5 Mistakes New Chicken Keepers Make | Raising Chickens
5 Mistakes New Chicken Keepers Make

5 Mistakes New Chicken Keepers Make

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Let’s get real. I made so many mistakes as a new chicken keeper! I wasn’t prepared at all. Is that you too? It’s okay, I learned from my mistakes, and I’m here to help! We’ll get through this together, you GOT THIS! I want to help you to get past the 5 Mistakes New Chicken Keepers Make.

Mistakes New Chicken Keepers Make

1. Not Having Supplies Before Getting Chickens

Do you have all the “stuff” needed for chickens? When you first get chickens, it’s great if you have everything needed to take care of them. Make sure you have a chicken coop set up for them and plenty of feeders and waterers.

The chicken coop should be big enough to accommodate not only the chickens you intend to buy initially, but it’s a great idea to have a bigger chicken coop to start with. WHY?

Well, the thing about chickens is that they are simply amazing and you’re sure to fall in love with them. You’ll most likely want MORE! I know I did! This is called #CHICKENMATH.

It’ll be cheaper in the long run if you start out bigger, plus more room is fine for the girls. It gives them space to sleep comfortably.

large rooster standing next to chicken waterer

Basic Necessities

Commercial Chicken Coops

I wouldn’t recommend buying a commercial chicken coop unless you’re going to spend thousands of dollars.

There’s a “cedar” or other paper-thin “wood: made in China, that they use to make these coop with. Thin crap that molds and warps, and will deteriorate in about 6-12 months. This coop cost about $800. At that price, it should last years, not months.

Quality built coops typically cost thousands of dollars. They are gorgeous, and usually have pretty good design elements.

Chicken coop

Feeders & Waterers

About the feeders and waterers… If you live in a hot climate, the girls and guys will drink a lot more water in the hotter months.

I’ve found the 1 gallon waterer simply isn’t enough for eight birds during the summer. We’ve switched to a waterer that is more double that. That way we only need to fill it up once a day.

2. Can You Legally Have Chickens?

There are a couple of things you should do before you get chickens, like checking the local zoning ordinances.

We live outside the city. In our city, they don’t allow people to keep roosters, plus they limit the number of hens too. Mostly because it would break the noise ordinance. Our laws aren’t too bad here and are common among cities all over the US.

However, some cities don’t allow chickens at all. The last thing you need is the neighbors calling on you & being tattletales.

Neighbors Can Be a Pain or a Blessing

Speaking of neighbors, do you have them? Mine are about a few acres away. The people in front of us have chickens, the people behind us don’t.

When I spoke to them about us getting chickens they were excited. My neighbor actually said he was looking forward to the noises of the chickens because he enjoys it.

Most neighbors are not excited, let me tell you… You might want to check with your neighbors if they are close by. Having an open dialog may help, plus you can help them learn more about chickens.

If they say that the noise would bother them, maybe you can tempt them with free eggs.

rooster crowing

3. Predators | Mistakes New Chicken Keepers Make

Being unprepared for predator attacks is one of the mistakes new chicken keepers make. Here at our new homestead, we have dealt with bears, raccoons, opossums, foxes, & coyotes. Raccoons being our biggest nuisance! They like to eat eggs, and if those aren’t available they will take a chicken or two.

For a raccoon, scaling the 6-foot fence is as easy as slicing soft butter. They can open latches, rip a head off with precision, and not think twice. They also love to eat chicken food and chicken eggs!

A bear tried to rip the roof off the chicken coop. The opossum stole a couple of chickens. The coyotes haven’t done any damage to OUR property yet, but we’ve heard sounds as if they did get something like a small dog in the field next to us. Which is literally a sound I hope to never hear again! It’s pretty terrifying.

Protecting Fenced-In Chickens

So how do you prepare for predators for fenced chickens? Making your coop undiggable by laying hardware cloth at the bottom is a great tactic. Most people bury it in the ground horizontally a few inches into the ground. When a predator starts digging they quickly realize it’s futile and give up.

You can also place your chicken coop in a fenced area, that has a roof over it. That way they cannot gain access through the roof like they did ours.

Dealing With Daytime Predators and Free-Range Chickens

Coyotes and foxes will hunt whenever. They are opportunistic hunters. Raccoons are typically night hunters, but they are also pretty smart, they know when to come to take eggs before we gather them, and when to grab a chicken before they are locked up for the night. When they are hungry they will typically hunt for food no matter what time of day it is.

For these daytime predators, it can be a little difficult when free-ranging your birds. Especially, if you don’t have many places for the chooks to run and hide! We live in the forest. There is a ton of room to roam and hide here. However, that doesn’t mean they are safe!

