When you first start out with chickens, there are so many questions! I wrote a whole bunch of my questions down so that I would be able to help people get started with chickens. Caring for chickens is so much easier than I thought it would be. Below you will find 36 frequently asked questions about chickens.
Having chickens has been so rewarding. I don’t just mean the eggs. They provide so much entertainment. Heck, just watching a chicken run, is probably one of the funniest things I have ever seen in my life! I also made a short video, that has some of these questions.
Let’s get on with the questions. If you don’t find an answer to a specific question you can leave a comment and I will do my best to answer it!
Frequently Asked Questions about Chickens
- What do they eat?
Laying hens get what we call “layers” pellets or ground up pellets. Molting hens get the same but it is good to make sure they get extra protein. I use meal worms for protein. They love them! Roosters – My understanding is that roosters can eat what the hens eat as long as it does not contain too much calcium. Chicks eat starter/grower.
- Why give your chickens oyster shell?
Oyster shells are primarily given to laying hens. Oyster shells contain calcium, needed for strong eggshells.
- Why give your chickens grit?
Grit acts like teeth for the chickens. If your birds are free range they may not need any. They can pick up small stones, that will help mush up the food. My girls are free range, but I provide grit, every once in awhile to make sure they get all they need. They usually do not want anything to do with it. I am guessing they get what they need from foraging.
- When do they eat?
Chickens, basically eat all day long. The only time they do not really eat is when it is dark. Keep a hanging feeder available for them 24/7. My free range girls eat bugs and whatnot, but they also come back to the coop to eat layer food throughout the day.
- Why use a hanging feeder/waterer? (These are the ones I have and love.) They also have some really cool step on feeders. I would love to try one of these!
Chickens poop everywhere… That is why you hang them up. Keeping their food off the ground keeps poop out of the food and water! I have feeders and waterers on the ground outside of the coop, but feeders that are in the chicken run are all hung up.
- Do I have to buy an expensive feeder?
No, but I have tried the cheaper plastic kind like this feeder and this waterer… The feeder did nothing but fall over and spill on the ground. The waterer is difficult to fill. Plus, when you screw the bottom on you have to do it upside down, and it always seems like you end up losing water. Basically, they are a pain in the butt. Not too long after I got them, they broke anyway. I suggest getting the ones I linked to in question #5.
- Can you eat fertilized eggs? Yes, and for more information, The Chicken Chick has the best article on this!
- What kind of coop do I need?
This will depend on so many things! How big will your birds be? How many birds do you have? Pick a coop that can accommodate your birds. Check out this post for more information on How to Choose the Right Chicken Coop.
- What does day to day care look like, and how long does it take?
– Opening and closing up the coop at night.
– Supply fresh food and water.
– Collect eggs
– Give treats or scraps.
– Check birds for good health
– Most importantly watch them run, because it is seriously the funniest thing ever.
– Clean out the poop… err I mean coop! Some people use a deep litter method. Only cleaning the coop about twice a year. I scoop poop everyday, and mix the pine shavings around really well. It keeps smell and flies to a minimum!
All of this can take anywhere from 5-15 minutes in the morning, and then again at dusk. I collect eggs throughout the day.
- Should I let them out to free range?
Check out this post on “Should I Let my Chickens Free Range” to decide if free range is right for you and your girls. Also, if you decide to free range, keep reading the rest of this answer. There is important information you need to know!
If you just got your chickens and you want to let them free range, you will need to keep them locked up in the coop/run for a few days. This will let them know where to come home at night. They usually do not go super far away from where they sleep at night. I suggest leaving them in the coop/run for at least 3 days, but I like to give it a week.
When we first got chickens we had no idea that you should acclimate them to their new coop. They made their own nest in some trees in the woods. Our chickens won’t let us pick them up so we waited until it was dark to grab them and put the in the coop. They can’t see in the dark! That is why they get quiet when it is dark, so that predators will have a harder time locating them. Although, I am sure their smell is enough to draw many predators.
- What do I store the food in?
I bought 5 gallon food storage buckets. They seem to work pretty well for the pellets. I keep, meal worms, calcium supplements, and grit in a plastic box. Tractor supply has some that have easy open lids. I don’t love the price, but the easy open is so much easier!
- Where do I store the food? I store my chicken feed, and all that under my carport. If you are using plastic buckets, you may want to check into getting an ultrasonic pest repellent to deter the mice from chewing the buckets.
A barn or a shed will do just fine also. Preferably somewhere that is covered from the weather.
- What can I do if I don’t have a chicken coop?
Gather up some materials laying around your house that you are not using. You can make a makeshift chicken coop with some fencing and some wood posts, or some old fencing and a tarp. It is more difficult making a predator proof makeshift pen though. Check out the video of my makeshift coop that I made before I received my amazing coop from The Chicken Coop Company. I made a video, to tour the new chicken coop also, if you want to check that out!
Check out my post on Raccoon in the Chicken Coop. If predators are a concern you might think about getting a dog that is good for protecting livestock, and/or a couple of geese. Geese are like the attack dogs of the birds, or so they say.
- Do chickens need special water?
All your chickens need is good clean water. They don’t like warm water though, so keep it out of the sun, and change it at least once a day.
- What do I do if a chicken is hurt or sick?
Check out the Chicken Chick’s How to Help a Sick Chicken. You can also check out Common Chicken Illnesses and Treatments. Or see Foot Injuries in Chickens. Please see a vet, and use your best judgement!
