By Adrian Higgins
Q. Do hens need a rooster to lay eggs?
Q. How often do chickens lay?
A. A well-fed hen usually lays one egg per day.
Q. Do chickens lay year-round?
A. Typically, no. Egg production falls off as winter approaches and resumes in the spring.
Q. Are chickens noisy?
A. Only when alarmed or laying an egg.
Q. How long do chickens live?
A. About seven years.
Q. Do chickens lay eggs their whole life?
A. They are most productive when they are 2 and 3 years old, and then laying declines markedly.
Q. Where do you get chickens, and how much do they cost?
A. They are available from Amish and other rural farmers markets as well as from breeders advertising on the Web. Laying breeds such as Rhode Island Reds or Sex-links, as opposed to fancy breeds, typically cost between $5 and $15 each. Buy chicks that are old enough that their sex is apparent so that you don't unwittingly purchase a rooster.
Q. Are chickens good for the garden?
A. Yes and no. They will scratch garden beds, dislodge plants and eat seedlings. But they will devour bugs and slugs, and their manure and bedding make great ingredients for the compost pile.
Q. How do you protect chickens from predators?
A. Both the hen house and run should be fenced with chicken wire and covered with netting or wire to prevent hawk attacks. Raccoons and foxes will dig to get into coops, so you will need to bury the fence at least 12 inches.
Q. Do chickens smell?A. If the coop and run are left uncleaned, yes. Occasional removal of droppings and placement of fresh bedding (pine shavings work well) will keep the hen house odor-free.
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