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Mistakes of Raising Chickens

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. There are a few mistakes that people, however, 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 begin 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.

For more comprehensive information on building a chicken coop from the ground up, check out this article.
- 3 Free Chicken Coop Designs -

raising chickens successfullyThe 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, but 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 where 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.

Depending on where you live, you'll need to maintain a certain temperature inside the coop. If you install a heating lamp, make sure 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 also need to collect eggs frequently during the winter 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 also 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 laying 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 barrier in place for passing dogs from disturbing your chickens.

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.

After you're done, check out some of the resources we have available for emergency preparedness and DIY living.

127 thoughts on “Mistakes of Raising Chickens”

  • wendy

    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.

  • Mike Davis

    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!


  • Cheryl

    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!

    • Debbra

      This is my first time raising hens.They're a little over 5 months old now. I've seen people posting different foods that chickens can eat, and I was wondering if they're able to digest the dry oatmeal or if it has to be cooked? Right now they're eating layer pellets and seem to have lost interest in it. Im unsure if its because theyre free range birds and roam the yard eating bugs all day.They appear to be picky, so I need to know if Im feeding them properly.In the morning they get fed the layer pellets and occasionally a treat throughout the day. They get fed again in the evening as they're going into the coop.They used to love worms that I'd dig up, but no longer eat those either. I've seen that people have mentioned barley or oats. DO they need to be cooked or can I toss it out to them dry? (Im also going to try the pumpkin. Im hoping they like that)

  • Cathy

    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). :-)

  • Bee

    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!!

    • Shalena Schermerhorn

      What could be egg snatchers? We are not getting any eggs now we were only getting one a day.

      • Aj

        Snakes are egg snatchers. Rats too if they can get in. I had a gopher snake in my coop and if I didn't collect the eggs a couple times a day the snake did. I got rid of it and closed up the hole he was getting in. Haven't had a problem since.

      • Steve

        A friend of mine uses ceramic eggs, they look just like regular eggs and if a snake eats them, they typically die. Once in a while he would find one in the yard if a rat carried it out of the hen house. He also sent me a picture of a 10 foot snake his dog caught, he found 2 of his ceramic eggs in it when he cut it open. The next day, his egg production increased quite a bit.

  • NLJ

    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. :)

  • Cathy


    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. :-)


  • woody

    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)!

    • Teri

      Yes they lay as often. As for the taste, my husband will not eat a fertilised egg, only the unfertilized ones without the blood spec. But when I cook them, I don't seperate them, I cook them all. He never knows the difference.

    • Sarfaraz

      The need for Having Roosters is depending on one's choice.

      I prefer having a rooster [whether the hen lays an egg or not].
      I love roosters and they are not loud. You can have them.
      They will crow on given timings.

      They will manage the flock and protect from predators.

  • Greg

    @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?

    • chciekn cannibal
      chciekn cannibal June 21, 2016 at 10:12 am


    • Amy

      Our chickens go crazy for leftover meat, and in particular chicken. I don't like waste, so we always give the scraps of our dinner, particularly bones of fish or chicken, to the birds and they peck them clean. It's better than wasting any of the body of something that died so that we could eat it. I'm a minimal meat-eater and try not to waste!
      The other day when a predator killed 10 of our beautiful young birds and only ate 3 of them and mauled 2, we decided to pluck and process the remaining 5, hard as it was, to make sure their lives weren't wasted. We did the plucking and gutting outdoors and it was a struggle to stop the other chickens from ripping the bits of chicken out of our hands to eat!

  • Bob

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

  • Sonny

    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.

  • Kara

    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?

  • Jason

    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.

  • David: San Antonio
    David: San Antonio February 7, 2013 at 4:27 am

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

  • James

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

  • Terry

    I built a hen house from the free plans provided on the Purina web site. It was placed in an enclosure that is 20x20. 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.

