Susan’s Poultry Tips and Tricks

Susan, call center - Meyer Hatchery blog

Meet Susan from Meyer Hatchery’s customer service department! Susan is an expert when it comes to caring for all types of poultry, including quail, ducks, turkeys, chickens, and more.

Keep reading to discover Susan’s top tips and tricks for keeping your feathered friends happy and healthy.


Always buy chicks and other fowl from a certified hatchery.

Here are the suggested supplies you’ll need for baby chicks: a brooding box, thermometer, starter grit, vitamins, pine wood chips, heat source, chick feeder, chick waterer, medicated starter feed for the first 8 weeks (also starter grit in this period), non-medicated pullet grower from 8 to 16 weeks (with grower grit during this period), adult feed from 16 weeks onwards (with adult grit), and oyster shells starting at 20 weeks.

Hardware cloth makes a great lid for brooding boxes as it keeps things from getting in or out.

For any bully chickens or chicks in your coop or brooding box, try putting a mirror inside. This will attract their attention and keep them from bothering the other birds.

Adult Birds

A female chicken under one-year-old is called a pullet. After that, it’s a hen.

When the temperature drops below freezing, apply Vaseline to your birds’ combs and waddles to prevent frostbite. If they have exposed feet and toes on their roost, apply Vaseline there too.  Doing this at dusk or dark when everyone is settled for the night will make the task much easier.  Using a headlamp will allow you to work with both hands-free.  

Pour diatomaceous earth or poultry dust into the dust holes that the chickens make outside, and they will dust themselves.

Female chickens can have spurs.

On stressful days, give your birds vitamins in their water. During hot weather, electrolytes will help them stay hydrated, while in winter, they may be missing the bugs and garden scraps they’re used to in summer, so vitamins may help to cover what is lacking in this season.  

Feed, Water, & Treats

If you spot any mold in your feed, throw it away.

Clean water and containers are a must for healthy birds.

Keep a small scrub brush in the coop to clean out the waterer if it gets soiled before refilling.

To prevent poop in the water and food, place an upside-down tomato cage over the feeder and waterer. Turn the stakes into a point to prevent roosting.

Avoid giving chickens raw potato peels, dry or raw beans and onions. However, when cooked, these can be great treats. Pumpkins, which they can hollow out and eat, are great treats in moderation and may help to prevent worms.

Moderation is key when it comes to feeding your birds fruit, as too much can cause diarrhea.

Store extra feed in metal containers.

Remember that not all feed brands and varieties are the same. The protein content, filler, and quality of ingredients can vary. Make sure you choose the right type of feed for your specific poultry type: game birds 27%, turkeys 27%, chicks 20%, waterfowl, and adult chickens 16-18%.


To help with chores, have a feed scoop, metal trash cans for feed storage, feeders and waters for different age groups, egg basket, egg scrubber, egg cartons, grit and oyster shell containers, scrub brushes, scissors, buckets, muck bucket, pitchfork, ice scraper, scoop shovel, large paint scraper, large dustpan, broom, work gloves, and boots.

Which Is Better? Day-Old Chicks Vs. Started Pullets

Coops & Runs

Keep different fowl in different housing and yards to avoid cross-contamination and illnesses. Turkeys can contract diseases from chicken poop and require a different feed. Ducks and geese create a mess in the water and have different feed requirements, which could make chickens sick.

Good ventilation is a must, and drafts are bad.

Try to get electricity and water piped into or near your coops. This will make life much easier. 

Having rear access to a nest box to collect eggs for a walk-in coop without going inside where the chickens are is very convenient. 

Having the nest box on the outside with an access door on the outside of a smaller coop is also a plus for easy access to gather your eggs.

Design a pulley and eye screw or bolt system to open and close chicken doors, which can be made for outside use or walk-in coops.

If you plan to use lights in the winter, start at the end of August with 16 hours of light and 8 hours of dark, using a timer. Chickens need 8 hours of darkness to sleep.

For cold climates, electric water heaters are a must. For waterfowl, use heated water buckets. Waterfowl need to blow air through their nose to stay healthy, which is why they need a bucket to submerge their heads.

Don’t heat your coop during the winter. Let the birds adjust to the weather, and they’ll be fine. If you heat the coop and then experience a power outage where the temperature drops significantly, you could lose birds. As long as they’re dry, out of the wind, and have food and water, they will be fine.

Coop Cleaning

Tools that are helpful for cleaning your coop include a pitchfork, scoop shovel, large dustpan, 4” paint scraper, and ice scraper. Large and small scrub brushes are also useful for cleaning waterers and containers. Don’t forget scissors to cut bags and twine off bales of straw.

For a cleaner coop, I recommend opening feed sacks by cutting them and positioning them flat on the ground underneath the roost over a bed of wood chips. Then, throw some straw on top of the sacks. When it’s soiled, grab the corners of the sack, pull it away from the roost, put the soiled straw in a muck bucket, and haul it out. Repeat. You can use a feed sack multiple times until it becomes too soiled, then it’s time to make new ones.

I have found that having a layer of wood chips as the base and then straw on top makes cleaning faster. When you lift the straw up, it stays together, and I throw mine in a muck bucket. A wood chip base can last 2 to 4 cleanings, depending on the weather conditions. Then, it’s time to shovel everything out.

I use Barn Fresh and sprinkle Red Lake Diatomaceous Earth in the coop every time I clean it. This prevents fleas, ticks, mites, and helps keep flies under control. Don’t forget to do the nest boxes too!

When doing your coop spring cleaning with a leaf blower, I highly recommend wearing a hat, eye protection, and using a respirator. After that, you can power wash the inside. Do this on a warm day and use fans to dry.

Wait at least 6 months for chicken manure to break down before using it as compost. Fresh chicken poop can burn your plants due to its high nitrogen content.

Jumbo White Pekin Duck - Meyer Hatchery Blog


Use hardware cloth to seal any open space like windows, vents, and holes to prevent predators from getting in the coop. 

To prevent digging predators, bury a foot of fencing in the ground.

Hawks and owls dislike crows; use a crow call or decoys to scare them away.

Eight-foot-high fencing helps against hawk killings.

I highly recommend our Nite Guard Solar Powered Nocturnal Predator Control Light. I have eight of them and suggest having at least one per corner of your chicken yard. They work great and last for at least three years by solar power. I got mine in 2020 for my raccoon problem. My husband will even use some to protect his corn in the summertime from deer. There are recommended heights to set them at for certain predators, and I had older ones that lasted almost five years.

For unknown predators, If there is snow on the ground, check for tracks.  If there isn’t any snow, sprinkle flour around the outside of the coop at night and check for tracks in the morning.  This method won’t work on a rainy night.

Health and First Aid

Keep a first aid kit for your chickens stocked with blood stop powder, vet wrap bandages, vetericyn, VetRx, gauze, and Corid. Also, have a separate set of scissors, tweezers, clippers, nail cuticle pusher for chicken use only.

Game Birds

For quail, round the corners of the brooding box with cardboard and duct tape to prevent them from piling up and suffocating each other due to their skittish nature.


If you don’t have a pond, a kiddie pool is a good substitute for waterfowl. To protect them from predators, consider building a duck house and a fenced-in yard. Duck eggs are excellent for baking.

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