Chicken FAQ

These are some of the most common questions we get at Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply.  We hope you find it helpful!  

 

Visit Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply, Inc., call (813) 932-9775, or email us if you have additional questions.

 

How old must a hen be to lay eggs?

Usually 20-24 weeks (5-6 months) old.  This will vary by the breed of chicken and the environment.  The first round of eggs will usually be small, then they will become normal size as they continue to lay.

 

How often do they lay eggs?

Approximately every 24-26 hours.  Again, this also varies by the breed of chicken and the environment.

 

How many eggs does a hen lay in a day?

Depending on the breed, time of year, molting, etc., up to 1 egg per day is the average.

 

What is molting?

Molting is the process of shedding old feathers so that the chicken can replace them with new shiny ones.  Molting can be sickness or stress-related, but most of the time in a healthy chicken, molting is a time when the reproductive (egg-laying) system can rest, and is usually triggered by less light hours during the day.

 

Does a hen need a rooster to lay eggs? 

No, they lay eggs all by themselves.

 

Once the chicken is full-grown, where does it live? 

A free range chicken will roost in cover, such as in bushes or under a structure in an area that they feel protected.  So, for backyard chickens, you want to build them a coop where they have shelter, a hay-lined bed to rest in, and some food and water.  A coop is also a good idea so you can harvest the eggs every day (usually in the morning) from one place and keep their bedding clean and dry.  The coop also protects them against predators, such as hawks, dogs, cats, foxes, raccoons, and other animals that think chickens are tasty.  Because they do have natural predators, coops are usually closed up at night so the hens are safe.  In a particularly high predator area you could add a chicken run, or build a chicken tractor, which has room for chickens to be outside and eat insects and scratch but still be protected from predators.

 

How much space does a hen need to be happy and healthy in the coop and outside?  

Each bird needs 4 sq. ft. of indoor space and 5-10 sq. ft. of outdoor space.  It is a good idea to have extra space in case you decide to add more chickens later on.

 

What do I need to think about when getting or building a coop?  

Your coop should be able to be accessed easily by you, and you should be able to stand up inside it for easy cleaning and harvesting of eggs.  Coops should have windows and ventilation so that ammonia does not build up inside.  In the winter, the coop will need a heating and a lighting source, as having less light will encourage the hens to lay eggs less frequently.  Next boxes should be included so that the chickens have a comfortable place to lay their eggs, and these should be easily accessible as well for harvesting eggs.  Finally, a chicken coop should have perches for chickens to roost, rest and/or sleep – though they will normally just find any spot that makes them happy to do this, providing options gives a chicken happy choices.

 

If I leave the egg in the nest will it hatch? 

No, in order to grow a new baby chicken you need a rooster to fertilize the egg.  Even if you do have a rooster, or your hens are free range and there is a rooster in the area, if you are collecting the egg the same day it is laid you can still eat it if you refrigerate it after collection.

 

Do I have to wash my harvested eggs? 

No.  In fact, we recommend you NOT wash your eggs.  The eggs, just as they are laid, have a protective coating around them to help keep them fresh and protected.  Washing the eggs takes this protective coating away.  However, if you must wash your eggs for whatever reason, you must refrigerate them.  If you do not wash them, you can leave them on the counter for easy access in your kitchen.

 

Do I have to refrigerate my harvested eggs?

No, you do not have to refrigerate your harvested eggs.  You can put them in the fridge if you like.  Once you do refrigerate the eggs, you have to leave them refrigerated until they are going to be eaten.

 

How do I know if a harvested egg which has been sitting on the counter or in the refrigerator has gone bad?

You can use the float test to determine the freshness of the egg and whether or not it should be eaten.  This can be done with fresh eggs from your chicken and also store-bought eggs.

1- Fill a bowl with cold water, enough that the egg, if sitting at the bottom of the bowl it would be covered with water by a half inch or more.

2- Place the egg gently in the water.

3- If the egg floats it is no longer fresh enough to eat.

4- A super-fresh egg will sink and lay on its side, these eggs are best cooked (scrambled, fried, poached, etc).

5- An older egg will sink but stay somewhat upright, and these are best for hard-boiling (you can pan-cook them too, just like the super-fresh egg). Happy eating!

 

How long does a chicken live?

The lifespan of a chicken varies greatly by type, environment, care, and so many more variables.  There have been reports of some chickens living nearly 20 years!  Others less so.  Plus, one must also take into consideration if the chicken(s) are also being raised for eggs AND meat, then they will be harvested when they are of a size that is acceptable for eating and when meat is needed for the family to eat.

 

What can I feed my hens?

There are all types of feed to keep your hens happy, healthy, and well fed, plus treats to give them other nutrients that may not be in standard feed.  Hens need calcium to make strong egg shells, so oyster shell is a great choice for this.  And a great treat for hens is mealworms, which provide protein and happy pecking for your flock.

 

Is there anything else I need to consider for my hens?

Sure!  Providing fresh dust for the always-entertaining dust baths is a great idea.  Dust baths are how chickens preen and keep themselves clean.  Please ask us here at Shell’s Feed & Garden Supply, Inc., for more tips and tricks to give your flock a great life!

 

*much of the information in this FAQ comes from the Purina guide entitled “My first year with chickens; A week-by-week guide to a happy, healthy flock.”  The remainder of the information comes from our knowledge of chickens and how to care for them.  Please Contact Us if your question is not answered by this FAQ.