Chicken Quick Care Guide

Clever and charismatic, chickens make choice pets. 

Did you know?

  • There are more chickens in the world than any other bird.

  • A young hen is called a ‘pullet’.

  • Every local council in New Zealand has different rules for how many chickens you’re allowed to keep and where.  Best to check them out!

  • Hens start laying eggs when they’re 5-6 months old and will continue for 2-3 years.

  • Battery farms get rid of their chickens when they’re around 18 months old because it’s cheaper to raise a new batch of pullets.

    Thankfully, there are lots of organisations that rehome ex-battery hens throughout New Zealand.

  • Chickens are very social creatures, so it’s best to get two or three so they don’t get bored or lonely.

  • There are lots of breeds of chickens.

    Some are beautiful to look at, some are regular layers and others have big personalities.

  • Egg shells are mostly calcium.

    That’s why putting out oyster shell grit is so important. As well as helping digestion it’s a good source of slow release calcium.

  • Chickens need a calm and consistent routine to their days.

    Stressful events can stop them laying or make them behave strangely.

  • Sometimes a hen gets dead-set on hatching her eggs even when there isn’t a rooster around to fertilise them!

    This is called going ‘broody’.


  • Coop: with plenty of shelter, dark nest boxes and perching areas

  •  Run: a fenced of area for foraging, scratching, dust bathing and general roaming

  • Water bowls

  • Soft bedding hay

  • Low fat and high in protein

  • Balanced with the necessary vitamins and minerals


  • Coop should be regularly cleaned. Laying newspaper under the roosting area makes this easier.

  • Hens need around 20 cm of perching space each.

  • Nest boxes should be dark and around 30cm x 30cm for one to six hens.

  • Layer soft bedding hay, wood shavings or shredded newspaper in the nest box

  • Feed a quality chicken-specific feed mix every day with some nutritious extras like silverbeet and dandelions.

  • Chickens are omnivores so dinner scraps are ok. Give occasional treats like Mealworms, Poultry Peckers or Insect Medley.

  • Change water daily to keep fresh. 


  • Loud noises, moving the coop, and other stresses.

  • Overweight or underweight chickens.

  • Patchy or mangy feathers outside of moulting season- this could indicate lice or mites.

  • Dirty bottoms, dull or cloudy eyes.

  • Feeding orange peel, uncooked potato peelings or onions.

  • Loss of appetite.

  • Predators like possums, cat and dogs.

For more New Zealand-specific information on keeping chickens, have a peck at 

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