May 13, 2022
5 min read
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10 Things to Know About Chickens

If you're thinking about getting chickens but overwhelmed with all the info out there, this post is for you!

Getting Chickens: 10 Things To Know

I’ve never been the type of person who researches things to death or has to know everything before it happens.

I’m actually quite the opposite, and prefer to leave most things to the imagination, call me old fashioned! 

I love getting lost in the experience, and asking questions to people I meet along the way. Maybe it’s secretly an excuse for me to talk to strangers. 

As it pertains to chickens, I did want to make sure the health and safety of our hens was a top priority, and at minimum I wanted to be able to keep them alive! As we were building the chicken coop, questions were swirling in my head to the point where I actually started a Google spreadsheet to keep myself organized (and sane). 

I would spew out questions to my husband, to which he would roll his eyes and say...

“Google it!” 

Google set me down many a rabbit hole, which is why I decided to write this post and hopefully simplify things for anyone getting chickens. 

If you’re on the fence but feeling a bit of hesitation or overwhelm, I prioritized the top 10 questions that will help get you started! 

I’m going to keep these Q&A’s fairly brief because I could write a novel on each of these topics, but if you want more detail regarding my personal experience, email me at stacie@teaquilafarm.com and I will gladly provide more context! I’m also not including questions about the chicken coop build as that’s a post in and of itself. 

Ok, let’s dig in, but first a chicken butt selfie! 

10 Things We Learned About Chickens: 

1. City Ordinances For Chickens:

It’s important to research and understand local ordinances as they relate to poultry or other farm animals, but don’t get intimidated by this or let it stop you all together. We live in Ventura CA and roosters are not allowed in the city limits, so we kept it simple and started with 5 hens. I won’t be giving advice on roosters since we don't have any, but I will share the initial pros and cons of roosters, and you can dig in more if you're interested.

Pros of Roosters: 

  • Roosters fertilize eggs if you’re looking to hatch & raise baby chicks
  • Roosters can help keep a flock safe and provide warnings when predators are near

Cons of Roosters:

  • Roosters can be aggressive with hens, (not something I wanted to deal with,) so I’m semi-relieved we only have females (hens) and no males (roosters)
  • Roosters cockadoodle DOO at the crack of dawn, but don’t be fooled as hens are plenty noisy as well!

2. What Happens If I Don’t Have a Rooster?

We keep a pretty close watch on our hens since there isn’t a rooster on the lookout. Aside from that, I find things to be fairly calm with just the hens which I appreciate and enjoy. Keeping reading to learn more about how Soze has taken on the role of the rooster in the flock!

3. List of Chicken Predators: 

If you choose to let your chickens free range as we do, it’s really important to understand what predators can be a threat to your hens at different times of the day, and execute whatever systems it takes to keep them safe and healthy. 

We built a very secure “run” area where the chickens sleep at night, so they are always safe from predators after dusk. During the day, as mentioned, we do let them free range in our fenced area around the yard. They have a lot of overhead tree coverage under the citrus grove, as well as a specific bramble I built where they can hide. They have a space along the side of the house that’s covered and they occasionally retreat there as well. 

The local predators we are mindful of in our backyard include: 

- Hawks

- Coyotes

- Neighbor dogs

- Racoons. 

I did notice that our hens developed their own language for safety. In our flock, Soze became the protector of the hens. She makes a unique purring noise when hawks circle overhead. The noise is so subtle it’s difficult to hear, and the other hens freeze and stand at attention when Soze gives her warning.

Chicken language is legit.

We have a resident possum but it co-exists with no issues or interaction. I understand the cautions with possums carrying disease and again, this hasn’t been an issue. 

Since we choose to let our chickens free range around our yard during the day, I have accepted the fact that things happen in nature. The only way to truly keep our chickens 100% safe would be to keep them caged up all day in the run area, and that’s not something we choose to do. 

4. What Chicken Specific Food Do We Give Our Chickens: 

So now that we’ve talked about checking your local ordinances for poultry and keeping your hens safe, let’s talk about basic food / water needs. I promise this isn’t as intimidating as it seems. It’s no different than going to the grocery store and having to choose from 10 variations of milk, (oat milk please!) Once you figure it out and make your choice, it gets much easier. 

When I adopted our hens from a local farm, I asked what she was feeding them so I could try and be consistent with their food, just as I would a cat or dog, until I transitioned into the new feed. 

Below are the three main foods I feed my chickens, in addition to lots of fresh fruits and veggies!

Pellets or crumble, age appropriate.

