Trying to Find the Right Chicken Coop?
Enter your email address to get started!
Click the blue underlined links to skip down the page to the question you're looking for!
You can also review the Chicken Coop Select Glossary (Click Here). The Chicken Coop Select Glossary is an excellent compilation of many of the common terms used in raising poultry for eggs, including small flock enterprises and backyard chicken operations!
Chicken Coop Questions?
Chicken Care and Management Questions?
What are the best chicken breeds for a backyard chicken enterprise? Top
There is no specific answer to this question as there are numerous deciding factors including personal preference. Most people raise chickens to provide fresh home grown eggs. Rhode Island Reds, New Hampshire Reds and single comb White Leghorns are good choices for egg production but there is a non ending choice of breeds and breed combinations from which to choose.
For a complete discussion on Breeds For Backyard Chickens, Click Here!
To view a sample of Chicken Breed Images, Click Here!
What is the difference between a bantam and a regular chicken? Top
Bantam breeds or "Banties" are about 1/3 to 1/2 the size of standard breeds. Bantam eggs are much smaller and thus not preferred for egg production. However, Bantie breeds are easy to handle and make a great choice for showing at fairs and for 4-H projects. Cochins, Plymouth Rocks, Old English and Wyandottes are some of the more popular Bantam breeds found in shows.
For a complete discussion on Breeds For Backyard Chickens, Click Here!
Where do I get chickens? Top
There are many places to buy both mature chickens and baby chicks. One day old chicks are usually the best way to buy your initial stock of birds or your replacement stock. Mature layers can be obtained as starter pullets (see definition below). Starter pullets are usually between 6 and 22 weeks of age when sold. Starter pullets that are 22 weeks of age are ready to start laying if they have been fed and developed correctly. It may also be possible to purchase hens from commercial layer operations that have been culled from the flock. Commercial operations will cull hens that have reached 30 months of age as they have past their peak egg production potential. You will most likely have to molt these birds for 6 to 8 weeks before they will start to lay again. Although they will continue to lay, buying older hens that have been culled from commercial layer operations is not the best choice. The price of chicks, starter pullets, or aged hens will depend on the age, breed, strain/variety within the breed and their egg production potential as represented by the breeder. Below are sources for chicks, pullets and mature birds:
In general, when you purchase chicks, you will normally get straight run chicks which is a mix of males and females. Some hatcheries will allow you to order sexed chicks but keep in mind that sexing newly hatched chicks is very difficult and a "hard learned art". Even the best don't get them all correct! Make certain that your source of chicks is U.S. Pullorum-Typhoid clean facility. Purchasing from these clean facilities will reduce the potential for disease and improve survivability. Also, make certain that the facility vaccinates for Marek's disease. Chicks should be vaccinated shortly after hatching and the vaccine is good for the life of the bird.
What is the difference between a cockerel and a pullet? Top
A cockerel is an immature male chicken (rooster) where as a Pullet is an immature female chicken (hen) prior to her laying her first egg.
What do I do when I bring my chickens home? Top
Many of you will be receiving chicks from a commercial hatchery. Your box (usually cardboard) will arrive full of peeping chicks barely 36 hours old. Chicks have enough nutrition remaining from their yolk sac to last a good while, but they need water and warmth immediately. Use a heat lamp to keep them warm and hang it about 18 inches from the floor. The initial temperature should be 90 to 95 degrees for the first week. The temperature under the light will be higher than this, but your chicks will find a spot that is right for them. For the first several days, use a brooder barrier (cardboard, wire, wood etc.) to keep chicks huddle under the brooder lamp. Gradually increase the area from the heat lamp so that chicks have more room. Also, you can and should reduce the temperature by 5 degrees per week until you get to 70. They shouldn’t need any additional heat after that.
What is the best way to introduce new chickens to an already established flock? Top
Keep newcomers (chicks) seperated from the established birds. You can use a barrier (i.e., wire), so they can see each other but not directly interact for a period of 1-4 weeks. This will help keep fighting to a minimum. Ideally, you should wait till the new chicks reach maturity before placing them in with the existing flock. There is a definite pecking order within a flock and the new birds will initially be a the bottom. If the new birds have reached maturity, the establishment of the new pecking order will go much more smoothly! Always introduce them while SUPERVISED, so you can control any fighting/pecking.
When meat type birds or spent hens are ready for processing, can you take them somewhere to have them done or do you have to do it yourself? Top
Most areas have a local butcher/processor where you can take spent hens or meat birds to be dressed for consumption. Contact a local Poultry Club or again, your State Agricultural Cooperative Extension Service may be a good resource. Also, ask local hunters where they take deer and other game to be dressed.
