chickens, chicken coop and run

10 Essential Tips for New Chicken Owners: A Comprehensive Guide

Welcome to our post where we share our experiences as chicken owners, gathered over nearly a year of trial and error. If you’re considering getting chickens, we’ve got valuable insights to offer. But first, let’s delve into what motivated us to embark on this journey.

The allure of daily fresh eggs was a driving factor. Tired of purchasing eggs frequently, we saw an opportunity to save a few pennies by producing our own.

chickens exploring new run

Growing up with various indoor pets, I always imagined having a furry companion once I started a family. However, my spouse preferred outdoor pets due to the mess and odors associated with indoor animals. Seeking self-sufficiency, we found the perfect solution in chickens. Despite their occasional silliness, these feathered creatures possess distinct personalities and delight in trailing us around the garden.

Chickens are remarkably low-maintenance and our neighbours gladly take care of them when we’re away for more than a couple of nights. Of course, the promise of free eggs is an excellent motivator for their kindness.

Join us as we dive into the joys and challenges of chicken ownership, sharing our firsthand knowledge to help you on your own journey of keeping these delightful and rewarding feathered friends.

My top 10 tips for first-time chicken owners

Research Breeds

Before becoming chicken owners, take the time to research different breeds and their specific characteristics. Consider factors such as egg-laying abilities, temperament and adaptability to your local climate. By selecting the right breed for your needs and environment, you’ll set the foundation for a thriving flock.

Here’s a list of common chicken breeds for considering:


sussex chicken breed
  • A breed known for its versatility and suitability for both eggs and meat.
  • Excellent egg layers, producing brown eggs.
  • On average, they can lay approximately 250 to 300 brown eggs per year.
  • Docile and friendly nature, making them ideal for families and beginners.
  • Adaptable to various climates and good foragers.

Rhode Island Red

Rhode Island Red chicken
  • Popular breed in the UK, known for its excellent egg production.
  • Produces brown eggs consistently.
  • On average, they can produce around 200 to 300 brown eggs per year.
  • Hardy and adaptable to the UK climate.
  • Exhibits a calm and friendly temperament.


Orpington chicken
  • A British breed valued for its large size and dual-purpose nature.
  • Good egg production, particularly in the winter months.
  • They typically lay about 150 to 200 brown eggs per year.
  • Docile and friendly birds, making them popular choices for backyard flocks.
  • Adaptable to various climates and good foragers.


Leghorn chicken
  • A prolific egg-laying breed, known for its white eggs.
  • On average, they can lay approximately 250 to 300 white eggs per year.
  • Active and energetic birds, often requiring more space.
  • Well-suited for free-ranging and good foragers.
  • Popular choice for commercial egg production.


Marans chickens
  • Known for their beautiful dark brown eggs, often with rich chocolate-colored shells.
  • They typically produce around 150 to 200 dark brown eggs per year.
  • Dual-purpose breed, suitable for both meat and egg production.
  • Docile and friendly temperament, making them enjoyable to handle.
  • Adaptable to different environments and good foragers.


Wyandotte chickens
  • Eye-catching breed with distinct color patterns, often sought after for their ornamental appeal.
  • Dual-purpose breed with good meat and egg production.
  • On average, they can lay approximately 200 to 250 brown eggs per year.
  • Cold hardy and suitable for the UK’s variable weather conditions.
  • Known for their calm and friendly disposition.


Brahma chickens
  • Large and majestic birds, highly regarded for their meat quality.
  • Dual-purpose breed, also capable of producing medium-sized brown eggs.
  • They typically produce around 150 to 200 brown eggs per year.
  • Docile and calm temperament, often making them suitable for children.
  • Tolerant of colder weather conditions, common in the UK.


Silkie chickens
  • Ornamental breed cherished for its unique appearance, with fluffy feathers and black skin.
  • Often kept as pets or exhibition birds due to their gentle and friendly nature.
  • Not strong flyers, making them suitable for confined spaces or urban settings.
  • Tolerant of colder weather conditions in the UK.
  • They are not as prolific egg layers as other breeds, with an average of about 100 to 150 small white or tinted eggs per year.

