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Do you raise chickens?

post #1 of 42
Thread Starter 
So I'm going to get my first chickens in March. I want to hear about your chicken stories, best way to free range. I am going to want to get eggs, raise more chicks, and use some for meat. Thanks
post #2 of 42
I have a few laying hens for eggs. They're awesome! I love them. They have a lot of personality and it's great to watch them doing their thing, plus it's a great way to recycle kitchen scraps into delicious, healthy protein and top-notch garden fertilizer.

We built our coop and the attached run for pocket change, out of scrap lumber. The expensive part was the hardware cloth, which you must use instead of chicken wire; racoons and rats and other predators can reach through chicken wire and kill your chickens. Hardware cloth is stronger and has a much smaller mesh, making it safer. Our coop/run has a couple sides walled in with plywood and the rest with hardware cloth, and a hardware cloth ceiling over the run (we lost one hen to a hawk before we built the run). The whole shebang sits on top of chicken wire so that predators can't dig their way in from underneath. So it's super safe!
post #3 of 42
I have four chickens which are like pets to us. They are totally free range.
We lock them in their little house at night to make sure they are safe.
I so enjoy them. Each one has its own personality - and favorite food. They come running to me when they see me expecting some special morsels, and they lay the most delicious eggs, even now in the winter.
post #4 of 42
How exciting for you! I bet March can't roll around fast enough! LOL

Our girls are 10 weeks old. We have 6. We have 2 RIR, 2 BR and 2 EE's. We were going to build their coop out next to the garden, but we have a lot of coyotes, mountain lions and other critters that just made me sick with worry. So we made their chicken coop in our garage. I know, sounds wierd. But its PERFECT. Keeps them totally safe at night.
We dont use the garage to store our car, so we had plenty of room in it. We have doors to get in and out from the inside of the garage for easy cleaning and grabbing eggs (once they start laying!) and they can enter and exit from an open window to go outside and free range during the day. My DH build a little ramp and it took them no time to figure out how to go up and down.
The entire coop is insulated as well. So, yeah, our girls are happy and a bit spoiled!

So far favorite treats have been whole pumpkins, homemade yogurt and applesauce.

There is a great forum called Backyardchickens.com I have learned a lot there, Check it out. Good luck!
post #5 of 42
Thread Starter 
I will check that out! I am really excited. thanks for your stories!
post #6 of 42
We have 25. That is including the three roosters. We got them back in April and they are thriving. Dh built a good size coop for them and then, he added a run when they were big enough to go out. Around here, if they are totally free, they would only make it a few days. We get 19 to 24 eggs a day and give the majority to our friends and family. It works out great.
post #7 of 42
I started out with one flock thinking I'd get meat and eggs from them. Well .... by the time they lay you have so much invested (and a multi purpose heritage is still so darn small!) that I began realizing we need two flocks: One for eggs (we are in the country so they do get picked off here and there, so broody heritage hens are essential for easy flock repleneishing) and one for meat since you WILL harvest them much younger than a layer for a good eating chicken. I plan on ordering a large group of meat (non franken-freak) for harvest while they are young. (this is just what I know so far, would love for more experienced people to school me if needed, I'm open!)

Build a big coop you can walk into and clean out easily. Get a variety of breeds. Clean their scene regularly and keep them warm and healthy. It's really pretty easy!
post #8 of 42
we've got 7 laying hens, and we love them! we're going to do meat birds hopefully next year. we just wanted to start out small so we could figure out what we were doing.

free range doesn't work here because there are way too many predators, so DH made a chicken tractor. it's a mobile coop with a nice sized attached run that we push around to a fresh spot of grass every day or two. they seem very happy in it.

i second the backyardchickens forum. there's also a magazine by the same name. and a yahoo group for raising organic chickens, great resource for all kinds of information about raising chickens naturally. I also love the book Backyard Poultry Naturally by Alanna Moore. you can get it through acresusa. great info on natural remedies for common poultry problems
post #9 of 42
We have 4 hens. We got them maybe 6-8 weeks ago, and they are about 5 months old. Not laying yet. I am thinking it may be spring (march?) before we start getting eggs. I had a coop built by someone locally - it is super cute and up on legs. There is a gang plank down to the ground (which it took a week for the chickens to figure out how to work). I let them out on occasion, but mostly they stay in thier run. It's been cold and they have been just fine. They are lace-wing Wyndottes. The kids love them and they are a lot of fun, and not very much work at all. At night I put up their gang plank and they are secure from predators. They are fun to watch adn are quite funny. We love to give them worms (meal or other) as treats and watch them go after them. Also fun to give them an ear of corn. We are just raising them for the eggs.
post #10 of 42
I have 21 chickens currently, three of them are roosters. This is my third winter with chickens so I've learned quite a bit over that time. To give you some advice without writing a book I'll make a list:

