Henhouse Tips- Keeping Backyard Chickens

Henhouse Tips- Keeping Backyard Chickens

As the popularity of backyard chickens continues to grow nationwide, many first time owners are making their own hen house/chicken coop on their own. This can be an exciting project that must be handled with detail and care, as there are so many different chicken coop plans available online, you might be asking yourself where to start, which chicken coop plans are the best to meet your needs, how expensive is building a chicken coop on your own, what additional supplies do you need for your henhouse, how big does your henhouse need to be for all of your backyard chickens, which henhouse features will work best for you? All of these questions depend on the number of chickens your own and the state that you live, as weather will be a factor in selecting the type and style of your backyard henhouse. 

Essential Henhouse Features

As you build your backyard henhouse, you will need to choose the type of henhouse flooring. While many chicken coop plans suggest using wire coop flooring for ventilation and ease of passing through chicken droppings, we strongly discourage chicken wire flooring for several reasons: 1) If a predator is able to break-in beneath the floor in your chickens, they can easily reach through the wiring on create a hole in the wiring and grab a chicken leg. Chicken wire flooring doesn't keep your chickens safe from predators 2) If you have a heavy chicken breed in your coop, chicken wire flooring is hard on your chicken's feet. 3) If a younger chicken or baby chick enters your coop, they might slip a foot through the chicken wire if the holes are too large. We recommend using wooden pine shavings or straw on a wooden floor to ensure your chickens will maintain healthy feet and stay safe from predators. Also, cleaning on the pine shavings is relatively easy, and worth your time to ensure that your chickens are safe with healthy feet. Additionally, make sure your henhouse is designed to provide plenty of ventilation and shaded areas.

Roosting Bar

Some other essential henhouse features include nest boxes, a roosting bar, and chicken waterer, all of which can be uniquely placed inside your coop. What is a roosting bar? Chickens naturally seek to find higher elevation at night to stay safe from predators when they sleep. A roosting bar allows your chickens to perch higher off the ground, providing your chickens with a feeling of safety. When selecting your roosting bar, make sure the width is at least three (3) inches wide, ideally four (4) inches wide. Ideally, your roosting bar should provide a minimum of ten inches per adult chicken and should be placed about two feet above the coop flooring, at least one and a half ft (18 inches) from the coop wall and coop ceiling. Additionally, you can offer several roosting bars to allow your chickens to spread out during hot summer months, but also be able to huddle together for warmth during the wintertime. Chickens have a natural pecking order, so having several roosting bars with different height levels will accommodate their natural behaviors, taking care to set up some stairs for your chickens to reach rooster bars at higher elevations. 


Nest Box

What about egg laying chickens and how should you plan to collect their eggs? A chicken nest box is designed to provide your egg laying chickens with a secure and private area to lay their eggs. Most nest boxes will also allow your to gather their eggs in the morning. Chickens will start to lay eggs at five (5) months of age, so it is essential that you have a nesting box to gather their eggs, and it is equally essential that your train your chickens to lay their eggs for collection in the nesting box, otherwise you may end up with random eggs throughout your coop and yard. Generally, this is accomplished by laying decoy eggs at the entrance to your nest box, which will give your chickens an idea of where to lay their eggs. Additionally, make sure your nest box is always clean as your chickens may choose to lay elsewhere should your nest box appear unusable. Once your chickens become familiar with laying in your nest box it will be second nature. 

Feeder and Waterer

Depending on the number and age of your chickens, you will need to select or build a chicken feeder. We highly recommend using a gravity based feeder to ensure that your chickens will always have access to feed, and this will also make your feeding process cleaner and easy to maintain. For young chicks, the baby chick bulk feeder is an excellent option as this feeder is gravity based and designed to prevent your chicks for stepping into the feeder. For young chickens, we recommend building a high capacity poultry feeder that holds at least 25 lbs of feed. Building or purchasing a chicken feeder that can handle large quantities of feed is optimal when your have more than 3 chickens. In order to prevent predators or other animals from using your chicken feeder, make sure you place the feeder in an enclosed location that only your chickens can access. Additionally, it is essential that your provide an optimal sized waterer for your chickens, keeping in mind that you may want to purchase a heated poultry waterer for cold months to prevent freezing. For day old chicks, use of a bucket waterer is not a good choice for chicks. Instead, we recommend a smaller base waterer (baby chick waterer) to ensure your chicks have easy access and cannot accidentally fall into their waterer. 



