Shelter and care
- When chickens are kept in a cage they must be protected
from rain, hail, cold winds and direct sun.
- Very hot weather or cold, damp, wet weather can be
dangerous to chickens and they can suffer and die. Even if they do not die
they will not be as healthy and strong as they should be.
- In hot, humid areas air should be able to pass through
the cage to keep the birds cool. Ventilation is important for
- At least half the cage must have a roof. If it is a metal
roof it must be covered with grass or other material, properly tied down, to
prevent the metal from getting too hot or too cold. Two sides of the cage must
be covered to protect the chickens from rain, cold winds and sun.
- Chickens must have a warm, dry sleeping area. It is
best to provide perches or branches for them (for sleeping at
- Chickens in a cage cannot escape from animals such
as dogs, so make sure that the cage is secure and the chickens are
protected from other animals.
||This cage has a roof and two of the sides
are covered to protect the chickens from rain, cold winds and sun
||This cage can not protect the chickens
from rain, cold winds and sun|
- If one chicken becomes sick or injured take it away
and put it by itself in a safe and dry place, and give it very special
care and food until it is well again. If the chicken is very sick or
badly injured it will be better to humanely slaughter the
- Never leave an injured chicken in a cage with other
chickens or they may peck at it until it dies.
- Small or weak chickens must be kept, fed and cared
- It takes about 21 days for the chicks to hatch from the
- There must be a warm, dry, protected area or nest box for
the hen to lay her eggs in.
- Put some grass in the nest box, to keep the eggs clean
and warm and to prevent cracking.
- Often the hen will not leave the nest to search for food
while she is sitting on the eggs. Put food and water nearby, where she can
- The nest should be near or on the ground once the chicks
hatch so they can get in and out safely.
- The hen will be very protective about her chicks
and it is better to keep them separate from the other chickens until the
chicks are big and strong. They must always have water and food (Grower
Mash or Chick Chick No. 1).
- Never keep too many birds in a cage, they must all
have space to move around freely, and stretch their wings. It is best to
keep chickens in small groups of about 20, this will help prevent
fighting and competition, even among the hens.
- Do not keep roosters together in the same cage
because they may fight.
- · Do not keep more roosters than hens because the
hens will be injured and damaged by the roosters mating them too
- One rooster for every 10 hens is a good ratio.
- Roosters should be about the same size as the hens. If
they are much bigger they may injure the hens during mating.
To prevent the chickens from scratching sand
and dirt into the water, raise the container by putting it on to a few bricks
or flat rocks.
Tie the container to the side of the cage, or
put a clean rock in the middle, so that it cannot be turned over and the water
- The side of the water container must be low enough for
small chicks to reach the water.
Make your own water container:
• Cut off the top of the cooldrink bottle and fill
• Put an upside down bowl on top and turn over
• Refill every day
- The water container must be cleaned and refilled
- Chickens can eat mixtures of leftover food such as
mealie-pap, bread, vegetables and mealies. Commercial chicken food is very
good (ie Laying Mash, Grower Mash or Chick Chick No1).
- Some food (ie hard pumpkin) will have to be cut into
small pieces or cooked to make it soft enough for the chickens to eat.
Chickens need a proper, mixed diet to stay healthy.
- To produce strong, healthy eggs and chicks, hens must
have calcium. If hens are not fed commercial layer rations they should have
access to limestone grit, oyster shells or small regular quantities of
bonemeal (meat sawdust).
- If there are more than 10 chickens in the cage, the food
should be split into two containers, so that every bird can have a share.
Ideally there should always be a bowl of chicken food in the cage.
- Raise the food bowl, or hang it from the roof (low enough
for the chicks to reach it) to prevent the chickens from walking in the
- Make sure small chicks can also reach the food.
- Food must always be kept dry and be protected from the
rain, or it may go wasted (become acid).
- Containers should be cleaned regularly and old/soiled
- If chickens are kept in dirty cages they will become
- Clean the floor of the cage at least once a
- Putting some grass on the floor will help to absorb
the chickens' droppings, especially under the sleeping perches. After a
week grass should be removed and replaced by new grass.
- Grass or bedding from the nest boxes must also be
changed at least once a week.
- The cage floor should be kept clean because chickens like
to lie in the sand and roll in it (dust bathe), and it helps to clean their
feathers and to control parasites such as mites and lice.
- It is important that the floor of the cage should have a
slope so that excess water can run off, keeping the cage dry.
If water does collect in the cage, it is
important to dig a drainage furrow or ditch, leading out of the cage, allowing
the floor to dry.
Compiled by Directorate Communication, National
Department of Agriculture in cooperation with National Council of
Printed and published by National Department of
and obtainable from Resource Centre, Directorate
Communication, Private Bag X144, Pretoria 0001, South Africa
publication is also available on the website of the National Department of Agriculture at: www.nda.agric.za/publications
further information contact the |
National Council of SPCAs, Farm
P.O. Box 1320, Alberton 1450, South Africa
Fax (011) 907 4013