Pekin (also known as Cochin or Bantam)

Pekin chickens
  • Popular ornamental breed, loved for its fluffy feathers and gentle personality.
  • Good for egg production, although they are more commonly kept for their ornamental value.
  • They are moderate layers, producing around 150 to 180 brown eggs per year.
  • Adaptable to different climates and suitable for smaller gardens.
  • Not strong flyers and tend to be well-suited for confined spaces.

While this list does not encompass all chicken breeds, it includes some of the most commonly kept ones in home gardens and backyards. Purchasing chickens is generally a straightforward process, but it’s important to research and contact local breeders to inquire about their available stock. The prices for chickens can range from £10 to £30 per bird. Typically, chickens are sold when they are at the point of lay, meaning they are ready to start laying eggs.

Coop Design and Size

Investing in a well-designed chicken coop is crucial for the comfort and safety of your birds. Ensure that the coop is spacious enough for the number of chickens you plan to keep and offers protection from predators. Include features like nesting boxes, perches and proper ventilation to promote healthy living conditions. We purchased this pre-fabricated coop from Amazon and adapted it by extending the communal area.

Chicken coop Amazon
Chicken coop Amazon

The pre-fabricated chicken coops provide a great starting base for your chickens to nest and sleep. It provides easy access to clean, collect eggs and close them in at night.

The extension provided much more space for our chickens to stretch their legs, scratch around in the dirt and sawdust, play on the branches and socialise. It also provided an easy space for us to enter and change their water and food.

Chicken coop and run DIY
DIY chicken run extension

You can read more about how to build this chicken run extension in my other article.

Adequate Space

Chickens require sufficient space to roam and exercise. Allow space for your chickens to free-range which allows them to stretch their wings and engage in natural behaviours like scratching and foraging. Providing ample space not only enhances their welfare but also minimizes behavioural issues. We designed our coop with an easy-access door to let the chickens roam free when we were at home and could keep an eye on them.

We didn’t want them jumping into the neighbour’s gardens or getting attacked by predators.

chickens roam free in garden

Chickens have a natural affinity for grass, and it plays an important role in their overall well-being. These feathered foragers thoroughly enjoy pecking and grazing on fresh, green grass. Not only does it provide them with necessary exercise, but it also offers a variety of nutrients that contribute to their health. Grass contains vitamins, minerals, and fibre that can support the digestive system and overall nutritional balance. Scratching and digging in the grass allow chickens to engage in instinctual behaviours and help keep their nails and beaks in good condition. Whether they are free-ranging in a backyard or provided with regular access to a grassy area, chickens truly relish the opportunity to indulge in this natural and nourishing activity.

Nutritious Feeding

Maintaining a balanced diet is vital for your chickens’ overall health and egg production. Besides a high-quality commercial feed, offer them fresh vegetables, fruits and kitchen scraps as supplementary treats. Additionally, ensure they have constant access to clean water, which is essential for digestion and temperature regulation.

It’s important to also ensure the food and water supply is located where the chickens cannot defecate on them. Because they will if given the chance! We suspended their food and water supplies from the roof of the coop which also prevents rodents from reaching them.

chicken food area

Here are some examples of fresh fruit and veg that you chickens are going to love:

  1. Leafy Greens:
    • Spinach
    • Lettuce (Romaine, leaf, or iceberg)
    • Kale
    • Swiss chard
    • Cabbage
  2. Cruciferous Vegetables:
    • Broccoli
    • Cauliflower
    • Brussels sprouts
  3. Peas and Beans:
    • Peas (snap peas, snow peas, or shelling peas)
    • Green beans
  4. Root Vegetables:
    • Carrots
    • Beets
    • Radishes
  5. Squash and Pumpkins:
    • Zucchini
    • Butternut squash
    • Pumpkins (seeds and flesh)
  6. Fruits:
    • Apples (seedless and without the core)
    • Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
    • Watermelon (seedless)
    • Melons (cantaloupe, honeydew)
    • Oranges (in moderation, as a treat)

It’s important to note that while fruits and vegetables are a healthy addition to a chicken’s diet, they should be offered in moderation and as treats. Fresh produce should be introduced gradually and any leftovers or spoiled items should be promptly removed from the coop or run to prevent bacterial growth.