What is Molting? Top
The moult or molt or the molting period is the process in which the chicken lose and regrow their feathers. Usually chickens molt in the fall. The molting period is triggered by decling day length. You can delay or eliminate the motling period by providing artificial light. Egg laying ceases during the molting process.
Do chickens smell bad? 11 Top
Chickens that are manged correctly do not smell. The only bad smell that can develop is from a poorly maintained chicken coop or chicken house that is wet and full of used litter. Clean and replace litter as needed and both you and your neighbors will be very happy!
How do roosters mate with hens? 12 Top
The sex organ of a rooster is located internally, inside the Cloaca. The Cloaca is the anatomical area of the chicken where the intestinal, reproductive, and urinary tracts end. When mating, the rooster's organ is extruded (comes out) in order to place the sperm in the cloaca of the hen. The rooster "mounts" the hen, holding on with his beak to her head or neck feathers, in order to be in the proper position for fertilization of the egg to occur.
To view an excellent picture of the Reproductive System of the Chicken, Click Here!
How many roosters do I need for my chickens? 13 Top
One rooster for every 8-12 hens will usually be sufficent to produce fertile eggs.
When and how can I tell if a chicken is a rooster? 14 Top
It is very difficult to differentiate between male and female chickens at an early age. Depending on the breed, cockerels (males) develop larger combs and wattles earlier than pullets (females) and will start trying to crow at 6 to 10 weeks. Cockerels tend to get bigger and/or taller than the pullets. You may also observe more aggressive "rooster behaviors", like play fighting, hassling, and mounting etc. For an excellent discussion on Sexing of Day Old Chicks, Click Here!
Why do roosters crow? 15 Top
Only a Rooster knows why he crows when he does! There are many reasons why a rooster crows. He could be announcing his territory, challenging another rooster, establishing dominance over the flock, or just letting off "steam" among others. Besides crowing, roosters present other challenges! Roosters take up space so it is important to remember that roosters are not necessary for egg production but they are needed if you want chicks. Roosters are seldom appreciated by owners or neighbors. Even if there are no zoning ordinances to prevent you from raising poultry, a crowing rooster can be a constant irritant in your area! Many areas will allow raising chickens but have an ordinance against roosters. Also, there is a strong misconception that a rooster only crows at sun rise to signal the start of a new day. That could not be any further from the truth. Roosters crow 24-hours a day and roosters will not manage easily like laying hens. They can be aggressive and can present significant management and handling challenges to those that are involved in managing the flock.
How long will my chickens live? 16 Top
A chicken can live for five years or more. They do stop laying after about 4 years usually, but by then they are well loved, full of personality, and well-respected members of the flock.
How many eggs will my hens lay? 18 Top
On the average, 3 hens will give you 2-3 eggs a day. That means to get a dozen eggs a day, you would need a maximum 18 hens.
Should I wash the eggs my hens lay? 19 Top
This argument rages forever - Some wash theirs scrubby sponge and cold wate, others use anti-bac soap, others claim you are washing off the "bloom" and letting bacterian INTO the egg by doing that. It really comes down to personal preference.
What is the difference between a bantam egg and a regular egg? 20 Top
A bantam egg is smaller. Nutritionally there is no difference.
How long do chickens lay eggs? 21 Top
Chickens usually don't simply "stop" laying eggs when they get to a certain age, but they will lay fewer as they get older. That said, most laying breeds will lay more or less productively in backyard terms for five or seven years.
When will my hens start to lay eggs? 22 Top
Most hens start to lay around 4-6 months of age, more or less. However, for various reasons (time of year, temperature, etc.) they may wait until the next Spring to start laying eggs.
How do you tell what color eggs a hen will lay? 23 Top
You can tell by the color of the earlobes in general. A white lobed hen will lay white eggs, while a red lobed hen will lay brown eggs. The exception to this would be the Easter Egger, Ameraucana, and Araucana breeds. They will lay eggs in colors ranging from khaki green to sky blue, to pink tinted, to occasionally lavender tinted. they will usually have red ear lobes.
Will my hens lay eggs if I don't have a rooster? 26 Top
Yes a hen is an egg laying machine all by herself. You do not need a rooster at all. A rooster is only necessary for a hen to lay fertile eggs.
