Raising chickens is a fun hobby for kids and adults alike, but there are some really cool facts about chickens most people don’t know. Let’s dive into those 30 facts to see which ones you haven’t yet discovered. We’ll cover bumblefoot, egg production, and which fruits to avoid for your chickens.
There are so many incredible facts about chickens! There are more than 500 chicken breeds worldwide, chickens can live from 3-12 years, they sleep with one eye open, and they each have their own personalities!
Chickens are curious creatures with specific dietary needs. Not every fruit or vegetable you throw at them is actually good for them. Additionally, not all chickens are capable of using a ramp and they don’t always get along well with others. If chickens interest you, keep reading to learn 30 awesome facts about chickens.
Chickens Need Calcium Supplements To Lay Eggs
Although some people may say chickens do not need extra calcium, calcium is a crucial component of egg production. Without a calcium supplement, chickens can become egg-bound, which can be life-threatening.
The most popular calcium supplement is oyster shells. Oyster shells can be offered separately from food. Doing so will allow chickens to take what they need when they need it.
Egg Production Slows Down After Chickens Reach 2 Years Of Age
Once chickens reach around 2 to 3 years old, their egg production slows down significantly. You can get a ton of eggs from just a few chickens, especially when they start laying, which can be around 18 to 20 weeks old, but once they turn 3 or 4, you may get significantly fewer eggs or none at all.
Chickens Can Get Bumblefoot
Bumblefoot is an infection that chickens get when bacteria enters through an open wound on their foot.
It can look anywhere from a solid scab on the bottom of their foot, which can be black and brown, to even a swollen red bump located on the bottom or top of the foot. It can also look like the chicken has something stuck to the bottom of their foot as though they stepped in a perfect spot of something.
Bumblefoot, not treated, can spread to the rest of the chicken’s body, into their tendons and bones, and can be fatal.
Things to look out for are, limping, or pain to the touch.
You can help prevent bumblefoot by using pine shavings or sand and keep the bedding clean and dry. You can also check their feet regularly to for any irregularities, and stay ahead of any bacteria or injuries.
Chickens Need An Area To Dust Bathe
Chickens love to dust bathe! It is the cutest thing to watch chickens dust bathe, you can see the happiness in their face!
Whether your chicken is free-range or not, a dust bath is imperative to the livelihood and health of your chickens. If they can’t dust bathe, they are more susceptible to getting mites and other nasty parasites.
Chickens dust bathe in things like dirt, sand, and pine shavings.
Introducing Existing Chickens To New Chickens Can Be Tough
If you introduce new chickens to chickens that you already have, without any introduction or without easing in, it can cause a lot of stress on both the chickens and you.
The existing chickens have already established their pecking order, so introducing brand new chickens immediately is going to disrupt this hierarchy. This can lead to pecking, bullying, and fighting within your flock.
One way to introduce new and existing chickens is by using a screen to separate them for a few weeks, so that they can see one another and slowly get used to them, before putting them all together.
Some Chickens Need Crumbled Or Mashed Pellets
When you go to buy chicken feed, you can find whole, crumbled, or mashed pellets.
This is important because not all chickens have pointed beaks, if you get chickens that came from a production farm, they will most likely have beaks that have been lasered.
Lasered beaks are not sharp or pointy. They have been lasered to a rounded beak that looks blunted, to prevent them from pecking one another in tight spaces. This is an issue that doesn’t seem to be widely known.
The lasered beaks cannot pick up normal pellets. They will have a significant issue getting enough food to eat, chickens with rounded beaks will thrive on mashed or crumbled pellets. There is no difference in nutrition so it is safe for all of your chickens to consume.
Chickens Love Eating Bugs
One of chickens’ favorite treats is mealworms. Humans can’t stand them (yuck!) but chickens go crazy for them!
You can get dried mealworms, which are the cheapest and easiest to give them. They also have flock blocks and dried grubs which they can peck at. It’s easy for chickens to find other bugs in the dirt or under leaves, which they seem to have a ball with.
Not All Chickens Know How To Use Ramps
Chickens seem to behave the way they are used to acting or raised to act.
This means that if you have chickens that fly up to roost at night, they will most likely continue to do that, regardless of if you implement a new method. This has been my experience!
If you raise chickens from a young age to use a ramp to get down from nesting boxes, or roosting perches, then they will probably continue using it. Otherwise, it can be a lost cause trying to teach your chickens new tricks. You know what they say, you can’t teach an old chicken new tricks! 🙂
Chickens Love Fruits And Vegetables
Chickens love certain snacks. But make sure to research what is good for them and what is not.
