Top Ten Chicken Questions

Gardening with Backyard chickens: common questions we get asked, including issues keeping them

Our first flock of backyard city chickens hanging out in the veggie garden at the end of the growing season.

As an urban chicken keeper, I get a lot of questions.  Here are the ones I answer most frequently:
1) How long do chickens live? I know a lady with a 15 year old hen.  Most sources say 5 to 8 years.

2) Don’t you need a rooster for them to lay eggs? No.  Think about it…does a human female need a male around to release an egg each month? Ummm, no!  Same with chickens.

3) Do they wake up the neighbors? Cockerels and roosters are noisy and have the bad reputation of waking up the neighbors.  No roosters here.  Some hens do loudly cluck and squawk to be let out early in the morning if they are locked in a coop.  Letting them out early is important in keeping the peace with neighbors.  With my automatic coop door opener, I rarely hear my chickens first thing in the morning.

4) Do you still eat chicken? Sure thing!  We just have a policy of not eating animals with names.   I don’t have a problem eating chickens I have never met.

5)Has the cat tried to eat them? Gracie approached them a few times, and received a swift pecking. Now she skulks when the chickens are out, but she gives them a wide berth.  When we have small chicks around, we do have to be very watchful when the cat is out and about or we make sure to keep the chicks in a cat proof pen.

6) Doesn’t your dog chase them? No. We spent a lot of time training him, from the time we got our first chicks until they were full grown.  I taught him that they were mine, not toys, and that chickens are to be ignored.  Now chickens could peck and walk on him, and he totally puts up with it.  They don’t seem to phase him.  Now squirrels are another story.

7) How much do they cost to keep? Way too much!  If we wanted cheap eggs we would be better off buying them from Costco.  For exact costs, see my post on our start up expenses. Since I like organic compost, organic eggs, and the pleasure of having them around, it is worth my time and money.

8  ) Where did you get them? Our first one we ever had was hatched from an egg we bought in the refrigerated egg case at Trader Joes, as part of a science project.  The majority of the others came from a hatchery, in the mail via the USPS when they were just hours old.  They easily survived shipping at that age because their metabolism is designed to allow the first hatched chick to stay under a mama hen until the last chick hatches, up to 48 hours later.  Now a days, my cochins are crazy about being mommies and like to try to incubate anything; they would try incubating a golf ball if I let them.  Therefore, we often have chicks.

9) What do they eat? Organic Chicken feed, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, oats, our garden fruit and veggies, my ornamental plants, the lawn, bugs, pebbles, dirt…pretty much anything they can put in their mouths.

10) What do you do with the roosters? Give them away to folks that want them.  We just make sure they aren’t used for fighting.

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Comments

Top Ten Chicken Questions — 4 Comments

  1. I was wondering if you ever have problems with rats? I’m getting ready to start my own flock and I’ve read that rats can be a problem. Also, I know with fruit trees and such that can also be an attraction for them.

    If you do have problems with rats, how do you handle them?

    • There are sightings of roof rats in our neighborhood on the power lines, but they have not been an issue with our chickens or coop so far. We do our best to keep the yard tidy to prevent the kind of places that rats like to hang out. I also intentionally designed our coop to keep out mosquitoes, flies, rats, and predators.

      Prevention is important to keep rats from becoming a problem with keeping chickens:
      • Build the coop really tight without any little spaces for rats to crawl through, make sure there are no spaces bigger than ¼”
      • Chicken feed storage bins should either be locked away where rats can’t get access to them, and/ or made of metal to prevent chewing into them
      • Don’t leave any chicken feed outdoors after dusk where rats could get to it. The same goes for dog and cat food.
      • If you do give the chickens a treat while they are outside free ranging, make sure it is not more than they can eat in 10 or 15 minutes, and clean it up if they don’t eat it all.
      • Keep fallen fruit cleaned up under trees (chickens usually like to do this with you!)
      • Trim fruit tree branches away from buildings, power lines, and fences
      Expert advice and info on rat prevention and control can be found at the UC’s ANR Publications.

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