We still free-range our birds. Although we didn’t lose many birds in the first few years, the predator situation is getting worse. We saw our first fox this year. He has taken 2 birds in one week. We thought it was a raccoon until we laid eyes on him.

Typically, when dealing with a predator that is stalking our chickens, we will attempt to kill them. We also have a black mouth cur (dog), she’s not a shepherd dog, but she was bred to be a hunter, and a great one she is! So we not only do we use our dog, but we can call the dog back once it’s injured enough, to shoot and kill the animal.

The picture below was when we were trapping the raccoons. I trapped two in one cage! Go me, go me! *dances while celebrating…

We don’t trap them anymore. Typically, we turn the hunter into the hunted.

Raccoon in the Chicken Coop

Dealing With The Law Concerning Wildlife

Sometimes shooting an animal is illegal. This is where the law comes into play. Before you deal with a wild animal, it’s important to understand the laws in your area.

We are allowed to shoot most animals that are attacking our livestock even the neighbors dog! Yep I said it…

However, we are NOT allowed to shoot a bear that is attacking our livestock. You can only shoot a bear around these parts if it’s trying to murder you.

So, do your research! Check with the fish & game website for your area and see what it takes to get it removed from the area. Some animals cannot be removed. Like around here, they will NOT remove a bear! I understand why not, but goodness gracious I wish there was something we could do sometimes. It can be scary living among bears.

Wildlife Relocation

Although some animals can be removed, you have to hire a professional wildlife relocator. Who has money for that? Not me, I’d love to have them relocated but I have to feed 3 teenage boys and that comes first!

Livestock Guardian Dogs

Dogs… Many people use Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs). These dogs are bred to protect livestock. They live, eat and breathe this work. It’s what they live for.

They usually live outside. I have a friend who has one of them, and their animals are never locked uptight, and she says she’s never lost an animal. It’s hard to believe, but hey I’m not judging, I just wish I could afford to have an LGD myself!

My dog (black mouth Cur) is amazing, but she is not only bred to be a hunter, but also a family dog. She’s the kind of dog that need a lot of attention and love. She’s a great protector and she’s very smart too! Absolutely, hands down the best dog I’ve ever had!

not having a livestock guardian dog is a mistake new chicken keepers make

4. Starting With Baby Chicks Is One Of The Mistakes New Chicken Keepers Make

Starting out with baby chicks is one of the easier mistakes new chicken keepers make. It can be done, for sure. It’s just better to start out with laying hens, in my opinion. Why?

Because they have the ability to give you eggs right away. Babies are a lot of fun, a lot of poop, and needy at times. Laying hens are just easier. They need and want less from you.

Also, with baby chicks, you need the space to raise them. You’ll need a special brooder, special waterers, feeders, feed, and even a heat lamp! It’s a lot of special accessories that you’ll really only use for baby chicks, and as they get bigger you’ll have purchase adult supplies.

Check out How to Raise Baby Chicks to learn everything you need to know about raising baby chicks!

getting baby chicks a mistake new chicken keepers make

5. Wounds, Disease, and Disorders | Mistakes New Chicken Keepers Make

Not being prepared for dealing with a sick or wounded bird, is one of the biggest mistakes new chicken keepers make. Right now I have Fat Boy in Quarantine. Why?

Because he is bleeding from his wattle. The girls kept pecking at it, making it worse. Yes, this is something that happens more often than you might think.

Usually, it’s minor and only needs a quarantine for the better part of a day, but this time Fat Boy is bleeding pretty badly. I cleaned it up with some Vetericyn and wiped the blood with a clean cloth.

Blue Kote is great for covering up the color RED! Red means pecking and we don’t want chickens to peck at sores. It’s also a germicidal and a fungicidal! So it can help keep those wounds clean so they can heal up faster. This stuff is typically a deep blue-purple color. It will stain! So be careful when applying it!

Then, I added some first aid ointment. I will have to keep him quarantined for a few days until the wound improved.

Do you have a place set up for quarantined birds? I use a dog cage, with two doors. I like two doors because I can turn one side pointing up, so it’s easier to put birds in and take them out. Plus, you can add food and water, without them trying to escape.

Fresh Water For An Injured Chicken

These hanging bowls are a great addition to a pet cage. However, I purchased these, and I wish that I had gotten some that are securely attached. I link to some of those below. These bowls are easily knocked down. We currently have Camo, our head honcho (rooster) is currently in quarantine and he accidentally knock them down when he does his scratch and peck moves. Bobbing his head up and down, all the while trying to call the girls over as if he got anything but wood chips in his crate!

