The 10 Mistakes of Raising Chickens

Written by Brandon Garrett

Raising chickens can be a very rewarding process. Besides providing you with fresh eggs, it can also be a teaching resource for your children and a way for you to become self-sufficient.

However, there are a few mistakes that people make when they first start raising chickens. Check out this list below and add your mistakes at the bottom to help others learn.

Building your Henhouse on the Ground
Many first timers will create a henhouse directly on the ground. They figure that the chickens will be able to peck for worms or that cleanup will be a lot easier. However, having a chicken coop on the ground can allow for foxes or other predators to work their way into the house. If there is an underground hole that you don’t know about, you may continue to lose your chickens. Instead, build a raised chicken coop that sits off the ground. Many people even incorporate removable or swing-away floors that allow for easy access cleaning.

- 3 Free Chicken Coop Designs –

The Material
While most people use rough recycled lumber to make their chicken coops, this may not be the best material to keep things clean. The rough board will be harder to clean, paint or whitewash. It’s better to use a material that is smoother and is easier to clean, wipe or paint.

Outside Access
Some larger chicken coops allow you to walk inside and collect your eggs. However, this can pose some problems. Going into the chicken coop might result in tracking chicken poo all over the house or intruding on the chickens while they’re looking for an available laying box. Instead, create outside access boxes that you can grab the eggs from the laying boxes without disturbing the chickens as they walk around the hen house. This will also keep your shoes a little cleaner.

Treats and Food
Determine what feed you will have for your chickens. It’s recommended that you get poultry feed and get feed with added protein during the colder seasons. Chickens also like fresh and dried worms, white grapes, pomegranate seeds, raspberries, chard, brussel spout leaves and cherry tomatoes. When the chickens begin to start laying eggs, they will need more calcium in their diet. Usually feeding them a few oyster shells will do the trick.

Heating
Depending on where you live, you’ll need to maintain a certain temperature inside the coop. If you install a heating lamp, make sure that it’s high enough that it doesn’t overheat the chickens or burn the shavings on the floor. Usually a 250 watt bulb will be warm enough. You’ll need to collect eggs frequently during the winter too because they will tend to freeze.

The Law
While most people are eager to start raising their own chickens, you may need to check your local ordinances. You don’t want to put a lot of effort into buying chickens or building a coop and then find out that it’s not allowed.

- How much land do you need to live on for a year? –

Bucket for Watering
A chicken can go a few days without feed, but they can’t go very long without water. Many first-timers just add a bucket of water into the coop that is tall enough so that the chickens won’t play in it and is heavy enough not to tip over easily. However, this encourages the birds to jump on top of the bucket and drink straight from the top – making it easier to tip over after a while. Consider using a hanging water source – called a waterer or a fount. This creates a trough, preventing the birds from sitting on the top.

Rooster to Hen Ratio
The ideal ratio of roosters to hens is 1:12, depending on the nature of the rooster. If you have a lower ratio than that, the rooster may get too aggressive with the hens. If you have a low ratio you’ll notice that your hens will tend to have bald spots on the back of their heads and featherless patches on their backs. If they’re over-agitated, hens’ egg lying will become sporadic.

Counting Your Birds
Each night, when you lock your chicken coop, you should count the chickens to make sure they are all in the coop. Usually, the chickens will move inside the hen house when it begins to get dark. However, you’ll notice that some chickens will try and hide their nests outside of the coop. They will set up a nest in nearby bushes and instead of moving into the coop they will move to their nest. Count your birds each night to make sure that you don’t have any unprotected birds that have set up rogue nests.

- Chicken with a 25 year shelf life? –

Preventing Passing Pets
Many people like the idea of free-range chickens. However, this may not mix well with urban homesteading. You may need to plan against passing pets – especially dogs on leashes. Don’t assume that owners will stop their dogs or be able to keep them on a leash. You’ll need to have some fence or security in place for passing dogs.

Your Advice
What advice do you have? Did you make a mistake that you’d like to add to the list? Comment below and share your knowledge.

Updated February 6, 2013

72 Comments

  1. wendy wrote:

    A good idea for chickens that get board if they are cooped up is to hang a head of lettuce on a rope from the ceiling so the birds can reach it. They love to peck away at the lettuce and it gives them something to do.

    February 7th, 2013 at 4:20 am
  2. Mike Davis wrote:

    Just a few short thoughts.

    Roosters can get very loud at all hours of the day and night. Some city dwellers may not know this. It can make for grumpy neighbors!

    Chickens still lay eggs with no rooster around. Some people may think otherwise.

    Having a good dog around can keep some predators away. The trick is finding a dog that won’t be a predator.

    Thanks for the article!

    Have a nice day!

    Mike

    February 7th, 2013 at 6:11 am
  3. Cheryl wrote:

    All very good advice. (I have had chickens for over 40 years now) If you need to use a heat lamp during cold months, use the red bulbs. These will heat the birds only, not the bedding. Prevents an unexpected fire!

    February 7th, 2013 at 8:55 am
  4. Cathy wrote:

    We poured a slab for the coop floor. We also used 3 different sized wire to keep the bad critters out. Hog wire is on the outside of the coop. Then a small 1/4″ wire and then chichen wire. We have the boxes elevated, but we walk into the coop. The birds like us in there. We take our boots off at the door of our house so we don’t worry about dragging in poop.

    We use a fount for water. We found that works the best. It hangs from the rafter. We also use a similar type of feeder that we hang for their feed. We use a heat lamp that is set on the fount so the water doesn’t freeze. It does a little sometimes, but it isn’t a problem. And if the chickens get cold they can go where the heat lamp is warming. We live in AZ so we don’t have to turn the heat lamp on much in the winter.

    We will buy the premium bird seed as a treat for the birds. They love it! It has nuts and dried fruits. We also have cut a pumpkin in half and they love that, too. Pumpkin is a natural dewormer.

