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Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions About Keeping Chickens

Published on November 23, 2012 by Henny Penny in Penny's Posts

Here are the top ten FAQs I get asked: 

1. How many eggs will a chicken produce? 

This varies from breed to breed, but for a healthy bird you can expect around 250 – 300 eggs per year. In colder weather chickens may lay less frequently, and older birds are likely to lay less than younger birds. As a rough guide you can expect egg numbers to reduce by 10% per bird per year. 

2. How long do chickens live? 

Many chickens will live for 5+ years, and in some cases even longer if they are well looked after. 

3. Will I need a cockerel? 

No – unless you want to breed chicks! Your girls will happily lay eggs without the need for a cockerel. If you would like a cockerel then there is no reason not to have one! However, you might want to consider the feelings of any close neighbours you may have, as they do tend to crow quite loudly! 

4. What do I feed the chickens? 

You can feed your hens with ‘layers pellets’ or ‘mash’. With newly re-homed girls then use ‘ex-battery crumbs’ for a couple of weeks, gradually mixing in layers pellets until they are happy with pellets. Always use quality feedstuff in order to maximise your egg production, and always make sure they have plenty of water to drink. 

5. How many chickens should I keep, and where do I get them from? 

Chickens do not thrive if they are alone, as they are pretty social animals. Most people keep at least 3 chickens rather than 2, just in case something happens to one of them. There are many reputable poultry breeders across the UK, with birds costing from around £5 upwards. Alternatively you can re-home an ex-battery chicken via organisations such as the British Hen Welfare Trust. Giving an ex-battery hen a new ‘forever’ home is such a rewarding thing to do that we heartily recommend this. There’s usually no charge for this though we suggest a donation is made in the order of £3 - £5 per bird. 

6. How much space do chickens need to exercise? 

Free range hens will not stray far from their home. Although 10 square feet is required as a minimum, we would suggest having an area to let them roam free of at least 20 square feet for 3 – 4 large chickens. 

7. Will chickens do any damage to my garden? 

Chickens do love to scratch about, whether on grass or soil. They can’t help it – it’s what they do! If you have the space then setting aside a designated chicken area will help. If not, then moving your hen house (and run) to a different position each week will protect the grass from concentrated use. Similarly with soil in flower or vegetable beds, chickens will tend to scratch around, so try to protect your plants with some inexpensive fencing or netting. On the plus side, you won’t be troubled by slugs or snails after a while, as chickens love these! If you intend to keep your girls in an area without grass, ie rough land or concrete, then we suggest you create a run area covered in bark chippings about 2 - 3 inches deep. They will be quite content to scratch around in here, though you will contain any mess around the edges if you place your run within a raised wooden bed or something with sides. And to clean the run area all you’ll have to do will be to sweep the out chippings once a month and replace them with new ones. Easy!! 

 8. How do you stop chickens flying away? 

Chickens don’t really ‘fly’ like other birds, but they can get airborne in order to get over fences. We recommend that you have your chickens’ wings clipped (just one wing per hen) which will prevent this without harming the bird. It’s easy enough to do yourself, or you can usually ask the person supplying your chickens to do it for you. 

9. Will chickens attract vermin? 

Chickens don’t attract vermin, but their food might. As long as you ensure that any food spillage is minimised and your regular feed is stored in a vermin secure container (eg a metal dustbin), vermin won’t be a problem. They are not interested in hens, just their food. All Henny Penny Hen Houses and runs are designed to keep out Mr Fox and Mr Badger, so when you close your girls up for the night you can rest assured they will be safe and sound. It’s best not to put feeders in the coop, and always store them securely at night. 

10. How much noise do hens make? 

Female chickens don’t make very much noise at all, other than the occasional soft cluck. It’s very soothing to listen to them as they go about their business. It’s worth checking your house deeds in case they state that you are not allowed to keep chickens at your property. A cockerel on the other hand, well that’s a different story! They will crow quite loudly in the morning for a while, and sometimes in the late afternoon. It’s possibly something you may want to discuss first with any close next-door neighbours out of courtesy, as well as checking any by-laws or covenants that look to prevent disturbance caused by cockerels crowing.

Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions About Keeping Chickens

Tags: eggs, chickens, hens, cockerel, ex-battery, crumbs, layers pellets, British Hen Welfare Trust, vermin

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Craig Smith

December 19, 2012 at 00:00 am

This is such a great article. Everything I need to know. Thanks for sharing!
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Reply from Penny Roberts

December 24, 2012 at 00:00 am

You're very welcome. Hope it helps you to learn from my mistakes over the years!