6 Things About Chicken Keeping I Didn’t Know Before Getting Hens

Answering your most pressing questions about chicken keeping!
6 Surprising Things about Chicken Keeping You Should Know Before Getting a Backyard Flock!

I can alllllmost feel spring in the air and to me that means one thing: getting more chicks to add to our flock! Last year’s chicks are nearly a year old if you can believe it. If you’re considering getting chicks or chickens this spring, I thought it would be a good time to share some of the unexpected things I’ve learned along the way. Chicken keeping is definitely a learning process that I am still figuring out (and probably will always be figuring out). But I love it and find it to be so good for the soul.

6 Surprising Things about Chicken Keeping You Should Know Before Getting a Backyard Flock

Chickens are fragile

Not only does everything want to eat them, chickens can be pretty fragile. Some breeds, like Polishes, are more fragile than others so be sure to research your breeds. But I’ve had to deal with so many random mini disasters: a prolapsed vent, an egg bound hen, mites, and who even knows what else. I’ve made a chicken first aid kit and it’s come in pretty handy!

Their poop is full of nitrogen

For some reason, I didn’t research this before I got hens, but apparently chicken poo isn’t a good fertilizer or good for compost because it’s very rich in nitrogen. I recently learned that while planning my new vegetable garden here at the cabin. It explains why I see everyone out here with ducks instead!

Chickens will eat anything

Speaking of gardening… I had grand visions of digging in my gardens while chickens pecked the ground around me. In hindsight, that is comical. Chickens can be really destructive to garden beds and plants! Not only do they eat pretty much anything, they also scratch up roots and plants. I don’t even know how many lavender plants they’ve ruined. I lost count years ago.

Chickens also take dirt baths, which means you’ll find approximately 900 ankle-deep holes in your gardens and yard if you’re not careful! Now that I’ve learned, I always have a wire fence around my garden beds.

They don’t lay in the winter

This one is dependent on where you live and how much sun you get, but here in the Pacific Northwest it matters! We did not get any eggs from late November until about two weeks ago. The ladies simply were not getting enough sunlight to produce! I know there are tricks you can do to encourage them to lay during the winter (like heat lamps), but I’d rather just let the girls be au natural. Especially because ‘forcing’ them to lay would shorten their lifespans.

That being said, once they do start laying again, it happens FAST. We went from finding one egg two weeks ago to now 5-6 eggs a day.

They sing a song when they lay eggs

I love chicken sounds. Nothing makes me happier. So I was surprised when I learned that they sometimes have an egg laying song! Sometimes it’s the hen that’s laying singing, but other times it the rest of the hens. When it’s the latter, I like to pretend they are encouraging the laying hen and playing doula.

Some chickens will snuggle with you

I love pretty much all animals, but I had emotionally prepared myself for aloof chickens. A few of our girls are really docile and sweet though! They are even down for a good cuddle sometimes. Surya Bonali, my speckled Sussex, is a really good example. When I visit them, she runs to me and expects me to rub under her wings. She will even sit on my lap and just hang out. To get to this point, you really need to handle them a lot when they are younger. It’s work but I recommend it if you want to have super-friendly chickens.

6 Surprising Things about Chicken Keeping You Should Know Before Getting a Backyard Flock!

If you have chickens, I’d love to hear what you learned that was unexpected. Even though we’ve had them for nearly 4 years, I’ve learned so much and continue to learn more!

Photography by Jojotastic of our chicken yard at the old bungalow — read more about our coop + my Cutest Coops review here.

Behind The Blog

Joanna Hawley-McBride is a Pacific Northwest-based social media strategist, content creator, and former textile designer. Joanna is the founder and editor-in-chief of Jojotastic, a lifestyle blog focused on Joanna’s work-in-progress cabin, finding the best pair of underwear through #UnderwearThesis, and empowering women to explore nature — all in her signature unfiltered style. Her work has been featured in Domino, CNBC, and Eating Well.

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