    We really enjoy our chickens. They are pretty easy to take care of. We have 8. We use them for eggs as I like my chickens too much. If they are to be eaten, it will be in a desperate situation. I know that may be silly, but I can’t bring myself to eat my friends (pets). :-)

    February 7th, 2013 at 9:00 am
  5. Bee wrote:

    I raised chickens for many years, they are amazing birds and I learned much from observation and self education!! When they are molting(loosing and replacing feathers) throw them a couple of handfuls of dry cat food once in awhile, its a great source of animal protein and they LOVE it. They will eat most any table scraps(not meat)they love watermelon rinds and corn cobs and will peck them clean! NO onions or garlic as these will give your eggs a flavor you don’t want!! They are great “recyclers” and wonderful for “pest control”. My labs grew up with chickens so were great “protectors” when preditors showed up. But beware of egg snatchers, if they have access to nests!!

    February 7th, 2013 at 9:11 am
  6. NLJ wrote:

    I guess that is Number 11 Cathy. Don’t fall in love with your food. A real problem for folks who don’t have that farm/survival instinct. :)

    February 7th, 2013 at 9:12 am
  7. Cathy wrote:

    NLJ,

    That is true. hehe We will eat them if we have to, but for now I will stick with Safeway chicken. I read somewhere that it is easier to someone elses animals than your own.

    If needed, the nonproducers will get the axe, sort a speak. :-)

    Cathy

    February 7th, 2013 at 9:46 am
  8. woody wrote:

    Mike Davis said that hens will lay eggs with or without a rooster. Will they lay as often with as without? Is there a difference in taste? I can see city folk wanting to do without a rooster, but I’d rather have one or two to propagate the flock. thanks for your answer(s)!

    February 7th, 2013 at 10:07 am
  9. Greg wrote:

    @Bee. Cat food contains Chicken meat, Chicken By Products (Chicken heads, feet, and intestines) and Chicken fat. Do you really want to make your birds cannibals?

    February 7th, 2013 at 10:37 am
  10. Bob wrote:

    Without a rooster…hens will lay as many eggs and the quality and taste is the same.

    February 7th, 2013 at 11:02 am
  11. Sonny wrote:

    Feed can be very expensive so I buy a ton of feed from wheat growers right out of the field. I will also buy a ton of barley and mix wheat, barley and corn. This provides exceptional protien. Spring through fall I allow my chickens to graze in clover, grass which makes excellent meat and eggs. Keeping your pin clean will cut down on lice and I use diatomatious earth for killing insects. It will not hurt the chickens and are good for intestinal parasites.

    February 7th, 2013 at 11:06 am
  12. Kara wrote:

    It mentioned a low ratio of chickens to rooster being an issue, but what about a high ratio of chickens to rooster? Would that be an issue?

    February 7th, 2013 at 11:17 am
  13. Jason wrote:

    Chickens need a readily available source of gravel or small stones. Softer rocks do not work well for “chewing” their food. I provide crushed quartz that I find at old quarries. It has sharp edges and the chickens sellect for it and when I butcher them I usually find only quartz in their gizzard. I would presume that better “chewing” makes for better feed conversion. Also chickens need atleast 14 hours of light to continue laying thoughout the winter. Put a light on a timer in the coop to come on early in the morning like 3am or so. By adding supplemental light in the morning if you have free range chickens they still return to the coop at the same time each night or right before dark.

    February 7th, 2013 at 11:18 am
  14. David: San Antonio wrote:

    One other and very essential tip for raising chickens…don’t plant them too deep. LOL
    Great article!

    February 7th, 2013 at 11:27 am
  15. James wrote:

    what is a good number of chickens to start with for a true novice beginner?

    February 7th, 2013 at 11:33 am
  16. Terry wrote:

    I built a hen house from the free plans provided on the Purina web site. It was placed in an enclosure that is 20×20. The mistake I made was the opening in the fencing used for the enclosure. While it was good for keepping the dogs out, it wasn’t right to keep the birds in. They went right through. The enclosure has been upgraded with a layer of chicken wire and we will try again in the spring.

    February 7th, 2013 at 11:36 am
  17. Vern wrote:

    When looking to start raising chickens since there are so many types. They need to decide what they want from the chickens they are going to raise. LIke do they just want eggs then maybe they should get the chickens that are best for just egg production. Or if they are looking to raise the chickens for eggs and meat then they should get a breed of chicken that supports both egg production and are good for meat. They should also look into which ones can withstand the elements of weather where they are living. A hanging water container or faunt is a good idea and hanging feeder. I through in a little alfalfa hay for my chickens to pick at every once in a while they seem to love it.A great way to feed them worms is to talk to friends that go fishing and let them know that you would like the worms that they don’t use when out on their fishing trip to feed to your chickens and if your getting enough eggs you can offer them some eggs in return or maybe even come chicken meat.

    February 7th, 2013 at 11:48 am
  18. Roy wrote:

    @Greg and @Bee Chickens are cannibals by nature. If one of your hens gets injured, the others will peck the wound, and possibly kill and eat them. When you have a bird that has been hurt it is a good idea to separate them until the bleeding has stopped and the bird no longer looks or act hurt. Then keep and eye on them for an hour or so after reintroducing them into the flock to make sure the others leave them alone.

    But speaking of food. Ours also like leftover popcorn, stale bread, crackers, chips and all those crunchy snacks.

    February 7th, 2013 at 12:00 pm
  19. Chris Barnes wrote:

    @Greg: as Roy said, chickens are already cannibals. In fact, they will eat pretty much any meat. We free-range our chickens and they will follow my on the lawn mower, scarfing down all the insects, snakes, & lizards they can find (had one eat a baby copperhead). I shot a wild hog once, they ate the eyeballs out of the head…

    February 7th, 2013 at 2:20 pm
  20. Jessica in Pennsylvania wrote:

    I love raising chickens and started with day old chicks. I lost 4 chicks from 2 different shipments which can be hard if you have children. I saved several weak chicks by giving them a poultry drench which is a concentrated vitamin mineral liquid in dropper doses. The worst mistake I made with my pens, I have 2 8×12 sectioned off in a larger older building, is that I didn’t re-cement the floor with hardware cloth. I didn’t have rats until I had chickens and they dug their way up through the old cement and freely feed when they want. I did place enclosed poison feeders in the barn isle but make sure your chickens cannot access the poison. The rest of the pens have hardware cloth every place that a rat could crawl through. If you can keep the rats out every other predator will be kept out. The best thing to do is educate yourself and if you have children join your local 4-h poultry club. I learned more from other chicken fanciers talking about their mistakes and what they have learned than I read in any book. I have Cochin chickens and buckeye chickens both of which are cold hardy, picking a chicken breed that can survive well in your climate is important. I free range my birds and have no fenced areas for them shrubbery and hedgerows are important for them to hide in when the hawks circle. I have only lost one bird to a predator so far, an owl, and it was my fault I didn’t lock up the coop until after dark.

