Lesson 297 – Common mistakes made with chickens

A friend of mine (hi Holly) who is writing a book has a main character who needs some help with taking care of chickens. Holly asked me what some of the more typical mistakes someone who didn’t know a thing about chickens would make. As I was writing up her answer I thought it would make a terrific post.

So here you go, Chicken Raising 101 – Things you shouldn’t do (because I’ve already done them and they don’t work). Some of the most common mistakes made when getting chickens –

  • Buying every reference book out there. You really don’t need to know everything and guess what? Chickens have been around for ages. They are pretty good at taking care of themselves. One reference book or special issue magazine is good. If you have a computer, Google is even better – you’ll be able to find anything out that way (if you do have one check out BackyardChickens.com (BYC) you should take a few hours and meander through their forums) The magazine Backyard Poultry has good information as well as delightful articles about chickens (you’ll learn how to take care of a broken leg). If you are really stumped, most if not all states have a Cooperative Extension where you can ask specific questions about agriculture and livestock (that includes chickens). In New Hampshire, I’ve contacted the Coop several times for help on chicken articles and they have always been quite friendly and extremely helpful.
  • Likewise buying top of the line fancy equipment. Chickens need food and water. Plastic works as well as high tech. Other than a large feeder and waterer, the only other fancy piece of equipment we have is a water heater (it goes under the metal water can to keep ice from forming in the winter) and a 100 watt light bulb that we use in the coop when the temps go below 0 degrees.
  • Thinking your chickens are like puppies. They are not. Chickens do not need toys. You’ll just be wasting your money and spraining your ankle when you step on the discarded ones in your yard.
  • Not protecting the flock, thinking that they will be okay at night is a big mistake. A few of my friends have gotten burned with this one. We have dogs, weasels, coyotes, raccoons, an occasional bear and of course Fisher Cats in our neighborhood. Chickens allowed to roost at night in trees or roost in large open barns (instead of locked henhouses) are usually called dead chickens in the morning.
  • Thinking that you need a rooster to get eggs – you need a hen to get eggs – period.
  • Thinking that you need to “keep them warm” in the winter. Not true. Chickens are outdoor birds, you need to protect them from the wind but you don’t need to provide heat for them (as stated above, we use a 100 watt lightbulb on the very cold night but to be honest, I think it warms our hearts more than it warms the chickens). An insulated, heated henhouse is New England talk for a foolish waste of money.


Filed under All things chickens, Backyard Chickens, chicken care, Chicken talks, New Hampshire, Project Chickens before the Eggs, The Chicken Challenge

8 responses to “Lesson 297 – Common mistakes made with chickens

  1. Hey sis: I really like this post. This must be brass tacks and truth week or something, but its honest, cost effective, and gives us great information–even if we don’t raise chickens! Thanks! Peg

    • Wendy Thomas


      There are just some truths about chickens. You really just have to protect them and give them food and water, they’re pretty good at figuring out the rest.


  2. You should add: if you are going to eat some of your chickens, don’t give them names.

  3. am looking for good chickens,all decorative should be,thanks.

    • Wendy Thomas

      Well now is certainly the time to get chickens, try your local feed store, Chicken swaps, and even Craigslist.


  4. Chickens do not need toys

    Again (being a difficult person) I will mildly disagree a bit.

    I bring them worms and grubs and beetles and all sorts of interesting things to chase and eat. I’ve also been doing some mad scientist experimentation along the lines shown in the following video:

    For that matter, none of us should underestimate the resourcefulness of the hens in finding their own toys. Even as I was feeding a hen slugs, she dashed off suddenly and ran off with a full-grown mouse in her beak, instantly pursued by her sisters. I distracted the other hens with some oat candy so the great hunter could have fun shaking and pecking the mouse to death. Is that a good toy, or what?

    Of course, from the mouse’s point of view, fun with cats or fun with hunting hens, is not very mus musculusly correct. I imagine from a carrot’s or cabbage’s point of view, even vegans are crude and cruel.

  5. I should say, for full disclosure, that the video is pilfered via Google and not our little spread, though apparently the location is about half a day’s drive from us.

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