8 January 2009

The Biggest Kitchen Table - keeping chickens

We'll start our kitchen table talks today with the topic, chickens in the backyard. I want to encourage you all to get involved in this, learn a useful skill, or contribute to the discussion, just like you would if we were all sitting around a kitchen table with our cups of tea and coffee. This talk is aimed at those folk who have never kept chickens before, want to, but haven't got much of a clue about their care and needs. I hope all of you who have experience with chickens join the table and help pass on the necessary information to the novices. Those of you with no chooks, please add your egg recipes.

I'm still not entirely sure how these talks will go. For the time being, if you want to ask a question, simply write it in the comments and I'll answer what I can or pass it on to our other experienced chook people. If you want to write your own post and show us your chickens, do that and give me the link to your post in my comments. You will have the weekend to add to this. I'll add all the links to my post soon after they turn up and we can all tour around reading what everyone has to say. On Monday morning, I'll do a followup.

The vast majority of chickens are hatched in Spring and Summer. Day old chicks are often available for sale but when I'm getting new chooks, I usually go for point of lay pullets that are between 18 - 22 weeks old. They will start laying a couple of weeks after you buy them. When you buy point of lay pullets, they will have been sexed and you'll get only hens. When you buy day old chicks, they won't have been sexed and you'll get approximately 50/50 girls and boys.

If you intend buying chickens, you need to have their housing ready before you bring them home. You MUST provide safe housing. There are a lot of predators around - dogs, foxes, feral cats and other wildlife that will wander in under the shadow of darkness. When you bring them home, lock the gate on their coop and leave them to settle in. Don't let them out to free range for at least a week - during that time they will learn that is their home. When chooks know their home, they usually come home to roost when the day light starts to fade and usually you don't have to go looking for them.

This is Margaret Olley, my favourite chook. She's a buff (that's the colour) Sussex.

Most local authorities will have a bylaw about the keeping of chickens. Where I live we can have up to 20 chooks and the chicken coop must not touch a neighbours fence. Please phone your local county, shire or council to ask about their regulations before you buy your chickens, or Google "chicken regulations ......." and add your town to the Google search, instead of the dots.
Brisbane area regulations
US regulations.

Chickens need a place where they feel safe and can lay their eggs. One nest per five chooks. We have four nests here with 11 chickens but we usually have at least one chicken broody and taking up a nest all the time. If the nests are high off the ground, you'll need to provide a little ladder or steps for the chooks to reach the nests.

Click on the photo to enlarge it. This is our set up. We have a hen house with a lockable enclosure attached to it. That is all fenced. There will be times when you need to keep one chook apart from the rest. When that happens, we put them in the lockable area attached to hen house - that is directly behind the lemon tree. When that area is not being used, we make fast compost in there. I'll write about that again another day. You can see the gate to the hen house is open. We close that every night.

Your ladies will sleep on a roost. That is a horizontal bar, like a small tree branch. The higher up the chickens is when they go to sleep, the higher up in the packing order they usually are. Generally your topchook will be up on the top roost at night.

Photos of chicken tractors.
Hen houses.
How to build a hen house.
Info on housing chickens.

Some chooks are flighty, some are very placid, but overall, chooks don't cope with stressful situations very well. Here is a handy guide to chicken breeds - I hope you get pure breed chooks. This chart will also tell you whether the chickens are suited to hot or cold temperatures. We have a mix of Sussex - one buff, one silver, one salmon Faverolles, two Rhode Island Reds, one New Hampshire, two Australorps, one Australorp cross, one buff (the colour) Orpington, and one barred Plymouth Rock.

If you live in a city, you may only be able to find crossbreed chooks like Isa browns. These are a hardy type of chook bred for the caged industry. They'll lay well, at the expense of going broody, which a lot of people like. They generally don't live as long as pure bred chooks.

The smallest number should be two. Solo chickens are sad birds. However, there will be times when you have to isolate your chooks and keep them on their own, generally chickens prefer to be with other chickens. However, having written that, we used to have a chook called Jewels - a golden Hamburg, who hated being with the other chooks and always sat with the dogs. Your chooks will know the other chooks by sight and when you want to introduce new chooks, the older ones will give them a hard time.

Get the number of chickens you have room for. We have 11 here and we get about 8 eggs a day. A little flock of three or five girls will give enough eggs for a family of four or six.

When you bring new chooks home, and you already have chickens, isolate the new birds, but put them where they can see and be seen by the other chooks. Keep them isolated for a few days. This will help them assimilate and when you let them out together, there will be less pecking.

Pecking each other to establish pecking order is natural behaviour for chickens. Don't intervene unless you can see an open wound or blood. Then you'll have to remove that chicken until she has healed. Chickens can be vicious if they see blood.

From my experience, about ten years, give or take. Cross breed chooks, generally eight years. They will continue to lay eggs up until they die but when they're very old, you will only get about one egg per two months.

We have found over the years, that if you get a flock of say eight or ten girls, in five years you'll have maybe six or seven.

Chooks must have clean water ALL THE TIME. Get into the habit of giving them clean water every second day, or daily if they drink a lot. If you have bought day old chicks, they're need chicken starter crumbles, if you have point of lays they'll need laying pellets or laying mash (mash is a combination of grains). Or you can make your own mix. If you intend to supplement their diet with greens from the garden, or kitchen scraps, start this early as they get picky later and will stay with what they know. Chickens are omnivores, they eat meat, grains and vegetables. They love cheese, yoghurt, whey, sour milk and milk. They need a high protein diet to produce eggs constantly, if you have chickens that aren't laying give them a boost with some day old bread soaked in milk or porridge made with milk. They love this and will see it as a treat.

If you have grain like wheat or barley, sprouting it for the chickens gives them a good nutritional boost. Simply soak the grains for a couple of hours in a large flat container, or upturned bin lid, pour off the excess water and keep the container in the shade, covered with a cloth. Wet and rinse the grains every day and drain off the excess water. When the grains sprout, feed them to the chooks.

This is good natural supplement to help keep the hens' calcium level up. Either buy shell grit (at your local feed store where you buy chook food) or keep the shells of your own eggs and wash them out so they don't smell. When you have quite a few, put them in the oven, on a medium setting, for 10 minutes to dry out. When they're cool, put them in a blender and blitz them, or crush them inside a tea towel with your rolling pin. Store in a jar. The crushed shell powder can be added to the chook food as a calcium supplement.

Your chickens will be healthier and will give you better eggs if you let them free range. When chooks eat grass, they will have Omega 3 oils in their eggs, this is a great bonus for you and anyone eating the eggs.

Another little thing to keep your chooks healthy is to add some "real" raspberry cordial, with at least 25% real juice, or squashed frozen raspberries or jam to their water every so often. Read about it here. This is also a good treatment for diarrhoea (in chooks and kids).

Raspberry Cordial recipe
2 cups crushed fresh or frozen raspberries
Juice of one lemon
1½ cups sugar syrup
8 cups of water
Bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes. Cool, then decant to clean bottles. Store in the fridge for up to two months or freeze.

To a bucket of water, add about two tablespoons.

You will know your ladies are maturing by their comb and wattles - the red bits on their faces. The comb and wattles will get larger and redder as they get close to laying. Depending on the weather, each hen will lay about five eggs a week, in the first year. It will decrease every year after that. They will stop laying when it is very hot or very cold and when they're moulting (replacing their feathers). When your girls first start laying, they might lay an egg with no shell or an egg with two yolks. The eggs usually start off small and get bigger as the hen matures. When the hen's hormones have settled down, you will get one ordinary egg with shell in tact.

Collect the eggs once a day. Your girls will usually lay in the morning. Don't wash the eggs, as that will remove a protective layer on the shell. If the egg is dirty, rub it with a cloth and remove as much dirt as you can. If you still need to wash it do so, but use that egg next. Don't let it sit in the fridge.

Eggs should be stored in the fridge, in an egg holder, so they don't roll around. There will be regulations on selling eggs in most places. We sell our eggs to friends and neighbours for less than they would pay in the shop. We put that money into the feed we buy.

If you have a dedicated hen house, it will need to be cleaned out at least every week, depending on the number of chickens you have. Laying straw on the floor will help with the smell in wet weather, this straw can be placed on the compost heap after a couple of weeks. Don't expect your coop to be sparkling clean every day, it is outside and in a natural setting where wind will blow dust in and spiders will spin webs. It does need to be fairly clean and not smelly but it's not your kitchen.

Hanno has attached our roosts to the roof so when he cleans the coop, he simply attaches the roosts to the roof with a clip and can easily clean the floor.

