Anyone with chickens?

Discussion in 'Cat and Pet Forum' started by Maliraptor, Apr 3, 2013.

  1. Maliraptor

    Maliraptor Bite me.

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    We would like to add some chickens to our place, for the eggs. We have 3 acres, all fenced and cross fenced with chain link.

    We do have a chicken coop, but it has not been used in 25+ years I think, and I would not go in there, due to a large number of black widows on the property. I was thinking of setting something else up, back with the horses.

    I think this is the time of year to raise chickens. And my whelping box is still up, complete with heat lamp and shavings, I think this would make a decent thingy that they stay in while they grow feathers?

    Anyways, ANYONE with experience? I've found some websites, and am doing some reading, but I find practical experience is just much easier to follow.
     
  2. AdrianneIsabel

    AdrianneIsabel Glutton for Crazy

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    I'm jealous. That's all.
     
  3. Maliraptor

    Maliraptor Bite me.

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    Haha. We've wanted them for years, but thought that you had to have a rooster in order to get eggs. We learned this year that is not the case, and are excited.
     
  4. Xandra

    Xandra Active Member

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    This is a good time to buy chicks, they'll take ~6 months before they start laying, maybe longer because it'll be fall then and they lay less with fewer daylight hours. You can have some mailed to you (literally mailed) from http://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/index.html or such, or you can find some locally on on kijij, craigslist, hoobly, whatever classified thing is big in your area. Chicks will cost, ballpark, $1-3.

    If you look around at local hatcheries you will probably also find some that sell birds that are around 6 months that will lay soon. Then you have eggs right away, plus they're guaranteed to be hens and are a bit hardier and you don't have to brood them. They'll likely be debeaked though, and probably all the same generic brown hen. You can also find beginning to lay birds on craigslist, though then you have to determine their age or you could get ripped off. These cost about ~$6.

    The best layers lay an egg a day or so, but if you let them run around too much too early in the morning they'll go lay them in weird places. They slow down laying after a couple years but I have 1 leghorn that is 3-4 years or so and lays basically every day except when moulting, she's a star. They also stop/slow down laying in the winter, and when they moult (which happens for a couple months every year)

    Anyways, when feathered all they really need is a big locking box of some kind (preferably with a window or translucent roofing material so light gets in) so the raccoons can't eat them, a perch, some soft of container/box filled with hay for a nestbox... all 6 of mine use one box, though they have 3 to choose from.

    Personally, I recommend a coop with a FULLY FENCED (top, sides, and either a wire bottom, or sides dug down and secured with concrete etc) run. That way you can leave the coop door open 24/7 without worrying about predators, and you can let them out in the pastures to free range when you want. Chickens don't seem to get lost and never go far, they kind of scratch around in maybe a 200 ft radius, then they return at dusk. Even if one gets displaced (eg goes through a fence, can't get back over it), they tend to get as close to the coop as possible. You can find it with the dog, and they go catatonic at dark, so you can just scoop them up. Chickens go daybreak-dusk, so if you don't have a run you either end up planning around their schedule or keeping them cooped up (harhar) longer than necessary. Chickens need light so if you end up keeping them cooped up make sure they have lots of windows or they won't lay well anymore.

    Eggs don't really go bad IME except during cold weather--the eggs freeze and crack and the rapid cooling makes the inner membrane contract and draw in bacteria. I have found eggs in my llama manger that have been sitting out from spring to fall, and apart from being somewhat shriveled they are fine (I mean you wouldn't eat them but they haven't a hint of the classic rotten egg smell). So you don't have to rush to collect them but once a day works and wash with water (I've heard soap ruins the natural layer on the shell that keeps out bacteria). If you miss a day sometimes the hens go "omg so many eggs, whelp, better hatch these" and they go broody and stop laying.

    As far as coop maintenance, a deep litter thing is easiest IME, just dump down a bunch of shavings (lots and lots of shavings...) and stir it around periodically. It stays pretty dry.

    They eat anything, mine get some commercial pellets and barley every day (maybe three cups??), and they run around and eat grass and bugs and spilled feed stuff.

    They like to writhe around in dry dusty dirt, so make sure they have some of that.

    If you just want eggs for yourself maybe 6 hens, a box 4 x 6 x 3 with a perch, a run, a sack of shavings, some grain, some table scraps, stir the bedding collect the eggs.


