Frequently Asked Chicken Raising Questions

Housing Your Flock (1)

What is the ideal type of chicken coop?

Wouldn’t you know it, we’ve already addressed this in one of my blog posts! Click here to read the post.

General Questions (4)

I want to buy some hens and start a backyard flock. What are the absolute basic items required?

If you’re just starting out and/or someone dropped a bunch of hens on you, you’ll need the following: a chicken coop (we have some lovely plans for making your own, so check those out!), some type of flooring for outside, perhaps pine shavings or straw food and water and lastly L-O-V-E.

Why are my hens eating their own eggs?

Generally chickens will eat their own eggs if they are low on protein and/or calcium. If they are lacking something substantial in their diet like calcium or protein, boost this by providing crushed oyster shell and add more protein by moving them to a new area or purchasing bait worms if they can’t get enough in your yard.

If you have a hen that just won’t stop pecking at the eggs (which happens) then you might have to make nesting boxes that slant away and hide the eggs so the hens can’t get to them.

I’d like to add a new hen to my flock but they are attacking her, do you have a description of how to introduce her to the flock?

If you toss a new hen into an established flock then yes, they’re going to attack. And there’s nothing you can do about that part because throwing new hens into an old flock means that everyone has to fight for a place in the new pecking order. Good thing is this doesn’t usually last more than a week. If you’re going to add more hens then put in all the ones you plan to introduce for the season so you don’t have to do this again and again. If you haven’t already, set the new chicken aside for a few weeks to make sure they aren’t sick. If that new one is a carrier for Marek’s, for example, and your flock hasn’t been then they’ll all be infected. Another thing is to introduce the new bird(s) at night so they wake up and don’t notice the new one as much. And if they aren’t big enough to defend themselves then they don’t need to be put in with the big ones yet.

How tall should the fence around a chicken yard be?

Ideally you want 6-7 feet tall. Even so, ensure that you’ve clipped their wings properly.

Feeding Related (2)

What should I feed my chickens?

As stated previously, chickens are not vegetarians. So like humans, you want to ensure they have a well-rounded diet. If you have plenty of land, you can directly pasture your hens and just supplement them with some grain and oyster shell. Most of us aren’t that lucky so you’ll have to let your hens scratch around for whatever bugs and worms they can find and give them feed daily. What the composition of the feed is can be up to you and requires a bit of research on what is currently available in your area. Generally I recommend avoiding corn, soy, cottonseed, and distillery by-products as well as GMO foods.

What do chickens eat?

Despite common misconceptions, chickens are NOT vegetarians. Chickens will of course eat grains and seeds, as well as vegetable peelings and such. But they will also eat small insects, worms, mice, lizards, small snakes, etc.

Egg Related (3)

How long do chickens lay eggs?

Generally older chickens slow down before they stop all together and even then they may still lay an egg every few weeks before they pass away. For most breeds, you’re looking at five to seven years of active egg laying before they start to slow down.

When will my hen start laying eggs?

Any time between 20-25 weeks old start looking for eggs from your hens. Don’t start feeding them layer feed until after you’ve seen an egg. Once one does it, the rest generally follow the leader.

Why are my hens laying soft eggs?

Soft eggs can be a sign that either your hen is young and doesn’t quite have the ‘knack’ of laying yet OR it can be indicative of the need for more calcium in their diet. In that instance, you’d want to add some crushed oyster shell or similar to their feed.

Common Diseases (2)

How do I prevent mites and lice?

The easiest way to do this is to ensure that they have an area in their yard for dust baths, even if that means you provide a box with low sides full of sand that is big enough for one or two of them to get into it and flop around. Add some wood ashes to it as well and it can be both treatment and preventative. Keeping your chickens clean and dry is the best way to keep problems from starting. If you see anything unusual, always check it out quickly before bigger problems start!

My chicken has bald spots, what causes that?

Bald spots can be from a number of things:

Over-mating from roosters which will generally be on the back
Random spots everywhere or on the back of the head from other hens pecking
They’re molting
You have a broody hen that wants to line a nest with feathers
They’re bored
Nutritional deficiencies
Mites and lice
Not enough nesting boxes
Attempting to force more eggs with too much light
Too hot

If you have questions about which it might be, email and I’ll be happy to help you make the determination.

Choosing Breed (5)

Do I have to have a rooster in order to get eggs?

No, you don’t need a rooster to get a hen to lay eggs. You only need a rooster if you want your hens to breed.

What breeds lay those really neat blue and green eggs?

Easter egg chickens are all the rage now. And I mean, it’s a chicken that lays a BLUE egg? That’s pretty cool! The following breeds can be counted on to lay eggs in interesting colors: Croad Langshan (sort of mauve color) Ameraucana (blue and blue-green) Araucana (blue) Marans (range from pink to dark chocolate brown) Welsummer (rich terracotta brown) Jersey Giants (pinkish) Brahmas (pinkish)

What are the best birds to raise for . . .

Eggs: Australorps, Orpingtons, Delaware, Dominique, Java, Leghorns, New Hampshire Red, Plymouth Rock, Rhode Island, Sussex, Wyandotte Meat: Cornish, Cornish Cross, Delaware, Freedom Rangers, Jersey GiantsOrpingtons, Sussex Both: Araucana, Australorp, Barnvelder, Delaware, Dominique, Java, Leghorns, New Hampshire Red, Plymouth Rock, Rhode Island, Sussex, Wyandotte

What is a dual-breed chicken?

A dual-breed chicken is a chicken that is both good for meat and good for laying eggs. This doesn’t mean that meat birds don’t also lay eggs, they just aren’t as good at laying eggs as dedicated egg birds.

I’ve heard people talk about them, but what exactly is a broody hen? And why wouldn’t I want one?

Broody simply means that your hen’s biological clock is ticking and she’s giving in to the call of nature to sit on her little eggs and hatch some chicks! In people that raise chickens to sell their eggs, this can be a blessing or a curse depending on how you look at it and deal with the situation.

You can tell a broody hen by her behavior. She’ll start to act funny, maybe snappish. She may peck at the other hens for no reason. More often than not, though, you’ll notice that she’s sitting on her clutch of eggs and might puff up or try to peck you if you go near them.

So what to do? Well, you really have two options: you can try to break the hormone-induced broody behavior or you can go with the natural flow of things and use it to your benefit.

You can set up a cage with a wire floor and separate her from the flock until her broodiness goes away if you go that route. Or if you’re going the other way, you can either mail order some fertilized eggs (if you don’t have roosters) or mate her so she’ll make a new generation of chicks. Once her chicks hatch and get old enough to leave the nest she’ll generally start laying again but she may be down for the season or a good portion of it.