Getting your first flock of chickens is an exciting adventure. Visions of bountiful egg harvests, peeping baby chicks, and coops full of clucking hens occupy your dreams.
But we’re here to tell you, there’s a few things we wish we had known before we brought chickens into our lives.
And the good news is, we’re sharing all the dirty details with you so you can be prepared for these otherwise unexpected issues when you start your first flock.
Let’s dig in and get you ready for your chickens!
1. Predator Prevention is Non-negotiable
There’s nothing worse than coming across deceased chickens during morning chores.
That’s why it’s important to take a preemptive approach to predators in your region.
And when we say predators, we don’t just mean the big ones (like bears of foxes).
Some of the smallest predators are the most deadly.
Snakes, raccoons, and weasels can find their way into even the most predator-proof coops.
So when you’re designing your first chicken coop, always take extra precautions to ensure you’re not leaving your chickens exposed to predators, like making sure every opening in the coop and run is covered in hardware cloth (not chicken wire – it’s not strong enough). Be sure that predators cannot dig under fencing to access your chickens, or fly into your run from above (they will definitely try).
2. You Need a Plan for Roosters
Even if you’ve planned to order all hens, there may come a time that a stray roo gets into the shipping container from the hatchery. No hatchery can guarantee pullets (hens under one year old) with more than 90% accuracy, so it’s best to assume 10% will turn out to be roosters.
On the other hand, if you’ve decided to incubate, prepare for the possibility of more than one rooster in your new little clutch of chicks.
If you’ve got the room and enough hens to go around, you might be able to keep some of those roosters.
With that being said, you’ll need a plan ahead of time for the roosters you won’t be keeping.
Because more than one rooster means you’ll need more hens for each one, and it also means there’ll be more crowing, more fighting, and maybe even more aggression.
So, what will you do with unneeded roosters?
Here’s a few ideas:
- Sell them as chicks as soon as you know they’re roosters to someone who wants to raise them
- Raise them and butcher them for yourself
- Raise them and process them for sale (check local regulations)
- Give them away to a family in need
3. Chickens Don’t Lay Eggs Until They’re Mature
Unfortunately, chickens don’t start to lay eggs until they are a few months old. And depending on the breed you’ve selected, it may even take months to see your first farm fresh egg.
So it’s a bit of a waiting game, but we’ll tell ya right now when that first egg appears, you’ll be celebrating all the way to the breakfast table!
While you wait for your first eggs, you can spend your free time ensuring your chickens have everything they need to lay quality eggs as soon as they’re ready.
- Endless amounts of fresh water
- Oodles of layer feed (formulated for layers)
- Grit (to help chickens digest their food)
- Treats (protein treats pack a punch for chickens when they’re growing!)
- Calcium (this helps chickens lay eggs with strong shells, and it promotes strong and healthy bones)
And if your chickens are happy and healthy, they’ll start laying eggs as soon as they’re old enough, without delay.
4. Chickens Need Plenty of Elbow Room
It’s true! And if your run isn’t large enough to allow all your chickens to hunt, peck, and scratch the earth freely, you’ll soon learn that your beautiful run will turn into a large mud pit.
So if you’re not free-ranging your chooks, make sure your enclosure is plenty big; it’s just the polite thing to do.
In general, you’ll need to allow for about 5 to 10 square feet per bird outdoors.
5. Chickens are Also Predators
Ok, not like the-top-of-the-food-chain predators, but predators to things like mice, frogs, and bugs.
Never forget that chickens are omnivores and enjoy eating meat. So the next time you see your fluffy butts running across the lawn with a frog in the lead hen’s beak, just know that it’s completely normal and good for them.
On another note, chickens are predators to your landscaping efforts.
Nope, your chickens have no idea that your flower garden is not an a la carte buffet created just for them.
If you want to protect your landscaping from free-ranging beaks, then create barriers to keep your flock from ruining your flower beds…and veggie gardens, for that matter.
6. The Companionship and Connection
Some will tell you that chickens aren’t pets. And that might be true for the vast majority of them. But from time-to-time, you’ll come across a hen, or rooster, that plucks at your heartstrings.
Chickens can be friendly; they may even cuddle with you on the porch as you drink your morning coffee in the sun.
And before you know it, you’ve got a friend or two in the flock.
The truth is, you’ll see personalities emerge, and you may catch yourself naming your chickens (if we’re being honest, all of the fluffy butts in the Henny+Roo flock have names).
We’re not ashamed, and that’s one of the reasons we knew we needed to create the Henny + Roo subscription box for chickens (and chicken lovers)!
Dogs and cats aren’t the only companions who deserve a treat for all their hard work (Ummm, egg-making, friendship, and let’s be honest a little bit of pest control too).
So, just know, that your chickens may turn into an extension of your family, and as far as we’re concerned, that’s perfectly fine for everyone involved.