What you need to know about owning chickens
Updated: Feb 26, 2020
Spring is right around the corner and maybe you've thought about adding some chickens to your family. Chicks really do make the cutest addition to any easter basket 💕😂 but all joking aside chickens are a great addition to your family, not only do they feed your family delicious fresh eggs, but they are low maintenance, easy to take care of and kid friendly. When we bought our chickens 3 years ago I knew absolutely nothing about them and have thankfully learned quite a bit, that I can now share with you!
1. Which breed of chickens should I buy?
That entirely depends on what you're trying to accomplish. When we bought ours, we were buying them more as pets than anything else, so we didn't think a lot about which breed we were buying. We went in and each of us picked out a chicken we loved and named it. I've since learned that the breeds that lay eggs often as usually not as friendly and chickens that lay colored eggs (which are so fun!) are generally more aggressive as well. So you can decide what's important to you and do your research before hand.
2. How do I take care of chicks?
Chicks need to be kept inside (at least in the garage) with a heat lamp until they get a bit of meat on their bones. They also require a special chick food. You can usually find a "chick Kit" wherever you're buying your chickies that will have all the required equipment to take good care of them. We kept ours in a bin in the kitchen. The store owners warned us not to hold them often because a lot of chicks won't live if they're handled a lot. In fact, they told us that you can pretty much count on one or two of them dying as chicks.😭 I'll be honest, our chicks were held a LOT, and lock for lack of trying. Scout was 3 and every time I turned around she was holding and cuddling one of them 🙈🤣 She prayed every night that the "chicks would have angels around them and they wouldn't be dead" and behold! her prayers were answered, all 5 chicks lived to adulthood. 🙌🏼
3. Why are my chickens pecking each other?
My least favorite part of being a chicken owner is the dang pecking order!! Its very natural to them to peck the weakest chicken in the coop. It's their way of keeping themselves "safe". This is often how chicks will die, especially if you have more aggressive breeds. Its so freaking sad!! Thankfully my chicks didn't peck each other until they were fully grown. Then it all started. Thats how we lost our first chicken. She lost a ton of feathers from being pecked and wasn't sleeping with the other chickens and ended up freezing to death in the winter. It was traumatizing for all of us, if I'm being honest, and so so sad. I've since learned that there are products to help with this. Rooster booster Pick no more and and chicken peepers, both of which help to cover the chicken from seeing the red skin under the feathers. When they see the wound, it makes them want to peck more. These products help immensely with that. Also, if you are thinking of introducing chicks to your older chickens, pecking can be a big problem. Keeping them separated until they are fully grown is recommended.
4.. What do I need to know about a coop for my chickens?
Chickens don't need a ton of room in their coop, they will happily share a nest with 1-2 other friends for sleeping or laying so your coop doesn't need to be huge. You chickens will be happy with a chicken run for some room to run around and take a dust bath in the dirt. This is how they keep their feathers clean from lice and mites. You can also let them run around the yard free range like we do. Just be sure you lock them up at night to keep them safe from neighborhood animals. We learned this the hard way when we left the coop open for our chickens to come and go and we lost one to a neighborhood cat. We started locking them up at night and were surprised to find another one attacked, because there was a gap in the chicken wire that allowed the cat to sneak in to the coop through the opening. Make SURE your coop is secure.
5. What do I feed my chickens?
If you want your chickens to lay, give them chicken food pellets with 16% protein in the summer and pellets with 18-20% protein in the winter. Pellets will need to go in a feeder. They also love "scratch" which you can toss in to the coop for them to peck at. It gives them something to do and makes them happy. Be sure to keep their water fresh as well. We keep our food in pet food containers right next to their coop to make it convenient. Mice and other birds love chicken food so be sure the containers are air tight and weather proof. These are the ones we use.
6. Why is my chicken sitting on her eggs all day?
Some chickens will brood. This means they think they are growing babies in their eggs (which they're not unless you have a rooster around) and they sit on them day and night to protect them and help them grow. This makes it rather difficult to collect eggs or clean out the coop and it makes them moody. The best way we've found to handle this is to take them out of the coop and lock them out of it for a day. They have very short memories and if you can take the eggs, or clean out the coop they will usually forget by the time you let them back in.
7. Can I have chickens if I live somewhere cold?
Absolutely!! Chickens feathers keep them warm though the winter, and they sleep together at night which keeps them warm. We made a cover for the top of our chicken run which keeps the run dry so they will have room to wander when the snow is coming down. If you coop has windows, close them off during the winter time. We just use pieces of wood to cover ours. You can put a heat lamp in their coop if you're worried about them, but be sure to put it on a timer as chickens naturally put themselves to sleep when it dark and most heat lamps will emit light. Some chickens also "rest" in the winter and don't lay eggs. If you want them to lay through the winter they need more day light so adding a light to their coop that wakes them up before the sun is up will encourage them to lay through the winter months. We let our chickens rest, though some keep laying regardless. Another nice addition to your coop for the winter is a water heater (which you want to use with a medal waterer) This way you only need to check on them every few days, instead of trudging through the snow every single day and replacing their water that will likely freeze at single night.
8. How do I keep my chickens healthy from lice, mites and worms?
I so wish I would have known this from day one. We had mites in the coop last summer and it was so freaking gross!! there is an easy fix though and it will keep your chickens healthy and safe inside and out! Food Grade Diatomatious Earth is cheap and a miracle worker!! Mixing a few spoonfuls into their food every month or so will kill worms and keep them happy on the inside. You will know if our chicken likely has worms by if their eggs are clean or poopy. If they're poopy they probably have a worm of some sort. Clean eggs straight from the coop are what you want! You can also "Dust" the inside of the coop and your chicken herself (under her feathers and all over) with the diaonmatious earth to kill any lice and mites. Works like a charm and if you're good about maintaining it about once month you shouldn't have a problem.
9. Do I need to clean the eggs before I use them?
No! In fact, then you run them under water to "wash" them you are actually removing a film that keeps them good at room temperature. They do not need to be refrigerated unless they've been washed, so unless your chicken has poopy eggs that need cleaning, I would skip this step and keep them in a cute basket on your counter top instead. 💕
Hope this helps! and please comment below if you have anything to add!