We are contemplating raising chickens but before we get into the nitty-gritty, I had some preliminary questions... We'd be raising them for eggs & I don't plan to sell the eggs. My town limit us to 6 chickens so I doubt we'd have a ton of eggs leftover anyway... I think I'd want just 3 to start.
1. How much does it cost? Not so much the start-up costs, but how much would you estimate for feed, light for the winter, etc.? Do they need any kind of vet care? Any other expenses? I can get a carton of organic free-range eggs for about $3 at the store -- this isn't all about saving money on eggs, of course, but I don't want it to be way more expensive!
2. If you let them roam freely, will they run away??? LOL sorry for the dumb question. We have about a 1/4 acre of land and it's not fenced (though we do want to fence it for DS's sake anyway, when we can afford it) and obviously they'd have a fenced area/coop but I'd like them to be able to roam free sometimes.
3. What happens if you need to go away for a bit? We do like to go on vacation 1-2x a year for up to a week (usually only a couple of days though). Our cat is fine if we leave her a ton of water & a big bowl of food, can you do something like that with chickens or does someone need to come feed them etc. every single day?
That's all for now but I may have more questions!
I pay about $15.00 for a bag of feed. That will last my flock of 16 about two months, but mine free range so I don't give them a whole lot of fed. You will also need to buy straw for their coop and nests, which is cheap, about $3.00 a bale.
Mine free range and they do roam, but they come home at night. We have four acres and I constantly see them across the road...lol.
If you were going to be gone for more than a day or two you would need someone to take care of them for you - water, fed, let in and out. We left ours cooped up once for 2/3 days and they lived, even if they weren't happy about it.
I find my chickens very easy to take care of - we let them in and out, feed and water them everyday, other than that we clean their coop as needed - every month or two, depending on the time of year. I don't really clean it during winter. And it's much colder than 40 here in the winter and I don't have a heater for mine. I've found them to be rather hardy to the weather - summer or winter. And I've never had eggs go bad in the summer - no matter how hot it was, even if they sat for a day or two outside.
I know I read about chickens for about two years before I finally got some - I made it way more complicated than it needed to be, I laugh now at how worried I was about getting them! Good luck if you get some....I say go for it, but I really love my chickens now:)
Living the dream with my soul-mate and our 10 kids.....I'm one lucky lady. My Blog ~ http://mysticmud.blogspot.com/
1. How much does it cost? Not so much the start-up costs, but how much would you estimate for feed, light for the winter, etc.? It depends on whether you feed them organic food, how much leftovers and forage, how cold your winters are, etc. I have an "urban" flock and they don't cost a lot. Do they need any kind of vet care? Mostly you will be doing the care yourself. Any other expenses? Well, that again depends. Light is not necessarily necessary but a water warmer might be. Most of the money you spend will be on start-up costs. I can get a carton of organic free-range eggs for about $3 at the store -- this isn't all about saving money on eggs, of course, but I don't want it to be way more expensive! "Free range", or really free range? It will be more expensive, and partly because with a flock of 3 hens you will be lucky to keep one person in eggs. I do think it's good to start small and buy a few new chicks or pullets each year. Besides, it's not just about cost-- flavor and nutrition are improved and chickens are soooo much fun anyway. They may be more work than a cat, but are usually cheaper to keep, minus start-up costs.
2. If you let them roam freely, will they run away??? Usually not, but the neighborhood dog might run away with it! You might not think there are many dogs running around, but I am willing to bet, once you have chickens they will find you. LOL sorry for the dumb question. We have about a 1/4 acre of land and it's not fenced (though we do want to fence it for DS's sake anyway, when we can afford it) and obviously they'd have a fenced area/coop but I'd like them to be able to roam free sometimes. All our hens have no idea they could just flap over our fence. Buy the big, chunky breeds and you will reduce the likely hood that you'll need much in the way of daytime fencing, at least as far as escapees go. Predators, on the other hand....
