Being a new chicken owner is fun and exciting, and it is easy to become enamored with chickens and their adorable antics. Generally speaking, chickens are hearty little creatures that often take great care of themselves. But mistakes are made, and here are my top 10 mistakes people make raising chickens.
Had I known what I know now, I may have been able to keep my first few flock members around for much longer.
1. First Mistake People Make Raising Chickens is Coop Size
One of the first concerns for a new chicken owner is to find the perfect coop for their new flock.
One of the biggest mistakes made is purchasing or building a cell that is not large enough for the number of chickens that will be occupying it.
Sure, chickens are small when they are young, but when a hen starts to fill out, that cute little coop for sale online will probably end up being too small.
It’s wise to watch out for cells meant for rabbits but advertised as “great for chickens too” because chickens will quickly outgrow a small coop.
By the way, those cute coops online? Yes, they are cute, but new chicken owners should always look closely at the used materials.
Often, the construction is poor, and the wood is extremely weak or untreated. Coops like this do not last in the elements. Follow our DIY chicken coop plans here and get details on quality builds.
2. Lack of Protection from Predators is a Big Mistake People Make Raising Chickens
It might be easy to whip up a simple coop for a new flock, but predators will quickly find a way in if the proper precautions are taken.
Weasels, for example, can squeeze into the smallest openings on a coop and cause devastating damage.
You must check each cell for gaps to prevent predators from killing birds, stealing eggs, or spreading diseases.
Automatic chicken coop doors are an excellent way to protect your flock from predators.
3. Run Size Issues
When I began my chicken journey, I couldn’t allow my chickens to free-range, so I needed to provide a run for them to forage and exercise.
I was completely delusional about the amount of space a chicken needs to stay healthy and happy—not to mention maintaining my lawn’s health.
It turns out that if 10 square feet per chicken is not provided in confinement, chickens will fight, trample the earth, and even become ill.
It is incredible to see how quickly a small flock of chickens can destroy a small patch of lawn. I guess the good stuff is always on the bottom.
4. Don’t Make the Mistake of Not Providing Adequate Grit
For years I was under the impression that oyster shells were synonymous with grit. I didn’t know that I was depriving my chickens of a valuable tool that aids in digestion.
I was buying only oyster shells thinking that it would work the same as grit. This wasn’t a problem for my free-range birds, but not having good grit caused impacted crops for the ones living in confinement.
5. A Common Mistake People Make Raising Chickens is Forgetting That Pet Chickens Get Old
I never wanted to butcher my chickens, but because I was terrible at “chicken math,” I was constantly accumulating more.
I loved trying out new breeds, and I enjoyed incubating my purebred Orpington eggs, but suddenly, I had more chickens than I knew what to do with, and needless to say, some needed to go.
Unfortunately, I never had a plan for the older chickens no longer laying. I often joked that they became free-loaders, but in all reality, I needed to either sell them, give them away, or butcher them to make room for the productive birds.
I quickly learned that it’s a good idea to have a plan for chicken retirement before a flock of 10 turns into 50 without even realizing it.
I wish I had thought it through before I became too overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do with all my birds.
I learned to slow down with my chicken-buying habits and to part, with my beloved birds in the best way I saw fit.
6. Taking Roll Call at Night
After a long day at work, it’s easy to pry me off the coach to mindlessly close the chicken coop up for the night without taking a headcount.
One winter, I didn’t count my chickens, and I closed up shop before one of my professional foragers returned for the night. Sadly, she froze to death, and this day, I will never close up at night before taking roll call.
Even during the summer, a straggler can get snatched up by a predator and never seen again.
Something that has helped me with my late nights and not making it at night to close the coop is my automatic chicken coop door, which has helped in the laziness department.
Though my flock has been free-ranging all day, I like to take a walk and roll call to make sure they are safe. If I know, they are in the run.
I trust the automatic coop door to do the job.
7. Inspecting Fresh Eggs
I’ll admit, when I collected my first batch of fresh eggs, I was a little nervous about getting sick. I had always eaten store-bought eggs that I had always assumed were new and clean.
Now, the cleaning was up to me. I was terrified that I would accidentally give away a beautiful carton of eggs to someone, and they would get sick.
After eating farm-fresh eggs after a few years, I became lazier and lazier. I had never gotten sick, and instead of obsessively checking over each egg for blemishes, cracks, and poo.
I found myself casually washing them in warm water and consuming them without a second glance.
However, since I am considered the master of deviled eggs, I was recently charged with making three dozen for our family’s Easter.
I love to make hard-boiled eggs in the instant pot, and as I was lowering one egg at a time, I became horrified at the sight of a slight crack in one of my beautiful blue eggs. I had forgotten how easy it was to miss a cracked egg!
