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Getting chickens FAQs

Hen walking out of the Omlet Eglu Cube Chicken Coop with Autodoor

Keeping chickens has never been easier thanks to Omlet’s innovative products like the Autodoor.

Ready to take the poultry plunge? Getting chickens is an exciting time, but it comes with many questions. From where to find them to how to keep and care for them, we’ve compiled the most common questions new chicken keepers seek the answers to.

Where can I buy chickens?

There are several ways to obtain chicks or chickens. Ordering, purchasing, and adopting are all options when starting or adding to your flock. Here are the most common ways to get chickens:

  • Ordering chicks from online hatcheries
  • Buying chicks from local feed stores
  • Obtaining chicks or grown chickens from breeders or individuals
  • Adopting chickens from rescue groups or animal shelters

Local establishments will typically carry chicks from early spring through late summer. If you’re looking for chicks outside of this timeframe, you’ll need to order them from online hatcheries or from local breeders or individuals.

What should I expect when ordering chicks online?

Ordering chicks from an online chicken hatchery is a popular way of obtaining chicks. Ordering chicks allows you to select the breeds you want, in specified quantities, and gives access to chicks year-round. And, since they’re usually shipped, your chicks will arrive at your local post office for pickup.

The most common way that hatcheries get chicks to their new homes is by mail. This concept may sound strange, but chicken hatcheries and the US postal service are very familiar with shipping chicks. For chicks to be shipped, they must be:

  • No more than 24 hours old when they ship, and no more than 72 hours old when they arrive
  • Ordered in minimum quantities (these vary based on the hatchery and the time of year they’re being shipped)
  • Picked up the same day they arrive at the post office – they cannot be delivered to your home, and cannot be left overnight at the post office

Most reputable online chicken hatcheries have customer service numbers or contact forms for you to contact them regarding their policies. Some hatcheries may have a local pickup option, but will be closed to the public for the safety of their breeding stock and chicks.

Can I keep chickens in my yard?

Chickens can be kept in your backyard as long as they have designated areas. Hens will happily peck their way through your plants and flowers while they’re foraging, so it’s in the best interest of everyone for them to be kept within specified boundaries. Keeping your flock in a walk in chicken run or within a perimeter of chicken fencing.

Mobile chicken coops are another option for smaller yards. They enable you to rotate your flock evenly over your grass to prevent bare patches. Moving your chicken coop around also gives your flock access to different plants and insects.

If you’ll be keeping chickens in the city limits, you’ll also want to check state, city, and local laws to see if there are any restrictions that may apply to you or your flock. Common chicken laws include:

  • Specifications for their coop and run
  • Location and proximity to other homes
  • Limitations on number of chickens
  • Forbidding roosters

How many hens can I keep?

The laws of your state, city, or homeowners association (HOA) that specify your flock’s housing arrangements may also dictate how many chickens you can have at any given time. If those laws don’t apply to you, there are some other considerations. These include:

  • Amount of space available
  • Coop size
  • Number of eggs your family can consume or give to others

Some breeds of chickens need more space than others due to their size or activity level, but all chickens thrive in as much space as you’re able to give them. At a minimum, most breeds need between 8 and 15 square feet of outdoor run space per hen in order to thrive.

Can I keep just one chicken?

Chickens are highly social animals, and must have at least one companion. A pair of hens can thrive, but it’s best to keep at least 3 or 4 hens so they can maintain their ideal social structure known as the “pecking order.” This also ensures that a hen isn’t left alone should something happen to their companion.

What kind of chicken should I get?

There are hundreds of different breeds, sizes, and types of chickens. From ornamental breeds like Silkies or Polish, to heavy laying breeds like Australorops and Leghorns, there’s a breed for every type of chicken keeper. Research different breeds of chickens to determine which will fit in best with your lifestyle and needs. Most breeds can be kept in a “mixed flock”, one that is made up of different types of chickens.

How do I recognize a healthy chicken when considering them for purchase?

Learning how to perform a health check on a chicken will help you assess their overall health, but most hens can be evaluated at a glance. Healthy hens should:

Chicks should meet the same criteria, but if they’re 5 days old or more, they will be undergoing their juvenile molt, which will make their feathers appear mottled. Similarly, if you look at your hens during late summer or early fall, they may be experiencing their annual molting cycle. Molting in chickens is completely normal and is actually a sign of good health, but it can make them look a little worse for wear.

Signs of unhealthy hens or chicks include:

  • Lethargy
  • Missing or dull feathers (unless it’s molting season)
  • Discharge from the nose, mouth, or eyes
  • Loose stools
  • Discolored combs, wattles, or legs

Some illnesses or conditions (like red mites) aren’t as obvious, which is why it’s important to quarantine any new flock members for at least one week before introducing them to your existing hens.

How much money will I save by keeping my own chickens?

It’s true that chickens can supply eggs for your family, and chickens themselves aren’t that expensive to obtain – which can result in serious savings. With the rising cost of eggs, it is possible to offset your annual chicken expenses by cutting eggs out of your grocery bill.

Assuming you have a zero-maintenance chicken coop, your expenses for chickens will mostly be from their feed and bedding. Here’s some quick math to see how a flock of 6 laying hens can save you money:

Good laying hens can lay 300 eggs per year, and the national average for a dozen cage-free eggs is $4 (or $0.33 per egg) So, this means that a flock of 6 hens producing 300 eggs per year would yield 1,800 eggs annually. At $0.33 per egg, that would be the equivalent of $594.

Each hen will consume approximately 1.5 lbs of feed per week, so a 40 lb bag of laying feed would last a flock of 6 hens approximately one month. Feed can cost anywhere between $13 and $40 a bag, but on average 40 lbs of feed costs $25 a bag. Annually, this comes to about $300 in feed costs. The cost of bedding varies widely depending on what you choose to use, but the remaining $294 in egg savings from your flock will pay for bedding and miscellaneous chicken treats.

Omlet and your chickens

We’ve created chicken products as solutions to the questions that chicken keepers raise. From sleek and sturdy chicken coops to innovative automatic chicken coop doors, our expert designs take the guesswork out of keeping chickens. Bring your new chickens home with confidence when you choose Omlet for all of their needs.

Flock on Omlet’s PoleTree Chicken Perch

Curious about getting chickens? Learn how to look after your flock the Omlet way.

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