Chicken Questions and Answers
I get a lot of emails – mind you, don’t we all nowadays? – anyway, I thought it might be worth sharing a couple of the questions I get and my answers.
We’ve got a small flock of 4 hens at the moment and they give us about 3 eggs a day on average. Some days it’s just 2 eggs and some days 4 eggs but the average is 3. Quite what happened and how we got 5 eggs one day is a mystery though. This brings me around to a question from a cross new keeper about how many eggs to expect from her flock.
I bought 3 hens at point of lay. They didn’t lay any eggs at first but after a few weeks we started getting some eggs. Some days we get 3 eggs but often just 2 and even just 1 egg in the morning. Surely they should be laying 3 eggs a day? Do you think we should complain to the breeder?
First of all, the term ‘point of lay’ means that a young hen is near the point where she will start laying. It’s not a totally exact term, if the hens are quite young there may well be a few weeks before they start laying.
You seem to be expecting your hens to lay an egg a day but even the best hybrid layers cannot do that. A lot depends on the breed and the strain – a top laying breed can produce around 320 eggs a year under ideal conditions but some pure breeds may lay nearer 200 eggs or even less per year.
There’s a lot of things that can affect egg laying; time of year, weather, feed and age of the hen being the main things. Hens aren’t machines, they’re living creatures and, just like people, they vary individual to individual.
So no, I don’t think you have any reason to complain about your hens. They sound as if they are laying as expected. There’s more on the site about this here: How many eggs will I get from a hen?
If you need more eggs than your hens are giving you, why not add another hen to the flock?
Finally, don’t forget that your hens will give you a lot more than just eggs. Take some time to appreciate them and they’ll give you a lot of pleasure.
Cat food for Chickens?
Having had the chooks wander in through the back door and happily tuck in to the cat’s food, this email struck a chord.
My chickens are moulting and my neighbour, who also keeps hens, said I should feed them cat or dog food to help them re-feather quickly. I thought chickens were vegetarian so is this a good idea?
First of all, chickens are omnivores – not vegetarians. Naturally they will eat a wide range of foods including insects, meat from various sources, vegetation, fruit and seeds. We jokingly call our hens our little velociraptors as they’ll attack, kill and eat a mouse if it crosses their path.
Ideally a laying hen should get just under 20% of her food in the form of protein and meat is a good form of protein. When in moult and re-feathering additional protein will help her in this.
Whilst feeding a little cat or dog food to your hen may provide extra protein, I would strongly suggest you don’t just give them a tin. Most cat and dog food will contain chicken meat. That includes fish and other meats like beef. Often the small print will just say ‘animal derivatives’ which includes chicken.
Whilst your hens will relish eating the cat food, do you really want them being cannibals? There’s something basically wrong in the idea of it.
You can get a tin of tuna cat food that is just tuna or a tin of tuna and give them a protein boost with that. They also love pilchards, sardines and mackerel fillets – especially in tomato sauce.
Please be aware that in the UK it is now illegal to give kitchen scraps to your hens – unless you’re a vegan household. DEFRA seem to think that giving meat scraps to hens will cause disease problems although this practice went on for hundreds of years without problems.