Chicken Math and Everything Else - FAQ's You Asked About Chickens
Updated: Mar 23, 2022
Jake and I now have somewhere around 79 chickens on the farm. Yeah, that's probably a lot. I mean it sounds like a lot. But to us, its not really. Why? Well, I can explain. Have you ever heard of chicken math? It goes a little something like this.
You see, we started with 3, and then Jake ordered 20 baby chicks from the hatchery.
Then the fox came and that wasn't good.
A friend of ours needed to rehome a rooster, but it came with a friend.
Then we began raising meat birds. We started with 36. See the thing is, meat birds are really, really dumb. They were not bred for intelligence, so they don't know to move when they can't breathe. Sadly we subtract 12 meat birds. (RIP meat heads)
Christmas came and Santa Claus put an incubator under the tree. He must know us well. We filled it on Christmas Day with 22 eggs. 21 days later, only 6 hatched.
We refilled the incubator and then bought another one, a cheaper one. 12 babies hatched from the Christmas incubator, and only 6 successfully hatched from the new "cheap" one. We tossed the cheap one - NOT a good incubator - lesson learned.
We refilled the incubator (Christmasbator) - by this time the rooster had been super busy - a total ladies man.
18 chickens hatched from that batch.
We processed the meat birds one night - in the dark. Lesson learned. We won't do that again.
18 Chickens hatched from the Christmasbator again.
and that my friend.... is Chicken Math.
We also have 11 ducks and 7 turkeys but that's a whole 'nother math problem and probably another blog.
My point: You can never have enough chickens. They are wonderful birds, pets, companions, egg layers, social butterflies, pest controllers, weed controllers, farmers, and they are just plain cool.
I often get asked a variety of questions about chickens. I figured I would answer all of them here in this post, but if you don't see your question, be sure to comment and ask it. It gladly add it!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS YOU ASKED ABOUT CHICKENS
Do they bite?
They can, but when you raise them, they typically do not bite you. I think you will find that backyard chickens are very social and docile creatures. They love the company of humans. If they do "peck" at you it may be because they think you have something tasty. It feels more like a poke than a bite. I have only been bitten by the rooster, and that did hurt a little. We've become friends since then and he hasn't bitten me since. (Knock on wood).
Does a hen need a rooster to lay eggs?
Nope. Hens lay eggs without the rooster. A hen will typically lay between 180-220 eggs per year (depending on breed). These eggs will never develop or hatch without a rooster. They are unfertilized.
Will the farm eggs that I get turn into baby chicks?
No, but I highly recommend you keep them in the fridge. If you want eggs that can hatch, you have to specifically order those. We collect eggs twice a day. They don't stay in the coop for any length of time.
Will eggs go bad on the counter?
Yes and No. A freshly laid egg can sit on the counter for up to 4 weeks. Most people don't know this because we are taught that eggs have to be refrigerated. But Jake and I have pushed this all the way to 3 months with eggs on the counter. Once the egg is washed it must be refrigerated. It will stay good for 4 weeks in the fridge. (We've pushed this to 2 months also) I have heard that if you put unwashed eggs in the fridge, they will last the longest. I have not tested this one yet. An egg has a protective coating on it called the "bloom". The bloom prevents air and bacteria from entering through the shell. Once you wash an egg, you remove the protective coating.
Are the eggs that I buy washed?
Highlander Farm Eggs are all washed before they are sold. They must be kept refrigerated.
How come chicken eggs aren't all white?
Different breeds of chickens will lay different colored eggs. They all taste the same, whether they are blue, green, or brown. or white. You can change the taste of an egg by changing the chickens diet, but you cannot change the color of the egg. The egg color is part of the chicken's genetics. A lot of backyard chicken keepers have a variety of breeds and enjoy the rainbow of egg colors their hens lay.
How do you tell if an egg is good?
Put the egg in water. If it sinks to the bottom and lays on the side, it's fresh. If it floats, it is bad. If it stands up on one end but doesn't float to the top, then it is a good egg, but an older egg.
Can I just have 1 chicken at home?
I would not recommend it. Chickens are naturally social creatures and do well in flocks. They really appreciate feathered companions.
Are chickens loud?
Hens are relatively quiet. They can get loud when someone takes their nesting box (another hen) or when they are communicating with the others. They cluck and bawk, but for the most part, they are fairly quiet.