Cracked eggs allow for bacteria from poop and other organisms to enter the egg and cause illness when consumed, so needless to say. My egg checking habits were soon back in check.
8. Inadequate Nesting Boxes
Speaking of egg-checking, another mistake newbie chicken farmers often make is not having a desirable nesting box for their hens—or none at all!
Chickens absolutely must have a safe, enclosed nesting box to produce clean, crack-free eggs regularly.
When I moved my hens into the barn for the winter, I gave them a weak-looking nesting box that they exposed to the elements of the barn.
It was a small box, similar to that of a shoebox cover. Again, laziness set in, and I was naively sure that production would keep up all winter.
Boy, was I wrong? My hens started laying their eggs all over their pen and nowhere near the nesting box. The eggs were damaged from being trampled, dirty, and eventually, I didn’t have any fresh eggs to speak of–either they stopped laying, or they began eating them.
I replaced the shoebox with an enclosed nesting box with a small entrance, just large enough for my hens to enter to remedy this messy situation.
It had a lovely little door on the side that I could open for collecting my eggs, and to my delight, after about a week with the new nesting box, my hens were leaving clean eggs for breakfast once again.
9. Laziness Can Cause The Mistake of Not Collecting Eggs Regularly
I’m letting my laziness shine through here, but I hope it helps beginners avoid making the same mistakes I did as a beginner.
I didn’t feel the urgency to collect eggs every morning in the colder months because I knew the temperature was hard enough to keep them fresh.
Sometimes I would order them in the evening, and yes, sometimes, I’d wait a day to order. What ended up happening was twofold:
- Eggs became trampled, cracked, or burst from the cold.
- Due to the cracks in the eggs, the chickens became curious enough to start pecking at the imperfections on the neglected eggs; thus, they developed the nasty (hard-to-break) habit of egg eating.
It took me a good month and a lot of trial and error to remedy this epidemic. The ladies were back in business with a few porcelain eggs and some filled with mustard.
Please make no mistake, egg-eating is a tough habit to break, and when one chicken starts, they all want a taste.
10. Rooster Considerations
New chicken owners often misunderstand roosters. I am amazed at how often I find myself defending my roosters to other chicken fanciers.
I can’t imagine a flock without a rooster, and I am lucky to be able to keep them where I live. Not every rooster is like the scary dinosaurs often seen chasing children in the latest viral video. They care about protecting their hens.
Since having a rooster in my free-range flock, I haven’t lost a single hen to an aerial predator.
Even beginners will find that raising a young roo can be fun, entertaining, and more accessible than initially thought.
The problems arise when there are either too many or too few roosters for the number of hens and space provided.
- If there are too few hens, a rooster may hurt them by breeding them too much. This can cause injuries, feather loss, and exhausted hens, inevitably leading to slow egg production.
- If there are too many roosters, they will undoubtedly fight over the hens and may even kill each other for them if there is not enough space provided for a multiple-rooster flock.
Mistakes People Make Raising Chickens Final Thoughts
Some newbies believe that to get eggs from hens. A rooster must be present in the flock. For those who cannot keep a rooster, this is excellent news!
You don’t need a rooster to have fresh eggs. Luckily, a hen will produce unfertilized eggs, perfect for french toast, even without a rooster.
Everyone is bound to make some mistakes when they first start raising chickens. There certainly is a learning curve, but luckily, chickens forgive animals, and by correcting errors, a healthy and happy flock is easy to keep for many years.
What were some of the mistakes you learned from? Let me know below. I am sure someone will benefit from your learned lessons.
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29 thoughts on “Top 10 Mistakes People Make Raising Chickens”
I have a question that’s part confession! I have a little flock with 3 12 week old Sussex chicks and 3 same age Easter Eggers. I fed them medicated chick crumbles till they were 8 weeks old, then wanted to switch them to 18% grower crumbles. My local feed store was out, so we mixed unmedicatedchick crumbles with layer pellets. Seemed to work fine. Then, last time I went in, the clerk showed me a brand that also had oyster shards in it , same price, and suggestEd it was better for my girls. Ok, I mixed it with chick crumbles and odd I went. After about a week, I noticed that my birds were dropping feathers and seemed quieter than usual. Last weekend, we moved my birds to their very own run, 10×20 for the 6 of them. Then I noticed that they all had very odd colored poop! Everything from mustard to brick red. I’ve switched them back to regular feed and added probiotics and electrolytes to their water. As an aside, I put some sand with DE mixed in, into a depression in their run thinking they’d use it for dust bathing. Nope, they’ve been eating it! Over the last few days, their poop seems to be becoming more normal, but the feather loss continues. Nobody has any bare spots, just looks like an awful lot of feathers on the floor.