    • Lisa Hammond

      I made my own large chicken pen from using what is called a dog panel ( its about like a corrale panel ), but the squares r about 2" x 4" , & its like12 foot long x 6 feet tall. I attached 4 of them to the back of an open shed I have. I get the Dog Panels from a Farmers Co-op ( Feed Store ). To Coon or possum proof the pen, take some panels place across the top and strap down with the 24 inch rubber tie downs on each corner of it.

  • Vern

    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.

    • Joel Laird

      my wife and I have just ventured into the backyard chicken experience. We picked up a Chicken coop and 3 chickens that were a couple years old. We were brand new so we didn't know that they had to be penned up at night. The fencing I had was normal chicken wire well, we found out real quick. One of the first 3 was a Cochin chicken she was pretty and my wife feel for her. The first couple nights we didn't have any problems. The third night my wife was in bed and I was at work and she heard a scream from outside. (she shinned the flashlight out the bedroom window and saw a long blackish gray critter scurry across the lawn and right into our coop. (the cochin was older and had already been in battle from the previous owner she only had one eye) So she didn't last long because she was on the lower level. With further examination the critter was a weasel and if you read about them (they are nocturnal and they will suck the blood from your chicken. So my wife was very upset (Then we went a step further and bought pullets at Bumggards when they were only 3-4 weeks old and raised them in the basement in our house in a Tupperware container big enough to handle 4 pullets. It was interesting because we ended up with a chicken that had a low vitamins in her system. (she was born that way) We noticed that she wasn't like the other chicks and soon we found out that she had rye neck. (the chicken can't hold up their heads and has a hard time with balance. We did some research and found out that she needed (Polyvisol and sedium) We started feeding all the chickens that 2 times a day. They are all 18 weeks old now and all of them are laying at least one egg per day. Except one of the stronger chicks was a rooster and he Crowed early on and wouldn't stop so we got rid of him (we live in town and didn't want the neighbors to get mad at us. The rooster we gave to the Animal Rescue League. So we have 5 hens that lay eggs. I have been improving their coop every week but over all it has been a good experience and we will continue to do it as long as we can.

  • Roy

    @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.

  • Chris Barnes

    @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...

  • Jessica in Pennsylvania
    Jessica in Pennsylvania February 7, 2013 at 7:27 am

    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 8x12 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.

  • Jim

    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.

  • Ted Z.

    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 2x4 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...

  • Dede

    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.

  • Blue Duck

    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

  • Laurie

    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.

  • eileen

    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.

    • Glenn Reinhardt
      Glenn Reinhardt August 11, 2015 at 4:02 am

      when young I watched my great grandfather building an enclosure for his hogs. it was elevated off the ground maybe 3 feet, with a ramp going up to the enclosure. the ramp had boards nailed across the ramp for good footing. grandpa said they weren't dirty by nature but needed the cool mud to cool their bodies; but they didn't need to sleep in it either or farrow in it, hence the raised house. when I built my chicken house I built it in much the same way. even when it has rained, having the dryer, cleaner house resulted in much cleaner eggs also. granted, it costs more but saves in the long run.

  • Scott

    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. :)

  • gigi greene

    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.

  • Amy

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

  • Kansas Gal

    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.

  • Wayne Wright

    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!

  • Paul&Karen

    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

  • Chris

    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.

  • Cheryl

    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

  • James

    @Chris thanks for the info.

  • Jackie Smith

    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.

  • Matt W.

    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.

  • Just Duckie

    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.

  • Kathleen O.

    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.

  • buck

    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"

  • Beth

    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.

  • FarmerChick

    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.

  • karen

    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.

  • PrepSteader

    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. ;)

  • BB

    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.

  • Renee

    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!

  • Robert Calhoun

    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.

  • James C Pittsburgh, PA
    James C Pittsburgh, PA August 10, 2013 at 1:41 am

    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!

  • Ben from Texas

    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

  • Lynne Benedict

    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!

