Sustainable Berea

PO Box 1302

Berea, KY 40403


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Learn Shop Notes on Raising Chickens

by Cheyenne Olson

Learn Shops,  July 2017

Cheyenne Olson with Thimble Brain, Einstein and Amelia

199 Adams Street

Berea, KY  40403


Do you really want backyard chickens?


clean air,

right feed,

good water supply,

plenty of space,

predator protection,

overall comfortable living environment -- might need to get chickens that are adapted to the climate. Some like hot weather and some do better in cold temperatures

Keeping chickens from boredom

Your consistent time and attention

What chickens give to you:

Eggs-- if you want to sell eggs do a monkey survey of your target market to see what people want to buy. Some people want multiple colors in their eggs, not the generic brown eggs.



Bug control




City Ordinances for urban chickens (the Berea ordinance)


Keeping neighbors happy

Give away eggs, let the neighborhood children meet the chickens and teach them about chicken care

Finding chickens

Six ways to get chickens:

Mail order hatchery

Put fertile egg in an incubator -- lots of choices here for incubators. Can purchase ready made or make your own  (go to Mother Earth News, “Which incubator is the best for you? a two part series by Gail Damerow)

Local farm store

Local hatchery

From a friend

Place fertile eggs under a hen that has “gone broody” (usually in spring)

(Raising your own chickens with a broody hen is the best.  Hens will forage, keep chicks warm and safe from predators)


Select a breed for your situation

This is a good article on picking chickens:


Rhode Island Red:  classic dual-purpose bird that are easy going, curious, friedly, and consistently lay good sized brown eggs.  

Austorlorpe: high egg production and calm temperament for cold or hot weather

Buff Orphington:  calm, inquisitive, high egg production


(  has charts with information on dozens of breeds)

If you want a pet, get a chicken with docile temperament

If you want an egg layer, get something that will lay lots of eggs

If you want a meat chicken there are those that are good for production

Females lay eggs regardless of having a rooster


Do you want a rooster?  

Males act as a protector for the flock

They are noisy

They can sometimes be honery

They are beautiful and have a lot of character

You would only want one, because two will fight

Ratio of 1 male to 6 - 8 females if you want fertile eggs.


Housing -- the coop




Wild dogs


All nighttime creatures

Get a dog and train it to keep the perimeter safe from predators

Use electric fencing

We have three layers of safety and use night lights -- red eyes

Nest boxes:  must be in a quiet, private place and fluffy.  Chickens do not like to have other chickens or people  watch them when they lay eggs

Area for roosting:  chickens sleep on their roost and often sit for naps during the day on their roost. We have designed our roosts so poop doesn’t get on anything it shouldn’t -- like nest boxes or food.


Space for stretching the wings and legs!  There are many configurations for chicken runs with a wide variety of fencing options.  Happy chickens are chickens that get to run around.  Best environment is totally free range. Next best is extended runs that can be moved around the yard. Chickens were not made to be cooped up 24/7.  They are happiest when roaming about the finding worms, bugs, greens.  


Space for housing:  Very important to not have your chickens “cooped up” in a crowded situation. They will be stressed, not lay eggs regularly and will begin to peck each other out of overcrowding and boredom.  The reason commercial hatcheries chop off beaks is to prevent chickens from injuring each other. This does not eliminate the pecking problem because hatcheries with hundreds of thousands of birds are just egg producing mills and they don’t care about the chickens quality of life. As a backyard chicken owner, you can give your birds a happy and healthy environment and they will reward you with eggs and entertainment!


Raising chickens

the brooder for early days

Brooder  (see handout and see my brooder set up in the office area)

Temperature -- need to keep baby chicks warm for the first 10 days

Food  -- baby chicks:  ground corn, soybean, vitamins and calcium

Socializing -- play with your birds, handle them, get them used to you if your chickens will play the role of egg production AND pets. (Mind are terribly spoiled but lay an egg each day!)


The Teen years:  flying the coop, roosting in trees, on the roof, very curious and wandering

Food and laying eggs -- Hens will start laying anywhere from 16 to 24 weeks  One of mine started on exactly 90 days.  (show booklet of egg laying)  Exactly 2 weeks later my second hen started laying.

Laying hens need calcium so have oyster shells available in a separate container. Sometimes I grind up egg shells and feed that to my chickens.

Look for food that has all the minerals, vitamins and protein that the hens need.


Table snacks:  what is good for you is good for them.  90 to 10 ratio.

Leave out






GO EASY on the dairy because it may cause diarrhea

Molting  mine are just now molting for the first time and they are 2 years and 4 months old. Chickens generally molt in the fall. People say they will stop laying when molting.  Feed cat food for high protein -- needed when feathers are growing back in.


The aging years: we are there  now -- and the issue becomes how to add to the flock?

Adding to your flock:  Cannot put younger, smaller chickens in with older larger chickens.

Chickens do not know age, but they do know size.  Bigger ones will eat the smaller ones. Some say this is not so.  Stay I try to enlarge my flock.  I’ll let you know how it goes.


Vaccinations:  Various places on the internet. I have never vaccinated.


Health and medical “kit” (have a resource handout. Page in backyard poultry book)


Worms:  Natural preventatives are pumpkin seeds and garlic a few times per year

Any squash, melon or cucumber seeds are also natural wormers to feed year around

Laying chickens with worms will lay eggs that have poop on them.

(I have never had worms in my chickens)


Chickens in the garden

Three most important tips:

Separate chickens from desirable vegetables.

Allow plants to grow tall before allowing chickens in, so they can only be eaten around  ground level

Concentrate on the plants that the chickens don’t find very tasty.


Plant new plants in the ground after the chickens have been put up for the night. Then protect for a few weeks with a cage. Chickens are curious. They will want to see what you are doing and get in on the fun


Chickens do best with heavily planted landscapes.  The vertical layers of the gardens allow them secure locations when they can hide from predators, get protection from the elements and forage for food.  Nix the bigger areas that are free of vegetation.  Go for smaller areas that have trees, short shrubs, trailing flowers.


Herbs are good to stimulate egg production and act as a natural de-wormer.

Catnip, fennel, feverfew, lavender and rosemary can act as natural insect repellent,  Chickens can eat them and rub against them.  Nasturtiums have antibiotic and antiseptic properties and serve as a natural de-wormer for chickens


Mulch in the yard is good for chickens. They amuse themselves with the scratching and uncover worms.


Not all plants are foraged by chickens. Ground covers such as juniper, mint, roses and sweet woodruff can grow dense enough to keep chickens from scratching through the soil.  Many types of fruit, from those that grow on trees to squashes then have tough skins are not accessible to the chicken.


BUT greens are right at chicken beak level.  These will probably have to be fenced.

Greens that resemble weeds include chickweed, dandelions, plantains, purslane and thistle and are often readily snacked on by chickens.

Chickens can clean up the garden after production is over


A few sources of information

Meyer Hatchery:


The Chicken Encyclopedia, an illustrated reference, Gail Damerow., also author of Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens


You Tube:  Becky’s Homestead (


Backyard Poultry:


Nite Guard Solar-Powered Night Predator Light, model # 001.  (another source for nite guard)


Murray McMurray Hatchery


Harvey Ussery,  The small-Scale Poultry Flock  (everything you will ever need to know to raise your own chickens)


Mother Earth News:


Chicken Fencing:


GRIT, Celebrating rural America Since 1882 .

Online source of hatcheries: