How long do chickens live?
Between five and ten years depending on the breed and the quality of life provided.
How long do hens lay eggs?
Egg productivity starts to fall after the first year. It's still good during the second year but then falls away quite quickly. At three or four years, some eggs will still be produced.
Are chickens noisy?
Cockerels are noisy, hens much less so. During the day, and just after laying an egg, a hen will cackle. They will also squawk occasionally when disturbed by a person or animal they don't know otherwise they are quiet for most of the time.
What's the difference between white and brown eggs?
Egg colour depends on the breed of chicken. Nutritionally, whether white or brown, the eggs are usually the same but this depends on feeding and management.
How long does it take for a chick to hatch?
Usually about twenty-one days depending on the breed.
How do I introduce new chickens into an existing flock?
Chickens are likely to fight until a pecking order (excuse the pun) is established, however if there is plenty of space, this problem may not arise. If you should find that your chickens are fighting, a good temporary measure would be to build a barrier with chicken wire. This will allow the chickens to become familiar with each other. A few weeks should be ample time for this process to work.
What do I do if my hen starts eating her eggs?
Hens do not generally see an undamaged egg as food, however if an egg should become broken and found, it will be eaten. If yolk spills from one broken egg onto an unbroken, the hens may then realise that by pecking an egg, food can be had. It is important also to bear in mind that hens watch each other, therefore if one finds food the others will follow, crowding in. This could cause egg eating to spread through an entire flock. There are several ways to prevent this: The nests should be kept dark, as hens tend to be less active and eat less in the dark; Avoid overcrowding, allow one nest for every four hens; Ensure that eggs are collected regularly, to create less chance of damages, also an important point to consider, is that nutritional deficiencies can be the cause of thin shells, so be sure to provide the correct feed rations.
Care of chickens
Food: Chickens will naturally eat both animal and vegetable foods but it's very important that they eat a balanced diet. Unless you're very expert the best way to ensure this is to base your chicken's diet on one of the propriety pelleted feeds. This can be fed together with suitable grain like corn or wheat. Preferably feed the pellets in the morning using a protected feeder, because it's important to keep the food dry, then feed grain in the afternoon as a scatter food. Feed at a rate that leaves a little left over at the end of the day. This will ensure that every bird is getting enough. Fresh greens are very popular and help to colour the yolk yellow. If you can't get your birds onto grass regularly give them cabbage or something similar. Once you're sure the birds are nourished a few treats will be much appreciated and do no harm. Use scraps of food from the kitchen like bread, cereal and sunflower seeds.
Drink: Fresh, clean water must be available during the daylight hours. This is best provided using one of the propriety drinking fountains that keep a reserve of clean water that fills a small trough. These fountains ensure the water isn't fouled. If you lock your birds in at the end of the day, water isn't needed during the night.
Grit: Hens need (flint) grit to grind food in their crop. Some will be included in a good quality food but it's a good idea to supply some in a suitable container. Food will need to include a source of Calcium for the eggshells.
Cleaning: The chicken house will need to be cleaned, exactly how frequently depends on the number of birds and the time of year but ideally, once a week. The floor of the chicken house should first be lined with old newspaper. Next sawdust and then straw. In this way everything can be rolled up together before discarding. It's very important that sawdust and wood shavings are dust-free because chickens have delicate respiratory systems. For the same reason, clean, dry wheat straw, not hay, should be used in the nesting boxes. It's very important to clean any crevices in the chicken house and watch for signs of infestation by red mite or fleas.
Eggs: Hens don't need a cockerel with them to lay eggs, only for fertile eggs which, if collected regularly, are perfectly OK to eat. The rate of lay will depend on nutrition, contentment, the age of the bird, breed and length of day. Fourteen hours of daylight is the optimum.
After a winter hiatus, chickens traditionally start laying around St Valentine's day but you'll probably get the odd egg all year round. The proverbial china egg can help stimulate laying. It's very important that chickens have the correct laying environment. The area needs to be dark and reasonably out of view.
Collect your eggs at least once a day. Unless you're breeding you don't want birds to start sitting on a clutch or to get a taste for eggs.
Whether to clean eggs or not is a matter for debate. If you do, wipe them with a cloth dipped in clean, tepid water. Remember that egg shells are porous so they absorb smells. Use a pencil to mark the date on the shell so you use the oldest first, then enjoy the incomparable taste of a really fresh egg.
The Moult: Once a year chickens lose a lot of their feathers and grow new ones. They go rather "out of sorts" and "off the lay" but after a few weeks you'll see them in a smart new outfit. It's best that birds are in tip-top condition prior to the moult as the process takes a lot out of them so do ensure your worming and parasite control is up to date. Nothing else is needed from the poultry keeper though some like to add some extra vitamins to the feed to provide encouragement.