Good practices


An animal that is well treated and protected from stress will grow and maintain an optimal physical and mental state.

You can purchase relevant guides online for those who want to know more about raising chickens or various types of poultry on the website Reference Center in Agriculture and Agri-Food of Quebec (CRAAQ).

Here are several topics to consider to properly manage your backyard:

  • Specialized breeders
  • Flour mills
  • Agricultural hardware stores

Ensure the birds are healthy, have beautiful plumage, and do not have a cough, runny nose or eyes or conjunctivitis, and show no signs of diarrhea.

To ensure the health of poultry raised for their meat, it is preferable to use the formula “all full, all empty”. According to this formula, birds of the same species share the same space from the beginning to the end of their breeding. If you raise several batches of birds during the same season, it is recommended to completely empty the henhouse and clean, wash and disinfect it before each new arrival. If the formula is not applicable, other measures exist:

    • Plan an enclosure per species.
    • Keep birds of different ages in separate enclosures, because young birds are more fragile than those which are at the end of their growth or adults.
    • Always check the youngest or healthiest birds first.

Under “supply management”, the quota is a permit giving the right to produce a certain market share of chickens, eggs or turkeys in Quebec.

For other types of poultry, there is no limit. However, all information below applies to all farmed birds unless otherwise stated.

Any citizen of Quebec can raise up to 99 laying hens, 300 broilers and 25 turkeys without holding a quota. These limits apply on an annual basis for the same operation regardless of the number of people or families living in these places.

It is recommended to lay 10 cm (4.5 in) of litter in the coop – wood shavings, chopped straw, shredded paper, etc. It must be dry and absorbent.

  • Litter must be free of impurities and harmful chemicals.
  • The litter must not have been exposed to moisture or vermin.
  • Store litter in a clean, dry, covered area protected from vermin and insects.
  • It must be mold-free and free of feathers and droppings.

Feeders (or hoppers) allow feed to be distributed to poultry without waste. These can be linear hoppers (30 to 100 cm in length) or cylindrical with a capacity of 7 to 20 kg.

Drinkers or water pots must provide water to the birds 24 hours per day. We will refer to siphoid drinkers because birds suck up (or siphon) water. We recommend using drinkers with a lid. Bells generally house the automatic watering systems.

Adding 1 ml (10-15 drops of bleach (5% chlorine)) per liter of water will reduce the proliferation of bacteria. Weekly washing of equipment is recommended.


There are closed drinking systems (teats) with continuous feeding. These systems must be cleaned between each flock. Adding chlorine (3 to 5 ppm) reduces bacterial proliferation

A bird that is in its comfort zone (between 20 and 25°C) will consume twice as much water as food. During heatwaves, water consumption can triple or even quadruple.

Provide your birds with fresh water daily.

You should not use surface water, either for cleaning or for watering your birds, to avoid the risk of infection with the avian influenza type A virus spread by wild birds.
If you do not use municipal water, have your water tested regularly. Ask your livestock equipment specialist to find out how to proceed.

Commercial feeds are formulated by specialists. Birds are provided constant feed and simply eat their fill.

Laying poultry

Laying poultry must receive a feed specially formulated for egg production and according to its species.

In the laying cycle, it is recommended to place coarse calcium or pulverized oyster shells in a container, in addition to the feed.

Quantity of feed and content of feed depending on the species and age of the birds

Three different feeds will be served to the birds. The first, between 0 and 3 weeks of age; the second, between 4 to 6 or 8 weeks of age; the last, 7 or 9 weeks until processing.

Comfort zone

Backyard poultry have a body temperature between 40 and 42°C, compared to 37°C for humans.

It is recommended to call on a specialist to choose the appropriate equipment and avoid the risk of fire.

During the summer, brooders (electric lamps or propane supplementary heating) can provide the necessary heat for the chicks or at night.

If the outside temperature is below 10°C, the addition of a brooder or other heating device is necessary.

Bird behavior depends on temperature

Birds that are cold will be less active and will tend to pile on top of each other. They will drink and eat less. Growth and egg laying will be slowed.

Birds that are hot will consume more water and risk becoming dehydrated. They will become sleepy, eat less, and their growth will be stunted. You will also see them cooling off by breathing with their beaks open. They will be more aggressive. Severe dehydration or heat stroke can lead to death.

Birds are good indicators of their comfort. Observe them!

During heatwaves

During periods of extreme heat, the flow rate of the existing ventilation system should be increased or additional fans added to the ceiling or in a corner of the building.


Ideally, any chicken coop will have a humidity level between 50 and 75%.

A humidity level below 50% corresponds to air that is too dry. Moisten the litter by sprinkling or misting to avoid high levels of dust.

If the humidity level in the chicken coop is above 75%, the litter will have a crusted surface, and bacteria will develop more easily. You may notice digestive problems and lameness. The production of ammonia and sulfur dioxide will be increased, hence the risk of respiratory problems, even conjunctivitis and eye discharge.

Ammonia and harmful gases

Poultry farming leads to the production of ammonia (NH3) and hydrogen sulphide (H2S). Be on the lookout for red flags such as poor plumage quality, lameness and eye problems (discharge).

On larger farms, a device can be installed to measure air quality. In this case, the rates not to be exceeded are:

  • 25 ppm ammonia (NH3);
  • 10 ppm hydrogen sulfide (H2S);
  • 35 ppm carbon monoxide (CO).


Air movement is ensured by an air inlet (shutter) made on one side of the building, supported by one or more fans on the opposite side.

In a small domestic farm, openings on each side of the henhouse or shed should be sufficient.

In young breeder chicks, 20 to 22 hours of light at high intensity is required to allow the birds to find water and food more easily.

For laying birds, at least 14 hours of medium intensity lighting is recommended.

Lighting according to age and species

When the henhouse is empty at the end of the season or at least once a year:

  • remove soiled litter and excess feed;
  • dust the walls and ceiling and sweep the floor;
  • wash all spaces (floors-walls-ceilings) using a soap suitable for breeding; remove excess water;
  • disinfect all spaces with an appropriate disinfectant following the manufacturer’s recommendations;
  • wash all used equipment, water (water pipes), ventilation etc.

Dry well

This table summarizes how to prevent or remedy the presence of these undesirables in your farm.