    February 7th, 2013 at 2:27 pm
  21. Jim wrote:

    There is good information here. Very informative. I raised chickens for eggs and incubation. I let my chickens free range and maintained a ratio of 1:10. I had no issues with hens getting bald spots from the roosters I believe because they were free range and not confined during the day. I would get a 98% hatch. With less roosters the hatch would decrease. I would save back some chicks once a year for replacement and put the excess roosters in the freezer. For those incubating, your gathered eggs placed in the refrigerator will hatch in the incubater. They are fertile and the cool temperature will not hurt them. Store bought eggs are not normally fertile and won’t hatch. Although my hen house was on the ground at one end of the barn, the roosts were 3 1/2- 4 Ft off the ground and the hen boxes were at an equal height. I had no predator problem while they were in the house. I did loose one time to time while free ranging. And I used a hanging feeder and water fount and provided free access to oyster shell. Don’t limit your selection solely based on egg or meat production. If you don’t free range and plan to keep your chickens confined, be sure to pick a breed that takes confinement well.

    February 7th, 2013 at 3:27 pm
  22. Ted Z. wrote:

    Mike Davis captured my chicken experience: noisy! There is nothing (sort of) worse then baby roosters learning how to crow at 4:00 AM, when you just got in bed at 3:30 AM. And if you chase them (they were free range) they run into the bushes where you can’t thresten them with a 2×4 or log and continue screeching at the top of thier lungs just because they know you can’t get them, or your mom will strangle you for chasing ‘Guzda’ the rooster (ask a Czeck what that is) and Gwen the Hen, who seemed all nice when you met her but would poke your eyes out in a second if she could reach…I have to go now. And find a rooster…

    February 7th, 2013 at 3:44 pm
  23. Dede wrote:

    Our Americana’s egg yolks have a strange flavor. It has been very hard to get used to. We purchase regular chicken scratch from our feed store, oyster shell, and they free range. The Banty chicken eggs in our flock taste great. Any ideas? We do not have a rooster.

    February 7th, 2013 at 4:05 pm
  24. Blue Duck wrote:

    A few years back i bought 50 pullets [no roosters], red sexlinks, normally pullets will not lay til after 5 months, but at 4 months we started getting eggs, and not only did we get eggs we got JUMBO eggs that wouldnt let a carton lid close… all i fed was cracked wheat, meat scraps, and garden wastes in the spring and summer, late fall i added in cracked corn 25% cause fat chickens will ot lay, but neither will cold chickens… we lost 2 of the pullets cause the kids dropped em by accident, but at 5 months we were getting 49-50 eggs per day [had a pullet or two laying overtime i suppose] which isnt normal but it happens every now and again.

    William North Central Idaho

    February 7th, 2013 at 5:18 pm
  25. Laurie wrote:

    My grandmother raised chickens for eggs and meat. One thing I remember her doing is putting her eggshells in her scraps to feed the chickens. She said it made the eggshells on the new eggs stronger and helped the chickens digest what they ate.

    February 7th, 2013 at 7:15 pm
  26. eileen wrote:

    We don’t have fancy chicken pens and hen houses, a chicken is just not a picky critter, and can call just about any place home. Some of ours are free rangers as are the turkeys, and they prefer roosting in trees even during ice storms. We have had temperatures below 0 at times, and have yet to have one freeze to death.
    Hens are better incubators and brooders than the manufactured models, and they don’t use electricity or cause you any labor. By the time they are done raising the chicks (10 to 12 weeks), they are ready to butcher.
    Just be sure to get a few hens of breeds that will set if you want to hatch chicks. Many dual purpose breed hens will set, but you will have to separate the hens you want to set from the laying flock, and let them accumulate an inviting clutch of eggs. You can switch the eggs after the hen decides she wants to set.
    The best defense for your chickens is a good dog. We have had wonderful luck with labs, but in the past we have also had great protectors that were Doberman, Rhodesian Ridgeback, and mutts.

    February 7th, 2013 at 7:50 pm
  27. Scott wrote:

    Great article.
    We bought 17 chicks and they were shipped overnight.
    One died the first day – probably from trauma. We setup a cardboard “house” in the spare bedroom and had a headlamp (red, 250W) water, and chick scratch in two feeders.
    We kept them in raw shavings which we changed out about once a week.
    When they got a few weeks old, we started taking them out to hold and talk to them. They loved their tummies scratched and would outstretch their little legs, showing they liked it.
    Once they got nearer to going outside, we started taking them out for ~20 minutes to play and look for bugs and worms. One of these days. We lost one to a fast swooping hawk. We were sad, but had no time to react.
    At this stage, we started looking for homes for most of them. We have friends who wanted some and found others through a local farmers market. None were allowed to be taken for food – other than eggs.
    We ended up with two Roos. Being in the city, we had to find them homes. We found two great farms outside of town and were confident they had great new homes. Already had friends there in the form of many animals, including chickens and more Roos.
    The goal was to keep six…
    We repurposed an older playhouse that was our kids. It was built like a house, and on legs. Perfect!
    We then sought out a “dog run” made,of cage and got a beautiful 10′x10′ unit almost new.
    I tilled the ground where we were to put that and then assembled the run (heady cage with canvas top) next to the playhouse (coop).
    I cut a section of cage where to coop door was and then framed it in – bolting it to the doorway so no animals could get in. Perfect.
    I then dug around the perimeter of the cage and buried large cement blocks to help block diggers.
    We adopted out all but six hens. Four breeds for variety and lovely eggs.
    We lost one at six months – a Sicilian – due to a perpetually blocked crop. We could get it down by isolating her, but not permanently. I held her in the house with my granddaughter while she took in her last breaths. Very very difficult as we now had pets, not just chickens.
    With five left. At six months, they starts laying eggs with a vengeance. Lovely brown, pink, blue and white eggs. My granddaughter calls it “rent”!
    Everything was great. The right number of hens and eggs to take care of, and lots of fun to watch.
    We began letting them roam the yard (big and totally fenced with nice wood to keep all but cats out – but cats never bothered the, one bit) for bugs, veggies, and worms. All,was well until on day ~10 days ago. I heard an awful commotion – 5x louder than the “we just laid eggs -’get out here” we usually get. I ran out to find the largest hawk (SoCal) ice ever seen in my life. I yelled and ran after it. I’m 6′-4″, and this thing had wings like my arms. It flew off screaming loudly, but I noticed one of our girls laying there. She was dead. It had broken her neck – thankfully, it was fast and she didn’t get a chance to tear her apart. I cried and quickly buried her next to her sister.
    The worst. I felt guilty for days over that. So, no more letting them out in the yard. I feel bad, but…
    The trauma,has effected the egg laying for sure. We are only seeing 1 egg a,day now between them. The remaining Sicilian has not laid since. I imagine the stress caused this.
    So, here we are only four girls left. I don’t plan on replacing any at this point. Four is good, and,they seem happy, but still scared.
    I’d never give up the chickens. In fact, a number of friends have seen my Facebook pics and want to raise them too.
    Thanks for posting this story! Apologies for typos. This was done on my iPad. :)