These bowls are the ones I was talking about or something like this would be better! They attach to basically any crate or cage. Plus, it would probably be difficult to knock them down. I’m totally thinking about purchasing these!

Check out the Chicken First Aid Kit article for more information about being prepared for chicken wounds, diseases, and disorders.

5 Mistakes New Chicken Keepers Make

  1. Not having supplies before getting chickens – This is a really important step. Being ready is one of the most important steps and that’s why it’s #1!
  2. Not checking the local zoning ordinances – You can dream about chickens all you want, but before you buy that beautiful chicken coop, make sure it’s legal to have chickens in your backyard!
  3. Unprepared for predator attacks – There are day and night predators. Is your coop prepared to keep out predators at night? Do you have any defenses for the daytime?

    Some people use Geese, others use Great Pyrenees or other livestock guardian dogs.

  4. Not researching and being ready for sick or wounded birds – What if a bird is hurt? What do you have to help your sick or wounded birds? Check out the Chicken First Aid Kit post, to learn how to put one together.
  5. Starting with chicks – You may pay more for an adult hen, but there are many supplies little chicks need like chick feeders, waterers, starter feed, brooder, lamp, and all the time it will take for them to grow into adults.

    Starting with adult hens can get you eggs a lot sooner, and you’ll be able to gain the experience needed for taking care of them.

    You can always try chicks later on, and by then you will have a regular supply of fresh eggs already coming in. Also, check out How to Raise Baby Chicks and How to Care for Chickens.
  6. Not researching and being ready for sick or wounded birds – What if a bird is hurt? What do you have to help your sick or wounded birds? Check out the Chicken First Aid Kit post, to learn how to put one together.

I’d love To Know what you think!… Leave me a comment!

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34 thoughts on “5 Mistakes New Chicken Keepers Make”

  1. I have been planning and learning about chickens for over a year now. I just purchased 10 Golden Buffs that were five weeks old. I am in love! I sit with them most of the time and have really enjoyed their calming presence! I talk to them and hold them. I am so happy to finally have my girls. They are a real joy! I enjoy your information here and have learned much from reading the posts. I think I may start a chicken therapy ranch. A place to come and just hang out with the chicks. Happy roosting to all!

  2. We recently bought 3 chickens and started out with a small coop kit. We didn’t know chickens have personalities. They aren’t laying yet and all sleep in the same nesting box squashed together. We have covered the nesting boxes to discourage this but then they all sleep together in a corner. We started construction on a larger coop which should be ready in a few days. Three bears came through our yard a few days ago but we yelled at them and they left – a Mama and 2 cubs. A neighbor’s cat did small damage one night but could not get in their coop – our security camera got it on tape. We love our girls.

    1. Wow Jan, that’s a lot of activity on your homestead! Does your chicken coop have roosts? They may stop piling up in the nesting boxes if they have roosts to sleep on. Good job protecting your girls. Good luck on your new journey!

  3. Great help and advise. I would make all these mistakes if I didnt come across this blog. My two daughters have been pushing for me to get chicken. I would like to have them too but I have been scared of failure so I have been doing alot of research before i get chicken. We live in old Westbury, Nassau county NY. I dont see many house holds keeping chicken here probably bc of weather. Can you tell me if our weather is conducive of keeping chicken? Furthermore, as step 1. I decided a final location where I will keep them. I have a small shed in my backyard which we use for storage. We have ample space behind the shed so we decided to extended it more like another shed behind shed with roof and siding. I did put three huge windows I the new extension in Hope’s of making sure proper ventilation. Can I keep my chicken in this newly build shed or there r other special requirements for building a chicken home/coop which will keep chicken happy. I still need to ask my neighbour about it but we have big lots here so I don’t think neighbour would have issues as they may not even see. Also do I have to keep roaster for hen’s to lay eggs bc I dont plan on keeping roaster for noise issues. I plan on building a chicken chunnel around the parameter of my property for chicken to come out but I don’t plan to leave them out in open. Is there a formula to use that can dictate how many chickens to keep in the sq footage I have. I plan on dividing the new extension into storage and chicken house. I do already have an old pond in the house which we restored and our neighbor has been asking when we will bring in fishes so I am hoping he will be ok with chicken too. May be I should start with fishes first and then later keep chicken. Primary purpose of both pond and chicken is for my kids…may be I will also get to like them once we start with this hobby. Another question I have us around maintenance and clean up, what’s required and how much time I will need to dedicate to keeping chicken habitat clean, will there be any smell issues..will I need to hire someone for weekly or monthly cleanup or it’s something I can do myself…

    1. Hey Ronnie,

      I know people who keep chickens in Alaska. I would choose a breed of chicken that does well in colder weather, like the australorp, Easter Egger, etc…

      A shed is usually fine for keeping chickens. Make sure you have roosts, and nesting boxes for them. You will need to make sure you predator proof the windows. You might be able to secure wire fencing on the inside over the windows.

