The 13 Things You Didn’t Know You Wanted to Know About Chickens
Updated: Jan 27, 2019
During the long, cold and dark winter days of 2015, when most Canadians were hibernating inside, binge watching Game of Thrones and counting down the days until the ground hog appeared, I was occupied with fowl thoughts. What kind of fowl you ask? Chickens of course! I spent the winter scouring the Internet for all there was to know about raising backyard chickens and DIY-ing a coop. Fast forward to 2018, we are four years deep into a full-blown love affair with our funny feathered pets that poop out our breakfast every morning! We are proud of our humble flock of 18 chickens who have taught so much more than we knew to ask. And we love sharing what we have learned and answering the myriad of questions that come to the inquiring minds of family & friends. Today, we thought we would share those Q&As with you and who knows…you may be surprised to discover that you too had been wondering that very thing!
Q: What’s the deal with all the names? A chicken, a hen and a rooster? Aren’t they all the same?
A: No my friend, they are not. That is like saying what is the difference between a person, a woman and a man? A hen is a female chicken and a rooster is a male chicken, but both are chickens!
Q: Does a hen need a rooster in the coop to lay an egg?
A: Does a woman need a man to ovulate? She does not! It may seem an odd comparison but hens will lay eggs regardless of whether a Rooster is present it is part of their reproductive system. The only difference is that if a Rooster is not present, the eggs will not be fertilized.
Q: So how does a Rooster fertilize the egg…is there sex involved?
A: It all begins with a romantic courtship…Rooster sees hen, hen sees Rooster, they go on a date, fall madly in love and bam! The magic happens! Just kidding...chicken’s mating ritual leaves something to be desired. To put it simply, the Rooster, not so delicately, leaps onto the hen’s back, she then either tries to shake him off or chooses to accept the advance and lifts her tail feathers to raise her cloaca (the hole where it all happens) to meet the Rooster’s cloaca. And Voila! The whole event is over in a matter of seconds.
Q: Is it true that chickens only have one “hole”?
A: Oddly enough, people who seem to know nothing about chickens seem to know this one fact. I can only attribute that insight to participation in wild trivia nights. But yes, the rumor is true, there is only one orifice, called the cloaca, and everything goes in & out of that one spot.
Q: Do Roosters only crow in the morning?
A: One chilly fall evening, we awoke to the sound of our young Rooster crowing in the middle of the night. Thinking that surely something was wrong and our heroic rooster was calling for backup, we raced outside in our pajamas to come to his aid. Unfortunately, when we opened the door we found him standing there, looking quite pleased with himself, with no threat in sight. This is now a regular occurrence in our little abode and as such, we have invested in soundproof insulation for our coop. In short, they crow anytime for any reason or for no reason at all...
Q: Do you eat your chickens?
A: To us, that is like asking if we eat our dog. It may seem odd to some, but the chickens are just as much part of our family as our dogs and cats. All of our animals will live out their days in our home until they leave us…from natural causes of course!
Q: Do your chickens have personalities?
A: Absolutely! Some are friendly, some are shy, some are pushy, some are clever, others not so much and the list goes on. Watch for future posts where we profile the various personalities that reside in our coop.
Q: What do you do with your chickens in the winter?
A: The same thing you do in the summer…feed them, water them and love them! Chickens actually handle the cold better than the heat. They sleep in the coop at night for shelter and warmth. They will venture outside, although less on particularly cold and snowy days…they handle the cold just fine.
Q: Have you ever had a chicken die?
A: Sadly…yes. It was a hard and gut wrenching lesson we learned early on in our lives with chickens. Chickens have relatively short life spans. On top of that, they have evolved to not show signs of illness until they are very close to The End. This prevents them from being picked on by the other chickens who are instinctively bullies and will attack when they sense sickness or any weakness. As a result, it can be hard to save them when they are ill. We have also lost chickens to predators such as possums, raccoons and sadly our own dog.
Q: Do chickens have a pecking order?
A: Yes, they certainly do! Not unlike the mean girls in high school, chickens’ lives operate on a social hierarchy. In fact, the saying “pecking order” often heard in conversations today originates from chickens. These clever birds establish a dominance order, which translates to who eats first, who hangs out where and who sleeps in the primo spots on the roost. Add a new chicken to the coop and they have to start all over again!
Q: How often do the hens lay eggs?
A: This is a good one…people are always shocked by the laying capacity of a little ol’ hen. Believe it or not, hen’s can lay eggs every 25-27hrs. Now that is not to say that every hen is so generous, there are many variables that impact laying, including; breed, age, health, weather conditions, stress levels, and the amount of light. Whenever we have to do coop renovations, the girls always get stressed out and won’t lay for a little while. In contrary, in the early days of summer, when the days are long and we have not hit the sweltering heat, the girls will lay almost daily.
Q: How do we get the chickens to go inside at night?
A: Thankfully, we do not have to chase them into the coop every night, they instinctively seek shelter once dusk settles in. Our Roosters will often help hustle their ladies in at night. This instinctive behavior is so predictable that we use timers to automatically close the doors if we are not home.
Q: Are chickens dirty animals?
A: Picture this… a dry, dusty dirt bath shaded from the heat of the sun. Can you hear it calling out to you…come, roll around in me! Well to a chicken, this is a prime bath spot! Chickens clean themselves by rolling around in dry patches of dirt, kicking up clouds of dust to disperse between their feathers. It is quite a humorous production to watch. The dirt helps them kill mites and other pests that may be lurking in their feathers.
Do you have a question that we did not cover? Feel free to ask us!