    February 7th, 2013 at 7:53 pm
  28. gigi greene wrote:

    WE HAVE 2 HENS I ROOSTER GIVEN TO US 5 MONTHS AGO.HUSBAND BUILD A removeable tractor chicken coop. (It has wheels to move around the yard) We get 2 eggs daily. Our dog keep the bad critters away.

    February 7th, 2013 at 7:56 pm
  29. Amy wrote:

    We have ameracaunas and I don’t notice a difference in the taste of their yolks at all.

    February 7th, 2013 at 8:47 pm
  30. Kansas Gal wrote:

    I have 2 hens and they are both pets and great egg producers. These are “little dinosaurs” though and love meat….all meat…also nuts and grains…watermelon,grapes…canned cat food is a big treat. Chickens are designed to be omnivorous but do have different “taste” in what they like to eat. Even my two girls don’t always like the same foods.

    February 7th, 2013 at 8:56 pm
  31. Wayne Wright wrote:

    We just ate my hens we had for years- it was hard! But when they stop laying, that’s what you do. They would eat out of my hand, like pets.. But like I said, that’s what you do.. Anyway, we found no more than 2 hens per family member, unless you REALLY eat a lot of eggs!

    I’ll get new ones this spring. They like any leftover veggies, like greens that you don’t get around to cooking.

    Biggest problem we’ve had is local birds swooping in to eat their grain. Ground oyster shell every few days.

    They DO like bird seed as a treat!

    If you have to catch them, do it in early dawn or after dark when they are less active. Don’t chase them, just walk behind them until they walk themselves into a corner, and reach toward them slowly while clucking soothingly.

    They like to scratch for food. Even if you use a feeder, throw some out for them to scratch for. It makes them happy. Woodpiles attract bugs-they like them! Pile some firewood up where they can scratch around it for beetles.

    We throw our compost veggie leavings at the edge of the coop, and let them peck through the fence for what they want.

    Chickens are great. Everyone who can should have some!

    February 7th, 2013 at 11:15 pm
  32. Paul&Karen wrote:

    We lost 2 bantam roosters to a hawk. The 6 girlz egg laying went down to 2 a day from 6. Someone told us they are much happier with a rooster around so we found a beautiful, huge Americana rooster and within 3 days egg laying was up to 5 a day.
    When we first started raising chickens, we allowed them to free range until we got tired of them pickin and scratching the yard apart, mulch everywhere, now we keep them penned up with an occasional romp in the yard an hour before sunset, just enough time to eat enuff bugs but not do too much damage to the yard.
    We feed them a variety of stuff, dry chicken feed, a handful of worms from the worm com poster, kitchen scraps, garden waste, bee hive comb, sprouted seed, whatever we have at the time. They love it all
    And we love them
    6 chickens gives enuff eggs to keep us happy and enuff to share w family and friends
    Great hobby and great way to keep you in tune with the ebb and flow of nature

    February 8th, 2013 at 1:13 am
  33. Chris wrote:

    Good info and great comments!

    Treats should be no more than 10% of what your chickens eat. Provide both oyster shell (for calcium, once they are close to laying age) and grit (for digestion.) If you can free range them during the day, that’s great for them to forage for natural edibles, but you can raise healthy happy chickens in a secure pen. The operative word is “secure” – you’d be surprised at the damage a stray dog can do to your coop, and to your chickens. Good idea to have doors and window coverings close into recessed frames, so a predator can not gain leverage around the edges and rip the doors off to get to your chickens. Heavy duty hardware (hinges and latches) are essential.

    @James – I’ve found that a manageable number for a true novice beginner to start with is four chickens. I’ve also found that there’s an advantage to getting them as baby chicks (assuming you can set up a brooder for the first few weeks of the heat requirements they have) – it gives you a chance to get used to handling them and them a chance to get used to you – as opposed to getting older chicks that may not have been handled much as babies.

    February 8th, 2013 at 3:29 am
  34. Cheryl wrote:

    About feeding dry catfood to chickens.. I live in northern Wisconsin where temps can reach 30 BELOW ZERO. I often feed catfood to my chickens when it’s brutally cold. They seem to stay warmer that way, and I have had birds reach over 20 years of age!! (Pets, we don’t expect eggs or to eat the bird at that age) I have never had any issues with health over them eating small amounts of catfood. I am a country girl, so don’t think in “city folk” manners. Guess I’m a redneck; I do what works. LOL

    February 8th, 2013 at 7:53 am
  35. James wrote:

    @Chris thanks for the info.

    February 9th, 2013 at 6:47 pm
  36. Jackie Smith wrote:

    I raised chickens for about 16 years now and I just wanted to say this is some good info. My readers at http://kernschickenfarm.com/ would see as useful. Most of them are newbie chicken owners and make multiple mistakes. I will be sure to share this with them as it is very useful for us chicken owners.