      As for the rooster, no you don’t need a rooster to get eggs. You can read more here…https://homesteadwishing.com/should-i-have-a-rooster-in-my-flock/

      You want about 10 Sqft per chicken outside during the day, and 3 Sqft per chicken in the coop.

      Chickens will eat fish, so you might want to make sure they can’t get to the pond.

      I have no idea if you’ll need to hire someone to help with clean up. It depends on how much time you have on your hands, how many chickens you have, and plenty other variables. You can read this https://homesteadwishing.com/how-to-care-for-chickens/ and this https://homesteadwishing.com/how-do-you-take-a-vacation-when-you-have-chickens/ to help you gauge about how much work it can be to keep chickens.

      Also, make sure to check local laws. Some towns don’t allow people to keep chickens, while others may have rules for how many you can keep.

      I hope this helps! Happy chicken keeping!

  4. My dog is great with my chickens and my cat is so damn scared of them after they attacked him , I love my girls I do only have 2 but I’m going to get another 2 they are free range all day with food scraps and good quality seed mix , at night the are in their coop which is in the car port for them to wander around in winter I love them and would trade anything for my girls 😊

  5. Some chickens appeared in our cow pasture over the summer and they’re still here as winter approaches. We bought a chicken coop kit and put it near where they seem to hang out. We can’t get near them at all. They are still roosting in the trees at night even with no leaves for cover. We put food in the coop during the day and I think they go in. Any suggestions on getting near them? Or into the coop so I can close them in?

    1. Sorry it took me so long to reply. We still don’t have internet at home since the hurricane came though and knocked it all out.

      Okay! So chickens can’t see in the dark. You best bet is to grab them (if you can) when it’s dark and throw them in the coop and lock it up tight. That is if they aren’t nesting way high up in the trees. If they are up too high to reach you might could try just close the chicken run doors when they go in during the day. You don’t want to just lock them in a coop however, because spending too much time locked in a coop can make them sick and/or they will get irritable and start being mean to each other.

      You will need to keep them locked up in a chicken run area for at least a week and put them in the coop if they don’t go automatically at dusk, so they can get the idea of where their new home is. After that week, you shouldn’t have any more problems with them nesting in the trees. They will know where their new home is.

      Let me know what you decide to try and how it goes!

      Thanks for stopping by Anita!

      ~Kristi

  6. Mark Willingham

    I preferred starting with older chickens (20 weeks), hens in particular, because you receive eggs so much sooner!
    I started with 6 hens and built my coop which I refer to as the “house of feathers” to accommodate more. Now I have 12 hens, enjoy them and visit with them daily.
    During the winter I make sure the ladies are well fed. Lots of protein good feed, fruits, veggies, raw meat and fresh water daily. This resulted in no less than 7 eggs a day, from 12 hens.

  7. 2 hybrid rhode island x 2 white leghorn 1 Norway black x a white Sussex all taken in the space of 2 months ,I have a top class wired coop ,but let the chickens out during the day ,So enough is enough ,I told the local shooting club and 11 fox’s were taken out ,They told me there’s more ,So now I don’t let out the chickens at all ,2 were taken while I was home ,I never heard even a squawk ,Crafty fox’s are in out and gone in a blink, I know the antis will say (you savage )but free range is when a bird roams about outside ,not permanently in a coop ,I’m now wondering about grit x dust baths which the chickens love ,So I’m going to let them out in mid April when I’m around ,and keep a close eye on them roving too far away ,but they never strayed too far from my garden which is planted each year with potatoes x broccoli x carrots ect ,

    1. Yeah, I totally understand. I just had a dog attack my chickens here. Now, we are hearing from a neighbor that there is a coyote in the area. Plus, we spotted a bobcat. Ugg, we already are competing with opossums and raccoons too. It’s rough. I wish I had a large enough area and enough money to provide a lot of fenced in area. To compromise between free range and cooped up during the day. Your chickens might need a little bit of oyster shells or other calcium nutrition too if they are locked up. Well, hens will need it for eggs. Calcium helps build the shells. Anywho, I wish you luck with your birds! The struggle is real my friend!

