No, a hen will lay eggs regardless--they just won't be fertile eggs. They still have the same nutritional value as fertilized eggs. Most of the eggs you buy in the store are unfertilized.
Are chickens dirty animals? Do they smell?
As long as the farmer takes care of cleaning out the coop regularly, chickens are not especially dirty nor smelly animals.
Will having chickens in my backyard attract rodents?
It is food that attracts rodents, not the birds. If you have wild bird feeders in your back yard, you run the same risk. Keep all feed in metal garbage cans, with secure lids. Feed birds in small doses, so as not to have a large amount of food left over. If you feed your birds kitchen scraps, make sure it is eaten and not left in the bedding.
Do hens make a lot of noise?
Unlike roosters, hens make very little noise. Think of roosters as noisy as a barking dog and hens as noisy as cats.
Is it legal to keep chickens in Indianapolis?
Yes. There is nothing in the city ordinances banning chickens. There are noise ordinances, however, and roosters could lead to violations in that regard.
How many eggs will a hen lay in a week/year? When do they start to lay eggs?
A typical hen will start to lay eggs at about 6 months of age. The eggs will start out small then get increasingly larger. During the first year of laying, the hen (if she is a good egg producer) will lay one egg, almost every day. Some birds will then go through a "molt" in the late fall/ winter months and stop laying. Then, they will start again in the early spring. You can encourage egg laying through the colder months by keeping a light on, inside the chicken coop. As the birds get older, they will start to lay fewer and fewer eggs.
How long do chickens live?
Chickens can live as long as 10 years and some even longer.
How much space does a chicken need?
For 4 hens, a 3'x4' Coop plus a "run" (a place for them to scratch around) that is roughly 3'x8' is more than adequate. Most commercial birds are placed in cages (6-8 to a cage) where they cannot even turn around. Perch space in the roost is recommended at 8 inches per chicken.
Can I use the chicken manure in my garden?
Chicken manure is high in nitrogen, so it is considered "hot". It will need to be composted before putting it directly onto your garden. Once it has broken down, it then becomes perfect food for the garden.
What do chickens eat?
They will eat just about anything. I feed them a "layer" feed from a local feed store as well as any kitchen scraps we have left over.
What about the winter?
Chickens are surprisingly warm and produce a lot of heat. As long as their coop is draft-free, they should be okay. Some breeds are more winter-hardy than others and are therefore better suited for colder winters. Artificial heat can be provided but is not required. Birds can get frostbite. Birds with large combs tend to be more susceptible.
What do I do about freezing water in the winter?
A small heated dog dish will keep the water thawed.
Are chickens safe from cats and dogs?
Both cats and dogs tend to find them interesting but not necessarily prey. That is not to say that there are some cats and dogs who might find them worthy of a meal. More of a concern would be raccoons, opossums, fox and even some rats. Make sure your coop is secured at night safe from any predators.
Where can I buy chickens?
There are several places to buy chickens. You can find them locally by searching Craigslist's Farm and Garden section. Generally, these birds will be full-grown and already laying eggs. Typically, they sell for $5-$10. You can also buy chicks, a day or two old, from several online sites.