Things I Didn’t Know Before I Had Chickens
I’m usually not one to admit that I don’t know everything. However, I didn’t know much to begin with so the learning curve has been pretty steep. I knew chickens laid eggs, needed food and water, but that’s about it. I’m not an expert chicken farmer, just a girl with a flock of backyard chickens. So here ya go. A few things this city girl learned when she brought home chicks for the family.
First of all, most chickens lay an egg a day. Some lay them every other day, like Ameracaunas, but most will lay everyday. They don’t need a rooster to promote such fertility, they just lay eggs. So if you have 4 hens, that could be 4 eggs a day, or about 2 dozen per week!
The Second thing I learned is that chickens don’t go into heat like my dog or cat does. They are pretty much fertile all the time. Which means if you end up with a rooster in the bunch, he’s gotta move out, unless you want a lot more cute fluffy chicks.
The third thing I didn’t know before I had chickens is that they lay eggs by the amount of daylight. This is why you may see that some chicken coops have an outlet or a light. You can manipulate their laying schedule by turning a light on in the coop. If you live in a place where light doesn’t fluctuate with the calendar, you don’t need to do this. Just a tip, don’t put a heat lamp in the coop. There is a lot of dry dust in there and it can go up in flames. So unless you want roast chicken, use a regular white light bulb like you would inside your house. You may find that during those dark, cold winter months they stop laying altogether, unless you have a light on. Hey, by the way…my chickens don’t seem to care if I change my clock for day light savings. Either the sun shines in their world, or it doesn’t.
The next thing I didn’t know before I had chickens, or maybe I did and didn’t realize it, is that chickens are not vegetarians. You know the phrase, “The early bird gets the worm”? Well, it applies to chickens too. Most farm store chicken feed is made up of mostly corn. The reality is that this is a good diet, but supplementing with proteins is a great way to ensure healthy chickens, and healthy eggs.
One of the last things I didn’t know before I had chickens is that they tend to come home at night. We had a few instances where the chicken coop door was left open. At first it was usually a kid or a curious neighbor that would peak in and not lock the door tight. The chickens free range during the day, but when the sun goes down, they tend to coop up again. This isn’t a guarantee, but more often than not, they come home at the end of their free-range, yard pecking day. I learned to quit panicking if I saw they got out. I also started letting them out on purpose to eat bugs, fertilize the grass and just to get a bit of exercise. In fact, the next door neighbors started asking if they could borrow the chickens to wander around their yard too.
So there you have it, a few things I learned from having backyard chickens. There are a lot of things I’m still sure to learn, but after having them for a few years I feel like I’m getting the hang of these breakfast giving, feathery, little pets. If you are thinking of starting your own flock, check out this Chicken Breed Chart to find the right breed for your backyard.
Have fun with your backyard chickens!