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Old 04-03-2013, 02:04 PM
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Maliraptor Maliraptor is offline
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Default Anyone with chickens?

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.
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Old 04-03-2013, 02:18 PM
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I'm jealous. That's all.
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Old 04-03-2013, 02:27 PM
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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.
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Old 04-03-2013, 02:44 PM
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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.
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Old 04-03-2013, 03:14 PM
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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.
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Old 04-03-2013, 05:46 PM
Saeleofu Saeleofu is offline
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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!
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Old 04-03-2013, 05:52 PM
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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.
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Old 04-03-2013, 07:25 PM
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I'm envious. I want chickens something terrible.
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Old 04-03-2013, 08:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maliraptor View Post
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.
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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Maliraptor View Post

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.
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.
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Old 04-03-2013, 08:28 PM
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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
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