  • Don Ira

    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.

  • Mike from BigHorn Basin
    Mike from BigHorn Basin August 10, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    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.

  • Penelope Bianchi
    Penelope Bianchi August 10, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    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!!



  • Reid

    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 .

  • FarmerG

    @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.

  • dawn

    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

  • NameTonia

    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 8x10 coop/garden shed combo off the ground, with an 8x8 porch, their roosting area is 4x10 ft. A automated door opens at 5am out to a 18x20 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.

  • Amanda

    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!!

  • Gene Smith

    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.

  • Ellygra DiLalla

    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.

  • lynnette

    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.

  • Jasmine

    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!!!!

  • Julia

    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.

  • Sherry

    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.

  • Michigan homesteader.lol
    Michigan homesteader.lol December 20, 2013 at 4:40 am

    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.

  • Jeff

    Would love to see pictures of mobile pens on wheels.

  • Daniel

    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?

  • Kimberly

    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.

  • dennis

    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 !!!

  • Patricia

    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

  • MC

    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

    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?

  • TH

    Im new to chickens. I was given 8 hens and two roosters. The are all doing great. But I have had some problems with they baby chicks and ducks I picked up at the feed store. The are getting sick and I'm not sure why. Out of the 5 ducks and the 2 chicks I have lost one duck and one chick I have one duck that is sick at the moment and the last chick is also sick. I was told it could be moisture in the box I had them in so I put them in a rabbit cage that has a drain at the bottom so the pen keeps dryer. I am at a loss as to what else to do for them. advice would be great.

  • Kim

    To the person who talked about cat food containing chicken and chicken by products and cannibalism..... Honey I hate to b the bearer of bad news, but chickens are by their own nature very cannibalistic. They will attack and kill and eat an injured chicken just at the sight or smell of the blood. I've seen them eat other chickens while they were still alive
    My dad use to give our chickens a little cat food with their daily feed when the egg production went down. It contains a high amount of protein and gives them the boost they need.

  • stanley

    I want to start poultry business,I need a abc chicken manual. Tnx

  • ANN

    My chicks are 13 weeks. They are in a 10x12 pen with a wire coop(door closed)that they roost in at night. My question is...should I leave food out for them all day. I am feeding them growing food with treats given. They are NOT free range.
    Don't trust the hawks that fly around here.

  • chloe

    my chooks had lay 2 eggs in a week what is wrong

  • gaberela lane
    gaberela lane July 24, 2014 at 2:42 pm


  • Brrr

    I have loved reading all the comments! This is our first year with chickens as well. We have 8 that are seemingly very healthy and happy. They are about 3.5 months old. 2 RIR, 2 Australorp, 2 wyandotte, 1 americana and 1 production red. we got them from a local feed store. I am sure they were happy to see me leave b/c i asked soo many questions LOL.

    so, my question to everyone is: we live in interior Alaska where it gets to 50 below 0 sometimes for weeks at a time. a normal week between November and march is around -30. Any suggestions about the light and warmth? We built a pretty nice 8x4x5 coop with a 6x12 run attached, but we didn't add any windows for warmth issues. we made a door to the coop that is wire for summer and insulated for winter and they have a little door to get into run, where, might I add, they love more than the coop.

    I just need some advice for the extreme cold. I have read and read about how to keep them but the closer to winter we get, the more nervous i get :) I am fairly sure the kids will dis-own me if they get to come inside for the winter. /grins

