Eggs prices have increased and probably won’t cool off any time soon since Avian Influence decimated over 3.5 million laying hens in the US in 2022. It will take some time to hatch and raise those replacement laying hens. If you’re considering just raising your own laying hens, you’ll need all the facts, and there are plenty of things no one tells you about raising chickens.
There are lots of books and online resources where you can learned how to care for chickens, the specifics of their anatomy, the abundance of different breeds on the market, and exactly how to build the perfect coop.
But there are a lot of things no one ever tells you when you’re jumping face first into raising poultry. These chicken facts may surprise you, delight you, or upset you.
Most of all, we hope that they’ll help to educate you before you enter the joyful world of raising chickens.
- As Spring approaches, Tractor Supply store and local feed stores will start offering chicks for sale. Raising chickens can be a great family project but remember like all animals this will be a 24/7/365day commitment. Also, it takes 22-24 weeks for chicks to grow big enough to start laying eggs. Then they lay very small eggs, called pullet eggs, for about two week before starting to lay regular sized eggs. That means feed and care for about 6 months before you ever see an egg. The upside is that you’ll have laying hens that will produce for about 30 months then.
- Chickens tend to vary wildly by breed, just like dogs do, but even within that breed, each chicken will have its own distinct personality. Some chickens are shy and skittish, others are outgoing and needy. Some chickens are cuddly and can’t get enough human interaction. Others couldn’t be caught if your life depended on it.
- Also, chickens can be super mean. While you can read about the chicken pecking order before bringing home your first birds, it doesn’t truly prepare you for how cruel these creatures can be. If you plan to add more hens to your flock once it is established, pecking order fights will ensue. The pecking order leads to higher order hens giving a harsh peck or jab to lower order hens to show them who’s boss. This behavior can get worse though, and lead to terrible bouts of bullying.
- They poop almost constantly. The amount of poop you’ll deal with as a chicken keeper is simply astounding. The worst part is, they have no distinction about where they’ll let it all out. On your patio, your car, the yard, each other…. chickens just don’t care.
And chicken poop means one thing… flies!
5. You’ll give them five nesting boxes, and they’ll all pile into one. Every photo of ideal chicken coops on chicken blogs and books shows an abundance of nesting boxes ready to be filled with eggs. But here’s the thing… hens actually prefer to all use the same nesting box. We’ve even seen four hens at a time all piled into one box, with three empty boxes right next to them! You still should have enough nesting boxes. Recommendations are one box for every four hens.
6. Chicken predators are absolutely everywhere, and they’re super tricky. You may think predators won’t be a problem because you’ve never seen any in your yard.
Chicken predators have a way of coming out of the woodwork as soon as those little fluffy chicks enter your property. You may not have noticed them, but they’ve noticed you, and they’re always lurking.
From hawks, to raccoons, to neighborhood dogs, all the critters living in your area will come to your property in search of some fresh chicken. Predators are not only abundant; they can be unexpectedly intelligent.
Raccoons have nimble fingers that can open even the most complicated locks. Dogs can, and will, dig under or jump over fences to access your birds. Hawks and eagles will unexpectedly swoop out of the sky and snatch birds from right next to you.
Never underestimate the determination of predators in search of a chicken dinner!
Raising your own chickens can be fun and a good source of fresh eggs, but it’s not easy or cheap.