Do you need roosters for hens to lay eggs?
No. This is one of the most common misconceptions about chickens. Hens will lay eggs just as well in the absence of roosters. If roosters are present, however, the eggs may be fertilized.
How often do chickens lay eggs?
That depends on three main factors:
- The breed of chicken. Some chickens are bred for meat production and lay few eggs; some are bred for egg production and can lay as often as once a day; some are bred as "dual purpose" and are good for both egg-laying and meat, although not optimal for either.
- The hen's age. Hens start to lay at 4-5 months of age, and lay best during their first year. Each year after that their production decreases.
- The season. In the winter (with fewer daylight hours), egg production drastically decreases. High laying season is summer.
A healthy, young hen bred for egg-laying can lay almost an egg a day!
Will owning chickens put me in violation of town ordinance?
Maybe. Some municipalities allow residents to keep poultry and some don't. The best thing to do is check with your local municipal, zoning, and health boards.
How much care do chickens require?
They're much easier than dogs: no walking, no twice-daily feeding, no baths, no grooming. With the proper housing they're a very low-maintenance animal.
Daily: a "checking on", egg collection, and closing the coop if you've let them out.
As necessary: fill feed and water containers.
Monthly: change bedding and remove that free fertilizer (poo) so it can be put to good use.
Twice a year: a thorough cleaning and disinfecting of the coop.
Why do chickens lay different-colored eggs?
They just do. Different breeds lay different-colored eggs. Eggs come in many different colors - light brown, deep chocolate brown, white, off-white, pinkish and even green and blue. Some also lay speckled eggs.
A couple of key facts:
An individual bird's eggs will remain basically the same color all the time.
There can be variation in the shade of egg colors amongst individuals within a breed, but not the base color (brown, white, blue etc.).
One way to tell what color egg a chicken will lay is to look at her earlobe! A hen with a white earlobe will always lay white eggs, whereas hens with red earlobes can lay brown, blue or green eggs.
Araucana and Ameraucana breeds, also known as the "Easter Egg Chickens", famously lay varying shades of green and blue eggs
Are brown eggs healthier than white eggs?
No, the color of the egg has no effect on how healthy it is. However, how chickens are kept DOES have an effect on how healthy the eggs are. See the next question for more on this topic.
Will the eggs my pet chickens lay taste better than store-bought?
Without a doubt. The chickens in your backyard will lay eggs unlike any you've tried before. A good rule of thumb: the more orange the egg yolk, the more healthy and better-tasting the egg is. Plus, research shows that if you allow your chickens to roam your yard freely (which we highly recommend you do) your eggs will be higher in Omega-3 fatty acids and lower in cholesterol, among other health benefits.
How much do chickens cost?
Baby chicks cost $1-$5 each, depending on a variety of factors including the sex (females are more expensive than males) and how rare the breed. Started pullets (young hens that have just started laying eggs) should cost $15-$25 each.
Can chickens fly?
Sort of. Smaller (lighter) breeds, and "bantams" -- which are the same as "standard" breeds but about 1/4 the size -- can fly 25-50 feet and will roost in trees if allowed to. Heavier breeds have much more limited flight.
Do chickens really "come home to roost"?
Yes Chickens will come back to the same place to sleep every night -- so you can let your chickens roam your yard during the day and when it gets dark they will return to their coop
How noisy are chickens?
Roosters are VERY noisy, and contrary to popular belief, they don't just crow in the morning. They crow all day long. Hens are much quieter -- you basically won't hear them until they've just laid an egg, or if they're threatened.
How big are chickens?
"Standard" chickens weigh 4-7 pounds depending on the breed and the sex (roosters weigh more than hens). "Bantam" chickens -- which are the same as standard chickens, only smaller -- weigh 1-2 pounds.
Is there really such a thing as a "pecking order"?
Yes. This is a very real phenomenon. All chicken flocks have a well-defined pecking order. It's their way of preventing mayhem.
The lucky chicken at the top of the pecking order basically gets to push everyone around. She gets first access to food, water, and prime roosting spots and so on. If she doesn't like what anyone else is doing she has full pecking rights. She gets to tell any other chicken to bug off. The poor baby at the bottom of the pecking order is in the exact opposite situation: everyone in the flock can peck her, and she has last rights to food and other resources. The other chickens in a flock fall somewhere between these two extremes. The #2 chicken can only be bullied by the #1 chicken and can bully everyone else in turn, and so on and so on.
Pecking order is established at a very early age and usually remains unchallenged until death.
Can I have just one chicken?
You shouldn't. Chickens are social creatures and they will not do well alone. We advise a minimum of two.
Do cats attack chickens?
In the vast majority of cases, no, but you do hear of this once in a while. Most cats are more intimidated by grown chickens than chickens are of them. Baby chicks are more at risk because they're helpless, but again most of the time cats aren't interested in them.
Do you have to give chickens baths?
No. Chickens take dust baths that keep them clean and free of pests. However, if you plan on showing your chickens in a Poultry Show, you'll want your bird looking her best, so you can wash them with a gentle cleanser and blow them dry.
How long do chickens live?
It's common to hear of a chicken living eight to ten years. Once in a while you hear reports of 15 years or more.