    • Hensel'n'Grettle

      We are in Colorado at about 6000ft elevation.our winters are not nearly so cold as yours. Temps vary about 40 degrees between the highs and lows of a single day for much of the winter. We have about 2 weeks each year when the temps go down and stay down, around 20 to -20 degrees. We get lots of sun so I built a passive solar coop. That won't work for you. Still, one aspect may interest you. To keep passive solar temps from boiling in the sun and freezing in the dark, a temperature moderator is used... basically drums filled with water, with the lids on. Water cools and warms much slower than air, so it acts as a cooling source in heat and a heating source in the cold... if there is enough of it. Im just thinking that in order to moderate your temps if you had a power failure, you might want to consider some water drums. Also thought about a stock tank heater i heard of once, from someone in Canada. Their frost line went down about 4 feet. They moved the tank out of the way and drilled a hole under it that was 6 feet deep (they used the auger on their tractor.) Their stock tank was 6 feet across, so they could have drilled more holes but they just did one hole right in the middle. By making it deeper than the frost line they accessed the temp of the soil down there, a balmy 50 degrees. The heat rose up and circulated the water.To help reduce heat loss they floated a 5' circle of wood that had insulation under it. They also bermed the earth around part of the perimeter. The livestock could still drink at the edge of the tank and the water never froze. I have no idea how deep your frost line is but if it were possible to drill below it, you might put a hole under a barrel within the coop. Berm soil or build insulated containment for all except the top of the barrel, to help prevent chilling the air comming from the hole to the bottom of the barrel. Insulate the coop to ensure that heat from the barrel can benefit the chickens. Maybe it wont work in your area, I dont know; but think outside the box, and if you come up with a workable plan, be sure to let us know!

  • Kelsie

    @Brrr: Living,in Alaska, you probably have cold-hardy chickens. Just make sure your coop is dry and ventilated, but not drafty -- vents near the roof but not blowing cold air directly on them should be fine -- and make sure the water doesn't freeze. They should be OK. Even if your chickens are not cold-hardy, they can fluff up their feathers and huddle together to keep warm and will probably be fine.

    Check on them each morning to make sure they have access to their food and water and that there are no signs of sick birds. If you still think its too cold you can use some form of heating, but not something that gives off light. (They need darkness for about 6-8 hours each day to stay healthy.) Just be aware of the fact that if you use heating, and you lose power, they wont be able to cope with the fast change of temperature, so you should have a back-up plan (I don't know if there is a way to heat without electricity, but if there is you should set it up to turn on if you lose electricity, or use only that, if you decide to heat the coop.)

    But they should be fine so long as the coop is dry and ventilated. :)


  • bonnie

    I've been reading about winter food...I give my girls some suet mixed with corn or grain when it gets bitter cold...They love it and it works for the songbirds...

  • bonnie

    Also when I need to round them up I just bang on the bottom of the treat bowl and they come running. Same for my hubby..no problem

  • Patti in TX

    Great site! I adopted 10 Americaunas a month ago,1 rooster and 9 hens that are all 9 months old. First day that I put them in their pen, they all walked through the fence and out into the field. All but one came back that evening, saw the escapee the next 2 nights, husband kept erroneously chasing her into the woods thinking he was "helping". Predator got her by day 3. Now I have one that "disappears" within minutes of being let out in the AM but so far as been on the perch at "bedtime". I think she is hiding under the house but why the sudden change in behavior? other tan its hotter than hades right now.

  • Deborah

    Another great trick that works for keeping chicken hawks away is I take old CD's and DVD' disc and hang them by a small rope from a tree limb on as many trees that I have disc's for. The wind will move it and the sunlight will reflect and flash light so that it frightens the airborne preditors keeping them from nose diving for my birds. Has worked for 4 yrs. now.

  • Jamelynn

    I started out with 3 older ladies(two that lay and one that doesn't) just a few weeks ago.I had to rescue two barred rocks, one pullet and one young roo from my sis-in-law down the road (she had a hawk problem and her coop was falling apart) I didn't isolate them at all. I let the older girls out to free range for about an hour and let the new guys out in the coop to get associated with their surroundings. When the older ladies came home to roost my older girl of course started picking on the newbies. She threw a fit!!! Within the next hour the sun went down and all the girls, new one too, were in the coop laying down and the poor little roo was ostracized to the floor of the coop in the corner. Do you think they will be ok? I know I should've followed the quarantine rules etc, but I didn't have the access to a way to do that. It seems cruel to just toss them in there, but I don't think my grandmother separated her birds when introducing. I think she just tossed them in and let them deal with it the way birds just naturally do. Any thoughts?