If your chickens have lice - and it will happen from time to time - get some food quality diamateous earth and this will get rid of them. You can also rub it on the chooks, make sure you rub under their wings and around their comb and wattles. Read about chicken anatomy here.

Pure breed chooks will go broody. They want to hatch eggs and become mothers, but unless you have a rooster that will not happen. Hens don't need a rooster to lay eggs but they need a rooster to fertilise them. When our chickens go broody, we let them, unless they sit there for too long - over a month - and start losing weight. Generally they'll sit for a couple of weeks, hoping you don't see them, and they'll be in the darkest nest. Just put your hand in and collect the eggs every day as you normally would. If you don't want the chook to sit on the nest, you'll have to lock her our of the nesting area, but even then, she might find another dark place in long grass or in the hay bales and keep sitting. They do no harm sitting, we feel it's best to just let them sit.

This is Heather, our little French hen. She's a Faverolles - salmon coloured. She is broody almost all the time.

You will notice that I've not written about cold weather chickens, I have never kept chickens in a cold climate so I hope that our friends and neighbours in colder areas will write about that on their own blogs and give me their link so we can visit to read what has been written.

Please also write a post on your own blog is you want to add anything or if you do things differently - that's okay. This is just my version of keeping chooks. Again, post the link here so we can all read what you have to say.

I'm sure I've forgotten a few things. If you want to add anything, either comment, or write a post and let me know your link. I'll add all the links to my main post. As readers come through, they can tour around, reading our posts and adding comments as they go. Please use the biggest kitchen table banner if you want to, just click on it and "save as". Adding it to your own post will be a visual sign that you are part of the kitchen table discussion.

If you want to be a part of this, but don't have chickens or know how to keep them, please add your favourite egg recipe and send me your link. I'll include that in with the general mix of this.

Readers, as you read, please add your comments to give feedback and to let the writer know you've visited. Comments encourage posters to write more.


Darren at Green Change writes about his plans for a chicken ark and where to buy chicken tractors (in NSW). Thanks Darren, you have a great site.
Thanks for the egg recipe, Emma @ The Berry Patch
Homehandymum at Adventures in Sideways Living has post and photos here of a chicken dome
Linda at Remote Treechanger hasa photo of her empty chook house and written her Sausage and Egg Pie recipe here.
Chookie from Chookie's Backyard has written a backyard chook primer here.
Donetta shows us her chickens, chook tractor and some recipes at A Life Uncommon.
Yategirl @ Kitchen Garden in the Suburbs joins the table with her photos of her chook house and chooks. She also writes about chook noise, which is an important piece of info for new chook owners.
Hana has shared a cake recipe on her blog Marmota B. Thanks for joining in, Hana.
You can see 25 lovely bugg Orpingtons over at Andi's To Be Quiet blog.
Amanda shows us how chickens and small children mix together quite nicely. Amanda's blog is You Reap What You Sow. How true!
Cyn shares her experiences with her flock at Yes Lord. Thanks for joining Cyn.
Leanne from At the Good Life shared her story of chooks and her rooster, Rory. It highlights the benefits of keeping a good rooster.
Stacey at One step at a Time writes that she's not offering much at the table, but I think she is helping build a stronger community AND she found someone who sells 'traditional and rare breed' Chickens in Wiltshire and has included plenty of egg recipes here
Linda has some fabulous photos of her Plymouth Rocks on her blog, Locust Trail Homestead, including a very handsome rooster. Welcome to the table, Linda!
Tricia at Little Eco Footprints has posted about her mixed flock of very pretty chooks. She shows how well a small number of chooks fit well into a small backyard.
If you want to read about breeding chickens and hatching eggs, go to A Joyful Keeper to read Joy's very interesting post. Thanks for joining us, Joy!
Cryptstitch has written about her very unusual white crested black Polish chooks here. Seeing the different varieties of chickens always amazes me.
Shelle from Brand New Ending promised to write about her little flock of bantam Rhode Island Reds, and she's done just that right here. It's well worth a visit.
Rose has joined us to tell us about her rescue chooks, and later, her tiny chicks. Wander over to Coastal Rose and read about her experiences. Thanks for joining the table, Rose.
Marita at Moderately Me shows us a photo of the most Australian of scenes - a chook house next to a fruit tree. Ours is near lemon, Marita's might be a lemon or an orange. Thanks for taking part, Marita!
Nell, I apologise. I did read your comment but forgot to answer it. We don't test our eggs, I don't think there is a regulation to do so here. We've kept chooks for 25 years and have never been sick after eating their eggs.
Lucie from Touchatou has written a wonderul post, in English and French, about her chooks and the wonderful winter house her husband built. Thanks for pulling up a chair at the table, Lucie.
There is a long and interesting post from Morgan at Growing in the Fens about their progression from a few chooks to 43. She's had chooks for eggs and the pot and there's a lot of information there. Thanks for joining in Morgan.
Alecat at Serenades and Solace has written about going from a chook dome to a rectangle chook run. There are photos of chooks there as wll as one of a great chook feeder. Thanks for the post, Alecat.
Linda has a delicious and simple egg recipe at her blog, Rebel Pigs. Thanks for joining the kitchen table. Linda.
Leanne At the Good Life, has written about what she is doing to stop a chook from eating the eggs in the nest. Very interesting. I hope it works, Leanne. Thanks for joining in.
The last post is a wonderful one from Michelle at You Just Gotta Keep Knittin'. Michelle writes about the "joys and realities" of keeping chooks. She has some wonderful photos and a great chook house. Thanks for joining the table, Michelle.
And one I missed, sorry Toria. At Unfinished Business, Toria has written a post about her chooks and ducks. There is information about building chook houses, with links, a book recommendation, photos and a recipe. A very interesting post. Thanks Toria.
Check out Rina's very interesting post at Into Still Waters about modifying rooster behaviour . It's well worth a visit.
The Thinker @ Thinkers Rock has written about how she keeps chooks using the knowledge her grandma gave her.

Can anyone help Melanie find pure heritage chickens in eastern Canada?

A View from the Green Barn is not officially part of the kitchen table but if you have a wander over there you'll find a lot of info about chooks, and they have just bought a new fangled automatic egg turner. Crikey!

Totally off subject but, here is some good info about dairy produce.



  1. Dear Rhonda,
    Thank you so much for such as informative post. You mentioned that your faverolle was broody nearly all the time. Is this typical of this breed? I've been working my way through the hen house sites. Loved the old clothes dryer as a nesting box!!!
    I've learn't so much this morning.

  2. Hi: I'd like some tips on keeping chooks in a colder climate than Rhonda's....northern England, and ask how did folks deal with having a persistent fox around? Other than battening down the chicken coop, plugging holes, etc? Also, what is your favourite cold weather breed, and does anyone have experience with silky Bantams?


    Anna Marie of the bread

  3. Good morning Anita. According to the Henderson's chicken guide (the link is in the temperament and laying capacity section) they can be prone to being broody. Heather is suck a pretty chook though, there is a photo of her in my sidebar - she has feathered legs.

    Hi Anna Marie (of the bread), I'm sure someone will answer your questions soon.

  4. Hello Rhonda Jean,
    We've never kept chooks and all I know about them you've already mentioned... naturally. :-) So I think it's my turn to write an egg recipe. I'll do that tomorrow on my blog and post a link here.

  5. Hello Ladies, I have yet to develop a post on what I have learned.
    I live in the U.S.A. In a small town in the Phoenix, Arizona area.
    In this town we are allowed 10 chickens within city limits no roosters though. I received 10 banites from a woman who rescued them. 4 of the ten were roosters, we took them to a feed store and they received them to pass on to other farmers.
    I have 6 now 5 of them are laying I think? It is still hard to know. We built a chicken tractor.
    small but wonderful eggs!

  6. Awesome article, Rhonda! Lots of great info in there.

    Just in case any of your readers are interested in smaller-scale backyard chicken keeping, I've got a couple of useful articles on my web site about chicken arks (AKA chicken tractors).

    Plans, photos, ideas and inspiration:


    Where to buy ready-made chicken tractors in Australia:


    We're planning to upscale from our tractor to a full run later in the year (as always, a few other jobs need to get done first). Your article is going to come in really handy when the time comes.

  7. minervabird, I've got two black silkies (as well as a cuckoo leghorn).

    They are very placid and quiet, great with kids. They're not great layers. Mine are yet to come into lay (they're taking a long time!), but the breeder said we could expect 50-100 eggs per year each from them.

