Chicken Wiki

These are some of the most commonly asked questions about chickens. If you have a question, please state it in the comments.

New questions/answers will be added regularly.

Q: Do you need a rooster to have hens laying eggs?[]

  • A: Hens will lay eggs whether or not a rooster is around, although a rooster is required if you want fertilized eggs to hatch chicks. So no, technically a rooster is not required for hens to produce eggs. However, there are huge benifits to keeping a rooster. Roosters will not only lead the hens around and show them food, but they will also help protect from predators and warn the hens if they see a threat. Roosters will also help suppress aggression between hens. [1] Keeping a rooster can be a huge boon to your flock for many reasons, even if you don't want to hatch chicks.
  • The fact that a chicken egg has been fertilized has absolutely no affect on it's taste, and as long as the egg hasn't been brooded/incubated, there is no embryo growing in it, making it safe to eat even for vegetarians. Also, having a rooster means that you can let the hens have chicks, and not have to buy them from a hatchery anymore. Lastly, one of the most important arguments for keeping a rooster is that many, many roosters are killed simply because they aren't wanted. Millions are killed in hatcheries alone, because the demand for pulletsis much greater than for cockerels.[2] [3] [4] Keeping one or more will save them from that fate. Also, you can hatch your own eggs or buy chicks from on of the 'non-kill' hatcheries such as Ideal Poultry and Sand Hill Preservation Center.
  • Also, if you don't have a rooster, then one of your hens may take on a more aggressive and dominant role among the flock (similar to that of a roosters behavior) [5] and in some cases, may even start crowing. [6] In truth, the flock dynamics without a rooster around are totally different, and hens will act different with one around.

Q: Can I keep chickens in town?[]

  • A: Although many towns and cities allow the keeping of chickens within the city limits, it is against the ordinance of some, so the best thing to do is check with your local zoning and health boards first. Some cities and towns have laws against keeping roosters, due to the "noise" they create when crowing, but any of these laws can be changed with a little effort and help in the form of, for example, a petition.

Q: I want to get pet chickens: how much care do they require?[]

  • A: Chickens are quite 'low-maintenance' pets and generally require less care than the average dog. The basics a chicken needs is:
- Good housing that will keep out the weather and be warm enough in winter. This housing can be quite simple as long as it stays dry and is protected from wind and predators inside. Include egg boxes if you have laying hens. The coop should be cleaned out monthly, and clean litter added. Chicken dung creates a great, free fertilizer. If you use the deep litter method, add more litter as needed.
- Proper fencing to keep them out of the places you don't want them, and to protect them from predators if necessary. Many 'town chickens' are simply kept in the fenced yard, although their wing feathers may have to be clipped to keep them flying over the fence.
- Good feed and clean water.
- Daily checks to collect eggs and make sure the chickens have enough food and water. If there are predators where you live, close the coop in the evening and open first thing in the morning.
- Space to roam with dirt to dustbathe and scratch in and safe plants, such as grass, to eat.
- If you want them as tame pets, TLC and enough attention to keep them tame.

Q: Do I need to have more than one chicken?[]

  • A: Yes. Chickens have a strong social structure and will not do well unless they have at least one other companion around (preferably another chicken).

Q: Are chickens dumb?[]

  • A: No. Anyone who has chickens and really observes them knows that they are much more intelligent than most people give them credit for, even those people who observe them in a very scientific way and don't anthropomorphize. Chickens have a complex social structure and countless different behaviors. See: The category on chicken behavior (note: much more info and articles will be added about this topic. Please help the wiki grow by editing or creating a page). "Dumb" is a very relative term, but it's hard to judge the scale of intelligence of any animal, especially if you're comparing them to humans, as many animals are so different in behavior and thinking that comparing them and judging them against human intelligence is very inaccurate.

Q: Can chickens fly?[]

  • A: Technically, yes, although most are incapable of sustaining flight for long, and chickens lack the ability of true flight. As a general rule, the smaller and lighter the chicken, the better and farther they can fly. Small, light varieties such as bantams can fly quite far, and can usually sustain enough lift to fly over fences or up into trees. For that reason, the flight feathers on one or both wings may be clipped (which is as painless as cutting your hair) to help prevent flight over fences.
  • The ancestor of domestic chickens, the red jungle fowl, can easily fly to the tops of trees, although they are mostly ground-dwellers and don't have a need for sustaining flight for long. It's believed that domestic chickens hundreds of years ago were much lighter and much better at flying, but over the years chickens have been bred to be heavier and heavier.
  • The longest recorded distance flown by a chicken is 301 1/2 feet, and the longest recorded flight was 13 seconds.