    February 9th, 2013 at 9:46 pm
  37. Matt W. wrote:

    To the guy who said chickens need 14 hrs of daylight to lay. Wrong.. We get an egg a day in our extreme northern climate in Michigan’s U.P. Chickens are also very cold hardy, much more than you think, we don’t turn on any heating lamps unless it is -10f. Use an old crockpot for a cheap heated waterer in winter or buy the heated base with thermostat for 45$-USd. 1tbsp of scratch feed per day will cut your layer feed in half during the winter too, or give them plenty of fresh hay from the hayloft floor. We don’t feed our pullets at all in the summer except scratch feed, they will range around and feed themselves.
    Good luck and happy chickening.

    February 22nd, 2013 at 12:30 pm
  38. Just Duckie wrote:

    Get Ducks! They lay in the morning so you don’t have to search for eggs all day. They are easier to move from place to place. I got mine to eat slugs after a very bad year of destroyed plants. The next year I had very little damage from pests. The ducks are allowed to free-range with a pen that they tuck themselves into at night.
    They are very entertaining to watch.

    March 5th, 2013 at 10:20 pm
  39. Kathleen O. wrote:

    To avoid losing chickens to hawks and eagles be sure to put netting over the top of their “yard”. My chickens were great escape artists, even with a 10′ fence. they would fly ot over the fence or climb it like a ladder. They are normaly free range but during the winter they have to be protected from those flying diners. My chickens have a 20′X40′ “yard” outside the horse barn they have taken over. All the exterior walls are lined with nesting boxes and those girls provide me with enough eggs to feed ten families a week. Got to love them.

    March 30th, 2013 at 12:45 pm
  40. buck wrote:

    What a great article! Takes me back to my childhood in MI, where my parents had 5 acres not 20 miles from Flint. They a good acre garden, where they grew everything, and a chicken coop. 100 hens, and 1 rooster. They had the oyster shells and the small rocks-pea gravel-I think, and a light to keep them warm during the winter. My step dad thought he was killing the rooster, with all those hens, so he put in another rooster, to help share the load. Boy was that wrong! It was a 3 day battle royal, no quarter asked-nor given- for all 100 hens. In the end, the much smaller one, the one who’s hens were his to begin with, kept them all…

    Do you know you can paralyze a hen by holding it down, sticking its beak in the dirt, and slowly making a line in the dirt directly away from its beak, about 12-15 inches, then slowly moving away. If you do it right, it will just stay there for minutes, until something distracts it. So of course us 3 young boys had to see how many in a row we could get. I think 16 was our record before one would wake up, and distract the rest. I remember my step dad walking out there, and seeing a dozen hens all lined in a row, beaks in the ground, hypnotized, “No wonder they aren’t laying any eggs!” No dad, that dozen eggs you were short about once every 2 weeks–that was us too…as far as you people who have a problem slaughtering them, that is understandable, they have become pets, instead of food stock. But as my step dad, a very wise man told me, “if they don’t lay breakfast, they may become dinner”

    April 13th, 2013 at 1:48 pm
  41. Beth wrote:

    I’m glad that the Ready Store is selling these chicken coops. I’ve talked to a few people that raise chickens and predators are a big issue. Winter is a big issue too as the chickens can die from the cold. (I recently read in Country Living magazine that there is a chicken breed that is bred to survive lower temps. They have thicker feathers and a bigger build.) Nevertheless, I came to the conclusion I would make a portable chicken coop that I would put in the garage at night. If it gets cold in the garage, I plan to have a wall mounted heater that runs off of natural gas. I also plan to have 2 or 3 places for them to range free, in a triple-fenced area, and rotate the places they roam. I heard if they don’t have a place to roam, they go a little nutty. I plan to make a chicken coop that rides in a metal wagon (you can buy at any Wal-Mart) which attaches to any riding lawn mower (like a camper for the back of a truck). If all else fails, a Country Living reader suggests keeping them in the laundry room for the night, if it gets too cold. The Bible reads that it is a wise man that tends to the needs of his animals.

    April 15th, 2013 at 7:53 pm
  42. FarmerChick wrote:

    Haha! I broke nearly every rule listed here, and I have very happy, healthy chickens. I never heat in winter or cool in summer, I have only 1 roo and not near 12 hens, I used the recycled lumbar for our coop without any issues, I allow my birds to free range as they will, and I walk straight into the pen to gather eggs. I don’t think these are mistakes… Different things work for different people. Sometimes pampering chickens too much can cause them to develop problems because they aren’t allowed to live naturally.

    May 20th, 2013 at 10:02 am
  43. karen wrote:

    Good article. I have 5 hens, and I will probably add 2 more next spring. I have a chicken trailer inside a large fenced wooded area, and that is inside my backyard (fenced) where I have a strawberry bed, lots of clover, lots of cover for them. I feed them a standard laying mix, all of our leftovers (5 kids, 3 adults) and supplemant their diet with sprouted wheat, and veggies from the garden. I let them out of their pen for about 5 hours a day. I like them, I care for them, but I don’t love them. The best chicken thing I ever came across was the Chicken Waterer. Their water stays very cool, and clean and I refill it once a week versus once or twice a day. I highly recommend it to anyone keeping chickens, they love it too. We eat eggs daily around here, and I am so thankful when I see them foraging in the sunshine, in the mulch, eating all the good things they happily pass along to us.

    August 7th, 2013 at 2:10 pm
  44. PrepSteader wrote:

    I have 1 roo and 27 hens. The girls still have bald spont on their necks and backs. I think it may be the viagra supplement in the feed. ;)

    August 7th, 2013 at 2:40 pm
  45. BB wrote:

    I have 14 chickens. They free range all day and some sleep in the shed/coop and some roost high up in the trees. Chickens are really hardy souls, they will roost in the trees no matter the weather(including a snow storm and a hurricane.) They are pampered and babied otherwise. I feed them everything we eat, plus cracked corn,sunflower seeds and high quality bird seed. They are healthy, happy and we get an egg almost every day from each chicken. My advice is not to stress too much over them they are amazingly resilient.