A few vegetables that chickens love to eat:
- Swiss Chard
All in all, you probably have a good amount of these accessible for chicken to eat.
Of course, this is all dependent on your chickens, whether they eat them or not! Some chickens become picky and I’m speaking from experience here!
And finally, some fruits that are safe for chickens to eat:
- Blueberries (their favorite!)
Not All Fruits And Vegetables Are Good For Chickens
While feeding fruits and vegetables to your chickens can be fun, especially to watch them inspect them and eat them, there are fruits and vegetables that chickens should not eat. This includes citrus fruits and avocado.
Citrus fruits should not be fed to chickens, as they are toxic to them.
In addition, some of the vegetables you should avoid feeding your chickens are:
These vegetables are toxic to them. If you are unsure what fruits and vegetables they can and can’t eat, research it before you give it to them! You will save yourself, and your chickens, a lot of stress!
Chickens Will Peck At Each Other
Chickens have to establish a pecking order.
This means that there are chickens in charge and others that are not. Because of this, they will peck at one another to keep the hierarchy in check.
However, if you see cuts, sores, feathers missing, or a chicken is hanging out by itself, that may be more serious. That chicken could be getting bullied which can become an urgent issue as can be potentially dangerous to the chickens’ health.
Chickens Can Become Egg Bound
When a chicken becomes egg bound, the egg has not formed well and is not able to be pushed out, meaning it is stuck inside them.
While this may not sound serious, it is and should be dealt with immediately.
Signs to look for are: holding the tail down, straining their vent (like she is trying to defecate, but can’t), labored breathing, or fluffing out their wings.
The good news is, there are ways to avoid this from happening in the first place! The best way to avoid this is to make sure that the chickens have a calcium supplement, which you can read more about in fact number 1!
Calcium is imperative to chickens’ egg-laying and egg forming, and to avoid any other complications from low amounts of calcium in their system.
There Are 500 Varieties Of Chickens
Did you know that there are over 500 varieties of chicken breeds worldwide?! How unbelievable is that! There are around 50 breeds in the United States alone.
Certain Types Of Chickens Lay Certain Colors Of Eggs
Not all chickens lay white or brown eggs! Some even lay green and blue! It all depends on the breed of chickens that you have.
Here are some breeds that lay certain colored eggs:
Light Brown Eggs:
- Barred Rocks
- Rhode Island Reds
- Easter Eggers
Dark Brown Eggs:
Pine Shavings Or Sand Make Excellent Bedding For Chickens
Pine shavings and sand are a great choice of substrate to use in your chicken coop.
Sand does a great job at resisting harboring of bacteria and is easy to clean.
Pine shavings are easy, light, smell great, and stay fresh and clean. Pine shavings are also a relatively cheap alternative to sand and are significantly lighter.
I would highly recommend pine shavings or sand for your coop.
Chickens Can Live Anywhere From 3-12 Years
Like all animals, chickens can live a relatively short time or even as long as most dogs. They can live anywhere from 3 to 12 years and it is solely dependent on each chicken. This is a relative age range, and sometimes no matter what you do, some chickens will not live as long as others.
Of course, their lifespan can be shorter if a chicken is eaten by a mole, gopher, or groundhog.
Certain Chicken Breeds Do Better In Hot Weather Or Cold Weather
Some chickens suffer in the heat, and others don’t do well in the winter. There are certain breeds that you can get that have adapted to these specific conditions. Below are a few examples of heat tolerant and cold tolerant chicken breeds.
Heat tolerant chicken breeds:
- Rhode Island Red
- Cold tolerant chicken breeds:
- Barred Rock
There Are Fancy Breeds Of Chickens
Did you know there are chicken breeds that are considered ‘fancy’? And they’re called fancy for a reason, they’re too cute!
Silkies are probably the most well-known. These chickens are significantly smaller than regular chickens and are super fluffy.
Another kind of ‘fancy’ chicken is Polish chicken. These chickens are not as big as most chickens, but also not as small as silkies. They also have a fluff of feathers that flow over their head.
Chickens Are Susceptible To Predators At Night
When chickens go to sleep for the night they become extremely susceptible to predators. Because of this, chickens need a good perch or nesting box to roost on so they are off the ground, away from predators.
Keep reading for the most interesting fact about chickens and sleep at the end!
