question about backyard chickens - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 04-15-2010, 05:12 PM - Thread Starter
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I hope I'm in the right forum. My husband and I would like to get some chickens (I think we will start with 2) for our backyard but we know nothing about taking care of them so I have a few questions. I think my husband will try to build a tractor coop so we can move it on our backyard lawn. So here are the questions:

-if the chickens can eat grass and bugs, what else do I need to feed them?
-is it easy to find soy free and organic chicken feed? (I live in San Diego area)
-what happens if we leave for 2 weeks? Do I need someone to come and feed them everyday and move the tractor?
-If I let the chickens free in the backyard every once in a while, will day eat my garden? and my plants?

Sorry for the stupid questions...I really know nothing about chickens but I LOVE their eggs and can't find any good ones at the store. I also think they could be a great pet for my son!!!
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#2 of 9 Old 04-15-2010, 05:29 PM
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You can make your own feed with corn, grains, peas, and seeds, or pay for ready made soy-free feed. You can give many kinds of kitchen scraps as treat too. In California you may be able to find it in a store, otherwise it can be delivered. Yes they need feeding every day. They might eat your garden if you don't fence it in, yeah.
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#3 of 9 Old 04-15-2010, 08:30 PM
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Yay! Chickens!!!

You might want to think of getting 3 rather than 2. Your girls will develop a pecking order and it seems that groups of three or more seem to settle easier.

The vast majority of their diet should be layer feed which is found at your nearby feed store or even walmart. Food comes in lots of varities, organic, medicated, soy free etc. You'll also need a bit of oystershell in case the calcium gets low and you get some bad-shelled eggs. Feed is about 12 bucks for 50 pounds and will last 1-3 months depending on your birds. Oystershell is a couple of bucks for 5 pounds and that'll last a year or more. A good feed will make the difference in how many eggs you get per day.

I'm in southern ca and was easily able to special order soyfree organic feed from my feed store. It is a bit pricy. $25 for 50 pounds.

Your girls need daily care. They'll need eggs removed, a water and food check (both need to be avaliable during the day. They'll need their enclosure to be checked out to prevent a predator from getting to them. And then they just need love!!! With a small flock you'll prolly end up with some love bugs!!

Your girls will munch on anything they find interesting. They do seem to know what is poisonous and avoid it and my girls seem to know what I don't want them to mess with....which is why I found an egg in my crushed Iris! Freeranging is great for the birds but isn't not manditory. If your yard isn't fenced your girls will wander as far as they feel like walking.

Hens are great pets!!! I got my girls as day old chicks (adorable!!!!!!!)and made sure to order them as sexed females. The company does small orders (3) and has a great selection. Buff Orpingtons make good pets because they are sturdy and friendly...but a but dim. Easter eggers are great if you want a blue or green egg. Silkies are silly looking muppets that have a reputation for acting like a pet dog! There are sooooo many choices. Be aware that many feed stores get 'straight run' birds and you'll often end up with a rooster...which can be mean. Getting day olds does require a brooder and some extra care but I think it's worth it.

Nothin' like hens waddling as fast as they can to see who gets the treats first!!!

Cindy, joyful SAH mama to rainbow1284.gif William & Katherinefly-by-nursing2.gif Forever missing Amelia 7-12-09 angel3.gif  signcirc1.gifsaynovax.giflactivist.gif Ask me about my natural cesarean! 



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#4 of 9 Old 04-15-2010, 08:36 PM
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Hens need to be checked on daily. Water checked and eggs removed.

While free eating is lovely and makes the yolks yummy and orange.. they need grains to lay. I have an urban farm store that supplies me with big bags of organic feed.

Water should be fresh. Grit or broken up eggshells should be provided for calcium. I roast the eggshells like my grandma did and then smash them to little pieces for the hens to gobble up.

Yes, I had to fence the little area of my yard that was the veggie garden. They love that loose black soil to scratch in.

Chickens, yay!
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#5 of 9 Old 04-16-2010, 01:14 AM
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You've gotten some good answers. I agree with getting more than 2, 3 or 4 would be better. If you let them free range, yes they will eat your plants and veggies and scratch up your landscaping. That's the beauty of the chicken tractor concept, they are pastured but still not free to roam. However, we do have a chicken tractor but it is rather heavy to move, so we now keep it on a cement pad with hay in it, and they live there at night and and just let them free range during the daylight hours. Oh, and they poop everywhere. Our deck and patio seem to be favorite spots. If we are going away we just keep them locked in and have my FIL come over to feed and check them each day.
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#6 of 9 Old 04-30-2010, 09:09 PM
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Don't mean to hijack but we are considering some chickens and I wondered if you can leave them for a week without a problem? We have a housesitter who takes care of the dog/mail/etc and I'm sure she wouldn't mind feeding them and checking on them, but if we get them soon and are gone for a week in August would that be too much?

Thanks....I am getting excited about it but want to do what's best for the birds!
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#7 of 9 Old 04-30-2010, 10:10 PM
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You can't leave them for a week without tending to them. Will your housesitter care for them? Maybe I'm misunderstanding.

Our chickens are fabulous! Very sweet and delicious eggs! You'll really enjoy them!
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#8 of 9 Old 05-01-2010, 01:24 PM
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oh no, we would ask her (or someone else) to feed and check on them for that week.

ETA: I am excited too; I just found out our HOA does allow chickens if they're not kept "for commercial purposes!" we were gonna ask forgiveness vs permission if you KWIM (bc they are legal in our town) but it is nice to know that we don't have to feel weird about it, either.

I will stop back by; lots of questions!
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#9 of 9 Old 05-09-2010, 11:24 AM
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I'd defiinitely get at least 3. I think Buff Orpingtons are a great choice for first timers (which I am myself). They're very sweet and friendly, laid back (unlike my black giants who are high strung, lol!) That said, if you want friendly birds, you need to handle them frequently. Even a bird that's friendly by nature will be skittish if you don't handle them every day.

Our yard is 1/2 acre and most of it is in the back, fenced in. We have 13 egg birds (2 of which are roosters) and 5 (of 15) meat guys left (they're getting butchered on Tuesday). Anyway, we haven't built the full coop yet, they have a large fenced pen with tarp over and around half for protection from the elements. Right now they get to free range around the back yard during the day, then get put away at night. I also feed the scraps for treats and layer feed from Rural King. They love yogurt

If you left for two weeks, yes you would need someone to come care for them. It's important not to let their filth build up. We use pine shavings in our pen every week or so and then shovel it out maybe once a month and start fresh.
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