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Frequently Asked Questions About Keeping Hens

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Will my chickens get bored?
It is possible that they will. You can put objects in the pen to relieve any boredom and move the pen where fresh grass is located, if your garden is big enough. Logs in the garden, hang some cds on a line, have a higher floor in the coop is another distraction for your chickens. A good idea is to hang a cabbage up, which they can peck away at.

Why do chickens love a dust bath?
It’s a chicken “thing” as they love to dig dry soil and will spend hours laying in them and occasionally flapping their wings to knock more 'dust' into their feathers. It is a cleansing process they carry out.
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Is allowing chickens to roam in the garden a good thing?
This depends on how much you treasure your flower beds and vegetable patches. They won't eat everything, but will scratch around almost anywhere. If you have a vegetable patch then fence it off or cover everything securely or you will lose just about everything. The exception is potatoes, which they will not eat. In the autumn they like flower seeds, especially lupins therefore allowing your flowers to go to seed is a good thing.

What animals will prey on my chickens?
It is a myth that foxes only come out at night and many chickens have been lost this way. If you are going out for any length of time then their hen house and chicken run.

What is the best food for my chickens?
Chickens know what they can and cannot eat. Any vegetable or kitchen waste will be fine as long as it is cooked beforehand. Most enjoy rice and bread but do no overdo it. Natural foods, which they may find in the wild are best and treats should be kept to a minimum.

Can I feed them their own eggshells?
This is a substitute for grit and quite a normal common practice. But they must be roasted until dark and crisp and then crushed into small pieces. Not all chickens like them so do not be surprised if yours do not.

I have a cat and a dog so will they attack the chickens?
Some dog breeds may be more aggressive than others but usually, if introduced carefully over time and avoiding jealousy from your existing pet, all should be well. Most of the time chickens, cats and dogs all seem to get on.

Do I need to get a cockerel?
Unless you're going to breed your chickens to increase your stock then there is no need for one. If you are, take note of the possible noise they are going to make for your neighbours and yourselves sake. Also, you will often find the hens are a little less sociable to humans if they have a 'boss cockerel' about.

What if a chicken becomes ill?
There are many forums for you to ask about symptoms but each case is different. If concerned take your chicken to a vet but ensure the vet has knowledge of chicken issues before signing up.

Why are my chickens eating their eggs?
First confirm it is the chickens and not something else such as a rat. This can be a problem and there is no easy answer. One remedy could to put mustard in an egg to discourage them.

Why is my chicken laying eggs with soft shells?
It is not uncommon for a hen to lay the occasional soft shelled egg. It could indicate a lack of calcium, which some grit would normally put right. If it persists though then advice from a vet is called for. Older hens often produce misshaped eggs now and again.

Why does my chicken seem not to want to leave the nest box?
It is likely that she is broody. The main thing during this time is to make sure she is eating and drinking, so you may have to give her some waiter service. The most important thing is she doesn't overheat. You can take her out for a while. There may be a squabble with the others, but this is what chickens do.

The feathers on my chicken seem to be falling off?
Your chicken is moulting. This is natural behaviour and will last a few weeks. Occasionally they will eat the feathers but there is no real cause for concern.

Is keeping chickens a good thing to do?
For most people it is a positive step but they do need daily attention as they are fed daily. Their eggs also need to be collected and it is important to keep both the chicken house and run clean. If you have children then chickens will, without a doubt, teach them more about the food cycle and the importance of looking after all their pets and creatures who provide so much enjoyment and plentiful food.

What is the difference between brown eggs and white eggs?
The main difference is in the breed of chicken. Nutritionally, they can be the same. That depends on feeding and management. White eggs are usually the most popular commercially because the chickens (usually white leghorns) are smaller and more feed efficient.

How often will my chicken lay eggs?
It varies between breeds but every 24 hours is the norm with some breeds laying every 27 hours or so. It does vary depending on the conditions the birds live.

Are chickens vegetarians?
A chicken that is free ranging in the yard or field will eat many insects and worms. They will even eat mice if one is caught. Basically chickens will eat anything that is edible.