I grew up in a family that had large gardens and backyard chickens. It was just part of my life in the South. So, sharing tips or “hacks” for raising chickens in your backyard comes naturally. While I wasn’t as hands-on as my parents and even my children have been, I know a lot about how to handle chickens and making it easier to manage.
Tips and Hacks for Raising Backyard Chickens
Whether you have one chicken or a dozen, taking care of them is easier than you think. Chickens are a great addition to your homestead, or for some, a fun pet. We raised chickens for eggs many times over the years. While I don’t have experience with meat chickens, many also raise them to butcher for meals. Regardless of whether your chickens are pets, laying hens, or meat chickens, these tips and “hacks” are ideal to keep in mind!
Not to make backyard chickens seem like a task that is simple, overall, they are great choices to raise. Be warned, however, that you may find yourself faced with some tough times as chickens are one prey that is sought after by many common predators. Sometimes, you’ll find both hens and roosters have illnesses that just pop up randomly and are out of your control. Despite those things, they are truly simple to care for and thrive under love and attention.
Start with Chicks Instead of Incubating Eggs
After you have some experience under your belt, you may decide to hatch eggs with an incubator, but I wouldn’t the first time you decide to raise chickens. It’s much easier to start with chickens already hatched. You have less work involved, and will probably have better results with more of them living versus unhatched eggs.
Use Suet Bird Feeders to Hang Food for Chickens
These little suet bird feeders are perfect for filling with suet or other foods that chickens will love. They offer the ease of hanging from various areas in the coop, but also keep the chickens busy getting the seed out of the container.
Freeze Corn in Ice Cube Trays for Snacks
One of the best ideas for summer is to freeze corn inside ice cubes. Just drop them around the chicken yard for them to peck through and get their treat while also getting more water to stay hydrated.
Create an Easy Feeder System
Use two blocks and a gutter to create an elevated feeding trough. This is great for adding a few around the edges of the chicken coop to keep the chickens from fighting for their food.
Source: Backyard Chickens
Use a Plastic Tote For a No Waste Feeder
Use a large plastic tote and a few plumbing fittings to create a perfect no waste feeding system. Fill the tote with feed and the chickens can eat through the holes in the sides. No feed is lost on the ground, and it keeps the coop neater. Plus, you’ll notice that the food doesn’t get soggy if it is raining.
Source: My Pet Chicken
Give Your Chickens Their Own Pool to Stay Cool
Those kiddie pools aren’t just for your little ones! They are perfect for adding inside the chicken coop to not only keep your hens hydrated, but also to cool them off on hot days. Pour ice into the pool for an even better experience for your backyard chickens.
Use Old Cat Litter Boxes to Make Roosts
Laying cat litter boxes onto their sides and filling with hay makes them ideal for chicken roosts. Just clean out all of the litter before filling with hay. You can also glue them together and stack on top of each other to create a little chicken apartment complex in your coop.
Source: Murano Chicken Farm
Plant Vegetables in the Chicken Coop
An easy addition to the chicken feed routine is to grow vegetables in the coop with them. There are a number of plants that chickens will readily eat if available. Add a few extra plants in your chicken coop or yard just for them to graze from in the warmer months.
Put Veggies on a Stick for Chickens to Snack
Instead of laying sliced vegetables and fruits out on the coop floor, stick them onto a dowel or skewer like a kabob. Stick it into the ground and let the chickens peck at the fruit to eat instead of you working to cut them apart.
Freeze Fruits and Vegetables In a Bundt Pan or Jello Mold
Instead of the individual ice treats, put them into a larger mold and place in the center of the coop for all of the chicks to feed off of at once. This is also a bit less time consuming and great for using up larger chunks of fruits or vegetables at one time.
Source: Fresh Eggs Daily
Grow Grass Indoors For Them In Winter
Pick up a few packets of basic grass seed and use disposable pans to grow it indoors during cold months. Once it is a few inches tall, take the pans outside for the chickens to snack on throughout the day.
Source: Florassippi Girl
Put Chicken Feed in Balls For a Treat Feeder Toy
This is a great idea for using cat feed or dog feed toys. Just fill them or even a waffle ball, with chicken feed and let them work to get their reward.