    August 8th, 2013 at 8:49 pm
  46. Renee wrote:

    hi everyone!
    Chickens are great! I love my girls. a lot of cities do not allow roosters, in my city it’s 7 hens limit. Hens will lay daily without roosters. Roosters are only needed for chicks. The only time hens don’t lay is if its warm, they aren feeling well, molting etc. But here’s usually a reason. Dont feed them scratch or corn when it’s warm out. It takes more energy o burn it off and heats them up more. Save it for cool days or in the winter ( it’s like candy for them)! In the umber or hit months frozen 2 liter bottles laying in the coop, or cold watermelon, any melon, tomatoes, cottage cheese they love,( I give mine nectarines that fall off the trees). Always keep thier watering system clean and full to keep them from getting bacterial diseases, coccidiosis etc. There is a GREAT watering system “The chicken waterer” it’s online at amazon. it’s a clear compartment w 2 tap style nipples, like a rabbit waterer. Attached to a 5 gallon Rubbermaid water cooler from Home Depot , saves a lot of worrying and I only have to fill it once every week and a half, it’s always clean. I have a back up hanging waterer outside the hen house also and a food hanging system inside. Chickens do start producing less as they age. Mine started early at 3 1/2 mos! The vet said its because they were happy. I keep a red lamp on at night it’s on a timer and during winter. I live in California, but sometimes it’s cold out. When it’s too hot I turn it off, but my hens lay during the winter and fall and my neighbors didnt till I bought him a lamp. I have read books that say they need to rest to have the lights off at night, mine are opposite they like it, have since they were days old. I have been to the vet countless times for one of my girls, who became handicapped at 3 1/2 wks. When they are small it’s nerve wracking, buy chicken health books, go to backyardchickens.com, there will be MANY resources or you there, and answers to most if not all your questions or scenarios. Good luck, and have fun!

    August 8th, 2013 at 9:47 pm
  47. Robert Calhoun wrote:

    Great article and comments by readers! Would be great to hear what your readers recommend concerning the types (breeds) of chickens that produce eggs on a regular basis, molt the least, etc. Thank you.

    August 10th, 2013 at 6:56 am
  48. James C Pittsburgh, PA wrote:

    Actually, the quality of the eggs will be better if there are no roosters. And as for heating in the winter time, I never heard of that! I was raised on a farm in Pennsylvania, we always had chickens, winter temperatures often were well below zero. To me, the worst part of raising chickens was cleaning the coop! And how I remember being sent to the coop for eggs and having a couple hens setting on their nest just daring me to reach for the eggs. Boy! Talk about an irate hen!

    August 10th, 2013 at 7:41 am
  49. Ben from Texas wrote:

    If you start noticing eggs missing you might have rat snakes or what some like me call chickensnakes..Put golf balls or ping pong balls in your nest.If you see some balls missing a snake has invaded your nest and swallowed the golf balls..The snakes cannot digest nor can they pass the golf or ping pong balls,theywill eventually die..I live in east Texas and snakes can find your chicken nests,some how if they are near your chickens they will eventually start stealing your eggs..If you don’t give your chickens enough feed or don’t let them free range they might start eating the eggs.Possums will also find their way into your pens if not well built.They will eat the eggs plus kill your chickens..If at night you hear your chickens raising hell you’d better grab a light and shotgun or 22 with rat shot and investigate.Look good because these animals will hide when you enter the pen.Coons are a problem also if you live where they habitate.Ben

    August 10th, 2013 at 8:17 am
  50. Lynne Benedict wrote:

    My mother’s parents raised chickens, and they always had a low-wattage light bulb just over the door to the coop, (the chicken door low to the ground). At night the light would draw bugs and the chickens would eat until they could barely walk. They saved a LOT on chicken feed that way. Depression-era thinking, I love it!

    August 10th, 2013 at 8:28 am
  51. Don Ira wrote:

    Our major problem in having chickens is we also have a Jack Russell Terrier. Out of the last 12 hens we had it killed 11 and #12 didn’t have any feathers left. But we keep trying to make the pen dog proof.

    August 10th, 2013 at 10:16 am
  52. Mike from BigHorn Basin wrote:

    If you grow onions and can’t use them before they start going bad, chop them and feed them to your chickens, They love them and they don’t give the eggs a bad flavor. They also love the large summer squash that get so big that they’re good for nothing. Also, if you save your egg shells you can dry them, crush them, and feed them back to your chickens in place of oyster shell. If you have too many hens and are gettng more eggs than you can handle, put the eggs in a microwave proof bowl, beat them and microwave them. Chop them up a little and feed them back to the hens. Eating their eggs is by far their favorite food. Some say you’re setting the hens up to eat their eggs in the nests, but I haven’t observed this. Some hens will occasionally lay a thin shelled egg that will get broke and they might eat that. If you have a rooster with your hens, make sure you gather the eggs eveyday and refridgerate them or you might have someone complain about chick embryos in the eggs. Chickens will eat about anything, including each other. If a hen gets a bloody spot on it, separate that hen from the others till it heals or the other hens will peck it till it’s dead. Happy Clucking.

    August 10th, 2013 at 11:00 pm
  53. Penelope Bianchi wrote:

    These are very sad stories about people who do not protect their chickens in predator-proof coops!

    I will never go to this website again! Yikes!

    I had no idea such insensitive people had chickens as pets!

    (they are not pets!!) Many people on this site…….are completely clueless or sociopaths!

    This is quite revolting!!

    I am fleeing!! I love and protect my chickens…..!

    (I spent two hours today doing chick CPR!!

    a weak one of 9 was left by her mother…..I thought she was dead!
    No! So I held her; and warmed her……for 4 hours……put her back under her mother last night!

    This morning. I couldn’t tell which one she was!!

    Penelope

    Penelope

    August 11th, 2013 at 12:07 am
  54. Reid wrote:

    save egg shells , crush them up and let chickens eat them.
    Don’t expect your dog or cat to know that they need to leave their paws off the chickens .

    August 11th, 2013 at 10:51 pm
  55. FarmerG wrote:

    @Penelope It would be nice if you would share your experience and advice with people whom you believe to be less educated or ill-informed rather than “fleeing.”

    You state that individuals posting here are clueless or sociopaths, yet you do not refer to the statements that offend you or why they are offensive.

    You state that chickens are not pets. You do not, however, clarify what you mean. Do you mean that they are not worthy of being pets and are “merely” farm animals, or do you mean that they are worthy of treatment on par with humans? Since you state that you performed “chick CPR,” I assume you believe the latter.

    While you might believe that chickens are worthy of treatment on par with humans, not all people do – and the law does not require such treatment. However, I have not seen anyone on this site assert that they intentionally treat their chickens inhumanely – and I would agree that inhumane treatment is immoral.

