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Some Questions & Answers asked about chickens

Is it necessary to have a cock bird to encourage hens to lay eggs?

No, it isn't! This is a commonly held old belief, but there is no truth in it. A hen will lay eggs when her system is mature enough and when the daylight hours are increasing. A male bird will react to a female only when she has started to lay, and is required only when breeding is to take place. Commercial egg-laying flocks never have a cock running with the hens.

What's the difference between a hard-feathered and a soft-feathered breed of chicken?

Game fowl are described as hard-feathered breeds because they have close-fitting, smooth plumage. This would obviously have been advantageous to fighting birds in the past, before cock fighting was declared illegal. All other chicken breeds are said to be soft-feathered because they have looser, fluffier plumage. The degree of fluffiness varies according to the breed, with some exhibition birds having far more than normal.

How does a chicken pee?

It doesn't - at least not in the way that it?s normally understood. The urine does not emerge separately from the faeces. It travels from the kidneys down the ureter tubes to the cloaca. Meanwhile faeces pass from the large intestine to the cloaca. Both are then ejected from the vent. The urine is the whitish part of the droppings.

What are the advantages, or otherwise, of hybrid chickens over pure breeds?

Hybrids lay more eggs so if this is an important consideration, they would be the choice. They will also have been vaccinated against some of the more serious poultry diseases. (Some large breeders of pure breeds also vaccinate their birds. Check this!) Hybrids are generally cheaper than pure breeds.

The pure breeds are much more colourful than most hybrids, with considerable variation in size, plumage patterning and other characteristics. In that sense, they are more interesting to keep and if bred from will produce offspring like themselves. If they are good examples of the breeds, they can be exhibited at poultry shows. By keeping pure breeds you are also doing your bit to conserve the old breeds, many of which are quite rare.

How much food does a chicken require each day?

This will obviously vary depending on the size of the chickens and on the weather conditions. Large birds eat more than bantams and all of them will need more in winter to cope with the cold weather. As far as the average chicken is concerned (an average chicken is taken to be a commercial laying hybrid)the following applies: 130g proprietary layer's ration per day; 20g of grain per day.

Again, bear in mind that these amounts will vary considerably depending on the conditions.

How much water does a chicken need to drink?

Nearly 70% of a hen's weight is water, while an egg contains around 65%. In normal conditions, the average hybrid hen will drink 200ml of water a day. In hot weather this can more than double. A water shortage that continues for up to five hours causes hens to eat less. In layers this has the knock-on effect of producing smaller eggs. A shortage of water can also trigger an egg-eating habit as the thirsty bird looks for an alternative source of moisture.

How many chickens are needed to supply eggs for a household?

Three hybrid layers will provide enough eggs to supply the average household.

What should chickens be fed?

Give them layer's pellets in the morning and some grain such as wheat in the afternoon. They should also be provided with insoluble poultry grit for breaking down grain in the digestive system, and crushed oystershell for strong egg shells. Put these in a container from which they will help themselves occasionally, as needed. They will not take more than they need.