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Time Saving Tips for busy chicken keepers

Keeping chickens should be enjoyable and fun. Like all pets, you will have to spend time caring for your hens. However, time is something precious to all of us these days. Errands, dropping kids at school, work commitments and all the other things life throws at us makes time more and more precious. We have put together a list of simple, smart suggestions which shall be your bible of Time Saving tips for Busy Chicken Keepers.

Here are five simple things you can do to save time in the chicken coop.


 1. Install a Chicken droppings board

Keeping a clean chicken coop is very important for the health of your laying hens. Chicken faeces can spread disease and infection through the flock. It can be time-consuming to clean out the coop and if required disinfect it on a regular basis with Apple Cider Vinegar.

Most chickens prefer to roost up high at night. And one of the simplest ways to keep your coop cleaner is to install a droppings board under the roost.

A droppings board is precisely that. A board placed directly under the roosts to catch the overnight chicken poop. You won’t believe how much cleaner your pen is when those droppings aren't mixed into the litter. If your chickens free-range most days then this idea will allow you to spot clean the worst areas. Installing a dropping board should allow you to reduce your serious coop cleaning time down to once every three to four weeks.

Traditionally, droppings boards are made from wood. However, sheet metal, as well as plastic, work better because they don’t absorb liquid from the droppings. Also, they can be hosed down without soaking up water. If you use wood, put some old linoleum over the top. Another option if using a timber board is using newspaper that you can just bundle up and put in the compost. Without question, using a dropping board has to be our number one idea for Time Saving tips for Busy Chicken Keepers.

Some keepers scrape their droppings boards into a bucket every morning. Every few days works fine as well, depending on how many chickens you have. But either way reduces work to minutes instead of hours, saving you time and wasted chicken litter.

2. Use old grass catchers as nesting boxes

Here's a great tip that we got from an old gardening friend. Old grass catchers from push mowers are fantastic nesting boxes. The plastic ones are best as the fabric ones harbour bugs like mites and also lice.

Grass catchers are enclosed and dark, which the chickens love. Also, they are a breeze to clean.

How to use an Old Grass Mower Catcher as a Chicken Nesting Box

  • Just lift them out by the handle
  • Tip out the spent bedding into the compost.
  • Wash them out to remove parasites.
  • Put in new bedding.

We also love grass catchers because when you have a mother hen, you can lift the whole catcher out at night and resituate her in a breeding pen without even waking her up!

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 Time-Saving favourite tips 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 work 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 shall 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 has 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. Then shovel it out every six months or so.

It sounds simple, but it can be a bit of an art in the Australian climate.  You need to get the right C:N ratio. You also need the right bacteria going and 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 waterer

We love automatic chicken waterers, not the least because the water supply is always fresh and cool. Birds stop drinking if their water source is too warm, and in an Aussie summer this can lead to dehydration very quickly. An automatic waterer means that your birds always have access to clean, fresh and cool water. And with a constant supply you never have to wonder whether your birds have enough water to last, not even while you are away on holidays. If you have a Dine a Chook automatic waterer, you don’t even have to worry about it becoming contaminated by algae or dirt!

There are different types of automatic waterers, but the simplest can be connected to a standard garden hose and run off mains water. Even very un-handy people can install them! An excellent idea for those who prefer self-sustainable and environmentally-conscious, feed your automatic waterer with a rain tank that harvests the runoff from the coop roof.