Chicken FAQs


Q: What’s the difference between a chicken and a rooster?

A: Nothing, really! Chicken is a generic term used to refer to both sexes. A hen is female; a rooster is male.

Q: Do I need a rooster to get eggs from my hen?

A: No, a hen will lay eggs regardless of whether or not a rooster is present.

Q: Where do you get chicks?

A: You can buy them in Chicagoland at the Feed Store, Harlem and 55 in Summit, or you can order them from a hatchery. Shipping is stressful, so I’d recommend the store route.

Q: How many chickens can I have?

A: Check your village or city’s ordinances. Laws vary from locale to locale.

Q: Do I have to have a coop?

A: Yes, absolutely. Chickens need to be protected from both aerial and ground predators.

Q: I have a cat. Will it kill my chickens?

A: A cat will probably not take on an adult chicken, but you might lose a chick or two. However, my cat when I was growing up used to let the chicks ride around on her back. She never bothered them. Keep an eye on the cat and how it acts toward the birds.

Q: What do I do with the chickens in the winter?

A: Keep your coop in a place that is protected from the wind. Provide lots of straw or other bedding that will trap heat. Give the birds plenty of protein-rich food and fresh water. Some people put a red bulb (not white, which can create problems with laying cycles) in the coop to provide extra heat.

Q: How often do I feed and water them?

A: I recommend feeding twice daily. They should have fresh water every day, too. Be sure to scrub out their food and water dishes to prevent bacterial illnesses.

Q: I have a dog, and I want chickens. Should I be concerned?

A: My opinion is that dogs are more of a threat than cats. It depends on the breed. My dog was a German shepherd/golden retriever mix. He grew up with the chickens, goats, sheep, and other animals. He knew they were his to protect and never harmed them. HOWEVER, keep an eye on the dog; behavioral cues can reveal a lot. Also if hens are around a dog that barks a lot, it will be upsetting to the birds and could interfere with laying.

Q: Can chickens fly?

A: Not very well, but well enough to clear a fence.

Q: How do I catch a loose chicken?

A: Run fast! Try to corner it or wait until they roost for the evening. Chickens don’t see well at night.

Q: How many eggs does a hen lay per day?

A: A hen lays one egg a day.

Q: How many eggs will a hen lay per year?

A: It depends on breed, the age of the bird, and environment. Certain hybrid varieties (ISA Browns) will lay nearly year round, but this taxes the body. Well-nourished hens produce better than those who are nutrient deficient and dehydrated. A hen will lay best between 1 and 3 years of age.

Q: How difficult is it to keep chickens?

A: It’s been compared to keeping a dog – except you don’t have to walk them. You do need to feed and water daily and clean out the coop weekly or biweekly.

Q: Can I hatch eggs?

A: Only if 1) you have a rooster 2) you have a breed of hen that goes broody (or you have an incubator). Keep in mind, though, that 50% of your hatch will be male. Figure out beforehand what happens to the boys!

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