    That's all I can think of.
     
  5. Maliraptor

    Maliraptor Bite me.

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    LOL it asked me how many eggs were in a dozen.

    Thank you!

    I will look into the options for purchase. I know the local feed stores have chicks, and a local farm sells many but I have not called them yet.

    I can put them in a dog run, 18 x 12. Or they can free range back by the horses, with nesting boxes in the barn.

    We don't have racoons out here, all desert. We DO have coyotes, but they would need to go through three 6 foot chain link fences. I suppose the hens could always fly out though.
     
  6. Saeleofu

    Saeleofu Active Member

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    We have a basic rectangular coop for ours and a modified dog run for their open space (it's made MUCH larger than the dog run was, we basically used the dog run for extra fence and used the privacy fence on the other side).

    We have 8 chickens right now, and we have 5 dozen eggs stored up in the fridge. We did have some issues with predators early on (mink, most likely, they hit the zoo pretty hard too), but now we have it COMPLETELY closed in and it's working pretty well. Starlings eat a lot of the food, though >.<

    They're pretty easy to care for. We have a variety of chickens, and get blue, green, white, light brown, and dark brown eggs. The idea, according to my dad, was that it's cheaper to keep chickens than buy eggs. That's not really the case, as we could even buy the expensive farm-fresh eggs for cheaper than it is to keep the chickens. But the eggs do taste really good, and I don't usually like eggs!
     
  7. Greenmagick

    Greenmagick New Member

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    I love our chickens. They are really easy and so much fun.

    Predators are really your biggest concern, that and heat. Fencing is going to depend on the area you are in and how big of a threat predators are.
     
  8. Red.Apricot

    Red.Apricot Active Member

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    I'm envious. I want chickens something terrible.
     
  9. Xandra

    Xandra Active Member

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    If you go to the feed store, make sure you're buying an egg-laying breed and not a meat breed. Also make sure they're females or straight-run (unsexed). Of course if they're unsexed you'll end up with roosters, and usually feed stores sell a common breed, so you have to come up with a way to get rid of the roosters, keeping in mind it's unlikely people will want them for non-fatal purposes.

    Also birds of prey, and possibly your own dogs... I doubt coyotes would jump 3 6 ft fences, and most chickens won't even think of flying over a 6 ft fence (only a few of mine have flown over my 4 ft fence).

    I mean the safest route would be the run, that would also force them to lay their eggs in one place (don't count on them using the nest boxes if you totally free range them) and keep them from crapping all over the place if you care about that sort of thing. But if you want to just let them roam around, I certainly wouldn't think it reckless considering how well fenced you are. Either would work. You could buy some started hens and just put them in the barn and see how you like it (maybe lock them in a stall for a day or two so they know where home base is), if you lose too many to hawks or you don't like the copious amounts of crap... pen them.
     
  10. Greenmagick

    Greenmagick New Member

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    Several of my hens can and do fly over my 8 foot fencing pretty much daily. They are mostly the ameracuanas and arent as heavy as some of the others .....but most could fly over my 6 ft fence. You could clip wings though if that is a big concern
     
  11. Saeleofu

    Saeleofu Active Member

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    Our spitzhauben flies quite a bit. They're also the ones that have been prey on the most. We only have one left, and started with 5. She's an amazing chicken, though. She loves to cuddle lol
     
  12. Maliraptor

    Maliraptor Bite me.

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    Thanks everyone!

    How noisy would, say, 6 hens be? Meaning how close to the house can they be?

    I'm going to call tomorrow. Like I said, the whelping box is still up in the house with heat lamp and shavings...I can raise those little suckers!!

    I saw a great video on youtube about making a box out of a rubbermaid storage container, I liked that! Cut a door out, fill it with straw.

    Hmm...I think we can do this! Thanks everyone, I feel much more confident about this after talking to you all.

    What do I feed?

    Oh- my existing coop has a completely enclosed run, top and bottom. If they start fence hopping, I will hire someone to clean out the inside and go with that. :eek: But I am MAJOR arachnophobic. I can also top the run. I also have an empty stall that is enclosed with chicken wire up to 5 foot (the run) because my stallion would stick his head out and rub out his mane.
     
  13. Xandra

    Xandra Active Member

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    They make a loud HURRRR noise sometimes, but I dunno... I don't really notice it much. I think mine are about 80-100 ft from the house? That works for me.