Common Chicken Coop Questions

How big should my chicken coop be?
Depending on your property size, we recommend allowing three (3) square feet per chicken for free range chickens. However, if your chickens will spend a majority of their time inside your coop we recommend at least eight (8) square feet per chicken. It is generally better to plan for more space as you may choose to add chickens to your flock in the future. Additionally, chickens will demonstrate aggressive behavior when there isn't enough space, so providing them with more than enough space will help to keep them friendly with one another. 

Should my chicken coop be insulated?
Depending on the weather in your state, your may want to insulate your chicken coop walls, flooring, and ceiling. Generally, if you live in a climate with colder winters and humid summers, it is recommended to insulate your chicken coop walls, flooring, and ceiling which will keep your chickens warmer during the cold winter months, and cooler during the hot humid months. However, if you live in a warm non-humid climate this additional step may not be necessary. In order to avoid problems associated with commercial insulation such as styrofoam, which is not safe for chickens, we recommend using non-commercial insulation for your chicken coop walls such as blankets, hay/straw, or sawdust. 

How often should I clean my chicken coop?
This depends on the number of chickens living in your coop and the type of cleaning. Generally, if you have five or more chickens you may need to clean their shavings once a month and change their bedding two (2) times per year, however, this will depend on your personal preference for cleanliness. 

Should my chicken coop have a window?
Your coop should have clear visibility for your chickens depending on the run materials used. However, if your coop is solid wood and does not provide a window, you should create an area within their coop for outside visibility. Additionally, it is absolutely essential that your chicken coop has adequate ventilation which can be accomplished with mesh windows. Some backyard owners choose to create a ventilation system with fans, making sure that air is not blowing on the chickens which may create a dust buildup within the coop. Generally, a cool fan breeze may be helpful during the summer months, but is not recommended during the cold winter months as the coop fan will create a draft. Therefore, it is important to design your coop with ventilation based on seasonality. 
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Incubator Temperature Guidelines for Hatching Eggs

Incubator Temperature Guidelines for Hatching Eggs

Hatching your own eggs can be an exciting and satisfying experience as you watch young chicks arrive after careful planning and preparation. However, in order to have the best chance at successfully hatching your chicken hatching eggs or duck hatching eggs, you may consider some tips such as proper incubator temperature guidelines, egg incubation duration, and quality of your hatching eggs. Chicken hatching eggs will usually hatch twenty-one (21) days after incubation, depending on the breed variety, while duck hatching eggs will take at least twenty-eight (28) days to hatch after incubation. 

Incubator Temperature, Humidity, and Ventilation
First, allow your hatching eggs to set to room temperature before placing them in your incubator. Next, slowly raise your incubator temperature to 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature change will need to occur slowly over the course of a few hours, as immediate change in temperature can cause humidity problems that will reduce hatch-ability. It will help if your incubator is setup in a well insulated area, so that short changes in temperature won't affect the viability of your hatching eggs. Even small fluctuations in temperature can decrease your chances for successfully hatching your eggs. Additionally, you will need to ensure adequate humidity within your egg incubator, roughly fifty (50) percent humidity for the first seventeen (17) days, and about seventy (70) percent humidity the last three (3) days before hatching.Humidity set too high during the first seventeen (17) days, and set too low during the last three (3) days is one of the most common causes of a poor hatch rate. Your hatching eggs will also need to be setup in an incubator that has adequate ventilation, as the embryos will need fresh air circulation at all times. Many incubators have a built in fan to maintain ventilation, and depending on your incubation settings your may opt to purchase an incubator with this feature. 

