Pet Chickens



Chickens take the most work when they are young. After the first 2 months, they are not much work at all.

A common problem with young chicks is something calling PASTING. This is when their poop sticks to their bottoms and dries. This can SEAL their vent and your chick can die a painful death. To avoid this, chicks need your help, frequently check the bottoms of your chicks and use some warm water on a paper towell to wipe the dried or crusty mass from their bottom. Be gentle, their bottoms get red and sore. If you notice this is happening to a particular chick often, keep a close eye on her. But cleaning when needed often resolves the problem.

If you are not feeding them a mash that has antibiotic in it, you may want to go to a local feed store and pick up some antibiotic liquid to add to the waterer. A bird with diarrhea may need some help to fight off the bacteria that is making it sick. If it's something contageous, you'd want to be extra careful and give the antibiotic to all of the chicks before they all got sick.

We decided to give our chicks the antibiotic mash when they were young. This goes out of their system by the time they are laying so there is no antibiotic getting into their eggs like there is in store bought eggs.

All chicks and chickens have a CROP. This is a ball-like protrusion on the right side of their chest where they store the grain and food they just ate. The NEED GRAVEL to process this food. Supply gravel at all times. This can be put in a bowl next to their feed. You can use gravel that is sold for Parrots, it is a common product and is sold in any store that has a pet supply department. If your chickens have a yard to hang out in, and if there is ample gravel and dirt in the yard, then you may not need to supplement with gravel. Free Range chickens are the happiest of chickens. No creature likes to be caged.

Female chickens are called PULLETS until they start laying and then they are called HENS. They start laying between 4-6 months                                There is really no way to determine the sex of a chick. The best way is to wait until they are several months old and observe their behaviors. Cockrels (young roosters) will engage in some head-bobbing behaviors with other cockrels. That is one sign that both of the chicks who are standing-off against each other are males. Usually the combs (top of head) and wattles (hanging red cheek flaps) of roosters will begin forming sooner than the hen's combs and wattles. The cockrels will show the color red sooner then the hens. But I've found that in some breeds, the hens combs start earlier than others. I just observe their behaviors.

Eventually the cockrels feathers will become more colorful, and it's a sure thing when they start crowing. Hens do not crow.

Out of 12 chicks, 3 of ours turned out to be roosters. Some people enjoy the sound of crowing so much, that even if they don't have hens, they want a rooster in their yard so they can listen to the crowing. We were able to give one of the Australorpe roosters away to a responsible home where he is treated well. We have kept the other 2 roosters.


Chicks eat Chick Mash or Chick Crumbles. But their diet can be supplemented with fruits and vegetables. The bagged feed gives them the nutrition they need to grow into strong and healthy hens and roosters.

Chickens love almost any green vegetable and most fruits. Foods to avoid are spicy foods such as garlic, onion, hot peppers. These can change the taste of the eggs. Chickens may not like something that is first introduced to them, but when given to them again, it is more familiar and they eat it.

The shape of the food may make a difference also. If you have some carrots that you want to feed to them, they may not like them sliced or chopped, but they may love them if shredded.

Don't feed chickens anything that is bad or rotting or moldy.

DO NOT feed chickens potato peels. This can harm your chickens.

My chickens LOVE bread, tortillas, rice, wheat berries. I've fed them flax seed and parrot food. They love sour cream and yogurt and it's so funny to see the roosters with their big wattles smeared with the yogurt they love so much.

To help them pass the time and give them some nutrition also, you may want to suspend a head of cabbage from the roof of their coop. This gives them something to peck out. Hang it so it's just above their eye level, or just lay it on the ground, they will peck at it and eventually consume it.  



Chickens can live for many years. In the past, I had chickens that layed into their 5th and 6th years. I have read that chickens can live and lay when they are 10 years old. They are their most productive when they are young. Ranchers had told me that once a chicken had been traumatized, for instance, a dog or coyote injured them, that they would no longer lay. This is not true, with some tender loving care, all of my injured chickens resumed laying eggs.



Of course it's of the UTMOST importance to protect your chicks and hens.     When I got my 12 chicks last year, I had 8 cats and 2 dogs. It's helpful to introduce the cats to the chicks, letting them know that these are YOUR pets. But cats will be cats and they can't resist a chick the size of a sparrow.  Please protect the chicks, they are truly dependent on you to protect them from harm. They have no way to protect themselves. In the wild, the female hen stays with her chicks and wards off danger.

Look at the design of our chick cage to see how we used screening to keep the cats out. Since the cats saw the chicks (but could not get to them) and the cats watched the chicks grow, now my cats mix freely with the hens and roosters. The dog nudges the roosters to get to some goodies I may have thrown down on the ground. Everyone gets along.



Hens do not need roosters in order to lay eggs. The eggs you buy in the supermarket are unfertilized eggs. This means that there was no rooster in their crowded little cage to inseminate the hen. The eggs taste the same. The only difference is that the unfertilized egg will not hatch into a chick. 

Vegans prefer unfertilized eggs. There is no chance that the hen's genes and the rooster's genes have begun the journey of dividing that eventually forms a embryo that becomes a chick.

Some people believe that fertilized eggs are healthier because they contain both the female and male genes.
To my knowledge there is no proof that one is healthier than the other, that one has more of less cholesterol than the other. Certainly there is no difference in taste.

Chickens are relatively quiet. If you live in an area where roosters with their crowing at dawn (or pre-dawn), and numerous times during the day, would not be welcome, then you can have hens and eggs without complaints from your neighbors.

Some people think that chickens with all of their poop would attract flies and other bugs. Chickens are bug eating machines. If even a bee flies through their coop cage, they are practically climbing over one another to try to catch the poor guy. They love finding grubs in the dirt and will eat anything smaller than themselves. 


Chickens love treats. As I've said before, do not feed them potato skins and strong spicy items like garlic and onions.

TREATS THEY LOVE - rolled oats, quick oats, seeds of all kinds, chopped apples, cabbage, lettuce and other greens, bread of all kinds, torn up tortillas, cereals, marshmellos, pears. You can feed them flax seed and then their eggs will contain increased Omega 3 Fatty Acids. They enjoy yogurt, sour cream and will even sip from a bowl of milk. Dry catfood provides chickens with protein.  

Scratch is a chicken treat that helps them maintain body fat and temperature in cold climates or cold times of year. Scratch is a combo of cracked corn, millet and other grains.

Every morning I mix a cup of assorted items, dry catfood, oats, chopped apple and bring it out to them. They look foward to this and surround me waiting for their treats. This also trains them to eat softly from my palm.