3. What happens if you need to go away for a bit? We do like to go on vacation 1-2x a year for up to a week (usually only a couple of days though). Our cat is fine if we leave her a ton of water & a big bowl of food, can you do something like that with chickens or does someone need to come feed them etc. every single day? Chickens are really hard on their coop. They kick bedding into the waterer, knock over feeders or kick hay into those, poop on things they are not supposed to, and eat eggs that are lying around sometimes. Yes, you will need someone to check on them if you are gone for more than one night. This is how I got started with chickens, though, and the payment was more than welcome!
That's all for now but I may have more questions!
Give me a few minutes while I caffeinate.
I pay about $16 for a 50 pound bag of purina layer pellets and $5.50 for a large bag of pine shavings.When I just had 3 hens I think the food lasted a good 2-3 months. I also gave them scratch and BOSS during the winter. I would suggest a secure run for the hens. They will likely stay in the yard,but you don't want issues with neighbors,and all sorts of animals will attack them.
It is really easy to care for them. I have had to deal with an egg bound hen that I eventually put down.Another had a prolapse that I took care of fine.2 chickens just died on us.Meds for upper resp. infection,hemrhoid(sp) cream for prolapse,and a can of blue kote for injuries. Our pet vet knows nothing of chickens. LOL, I could probably teach him a few things!
It is fun having the chickens.I never vacation,but if I did I would have a friend tend to the chickens.They need daily care.We have a 6 foot fence around the lot.I also put up plastic fencing with bamboo and zip ties to control where the chickens go.I have not had issues with fliers.You could clip wings,but that limited flying can be useful when getting away from a predator.
We started out with 3 RSL hens and 3 leghorn hens from TSC as chicks.Made a brooder out of a baby playpen.Got rid of the 3 leghorns,and took in 6 easter eggers the kids school hatched.One was a roo and he died.Put down a RSL.We then took in a rooster.Just had a RSL die in the coop.We are at 6 hens and a roo. I put a 23 watt fluorescent bulb in the coop a few weeks ago.I leave it on about 10-13 hours a day and get 3-5 eggs a day now. I give the neighbors free eggs when we have extra.Sometimes they insist on paying and give $2 a dozen.The first 2 winters I got eggs with no artificial lighting.They won't lay eggs when molting yearly. Also,some recommend worming 2 times a year,and you would toss the eggs for about 2 weeks after the meds.
P.S. My current avatar is Jack Sparrow our roo.
Chickens are pretty easy, they need a secure coop that can be locked up at night to keep them safe from predators, we cleaned out an old milk house and put in roosts and nest boxes. We put in a fence and kept them in it when they were small but now let them free range. We live in the country though on a dirt road, if you have a lot of predation you will want to keep them locked up.
I feel it is better not to put light on them in the winter as it messes with their natural cycles, you likely won't get any eggs in the dead of winter because of the lack of light, if you are in the north lands. We have 30 hens and four roosters and are currently getting just over a dozen eggs a day.We will be getting lots in the spring and plan on selling them to recoup our feed costs.
With our flock feed costs are about $30. monthly, feed costs varies from area to area so it would be worthwhile to checkout your local feed store and see what the current prices are.
Breeds make a difference in amount they lay and cold hardiness so do some research about what type fits in your area, we have a mix of silver and golden Wyandottes (good layers, brown eggs) and Arucanas (poor layers but they lay blue and green eggs)
Vet care is minimal, honestly we eat ours if they have an issue, if one gets sick you isolate it and treat it.
If you were out of town you would need someone to feed and check on them at least every other day.
This forum is a great resource
OP, I think with a quarter acre one of those chicken tractors might be the ticket so that you don't have to worry about being away with them roaming and dogs nearby, etc. You might be able to find a neighbourhood kid somewhere who would feed and water the chickens twice a day. It's OK if it's more than you're ready for, I'm just saying, don't make it too complicated. We now raise eggs for market, and I do need to know more, spend more, etc. But when we got the first 3 just to see, DH gutted an old fridge and made a lockable screen door for the coop and we got one of those huge garden screen tents for the run when we were away (we just buried the edges under the dirt). We were new to the neighbourhood, but we bugged at the local store and found out who the odd jobs kids were for when we were away. We gave them some feeding scraps to reduce costs, and let them range more when we were home.
I do things more "properly", now, but honestly, like kids, it's OK to grow into raising the chickens and learn over time. Lots of people made do in the old days with whatever housing and food they could find and while not scientific or correct, the chickens were fine.
