If you are thinking about getting chickens, you probably want to know how much time it takes to care for them. I’m not the best person to ask- I’ve been schooled in the fastidious ways of British stable managers (ingrained in me years ago at a riding school) and I keep the chicken coop raked and tidied in a manner that would make Mrs. Sivewright proud.

But, really, even my compulsive efforts in the barn take very little time. In the morning, the hens are tossed some “scratch” (cracked grains that are good for their digestion and keeps them busy), the waterer is emptied, scrubbed and refilled, the pellet feeder is checked to make sure there’s still food, and the nesting boxes are cleaned out (the party girls like to roost there, I clean it out with a kitty litter scoop). In the afternoon, I make sure that everyone is okay and I collect eggs. When it gets dark, the hens in the new barn are closed in because their run doesn’t have predator/hawk netting. Altogether it takes less than 15 minutes.

About once a week I decide that the coop needs cleaning and I shovel up the mess under the roosts and add fresh shavings. In the spacious new barn, every other day or so, I use a fine-tined pitch fork to pick up droppings. Just like cleaning a stall, but the manure is on a smaller scale!

The coops’ dirt runs are raked clean about once a week. Some people like to leave a litter of straw, but I don’t like the mess or the smell. In the winter, when the ground and the poops freeze, I do put down a layer of hay, and add more as needed. In the spring, it gets raked up and composted.

Many people justify keeping a flock to “teach the kids responsibility.” I suppose that is a good idea. But my children don’t take care of the hens. My husband and I like doing the chores too much to let the kids have a turn.

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