    Silkies are apparently very prone to going broody, which is why their annual egg count is relatively low. They are supposed to be great for raising other hens' eggs, for example if you want to raise chicks for meat.

    Our silkies don't scratch through scraps on the ground or dig for worms anywhere near as much as the leghorn. They seem content with just nibbling. They also don't get through very much kitchen scraps - they were piling up in the tractor before we got the leghorn.

    Hope this helps!

  8. Thanks for the info, everyone.

    Donetta, your laying chooks will have bright red combs and wattles. Before the chooks start laying, the pink bits on their faces are small and pale pink.

  9. Hmmmm The reasperry thing is new to me.
    I thin k our 9 gals would love it.
    We just recently had a hen on 12 fertile eggs and she gave up just5 days prior to hatching! ugh!
    I would love to get some more fertalised eggs if I can find someone who has a rooster and try again.
    We too have a permanently broody hen.
    The old farmers say to put them on a meche or dunk their bottoms in cold water ifyou want to break their broodiness.
    When broody they don't often lay so you are down an egg too.
    But we just leave our broody gal to it.
    We get snow in winter and they still go out for a fossick.
    I want to groww in pots some silverbreet for them in their run.They are'nt locked up often except at night and then not happy so that may be a nicen treat to have in their.
    My gals also only sleep in the nesting box....They will not use roosts!
    Silky bantums I grew up with and they were delightful to keep.
    Smaller eggs and less messy birds and lovely temperaments,Great for suburban backyards.
    Well my novel is finshed now1 lol!

  10. Thank you Rhonda for such a great post. I'm new to keeping chickens, but I'm really enjoying it. I too, am interested in learning about keeping hens in a colder climate. I'm worried about the upcoming winter and the dirt that's fast going to turn to mud in my hen run. Because our vege garden isn't completely fenced off yet, I can't let them out unsupervised at the moment to free-range.
    Also, I have heard that some people use a disinfectant spray to clean their hen house once every 6 weeks or so. Is that really necessary? Or is a good broom just as effective?
    Rachel L
    P.S. Baby still to make an appearance. :o)

  11. Hi Rachel, baby must be close. :- )
    You don't need disinfectant. We just sweep and hose (from our tank) and throw in a bit of DE, when it's dry, if there are lice around. If you have a problem with a particularly dirty pen, add some soap and tea tree oil to your bucket of water and scrub with a broom.

  12. admittedly i only skimmed this, but this is one of your best-ever posts. i will most certainly be referring back to it when i get the space to have chooks someday! thanks as always for the invaluable passing-down of information that will still be extremely valuable in the forseeable future for us younger folk out there!

  13. Love the consolidation of information in one post! I've never kept chooks, but my parents did, and I would love to do it myself. A couple of questions I have - do you have to do anything to stop chooks flying away? - I vaguely remember something about "clipping their wings". Also, does anyone know why they lay eggs all the time, even when there's no rooster around? It doesn't seem quite natural...

  14. Great informative post Rhonda. I will be back sometime over the weekend with some pictures of our set-up & details of where we our point of lay chooks in Sydney.

    Anne Marie - according to one of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstal's River Cottage episodes, putting human hair into old stockings & tying them around your hen yard will deter foxes.

  15. Dear Rhonda, I love the kitchen table idea.
    I like to give my chooks (1 Rooster,8 Hens) garlic a few days per/mth a natural alternative to commercial wormers. I am wondering if it deters lice too, touch wood we've never had them. Maybe I have just been lucky.
    Not to fussy about how I feed garlic. All I do is throw 2 cloves into their water dish for 2-3 consecutive days per mth. Some of the chooks like it so much they will pick the whole clove out of the water. I also feed Apple Cider Vinegar the same way. I have never had trouble with the health of my hens & they always lay well.

  16. We live in frigidly cold Nebraska, USA. It's a bit more work to keep the chickens warm here in the winter. We broke down last summer and insulated our coop. It didn't cost much at all as we only had to buy the insulation. We "finished" the interior walls with old plywood we kept after we had our roof re-shingled, that way the hens can't get to the insulation. We keep a thick layer of prairie hay (just tall grass, cut and dried) on the floor and make sure their nests have plenty of hay. We keep a heat lamp going in the coop and also have a warmer to set their waterer on to keep it from freezing. I lock them in at night. I let open their coop in the morning so they can scratch around in their little "yard." I make sure they always have something a little green every day. In the summer I will shred and freeze zuchinni and other squashes in individual containers. THis way I can thaw them overnight and take it out to them in the morning. They LOVE this. I save most of our vegie and fruit scraps for them also. It's a bit harder to clean the coop with so much hay in it. I just rake it out of the coop as best I can and into their yard. I then can wheelbarrow it out of the yard and into the compost pile. We had a flock of 30 hens but our dumb dog broke into their yard and desimated our flock down to 7. I was sick. We just got 20 more last week from a local lady and they are settling in quite nicely. I have all Rhode Island Reds. Good luck everybody!

  17. I don't have any chickens yet, but I want some!

    Thank you for a most informative post! I plan to refer back to it again and again when I get closer to getting my own "girls."

  18. Rhonda,
    This is a terrific post, great information! I recently got 3 chickens in my small surburban back yard. A Dominique, a Partridge Cochin, and a Red Sex Link. These came already hand raised from our local 4H club. Kids who had completed the poultry course and moved on, and the chickens needed homes. They are tame and friendly with my two toddlers, and we get two to three beautiful eggs every day. Neighbors love the novelty and the eggs! I can't tell you how lovely it is to look out and see them pecking around the yard. In the winter, I've been keeping them in my basement in a large dog crate with a perch. They will get to sleep outside in a converted rabbit hutch with run, when it warms up. One thing though, they dig BIG holes and all my remaining lawn has disappeared!

    A question if you have time, how big is your hen run and area for free ranging, Rhonda? I'd love to add a couple of more chickens to my flock, but I don't want my whole yard to turn into a dustbowl.

    Great table talk!

  19. what a wonderful post! I've been longing, simply longing to keep chickens.....

    It is NOT aloud in the town we live in.....Dreadful!

    With the 3 kids and doing all the meals from scratch we go through 18-24 eggs a week!

  20. What a great idea, and, eventually, a great resource for would be chicken owners! Thanks Rhonda for starting it. I got my chicks as babies last March - 5 girls and a boy (because the neighbours looked sad when I said I wasn't intending to get a rooster; what a switch from the usual) - and highly recommend the experience. They didn't start laying until July, but what fun they were (and still are) in the meantime. I have 2 New Hampshires, 2 Easter Eggers (though only one lays green eggs), and the rooster and remaining hen are Silver Spangled Hamburgs - very pretty. They have a secure house and small run, and are let out to free range for several hours every day. The eggs are wonderful. BTW, for those unsure about this, think of egg-laying as ovulating (which it is), rather than having a baby - women also ovulate on a certain schedule, even when there is no man (read "rooster") around. The guys, either human or fowl, are only there for the baby part, not the ovulation :-).

  21. Kristina,

    I live in Wisconsin, USA and am interested in having a small flock, but am concerned with the winters.

    Do your hens go out in the snow? Do you have to shovel their yard?

    I am debating about the heat lamp and water heater cause I am such a stickler on electricity. If I could get a solar powered coop I would be all for it!

    We get a lot of snow here, sometimes a foot a day. I just have visions of chickens with frozen feet or being prisoners of their coop for six months.

  22. hello everyone,

    one thing i found when looking for chickens is i could not find where i could buy any. i could find day olds at pet shops and common sorts of hens however i found it very difficult to find pure breed hens.

    I have a few wellsummers, some pekin bantams. My wellies are great layers and lay very light brown eggs. They never go broody at all which is great. I find my little pekins reguarly go broody.

    The little bantams however are fantastic out and about in my garden. They do not dig up as much when they are free ranging.

    I would love a receie for egg mayonaise as i have an over loads of eggs at the moment. Sometimes 5 per day.

    Cheers Donna

  23. I Forgot to add to my last comment that this web site has a notice board where all breeders of rare birds ect can adveritse. for Austrlian residents.


    For anyone looking for hens.
    Cheers Donna

  24. Great information! You said the lifespan of chickens is about 8-10 years and I have read that they decline in laying after the first two years. My question is, if you have limited space (and a city quantity limit), what do you do with a hen that stops laying or lays very infrequently? We want them mostly for eggs (pets for my son as well) but I can't get myself to butcher one for stewing. Just wondering what other people do when you are limited with quantity and want to get the best egg volume. Also, we live in the Midwestern U.S. which can have some brutally cold winters. I have read about the method of heating your coop by using their manure and letting it compost (therefore releasing heat) by layering it with certain products (straw, diatomaceous earth, or something). Does this really work to the point that you don't have to heat your coop or is it just as a supplement to a heater? I want to get pullets this spring and this information is very helpful! Also, one last note - anyone have any experience with chickens and dogs? Do they seem to get along - I know that is highly subject to what kind of dog but any advice for introducing the two? Thanks.

