List of most frequently asked questions…
First Time Keepers (8)
Roosters can be noisy and can start crowing really early in the morning. However, hens are not noisy. They will sometimes “sing” when they lay an egg, but it doesn’t last long and isn’t very noisy at all. Just fun!
Baby chicks can be found in the springtime at feed stores and big box stores like Tractor Supply. Older birds – called started pullets can be purchased from breeders in your area. Craigslist and Facebook are good places to look for breeders in your area. You can also buy birds from online hatcheries. A Google search will bring up several. Hatchery websites are also a great place to research chicken breeds.
Personally, we really enjoy the following breeds for their temperament and good egg laying qualities:
Rhode Island Reds, Orpingtons, Barred Rocks and Australorps.
All of our coops are designed to clean using a regular leaf rake. You can also hose down the coop using a regular hose (no pressure washer) periodically if you desire. A little regular white household vinegar also works well to clean the waterer and the feeder.
The first consideration when placing your coop in your yard is to pick a spot that drains well – you do not standing water inside your coop. High ground is dry ground! The second consideration is to position it in a place that makes it most convenient to water and feed your chickens. Pick a spot near a hose bib so you aren’t having to drag a hose across your yard to water your chickens. A reasonably sunny spot is also good as it will help dry up your coop.
You do not need a rooster to get eggs. A hen will still lay eggs without a rooster, the eggs just will not be fertile. To have fertile eggs for hatching you should keep 1 rooster per every 8-10 hens.
Let’s say you own 6 hens (enough for several dozen eggs per week) and you have a good watering and feeding setup. On average you might feed and water twice a week and spend an hours or so every 10 days to 2 weeks raking out the coop. Walk-In coops are easier to rake out for obvious reasons… they’re more accessible. If your chickens free range in the daytime, you will both feed less and have to clean out the coop less.
This depends on five main factors… (1) age (2) breed (3) nutrition (4) health and (5) where you live.
Age: Chickens start laying at about 18-24 weeks of age and will be fully productive for 2-3 years.
Breed: The most highly productive breeds (like a Leghorn) can lay up to 300 eggs per year, most common backyard chicken breeds are in the 200 to 240 range. Some specialty breeds will lay fewer.
Nutrition: “Layer Feed” either pelleted or crumbled has the optimum balance of nutrition for layers and optimizes the number of eggs laid. Hens that do not receive adequate high quality feed will divert nutrition to life support, and egg production will be reduced.
Location: Chickens molt (shed or take on more feathers) twice each year and during that time, energy is diverted to the molting process not egg production. In colder climates, hens take longer to molt which cuts into egg production. In mild climates, chickens might molt in 2-4 weeks each cycle and in colder climates as much as 4-6 weeks.