~I like backyardchickens.com too but another great forum is on gardenweb.com in the Farm Life forum, most people in there have chickens and it's a great resource
~All breeds are not created equal. I've had RIR (rhode island reds), Ameraucanas, and Cuckoo Marans. RIR are great for eggs because they lay almost every day and through the winter without any supplemental light. Ameraucanas are cool because they lay blue eggs but they can't compare to the RIR laying. The cuckoo marans are great mamas, out of the 3 we have 2 are determined to hatch anything that doesn't move.
~build your nesting boxes with steeply slanted roofs. If you don't put roofs on the chickens will roost on the edges and poop in the boxes. If you put flat roofs on they may roost on top and you'll be forever scraping poop off the tops.
~ watch out for loose dogs, they are the worst killers. We lose a chicken here and there to hawks, bobcats, etc. but have lost half the flock to neighbors dogs. Dogs kill for the sport of it and aren't satisfied with just one, they'll kill chickens one after another. You can lose all your chickens to a dog in five minutes.
~if you decide to let the chickens completely free range watch out for your flower beds/gardens. My chickens love nothing more than to kick all the mulch out of the beds and to rip out any freshly planted flowers.
~ Mama hens are great at protecting their babies from the rest of the flock but shouldn't be allowed to free range with their babies because plenty of animals that won't eat a full grown chicken think a chick is a perfect snack and Mama can't protect chicks from other animals.
~Raccoons will open a rubbermaid tub to get to chicken feed unless you put something heavy on top (they're a pain in the butt but you have to admire the little devils because they are so darn smart!).
~ Give you're chicks a ton of attention when they are little and they will be easier to manage when they are older, especially the roosters.
~ Whenever you give chicks/chickens something to eat call them first (chick-chick-chick or chick-ens or something) this way they'll associate that word with good stuff and will come when called.
~all hatcheries are not created equal. I ordered from Murray McMurray and Ideal Hatcheries. The Ideal chickens were good specimens of the breed and laid HUGE eggs. The Murray one's were healthy but not show-quality and the eggs weren't a good size for the breed.
~ Some individual sellers will try to pass off dud chickens. They'll sell unhealthy birds, older birds that they say are young, mean ones, etc. Be careful. Better yet don't buy from individuals until you're more experienced or you personally know them.
~ If you are feeding them laying feed don't give them scratch feed also. The laying feed is the right percentage protein for them the scratch has very little protein so you'll lower their protein intake by giving them that. If they don't get enough protein they won't lay optimally.

Well, I wrote a ton anyway. If you have any specific questions feel free to PM me.
post #11 of 42
a little 7 year old boy in our homeschool co/op has chickens and just started selling eggs about 8 weeks ago and had to get 10 more chickens just to keep up and now has another waiting list! It is crazy! We joke that he will make more than his folks soon- but it may be true! There is a HUGE market for free range eggs!

I would so love to have chickens but we live DOWNTOWN!
post #12 of 42
I live in the city and have 5 hens. All different breeds: an Easter Egger (the "araucana"s or "ameraucana"s you get from a large hatchery), an Ameraucana, a Marans, a Plymouth Rock, and a Leghorn. The Ameraucana lays lovely pale blue eggs, and the Easter Egger lays green eggs. They are both a little standoffish but not skittish either. Our Marans is a purebred from a local breeder (not from a large hatchery) and she lays the most gorgeous LARGE MAROON eggs. She's also quite sweet, but she didn't lay as much as the others because she was broody a lot during the summer and I didn't bother to try to break her. Our Plymouth rock has continued to lay at her summer rate (almost an egg a day) through the winter with no supplemental light. She's also a sweetheart and lays lovely pink eggs. I do not recommend Leghorns for pets. They lay a lot but the laying also fizzles out quickly. She also got frostbite on her comb even in our mild winter.