My rooster, however, can be heard for a 2 block radius. (I'm told). He starts crowing at 4am EVERY morning. He crows in the afternoon too. He crows when he wants attention. He crows when the wind blows or a squirrel farts. He's very loud. Most municipalities that allow backyard chickens do not allow for a rooster.
Can you pet a chicken?
Absolutely. We try to hold ours as much as possible, but just being around them helps them understand that relationship between farmer and chicken. They begin to trust you. And soon, you will find, that they will be under your feet, constantly after your attention.
Can I train my chicken to come when called?
Yes. My chickens think I am the "treat lady". I have them very well trained and they are very much driven by food, so they will essentially do whatever I asked them to as long as I reward them. They are very in tune with the sound of a bag of grapes or the bag meal worms. I can clap my hands, or whistle and they will also come running.
What do chickens eat?
This is easy - EVERYTHING. Table scraps, worms, bugs, ticks, mosquitoes, beetles, ants, cicadas - there isn't much they won't eat. Mine love watermelon and spaghetti, but we typically give them table scraps and they pick through what they want, the rest becomes compost. We supplement our chicken's diet with a non-GMO grain that we buy in bulk from the local Co-op.
Will chickens eat their eggs?
Yes they will. You want to remove eggs from the coop often. We collect eggs twice a day. They typically wont eat whole eggs, but if you have a broken one, and they begin eating it, then they will most likely start eating the unbroken eggs as well. You don't want that to happen. So don't leave eggs in the coop.
Can chickens fly?
Yes, they can. Although they like to stay close to home where they have shelter, food and water, they won't "fly away" but you will see one from time to time zoom across your yard in full flight. You can clip their wings if you want to prevent that from happening, maybe if you have a problematic bird. Jake and I have been lucky enough not to have to clip wings in the 10 years we have raised chickens.
Will they run away?
You definitely want to keep your chickens contained somehow - either with a fence or "chicken run" if you are in a neighborhood. In the first few years of having backyard chickens, our chickens loved to jump the fence into our neighbor's yards and explore things quite often. We ended up building a chicken run that was 10x20 and fully fenced - walls and ceiling. Although they won't run away, they will explore and that can become a problem.
How long do chickens live?
This is breed specific, but in my experience, they typically they live 4-6 years. Unless you have a fox visit (like us) or some other unfortunate event. I hear some breeds have a 10+ year life expectancy. Amazing!
When do chickens lay eggs?
Chickens will start laying eggs between 6-8 months old. They will lay for about 2 years and then go dormant. Some farmers will "cull" their flock at this point, while others will find a new purpose for their non-egg laying birds (like pest control). It is also common for them to slow down or stop egg production in the winter. I have had birds lay through winter and I have had birds stop laying through winter. Every chicken is different.
Do they need nesting boxes?
Chickens are funny, some religiously lay in nesting boxes while others (the renegades) lay their eggs everywhere but the nesting box. Every chicken is different. I recommend keeping nesting boxes available and clean. Sometimes they just need a little coaching on chicken etiquette. For example, putting "fake" eggs in the nesting boxes encourages them to lay eggs there and not all over the floor of the coop where they get walked on.
Will chickens hatch their eggs?
I don't actually know this. My hens are lazy and get bored of sitting on their eggs. We also don't leave eggs in the coop. This question came up not long ago over dinner. My son proposed that we do an experiment this summer and have a coop dedicated to hens to hatch their eggs to see if they will do it naturally. I love this idea and I can't wait for the weather to get warmer so we can try it. We will definitely blog (VLOG) about it and the results. Stay tuned.
How do you hatch a chicken egg?
We hatch our chicken eggs in an incubator. We currently use the Nurture Right 360. The incubator is set for 99.5 degrees F, and humidity between 45-55%. It takes 21 days to hatch eggs. The incubator turns the eggs every 4 hours. (what a wonderful feature!) 3 days before the eggs are due to hatch, we remove the egg turner try and kick the humidity up to 70%. We have had wonderful luck with this incubator.
For more information, check out our blog Backyard Chickens For Beginners
If you have other questions not covered in this post, be sure to comment below and I'll gladly add them to the blog. I hope you found this information helpful!