Each year, thousands of Arizona residents email or call Rosie Romero’s radio show with questions about their homes. Recently, we had an expert on the program, Greg Peterson, owner of the Urban Farm in Phoenix, who answered questions about raising chickens to provide eggs. Here are some of his answers.
QUESTION: Where do you buy chickens?
ANSWER: The best idea is to deal with local feed stores rather than going online; people who work at feed stores seem to know all the answers about what to buy. You can mix breeds. I usually have six or seven varieties. Some people like to buy chicks; some like to buy adult hens. But so-called “point of lay” hens are hard to find.
You also want to buy a minimum of three chickens to start. Each bird will lay six eggs a week when they are six to 24 months of age. As hens get older, they lay fewer eggs.
Before building a coop and buying chickens, check on whether raising chickens is allowed in your city, county or subdivision. You might have a zoning problem. If they are allowed, find out how many chickens you can raise in your yard.
Q: How can I tell the age of a chicken?
A: Sometimes, you can tell age by looking at a chicken to determine whether it’s a teenager or really old; but that’s not always possible.
You can buy chicks, of course; buy two or three at a local feed store and get them pre-sexed so you get girls and not roosters. Though sometimes they still turn out to be roosters.
Q: How do I house my chickens?
A: Chickens need to be in a run outside or enclosed in a coop for the night. You want to keep out predators, like bobcats, coyotes and raccoons.
So put in a fencing structure with two-by-fours grounded in concrete. Put welded wire fencing on the roof and hardware cloth on the sides. Coyotes can break through chicken wire so don’t use that.
You want to build an enclosure that is almost a fortress, but it’s also possible to buy many prefabricated housing options that are on the market.
You want to stop pigeons and other local birds from entering your enclosure as they might eat the chicken feed and spread mites.
Q: How do I introduce new birds into my chicken flock?
A: Older birds will pick on the chicks; so we keep them separate until they’re all of equal size. Having two coops is a good way to do it. Introduce the younger chickens into the coop at night when the other chickens are asleep. Give them all watermelon in the morning to distract them.
Q: Can I keep a chicken in an apartment or a condo?
A: Chickens really, really need to have a yard to live in. You can’t walk chickens like you walk your dog when you come home at night after work. Chickens like to eat bugs and root around.
Q: How do I keep chickens from flying over a fence or into a neighbor’s yard?
A: Generally, chickens like to stay at home. But lock them in a coop for a couple of weeks when you first get them to be sure.
You can also trim feathers on one wing of a chicken twice a year, a process that tends to prevent them from flying or getting airborne. Some breeds fly better than others.
Be sure to make friends with your neighbors and share your eggs with them. That’s one way to avoid complaints.
Q: My chickens have mite problems. What do I do?
A: Buy a good grade of diatomaceous earth to spread in the area where the chickens will live. That will cut out the bug problem.
A final piece of advice: You do not need a rooster to get eggs; you only need a rooster to get chicks. Roosters do not crow only at sunrise. They crow 24-7.
For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com. An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert for 29 years, Rosie Romero is the host of the syndicated Saturday morning Rosie on the House radio program, heard locally from 8-11 a.m. on KNST-AM (790) in Tucson and from 9-11 a.m. on KGVY-AM (1080) and -FM (100.7) in Green Valley. Call 888-767-4348.