Chickens are actually omnivores, (they will even eat small mice) and it is very important for them to have a balanced diet. The best way to achieve this is to feed your hens a proprietary mash or pelleted feed. This can be fed in conjunction with suitable grain such as corn or wheat. To avoid selective feeding it is better to feed the pellets in the morning via a protected feeder (it’s important to keep the food dry), then the grain in the afternoon as a scatter food.
Feed at a rate which allows a little left over at the end of the day, which will assure you that every bird is getting enough. Fresh greens are very popular with the birds and certainly of benefit (yolks won’t be yellow without them, unless you add a dye to the food, like many commercial egg producers). If you can't get your birds onto grass regularly give them some cabbage or similar.
Very popular treats such as kitchen scraps, bread and cereal, sunflower seeds, raisins, cooked potato, rice and pasta, can also be fed on occasion.
Chickens need (flint) grit to grind food in their crop. Some will be included in a good quality food, but it’s a good idea to supply some in a separate container. Also in the food will be a source of calcium, necessary for eggshells, but many poultry keepers like to supply extra in the form of ground oyster shell, which can be mixed in with the grit.
Fresh, clean water is a must and should be available during the daylight hours. This is best achieved by using one of the proprietary drinkers as they reduce spillage and soiling. If you shut your birds in at night, it is not necessary to make water available.
The chicken house will need to be cleaned regularly, exactly how often depending on the density of birds and the time of year, but ideally once a week.
It is very important to keep all the crevices clean and watch for signs of potentially fatal infestation by red mite or other pests.
Poultry droppings make one of the best garden manures!
Once a year, usually between late August and November, chickens will lose their feathers (not all of them) and grow new ones. They can go a little off colour and off lay for a few weeks until their new plumage grows through.
Chickens have a hierarchical social system, known as the ‘pecking order’. This behaviour becomes particularly obvious when new birds are introduced to an established flock. Until the order is re-established the new birds will be bullied, sometimes quite remorselessly.
It is best to introduce new birds to the coop in the evening when the birds are at their quietest. In extreme cases it may be necessary for their protection to segregate new birds in an enclosure within the main run until they are accepted into the flock.