Health Monitoring and Pest Control

Regular health monitoring is essential to identify any signs of illness or disease promptly. Establish a relationship with a local avian veterinarian and learn how to conduct basic health checks yourself. Keep an eye out for symptoms like decreased appetite, abnormal droppings, or respiratory issues and take appropriate action if necessary.

Chickens are mostly able to maintain their own health with a proper diet, fresh water and a suitable place to clean themselves. Chickens love to delice themselves in a dust bath which is an essential part of their daily routine. We set up a dust bath using an old sandpit the kids no longer used.

The key component of a dust bath is the material that chickens will use to dust themselves. The ideal dust bath material should be fine, dry and dusty. Common choices include:

  • Sand: Coarse builder’s sand or children’s play sand is suitable. Avoid using fine sand, as it may compact and become hard.
  • Wood Ash: Wood ash from a fireplace or wood-burning stove can be added to the dust bath area. Chickens find it effective in controlling external parasites.
  • Diatomaceous Earth: Food-grade diatomaceous earth, a natural product made from fossilized algae, can be sprinkled in the dust bath area. It helps deter pests and parasites.
  • Soil and Peat Moss: A mixture of soil and peat moss can be used if sand or other materials are not readily available. Ensure it is loose and dry.

Pest control

Red mites and worms are the primary concerns when it comes to maintaining a pest-free flock, and our experience has revealed the challenges in managing these issues. While we’ve had success in controlling worms, combating red mites has been an ongoing nightmare. These pesky creatures reside in and around the coop, emerging at night to feed on the blood of chickens. The rapid multiplication of these relentless pests makes complete eradication a daunting task, no matter how diligently we’ve tried.

To address these infestations, we’ve adopted a two-pronged approach. Firstly, we’ve been incorporating diatomaceous earth (DE) into their food as a natural worming agent. Additionally, we’ve been spreading DE extensively within the coop to target the mites. Diatomaceous earth, renowned for its insecticidal properties, acts by dehydrating and ultimately killing the mites. Our recommendation, based on our experience, is to acquire a substantial amount of DE as a vital tool in your arsenal for combating both worms and mites.

Not only do you need to monitor pests within the coop and run but it’s worth noting that chickens are particularly good at ridding your garden of pests. When given the opportunity they will roam around the garden picking off a number of unwanted pests on plants and on the ground. You can read more about this here: Utilising poultry for pest control

Predators and Security

Protecting your chickens from predators is crucial. Inspect your coop and run regularly to identify and reinforce any weak spots. Use sturdy wire mesh to cover windows and openings and consider installing motion-activated lights or an electric fence for added security. Remember, prevention is key to keeping your flock safe.

chicken run construction

Social Interaction and Entertainment

Chickens are social animals and thrive in the company of their flock mates. Ensure you have a minimum of three chickens, as they rely on social interactions for their well-being. Introduce new chickens gradually to avoid aggression and provide adequate perches and roosting spots to establish a pecking order.

chickens exploring garden

Providing entertainment for chickens is not only enjoyable for them but also promotes their mental and physical well-being. Chickens, like many animals, benefit from stimulation and enrichment. One entertaining activity for chickens is tying a piece of broccoli to a string and suspending it in their coop or run. This “hanging broccoli” becomes a fun and interactive toy for them to peck at and chase. Not only does it engage their natural foraging instincts, but it also adds an element of excitement and challenge to their day. As they peck and tug at the broccoli, it provides entertainment and encourages physical activity. This simple yet engaging form of enrichment helps alleviate boredom, keeping chickens happy and content in their environment. Plus, it’s a great way to ensure they get their greens while having a great fun!