  25. Hi Rhonda,

    I don't have chickens - yet, but I have joined the table by posting about why I don't have any yet as well as our favourite egg recipe.

    I would love any suggestions too.


    BTW - hope I have linked to your post properly. Let me know if I haven't.

  26. Very good post Rhonda!
    We have a flock of around 25 chickens which consists of a mix of Buff Orpingtons, an Araucana, Cuckoo Marans, Bovans and a couple of other types.

    We sometimes sell our eggs but end up keeping most of them because we are a big family of ten and it takes 28 eggs just to have enough for us all during one meal!

    For Marg, I clip our chickens wings to keep them from flying. Once you clip them, it won't need to be done again for six to eight months. And only clip one wing. I found that if I clipped both wings they still somehow managed to fly, but with just one wing clipped they were too unbalanced to fly.

    And the hens will continue to lay without a rooster, because of the way their reproduction system works. As long as they have a sufficient diet their body continues to produce eggs. Although some hens do stop laying in the winter because of the darkness.

    Country Girl,

    p.s. I love your little Faverolle, Rhonda! Too cute. :)

  27. I live in an apartment, so unfortunately can't have chickens yet. But can't wait to have chickens and ducks in a couple of years, after Matt is finished with his MBA. Here in Seattle, it's legal to keep chickens in the city, and both Seattle Tilth and the Seattle Free School offer classes on chicken keeping.

    This is a great idea, btw. Love the kitchen table conversation!

  28. Can you post any information about worming? I love your site with so much information. Pat from Central Texas - proud owner of 9 hens and 1 rooster.

  29. Hi everyone,
    I just want to add that I absolutely love my chickens, I got them purely for eggs but they make lovely pets. I got them from Dave the Chicken Man at Rentachook in Sydney - its a try before you buy scheme. We are allowed to keep a reasonable number of chickens, no roosters and they have to be 4.5m from any dwelling, ours or the neighbours.

    We will get more chickens in the future, maybe some bantams or silkies.

    Cheers Deb

  30. You could add a Mr. Linky to your post, then people could add their own links & you wouldn't have to update... just a thought. I enjoyed your chicken post. We're getting some guinea keets & some chicks when spring arrives!

  31. onemotherslove, thanks for the suggestion but I don't like mr linky and prefer to check all the links before I add them. What are Guinea keets? Enjoy your chicks when they arrive!

  32. Hi all, great post again Rhonda! We hkeep several breeds of chicken - Australorp, Ancona, Gold Lace Wyandotte and silkie bantams. To the commentor that asked about silkies, they are lovely chooks and I think we'll always keep them. They lay about 10-12 eggs then go broody so I am always chucking them out of the nests. The best way to "cure" a broody hen is to put her in a small cage, somewhere where it is light (though not in direct sunlight of course). Leave her there for a few days and she'll come out of it. I've also heard that it is good to elevate them on a mesh floor if you can, to get some airflow under their wings which reduces the temperature there and stops them being broody too. Silkies are funny little creatures who don't seem to like roosting (ours sleep on the floor) and would be particularly susceptible to fox / dog attack as they can't see much with their fluffy headdress and can't fly well either.

    I also use both garlic and apple cider vinegar to keep my chooks healthy. Garlic should be given at the full moon to help treat worms (worms are more active at this time). The other thing I find helps with pests is after cleaning out their house and nest boxes I spray all the surfaces with a dilute mixture of tea tree oil and water. I also mix lavender in with their straw (purported to repel bugs & smells very nice!) as I have a lot of lavender growing!

    Hope this helps


  33. Thanks heaps for this post!! We are in the process of building a "Linda Woodrow" chook dome, (downsized a bit) to house 2 to 3 hens which we will inherit in a week or so. I'm very excited :)

    I plan to print out the whole post, because although I think we've got the accommodation mostly sussed, I worry that I'll miss some vital detail before my ladies actually arrive.

    To see a step-by-step of our chook dome being built, start here
    making a chicken dome, day 1

    While researching coops, I found this site here, showing a henhouse in the snow. Looks cozy. sugar mountain farm

    Thanks for your wonderful blog
    homehandymum in NZ


  34. We live in Colorado and have some pretty cold weather here. Right now we have 11 Buff Orpington hens, no roosters. This is down from 26 due to some coyote action. The coop is heated with a red heat lamp all winter which just seems to be a necessary if you raise chickens in a very cold climate. The red color of the lamp is more calming for the chickens - they don't peck each other at all - and in order to keep some egg production going in the darkest winter months a little light suplementation is a good. thing. We put the waterer right in the circle of heat during the winter so it doesn't freeze. The henhouse opens out to the hen yard which is fenced. During the winter I open the gate for them to roam only on the weekends as it's too dark to do this when we get home from work. I feed them lots of greens, apple peels, cottage cheese, bread ends - just about everything except potato peels, and things that might pass through and affect egg taste - in addition to layer mash and grains. In the spring, summer, and fall, of course, they roam and eat grass, bugs, and garden leftovers. I love the Buff Orpington breed - nice big layers and so pretty! They're also known for their broody qualities. I order more day old chicks every couple of years - our attrition rate is high due to foxes and coyotes but I can't stand to see them cooped up constantly. A good project for us would be to build a portable pen to move around the place - then the girls could have their greens and the coyotes wouldn't be able to snatch them up. Eat the rabbits! eat the rabbits! you darn coyotes. I'll try to get some photos of the "winter chickens" this weekend and post these.

  35. I saw Emma's post and I have added a recipe and shown my as yet empty chook house. Suggestions welcome.

  36. After my earlier comment...Guess what my hubby came home with???
    12 feratlised eggs for the broody gal.
    I haVE MOVED HER TO OUR OTHER RUN,In the hope she will sattle on them and stay and then her and babies chicks can live in their and free range through the day. but she ain't happy??
    Any ideas anyone?
    So does anyone know hoew I store or can I store fertalised eggs to use as a broody occurs???
    As often timing a chook going broody and actually getting my hands on some eggs is difficult.
    Hmmmm Been offered a rooster wondering if I should take him,We are on 6 acres...
    Any advice would be great and any linkks to chook blogs too.
    Email me if you prefer

  37. So I've had chooks for over two years now but I just learnt several things. like homemade shellgrit - of course! how easy!

  38. Rhonda,

    Do your chickens fly out of their coop area?

    How high is your fence?

    Do you have anything under the perimeter of your fence to prevent dogs from digging under?
    (Every once in a while we get a stray dog in our yard.)

    Donna G. in New Mexico

  39. Chickens are a big one for me. I really want some but am not sure I have time or space.

    How much space would you suggest for 2-3 chickens?

    How much time per week/day do you spend caring for them?

    And what do you do in the winter to keep hens laying? Or do you just assume they stop? My sister got chickens last year and they completely stopped laying two months ago - when the daylight started fading.

    Thank you for posting. I'm excited about the Biggest Kitchen Table and especially because it is the topic on which I most need input.

  40. Great post, Rhonda. I am so tempted to get some chickens, but my backyard is tiny and I'd need to decide which plants will have to go. But your post has really got me thinking...

    But meanwhile, one tip about wire fences to keep out dogs and foxes which I heard on the radio last week, which makes good sense.

    Some people advise to bury wire at least a foot deep in the soil to stop dogs/foxes diffing, but the tip which I heard was that you extend the wire out, away from the fence for a foot or two underground. Dogs and foxes are smart, but they will always dig down AT the fenceline, not two feet away from the fence. If you have soft soil and the dog/fox is really determined, it might be able to dig under wire buried just at the fence line, but if you extend out the wire a good distance, this will deter them.

    I have no experience of this, but it made sense when I heard it. Any comments anyone?

  41. Rhonda Jean,

    A great post about chooks and a great idea hosting 'the biggest kitchen table' discussion - great first topic!

    We're in transition (renting) I so miss having hens around. Your main piece and all the comments leave me positively 'clucky'... wanting some feathered friends in my backyard...

    in time...

    My favourite breed is Rhode Island Reds because I loved the story of the Little Red Hen when I was a child...such a dutiful little mother.