  8. I’ve raised chickens and other poultry for over 30 years and the first thing I tell noobs, when planning your coop determine how many chickens you want to have and multiply that by 3, then build a coop big enough for that. Chickens are like triple cheese nachos. You will not stop at a reasonable number, lol

  9. Love your blog. I’d like to know what advantage or disadvantage there is to separating the nesting boxes?? I have 16 baby chicks at 4 weeks old and a rooster at 4 weeks.

    I’ve had chickens before and never had a separator between each nest.
    Thank you, Terry

    1. Hey Terry, some chickens just prefer a little bit of privacy when laying an egg. Not all but some will. Sometimes it helps to define the place where they are supposed to be laying. So they don’t come up with a “better” place to lay! I have six hens using the chicken coop but they only use two boxes our of the six total. They absolutely prefer to be in there one at a time though. They are pretty funny that way. I know plenty of people who don’t divide them, and don’t have problems. Some have run into problems, with them laying in a different place as a result. So it’s up to you what you think your hens will like.

      1. Thank you for the quick response. I was hoping you’d say that. I built my coop and I’m putting final touches on it. The nesting area is 16’x8′ and the same for the run. I have 2 16′ long nesting areas and they’re 20″ deep. I guess I’ll see how it goes and add dividers if necessary.

        Thank you!!!!

  10. When I was a kid, our neighbors across the street had chickens and when my dog would get loose we’d typically find him over there. He once killed one and I felt horrible. It’s good to know that even common household pets could potentially be predators. I think our dog just wasn’t familiar with them so he didn’t know what to do.

    1. It happens often with dogs!I had my husband introduce the dog to the chickens. I was afraid for her to be introduced to the chickens, but she somehow understood that her protection extended to the feathery creatures. She has treed many coons who were trying to steal our chickens. I think a formal introduction is necessary. Without the alpha male around a dog might think they look like lunch!

  11. A chicken was an adorable creature who is giving us a very nutritious breakfast in our mornings. I would love to have them but I don’t think I can manage to take good care and protect them at all times. I know it was harder than I thought.

  12. We recently got some chickens last year and boy what fun it has been! I absolutely love my roo and my ladies. The predator attacks are the worst thing on my mind about caring for them. I like to think that we are predator proof, but I know that we can’t think of everything. I dread the day I go out to a massacre, but I know it could happen. And I’m prepared for it. These are great tips by the way!

    1. Glad to hear that you are prepared just in case. It’s hard to prepare for isn’t it? Mental preparation I think is the hardest. A friend of mine saw a massacre of her chickens and is very reluctant to getting more. She is traumatized from it. I feel so bad for her. I hope one day she will get more chickens and I will help predator proof her pens! Thank you Renee! If you have any chicken questions let me know!

  13. We got chickens last year for the first time and started with chicks. We were definitely not prepared. I had read all of the books I could find and nearly every pin on Pinterest but actually doing it is so different lol. They did really well until we got them outside and about a week later a neighbor’s dog got them. We were so devastated. We had prepared for all of the normal predators, enforcing the coop against them all, but he tore it to shreds. It was quite a scene. I would love to get chickens again, but I’m not sure if we will or not since our neighbors still have those dogs.

    1. Oh wow, I am so sorry to hear about your loss. Seeing something like that is devastating. You might can talk to your neighbor about keeping their dog contained. Anything that threatens livestock is usually legally expendable. I have heard of many homesteaders shooting dogs on their property. Although, you will want to check your local laws before taking action on that. Although, I am not sure that I have it in me to shoot a dog. So, maybe the neighbor would be willing to batten down the hatches over there, so it’s not a problem. The other option you have is possibly getting a livestock guard dog, most people like Great Pyrenees. Any option ends up coming with it’s own headaches of crap to deal with. I feel like no pen is predator proof completely. Mostly, because there are soooooo many predators for chickens. It is hard to account for each one! I hope you do try again, and I hope you are more successful this time! Good luck in your homesteading journey!

      1. Sometimes, a single strand of wire and an electric fence charger might work. Not only for dogs, but for coons and foxes too. You could just power it at night or when you are not at home. I live in a fairly “wild” place, so I only free range my chickens when I am at home.

        1. If you have enough open space you could do it. We live in the middle of the woods, so it wouldn’t work for us. We’ve only ever had night predators take our chickens, and that was when we didn’t have a real chicken coop. I’ve had all kind of creatures on the property during the day, with no problems, free ranging all day w/o supervision. That’s not say there won’t be any. The woods do provide ample place to scratch, and hide from predators though! I think everyone should figure out what works for them! It does take a bit of trial and error.

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