Turning Hatching Eggs
You will need to turn your hatching eggs two to five times daily for optimal hatch-ability, however, you will need to be delicate when turning them, as the embryos are developing blood vessels and are sensitive to movement. Do not turn your eggs the final three days of incubation as your embryos are getting ready to hatch. If you are planning to turn your hatching eggs by hand, it may be helpful to the top and bottom of each egg to keep track of them. Alternatively, your can purchase an egg turner to automatically turn your eggs for you, just make sure to turn off this feature the final three days before hatching. 
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Backyard Chicken Terms- What is a Broody Chicken?

Backyard Chicken Terms- What is a Broody Chicken?

Raising backyard chickens comes with responsibility for caring for your broody chickens, and learning about their natural behavior when in comes to your hen sitting on eggs all day long. Backyard chicken owners new to raising chickens may ask, what is a broody chicken? You may notice your hens laying in their nesting pen, refusing to leave. This article explains their occasional behavior changes when your hens simply wants to hatch her eggs. 

What does "Broody" mean?- The term "broody hen" refers to a chicken hen with instinctual behavior to hatch her eggs, so she will sit on her eggs all day long attempting to hatch them. Broody hens may seem agitated when you approach them, as their sole focus is to hatch their eggs, even if her eggs aren't fertile. This behavior becomes clear when hens squawk and ruffle their feathers when you approach their nest, attempt to peck at you when you are close to their eggs, and remove some of their feathers to heat their eggs quicker. Some hens will even lay on other egg shaped objects when broody, such as rocks or backyard decorations. This behavior change is caused by a variety of factors ranging from hormones, seasonality, and natural chicken instinct. 

Why do Hens get Broody?- Hens become broody when they are one and a half to three years of age, and their behavior change may return from one laying season to the next, typically in the springtime when your hens starts laying the bulk of her eggs for the year. It's only natural for your hens motherly instincts to take place during laying season. Additionally, genetic factors have a role to play in your hens broodiness- with some breeds being more broody that others. Some of the most broody chicken breeds include silkie chickens and cochin chickens. Of course, backyard chicken owners are fond of their broody hens, and want to stop their hens broodiness out of compassion. This is a good perspective to have, as broodiness is natural chicken behavior, and is not a problem for most backyard flocks. 

How to Stop a Chicken from Brooding?- If your hens broody behavior becomes a nuisance, here is some advice to change her attitude: 

Remove your hen from the nesting box and close the door to the nesting box- While your hen won't forget about her eggs and her desire to hatch them, simply creating some distance from her eggs may alleviate some of her broodiness. You can also create a separate nesting box for her to return to without the eggs, changing her environment to relax her broodiness. This strategy is especially effective towards the evening, as she will be more calm and less likely to relocate her eggs at night. 

If environmental change isn't enough to stop your hen's broody behavior, another strategy is placing a bag of frozen peas in her nesting box for her to lay on top, reducing her body temperature may stop her broodiness and desire to hatch her eggs. This environmental change may be just what the doctor ordered, letting her know that its time to calm down and relax. 

If environmental temperature change doesn't work, the last resort may be to isolate your hen in an isolated cage for a day, providing limited bedding. Of course, you will need to make sure she has plenty of food, water, and care that her isolation cage is placed in a safe environment with plenty of sunlight. This strategy is not recommended if you live in an area with natural predators, so please take care when isolating your broody hen. 

If none of these strategies work for you, you may have to let your hens broodiness run its course, this could last for a few days and up to one month. Eventually, with plenty of socialization your hen will return to normal behavior. 
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Best Summertime Chicken Breeds

Best Summertime Chicken Breeds

Summer is officially here! And on that note, we would like to provide our recommendations for chicken breeds that stay cooler in summertime temperatures, and maintain quality and consistent egg laying capabilities when the weather is hot. Also, we'd like to share some tips on keeping your chickens healthy in the summertime.

In general, chicken breeds that are smaller can stay cooler in summertime weather better than larger breeds. Chickens that have fewer or lighter weight feathers can handle the hot temperatures better because they can cool down faster than larger breeds with more feathers. Also, chicken breeds that originate from Countries with hot climates will generally maintain quality egg laying capabilities in the summertime.

