or so. This keeps the floor litter cleaner and in coops where birds free-range most of the time, you may only have to clean the coop floor every month or so!
You can make your dropping board quite simply. You can make one from sheet metal or a good size piece of plastic. Metal and plastic are best as they do not absorb liquid from the droppings. They are easy to scrape and can be hosed down when necessary. If you prefer to use wood, put some vinyl on top. Another option when using a timber board is placing newspaper on top. Once soiled it can be put directly into the compost. Large pet and supply stores also may sell dropping boards. Without question, using a dropping board is our number one Time Saving tip for Chicken Keepers.
2. Use an old lawn mower grass catcher as a nesting box
Help save the planet by recycling an old lawn mower catcher. Grass catchers from lawn mowers are perfect for nesting boxes. It is preferable to use solid plastic ones as the mesh fabric ones can allow mites and lice to breed.
Lawnmower catchers are cozy and dark so the chickens feel safe when nesting and laying. They are also really easy to hose out and keep clean.
How to use an old lawnmower catcher as a chicken nesting box:
- Lift the nesting boxes out of the coop by the handle
- Tip the used bedding into the bin or compost
- Wash the catcher out to clean and expel mites or lice
- Dry the catcher, add new bedding and put it back in the coop
It just doesn't get easier than that. Also if you have a broody hen, you can lift the catcher out at night and move her into a breeding pen without her waking.
If you're lucky, grass catchers will just slot into your existing nesting boxes. Or you can line them up along a shelf in the chicken coop. Install a droppings board above if the shelf is under the roosts. You can also install a few 2 x 4s and make a rack, but as not all grass catchers are the same size, this requires some planning.
3. Line your nesting boxes with old newspapers
This is one of our most awesome Time-Saving hacks for Busy Chicken Keepers.
Use a couple of whole old newspapers to line the bottom of your nesting boxes. Some keepers use plastic pads but newspaper works just as well. A thick layer of paper is very cushioning, so even if your chooks scratch out most of the nesting material, their eggs still have a soft landing and are less likely to crack or break. Also, a layer of paper makes cleaning the nesting boxes a lot less time-consuming. Just bundle up the paper as well as old bedding, and place in the compost.
The newspaper will pay off the next time your chooks step on an egg or decide to use the nesting box as a toilet.
4. Consider a deep litter system
Deep litter systems are a commitment with a steep learning curve. They are not suitable for all chicken coops. But if you decide to go down the road of implementing a deep litter system for your chicken coop, it will reduce coop cleaning to a once- or twice-yearly job.
In a deep litter system, you start with 15-30 cms of high carbon bedding material on the floor of the coop. It should be something dry and brown. Paper, straw, sawdust, wood chip etc. Pretty much anything except hay, lucerne or grass clippings, which have too much nitrogen. Then whenever you can smell ammonia, or the coop looks dirty, you add another few inches of bedding.
The system is essentially a self-turning compost pile without food scraps, so no botulism. The bedding plus the chicken manure has the right carbon to nitrogen ratio for composting.
Your chickens provide aeration by turning and scratching around in the litter. Once the right bacteria is established in the coop, the compost makes itself, and all you have to do is keep adding more bedding and then shovel it out every six months or so.
It sounds simple, but you need to get the right C: N ratio. You also need the right bacteria and to keep the coop environment balanced for the compost and the chickens. This means not too wet or dry, hot, cold or humid.
Deep litter systems are better suited to cooler areas where they also provide some warmth in the coop during winter. Do your research, try to find someone in your area with deep litter success and count on a bit of trial and error before the system gels. Just keep thinking of how much time you save as a chicken keeper when you clean the coop every six to twelve months.
5. Get an Automatic Chicken Drinker
There are a number of options when considering a chicken waterer for your coop. Mains pressure and automatic watering systems definitely save the most time, especially for large flocks, as you do not have to constantly refill them.
As well as saving time, automatic chicken drinkers also allow you to go away for a few days without worrying about your flock. With an automatic coop door opener, an automatic drinker and a few large feeders, your chicken keeping will be practically automated. Except for collecting the eggs!
Also read: How to stop disease in the chicken coop