All the feathers could mean your girls are molting it is totally normal. This happens a couple times a year. I don’t use DE anymore . I use my girls eggshells crushed up, tiny pieces. Good for calcium and thier eggshells being stronger. Hope this helps.
Eating the DE will actually benefit their digestive system, there are a lots of unknowns in this scenario. Also, see feather loss details here https://www.thehappychickencoop.com/chicken-feather-loss-cause-and-cure/
Thanks, suggestions very calming! Several developments; food back to normal, they’ve learned how to take a dust bath, I dusted everything with DE, feathers continue to drop! I asked my DIL, more experience with chickens than me, over and we checked them all over. No bugs anywhere but jillions of pin feathers! Further reading has informed me that a juvenile molt at 12-13 weeks is normal.
I love your chick tips! Can you answer this: unbeknownst to me, my husband fertilized the lawn with weed & feed. The chickens were out about 10 minutes before I noticed the white flecks on the grass, so I’m positive they ate some. What do I do now?
What are the ages? If they are laying eggs do not eat the eggs, discard. There is not much you can do at this point other than isolate them from the weed n feed and always provide fresh water.
I’m new to this. I have a coop that says large enough for 5-6 birds, but I only saw three nesting bays. Will the hens alternate when they lay eggs, or do we need to increase the bays to match the number of chickens. We are buying the chics at the same time, from the same farm (2 RIR, 2 Orpington Buffs, and 2 Plymouth Rock) Thank you. Love your blog by the way.
You will learn that no matter how many boxes you have they will pick their favorite. I have 6 chickens and 3 boxes….they literally take turns using the same box. These are the silly things that make you love chickens even more.
I have six nesting boxes and 5 hens- they all lay in one box. Occasionally I’ll find an egg outside the coop or in another box. The next day all the eggs in one box. Makes it easy to collect.
I have a rooster that is extremely mean. I have 6 hens that I guess he protects. Sometimes it takes 2 people to be able to even go in their pen to feed and water them. What should I do?
There are lots of reasons a rooster can be aggressive or mean. Here is our guide on this https://www.thehappychickencoop.com/aggressive-roosters/
Is your rooster mean to hens as well as people? Mean-rooster-soup is my solution. I recommend everyone read, Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin. She’s amazing at explaining animal behavior. Roosters that injure or are aggressive to hens isn’t natural, she points out. Nature would never have a psychologically healthy animal that kills it’s mate, and many roosters today do. She suggests abnormal behavior is a result of selecting for a trait not realizing what else comes with it. Like getting a meatier bird or a higher productive bird and accidentally getting some other side effect like aggression. Long ago farmers were quick to cull birds with undesirable traits so as not to pass on those genes. There are plenty of good roosters out there, no need to keep an aggressive one. Good luck.
Also, an aggressive rooster can be a liability. Be sure its worth it.
There will be some nature that allows the hostility, such as the black widow and or the praying mantis.
What do you put in your actual coop besides hay to minimize odor. My hens free range during the day but we live in Florida and it is already 90 degree days. The odor is getting strong. Love your blog,,
Pine straw and DE. I COMPLETELY change this out once a year, late fall, to facilitate coop closing in winter. During the rest of the year, I just add as needed.
How do I train my 8-10 week chicks to come back into the coop at night? Will they know to do it by themselves?
When you first introduce them to the coop, keep them locked up for about 3 or four days. Make sure you give them plenty of food and water. After that they know where their “home” is. Better than a self-parking car! ??
I have two chickens with runny brownish green poop,what is the problem.
This could be a number of things. From what they are eating, worms, coccidiosis disease, viruses and bacteria from diet change, polluted water, or moldy feed. I would make sure they don’t have other sickness symptoms and if they start to decline in health, separate them from your flock so it does not spread.
Good article with great info. Bottom line is that most people that have or want chickens are just too CHEAP. Spend more money for safety and nutrition or don’t get chickens.
I have learnt a lot on this forum. Its great. Please for how long can my girls live and secondly if they stay too long is it going to hardened their flesh and make it unsuitable for food.
We just added on to the coop and added more nesting boxes they 3 levels and metel they will not use them then I got some plastic tots cut openings and put the same bedding in them and they are not laying in them what am I doing wrong?