    Suffice to say that any animal under human care should be treated humanely. The difficulty is that some people (including you, I assume) would assert that animals should be afforded care that is due humans, while others (including me) would assert that humane treatment for an animal does not rise to the level due humans.

    Thanks to all of the experienced chicken owners. I appreciate your insight. I have 4 young chickens (they are not laying yet) and am really enjoying them. Having eggs will just be a bonus.

    August 11th, 2013 at 11:21 pm
  56. dawn wrote:

    1. yes, chickens are pets
    2. yes, chickens are food
    3. yes, chickens are fun
    4. yes, chickens will get picked off by predators
    5. yes, chickens will get sick and die
    6. yes, you will be sad.
    7. yes, people will cull their flock
    we all take care of our chickens the best way we think and with advice from others(backyardchickens.com)
    judge not other people–share- for when tweawki happens or tshtf at some point–you will want to be informed

    August 12th, 2013 at 12:05 pm
  57. NameTonia wrote:

    I ordered my chickens, but found that the feed store has a nice variety to pick from also, when my order was delivered, I had nine more than ordered. Inside was a note that they threw in roosters to keep the hen warms…now I could not tell the hens from the roosters till about 8-9 weeks, and being as I ordered 12 hens, and having 9 roosters made for almost double feeding. I gave away all but 1 rooster, to see how the hens would do. At 14 weeks he crowed for the first time, the hens gathered round to hear him try again, very entertaining. I built an 8×10 coop/garden shed combo off the ground, with an 8×8 porch, their roosting area is 4×10 ft. A automated door opens at 5am out to a 18×20 wired pen, having hardware clothe set in concrete around the entire pen up 3 ft., and heavy gauge chicken wire completely covers the rest, with entry door off the porch to go inside the pen. There is a loft above their roost area and hardware clothe and screen door divide it from the tool area. their food is in air tight containers stored in the shed. I made a small pass through door in the chicken wire in the pen area. We have raccoons , foxes, and coyotes in the wooded area where we live, and I have watched people over the years gets chickens and after a short time they are gone. This problem had a lot to do with the type of chicken house I needed to build if I want to keep mine! I wanted to let them free range, so I made a 8x10x2 ft. high open floor cart with 2 rear tires, wired with nesting box at back, I put a shade screen at back area, so they could have shade. I have a small screen door on the side of the cart that I line up with the pass thru door on the pen, I get my morning coffee and look out my kitchen window, and they are all in the wagon ready for me to pull them to a new grassy area for the day, do the opposite trip in late afternoon, they run and play for a while in the pen then head in to roost. The wagon weighs less than 50 lbs. and can be moved easily around the property. I don’t expect them to start laying till mid Sept. or Oct. So now I am finishing the nesting box that opens into the roosting area, with access lid on the porch, This has been a labor of love since mid march. They are healthy, and seem content. I take a lawn chair in the afternoons and sit in the pen, they each take their turns sitting on my lap and like to be stroked, the rooster sits on the back of the lawn chair by my shoulder watching over his domain. Here in the hills of Arkansas Life is Good.

    August 16th, 2013 at 10:34 pm
  58. Amanda wrote:

    Some advice for keeping dogs out, we put hog panel, laid flat underneath all the walls of the coop and run, with plywood along the first three feet of the bottom of the run, with wire on sides and top. Nothing has gotten in so far, even snakes (knock on wood), and the chickens are happy! I love the suggestion of bird seed. Seems it would be much healthier than feed (not to mention cheaper!), and as long as you are offering oyster shell for calcium then you even get the Omega fatty acids from the bird seed. I love my chickens, but plan on eating some too. Its just the way farm life works. Think the Circle of Life from The Lion King ;) I would love to see more on keeping chickens warm in a mild climate (I live in South Texas). We don’t get much for freezing temps here. I also loved the idea of a light to attract bugs, and plan on doing that tonight!!

    August 25th, 2013 at 2:55 pm
  59. Gene Smith wrote:

    I had 12 chickens and 1 rooster, 8 of them had colored green, brown, yellow , pink/reddish. but for eating I raised rabbits, and they are better than chicken.

    August 28th, 2013 at 2:30 pm
  60. Ellygra DiLalla wrote:

    I supplement my hens’ food with a multi-grain organic oat blend, flax seed and raisins. I also give them cold water during the summer with garlic cloves, apple cider vinegar and mint.
    I had a sick chicken a few weeks ago. I gave her a very warm bath with epsom salts and isolated her from the rest of the flock. I did the soak every 12 hours and she looked better within a week. And, I gave her a povidone iodine treatment. I don’t know if she will ever lay again but she is not longer oozing out of her vent.
    The internet is a fantastic resource for information for keeping chickens.
    Next, I am going to try to grow a sustainable area for food for them.

    September 15th, 2013 at 10:38 pm
  61. lynnette wrote:

    Chickens are wonderful. But you can get very attached to them and when you loose one it can be very devastating. I started out with four beautiful silkies and two got ill. I tried every medication I could think of from corid for cocci to baytril injections nothing was helping. I ended up yrying to tube feed because they weren’t eating I lost both girls and it was very hard. I was just devastated. I thought I was prepared for a emergency with hundreds of dollars worth of different medications on hand. I educated myself with book upon book of chicken illness and treatment. but when it came down to it I just couldn’t save my two girls. very sad. Now I only have two and in spring I plan on getting two new silkies.but you would be suprised how attached you can get to these beautiful creatures. I suppose my mistake is not finding a avain vet and trying myself to cure them. Its hard to forgive myself for that. But thank you for the article.very good and responses are great! I just hope and pray my other two do not succcomb to illness. Im so heartbroken at the lossrs I have endured.other than that chickens are wonderful pets each with there owm special personality. I just love them. Espically the silkie breed.

    September 26th, 2013 at 9:01 am
  62. Jasmine wrote:

    I have two baby chicks about 3 weeks old my chicks normally jump out of the box in the corners like hanging on the tree and they fall alsleep there….
    I don’t really know what breed they are but they are just a little purplish pink with a strike on its feathers the other one is yellow the same yellowish as the the chick with purplish pink strike. They are very wonderful pets l luuuve my chicks but now they are growing more brown and loosing feathers it surprised me when the next day l saw my chicks it looked like a little more fluffy like a fluff ball…. I always let my chicks at least go outside about 6 hours a day they just don’t want to come Back home when l try Getting them back indoors they just hide……. They are really smart every should get at least one!!!!

