Labor-free chicken rearing takes planning and preparation, but when done well it pays great dividends. I have much more time for gardening and other household projects.
There are three primary tasks that chicken farmers spend the most time on: feeding, watering, and cleaning. If you can make those tasks automatic, your labor time is virtually eliminated.
I started by designing an automatic chicken feeder. There are many commercial feeders on the market, but they can be costly, take up a lot of space, and require regular filling. I designed my chicken feeder to be part of the coop, taking up very little space. My chicken coop is built with the studs 24 inches on center; the gap between studs is perfect for a feeder.
There are many companies selling both types of nipples in ranch stores and on the internet. For just a few dollars you can buy a bag of either type of chicken nipple and set up your automatic waterer.
To make cleaning the coop easier I practice the "deep litter" method of managing the coop litter. The concept is to use pine shavings, or a similar organic material, as litter to help keep the chicken manure off the coop floor. As the manure builds, you add more litter. The chickens walk and scratch and mix the manure with the litter. This method only requires cleaning the coop once or twice a year.
All were designed for mature chickens so I had to add steps while the chickens were young so they could reach everything. The little chickens figured it all out very quickly.
I mentioned the chickens take about 15 minutes of my time per month. That's about three minutes for adding water to both buckets and two minutes for adding feed, though it really takes less than that. I spend about five minutes adding pine shavings or coffee chaff and swapping out clean newspaper under the roost. That leaves five minutes that I bank for coop cleaning later. At the six-month point I have 30 minutes accumulated for removing the litter and manure.
This amount of time is based on just a few chickens in a small coop and attached run. For larger flocks and bigger coops it will take more effort, but these automatic chicken methods should reduce labor when compared to traditional feeding, watering, and cleaning methods.