More and more people in the US are starting to raise their own chickens and grow their own vegetables. This trend is on the rise because more people are now aware of the harmful effect of store bought poultry. They would rather have their own organic meat that they can trust.
There are some folks who just raise chickens for fun. It can be quite hilarious watching these chubby looking little birds roaming about scratching the ground for worms or just doing their own chickeney things. (I know that’s not REALLY a word, I borrowed that from a guy in Singapore!) Children often love watching and playing with chickens. It perfectly safe so long as they remember to wash their hands after touching any chickens… but no more than for most animals.
Most chickens don’t lay an egg every single day… Sage Hen Farm has, what they call “Henderson’s Handy Dandy Chicken Chart” that I refer to over and again when I am interested in a different breed to raise. Check your breed (or the breed you are considering) for the traits you’d like in a chicken. For instance, if you are looking for good egg layers, look at the breed’s yearly averages. If you are looking for a meat bird or if you live in a very cold climate and need a good hardy breed… they’ve got you covered.
If you want to eat a couple of dozen eggs a week, you will need at least 15 or more laying hens. Look at the chart and do the math to get an idea as to how many you will need realistically. I keep an average of fifty birds, five of them roosters. This keeps me pretty covered on all my family’s needs and to be able to sell to friends who don’t want the “inconvenience” of raising their own, but want what we all call “Happy Eggs”.
Chickens must be watched daily. Oh, you can skip a bit here and there, but you honestly need to have the time to at least do a quick check wellness check and maybe a head count when they’ve come in for the evening to roost. If you have a predator, you will want to know about it right away. A raccoon (for instance) can wipe out a good sized flock overnight.
Chickens need lots of water, food, and place to roam free and scratch in the dirt. It’s just what they do… scratch the ground and look for food. It’s not just part of who and what they are, they truly need the activity to keep them from getting bored. (Yes, chickens actually get bored!) And if they can’t scratch and peck in the ground, they will peck at each other.
Some chickens tend to be ‘bullies’. They may peck other birds and even peck you for no good reason. You may wish to isolate these ill-tempered birds. My grandmother used to say, “A mean rooster goes straight in a pot.” And she wasn’t kidding. Once a hateful rooster (all I know is that he was red) flew at her feet first straight out of the coop door. She caught him by the neck and guess what was for dinner? I’ve never owned an honest to goodness mean rooster. I have had friends that have and their stories just crack me up, especially about being afraid of them. I mean, you are bigger than a rooster. Put him in a pot.
Even if you are not raising chickens to eat, you have to decide if it is worth the risk. I don’t mess around with a mean rooster. He goes. Period, hands down. Living in fear of a mean rooster will keep you from enjoying your time with your flock, cause you to avoid visiting your coop, and can just be exhausting to worry about. Do yourself a favor and don’t waste your time 😉
If you live next to neighbors that are not “chicken friendly”, you may not wish to keep roosters that will crow at odd times or in the wee hours of the morning. In the absence of a rooster, often one of the hens will assume the role of a rooster and become protective of all the other hens. Strangely, this hen will stop laying eggs too. Nature is truly amazingly adaptive. Of course, if you intend to raise your own chicks, that won’t do. The rooster does fertilize the eggs. The hens continue to lay without a rooster around, but no chicks.
It is very important for your chickens to have enough space to scratch around in and its preferable if it is soil with a bit of sand or gravel around. Chickens do not have teeth and so need gravel in their gizzard to help digest their food.
Chickens can communicate with each other quite effectively and have about 30 different types of sounds that can range from warning the others about danger, alerting the others if there is food and even calls to round up their chicks.
If you spend enough time observing your chickens, you will realize that they can have quite the personalities too. This is mostly noticed by the hobbyist who is just growing chickens for fun. A commercial chicken farmer has too many other important concerns than to observe their chickens for hours. But this is part of what makes keeping chickens so fun.
Dogs are a chicken’s biggest threat in domesticated surroundings. More chickens have been killed by pet dogs than any other animal in urban areas. So, it’s essential to fence up the area where your chickens will roam. Make sure the fence goes deep into the ground or lay your chicken wire about a foot out flat on the ground from the fence in an L shape and peg it down. Other predators such as opossums have been known to burrow beneath shallow fencing just to reach the chickens.
To know the color of eggs a hen will produce, just look at its ears. White eared hens produce white eggs and brown eared hens produce brown eggs. This is a fun fact you could share with your children.
These are just a few interesting things to know if you’re about to raise chickens.