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Chicken Basics

A flock of healthy chickens

A flock is a bunch of chickens.  A Pullet is a female chicken under one year of age and a Cockerel is a male under one year of age.  A Hen is a female over a year old and a Rooster is a male over a year old.

Chickens live in flocks and establish a "pecking order" — an order of dominance/importance. Birds that are higher in the pecking order get priority food access and nesting locations.

Removing birds from a flock will disturb the pecking order temporarily. Adding to the flock, especially younger birds, will also disturb the pecking order and can lead to fighting and injury (or on rare occasions death), if not done properly.  You should avoid adding growing birds with adults.

Do not house chickens in facilities used by another flock until the facility has been cleaned and disinfected.

Chickens are susceptible to worms and should be routinely de-wormed.

Most hens prefer to lay eggs in nests that already have eggs in them. Occasionally, this results in hens trying to lay on top of each other if the nest is small.

Chickens lay eggs of different colors. The colors do not affect the nutritional value of the eggs, but the chickens' diet does affect it.

You can tell whether an egg is fresh or stale by dropping it in water. A fresh egg will sink, but a stale one will float.

Chickens lay eggs only after receiving a light cue, either from natural sunlight entering a coop or artificial light illuminating a commercial egg hatchery. The light stimulates a photo-receptive gland near the chicken's eye, which in turn triggers the release of an egg cell from the chicken's ovary.

A single hen can produce between 250 and 300 eggs per year.

Fertilized eggs take about 21 days to incubate and hatch.

Baby chicks need heat to thrive.  Hang a 250 Watt heat lamp over the brooder and observe the chicks behavior.  Cold chicks will huddle together below the lamp while hot chicks will spread away from the lamp.  Chicks that are comfortable will move around happily.