Backyard Chickens FAQ – All Your Chicken Questions Answered

Welcome to our backyard chickens FAQ page! We’ve received a lot of questions about chickens over the years so we thought it would be helpful to list them all here, with links to where you can find more information about the subject.

This is a list of everything you’ve always wanted to know about chickens, and probably more 😀

Chickens are one of the most productive and rewarding animals you can add to your homestead or backyard – whether you’d like to keep them as pets, raise them for meat, or collect yummy fresh eggs every day.

Enjoy, and please let us know if there are any questions you have about chickens that aren’t listed – we’ll add them here!

Backyard Chicken FAQ

backyard-chicken-faq

  • What do I need to know before buying chickens?

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    Chickens are wonderful animals to raise. They’ll help you get rid of weeds, supply you with lots of great fertilizer, and they’ll eat all the kitchen scraps you’d otherwise throw away. Chickens also make great pets – and not just for the kids!

    Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as buying a chicken and hoping for the best. Chickens need a good coop, especially if you have predators in your area that you need to protect them from. Here’s how to build a great coop.

    Chickens need 2-3 square feet per chicken in the coop and 8-10 square feet per chicken to roam around. They’ll need fresh water, quality food, and regular healthcare.

    Read the full article for more information about the best chickens for beginners and how to care for them.

  • What are the best chickens for beginners?

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    When you’re starting out with backyard chickens, it can be daunting to choose the best breeds of chickens.

    Which chickens lay great eggs? Which ones are best for meat? Are all chickens friendly or are some better as pets than others?

    We’ve gathered the best chickens for beginners in our article The Best Chickens for Beginners That Are Easy to Raise and Great Layers.

  • Which chickens are the best egg layers?

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    Would you like to raise chickens for beautiful, fresh eggs every morning? Choose one of the following chicken breeds, each renowned for its laying prowess.

    * Rhode Island Red (250-300 eggs per year)
    * Australorp (250-300 eggs per year)
    * Orpington (250-300 eggs per year)
    * Leghorn (280-320 eggs per year)
    * Speckled Sussex (200-350 eggs per year)
    * Plymouth Rock (200-280 eggs per year)
    * Ameraucana (about 150 pale blue eggs per year)

    In case you’re wondering whether a chicken can lay more than 1 egg per day… Read more about great egg-layers in our article!

  • How do I build a good chicken coop?

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    Your chickens don’t need a fancy coop, nor do you need to spend 1000s to provide them with everything they need.

    Your chicken coop needs to be dry, with protection from the storm and storm. Make sure your girls can access space in the sun and in the shade.

    Facing your chicken coop south or east is a good idea – the sun is a great disinfectant and will help you keep your coop clean.

    The material you build your coop out of doesn’t matter. You can recycle old cars, washing machines, laundry tubs…

    Your imagination is the limit.
     
    You will need good drainage. No chicken wants to stand in water or mud all day, and they need a dry space for a dust bath.

    Did you know that sometimes smaller is better than larger?

    Your chickens will be warmer in winter when they’re a bit snugger in their coop. Their lovely warm bodies help keep the coop, and each other, warm.

    Read more about the space you need per chicken, roosts, doors, windows, and much more in our Chicken Coop 101!

  • What do I use for a nesting box and how big should it be?

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    Anything can be a nesting box! Your chickens aren’t fussy and will sometimes choose their own nesting box, even though you may have provided the most luxurious nesting box you could find!

    Nesting boxes can be as simple as a basket or a bucket. Pinterest will show you a huge variety of innovative nesting boxes people have thought of.

    You can also buy nesting boxes, of course. They come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and materials.

    One of my favorites is one made by Little Giant. It can be wall-mounted and includes a little perch.

    Brower makes a nesting box from galvanized steel – this one will last forever. You can get it in many configurations, from 4 boxes to 10 or more.

    Some nesting boxes make it super easy to collect the eggs. They have a roll-away feature that enables you to collect the eggs from outside of the coop. (Like this one from Homestead Essentials)
     
    Lastly, how big should your nesting box be?

    You should aim for a nesting box that is about 14″ wide and 14″ deep. Add some nice nesting material to keep your chickens comfy and to keep your eggs clean. Some great materials are short straw and wood shavings.

  • Raising chickens vs ducks – Which is best for you?

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    Both chickens and ducks are an awesome addition to your homestead. They’re productive, easy to care for, and they don’t take up a lot of space.

    A few things to take into account are their eggs, meat, care, and the cost of raising them.

    Chickens are fantastic layers (depending on the breed, of course. Here are the best egg-layers!). They lay an egg every 1 to 1.5 days, averaging a total of a bit over 200 eggs per year, per chicken. Most people enjoy the taste of chicken eggs.

    Ducks have a similar laying schedule, but they are less likely to stop laying during the colder months. They don’t tend to become broody like your chickens might. Good laying breeds will lay an average of 180-200 eggs per duck, per year.

    Duck eggs are bigger than chicken eggs, but not everyone likes the taste. Best to try before you buy!

    Read our full article, chickens vs ducks, for details on raising them for meat, nesting, costs, and more!

  • How much should I pay for a laying hen?