Boredom among chickens can lead to a phenomenon known as bullying, where a pecking order is established within the flock. In this social hierarchy, the most dominant chicken asserts its authority by pecking at the others lower in rank. When chickens lack stimulation and engaging activities to occupy their time, they may become restless and resort to negative behaviors such as pecking and feather pulling, often targeting the vulnerable neck area. Feather pecking can escalate into a serious issue if left unaddressed, causing injuries and stress among the flock. It is essential to provide a stimulating and enriching environment for chickens to prevent boredom and reduce the occurrence of such behaviors.

Seasonal Considerations

Chicken owners should be mindful of seasonal changes and their impact on their chickens. In cold weather, provide insulation, additional bedding and a heat source to prevent frostbite. In hot weather, ensure adequate shade, ventilation and access to cool water to prevent heat stress. Adjust their diet as necessary to accommodate changing nutritional needs.

Frozen water in winter can become an issue. If you don’t change the water regularly or provide a source of warmth your water will freeze over and your chickens won’t have access to it. Consider buying a water heater if you can’t change the water daily.

Egg Collection and Care

Collecting fresh eggs is one of the joys of chicken keeping. Establish a routine for collecting eggs to ensure they remain clean and undamaged. Clean soiled eggs gently using warm water if needed, but avoid washing them extensively, as it removes their natural protective coating. Store eggs properly in a cool environment.

chicken eggs in nest

Did you know that recycling your chicken’s own eggshells can provide several benefits for their health and well-being? Here’s why putting eggshells back in the coop is good for your chickens:

  1. Calcium Source: Eggshells are primarily made of calcium carbonate, which is a vital nutrient for chickens. By returning crushed eggshells to the coop, you provide a natural and readily available source of calcium for your flock. Calcium is essential for the formation of strong eggshells, healthy bones and proper muscle function in chickens.
  2. Eggshell Eating Prevention: Chickens have a natural instinct to consume calcium-rich eggshells. When eggshells are not available, chickens may be tempted to peck at their own freshly laid eggs, which can lead to an undesirable habit known as egg-eating. By providing crushed eggshells as a calcium supplement, you help satisfy their instinctual need and reduce the likelihood of them developing the habit of egg-eating.
  3. Waste Reduction and Environmental Sustainability: Recycling eggshells back into the coop helps reduce waste and promotes environmental sustainability. Instead of discarding the eggshells, you give them a second life as a valuable resource for your chickens. This practice supports more efficient use of resources and decreases the amount of waste generated on your farm or in your backyard.
  4. Nutritional Balance: In addition to calcium, eggshells contain trace minerals like magnesium and phosphorus, which contribute to the overall nutritional balance of your chicken’s diet. By reintroducing these minerals through crushed eggshells, you provide a natural and wholesome supplement that complements their regular feed.
  5. Cost-Effective Solution: Using crushed eggshells as a calcium supplement is a cost-effective solution for small-scale chicken keepers. Instead of purchasing commercial calcium supplements, you can utilize a resource that is readily available and free within your own flock.

Remember to crush the eggshells into small pieces before adding them to the coop. This makes it easier for chickens to consume them and reduces the chances of them associating whole eggs with the shells. Chicken owners can collect and store eggshells in a designated container until they have enough to distribute back to their chickens.

enjoy watching the chickens

Enjoy the Experience

Lastly, remember to enjoy the experience of keeping chickens! They have unique personalities and can provide endless entertainment and companionship. Take the time to observe their behaviours, build a bond with them and embrace the simple pleasures that come with being chicken owners.


As fellow chicken owners, we hope our experiences and insights have provided valuable guidance for those considering embarking on this fulfilling adventure. From the joy of collecting daily fresh eggs to the unique personalities that make chickens endearing companions, there’s a world of wonder awaiting you in the realm of poultry ownership. Embrace the simplicity of caring for these delightful creatures, knowing that your neighbors may also reap the rewards of their company. So take the plunge, become chicken owners and embark on a journey that will bring you closer to nature, self-sufficiency and the incredible world of these feathered friends. Happy chicken keeping!

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