    Just enjoy d-t-e so much.

    Sandie in Oz

  42. I also got my first chickens from Rentachook! My post on back yard chickens can be found at http://chookiesbackyard.blogspot.com/2009/01/backyard-chook-primer.html -- please come and comment!

  43. Lots of good tips here.
    You said you sold eggs to friends, neighbours etc. Do you have your hens tested for salmonella? I'm thinking of getting my own hens, my sister has some, she has them salmonella tersted so she can safely give them to other people.
    Nell in England

  44. I've added a little bit to my blog and am pulling my chair up to the table!

  45. Thank you so much for this - We're getting chickens next month. A whole new area of learning for us, especially as we've only got a small suburban garden in the East of England. I can't wait to get the hens and I certainly can't wait to come back for lots more hints. :-D

  46. omigoodness so many chook posts. I don't have chickens because i have a mean landlord :(, so here are some recipes.

    Here is a mayonnaise recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen 1977. It won't use up a huge egg surplus though.

    Beat together in a blender:
    1/2 cup vinegar (you can use part, or all lemon or lime juice)
    1teaspoon honey
    1 teaspoon tamari (a type of soy sauce)
    2 whole eggs
    2 egg yolks (Note: freeze extra egg whites in a ziplock bag. dont forget to write the date and how many eggwhites on the bag with a sharpie or nikko, when you've got a few bags make meringues or pavlova)

    Gradually drizzle in 2 and 1/2 cups mixed olive oil and safflower oil (or one, or the other)while blender is still running.

    The mayonnaise will become thick as the oil is drizzled in. as soon as it is thick, stop beating it (or it will thin again. Strange but true.)
    Taste to adjust seasonings.

    Makes 3 and 1/2 cups.

    Here is an absolute winner from Jamie Oliver's The Naked Chef 1999.
    This does use up eggs, since once you've made it you will get requests to make it all the time. In fact I suspect that I have been invited to a few dinner parties on the basis of this tart alone. :)

    1 tart shell, baked blind
    340g/12oz caster sugar
    8 large free range eggs
    350ml/12fl oz double cream (my note: pure cream, not thickened cream, which contains vegetable gums/thickening agents, just check the label)
    200ml/7.5fl oz lime juice
    100ml/3.75fl oz lemon juice (my note: i have played with these ratios, it changes the flavour but not in a bad way just different. Just aim for 300ml of juice.)

    Egg wash the uncooked tart shell before baking blind.[...]
    Whisk together sugar and and eggs in a bowl. When they are well mixed, slowly stir in the cream and the juices. Put the cooked tart shell back into the oven and then pour the filling into it - I find this reduces spillage. Bake for around 40-45 minutes at 180C/350F/gas 4 or until filling is set but still semi-wobbly in the middle.[...] after cooling for an hour the semi-wobbly filling will have firmed up to the perfect consistency; soft and smooth. If you cut it before it has set it will pour out or be extremely gooey. (My note: and you will end up with sweet sticky lemon lime goo all over the stove, which will burn every time you turn the stove on for months!)

    Happy eating :))

    P.S. I hope I haven't broken any copyrights here. If I have I hope the authors take this as a compliment and not malice. Sorry about the extra long comment too...

  47. Hello Rhonda,
    So I wrote the recipe. It's a cake, a very simple one and a very tasty one.
    It's without a photo, but I plan to add it one day when I make the cake again.

  48. I can't have chooks where I live, but I look forward to the day I can. Here is an easy Frittata recipe: Mix 6 eggs ( beaten) 1 cup cheese of choice, 1 cup rice, 1/3 c sauteed scallions or onions. Place in large skillet and start on stove on med heat for 5 min. Transfer to 350 degree oven for 20 min or until it sets. Top with salsa and sour cream. Thanks Rhonda and all for teaching me about chooks.

  49. Thanks for the great comments and ideas everyone. And a bit thanks to Rhonda for having this idea of a roundtable. love it!

    I might also recommend the book Starting with Chickens by Katie Thear; it was a great reference guide when I was getting started. If you are in the States, your county rural extension service will likely have lots of info about keeping chickens and the rules/regs.


    AM of the bread

  50. Good post.
    Here in the frozen north (northern Maine) we have only one rule. Only the fittest survive. Otherwise we would spend oceans of time worrying and fussing. Our 20 or so chicks seem to get through subzero winters and snowy days quite well.

  51. I love reading your blog....so much interesting and informative information!!

    I have had 5 chickens for a year now, and always wonder if I am feeding them enough. How do you know how much a chicken needs in a day?


  52. I love your pictures! Your chickens are so beautiful! Here are my favorite egg recipes:

    Hard Boiled Eggs - including how to make Egg Salad and Deviled Eggs

    Garden Fresh Frittata - awesome for breakfast, brunch, or even dinner

  53. Keeping chickens is the one goal we have for this year. Just need to get hubby to build the coop & run. Have cleared a space in garden last year, but no further progress yet. Thanks for the links and ideas, all a great help in getting us closer to our goal.

  54. We've had chickens for years. We don't keep them beyond about 3 years though because they don't give much in the way of eggs then. We either sell them to people who are going to eat them or we eat them.

    There is no need to dust the chickens yourself with the DE. They will happily dust themselves if you put a dusting box in their coop for them. Mix some DE with some wood ashes and dirt. They will love it. They will love it best if they can dust in the sunshine. Wiping their roost poles with kerosene or used motor oil will cut down on the parasites that will hide in the wood of the poles.

    Clean the coop once a week! Not here. :) We probably clean it out twice a year.

  55. Just found you, via "Another bend in the Road"
    What a wonderfully informative blog
    thanks- x

  56. Dear Rhonda, I just want to say that I love your blog. I found it on Christmas Day, I believe, and what a present it has been! It's usually the first stop in my morning reading. :-)

    Green Bean asked:
    And what do you do in the winter to keep hens laying? Or do you just assume they stop?

    Green Bean, I keep Buff Orpingtons, and they've been laying all winter (I have way more eggs than I can use and am getting rid of some of my chickens in a week or so), but they're a cold hardy breed. They stay outside in the day time, so they seem to have plenty of light. But, you can keep a light bulb in their coop to help with egg production in winter. I believe some breeds need light ten hours a day. My preference is to just freeze surplus eggs in the summer, though, and let the chickens live as naturally as possible in the winter, although I didn't have any to freeze this past summer because my chickens didn't start laying until September/October.

    Someone else asked about mud in the pen. You can put down straw, saw dust, etc. A man at the feed store did tell me that they would lay less if they get too bogged down by mud. If you can keep them in a tractor/ark, there's not as much of a problem since you can simply move them.

    Here's a link to my old posts on our chickens: http://tobequiet.blogspot.com/search/label/Chickens

    I didn't really like our chicken tractor you'll see in the pictures (I had way too many chickens for it), so we ended up putting them in a run. I don't like a fixed run at all, so we're planning on building two more tractors once it's a bit warmer (plus I'm selling about 10 of my girls).

  57. Rhonda I love your Kitchen Table idea and there is no better way to start it off than by talking chickens. I posted my chicken story over at my blog: http://youreapwhatyousow.blogspot.com/
    Please check it out if you have some time.
    Have a great day! Amanda

  58. Rhonda...I had 10 chickens for about 2 years, until this past fall. You can read about my final day with them here
    http://cindy50.blogspot.com/2008/09/rip.html (sorry, don't know how to link this)
    I LOVED having my chooks, and will definitely be getting more this spring. We live in West Michigan, which has very cold winters. When my hubby built the hen house, he insulated it very well. (you must make sure that the insulation is behind the walls, as those chooks will eat nearly anything they get their beaks on!) Their water was freezing up on me, so we bought an electric dog water dish, and I would carry out a fresh gallon of water to them every morning. I also used a light bulb on a timer, which I would set to go on about 4 AM. This would add a bit of heat to the hen house, and also insured I would get eggs during the winter months, as the girls need a certain amt. of daylight to lay. I would open the itty bitty door to their hen house on all but the coldest, snowiest days, to let them go out if they wanted. I would have to shovel the snow away from their door and also shovel a small area in their run in case they really DID want to venture out.
    I REALLY miss the fresh, incredibly delicious eggs my girls gave, but I drive out to the farm where I got them, and the farmer sells his eggs off his back porch all year. So, for $2 a dozen, I'm getting the next best thing.
    Can't wait for spring, tho. Those chickens are better than TV!!!