I ought six chics!end of May/ June and wound up having my eastereggers one was a gorgeous Rooster!, well, I had checked the coop and found it was ok for birds and roosters, but well, in September when he started to crow, well he finally go full lungs in 2 weeks, well, if any of my neighbors were upset they never said a word to me,I would think that they would. Not! They were calling the local township, and yes He crowed but a lot less than the dogs that are locked out, of their house, or the “men””
Baby teenagers which all ha e the loudest cars which they think nothing of blasting there radios, while working on their cars, to make them louder, and I hav to listen to their music, and how about the grass cutters? Noise of them every singil day non stop! Mt poor Rooster which I finally found a farm that would that take him, crowed early at 5:45 ecause the man Boy across the street had a loud car and it startled him,! So ,hence he crowed! Then he crowed at 8:15 or so because the parent were walking their children to school,and at 3:20 when school let out. But he didn’t crow Leone stop like the persons yapping dog that cries to be let back Inside! For eevery morning at 7:30 till 8 / 8:30 that dam dog happens! Then the big barker starts, then it just goes back and forth around the neighborhood. My rooster crows? Yes about 4 times a day and exactly three to four crows in a row and that was it!
I got rid of him and I felt so bad for his mate,which followed him none stop! Well, the next morning I hea sad attempt of a crow! I though of no! One of the othe three which are 4 weeks younger now feels he could try to. Crow? Now I had to get rid of another Rooster? Well, it turned out our “mate” which turned out to be supposedly Carouseo mate, was under cover chick,!,!Rooster! After he was gone he started to crow!! Well I was choked! She/ he had no huge plume of tail feathers, so even though they looked the same this one didn’t have a huge comb, My rother told me she was a he 2 Months eailer…. well he was right! When they were getting their feathers, carouse was plucking out his “mates” tail feathers and I go some no peck and applied it.well his”mate” had no tail feathers ecause Caruso kept plucking one at a time! That is why his mate was actually a Rooster! But that’s lasted 2 nights and I dropped him at the farm.
Does it end here NOOOOOO!!!! The health inspector came to my home and admitted he had come into my fenced in yard and checked to see if I got rid of them, I was furious! That was against the law, he only allowed to knock on my door, and if he wanted to enter my property He was supposed to have a warrant, through the sheriff’s offic etc….. .
HE MADE ME NOW THROUGH THE MAIL SENT ME A SUMMONS TO SHOW UP TO COURT!
I called the health inspector but to no avail he said you just plead guilty i’ll try to give you the lowest fine that I can and pretty much hung up on me! I called my two lawyers that I know have but they did not get back to me I should have a court with my husband and my husband said I know we were wrong about the rooster but your first letter and the only thing you talked about was to get rid of the roosters so we got rid of the rooster within 48 hours and you in your written letter said I had five days but you never said we couldn’t have the chickens well then he turns around the health inspector and said oh well you’re not a farm you have to be part of the farm act of New Jersey which requires you to have 5 acres of land of the townships in New Jersey old Bridge is the only one with a requirement of acreage so now my babies that I’ve had for seven or eight months goldie ruby and freckles I have to give to the same farmer my husband won’t let me hide them in the garage there’s no crowing I figured I hide them in the garage for a couple of months what I have built out their cost me a couple of thousand dollars they have an 8′ x 6′ 10 besides the house! How can I get my town to allow me to have my chickens? Or should I even legally hide them knowing that the man is going to come through my fence to check in a couple of weeks three little chickens it cost me $500 and fine and I had the babies since they were one day old they still had their egg tooth brokenhearted chicken mama
You can’t fight an uptight city codes. Nobody will ever leave you alone now that you’ve had chickens once, you’ll forever be targeted. Move to the country or an agri friendlier state.
New Jersey is supposed to be the garden state, it is the township. You are 100% correct about the codes.
Sell your house and move to village, city life is ungodly.
‘ forgetting that pet chickens get old’ and planning what to do with them after they stop laying. Did you give away or slaughter any other pets you’ve had such as a dog a cat a rabbit etc.? If this is a pet the only responsible thing to do is allow it to live out it’s life it’s served you for years giving you eggs now you can do the decent thing and take care of them in their old age. I hate to see what you’ve done with your parents when they got older.
We need to sell or get rid of them when they stopped playing to make room for others that are productive. These are not PETS. These are animals that you were keeping and exploiting to take their eggs and use for your own needs.
You “had to part with your beloved birds The best way you saw fit”. The fact that you’re not disclosing what you do with these birds leaves one to conclude that you had them slaughtered. I’m guessing because it’s always easier to have someone else do the dirty work. if you had too many kids because you got carried away having sex would you have adopted them out as well?
I don’t know why but it still amazes me how people have little to no regard for living breathing feeling animals.
Do you have to put fertilized eggs into an incubator or can you leave it up to the hen?