Interested in backyard chickens? A small flock is easy to maintain. You’ll probably spend more time playing with your girls then tending to them, and they are so entertaining! But there are a few things to keep in mind. Chickens poop (they don’t pee) and they like to scratch and peck, digging up every little germ and bacterium that might inhabit your soil or their straw, or their droppings, or other birds’ droppings. So it is important to keep your ladies and their environs as clean as possible on a very regular basis. Done every few days, it really takes just a few minutes. And following some basic protocols for your own safety is easy and habit-forming.
- I use disposable gloves and a mask (you can breathe in dehydrated droppings which are still dangerous) when cleaning out the coop, which I do every few days. I also clean up the chicken “yard” of straw and droppings, which are heat composted under a dark tarp before being used in the garden.
- I use a chlorine solution to clean the girls’ water and food dishes. I use paper plates for their daily treats.
- I have my chicken clogs in a plastic tray by the back door that leads to the chicken compound. They are the only clogs I wear when tending the chickens.
- I gather eggs daily (well most of the time) and only wash eggs that might not be perfectly clean when gathered before putting in the fridge, and I use them as soon as possible. Clean eggs keep their “bloom,” which protects the egg from pathogens entering, until ready to use and then are washed before cracking.
- And, yes, I wash my hands faithfully as soon as I come in the house. Also, my dishwasher sanitizes in case there is any transmission in the kitchen. Finally, because my dogs traverse a section between my back door and chicken compound, which can be muddy when wet weather abounds, I use a chlorine solution to wash my kitchen floors.
Bacterial infections are often more deadly when we live in a sterile environment. My late father, a physician, believed it was important not to over-sanitize life in order to keep your immune system active. I agree with that 100%. I have a healthy gut, which is the foundation for immune function. Also, I haven’t taken antibiotics in years. Ironically, they can be destructive of your immune system because they destroy ALL bacteria, even the healthy ones in your microbiome. When I need a boost I take Berberine, a natural alkaloid found in many plants (any plant that is yellow under the bark such as Nandina, Oregon Grape, Goldenseal and many others. Berberine is anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and immune-enhancing among its many properties. It doesn’t wipe out the good with the bad. There are many Berberine supplements out there — just be sure to use a trusted source.
So don’t be frightened off by scare stories of the health hazards of backyard chickens. Properly cared for, you will find their eggs the healthiest and most delicious you can eat, with enormous benefits for your body and mind, and well worth a little effort!