4 Common Mistakes Backyard Chicken Keepers Make
Hello February! We’re excited around here in the Wing household because we finally decided which new baby chicks to add to our flock this spring! Our little chicks are scheduled to arrive in a month, so we’re busy discussing what we’d like to see happen around the coop. Stay tuned to see which breeds we’re adding!
With all the excitement, I’d like to discuss with you a few common mistakes made by backyard chicken keepers. Most of them have been made by myself or others I know, so I’m speaking from firsthand experience.
1. Don’t Account for Enough Space in Coop or Run
When we first started back up with backyard chickens after taking a break for a few years, I was adamant about keeping a small flock. We had done the large flock of chickens, ducks, and geese; and yes, we even had goats! I got to the point where I was feeling overrun with all the activity in our yard. So, we decided to just keep chickens and I insisted on no more than 6.
This was my first mistake. I didn’t take into account the fact that I love chickens, I have plenty of yard space for more than that and that we live in the country where there are no ordinances on flock size. Chicken math is a real thing, folks! If you live in an area where you aren’t bound by size or space, plan on a larger flock than you first consider!
Chickens need approximately 4 sq. ft. per bird in the coop and 10 sq. ft per bird in the run. We started way too small for our flock now, but back then I had it in my head that I could stick to a flock of 6. Hahaha! Good grief! We now know that wasn’t the case with our flock of 28 and growing. Thankfully, we have another barn on our property where the girls have plenty of space!. So my best advice is to take the time to do your research and decide practically and realistically the size of your future flock. Also, make sure both your coop and run are secure against predators!
Lastly, Coop Recuperate also made it SO much easier for us to have a larger flock because of how it helps manage our bedding. Now we don’t have to deal with the moisture and stink like we did before. This was a game changer for us.
If you want to see a video of my coop and how big it is, check out my chicken coop tour video below!
2. Miscalculate the Size and Height of Roosting Bars Needed
We started with wooden dowels for our roosting bars. I don’t recommend these. They are a bit harder for the girls to roost on. Then, we moved to small square roosting bars. Strike 2. Chickens do much better with 2x4 roosting bars. They like to have their wonky little feet flat and resting under them. This also helps their feet from suffering frostbite in the winter months.
Chickens prefer to roost high. They will be grateful for a safe place to do this. Our flock struggled with bumblefoot the first summer and I really feel it started with our roosting bars on being incorrect size and height. You can check out my blog on how to treat bumblefoot here.
If you watched my last video above you'll see the quick tour of my chicken coop, but here's a video on how we set up our coop and how we installed our roosting bars.
3. Proper Ventilation Without Drafts
This is a really important one! Chicken coops need to be well ventilated, but not drafty. This is one thing we did right with our coop, but I know a few keepers who didn’t. This led to frostbite in the winter and damp, stinky coops in the summer.
Our vents are up high in our coop, so the moisture can rise up and out. If this doesn't happen, in the winter the moisture will settle back on your chickens and freeze causing frostbite. In the summer, it creates a moist coop that is a great environment for a whole host of problems. Make sure to take special care in preparing your coop with proper ventilation! It will save you hours of repairs and probably a few chickens if you do it correctly to begin with.
4. Introducing New Flock Members too Quickly
It is so exciting to add to your flock! I have a rule that I only do this by adding chicks. I don’t add adult birds from other flocks for biosecurity purposes. However, if you choose to do this, make sure you quarantine the new chickens for at least 30 days. Then, carefully introduce them to the existing flock. When I'm introducing new chickens to the flock, I put the chickens in a dog kennel or chicken tractor in the run with the girls. They can be in the middle of the action, but also are protected.
After about a week or two, depending on how it’s going, I open the kennel door to allow the younger ones to go in and out. It’s a process, but one that’s worth taking your time with. Pecking order is very real and the existing flock is not always super welcoming to begin with. If you introduce your chickens too early or in a rush, you could end up with very hurt or even dead chickens.
There are, of course, many other mistakes we can make as chicken keepers. Avoiding these really boils down to doing your research beforehand. I have made the mistake of not doing the proper preparation and research and have struggled through some situations with my flock. However, all of my chickens have lived even though it could have had a different outcome!
If you want to see how a quick video on how to properly integrate your chicken flock, check out my video below!
Raising chickens is a fun and easy hobby. If you have any questions on any of these things, please feel free to reach out!
Until Next Time,
--The Wing Lady