Frequent questions about chickens

Here are some questions I’ve come across about chickens and their answers:

1. Aren’t they noisy? Chickens (hens) are not noisy all the time. Roosters are, they crow all day, not just in the morning. Hens make most of their noise around egg-laying, it’s commonly called the “egg song.” It’s the bawck, baw-guk you hear. It’s also the same sound they’ll use as an alarm call. I have one chicken that makes this call for a good 20 minutes. And others that make it once. You cannot tell which chicken will do what until they do it.

2. Don’t you need a rooster? No. Hens lay eggs regardless of whether there is a rooster around or not, just like women’s ovaries release eggs every month. You need a rooster if you want fertilized eggs and hope to hatch chicks. Without a rooster, the hens will lay unfertilized eggs.

3. Can’t you just put chicken wire around them to protect them? Uh, NO. People don’t seem to realize that chicken wire is meant to keep chickens OUT of areas, not to PROTECT chickens. Chicken wire is USELESS against foxes, raccoons, loose dogs, weasels, minks, etc. You may be lucky for a few months but I can promise you, your chickens will be found by something that wants to eat them. Also, you need a covered run to keep out the hawks. It is seriously unfair to lock up an animal in an unsecure run and provide it with no escape options. Don’t make your chickens into “sitting ducks.” Everybody likes chicken, right?

4. Then what can I use to protect them? I will tell you what I do. I have a fixed coop and run (meaning it’s not portable/movable). It is completely enclosed in hardware cloth 1/2″. It is aproned with the same mesh around the edges to prevent any digging. You can go back to my coop pictures to see. This technique addresses all predators from land and air.

5. Have you lost any to predators? No, see #4. But I have lost one to heat. We had a day at the beginning of June 2011 that got up to 115 with the heat index, they were outside as usual and the run is shaded but the humidity was unreal. When I came home and checked the coop, I found Simone, my favorite Salmon Faverolle dead in the coop 😦 The farmers we know at the market all lost chickens that day.

6. Do the different eggshell colors mean one is better or healthier than the other? No. Though the colors may be different the contents are the same. It is the hen’s diet that makes the difference in the actual “goodness” of the contents.

7. Do you color the green eggs? No, these eggs come from my Easter Egger chickens, so-called because they lay green or blue colored eggs. There are several breeds that lay these kinds of eggs, I will cover the three you will hear discussed most often.

The first is an Easter Egger. It is a “mutt” breed meaning it is not an actual breed as breeds require standards. The EE carries the blue-egg gene but it is NOT guaranteed to lay blue or green eggs, you can still get an EE hen that lays light brown eggs.

The second is an Ameraucana. It is a recognized breed with standards established by the American Poultry Association Standards of Perfection. These will lay green or blue colored eggs, breeders try to get as close to blue as possible. These are the breeders in the US that sell to the public. I had one Ameraucana and I purchased it from Whitmore Farms. If you buy one from an online hatchery or your local farm store during chick days, it is an EE. EEs are not Ameraucana chickens; EEs are not a breed, they can look like anything, lay a green or blue egg and they will be an EE. Easter Egger and Ameraucana are not interchangeable terms.

The third is an Araucana. This is a rumpless chicken from South America. They are VERY hard to breed and thus quite rare. Because they are rumpless, fertilization is difficult and they also have a genetic glitch that affects hatch rate. Various online hatcheries call their colored-egg layers Araucanas, that is incorrect.

Personally, I’m anxiously awaiting the Cream Legbar to become accessible here.

8. Does the same chicken lay all those colors? No. A chicken will lay only one color it’s entire life. If it starts out laying white eggs, it will only lay white eggs. All other colors are essentially “spray-painted” onto the egg and thus may vary slightly from egg to egg. But a green-laying hen will never lay mottled brown eggs.

9. Does the largest chicken lay the largest egg? No. Actually, the most efficient egg layers are generally the lightest such as Leghorns, which are usually kept in factories. They have the most efficient feed to egg conversion factor meaning a Leghorn requires less food to make an egg than a Speckled Sussex, for example.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment or email me.

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