What to consider before getting chickens

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In Utah it’s generally accepted “that which isn’t prohibited is lawful”. Unfortunately roosters are generally prohibited in Residential zones. Layton’s ordinance allows for hens (and only hens), though “dependent young” are usually seen as exempt from the regulation — until they start to crow. So, ix-nay on the oosters-ray, per ordinance. Your laws may vary. Make sure you check and understand them before you invest much time, effort, or dollars into chickens.

One you’ve figured out if you can have chickens the next question is usually if you need a rooster. Roosters, just in case you don’t know, won’t lay eggs, but are they required for hens to lay eggs?

  • Once sexually mature, the average female human will “lay an egg” about once a month.
  • Once sexually mature, the average female chicken will “lay an egg” about once every 26-28 hours (depending on breed).

Chickens, just like humans, don’t need a male to “lay eggs” — only to fertilize them. Also, nesting hens don’t lay eggs until their chicks have hatched and are old enough to take care of themselves (basically when they have full feathers).

An interesting side-note about not having a rooster: one of your hens will become a “rooster”. She will “rule the roost” and won’t lay any eggs. Many beginners will slaughter this chicken (sometimes named “Stew” or “Pot Pie”) because she’s “unproductive”. Unfortunately, the next one in the “pecking order” will then become the “rooster” and will stop laying eggs. It’s just something hens do.

It’s likely that you’ll want to order chicks from your local farm supply store in the spring. You can find people selling “mature” hens almost any time of the year, but they’re usually significantly more expensive than buying chicks (sometimes upwards of $10 to $20 per bird). Stop and ask yourself, why is this person getting rid of their hens? How old are they? Generally speaking, if someone else doesn’t want the bird, chances are you don’t either.

Chicks take about 8 months to start laying eggs. In other words, don’t expect any eggs the first summer. It’s probably going to be late-Fall or early-Winter before you’re going to get eggs, and then only if you provide them with a light on a timer so they get 15+ hours of light per day (they’ll usually stop laying if they get less).

I’ve got some hens that are laying. I got them early this Spring. They’re White Leghorns, and once they get laying, boy do they lay! They’re also quite jumpy and “flighty”. I trimmed their wings 5 times and they were still roosting on the top of the fence between me and my neighbors!

I had “Ugly Chickens” (a cross between a White Leghorn hen and a Rhode Island Red Rooster) and Rhode Island Reds previously. They’re bigger birds (and require more feed in the Winter) than Leghorns, but they’re much more content to be on the ground and not hopping up on anything and everything — you’ll probably want to keep them penned up rather than letting them have the run of your yard. Rhodies and Ugly Chickens are said to do better in colder climates because of their size.

Oh, and since you were wondering:

  • White Leghorns lay white eggs.
  • Rhodies lay brown eggs.
  • Ugly Chickens lay light brown eggs.

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