Source: Hobby Farms
Make a DIY Corn Holder
Corn is one of the most common foods for chickens. Corn on the cob is a fun way to feed them! This little wire holder makes it easier than ever to give them multiple cobs to eat at the same time.
Source: Homestead Lifestyle
Add Places For Stimulation and Dust Baths
This video shares some great ideas for helping stimulate chickens to work for their food or find new places to roost. From putting grass under chicken wire for them to peck through to eat, to the addition of old tires filled with dust for them to “bathe”, this video has tons of great ideas.
Use an Old CD to Keep Wild Birds Out of the Coop
This is a brilliant idea! It’s well known that birds in general will avoid shiny metal objects. So, hanging an old CD or DVD in the chicken coop is a great way to keep them away. Why is this a concern? Because they will eat the chicken feed, and some larger types are predators that might take eggs.
Source: The Prairie Homestead
Ask Local Restaurants and Grocery Stores for Scrap Produce
Chickens love to eat produce, and it’s great for them. One way to grab greens and other produce peels and scraps is to partner with a local restaurant or grocery store. Sometimes perfectly good produce is thrown out because it’s not as pretty or has a few bad spots. If you can ask them to save it for you, then you can pick it up daily or weekly and feed it to your chickens instead of it going to waste!
Store Feed in 55-Gallon Barrels
If you have a large flock, you know it’s necessary to keep a lot of feed on hand at one time. One of my favorite ways to store feed was to use a large 55 gallon drum. Many have a different lid and opening options, or can be flipped upside down and a spout attached. This makes it easy to keep plenty on hand while also keeping it dry and safe from critters. You can even cut the top off, and lined with a garbage bag then build a special lid.
Source: Morning Chores
Feed Your Chickens Probiotic Foods
Did you know that probiotics like yogurt and fermented vegetables are also good for your chickens? Adding things like yogurt to their food, or even mixing in sauerkraut with their vegetables is an excellent idea.
Source: Morning Chores
Add a Swing to Your Chicken Coop
Your backyard chickens will love the addition of a little chicken swing! There are tons of options for this from purchased swings to simply tying a stick up from the coop rafters. Whatever you choose, they are sure to love it!
Add a Tray of Ice To Their Coop In Summer
Chickens get hot just like we do. Keep a few pans around to add ice and water for keeping them cool in the summer. You can even add a few frozen treats to the mixture so they are more inclined to step in and check out the cool water.
Source: Star Milling
Add a Flock Block To Keep Them Busy
One of my favorite additions to the chicken coop is what many refer to as a flock block. This is a block of food or treats that is hanging or sitting in a tray for the chickens to peck at and dig for food. They can be frozen or simply a big blog with a peanut butter base similar to suet. These are great for keeping them moving and busy in the winter months especially.
Source: The Happy Chicken Coop
Cover Your Coop With a Reflective Tarp
One hack I noticed in this video was that this owner covered his coop with a reflective tarp. One side helps hold the heat in the coop in winter, and when flipped over to the other side, it reflects the sun off and keeps it cooler in the summer. What a great idea!
Feed Chickens Their Egg Shells to Help Them Produce More
One of the biggest benefits of feeding chickens eggshells is that it helps increase their calcium intake which helps them produce more eggs. Save those shells, then dry them and bake them on low heat for 20-30 minutes. You don’t want to burn them but dry them out completely. You can crush them and add into their food mix, or grind them and mix them into a food block.
Add Golf Balls to The Roost To Prevent Hens From Eating Their Eggs
One problem you may find is if a chicken tastes a broken egg, they may end up getting a taste for them and eat their own eggs. One of the best ways to discourage them from doing this is to add golf balls to their nests so they will peck at that and be discouraged from pecking at and eating the real eggs.
Make Chicken Grazing Frames With Grass or Sprouts
This is one of my favorite ways to keep the chickens happy and grazing without setting them free in the yard. If you are raising urban backyard chickens, you may not feel safe letting them roam free. Instead, built a little wire and wood frame to go over grass and sprouts you’ve planted in their coop. They can get the grass easily, but the frame and wire keep the roots protected so they will continue growing.
Source: Rooted Revival