Friday, July 17, 2009


Mad City Chickens is a wonderful resource. I have copied many of their Frequently Asked Questions, edited to include the City of Columbus, to share with you.

Don't you need a rooster in order to get eggs?
No, a hen will lay eggs regardless--they just won't be fertile eggs.They still have the same nutritional value as fertilized eggs. Most of the eggs you buy in the store are unfertilized.

Are chickens dirty animals? Do they smell?
That will depend on the caretaker. Just like any other pet or animal, they need care--cleaning out the dirty bedding in the coop, keeping it dry and having a clean/dry area of sand or dirt for the birds to take dust bathes in. These practices will all help to keep your birds happy, healthy and odor free.

Will having chickens in my backyard attract rodents?
It is food that attracts rodents, not the birds. If you have wild bird feeders in your back yard, you run the same risk. Keep all feed in metal garbage cans, with secure lids. Feed birds in small doses, so as not to have a large amount of food left over. If you feed your birds scraps/ protein, make sure it is eaten and not left in the bedding.

Do hens make a lot of noise?
Ask any child "What does a rooster say?" and they will throw their head back and give you all they've got! But the hens, they are a different story. They usually make a soft, contented clucking sound--until they lay an egg. Then they get very excited and proud and will squawk for a few moments and then settle back down. They do not make a ruckus in the morning like their male counterparts and they are fast asleep in their coop by the time the sun goes down. Unlike the neighborhood dogs or cats!

What are the regulations for the City of Columbus,WI ?

Sec. 14-7. Keeping of animals.
No person shall keep, sell or offer for sale any horses, cows, pigs, goats, sheep, bees, rabbits, chickens, geese, ducks or other fowl, or any domestic animal, except as provided in section 14-11, or construct or use shelters therefore within the city without the authorization of the city council. Applications for permits shall be made to the clerk. This section shall not apply to the keeping of small caged birds, small caged animals or reptiles or aquatic and amphibian animals, kept solely as pets.

How many eggs will a hen lay in a week/year? When do they start to lay eggs?
A typical hen will start to lay eggs at about 6 months of age. The eggs will start out small, then get increasingly larger. During the first year of laying, the hen (if she is a good egg producer) will lay one egg, almost every day. The birds will then go through a "molt" in the late fall/ winter months and stop laying. Then they will start again in the early spring. You can encourage egg laying through the colder months by keeping a light on, inside the chicken coop. As the birds get older, they will start to lay fewer and fewer eggs. I had a chicken that was at least 5 years old, and she would give me 1 or 2 really big eggs a week.

How long do they live?
Well I guess that depends on who you talk to--Most farmers who are in the egg producing business will say 2 years. Those who are in the meat producing business will say 6 months--Those who keep birds as pets (with names) or who are not interested in maximum production of eggs, will find that chickens can live up to 8 or 10 years. It is your choice whether you want to keep a bird that long, and if not, there are local farmers willing to take in older birds (or there is always the "stew pot").

Do they need a lot of space?
Poultry Coops can fit into just about any size backyard. For 4 hens, a 3'x4' Coop plus a "run" (a place for them to scratch around) that is roughly 3'x8' is more than adequate. Most commercial birds are placed in cages (6-8 to a cage) where they can not turn around. You, on the other hand, will have very happy birds. "Chicken Tractors" are another option. They are portable coops that can be moved over the yard or garden plots, to give birds fresh bugs and greens--this also is a great way to mow the lawn!

Can I use the chicken manure in my garden?
Chicken manure is high in nitrogen, so it is considered "hot". It will need to be composted before putting it directly onto your garden. once it has broken down, it then becomes perfect food for the garden.

What do chickens eat?
They will eat just about anything! There are commercial poultry foods available at local feed stores, or you can make your own mix. People feed chickens corn, oats, wheat, rye, soy, fresh greens from the garden (weeds as well), table scraps (they love spaghetti!), worms and other bugs. The local grocery stores and markets often have vegetable scraps available. Variety is the key to good health, just like us!

What do you do with them in the winter?
They can live quite happily, through the coldest winter, if they have an insulated coop or a light inside their coop. The smaller the coop, the easier it is for them to keep it warm. Birds can get frostbite. Birds with large combs tend to be more susceptible. Also, some breeds are just hardier than others.

What do I do about freezing water in the winter?
Cherrie Nolden has several suggestions:
(I'm sure other people have other good ideas but these are all things we have used successfully)
get a small heated dog dish
use a bird bath heater in a dish
use a tough rubber 2qt feed pan. Stomp the ice out twice a day or put the bird bath heater in it
make your own small heater base with some heat tape and an old pot
wrap heating tape around the lid of a metal water font
shine a heat lamp on the water container

Are chickens safe from cats and dogs?
The key to safe chickens is a sturdy, impenetrable coop. Raccoons should be more of a concern, they are such clever, determined critters. .Make sure the structure is secure (enclosed top, fencing buried below ground under the sides, secure latches on doors or other entryways), keep all birds locked in at night, letting them out into the run or "tractor" only during the day. My cats have always been interested in the birds, but with a healthy respect for them--Dogs will chase the birds, if they are left to roam. If you let your birds out, please keep them under supervision at all times.

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