  59. Rhonda you have covered it the basics. I grew up with chickens...many chickens. I am in the process of building a chicken yard as we speak. Thanks for the inspiration! I read you daily

    Stephanie from Texas

  60. This is for Green Sheep. You asked about the cold weather and the effects on the chickens. Our coop is approximately 8' X 12' and their yard is about the same size, probably 10 x 12. It is totally enclosed (sides and top) with chicken wire so they cannot get out. Unless the dog digs under and creates havoc. Oh my! We didn't build our coop - it came with our property. THe only thing we did to it was to insulate and put up plywood siding inside the coop. It does have a ventilation tube in the ceiling. I would LOVE to have solar powered heat to my chicken coop but for right now we just can't afford to go that route. I really can't tell you how much electricity we use to run the heat lamp and the waterer heater. I don't think it costs all that much because I really don't notice that much difference in our electricity bill. I think you might get more snow than we do here in Nebraska. Our winters are mostly cold and WINDY!! We have had some deeper snows in the past and I did shovel out their yard a little. They do walk in the snow however and seem to enjoy it. I don't think Rhonda's chickens could come on a vacation here and survive. lol Our chickens are hardier for our region I think. As long as they have plenty of hay to nest in and insulate the floor of the coop and have plenty of water, feed, and scratch grains and greens they will be fine. We don't let them free range in the summer because of our 2 dogs and the fact that they get into my garden and go to town on my plants. I make sure they have plenty of greens to eat from the garden/yard. John Scheeper's Kitchen Garden seed company sells a seed mixture that has mixed greens that chickens love. You can cultivate a patch of it and fence them in to scratch and eat or just harvest it yourself and feed it to them. Sometimes in the summer I will just go to my garden and pick some zuchinnis that grew too large, take them into the chicken yard and just stomp on them to break them apart for the chickens. Kind of barbaric in a way but they love them! Since we don't let them out of their enclosure I suppose some people would think they are hostages but their coop is large and their yard is large. It is in a sunny location about 40' from our house out back (we live on a farm) and it catches the breezes that blow by. I figure they are happier than those poor chickens that live in those cages at big chicken farms! In summer, I put a tarp on top 3/4 of the yard's chicken wire to provide shade for them and take out the windows and install a big box fan. If it is really hot I attach a hose attachment to my hose that has a mister setting and will let it mist in a corner of the yard for a while. They like that. This is really a long post but I just wanted to explain to Green Sheep what I did. I hope this helps you!! Nothing beats good farm fresh eggs! Good luck!

  61. What a fun idea.

    I've made me cuppa tea & shared our experience with keeping hens & Rory the Rooster.

    I also am very interested in reading more about garlic & cider vinegar for chooks.

    Love Leanne NZ

  62. I loved this post - we have a small group of chickens for layers and found a lot of great info in your post! Thanks,

  63. Don't forget to add your name is you're anonymous.

    Anonymous, our chook run is about 30 x 15 metres. Our back yard is about quarter acre.

    Can some of our northern hemisphere chook owners answer greeen sheeep's question about hens in the snow?

    Donna, here is another place to buy chooks in Australia: http://www.farmstock.com.au/Classifieds/Poultry/Sale/

    We get our chickens from Rhonda Holzknecht in the Brisbane valley at Fernvale. Her number is 54267669. Rhonda has RIRs, sussex, faverolles, hamburgs, campines, new hampshires, australorpes, orpingtons, plymouth rocks and probably a few other varieties.

    Stormie, they decline in egg production every year but if you have a decent sized flock, they will keep you in eggs for many years. You will find they die off every so often and you rarely get left with very old chooks. Our oldest at the moment is Cocobelle, she is about five years old and I don't remember her ever laying.

    The best situation with dogs and chooks is to have the chooks before you get the dog. THe the dogs sees the chooks as part of the new home. It does depend on the type of dog - some dogs are bred to hunt, some dogs are placid. Alice is an Airedale Terrier, she will herd the chooks when told to but she's been taught to not chase or hurt the chooks. Hanno is very good with animals and he takes a lot of time introducing new chooks to the dog. It's a slow process.

    Hi Emma, thanks for The Slice recipe. I'll add your link in a sec.

    Can someone answer the question about worming for anonymous? We've never had a problem with worms in our chooks. Early on we used the garlic in the water treatment but stopped it when the chooks never has a problem.

  64. Donna G, Our fence is about 5' high, when it was 3', some of them flew over it. We added another length of wire. The chooks often try to fly when they're young and light. When they're older, if they're a heavy breed like the RIRs, australorps and Orps, they can't get off the ground.

  65. Unfortunately this is a subject that i cannot really add to. I have however written a post on my blog.
    It would be particularly helpful for any readers from Wiltshire, England. (I can't be the only one!!)

  66. lovely blog...
    I have 50 assorted hens and he temperature here is very cold (minus 8 at night)
    Hens are fine in the cold,,,they just dont like it when its cold AND wet

  67. What wonderful information!! We're planning on getting some layers this spring when we move into our new house and the weather warms up. I'm having a heck of a time locating heritage breeds in my area (Eastern Canada--if by change there is someone else from this area), but I'll keep looking.
    I appreciate all of the information on keeping chickens in the winter. We always did growing up, but their coop was in the barn, so we didn't need any extra heat--the other animals provided it.
    I'm not sure if this would work as a "chicken tractor" for layers, but with our meat birds (who are only around for a few months), we always just housed them in an old cap from the box of a pickup truck. It was opened during the day to let them free range, and closed at night. Every few days we'd pick it up and move it a little ways to keep the floor inside clean.

  68. I have the post up with links to my posts on chickens in the Phoenix Arizona , U.S.A. and other frugal ideas.

  69. My little Angel just laid her first egg yesterday . It had a bit of blood on it ? and it was not well formed of yoke. I discarded the egg rather than serving it today. All six are now laying! ya!

  70. Thanks for all the wonderful recipes here. They'll help use up all those eggs.

    Sandy, in my experience, chickens don't over eat so it's okay to leave out a feed hopper for them. They'll just take waht they need.

  71. Wow, thanks for the great information! This clears up so many mysteries for me. We might try keeping chickens again.

    ...I hope someone will post about keeping them in colder climates!

  72. Andi and Kristina, thanks for your explanation of chickens in the cold.

    Jamie, look at Darren's chicken ark photos. That is ideal for a small flock in a small backyard. I know the type of house you're probably living in. I lived at Balmain during the 1970s.

  73. As i couldn't write too much about chickens i have written a post about eggs. With some Eggcellent recipes!

  74. We keep a flock of eight hens in our suburban backyard. I will write up a post this weekend. :)

  75. I've now added a post about our chickens, with links to a few henhouse designs & the contact details of where we buy our chickens in Sydney. I will edit later with my meringue recipe, when blogger gets over it's hissy fit & lets me!

    About leaving food in a hopper - we found that if we leave a hopper outside that the possums will eat it all overnight. We now keep the hopper in the actual house, the possums haven't figured out how to unlatch the door & get in yet :-).

  76. What a great idea Rhonda...I even went off and got a cuppa and sat at the kitchen table with my lap top before reading the post...

    I have not yet introduced my chooks on my blog yet but you have motivated me to do so (off to take some photos and will post tonight)..In brief I have 5 chooks - all Bantums. Two Old English Game, two Langshan and one that we have no idea and call "wanda" cause she just wandered into our backyard one day.

    I have a question....all my chooks are now over 3-4 years old and are not great layers anymore. I would love to get more eggs. However we only have a small yard and small pen so only want around 3 more. I only want bamtums. Any suggestions of good laying bantum Breeds? Also....what do people do when their flock is at maximum size but all the birds are past laying age? I imagine some would cull but i could not as I love my 5 little chooks!. Do you just live with getting few eggs? Thanks, Tricia

  77. Hi Rhonda, I'm new to posting but have been reading your blog pages for some time now. Also others that have link to their webpages. I have to say it is wonderful what you share. I made my first soap cuz of you : ). I'm so excited about The Biggest Kitchen Table. And oh do I like chicken talk. So I found a place over there at your big table and ready to share and learn more about chickens.

    I have 60 + chickens here on our homestead , gather so far 32 eggs a day this winter without extra lighting. I'm so surprised that they are laying so well.

    I blogged with pictures of my gals in the Hen Den and those roos as well. Heres my link


    I mention about your Kitchen Table over where I blog , many good homesteaders that visit that could learn and share.

    So heres wavin at you all from Missouri , USA where the weather was like a lovely spring day today but this weekend we could get sleet and snow.

