Backyard Chickens--Can I do it? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 01-07-2009, 11:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I decided a while ago that I want to raise some chickens, some to eat and some to keep for eggs. I told DP that this year, I was going to get chickens. He said okay! I'm still not sure if he was really paying attention to me, but I will hold him to it if need be.

We live in a little bitty town on a nice sized double lot. I would want them to be "free range" as much as is possible in a yard, but there are dogs in the neighborhood (not to mention my own two). I've read about chicken tractors and that would probably be do-able in my yard, but how much space would a few chickens really need? I could just fence off a section of yard, which would be easier for me, if I could be sure they'd find enough buggies or what not. Can chickens and gardens share a spot or would they eat my plants?

So let's say I got ten chicks, raised them up to the point of eating and kept only two hens after that for eggs. What kinds of things do I need to be aware of? Would it be cost effective? Forgive me, but I'm just so clueless that I'd like opinions about whether or not I should even start researching this.
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#2 of 6 Old 01-08-2009, 06:14 PM
 
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In my experience, when we lived in the city and kept chickens, they did eat my plants in the garden when they free ranged. They dug up all my plants close to the house and made a mess of the mulch. When we kept them in their own space with a stationary coop...they go super stinky.

I would go with a small chicken tractor. We have one now and we just pull it forward every day and there is virually no smell and the chickens are safe from predators and our garden is safe from the chickens and my decorative plants are safe from the chickens. The chickens still get bugs and fresh grass every day.

As far as just keeping two egg layers, I don't think that would be enough. Chickens skip laying one day a week so, there would be one day when you only get one egg or no eggs...we eat eggs every day for breakfast so we atleast need as many chickens as per person and if you bake at all you need extra eggs to do that. I would say 3-4 chickens would be a nice size flock and if you get over run with eggs, you can make egg noodles or pudding or something that uses them up.

Depending on where you get chickens, if you mail order you have to order a batch of 25 usually. Is there anyone you could split your order with? Can you just pick up 10 birds at your local tractor supply store in the spring? Keeping a small flock of chickens is not cheaper than just buying eggs, even super free range organic eggs..because you are buying so little feed you cannot get a discount...so only do it if it is a hobby you want...not cost effective in my opinion.

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#3 of 6 Old 01-08-2009, 06:22 PM
 
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Go to www.backyardchickens.com there is a lot of info over there.

We have 8 chickens and live in the city (well suburbs). They have their coop and an outside run. The run is 12 x 12 and it does get very stinky. We rake it out regularly. Its really bad right now as its rainy and wet and you can't scrape a coop that is just mud. Ick. We let them out to free range as much as we can, they will eat everything in your garden if you are not watching them. Our have also flown over the fence into the neighbors yard so clip their wings or stay out with them to make sure they are safe. We have not clipped ours but the neighbors do not have a dog so we don't worry about that.

If you are going to get birds to eat you may want to get meat birds as they will have more meat. I know nothing about this though. Ours would not be very tasty except as soup maybe. Also how many to keep will depend on how many eggs you want. Some chickens will stop laying in the winter though ours have not, we get between 5-8 eggs per day depending on who is taking a break that day or not.

Also there will be poop everywhere if they free range! Ours like to watch us through the glass door and they will run in the house or garage any chance they get so keep the doors shut. I have not let them out in a while as its so wet and the poop just gets so messy.

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#4 of 6 Old 01-08-2009, 06:25 PM
 
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Oh and its not cost effective really. Feeding them gets pretty expensive. THe bigger they get the more they eat.

At www.mypetchicken.com I believe you can order a minimum of three chicks through the mail but not sure if they are sexed or not so you may end up with roosters too.

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#5 of 6 Old 01-08-2009, 06:53 PM
 
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The backyard chickens site is a great resource, I agree!

We have 6 chickens, mostly free-range and we are in the middle of town. There are a lot of neighborhood animals but we haven't had any casualties yet. They have a pretty high roost and they tend to hang out there whenever they sense danger. We put a small fence around the garden, which I know they could easily get over but they tend to stay out of it, thankfully. I've heard that the chicken tractors are great, though!
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#6 of 6 Old 01-08-2009, 08:25 PM
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I'm in the country, but I can cover a couple of your questions.

I have four hens, and that's from 12 chicks originally, Murphy gave us 7 boys, and the dog got a girl. They give us enough eggs for our current needs - about 2 doz a week.

I find the feed costs not too bad. I manage about 1/3 of their feed in kitchen scraps, the rest is layer crumbles (during the spring/summer/fall they range, now in the winter they are cooped). It's cheaper $wise than store eggs, but I'm in Canada and our food costs are more (doz eggs =$2.40), and I'm not counting labour

Depending on the breed, chicken fencing should be at least 5' high. I can say that from experience, I have a section of fence that's 4' high and one girl who liked to fly, ergo, one dead hen

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