    September 28th, 2013 at 4:40 am
  63. Julia wrote:

    I guess I have broken every rule in the book lol. I live out with 5 acres…free ranging birds….they love going into the woods and feeding down by the creek. I don’t feed them during summer months because they free range, they are huge, they multiply, and make up for any I might lose to a predator. I raise them in a huge old barn (No Coop)and am not very young anymore and no way this body will ever build a coop. They lay everywhere in that barn all year (who the hell said they don’t lay in the winter? I guess they forgot to tell my birds…cus they lay) and been doing it this way for decades…same way my parents did, and their parents did. I do supply food in the winter months and have a huge light that burns year round. I think it is great to see everyone get back to raising chickens these days.

    September 30th, 2013 at 6:19 pm
  64. Sherry wrote:

    When my daughter was 10 years or so she put water in the chicken house in a 5 gallon bucket. Lot of chicks drowned. She felt terrible, so keep an eye on young helpers at tenders ages.

    November 20th, 2013 at 1:03 pm
  65. Michigan homesteader.lol wrote:

    I read most of these comments and learned alot. I have 6 hens and all different breeds. We get 12-14 eggs a day. We bought them at the farm store. In the spring they bring in babies. I picked out 3 and my son picked 3. We first had them in a small prefab set up we got on ebay for $200- but they got big fast, 2-3months. So my sons tore apart a trailor we had, and built a mansion lol With a huge yard. Fencing went underground for preditors, and over top for hawks. I can wheel inside with my wheelchair. And they jump up on my arm and head rests. The coop is off the ground. the roof is shingled. And there are three 8 foot roosts. Five boxes, I access from outside, and access the coop from outside on both ends. a 3′x3′ side on hindges and a homesteader lock. which is a small board on a screw, that you spin to use. And the coop is about 2 1/2 foot to 3′ off the ground. I use three heat lamps with 250 watts,and a blue heat bowl for water, adding a second one today. And a troff and round hanging feeders. I throw cut up apples on the floor and dry ceral, bread, for a treat. I use the blue bag of layer pellets for food.

    December 20th, 2013 at 11:40 am
  66. Jeff wrote:

    Would love to see pictures of mobile pens on wheels.

    January 18th, 2014 at 1:24 pm
  67. Daniel wrote:

    I have just recently started raising chickens. I built a fence nearly 10′ tall using small diameter welded wire fencing and chicken wire. I built the coop out of treated 2x4s,a pallet, and sheet metal underpinning with a vented roof pitch. I put doors on hinges and block them at night using concrete blocks. I also use concrete blocks to help secure bottom of gate and fence. So far,so good. No escapes and no predators. My biggest concern now are the freezing temps. I was thinking I could put a light in roof of coop and perhaps reflect heat off the sheet metal. Any thoughts?

    January 22nd, 2014 at 8:05 am
  68. Kimberly wrote:

    It has been in the -10 range here in Michigan and my chickens are doing fine with no heat. Their coop is dry and draft free. Their coop is attached to my greenhouse which they use as a run during the day. They have a heated waterer, but that is the only thing that is heated. Chickens can survive below 0 temps if they are kept dry and out of the wind. Chickens kept with suplemental heat are in danger when the power goes out. A friend of mine lost half of her flock when the circuit breaker to her coop flipped during the night last month. It was -17 and her chickens couldn’t handle the sudden temperature change. Please consider allowing your animals to adjust naturally to colder temps, it might save their lives.

    February 3rd, 2014 at 9:35 am
  69. dennis wrote:

    chickens are great fun many people have them as pets as for food..i think it is great that we can raise them for eggs and meat cause all these corp you don’t know what your eating anymore not safe raise you own !!!

    February 6th, 2014 at 10:34 pm
  70. Patricia wrote:

    Dear folk,

    Thank you for sharing your entertaining and informative experiences. I am a first timer at raising a wee domestic flock of 3 in the ‘burbs’ – adore the chooks (now 9-10 weeks young) – Greta, Pearl and Dolly…although I suspect Dolly might be a Dobby but I’m not giving in just yet. Had been optimistic that I’d hit the jackpot until a couple of mornings ago – heard what I thought was a rather bold attempt at crowing. My heart sank, suspected Dolly for a myriad of reasons that to date, I’ve had no problem reasoning away(as you do) So in the absence of undeniable proof I choose to remain in blissful denial, besides we haven’t heard another squawk since. Thought to share an observation of self since acquiring the chooks… I call it

    First signs of senility:

    1. Setting up an observation stool within the confines of ones chook run

    2. Placing ‘Chook Observation’ on the list of Me Time and -

    3. …wondering where those small binoculars were at

    4. A fleeting thought – Sir Richard teaming up with one to launch ‘Chooks in the Mist’

    5. Audibly chuckling at self

    6. Its front page news when chook flies onto shoulder

    7. Hanging for the next bonding moment whilst trying not to appear needy

    8. Collating this list

    Moving on I would like to say again, thank you to the respondents on this site and others I have visited, be assured I can give my little flock the best start to life now, even in the ‘burbs’ way down-under in the Southern Land we call Oz. (I mention this because I suspect most of the sites I have visited are in the USA) Ciao

    February 21st, 2014 at 4:14 am
  71. MC wrote:

    Hello from TX. I have raised chickens and quail, but chickens are my favorite because of the eggs. But, the quail were fun to watch and listen to.
    Thank you for all the comments…great information and I have learned some new things.
    MC

    April 2nd, 2014 at 10:06 am
  72. MC wrote:

    My boyfriend has become interested in getting some chickens. I told him that Rhode Island Reds were my favorites. They are easy keepers, egg production is good, and there pretty to look at. Never ate them, just the eggs. We have been discussing ideas for a simple coop to build. He wants to build a travel coop but I want to build a stationary coop. Building a good sturdy coop is the most important thing. I think I should get to decide on what we build, because I will be taking care of them most of the time. :) Any suggestions?
    MC

    April 2nd, 2014 at 10:15 am

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