Chickens Get Broody
Chickens will get an attitude called ‘broody’ when they want their eggs to hatch. This is when they are more protective over their eggs and will sit on them for days on end in hopes they hatch. They usually will not get up to eat or drink during this time. If the broodiness goes on for too long, then intervention is typically necessary.
If there is no rooster present, then the eggs are not fertilized, and eggs will not hatch into chicks.
Chickens Slow Down And Usually Stop Laying Eggs In The Winter
Chickens rely on longer daylight hours to determine when they lay and don’t lay their eggs.
When the days get shorter and daylight is reduced, and temperatures cool down, chicken egg laying slows down significantly and may even stop throughout the winter.
But do not fret, it generally will pick back up into spring and summer!
Chickens Need Grit
Chickens need grit to digest any food they eat. Without this, they are unable to absorb nutrients or digest food.
Grit can be mixed in with their calcium supplement, or if they have a run, you can sprinkle it on the ground.
Treats Should Be Fed To Chickens In Moderation
Treats are fun to feed chickens! You can feed them fruits and vegetables, different kinds of dried or live bugs, or even things like flock blocks, all of which keep them entertained and happy.
However, if they have too many treats and become an unhealthy weight, chickens are at risk of developing issues associated with being overweight.
Just like all things, treats are best given in moderation!
Fun fact, did you know that chicken wire will stop gophers?
Chickens Will Molt And Look Rough
Oftentimes when chickens begin molting they look ragged. They slowly begin losing feathers, and some lose more than others. Molting is a natural thing that happens to chickens so they can grow new feathers.
During this time, chickens are usually uncomfortable and stressed, so avoid picking them up or handling them when they are molting, as this overwhelms them and is painful.
Molt will look similar to when a chicken is getting bullied, so it is important to keep an eye on the chicken’s demeanor. If their behavior seems relatively normal and you don’t see cuts or sores near their head, body, or tail area, then they are likely just molting.
But it is crucial to keep an eye out and take note of your flock’s interactions.
High Protein Feeds Can Help Chickens During Molt
When chickens go through molt they need extra vitamins and nutrients to help them grow new feathers.
A high protein feed with extra nutrients will ensure the healthy regrowth of feathers and help your chickens through a tough time.
You don’t have to feed it all of the time, but it can be helpful to make sure your chickens are getting enough protein in their diet.
Chickens Can Get Crop Impaction
Chicken crops are an integral first part of their digestion.
When chickens eat things that are long and easily tangled, they form a solid mass in the crop causing it to become impacted. When this happens, digestion cannot occur, which is fatal if not treated.
Things such as blades of grass, string, straw, hay, fruit skins, or wood chips, are all items that can cause crop impaction.
Chickens Get Parasites
Like most animals that eat things outside, chickens can get an array of parasites.
You can avoid things like mites but ensuring the coop is always clean and dry. If you do notice mites on your chickens, or worms in their poop, you can find treatments online.
If you notice any mites or worms it is essential to act immediately for the health and safety of your chickens.
Chickens Have Their Own Unique Personalities
Chickens are no different from any other animals in that each chicken has a unique personality. Some are sweet, indifferent, funny, and even defiant!
Some breeds are known to be more docile than others, but despite this you can still get “docile” chickens that are just a little more feisty.
Certain Breeds Of Chickens Are Better At Laying Eggs
Chickens are divided into two different categories, egg layers and meat. Some of them can be used for both, but most people who keep backyard flocks specifically for eggs choose egg layer breeds (check out these breeds mentioned in number 14).
Chickens Can Sleep With One Eye Open
Chickens’ brains are actually two separate hemispheres.
This gives chickens the ability to sleep with one eye open and the other eye closed. One side of the brain enables the chicken to stay alert and awake, keeping one eye open to watch for predators; the other side of the brain allows the chicken to get sleep when that eye remains closed. Amazing, right?
Freire, R., et al. “Behaviour and Welfare of Individual Laying Hens in a Non-Cage System.” British Poultry Science, vol. 44, no. 1, 2003, pp. 22–29.
Murillo, Amy C., et al. “Parasitic Mites Alter Chicken Behaviour and Negatively Impact Animal Welfare.” Scientific Reports, vol. 10, no. 1, 2020.
Rattenborg, Niels C., et al. “Evidence That Birds Sleep In Mid Flight.” Nature Communications, 3 Aug. 2016.
Shields, S.J., et al. “Effect of Sand and Wood-Shavings Bedding on the Behavior of Broiler Chickens.” Poultry Science, vol. 84, no. 12, 2005, pp. 1816–1824.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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