    • Val Shawl

      I know this is a old post but I am having this problem now older hens beating up a young roo. I don't know what to do



  • Courtney

    Starting to build a coop and reading about what breed of chickens to get. We want chickens for both meat and eggs. But I have read that the dual chickens weren't great on meat. So my dilemma is if I get a few layers and a few meaty chickens can I feed them the same food? It looks as if I had to feed them different when young and while growing. And also then what type of rooster should I get? Can it fertilize both breeds? I live in east texas so any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  • octavius

    a word on predators: cats are natural predators of chicks, birds, and chickens. don't get chickens unless you can be sure the cat distastes chickens. i broke my cat it as a kitten, i had it fight a hen, got whacked so bad it doesn't go anywhere near the coops ever. some say it's cruel,but i have my results speak for itself. dogs, large ones, rarely bother the chickens. the small ones, though, are a lot more playful and harms them easily. flying predators are also a threat, we lost a couple to birds-of-prey so we tend to grow some trees around the place to keep the visibility low. snakes, rats, and sometimes giant centipedes invade the coops every now and then. we don't have foxes, but i heard they can be quite a pest. be careful of crows and ravens, they prey on chicks. also, be mindful of hens pecking their eggs. some of them don't want to raise youngs so they will destroy the eggs the first chance they get.evacuate eggs as soon as hatched. large coops attract parasite, so be mindful of fumigating the coops every now and then.

  • Pippa

    I need some advice- one of my chickens seems to be going blind, from what I can decipher I think A predator has got into the coop, all the girls seem fine but one has a damaged eye, she's happy and eating but her eye is slowly going blind there is a thick protruding cover over it and I'm not quite sure if I can repair it.
    Any advice would be greatly accepted.

  • Vicky

    Do NOT feed them acorns. I read on some site that they were good free chicken feed. After 4-5 days of only giving them a little each day, they wouldn't lay, moulted severely, and they wouldn't even come out of the pen to free range. Then I found out that the tannic acid in acorns can kill them. Thank God I found out in time to save my ladies. Only time will tell if they ever lay again.

  • Dave

    I have 6baredrock and 4 Rhode Island red hens about 15 weeks old when can I expect to get eggs? Thanks

  • Cherie' in Pembroke, IL
    Cherie' in Pembroke, IL November 16, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    Unfortunately, chickens do not tend to show any sign of disease until they are very ill, at which point quite intensive treatment may be required to rectify the problem. The best way to ensure that you recognize illness when it does manifest is to be very familiar with your chickens, so that you notice the slight changes that indicate that they might be feeling a bit under par. Take the time to look carefully at the color of their combs and what their eyes look like on a daily basis. Get to know the plumage on each chicken, and regularly handle your pets so that you know what the crop (the first part of the stomach, which sits at the bottom of the neck and above the keel bone) normally feels like, and are familiar with what normal feet and skin look like.

    It's also important to monitor the weight of your pets: the easiest way to do this is to check the prominence of the keel bone, which is the one in the middle of a chicken’s chest. The keel bone should not be pointy! There are muscles that lay either side of the keel, so the overall feel of the front of your bird should be relatively flat. If you can feel the keel as pointed and there is a dip either side of it, your bird is underweight; if you can feel bulges either side of a keel bone that is almost impossible to feel, your pet is overweight and needs to go on a diet! It is important that your chickens receive a good quality diet that is appropriate for their lifestyle. For example, if you have chickens producing lots of eggs, they will need a diet that is high in calcium, such as a layers pellet.