    Rhonda thank you so very much for your site. It is a ture Blessing and I enjoy it so.

    tc linda

  78. Hi Tricia, looking forward to the photos. The only bantams we've had are the pekins and they go broody all the time. I have hear the bantam Australorps are good layers and hardy.

  79. Hi Rhonda,
    How exciting to have our first kitchen table chat! I've written a post on breeding chickens here:
    I'm off to visit everyone else's posts too now :)

  80. What a timely article for us!

    We've been tossing up about getting chooks for a while now and starting to think about how best to set up for them.

    You've certainly given me some things to think about.

  81. Thanks Rhonda. I'll look into the Australops. Did your Pekins mix well with your other chooks? I have been considering getting atleast 2 'proper' chooks.

    I introduced my chooks over in my blog today..

    Your Kitchen table is such a good idea. I used to be able to ask my Gran chook questions...but now do not really know anyone else who has chooks. Cheers, Tricia

  82. Hello Rhonda,
    I update my post, but to make sure you read it, I'll write it here as well.
    Of course it's a sponge cake, i just couldn't remember the word!
    Yesterday, I made it again. And didn't take a photo, because it disappeared immediately. But here are two tips how to make it better:
    I added some vanilla sugar.
    I added and mixed in the flour and baking powder gradually, in small amounts, sifted through a tea strainer (a simple, not the ball-shaped one).
    I hope these (especially the last one) will be helpful. It really seemed to me the sifting and gradual mixing made it much more sponge-y.

  83. We have some lovely rare chicken breeders based here in Shropshire UK. http://www.wernlas.com/ is their website. Makes a nice day out as well. Lovely part of the county. On another note I have a lovely crustless quiche recipe I use all the time as it's so quick to make. No fiddling about with pastry you see. I have been making it for years and it never goes wrong.
    1 heaped tablespoon flour
    1 cup grated cheese
    1 1/4 cups milk
    1 onion chopped
    1 tsp dry mustard
    4 eggs, beaten
    salt and pepper

    Mix all the ingredients together and pour into a pie/quiche dish. Cook at 180 for 1/2 hour. You can add any extras you want, eg. ham, bacon, asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms, etc.

    I feel better now that I have contributed something :)

    1. I have noticed this while looking at a recent post about pastryless pie. Thank you so much for this recipe. I have tried a quiche or frittata style recipe without flour and a impossible pie - which does have flour but requires quite a lot. This recipe is just what I want - with some flour to thicken it.

  84. Would love to have hens but it´s not feasible at present.
    Here comes my little contribution to the kitchen table discussion. It is a traditional egg recipe much used in Sweden for quick and easy eating. I am sorry but I went in a spin when I looked at the google measurement conversion tables, both English and American:
    Oven pancake, giving 8-10 pieces or less, depending on hunger and fillings used:
    3 deciliters plain flour (180 grams)
    8 deciliters standard milk (1 1/2 pints?)
    4 large eggs
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    50 grams butter
    Set oven to 225 C
    Whisp the flour and milk to a smooth mixture. Whisk in one egg at a time. Add salt.
    Melt butter and pour it into a large ovenproof pan. You usually use the pan that comes with your oven but any large pan OK. Pour your mixture into the pan and place it in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes - until it gets a good colour and feels firm.
    Some variations which can be added to the mixture:
    Chopped ham or bacon
    Mushrooms and onions
    Various vegetables.
    You can even make it into a sweet dish using apples or other fruits.
    Let me know if there´s a problem with measurements. I am sure we can sort it out.
    Ramona K

  85. I am unable to raise chickens, but have enjoyed all the information so far and have learned many things. My contribution to the Biggest Kitchen Table is a recipe I found about 5 years ago. It is an Orzo Spinach Hash. Orzo is a small pasta.
    1.) Heat 1 Tbsp butter and add 4 cups of leftover cooked orzo and 6 cups of spinach. Season with salt and pepper and cook until spinach is wilted and orzo is hot.
    2.) Remove from skillet and keep warm. Heat another tbsp of butter in same skillet and fry 4 eggs however you like them and serve eggs over the orzo hash. This recipe is kind of different but we like it once in a while and it is easy to prepare. From Donna J.

  86. Thanks for the all the chicken information and recipes here. It's such a joy to read what everyone has shared here.

  87. Thanks Rhonda
    Very informative, we have been keeping chickens for about a yr and its fantastic for the kids to collect eggs and feed the chooks. The biggest kitchen table has inspired me to start a blog soon, so I can post more info and photos. My husband has been quite creative creating nests from cupboards bought at the tip.
    thanks again, Anna

  88. Hi Rhonda, my brother and I love reading your blog - we've even started calling you Aunty Rhonda, like we do Aunty Jackie (Jackie French) when we talk about something you've written that is relative to our thoughts/experience. We've two White Crested Black Polish chooks - my mum and dad were both raised in the country and always had chooks, when they moved to suburbia before I was born 34 years ago, theyfelt the missed out when they theought they couldn't keep them. About 10 years ago Dad researched, and here on the Central Coast of NSW you can have up to six chooks and no roosters, and the pen needs to be a metre from fence lines. As you can see on my blog, Dad found me these chooks cause he knew I wanted some bantams (these girls, as it turns out unbeknowst to him, are not bantams, just a different breed of full siz chook) link: http://cryptstitch.typepad.com/crypt_stitch/2008/08/casa-de-quito-y-lapaz.html
    They are outside all day (from about 5.30am and go to bed aroun 7.30pm at the moment - they spend their day foraging around my average suburban block that I have densely planted out with a number of medium to large trees and shrubs - they are fenced off from the vegie patch, but can get into the berry bramble, where they seem to eat few berries, but keep the snails and slugs at bay. They are much more vocal than mums five chooks, though they are smaller. La Paz is the larger, and every now and then she plays rooster and crows (how mortifying), though she only "cock-a-doodles", instead of "cock-a-doodle-doos" - she usually choses to do this at 6.30 sunday mornings. As soon as she does it she gets a time out in a cardboard box - sometimes this works, sometimes she gets out after 10-15 mins and starts again - any other sugestions? Between them, there is atleast one egg every day, and more often two - plus despite thier being rather mischevious at times, they are loads of fun to have around!
    Tala xx

  89. Hi Rhonda - I have compiled the saga of my Rhode Island Red Bantams for you here!

  90. Hi Rhonda and everyone,

    I have a short post which you can stop by and see at


  91. Thanks Rhonda, some fantastic advice..my chickens are WIP at the moment, I've posted some photos of the nearly completed chook house. A great discussion I have lots of info now to get us started.

  92. you hit it out of the park again with this great informative article! I always learn and refresh my skills when I come here. I need some help in the chicken dept. right now :)

  93. What you wrote about chooks is a great gift to us newcomers in their care ! Thanks a lot. Since I live in a cold region, I wrote a little article on my blog explaining what we did to keep them happy. Here's the link : http://touchatou.blogspot.com/2009/01/des-poules-en-hiver-chooks-in-winter.html
    Dont't worry, I made a translation just for you ! Kisses,
    Lucie from Canada

  94. Hi, some great information and tips for will-be-soon chicken owners like me.
    Cheers, Eve

  95. Hi to Rhonda from England.

    Your kitchen table idea is a fantastic one. I have an early post on my blog that charts our history as chicken-keepers if anyone is interested, at

    We now have 16 hens in our laying flock although only three are currently in production, and we have a small grower flock of about 15 table birds.


  96. To outsmart the clever fox, hubby dug a roughly 2.5 foot hole all the way around the chook house and placed corrugated iron in it and filled the hole in. This stops the foxes digging in. We had to fully enclose the area in which the chooks sleep at night. He also installed a guillotine style trap door.

    We have not had any chickens taken since doing this.


  97. I asked you about salmonella testing in an earlier post. I wonder if you missed it? I asked if you have your chooks tested for salmonella before selling eggs.

  98. What a wonderful post! I'll be saving this one for one day - the dream is to have chickens!!

  99. Hello Rhonda and thank you for all your well researched information. I never get tired of reading about chooks as there's always more to learn. :)
    I have just posted about how we made up our chook tractor as per Linda Woodrow's book, but modified from a dome to a block. I just couldn't use the circular shape in our garden space, so this was much more accomodating.
    Again, thank you for all your wonderful information.

  100. I'm a bit late in the game and have to catch up on reading the comments. I don't have chickens yet but found the information and the comments I did read to be very helpful so far. Thanks to all!
    I am contributing a recipe at my blog.It is my all time favorite recipe and I would of made it if only I had enough tomatoes!

