Introduction to Keeping Chickens Part 5 of 5


A photo of Melissa CaugheyToday, I am sharing the conclusion of my five part series in getting started with backyard chickens.  Raising chickens has been a very easy experience.  I would highly recommend it to everyone that is interested.  It is addictive and provides fresh eggs for you and your family as well as many other life lessons.  Spring time is almost here and so are the chicks at your local feed and grain stores.


Most pullets will begin laying eggs around 20 weeks.  However, don't be surprised if you are waiting until 6 months of age for your first egg.  Larger breeds take longer to get there.  Remember, you will need one nesting box per four chickens.  Often, one box turns out to be everyone's favorite.  It is not uncommon that I find two chickens in the same box laying eggs, while the other boxes remain empty!

Once chickens reach 20 weeks of age, make sure that you have plenty of calcium available to your flock.  This will help the chickens create nice strong eggshells.  Some individuals even refeed the chickens' egg shells back to them.  Spread the egg shells on a baking sheet.  In an oven on low, dry the egg shells to remove the moisture.  Once removed from the oven and cooled, gently crush the egg shells into small unrecognizable pieces.  These can now be re-fed to the chickens.

Sometimes, though rare, you will find that one of your girls becomes egg bound. This can happen for a number of reasons. The egg becomes stuck in the vent and you will need to assist the egg out of the chicken.  If you can visualize the egg, you can help.  Wrap your chicken's head and body in a towel, keeping the back end exposed.  I find this keeps the chicken calm.  With some Vaseline, gently lubricate the egg and try to coax it out of the vent, taking great care not to break it.  There are techniques available as well if you cannot visualize the egg.   After success, you will see that the vent area will have pink tissue exposed.  The vent is prolapsed.  Apply some Neosporin and if severe, Preparation H to the vent area and place the chicken in a dark (does not stimulate egg laying) warm place to rest. Be sure to provide food and water.  After a day or so, return her to her flock.  Hopefully, the next egg she lays will be easier for her to pass.


You will find that your chickens love to eat kitchen scraps as well as tasty findings around the yard that they discover on their journeys.  Once pullets reach egg laying age, they should be eating layer grade food.  Roosters are fine to eat layer pellets.  It does not harm them in any way. 

Chickens love to eat apples, berries, breads, broccoli, corn, cucumbers, lettuces and greens, melons, oatmeal, rice, squash, zucchini, grapes tomatoes and pumpkins. Chickens should NOT EAT salt, citrus, processed foods from the kitchen, potato peels, avocados, sodas/carbonated beverages, chocolate, coffee/coffee grounds and onions.  They should also avoid greasy foods as well.  Kitchen scraps should always be fed in moderation.  The chickens will lay best if they primarily eat their layer pellets.  Here is a more thorough list.

Smoky Mountain Rain
5/19/2013 1:32:21 AM

The expense for us was not the chickens but the coop, pen and additional things. We started out with two hens and recently added 4 more. One of the first two (which were 2 yrs in Feb) went into "broody" last November and is still there. She could set a world record for the longest time setting, but she helped keep the other hen warm last winter. What causes long months of broodiness? No rooster for miles.

Joni Krieg
3/8/2013 3:04:35 PM

After chicks are hatched, how do you determine if they are male or female? soon after hatching can you determine this?

Alice Hess
3/1/2013 4:53:21 PM

Put a bit of vics on tail and wing feathers and it will stop real fast.

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