When do I get eggs? 27 Top
A pullet (a young hen) will lay her first egg when she is roughly 4-6 months depending on the breed and the hen herself. Then a good layer will lay one egg a day--never any more. Many hens will lay only about 4-5 eggs a week.
Chicken Coop Questions?
What is the best floor for chicken coops? 28 Top
Many flooring options are good for your chicken coops. The most common is wood which is great, just make sure it stays dry and does not have any chemicals on it. Always provide ample bedding for your birds such as hay or pine littler which are available at feed stores.
Where do I position my chicken coop in my backyard? 29 Top
Ideally, you want a quiet corner or spot on your property that is away from your house. It needs to be preferably on a high, well-drained area. You want ample air movement without a draft. Fresh air means fresh oxygen and movement to remove excess moisture, ammonia, and carbon dioxide which hens naturally give off.
It should be an area where the south sun reaches the chicken coop, and the outside pen for a large portion of the day.
How tall should the side fences be on the chicken yard? Is seven feet sufficient? 30 Top
Six feet is a common level for poultry fencing. Seven feet would be sufficient in most cases. There have been cases of chickens flying out even at that level, however.
What is the best material to spread on the coop floor? 31 Top
Pine shavings (or similar)work very well. Straw is also ok, but has spaces inside which can harbor mites and other pests.
How much space do I need in my chicken house and run? 32 Top
Inside 2 square feet of floor space is good and outside 4 square feet is good.
Will painting the interior of the coop cause any health risk to the hens? 34 Top
Make certain that the paint is non toxic. Let it dry thoroughly and as always, provide plenty of ventilation (fresh air) through the coop. This is a good recommendation whether the coop is painted or not. Chickens need a constant supply of clean fresh air --- even in the winter. Follow these procedures and your painted coop should not be a health issue.
How many nest boxes do I need? 35 Top
Generally, one box for every 4 to 5 hens. Ideally the box should be about 1 square foot or 12"x12" with a 3 inch lip in the front to keep eggs from rolling out. Also, nesting boxes are best located up of the ground (2 feet is good) and should br relatively dark and isolated such as built into the side of a coop. Keep clean bedding in your nesting boxes and collect eggs often (2x to 3x per day).
Chicken Care and Management Questions?
Why are certain hens being picked on in my flock, and how can I prevent it, stop it? 38 Top
Hens naturally have a pecking order they establish within a flock. Sometimes a hen is perceived as weak, or picked on for no reason at all. If you introduce younger hens into your flock this can be a problem because they are smaller and younger, and unable to defend themselves.
Generally speaking, if your flock of hens are the same age, you will have less of a “pecking order” problem. This can be hard as your flock size shifts and you might want to add new hens. Hens like routine, and when new hens are frequently introduced, it shifts the flock dynamics.
Sometimes it takes just a few days for all of the hens to settle in, and adjust. Sometimes they never adjust, and you might have to separate them in another pen or coop, or isolate them for a period of time, or ask a friend about adopting your hen.
Do roosters need to be separated from each other when they are in with pullets? If so, at what age? 40 Top
Roosters that grow up together generally get along and may not need to be seperated. Even if one is bantam and one is a standard they could live in harmony especially if they have a large area. It is individual however and can change with age so always keep an eye out.
What is scratch? 42 Top
Scratch is a cracked corn and wheat mix for chickens. It is available at most feed stores
When can my chicks go outside? 44 Top
You should wait until they are fully feathered to put them outside. Depending on the temperature, they can go outside when they are from 5 to 12 weeks old.
Can you wash a chicken? 45 Top
Yes. Show chickens are given baths often so their feathering is perfect for showing. Most people recommend Dawn dishwashing soap as it is gentle and will remove grease. Others prefer baby soap or shampoo. You can also blow dry them on low after you're done.
What do I do with my birds in the winter? 46 Top
Your birds will be fine in the winter assuming they get food and water that doesn't freeze, and shelter. They don't suffer from the cold like we do. They huddle close together on their perches, and their feathers are like a built in down jacket. They don't enjoy going out in the snow, however, so be prepared to shovel them a path or small area so they can get outdoors.
How can I prevent frostbite? 47 Top
Using 2 x 4 roosts, laid flat, make the chickens roost on their feet, which will keep them warm. For VERY extreme conditions, heat the coop with a ceramic or red-bulb heating light.
In colder climates, is it normal for chickens to stop laying in winter? 49 Top
It is normal for hens to stop or slow down laying in the winter months. The shorter days trigger this slow down, rather than the temperature.
In order to keep hens laying all winter, artificial light can be used to equal 14 hours of light per day.