- Is there anything I should not feed my chickens?
Green potatoes, dried beans, mold and more. Check out more at What should chickens absolutely not eat.
- My chicken was in the nest all day what does that mean?
Good news, she is probably just broody. Basically, she has the urge to sit on eggs and hatch babies. This can go on for a while. If it is really hot, or if you want to get the eggs you will have to remove her and encourage her to stay out of the nest. A hen could possibly have a heat stroke and die if nesting too long in the heat. Check out What Exactly is a Broody Hen, and How to Stop it for more information.
- Broody hen, what does that mean? Question #13 goes over this!
- How do I transport my chickens?
A simple cage will do. This is what we use. Get one with a double door and you can turn it so that a door is on the top, making loading and unloading the chickens much easier!Or you can buy a poultry carrier. The one we use is a bit bigger and can be used to transport other animals as well 😉 in case you find a goat or some other animal that decides it wants to come home with you!
- How do chickens sleep?
Most fully grown chickens like to sleep on roosts. They will take the highest point in their home. This is a natural instinct that helps them be safe from predators at night. Someone told me their chickens were roosting in the rafters of the barn!
Some of my girls end up sleeping in the nesting boxes though! Nest boxes are usually used by laying hens to lay eggs. Younger chickens that are not of laying age may like to sleep in a nest I have heard.
- What are the most important qualities to look for in a chicken coop?
Secure latches – raccoons can open latches, so you want really good quality hardware, and you might want to double up if you have some really clever predators!
Quality Fencing materials – hardware cloth, and galvanized steel fencing has small holes, and is stronger than chicken wire. Chicken wire is made to keep chickens in not predators out! So use a higher quality fencing if predators are worrisome.
Dry sleeping quarters – A good quality roof and other materials are very important when it comes to keeping the inside dry.
Space – You need to have enough space for each chicken to roost and nesting space for your laying hens.
Easy to Clean – It is important that your coop is somewhat easy to clean. Having a pull out drawer under the roost is such a big help!
- Are chickens easy to care for?
Yes, it only takes about 15 to 20 minutes a day to care for them, but they are willing to provide hours of entertainment!
- Will my dog eat my chickens?
Dogs have been known to eat chickens. Introduce them slowly, maybe while the chickens are locked in a chicken run or a pen. Check out this post from Backyard Chickens for more information.
- Why can’t I use scratch for chicken food?
Scratch does not contain enough protein for a daily diet. Scratch is used more as a treat. Purchase layers pellets for hens. Starter for chicks. My understanding is that roosters can eat what the hens eat as long as it does not contain too much calcium.
- What is the best chicken breed?
I get asked a lot, about what breed is “Camo” our rooster in the image above. He is a Red Sexlink! As for picking the perfect breed for you, it will depend on what you want chickens for. Meat, eggs, friends, or for show! Check out this breed selector tool to help you find the perfect breed for you.
- Why is my chicken losing feathers?
In late summer, chicken will molt. Their feathers do this because they need to grow their winter feathers. These new feathers help keep them warm in the winter. I like to give my chickens mealworms as a snack everyday while they are molting, extra protein helps to have a smooth transition during this time. Check out more about molting.
- What is a lash egg?
This disgusting mess is the result of the egg canal being inflamed. Sometimes it will contain parts of a egg, but it is not really an egg. It will also contain pus and other materials. To read more about lash eggs, check out this post from Timber Creek Farm.
- What kind of chicken basket do I use?
Collecting eggs is a fun part of having chickens. Check out Amazon’s collection of cute (Affiliate link) chicken egg baskets.
- How often do I clean out the chicken coop?
It will depend on how many birds you have. Once or twice a week will suffice. Or you can choose to use the deep litter method. If you want to know how to deep clean the chicken coop this is by far the best article I have read on how to do just that.
- Can I use chicken poop as fertilizer in my garden/compost?
Here is a great article on everything you need to know about using chicken poop in the garden and in the compost.
- Do chickens lay eggs all year long?
When chicken molt in late summer, their production usually stops. In the winter production slows, because of shorter days. If you provide them with more light to extend their days, they may lay as normal.
- What time of day do chickens lay their eggs and how long does it take to lay an egg?
They can lay their eggs anywhere from early morning until evening. Many things you read may say early morning is when chickens lay, but that is not my experience and many others also. If you read forums at all you will see many people who say they got their last egg for the day around 3 or 5 PM.It can take anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours. It just differs from hen to hen.
- What are my chickens yelling about?
The funniest thing, all of a sudden you hear a bock bockkkkkk bock bock bockkkk! This is known as the I just laid an egg song. Yes, we shall celebrate, this miraculous event EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. with a loud song and maybe a dance!
- How old are chickens when they start laying eggs?
Chickens will usually start laying around 6 months old. Smaller breeds will take less time and bigger breeds will take a little longer.
- How many years can I expect for a hen to lay eggs?
Usually 5-7 years is the norm. They don’t just stop laying when they get older, the production just slows way down.
- I just got new chickens, how do I properly introduce them into the flock?
First, you will need to quarantine them for several weeks. New chickens can mean sickness and disease. You want to make sure the new chickens do not exhibit any signs of sickness, that would otherwise spread to the existing flock. There is also the pecking order to think about. Do not mix birds younger than 6 weeks with adult hens. This may cause some problems with the pecking order and some chickens may end up getting hurt. Check out Adding to The Flock for more information.
After all of these questions, if you still have more post them in the comment section. Thanks so much for joining us!
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