Chickens 101

Welcome to chicken keeping! You'll find that chickens are easy to care for and are charming company. They provide eggs, bug control, and very amusing antics. In exchange for all of this, they only need their basic needs met. You can keep chickens with about 15 minutes a day for maintenance.

Chickens come in a wide variety of colors, sizes, and personalities. They range from the tiny (less than two pounds) to the massive (twelve pound roosters). The personalities range from game birds that are very aggressive to gentle lap chickens that enjoy hanging out with their keepers. Rent A Chicken NH provides only hens from breeds that are known to be good layers. Breed descriptions are available on the Our Chickens page to help you pick which is the best match for your needs. Do you want lots and lots of eggs, or is a calm personality more important?

Hens are talkative, but not particularly loud. They cluck, make a chirrup sound, an alert squawk, and some will even growl if they're defending a nest. Generally, your neighbors won't even notice them. The noise is reserved for the roosters. If you spend enough time with your birds, you'll start to pick up what some of the sounds mean. They'll have a sound for "food!" and you'll learn to look up if they sound an alert and freeze. The girls have good eyes and will alert for anything that might be a predator, especially hawks.

Despite some rumors, chickens are not vegetarians. They are omnivores that will eat a wide range of things: plants, seeds, insects, even frogs and small rodents. They need to be provided a varied diet. All coops come with basic crumbles, but the birds should have access to leafy greens and other treats. An easy way to manage this is to give them time in the yard or to move their coop to fresh grass that they can trim down and fertilize. Chickens are surprisingly good hunters and we've seen ours running across the yard with frogs and mice on many occasions. If you have a tick problem in your yard, let chickens take care of it. They will appreciate the protein and are very effective. Either run them in a fenced yard or move their coop around the property daily to keep the ticks at bay.

Chickens are social animals and must be kept with at least one other chicken. They will pine and stress if alone. With a pair of chickens that know each other, it's usually very peaceful. One is dominant, one is submissive, and they hang out together. With more birds, the pecking order gets more complicated. With space and plenty of opportunities for food, groups will sort themselves out. Hens will peck each other to assert dominance with the submissive bird lowering her head to show that she submits. This is normal and not something to break up or worry about. Unless there is an injury, leave the birds to sort out pecking order issues on their own.

On the average day, you can spend about 15 minutes with your chickens. They will need their food and water checked. They should always have access to fresh water, crumbles, and oyster shell. Eggs need to be collected daily. If you are moving your coop around to provide access to fresh grass, you'll need to take a few minutes to do that. Once a week, the bottom of the coop needs to be cleaned out and the shavings replaced. The waterer also needs to be cleaned once a week. And that's about it!

Despite all of the jokes about dumb chickens, they are intelligent and need mental enrichment. They're not going to win a trivia game show, but they do get bored and do need things to do. If you move your coop around daily, they will amuse themselves scratching up bugs and greens for most of the day. If you have a secure yard (no dogs or cats, ideally fenced), letting them out to range will be a great way for them to get exercise, manage insect populations, and add to their diet. You can also hang up a head of lettuce as a toy to keep them busy. Dumping yard clippings and leaves from yard work into the run can keep them very busy, picking through it for goodies and bugs. It's a form of composting as well as entertainment for your chickens. Consider giving them access to a pan of sand or dust to bathe in. They'll appreciate it and you'll enjoy watching their antics.

Chickens are active, charming animals that can be quite funny. They will come running if they think you have a treat and can be taught to come when called. In the yard, they will hunt and peck with gusto for hours. If one finds a treasure, the other will chase her and try to steal it. Hide any fruit bushes, because they love anything ready and will try to steal it, even hopping up and down to reach treats that are just out of reach. "Chicken TV" is a great benefit to keeping chickens.