The sky on the horizon begin to fade from black as the sun begins to rise. Outdoor life begins to stir. Soon the local songbirds start their morning chorus. As the sun appears in the now-blue sky, the birdsong is joined by


The backyard chickens say, “Good morning!”

Chickens can make wonderful pets and can be an absolute joy to be around, with their silly movements and squawky voices. They will keep you entertained and provide you with eggs, an eggs-cellent benefit from a pet.

Chickens famously rise with the sun. Even if you don’t have a rooster to cock-a-doodle-doo each morning, your hens are likely to make some noise of their own on occasion. This is one of many reasons why the first step in raising backyard chickens is to find out if your allowed to have them where you live. Check with your local city and county ordinances – and with your Homeowners Association, if you have one – to make sure that chickens are allowed. While they can be great pets, they do make some noise which not all of your neighbors may appreciate. Other concerns include that having chickens may attract predators and/or pests to the area, each of which may cause additional problems if your neighbors live close by. If they are allowed to roam freely, they will also likely do some damage to the lawns, gardens, and flower beds they can access.

Chickens can be very friendly and can even be trained to sit on your lap if you want them to. The more time you spend with your chickens, more comfortable they will be around you. Keep in mind because they have strong and varied personalities. Some chickens will be more friendly, and others may be more standoffish, and that’s okay.

Chickens are social animals. They tend to do best when they are part of a flock of at least three chickens, though more is better. Within the flock, chickens have a distinct social hierarchy, a literal “pecking order.” You will likely notice one chicken emerge as the leader of the flock, eating first and sometimes squawking at other chickens to put them in their place. This is normal chicken behavior and not something you can control. However, if you notice that one of the chickens lower on the pecking order is being injured, be watchful for any bleeding injuries. When chickens see bleeding, they will sometimes peck the bleeding chicken to death as a protective mechanism because they believe the bleeding chicken will attract predators. Topical solutions are available that can be applied to the wound area. It helps prevent infection and also changes the color of the area, so the chickens no longer perceive the area as bleeding. This allows the injured chicken time to heal and to integrate back into the flock.


The breed of chicken that you select will depend on several factors, including availability and personal preference. The breed impacts their outward appearance, as well as their general health, well-being, and temperament. The breed will also impact how often the chicken lays eggs and what color the eggs are.

Add a chart that shows some basics of chicken correct chicken breeds with egg color and stuff like that.

A flock of hens without a rooster will still lay eggs. The eggs just will not be fertilized. Chickens will start laying eggs when they are between 4 and 6 months old, depending on the breed.  Chickens will often stop laying eggs in the winter when there’s less light (if you live in the northern hemisphere. If you live in a place where the light is more consistent throughout the year, your chickens may lay eggs year-round.) It is possible to force your chickens to lay more eggs by increasing their food to a 20% protein variety. However, chickens only have a finite number of eggs that they will lay in their lifetime; forcing them to lay more eggs now means that they will be done laying eggs at a younger age. Allowing your chickens to take the winters off from laying eggs will be more natural to them and also gives you a break from collecting eggs every day.

It is very difficult to tell the difference between a male chick and a female chick until they reach a few months old. If you live in an area where roosters are not allowed, consider starting with older chickens so that you know they are hens.

If you start with baby checks, you will need some special equipment to help them grow and thrive. Baby chicks have particularly need to be kept warm and typically need to be kept indoors for the first couple of months. Having a heat lamp or some sort of heating element that is in a safe is essential. Include a thermometer in the space so that you’re able to monitor and make sure that this area doesn’t get too hot for them. As the chicks grow, you’ll want to move the heat source away gradually, so they still have warmth but can slowly adjust to regular temperatures. Chickens are not likely to be able to handle outdoor temperatures until they are 8 to 10 weeks old.

Baby chicks need special feed and additives for their water that include vitamins and electrolytes to provide them with the nutrients they need.


Chickens spend a lot of their time during the day scratching the ground, looking for bugs and sprouts to eat. In addition, you need to provide them with a commercial or homemade chicken feed that provides all the nutrients that they need. Laying hens need feed that is about 16% protein. Chickens will likely also enjoy vegetable and fruit scraps from your kitchen. They particularly like lettuce and leafy greens (though spinach should be limited), watermelon, pumpkin, squash, corn, and peas. Be careful not to give them apple seeds or bell peppers, which are toxic to them.

Add a list here of food safe and not safe

Chickens will also need access to clean water throughout the day. This can be tricky, as chickens are often quick to dirty water provided in bowls through their scratching and general antics. Consider providing multiple sources of water in different delivery systems. Systems that keep the water off the ground are often most effective for keeping the water reasonably clean. A poultry fountain, for example, can be a great way to provide clean water. Some models include a heater system that keeps the water from freezing in the winter.

Chickens don’t have teeth. They will swallow seeds, bugs, and leaves whole. The food passes into a pouch below their throat called a crop and is stored there until it is digested. Chickens will also eat very small pieces of rock and gravel referred to as grit. The grit mixes with the food in the chicken’s crop. It all then passes through a small organ called the gizzard. The gizzard rhythmically squeezes the food and grit as it passes through, essentially chewing the food up before it moves into the stomach and passes through the rest of the digestive track.

While chickens are likely to find some grit in the dirt around them, you will want to provide additional grit to ensure they have access to enough. Without enough grit, the food can get stuck, resulting in an impacted crop, which can be life-threatening to the chicken.

Laying hens also need a source of calcium in order to be able to form strong egg shells. Crushed oyster shells are a great source. Cleaned, crushed egg shells can be used as well.


Before you get your chickens, you will need to invest some time and money into create a safe place for them to live. Take note of any local rules that might limit the allowed size or building materials.