I was initially interested in all the egg colors, though now I'm more interested in personality too. If I were to get another hen (which I won't until our chicken population goes down to 2 because we don't use that many eggs), I'd like to try a Rhode Island Red, and I'd totally get another purebred Marans. Don't ask me why we have all these egg layers and aren't much of egg eaters.
post #13 of 42
I got 6 chicks from TSC in May 2009. I kept them in a playpen in the laundry room until I moved them outside to a metal shed in the summer.3 were leg horns and 3 were red sex link. If you want hens I say pay the little extra to get sexed chicks.I sold my 3 leg horns(they pecked the red ones way to much) to a mom who said all her straight run chicks turned out to be roosters.She got good at culling,lol.

My red sex link started laying in September and I get an egg from each even in this winter cold with them locked up in the shed all day. I have a run made of plastic fence and bird netting.Not effective at all for protection just control.I am out with them due to hawks.Sometimes I let them range the fenced yard when I am with them though I know hawks will attack even if I am there. I plan to build a secure run for them in the summer and ofcourse get more red sex link hens.

I love my chickens and am just hapy to watch them peck around the yard eating up all my bugs.If you are in the city like I am know your local codes so you can meet them in case anyone complains to the city.I get a lot of info at back yard chicken web page.
post #14 of 42
Yes definitely know your local codes! I had a drawn out thing with code enforcement officers when I wasn't even doing anything wrong...turns out they don't even know their own codes well.

They also thought that my pekin ducks were swans and kept trying to cite me for having swans because those aren't allowed without some special permit or something. LOL. Who doesn't know a fat white duck from a graceful swan??

We have issues with hawks also. I keep roosters for that very reason! And when it's hawk season or the hawks are coming around often then I leave my black lab mix out in the yard with the birds. She came from a farm and is very protective of my chickens as well as my 3 year old DD. She will run and bark at the hawks and scare them off while the roosters sound an alarm and herd everyone into the coops or under the bushes.

We haven't had any problems with roosters in the suburbs, by the way. Once they get past their juvenile "omg I can crow!" loud stage, they hardly make any noise. They will crow a little in the morning, but you can't hear it if they are cooped and you are inside with the doors and windows shut. Then occasionally during the day they will have crowing fits, like barking dogs. But it's nothing constant or consistent.

I love the backyard chickens forums too. Lots of great info there! That's where I learned everything I needed to know and then some!
post #15 of 42
I'm loving this thread. I'm thinking seriously about getting chickens, and trying to learn as much as possible. I'm hoping to attend a City Chickens 101 class through a local org (Seattle Tilth.)

Originally Posted by mattemma04 View Post
I got 6 chicks from TSC in May 2009. I kept them in a playpen in the laundry room until I moved them outside to a metal shed in the summer.
Interesting. I guess one thing that's holding me back is that we have to build a coop and run, and we have SO many house projects that are higher on the priority list. I guess I never thought about keeping them inside for the winter. Is that pretty messy? I have a covered back patio that might work good too, until I have the time to build a coop. hmm...
post #16 of 42
I have one hen (who is perched on my arm).
We started with 4 female rhode chicks, and 4 barred rocks. plus 4 ducks.
We ate the ducks, and I gave away 5 of the hens. Something killed 2 of the hens when they were free-ranging. Our remaining hen has a coop to herself and comes in the house when it is cold and on devils night.
I bought a few americanas as friends, but she hated them, so I gave them away.
I got her a rooster and she had 5 lovely chicks that she loved until they were adults, then she tried to kill them. I put one in the freezer and gave the rest away.

When she fially dies (she is 5yrs old I think), I would like a mixed flock and mostly white egg-layers.
post #17 of 42
I have not found it to be terribly messy until you need to get EVERY poo cleaned up.I use pine shavings and cleaned weekly.In the winter I deep litter it and mix it around.I just clean out the poo from the roost area.

If you do a search under indoor chickens or chickens and Swheat scoop you will find a blog post from a lady who built an indoor pen.Looked pretty easy to build.

I had moved my hens to a garage side room,but had to put them back in the shed when I moved cats into the side room(peeing in the house).I have bales of straw in there,and add milk jugs filled with hot water.My metal shed is not insulated.Today it is 6 right now so I am nervous for them.

There are lots of housing ideas at BYC.It is fun to have my girls.Can't imagine life without hens now.Would looooove a rooster.
post #18 of 42
There is great info in this thread. Thank you all! When I finally have my own house again, I WILL have room for chickens and I will come back here for your good advice.
post #19 of 42
Thread Starter 
thanks so much mamas! I will keep you posted as we go, looking like end of Feb early March when we will get our chicks!
post #20 of 42
I have a dream of having chickens one day. It will probably never happen because I like to vacation too much, but it's still something I would like to do. How long can you leave your chickens alone?
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