What items should I have ready when my chicks arrive?
Boil some water and grab some clean towels! Isn’t this what we heard on television when the mother went into labor? However, with newborn chickens, we only need to boil water if we plan on cooking them. What you do need is a way to keep your chicks warm without cooking them. Depending on the number of chicks and your budget there are several options. Most commonly used and most economical is a single lamp infrared brooder with a 250-watt red glass infrared bulb. Of course you will need a perimeter to contain the chicks inside the heated area —something as simple as an 18″ high corrugated paper chick corral will get the job done. Place a small thermometer inside to ensure the correct temperature of 95° F is maintained, dropping 5° each week thereafter. A proper chick feeder and watering station is also necessary and you should provide ample space for the number of chicks inside. Pine shavings will work well as bedding and although there are many other options, you want to avoid using material such as newspaper that does not provide stable footing.
How big does my chicken coop need to be?
Because chickens spend most of their active time outside of the chicken coop, generally 2 – 3 square feet per chicken is sufficient space. Remember, you will need to provide space to roost at night and space for the nesting boxes. If you plan on keeping them cooped up full-time then 8 – 10 square feet per chicken would do, counting the outside run. In this case, more is always better. If you are planning on buying or building a mobile chicken coop, space requirement is minimized because it offers you the ability to frequently move the coop and chickens onto fresh ground.
What is the best way to protect my chickens from predators?
Obviously, a well-built chicken coop is your first and best defense against predators. The coop should be designed to prevent predators from crawling through small openings or from tunneling under. Most troublesome predators come at night so it may be a good idea to place a few NiteGuards around your coop. NiteGuard Solar emits a flashing red light at night that makes predators think they’re being watched by something more terrifying than they are, forcing them to leave the area, and preventing predators from ever approaching your coop.
At what age do hens start laying and how many eggs will they lay?
Typically hens will start to lay when they are around 5- 6 months of age and will lay approximately 200 to 300 eggs annually, based on the breed type. Breeds like White Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, and Golden Sex Links are considered some of the most prolific egg layers. Peak production generally occurs at two years of age and slowly declines thereafter.
How long do chickens live?
The life expectancy of most standard chicken breeds shielded from predators and BBQ grills can range from 8 to 15 years. There are many reports of pet chickens living as long as 20 years! With the increasing popularity of raising chickens as pets, I imagine someone will develop a new line of chicken coops such as nursing coops or assisted living coops for the growing population of elderly chickens. All joking aside, chickens are very hardy animals that rarely need a trip to a veterinarian, no matter how long they live.
How much feed do chickens eat?
The amount of feed a chicken will consume varies dramatically based on breed type, feed quality, climate, and other variables that make it difficult to provide one good answer. However, a typical laying hen will consume around 4 to 6 ounces of feed each day with an increase during cold months and a decrease during warm months. Many types of feeders available today are designed to prevent feed from being scratched out to reduce wasted feed and lower your overall feed bill. Depending on where you are located, your chickens can nearly survive strictly by foraging for their food on a good size piece of property. Foraging for food is really the chickens’ preferred method of eating because it makes life much more interesting for them as opposed to standing around the all-you-can-eat food trough. Even during the leaner times you can promote natural foraging behavior by hanging a “Free Range” feeder in your yard. With a timer that can be set to release varying amounts of pelletized feed, you can provide your chickens the sustenance they require while still allowing them the opportunity to act upon their natural instincts.
How do I get my chickens to go in the coop at night?
Chickens instinctively move into their coop when the sun goes down. It may take a little coaxing for grown chickens to move into a newly built coop but once they realize it’s home, they generally go right in at night. Your job is to close the door behind them once they enter, and then to open it back up in the morning.
Do I need a rooster for my hens to lay eggs?
Okay, stop laughing! You didn’t always know the answer to this question. I will tell you that this is the most commonly asked question we get, so no one should be embarrassed. The answer is no, unless you want chicks. If you’re just looking for eggs to eat and/or some nice yard pets, hens minus the rooster can provide you with plenty of farm fresh eggs without a single crow to wake you up in the morning.
Whatever reasons made you decide to start raising chickens, personally I think you made a great decision. I guarantee you’re going to have some great stories to tell about your life with chickens, and I wish I could hear every one of them.