During the day, chickens should be given access to plenty of open space with dirt for them to scratch in and access to their food and plenty of clean water. Chickens need a safe place where they can spend their time. You may choose to let them have free access to your yard. Be aware, however, that over time their scratching and continual search for bugs will likely result in a lot of damage to your lawn, garden, and flower beds; chickens left in a limited space with any plants will eventually eat everything green, leaving only dirt. Also consider than chickens out in the open are likely to attract predators, which could include hawks flying over, raccoons, and/or your neighbors’ dog. To keep the chickens safe, keeping them in an enclosed chicken run is often preferred. The run needs to be at least 10 square feet per chicken in size; more space is better. The run should include access to their hutch/coop, their nesting boxes, and their food and water. It should have covered section sufficient to provide shade in hot weather and a dry area in rain and snow, and a walled area to protect them from wind, which they really dislike.

The materials that you use for the shelter will vary. Prefabricated hutches/coops and runs are available online and sometimes through local builders, or you can build your own. For the run, using fence posts connected with wire fencing or hardware cloth allows the chickens to have fresh air and light while keeping them safe from predators. Bury the ends of the wire fencing into the ground and line with brick or concrete to reduce the likelihood of a predator digging under. A roof can be made with wood or with plastic or metal roofing panels. Any top sections of the run that aren’t covered by a solid roof should be covered with the wire fencing or hardware cloth used on the sides to prevent the chickens being attacked by predatory birds or raccoons. A dirt floor is preferable, as the chickens love to scratch and dig. Small gravel can also be used in areas that tend to get muddy. Avoid using most types of sand in the run. Sand that packs together, such as playground sand, can be dangerous for chickens. If they swallow some and it packs together, the sand could result in an impacted crop, which can be fatal.

Chickens don’t need much in the way of nesting boxes, which is a place for them to lay their eggs. If you don’t give them a designated place to lay eggs, they’ll make one on their own, but this may result in you playing hide and seek or having to crawl into small spaces to get the eggs. Often hutches or coops are built with nesting boxes attached, which can be really convenient for both you and the chickens. This allows the nesting boxes to be off the ground, making the chickens feel safer and making egg collection easier.

Nesting boxes are typically about 12 x 12 x 12 inches and covered for protection from the weather. You’ll need one box for every 2-3 chickens. The boxes can be lined with straw or pine shavings for the chickens’ comfort. Chickens are very habitual animals, so once they begin using the nesting boxes, they’re likely to lay most of their eggs there. You can encourage them to start using the boxes by placing a ceramic or store-bought egg there to show them what the space is meant for.

Chickens also need access to areas of loose, dry dirt to use as a dust bath. They use dust baths to keep themselves clean and to cool off on hot days. Dust baths are essential for chickens. If a dust bath area isn’t provided for them, they will scratch up an area of dirt and make one for themselves. You can enhance their dust bath by adding organic peat moss to the area. Adding a small amount of diatomaceous earth to the dust bath can help with preventing mites and bugs on the chickens’ skin, but use sparingly and mix it in thoroughly with the other dirt.

At night, chickens will need some sort of hutch or coop in which to sleep. Most often, hutches are simply made of wood. They are typically built up off the ground to help the chickens feel safer, and the space underneath gives them extra place to play and hide from the rain.

Chickens like to sleep on a roosting bar, which can simply be a wooden 2 by 4 across the center of the hutch about 10-12 inches off the ground. Chickens feel safer sleeping up off of the ground. The hutch should provide a minimum of 3-5 square feet per chicken and needs to be ventilated; chickens release about 75% of their waste while they sleep, so ventilation is essential so they don’t have to breathe in the fumes of their poop. Set a flat plywood board underneath the roosting bar. Then use a cat litter scoop or small, flat shovel to scrape the poop off of the board and into a bucket each morning. Put it to your compost bin. Added to yard waste, this will make a wonderful compost for a garden.


Generally, most varieties of chickens do well and cold weather. They have a thick layer of feathers to keep them warm. They need to have a roof to keep them dry and walls to keep them out of the wind. When they sleep, they will huddle together to keep each other warm, so insulating the coop and/or providing a heater are unnecessary unless the temperatures in your area drop and stay below 0° Fahrenheit for extended periods of time. Using a heater can be dangerous to the chickens because it makes it harder for them to naturally adapt to the cold they’ll be out in during the day, and heaters are a fire hazard. In areas with a lot of wind, wrapping the entire run in clear painters’ tarps or plastic can be an effective way to allow the chickens to have plenty of space to play while keeping them protected; be sure to leave some small open areas for ventilation and fresh air.

Feeding the chickens cracked corn can be an effective way to warm them up. The corn requires a lot of energy to digest, so as it sits in their crop and works its way through their system, it heats up their body. The crop can act as the chickens’ own little internal furnace.


Hot weather is much harder on chickens. They are pretty much wearing a down coat all year long, which makes hot temperatures a challenge for them. Chickens can typically handle temperatures up to 90° F if they have adequate shade and water.

If it gets above 90° F, the chickens are going to need some extra help. Deep shade is absolutely essential; giving them a way to get out of the sun and into a cooler area will help save their lives. Make sure that they have access to multiple sources of clean water that is refreshed each day. Provide hydrating, cool foods such as cucumber, cantaloupe, watermelon, and iceburg lettuce.

Chickens don’t like being wet and soaking them will actually interfere with their natural ways of cooling their bodies. However, there are two ways to use water to help them cool off. First, chickens cool off their bodies through their combs and their feet, so providing a shallow wading pool area (basically a puddle) where they can cool off their feet can be beneficial. Also, water misters can be helpful if they are used in only a small area of the run for limited amounts of time, just enough to add moisture to the air without soaking the area.