Since we got our chickens as ‘teenagers’ we bought chicken crumble specific to their age range that provide all the nutrients for early egg layers. You can choose between pellet or crumble, our hens prefer the crumble, I've tried both.

On the shelves there are typically three main age ranges of food:

1) Baby chicks 

2) Teenagers / young hens 

3) Mature hens.

  1. Oyster Shells: Oyster shells are essential to the strength of the chicken’s eggshell, providing vitamin C.
  1. Grit: Grit are small pebbles or rocks that help chickens chew their food, these are essential since chickens don’t have teeth!
  1. Cracked Corn: This isn’t a requirement, but our chickens love to snack on a cracked corn mixture throughout the day. I’ve tried several kinds but our chickens seem to prefer the DuMor brand. 

5. Do you need to keep food / water in the coop at night? 

I don’t keep food in the coop at night, but I do keep a water feeder. I’m not even sure the hens drink out of it or if it’s necessary, so this is up for debate. 

I keep the food and water containers safely in the run area at night so the creepers of the night (rats, mice etc) don’t eat it or contaminate it. I find that as soon as the chickens go into the coop, they are ready to roost for the night and go to bed versus snacking, which they do ALL day.

No one is starving over here. 

6. What foods are poisonous to chickens? 

Per my BFF Google, the biggest foods to avoid are:

- Avocado pits and skins

- Uncooked rice or beans

- Raw potato

- Chocolate

As a general rule of thumb, if it’s junk food to you, it’s junk food to chickens too and shouldn’t be given to your hens (sugar, chocolate, etc) 

7. What human foods do we feed our hens? 

I give our hens just about anything, but below is a list of things they really love and go crazy for: 

  • Sunflower seeds (unsalted) 
  • Blueberries
  • Purple cabbage 
  • Watermelon 
  • Corn 
  • Lettuce from the garden, kale or arugula 
  • Hard boiled eggs (I debated this one for awhile as well but we do give them hard boiled eggs) 
  • Jersey Mike’s Bread (not joking). 

Chad and I get J-Mike’s about once a week, usually on Saturdays and I typically take off half the bread and break it up for the chickens. I still haven’t decided if this is ‘junk’ or not since it’s just bread, but they go crazy for it and I swear they recognize the J-Mike’s logo! 

8. How Many Eggs Will Chickens Lay Each Day, and for How Long?

Hens will typically lay one egg per day once they are consistently egg laying, on average they lay for 3-4 years. 

9. What is a Broody Hen, and How Does This Affect Egg Production?  

In short, a broody hen is a hen that wants to hatch chicks so she will sit in the nesting box all day and night, and prepare to hatch eggs.  You can look at my reel here on ‘What is a Broody Hen!’ During her time of broodiness, she will stop laying eggs, this typically lasts for about 21 days so egg production will decrease depending on how many broody hens you have. 

10. What are the Best Chicken Breeds: 

I saved this question for last as I spent a LOT of time researching chicken breeds, and it all went out the window when we actually got our hens. 

So what happened exactly?

Well I was going to order the teenage hens from a site online, but then I got a recommendation from a friend and decided to go check out her farm about 40 minutes away. I liked the fact that I could go meet with her in person, see her own chicken operation and ask her some questions. 

Even though I had spent hours on Google researching chicken breeds, and even went out of my way to make a spreadsheet with all the breed characteristics, that all went to the wayside when I visited Carrie’s farm.

All the hens were running around happily, and I got to see the different breeds. I was digging the Easter Eggers and Rhode Island Reds. I selected our hens after just hanging out with them for a bit and picking who/what was available, and it was a much more personal experience versus selecting a drop down menu online.

If you are buying chickens online and having them delivered, you may want to be more selective, but I really love the way things worked out, aka choosing our hens from a local farm. I stayed in touch with Carrie and asked her many questions the first few months, and I really appreciated that she was willing to keep in touch with me.

After all, she wanted what was best for her hens too! Carrie if you’re reading this, I hope you will come visit us soon and say hi to your grandchicks! 

In closing, below is a list of all the miscellaneous questions I could think of as it relates to chickens. I bolded the ones that I felt were most relevant to new chicken owners that made my ‘top 10,’ list, but again if you see something pressing, or you have a question that isn’t included on this list, email me and I’m happy to send you a separate response!

My writing and speaking is purely based on my own experience, and I’m by no means claiming to be a chicken expert or give advice so per the usual disclaimers be sure to do your own research. 

I also found this chicken forum to be helpful and robust, and several folks recommended it:

Backyard Chickens: Link

Chickens are awesome and I 100% vote for YOU to get chickens, I certainly don’t regret it! 

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