Chickens

Natural History

Gallus gallus domesticus, also known as the chicken, is a domesticated fowl that descends from the wild red junglefowl. Today you can find chickens all over the world but their geographic origins are believed to be from India and southeast Asia.

Domesticated chicken breeds vary in purposes from ornamental pets, to breeding and meat, or egg laying. Their temperaments also vary! Some of the more docile breeds include cochin, dorking, orpington, and plymouth rock. The more flighty chicken breeds are hamburg, lakenvelder, leghorn, and polish. Aggressive breeds include aseel, cornish cocks, New Hampshire cocks, and Rhode Island red cocks. The Maymont Farm has a welsummer hen, buff orpington hen, jersey giant hen, golden laced wyandotte hen, and a barred rock rooster.

If you are thinking about raising your own chickens, there are a few things you need to consider. First, check your local zoning laws to see if it’s allowed in your area. Once you get the go ahead, a good number to start with is one rooster, and 2-3 hens. It’s best to get chicks in March – April because it’s warm but still cool enough to discourage diseases. Make sure the chicks drink plenty of water and eat within 5 hours of getting them.

You’ll need a chicken coop or another type of structure for shelter. Researching online and talking with other chicken owners can assist you in which designs work best. DO feed them grains, corn, oyster shells, and supplements. Supplements include grit (pebbles/small gravel to help digest food in gizzard), calcium (oyster shell/limestone), and salt (in very small amounts). DON’T feed them raw potato peels, spoiled/rotten food, onions, garlic, fish, or citrus.

Fun Facts

  • Chickens usually lay about 1 egg a day.
  • Did you know that a bird’s body is more than 50% water and their eggs are 65% water? So make sure they get lots of water if you decide to raise them.
  • Chickens get along with cattle, sheep, meat goats, and horses but not dairy goats or pigs.
  • Eggs have 47-94 calories, making them a great low-calorie snack!
  • Add eggshells to compost to sweeten soil or place them in tomato plant soils to prevent blossom-end rot.

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