    Signs that your chicken might not be feeling well include anorexia or a reduction in food intake, and reluctance to drink. One of the first systems to be affected in birds is the nervous system, so tail dropping gives a good indication that something is wrong. If the tail is bobbing up and down as your bird breathes, this is a true emergency and your chicken should be seen by a vet as soon as possible. The comb might become paler than usual, or might become a darker red or purple color, or even blotchy. Your chicken might lose weight suddenly or over a long period of time, despite eating a normal quantity of food. Your chicken might suddenly develop a large lump on its chest – this is normally a sign that the crop has become blocked, so the area is often very hot and reddened as well. In other diseases, your chicken’s eyes might become puffy or have a discharge that might also be coming from the nose.

    Pippa wrote:

    I need some advice- one of my chickens seems to be going blind, from what I can decipher I think A predator has got into the coop, all the girls seem fine but one has a damaged eye, she’s happy and eating but her eye is slowly going blind there is a thick protruding cover over it and I’m not quite sure if I can repair it.

    For eye infection caused by trauma,get her eyes cleaned out with a warm wash cloth and get some Neosporin in her eyes. Separate her from the flock. A pet taxi is what I've used to quarantine.

    If your chicken has a mite or louse problem, it might peck at its skin or feathers, may pluck its feathers, or other flock members may peck or pluck its feathers. It is common that when a chicken becomes ill, others that are lower in the hierarchy will try to take advantage of the situation to work their way up, so an already sick chicken may become the subject of quite intense and even violent bullying. If you notice that one chicken is suddenly being picked on by the others, there is a high chance that it is ill!

  • Bryant

    I learned dont put the water bucket on the ground get one that hanges make sure you are prepared :-) :-) :-) :-)
    :-) :-) :-)@@@@@gmail.com

  • Joy Davis

    I Totally DISAGREE with putting a chicken coop up off the ground. In Iowa the winters are so cold that putting the chicken coop/house up off the ground make it 10 times more cold inside. I do not even know how chickens survive that are kept that way. Foxes can jump about 4 feet straight up and can easily reach a door or window that is up off the ground. A chicken house that is on the ground may have a problem with an animal that can tunnel but just put in a solid wooden floor and scooping it out is easy if it is tall enough to stand in. At the very lest a coop that is up off the ground should have the area below the elevated chicken coop wrapped in some kind of wind barrier.

  • Terry

    One of my his just passed. I felt her gut at first and thought she was egg bound, since I felt a hard thing. So I butchered her to take a closer look. She is a big 7 lb bird that is a red ranger. She grew fast since Jan 2014 as a chick. I bought her from these people in June.
    She had no eggs in her but she had lots of fat between the skin and meat. HOWEVER, there was about 4 cups or more of fat inside her bottom gut area. If there were eggs, I don't think they could have passed. Other wise she looked ok in the liver. Her intestine looked a bit fluorescent in color. I had not butchered a chicken before. She had nice feathers and good healthy looking. I forgot to see if she was the one that had a little black around the nostrils. I live in Alamosa Co and it gets real cold here. The chicken coop is very small and is insulated except for the doors. She had been moping around for a few days. Yesterday was not with other chickens. Found her laying on the ground this afternoon and couldn't move her head. Died this late afternoon. She had not wanted to come out of the coop much this week. Can chickens have parasites, even if they are healthy and fat? Would feeding them greens help keep them slimmer? Is it the corn in the scratch that is making them fat. Been feeding them more due to cold weather. This is my first year of having chickens. Live in town, but them rome in 1/4 the property. Any advice?