Q: Will eggs from my hens really taste better than store bought ones?[]

  • A: Definitely. Not only will they taste much richer and better, but they are also much better for you. The yolks of eggs from free-range hens are much darker in color, and, according to A test done by Mother Earth News eggs laid by hens foraging on pasture contain:
  • 1/3 less cholesterol
  • 1/4 less saturated fat
  • 2/3 more vitamin A
  • 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
  • 3 times more vitamin E
  • 7 times more beta carotene

These results come from 14 flocks around the country that range freely on pasture or are housed in moveable pens that are rotated frequently to maximize access to fresh pasture and protect the birds from predators.

As long as you have healthy hens that are allowed to eat greens and scratch in the dirt, and are fed a good diet, you will have eggs almost incomparably better than the average store-bought egg, unless, of course, that egg is from a pastured poultry operation. It is very important to note the difference between free-range and pastured poulty when buying from the store however, as free range hens are usually simply kept in large buildings, not outside. Also, hens that are fed flax, camelina, or canola seed have been found to have eggs much higher in Omega-3 fatty acids. This is not only good for the people eating the eggs, but also good for the embryos of any chicks that will develop in those eggs, and probably good for the hens as well.

Q: How many nest boxes do I need for my laying hens?[]

  • A: Typically, you only need one nest box for every 5-6 hens, as the hens will share the boxes, although having at least 1 nest per 4 hens is often a better ratio; if nests get too overcrowded, the risk of disease can increase.

Q: How long do chickens live?[]

  • A: The life expectancy of most standard chicken breeds can range from 8 to 15 years, if they have protection from predators and hungry humans, although many will still only live around 5 or 6 years. There have been reports of pet chickens living to more than 20 years. Commercial meat chickens only live a few weeks, while commercial egg laying hens are killed or sold when they are only about 12 months old, which is when their egg production starts to decline.

Q: What are the signs of good health in a chicken?[]

  • A: In general:
  • Dry nostrils
  • Bright eyes
  • A red comb (although some breeds have naturally dark combs and silkies often have purple combs)
  • Shiny feathers, unless a laying hen (laying hens' feathers usually become rough as they use up protein for eggs)
  • Good weight and musculature for age
  • Clean vent feathers with no strong smell
  • Smooth shanks - 'bumpy', protruding scales can indicate leg mites
  • Straight toes (although chicks with crooked toes can grow up to live happy, healthy lives, they often aren't used for breeding, as the reason for the crooked toes could be genetic)
  • Alert and active

Q:How many eggs will my hen lay?[]

  • A: This varies from breed to breed and depends on other factors such as age, outside temperature, etc, but a young hen can lay 5 eggs per week during peak laying season. It takes at least 25 hours for each egg to form, and you can expect an egg every 1-3 days (an egg every 1-2 days from a very productive hen, 2-3 days for average layers). Though a hen will continue to lay eggs as she ages, the first 1-4 years are the most productive.
  • Hens will lay less if it's too cold, too hot, they don't have good nesting sites, etc. When hens begin to replace their feathers during what is called moulting twice a year, many will stop laying until they have grown all new feathers; this is normal, but can be helped by giving additional calcium and protein. There are also various diseases or infestations that can affect their laying, like feather lice, etc., which will affect how they feel - that, in turn, affects how well they lay.


  1. Appleby, Michael (2004). Poultry Behavior and Welfare. Cambridge, MA: CABI Publishing. p. 75. ISBN 0851996671. 
  2. The Male Chick of the Egg Industry. Retrieved on 2011 February 25.
  3. Undercover Investigation at Hy-Line Hatchery. Retrieved on 2011 February 25.
  4. Pet Talk: As backyard chickens increase in popularity, roosters' fate is nothing to crow about. Retrieved on 2011 February 25.
  5. Urban Chickens FAQs. Retrieved on 2012 January 11.
  6. Urban Chickens: Transgender Hens?. Retrieved on 2012 January 11.