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Got chicken questions? Here are common questions and answers about backyard chickens.
Want to start raising chickens? Wondering how to get started? Here are a few chicken questions and answers to help you decide.
Chickens are a fantastic addition to your backyard or homestead. Backyard chicken eggs taste so much better than store bought, especially if your chickens are able to free range outside their coop.
If your city doesn’t yet allow backyard chickens, consider getting involved in the growing movement to change council’s mind.
While I can understand urban areas not allowing roosters, I am definitely in favor of allowing a certain number of hens per household.
Chicken Questions and Answers
Here’s some information about keeping hens in your backyard to lay eggs that you may be wondering about. If you want to know about raising baby chicks for meat or for egg production, please head here to How to Get Ready for Day Old Chicks.
You can also read about how we raise chicks for meat in only 8 weeks – we do this every summer here!
Chicken Terms to Know
Pullet – is a young female chicken who should start laying eggs around 20 weeks. If you ONLY want eggs (and not baby chicks) you can buy only females (pullets).
Hen – female chicken 12 months or older.
Cockerel – a young rooster 12 months or younger.
Rooster – male chicken over 1 year. Roosters will develop wattles and combs.
Chick starter – This is special starter feed for day old chicks that is mashed as opposed to crumbles
Pets – pretty much any chicken you bring home!
Chicken Lady – Well this is me and it could become you, if you’re not careful. Chicken keepers are notorious for adding to their flock, talking to their hens and making them warm oatmeal on a very cold winter morning!
Breed of Chicken
There are many different chicken breeds, including commercial meat birds (Cornish Cross or Giants and White Leghorn).
Heritage chicken breeds include:
- Buff Orpingtons
- Rhode Island Reds
There are many great reasons to have a heritage flock of chickens!
If you want easter eggers (pretty colors of eggs), white eggs, green eggs or brown eggs, look to the breed of chicken to determine the egg color.
The color of the chicken does not determine the color of the egg! That comes from the breed.
You can learn more about them here at Raising Heritage Chickens.
How do you get chicks used to you so they won’t run or get scared when you come around?
When chicks are brand new, enter the brooder area slowly and softly. What we actually do is start humming or talking in a low voice outside the brooder room.
This helps alert the chicks that you are close by. When you go in the room, do it gently. Don’t go rushing in freaking them out!
Have your feed can in your hand and give it a few shakes. Very soon, they will relate that sound to “Oh, good, here comes the food!”
Very soon you will find that they will start coming to you.
Remember, they are like little babies. We don’t go around freaking out little babies, so we don’t do it to little chicks either.
Read here to find out how we built our brooders and got everything ready for the chicks to arrive.
When you put them into your garden area, what keeps them from eating all your good plants?
You can’t. The ONLY time our chickens are allowed in the garden is after the veggies are harvested.
Some people say to keep the chickens out until the veggie plants are well established, then they won’t hurt the plants.
I am a skeptic when it comes to this. I have seen my hens get into my flowerbeds, and before I know it, there are uprooted plants lying on top of the soil.
What we do is build temporary fencing using T posts and wire fencing. It’s easy to set up, easy to move and easy to remove.
All you need is a few of these T posts and wire. Run it up to a building or a fence post, etc., so you can reduce the number of T posts needed. Check out this post for more information on temporary fencing.
I like to give my girls a large amount of room to run around and forage for plants and bugs. However, I want to keep them away from my flower beds and veggie gardens.
So, we give them as much free range as possible, but with limitations….hmmm, kinda like raising teenagers!
More Chicken Questions
I want them to free range, but how do I get them back into the chicken coop?
I bet 98% of chickens will return to their hen house on their own, once dusk comes. Chickens don’t like being out in the dark!
They want to feel safe at home, locked in their chicken coop, away from predators.
If you have trouble getting them to come home, shake that ol’ feed can for them, while calling them. “Here, chicka, chicka, shake shake shake” goes a long ways!
Also, if you bring home grown chickens, take them out of the carrying cage INSIDE the coop.
Then leave them locked inside the chicken coop for a few days. This will reinforce to them that the coop is home.
After a few days, open up a door to their outside run. Leave that door open so they are free to go in and out.
Don’t let them out of the run for several more days. This will further reinforce to them that the coop and run are home.
How do I catch one of my chickens if I need to?
If you need to get hold of one of your chickens for any reason, wait till dark. Once they are in their coop, you simply pick them up off their roost.
When it happened here for the first time, I groaned thinking about all the other times I had tried to pin one down.
If you need to catch one for emergency purposes during the day, use one of these chicken catchers.
Otherwise, a fish net or one of these works great. Works on piglets too! I’m unsure whether it works on teenagers.
What will keep them from flying away or into the neighbors yards?
A good pair of scissors does a lot. Cut the flight feathers off ONE side only.
This prevents them from flying and if they do get off the ground, they will go in circles, ha!
A 42 inch fence should hold them in, IF the flight feathers are cut off. Don’t cut the feathers of both wings, just one.
If the feathers are not cut, I think they could get over that height of fence.
Even More Chicken Questions
Can I add new chickens to my existing flock?
Yes, it is possible to add new chickens to your backyard poultry flock. There are several things to keep in mind, if you do this:
Chickens have a pecking order; that is, there is always a leader, even amongst hens. There’s a “top dog” and then other chickens are below that, usually in a certain order.
When you bring new layers home, for example, don’t just add them to your existing coop right away. It will work best if you can have the new chickens right next to the existing ones.
That is, if possible run another outdoor run right alongside the existing one. This way, during the day, they can see each other and get used to each other.
Ideally, at night the new layers will have their own coop. It doesn’t need to be anything special, just something they can be in for a couple of weeks before being put in with the others.
We have used a truck canopy set on bales of straw for this (inside a run). Anything you can work up that is predator proof will do.
What do chickens need on a daily basis?
A family of raccoons or a fox can make quick work of a flock of chickens!
Inside the coop, chickens need:
- nesting box
- feeder with 16% protein feed, preferably with oyster shell mixed in to provide calcium (needed for egg production)
- grit – necessary once chickens have access to other feed (eg. bugs) to help with their gizzard in digesting food
- Buy a bag of scratch to provide a treat for your chickens!
- hay or straw for floor of coop, which they can also fluff up to make themselves a nest
Got more chicken questions? Need more answers?
Here’s Part 2 – having chickens on your homestead
Included in Part 2:
- What should you NOT feed chickens?
- Are chickens any good at controlling ticks around the yard?
- Why do chickens peck feathers of other chickens?
- Can chickens be taken by hawks, owls and other predators during the day?
- Does a rooster really protect his chickens?
- Molting and growing new feathers
Perfect gifts for chicken lovers!
Want to read about how we raise out meat birds to 8 pounds in 8 weeks? It’s a great way to fill your freezer fast!
Want to find out which are The 5 Easiest Vegetables to Grow?
Get it here – available only to subscribers!
originally published 2016; updated June 2022