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Chicken Care FAQs

How Long do Chickens Live?

This depends on the breed. A White Leghorn might produce more than 300 eggs for two active years, and be dead before she’s three. Other hens can live up to 10 years - although they will only lay for the first three or four.

Sussex hen
A healthy Sussex hen will live for up to six years

Can chickens fly?

Flight is limited, but smaller breeds can manage about 25-50 feet, and can fly high enough to clear the top of a nine foot-high fence if they’re really determined. Some bantams and small breeds can even roost in trees if given the opportunity. Bigger breeds can only fly short distances, and will only do so if panicked by someone or something. Clipping their wings will keep them grounded.

Do chickens need bringing indoors at night?

As long as the coop is always open, you will not have to worry about rounding them up like straying sheep. Hens “come home to roost” when it starts to get dark, and all you have to do is close the door behind the last one. Any hen left out in the dark for any reason will be helpless, and can easily be lifted up and brought back to safety.

Is noise an issue with chickens?

It can certainly be an issue with unsympathetic neighbors! All hens cluck, and they like to "announce" the arrival of their latest egg with the hen version of crowing. Roosters are the real noisemakers, though, and they will crow all day – not just in the morning! As long as your local ordinances allow it, there shouldn’t be a problem. But it’s always worth chatting to neighbors first, to avoid conflict later. For a happy chicken keeper, the sound of their birds is a welcome soundtrack to everyday life. Not everyone will buy into your idea of "welcome", however!

Hamburg rooster and hen
A Hamburg rooster and hen - they can make quite a noise between them!

Do chickens need baths?

They do, but not water baths. Chickens like dust baths, and will find a dry area of the chicken run to create one. If no such area exists, you can supply a shallow tray of dry dirt for them. The only chickens that "take a bath" are exhibition birds, washed and blow-dried by owners wishing to enter them into poultry shows.

Why do chickens dig up the ground?

Chickens naturally forage for food, scratching the ground with their feet and then pecking at whatever they find, before scratching again to see if there is any more. They also dig themselves hollows in the ground for dust-bathing.

Chickens eat all kinds of greenery, making them a fussy gardener’s worst enemy. However, if your plot tends towards the informal or wild flower meadow-type, hens are actually very beneficial. Their scratching aerates the soil, while their droppings fertilize it. They also eat the ticks and crop pests that you don’t want there in the first place.

Can a hen be house-trained?

A tame hen will quickly get used to human activity, and will soon become a nuisance, begging for food as mercilessly as a badly-trained dog. Unlike a more intelligent pet, they don’t "get the message" very quickly, and are hard to train to any degree. There are stories of hens learning to use litter trays by watching potty-trained kittens. However, they appear to have little control over their bowels and will happily deposit poo wherever they happen to be, indoors or otherwise.

Dedicated fans of house-hens use chicken diapers, a strange but effective solution for your incontinent feathered lodger! They are often used when a delicate hen needs to be kept indoors after an injury or illness.

When can chicks live outside?

Chicks can spend a little time outdoors when they’ve reached two weeks. A large wire cage or some other type of portable enclosure can be placed outside for a few hours a day – but only if it’s at least 65F and not too windy, and definitely not rainy! The birds will need food, water and shade, and shouldn’t be left alone for very long. Predators are everywhere when you’re a small chick!

Once they’ve reached four to five weeks, the chicks can be moved permanently into the outdoor chicken run.

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