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    How much you should pay depends on the chicken’s age and breed. Rhode Island Reds, for example, can be bought for as little as $5 a bird, whereas Ameraucanas might cost you $7.50 a bird.

    Most breeders also offer point-of-lay chickens, around 15-20 weeks old. Prices for these more mature chickens can be upwards of $20.

    Read the full article for more details!

  • Can chickens eat strawberries?

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    This might, at first glance, seem like a simple question. I mean, we eat strawberries, why wouldn’t your chickens?

    However, there’s a little-known fact about strawberries, and particularly strawberries tops, that you might not know. Strawberries contain hydrogen cyanide – a toxin that can impact your flock in all sorts of negative ways.

    Before feeding strawberries to your chickens, have a read of: Feeding Strawberries to Chickens… Hydrogen Cyanide, Anyone?

  • Which chickens have feathered feet?

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    Like some fluff in your flock?

    Our 8 favorite breeds of chickens with feathered feet are:

    * Booted Bantam
    * Belgian d’Uccle
    * Brahma
    * Cochin
    * Faverolle
    * Langshan
    * Silkie
    * Sultan

    You can read more about these feather-footed flocklings in our article “The 8 Best Breeds of Chickens With Feathered Feet“!

  • Should you clip your chicken’s wings?

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    This is totally up to you, and it depends on your chickens as well.

    If your girls free-range, and you’re not worried about them flying over the fence into neighboring properties, you don’t have to clip a chicken’s wings.

    My girls aren’t clipped. There are no neighbors nearby and my chickens show no interest in escaping too far.

    Now, if you have chickens that are more adventurous or persistent in their free-ranging pursuits, it might be helpful to clip their wings.

    Clipping your chickens’ wings is painless – if it’s done correctly.

    It’s quite similar to trimming our own nails. And, as with our nails, if you clip them too short, it will be uncomfortable. Our full article on clipping your chicken’s wings has instructions and a video on how to do it right.

    One more thing before you hop over to that article…

    Clipping your chicken’s wings isn’t a permanent solution! The flight feathers you so carefully clipped this year will have to be clipped again next year.

  • Which chickens lay white eggs?

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    The reason why some chickens lay white eggs, and some lay green eggs or blue eggs, is old-fashioned chicken genetics!

    Different breeds of chickens lay different colored eggs. It’s all about chicken DNA. It’s for this same reason that some chickens are nice and quiet and others more strung.

    You may have read our article about chickens with feathered feet – that’s in their DNA too.

    Here are your 10 best white egg-laying chickens in a nutshell. You can read more about them, and whether white eggs are more nutritious, in the full article.

    * Leghorns – Leghorns originate from Italy. They’re our number 1 today because they don’t just lay white eggs – they lay lots of them! Leghorns are easy to raise too – have a look at our list of the easiest chickens for beginners!

    * Ancona. – Ancona chickens lay bright-white eggs. They’re similar to Leghorns and they’re Italian too. Anconas can be a bit flighty for a backyard chicken so just keep that in mind.

    * Minorca – Minorca chickens are a hardy breed. They have red faces and white eggs. They’re very popular as backyard chickens.

    * Sicilian Buttercup – The Sicilian Buttercup originates from Sicily but it could easily be considered a local since it came to the US in the early 1800s. They make great pets and lay beautiful white eggs.

    * Catalana – The Catalana chicken is a great double-purpose chicken breed, suitable for meat production and medium-sized white eggs.

    * Andalusians – The Andalusian chicken is beautiful with its blue-laced plumage. They’re a bit hard to find, but if you can find them – add some to your backyard flock!

    * Egyptian Fayoumi Chicken – This is a spirited chicken with white, or slightly creamy, eggs. They’re quite small but great at foraging – perfect for a free-range flock.

    * Polish Chicken – The Polish chicken is very fancy with its impressive crest, funky earlobes, and bright red face. It also lays white eggs!

    * Hamburg Chicken – Hamburg chickens come is a wide range of colors from black to white to gold. They’re excellent producers of delicious white eggs.

    * California Gray – California grays make a great backyard chicken. They’re a mix of the White Leghorn and Barred Plymouth Rock with an excellent temperament.

    Read more about chickens and colored eggs in the full article here: What chickens lay white eggs? A list of the 10 best white egg laying chickens

  • How do I keep chickens out of my yard?

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    Do your neighbor’s chickens keep coming over and claiming your yard as theirs? Or maybe your chickens keep escaping their assigned area?

    Chickens can make a mess of your garden so you may be wondering what you can do to keep chickens out of your yard.

    We’ve got 9 solutions for you!

    1. Get a dog. This is an almost foolproof method to keep the neighbor’s chickens out. For your own chickens, you’ll want to teach the dog not to harm them. Chickens are naturally scared of predators, which a dog is, so they’ll choose an area without a dog over one with. Any dog can work but your best breeds are terriers, hounds, and Labradors. Australian cattle dogs are fantastic too, although mine always herds them around in a circle, so they never have time for a feed!

    2. Introduce fake predators (see this amazing wooden DIY bird of prey decoy!). As with dogs, chickens are scared of anything that is, or looks like, a predator. Fake snakes work a treat here – we get plenty of real snakes and chickens are frightened of them. Choose something that naturally occurs in your area.