Best Chicken Breeds for Summer

1) White Leghorn Chicken- The white leghorn stays cooler in the summer better than most other breeds due to its white color and small size. The white leghorn is a smaller chicken breed, weighing approximately 5 pounds (lbs), which makes it easier for this breed to stay cooler in the summertime. Additionally, the white leghorn chicken breed originates from Italy, making this breed accustomed the very hot Mediterranean summer temperatures. The white leghorn is also one of the best egg laying chicken breeds, laying large white eggs.

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How are Chicks and Ducklings Shipped?

How are Chicks and Ducklings Shipped?

Many customers want to know, how are baby chicks and ducklings shipped?

The answer: Chicks purchased from Californiahatchery.com will ship through the US postal system using either express or priority delivery, depending on the quantity of chicks in your order. All chicks will ship the day they hatch. Typically, your chicks will arrive within 2-3 days after they ship. We include instructions for the post office to call the customer as soon as their order arrives at their local post office. We advise our customers to contact their local post office and let them know they are expecting a delivery of live poultry, which will help to facilitate our safe arrival guarantee.

- Californiahatchery.com
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Favorite Chicken Breeds

Favorite Chicken Breeds

Some of our favorite chicken breeds the the barred rock chicken, easter egger chicken, and the buff orpington chicken. Each one of these chicken breeds offers a unique characteristic!

Barred Rock Chicken
The Barred Rock Chicken originated in Holland and lays large dark brown eggs about three (3) times per week. The barred rock chicken has a friendly and calm personality and a greyish "rock like" coloring  making them a popular backyard chicken breed in the United States. The barred rock chicken has a friendly personality and can be housed with any other breed of chicken. 



(Pictured Above: Barred Rock Chicken Breed)

Buff Orpington Chicken
The Buff Orpington Chicken originates from England and lays large brown colored eggs about three (3) times per week. The buff orpington is a favorite breed for many backyard chicken owners due to their appearance, as they have been bred as a show bird rather than for utility purposes. Their docile and friendly personalities make them easily adaptable to live with other chicken breeds!

Buff Orpington Chicken Breed


















(Pictured Above: Buff Orpington Chicken Breed)

(Click below to read more about our favorite chicken breeds and please feel free to comment on your favorite breeds!)
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Chickens for Eggs- Best Egg Laying Chickens

Chickens for Eggs- Best Egg Laying Chickens

The best egg laying chicken breeds will generally lay five (5) or more eggs per week, have a high tolerance for laying conditions, and provide high quality eggs. We would like to provide our customers with a list of our most popular egg laying chickens that produce high quality eggs. 

1) Delaware chicken- This breed will usually lay four (4) large brown eggs per week depending on conditions. The breed originates from the United States and will provide a calm and friendly demeanor as one of your backyard chickens.

2) Rhode Island Red Chicken- The Rhode Island Red chicken breed typically lays five (5)extra-large brown eggs per week. This is by far one of our most popular egg laying breeds. This breed is calm and easily handled as part of your backyard chicken flock.

3) White Leghorn chicken- This breed will lay about four (4) large white eggs per week of excellent quality. They are an active and energetic breed that will add some personality to your backyard flock! We highly recommend the white leghorn chicken as one of your primary white egg laying chicken breeds.
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Guidelines for Raising Baby Chicks

Guidelines for Raising Baby Chicks

Before you receive your day old chicks or ducklings from californiahatchery.com, there are a few things you should have ready:

1) A heating lamp and brooder area- The heating lamp temperature should change according as your chicks grow. Follow the heating lamp temperature guidelines below to provide optimal temperature for your chicks: 

Week 1: 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit 
Week 2: 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit 
Week 3: 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit 
Week 4: 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit 
Week 5,6,7: 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit 
Week 8: 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit 
Week 9: 65 degrees Fahrenheit 

The heating lamp should be placed 12-18 inches above the floor of the heating area. Some signs that your heat is too low- Your chicks will huddle together in the brooder. If the temperature is too high, your chicks may be dispersed throughout the heating area, and they may look tired. If the temperature is set correctly, your chicks will be evenly dispersed throughout the heating area, and they will look lively while making lots of peeping sounds!
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