  • elle may

    I have stray cats staying in my hen house they are starting to play with the eggs and breaking them n eating it all anyone have suggestions on idea's to get them to stop can't shoot the cats my grandpa has been feeding the stray cat's for year's and he absolutely loves the cats, but the cat's and chickens get along just fine I have to admit I have got very very attached to my chickens when im having bad day or down in the dumps I go to my chickens and ducks they always seem to know how to make me smile and laugh but any advice would b great thank u

  • Texie

    When I was a little girl my grandmother had lots of chickens. The thing she did to keep parasites from the chickens was to 'paint' linseed oil around the inside and outside of her chicken house. I still remember the smell (not bad) of those oil infused walls.
    She also used cotton seed as a soft nest lining. I don't know how available cotton seed is in lots of areas but the eggs were hardly ever broken in those nest boxes. Every now and then she would scoop the cotton seeds out and let them lay in the sun for a couple of hours then put them back in the boxes.
    My mother also raised chickens for both eggs and meat. Our chickens ate scraps and had feed from the feed store. As far as any other special treatment there was none. One hint: keep your pen and house cleaned out on a regular basis. Find a place in your yard to pile up the poop. Best fertilizer in the world for your plants IF you let it age and compost. Don't put fresh poop on your garden. It will 'burn' your plants as it is so strong. It must age first.

  • Victoria

    Could you please tell me where I can find pre- made or itonructisns on how to build your own coops? Big R offered one, but I would like to see a larger selection. Is there a place here or on line that I could check out?Thank YouElaineColorado Springs

  • Jill

    We have 6 hens, 3 different breeds. They are 7 months old and all lay beautiful eggs daily. We feed them scratch and veggie scraps, but what they really look forward to every day is Kefir. I make it for them daily, it is good for the calcium and probiotics. Healthy happy girls.

  • Kevin Griffiths
    Kevin Griffiths April 14, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    I have found these comments very interesting I have a problem incubating my bantam eggs I am doing every thing right the chicks are forming but not hatching I think the shells are too thick. Any advice

  • Hsiu Soter

    Good article, thanks.

  • Donna Turrentine
    Donna Turrentine August 20, 2015 at 9:35 am

    Just remember: chickens are like peanuts...You can't stop with just one or two!!!

  • William

    What a great article and lots of good stories and experiences ..a lot of people tend to overthink chickens ..chickens are tough and don't require a fancy coop with heated toilets.free range works very well and your chickens will be healthier and happy and will reward you daily :) chicken are omnivores and eat meat as well as plants ..my gamefowl will kill and eat rats snakes mice and a stray kitten once ..they routinely eat scraps when I kill a deer the protein helps with molting and egg production ..remember chickens are livestock and should be treated as such ..not a family pet ..my hens hatch all my eggs and I never pull the chicks from her until they are at least 14 days old ..face it that gen knows more on how to hatch and raise biddys than we do

  • Cindy

    Sad story a couple left there hen / rooster behind in a development there were people who embraced it rooster would start early so we had a man out to remove it ... The hen had chicks and I was advised to find a home for them a big mistake ... The rooster left behind depressed and alone I feel guilty and horrible about this ... The rooster needs a home before it's to late ... I feed it but it's really not going to make it .... Can anyone help?

  • Junelle McCombs
    Junelle McCombs May 13, 2016 at 10:15 pm

    I just wanted to say that when I first built a coop, I put the roisting bars close to the same level as the nesting boxes. This was a mistake since chickens roost at the highest level possible in their coop. So they always slept in the nesting boxes and they got pretty messy with poop. If you don't want them to sleep in the nesting boxes, make sure you put their roosting bars higher than the nesting boxes. The nesting boxes only need to be a few inches off the ground. Preferably a foot. So if you have a small coop with low ceilings, you'll want to put the nesting boxes low enough that your top rung of your roosting bar is several inches above the nesting boxes. In my new coop, the lowest rung on the roosting bar is higher than the nesting boxes. The nesting boxes are maybe 14 inches off the ground. And I never see chickens sleeping in the nesting boxes unless they are broody. I rarely have to change the wood shavings as a result! :-)

  • Seda

    I've got a big issue for my 4 chickens. One of them is really bullied by the others and she is almost bald now.:( I tried to separate them for several days but once I put them together, she got hurt again. Anyone could help me please?

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