    3. Install a motion sensor sprinkling system. Chickens absolutely hate water (ever seen them running when it starts raining?) so this method works a treat. Anytime the chicken enters the forbidden area, the motion sensor will activate and the chicken gets wet. Problem sorted.

    4. Grow a decoy garden. A juicy garden grown especially for chickens can be super successful at keeping them out of your “real” garden!

    5. Use chicken wire fences to keep them out of a particular area (or in one area)

    6. Use wire cloth or mesh to cover the ground (they lose interest quickly when they can’t scratch)

    7. Grow a thick plant cover (nothing gets through lemongrass!)

    8. Just tell them to leave (sounds crazy, right?). Cheer, wave your arms, and generally make the area unfriendly. Chickens will choose the easiest place with good food so the harder and more unpleasant you make it, the less interested they’ll become.

    9. Eliminate their source of food. What’s attracting the chickens to your yard? Is there food lying around, or a bird feeder that offers a tasty snack? Put your bird feeders up high and try to cut the chicken’s food supply so they have no reason to return to your yard.

    For more details on each of these methods read the full article, How to Keep Chickens Out of My Yard.

  • How long do chickens live?

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    The longest living chicken in the Guinness World Records is Matilda, a Red Pyle chicken who lived to be a whopping 16 years old! Matilda lived in Alabama and worked as an assistant for a magician.

    She never laid an egg and lived indoors all her life.

    Unless you’re a magician and your chicken lives indoors all her life, you can expect your chicken to live between 8 and 10 years.

    Roosters achieve a life span similar to that of the chicken, between 5 and 8 years.

    Read more interesting chicken facts in 26 Facts About Backyard Chickens You’ve Always Wanted to Know

  • Can chickens swim?

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    So, we talked about chickens being quite clumsy at flying. But can they swim?

    Well, yes, they can. For short periods of time.

    Unlike ducks, where water is water off a duck’s back, a chicken soaks up the water. They become heavy and get tired quickly.

    With chicks, you do need to be careful around water and water bowls. Make sure little chicks have a way out of the bowl or at least something to clamber up on so they don’t drown.

    In our full article of 26 facts about backyard chickens, you can see a video of a chicken that can actually swim quite well. Have a look!

  • Can chickens fly?

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    They may not look like they can, but yes, chickens can fly!

    They’re not very good at it, admittedly, but they’ll still manage to get over a fairly decent fence. (If you’ve been wondering how to keep chickens out of your yard, have a read of this article!)

    So, why are they so clumsy at flying?

    Basically, it’s our fault.

    Through selective breeding, we bred the flight out of them. Maybe they used to be able to fly very, very well but after so many years in captivity, they’ve lost their flight genetics.

    Many people also clip chickens’ wings to prevent them from flying away. We have an article on how to clip your chicken’s wings and whether you should.

    Read more interesting chicken facts in 26 Facts About Backyard Chickens You’ve Always Wanted to Know

  • Where do chickens come from?

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    Nope, they didn’t just come from “the other side of the road”….

    Chickens originate from the jungles of South East Asia.

    Charles Darwin believed that our backyard chickens descended from the red junglefowl (Gallus gallus), which is why their Latin name, to this day, is Gallus gallus domesticus.

    Researchers do believe that our chickens got their genes from at least one other chicken though, not just the red junglefowl.

    Uppsala University concluded that the genes for yellow skin (which you now see in billions of chickens around the world) came from a cross between the gray junglefowl and an early form of the domestic chicken.

    Read more interesting chicken facts in 26 Facts About Backyard Chickens You’ve Always Wanted to Know

  • What are the best chicken coop names?

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    We’ve found over 110 of the best names for your coop – check them out here!

    From Queen-inspired names like Bohemian Eggsody and Fat Bottom Girls to hilarious ideas like No Eggscape and Only Eggs Get Laid.

    Make it clear you have no boys with AnyCockleDoo, Pecker-less, and Who Left the Dudes Out or focus on the ladies with Kardashihens, All the Single Ladies, or Henitentiary.

    Naughty, nice – we have them all!

    Oh, and please – leave a comment if you have an awesome suggestion to include!

  • Do you have any good chicken coop sign ideas?

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    Oh, do we ever!

    Once you’ve spent your time and effort and building an amazing chicken coop, it’s time to name the thing.

    Coming up with a blank?

    We’ve got your back with 31 rather awesome chicken coop sign ideas.

    From Rise & Shine Mother Cluckers to Wicked Chickens Lay Deviled Eggs; from Laid in the USA to a very fierce chicken that refuses to become a nugget – you’ll find something you like.

    We even found some great customizable chicken coop signs where you’re totally in charge of what goes on the sign!

    And you know what….

    Sometimes you just gotta say cluck it and walk away 😛

    You can find all the signs with pictures in the full article: 31 Cool Chicken Coop Sign Ideas.

    Once you’ve found the perfect chicken coop sign, why not have a look at our list of fantastic chicken coop names and the best cute and funny names for the chickens themselves?

 
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