    You can definitely do chickens. Anyone can do chickens. They can seem intimidating at first but once you've had them a while you'll see they're a piece of cake. They'll pretty much make do with whatever you give them.

    You can feed them commercial layer pellets, grains, feeds for other animals, fruit and veggies that are past their prime, peelings (though I think you're supposed to cook potato peels first), old pasta, rice, bread etc. and they'll forage for their own food too, if you let them out (bugs, grass). They basically eat anything. They'll eat meat but I don't it to mine, and they'll eat their own eggs if they break (or if you have a naughty chicken that breaks its own eggs). They'll dig around in your manure pile and pick out grubs and worms and stuff. If they get into your garden they can scratch the top layer of dirt off of bulbs, kick dirt onto pavement, and they'll eat seedlings.
     
  14. Maliraptor

    Maliraptor Bite me.

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    Ok, I'm calling tomorrow to see what they have, and what I can go get. I am right that the whelping box (4x4 with 2ft high sides, wood) with shavings in the bottom and a heat lamp are OK? We're California, days are hitting 85-95 already so it's not very cold at all as far as drafts go.

    Edit: as far as sexed chicks, they offer Red Sexlink Pullets.
     
  15. Saeleofu

    Saeleofu Active Member

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    Ours are in our backyard, maybe 20 feet from the house? You can hear them, but it's not really an unpleasant noise, either (so long as you don't have roosters!) They make a wide variety of noises, and clucking doesn't even begin to describe it lol.
     
  16. Saeleofu

    Saeleofu Active Member

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    Also, 2 feet tall won't last long. They will be jumping out in a matter of weeks! If you can put a mesh topper on it or something, that will help. We were unprepared for that, and had to chase chicks all over the basement more than once :rofl1:
     
  17. Maliraptor

    Maliraptor Bite me.

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    Ok, another chicken question.

    I can order in the breed I want, all pullets (we don't want a rooster) but I must wait a few months and it will be pricey with the shipping.

    Or, I can pick up the breed I want today, locally, 3 days old, in a straight run. HOW tough is it to pick out the males? What do I do with them? The local place mentioned they will take them back but not refund (oh no! Not at $2.50 each lol).

    I guess I would be happier if I knew they were all girls, but not sure removing the males and returning would be that bad. Any advice?
     
  18. Xandra

    Xandra Active Member

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    Well, I've never had chicks so the following is just from reading, talking to people, my friend's chick experience and scheming for when we move:

    Some breeds can be feather sexed (I think the pullets have wing feathers of different lengths, males are all the same but don't quote me lol), just as some breeds have sex-linked color... you'll have to look up your breed, but my guess is if it was that easy to sex them, they wouldn't be selling them straight run.

    The other way, that works on all breeds, is vent sexing, which is tricky... even professionals aren't 100% at it and I've heard that it's really something the needs to be taught to you and can injure your chick.

    Most people just wait until you can tell by comb size, plumage, crowing etc. About a month old or more... really depends how the birds mature though, and of course is easier to spot as you get more experienced.

    Once you know who's what, many people just finish raising them up and then eat them. You might be able to find "pet homes" for a few, depending on the breed and your area. If you end up with a dozen roosters though, it's unlikely they'll all end up as pets. So then you're looking at either selling them or giving them away for someone else to eat, depending on what people in your area will pay for your breed. Personally, I wouldn't return them. The store is unlikely to find them all loving homes lol. The reality is most roosters are killed and eaten (or just Garburated)... given that fact, and that you bought them, raised them and fed them... you may as well be the beneficiary of that.

    Of course, if you're buying straight run buy more chicks then you want... I mean sex ratio should be 50/50 so if you want 5 hens don't buy 5 chicks lol. And if you're buying a small number of chicks you may not see the 50/50 trend, you may get eg 5 boys and a girl. At least if you over-buy and end up with more pullets than you wanted you can sell them as layers.

    It's kind of a crap shoot.
     
  19. release the hounds

    release the hounds Active Member

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    why return them? Just have them for dinner in a few months :)
     
  20. Xandra

    Xandra Active Member

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    Coq au vin, my friend, it was made for situations like this lol. Or insert recipe of you choice, everyone likes chicken. It seems even people who don't eat meat eat chicken.

    Failing that, whole prey model Maliraptor food. :)
     

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