  101. my mother in law thinks two of my point of lay chickens are roosters because they have pointed feathers on their necks,they are different breeds so can't compare with one another.any ideas?this is my first go at chicken keeping.

  102. Rhonda, what a valuable and informative post. We are thinking about getting a couple of chickens. I only had time to skim through for now, but I will surely be back. Thanks for this "kitchen table" you set up for us!

  103. We have an egg eater.
    Had this happen before.
    Just blogged on steps we are taking to ty to save ds favourite hen.

    Love any other ideas too.

    Love Leanne

  104. I've finally had a chance to post my contribution to this discussion:


    Thanks for hosting this, Rhonda. What an inspired idea!

  105. This kitchen table talk is finished. Thanks to everyone who took part. I loved the look of the recipes and have visited everyone who left a link. It's been a great way to share.

  106. You didn't add my chicken post to your links. http://myunfinishedbusiness.blogspot.com/2009/01/biggests-kitchen-table-keeping-chickens.html

  107. Hi Rhonda,
    You've given wonderful information here - thank you! I'm sure I'll be using it as a resource as we continue to care for our little flock of chickens. I also wrote a post of my own, on how to tame roosters and instructions for making hardboiled eggs. Here is the link: http://intostillwaters.com/2009/01/11/reforming-a-renegade-rooster-and-a-recipe-for-â??perfectâ?-hard-boiled-eggs/
    Thanks again for such a great thread!

  108. Thanks for the very useful chook info Rhonda.

    I've got a silky hen sitting at the moment. She's a gem. She doesn't realise she's sitting on more Isa Brown eggs than her own, I guess that's what happens when the girls share the same nesting box:) They've been forced into less desirable boxes.

    I have a couple of Q's:

    Should I check for fertility now (5 days sitting) or wait a week or two?

    Do you recommend seperating her from the other hens (2 Isa Browns) and the rooster or is she fine to stay in the same pen?

    I haven't seen her off the nest yet, should I leave food and water nearer to her or will she sort herself out?

    She's sitting on 5 eggs: 1 of hers and 4 of the browns. Is this too many? I can't see any of them from the outside...

    We have magpies that visit the pen to eat the food, drink the water and scratch around in the straw, should I close the door to keep them out?

    Thanks for your sound advice, it improves my chances of successful breeding :)


    Di Smith
    (Mansfield - Victoria Australia)

  109. What a great turnout for the kitchen table. Thanks to everyone for their input. Although keeping chooks is not in my future plans I'll enjoy reading about everyone's experiences. My dad kept chooks when I was growing up and I remember going to the hen house and finding an egg or two for tomorrow's breakfast!


  110. This is such a wonderful idea! I would be so happy if anyone could answer a question of free ranging I've put on my late entry on my blog. (Late, but I hope the party isn't over!)


  111. Hello Rhonda and thanks for another great post! I can't keep chickens where I live but it is my dream to be able to do so at some point.

    As an aside - I just got a copy of 'Nourishing Traditions' a book you mentioned a while back. I asked my library if they could get it via inter-library loans and they liked the look of book so much they ordered a brand new copy and gave it to me to read first. I love small town libraries. :-)

    Thanks again

  112. It was disappointing not to have my question about salmonella answered before you decided the topic was closed. I thought this was highly relevant as salmonella can be dangerous. I had posted this comment twice but it wasn't answered. If topics are to be closed whenever you decide could you please put a day when this is to happen. I seem to have wasted rather a lot of time in keeping looking to see if my question was answered.

  113. Nell, I answered your question in the post.

    Di Smith, I'd wait until next week to candle the eggs.
    If your silky is happy with the other chooks, I'd leave her with them. She'll eat less while she's sitting on eggs just make sure she can get at the food and water and she'll probably eat and drink when she's alone and sure the other chooks won't get 'her' eggs.
    Five eggs is fine for a silky. My friend Margaret, who has been breeding chooks for 60 years, says about 5 or 6 for a bantam and no more than 10 for a full size chook.
    I'd try to keep the magpies out of the coop.
    Good luck!

  114. What a wonderful idea..... how do chooks fair in hot weather?

  115. Hill upon hill, I found they do find so long as there's plenty of fresh water and a well shaded position. My chooks always look for the densest shade and settle into the cool earth in the hottest part of the day.

  116. Update on ours chooks : third day with temperatures below -30C... They are not happy, but seem well enough. They still lay their eggs, though they are almost all cracked by the cold... The water buckets are all frozen stiff so we took turns bringing hot water and left them a bucket of snow.
    Poor little things, we feel so responsible to make them go through that...

  117. Hi Rhonda: We live in downtown Plymouth, MA and have bought our first coop and ordered 8 little Wyandotte chicks. This it completely new for us, but feel our downtown space is perfect to create a Green Urban Farm. Will keep you posted, as we have a chilly NE climate, lots of slugs for the to eat, and neighbors (we'll see how that goes!)--r

  118. What a wonderful, informative post about chooks Rhonda - thank you!

    I'm currently building up my skills in facilitating workshops on backyard chook keeping run free for local residents through the council - on the weekend we had an room full of 20 people eager to learn about chook keeping! The chook keeping workshop is one of our most popular workshops and it's encouraging to realise just how many people out there are keen to keep chooks!

    Thanks again for your generosity in sharing your valuable knowledge about chooks, and all aspects of sustainable, healthy, living.



  119. What a gem of a site!
    We are currently in the process of getting our suburban chooks so will be following all of these posts with great enthusiasm.
    We are about half way through the construction of our chicken tractor and hope to get some birds soon after it is finished.


  120. Hi there chook people.Good advice and instructions here for all.
    Re:Silkies have kept them a long time and they are delightful to have around, as someone I know says "atmosphere chickens".They go broody a lot but are good mothers and can produce around 10 per brood.
    Some lovely old breeds out there, my particular favourites the Plymouth Rock,the Light Sussex and the Indian game.
    Don't forget to plant your wormwood bushes to give them some pick for intestinal worms.
    Happy chook-keeping,
    "The Chook Lady"

  121. Hello,

    Lovely blog!

    I help my wife look after HER chickens (see http://picasaweb.google.com.=/Brasa500C/ClodNine) but a week ago I had to become a surgeon...

    Unfortunately, after successfully cutting open and extracting a compacted fibre mass from the patient's crop, we discovered too late that Amber was also suffering from a canker in the throat!

    We are giving Flagyl S solution since Monday, and feeding her with a little syringe-type implement, but she is getting weaker by the day...

    I'm quite depressed, although Bianca tells me 'it's not your fault!'...

  122. That was facinating...answered a lot of questions I've had. Very interesting! Susan

  123. Hi Rhonda,

    I stumbled across your blog today and found this post which I enjoyed very much. It's nice to see pictures of your chickens, you have a good range of breeds there. I'm trying to hatch some barred rocks at the moment, due in about 6 days!

    Keep up the good work, thanks.

  124. Hello
    Great website and blog
    Found it today
    It has lots of great information
    I was wondering how to stop my girls from pooping in one of their laying boxes please.
    Margaret from York WA

  125. Dear Rhonda,
    From a post from Anonymous on
    Jan 9,2009- she's responding to Marg who'd asked how to keep the chickens from flying. She said she clipped one wing. My question is how much of the wing do you clip? I clipped what I thought was a lot but they still managed to jump onto my adirondack chair from the ground. Could you advise, please?
    Also, my daughter said that we should fence them, although I want them to be able to use the whole yard. She said if we fence them for awhile they'll forget that they can fly. Is this true? Plus, I imagine over time they'll be too heavy to fly?
    We've had chickens for about 7 years but always as 4H projects. These are actually 'my' chickens this time!
    I don't want caged birds but I don't want the neighbors upset. They have a 4x8 coop so I figure another 4x8 yard and being allowed out when we're able to supervise them.
    I think our neighbor is getting a little perturbed at us cause they keep flying into their yard.
    We have 6 egg layers of mixed breed and 3 Serama bantams (one rooster and 2 hens) Would a 4x8 yard, plus able to get under the coop so an add't 4x8 be enough for them?
    Thanks for your blog and all the info that you give. I sit in our backyard and just want to get back to the basics. We now have a clothesline and my husband is stocking firewood for winter.
    I agree that we've lost what we used to know to survive.
    Thanks for your help!

  126. Ηi! I've been following your website for a while now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Houston Tx! Just wanted to tell you keep up the fantastic job!
    Also visit my site goals galore


I welcome readers' comments. However, this blog never publishes business links or advertisements. If you're operating a business and want to leave your link here, I will delete your comment .

Blogger Template by pipdig