Busy keeping up with three children and an awful lot of chickens!
1. How much does it cost? Not so much the start-up costs, but how much would you estimate for feed, light for the winter, etc.? Do they need any kind of vet care? Any other expenses? If you find a feed store, you can get feed for less money. I only spend around $8 for a 50lb bag, and with my 21 chickens one bag lasts about 2 weeks, but mine completely free range except when they sleep. I also get an $8 bag of cracked corn (scratch) for a treat and for supplement in the winter, and that lasts quite a while b/c I don't give them a ton. Most medical care they need you will have to do yourself, b/c most vets, especially urban vets (and even some rural ones), will not treat chickens. They usually don't have a lot of medical problems, though, and what they do have are easy to treat mostly. I've had my chickens for almost a year now, and I've only had ONE chicken have any sort of problem, and I didn't need to do much more than separate her until she started to heal. I kept her in a tractor in the yard.
2. If you let them roam freely, will they run away??? LOL sorry for the dumb question. We have about a 1/4 acre of land and it's not fenced (though we do want to fence it for DS's sake anyway, when we can afford it) and obviously they'd have a fenced area/coop but I'd like them to be able to roam free sometimes. If it is a fence that they can't squeeze under or through, they should stay put. We live on 5 acres and mine completely free range, and our property is only fenced on 3 sides with 3 strings of barbed wire, so they can easily get under it. They don't stay on our property, but our closest neighbor is 1/4 mile away so it doesn't matter. They roam quite a bit further than I expected them to. Until you can get a fence, I would wait if I were you. They WILL wander.
3. What happens if you need to go away for a bit? We do like to go on vacation 1-2x a year for up to a week (usually only a couple of days though). Our cat is fine if we leave her a ton of water & a big bowl of food, can you do something like that with chickens or does someone need to come feed them etc. every single day? If only a couple days mine could live in their coop if they had access to food and water, but they would need someone to come check on them every day (make sure their water was clean, they had food, etc). We have our closest neighbor do it for us. I don't keep mine cooped, though, b/c she has no problem with letting them out of the coop in the am, then making sure they are all back in at night.
Kara - Homeschooling mom to Greyson (13), three lazy cats, two hyper dogs, and 11 crazy chickens. Loving our life on 5 acres in the middle of nowhere. TTC #2 for over 12 years. Soon to be a stand-in mom for foster babies!
Depends on the breed, age of the hen, and the time of year. Fencing/not depends on your neighbors and predators. An acre is plenty of space. If you need to have a small flock, I would choose non-setting breeds (not known for broodiness) and ones that were well-suited for free ranging. And not white! But even Leghorns come in other colors besides white......
If you are wondering how many hens will keep your family in eggs, I would say at least 6-- a bit more if you want a year-round supply.
Give me a few minutes while I caffeinate.
Oh, 3 would be a nice little flock, bare minimum. They won't keep you in eggs, but it's a good start. They are fun to watch, they eat your weeds and scraps (careful not to inundate such a small flock with too many leftovers.... but veggies and fruits are OK) and they make lots of good poo for your garden. I guarantee your husband will enjoy them. Next year add another handful, and try to maintain at about 6 hens, depending on your local ordinances.
I actually think adding a small handful every year might be a better strategy for keeping a small flock laying their best, rather than keeping 3 until they die or drop off their laying, then adding more. It take 5 months about for a pullet to start laying, then winter is around the corner and egg laying drops off.
Give me a few minutes while I caffeinate.
Sounds like a good plan. I have to remind myself to take it slow. I have a tendacy to want to jump in and do it all at once....6 chickens, fruit trees, a garden...I wanna do it all *now* but it's too much at once so we're doing the garden and chickens. I grew up with having chickens around, always loved it. My husband...I don't think hes had a lot of time around them. I think hes gonna enjoy them too though.
I found a local place where they sell livestock. I'm wanting to get a hen that's old enough and already laying eggs but is good around children. How in the world would I identify a hen like this, there?
The biggest expense was start up. I bought a feeder & waterer, dh & ds built our coop, I got nest boxes & pine shavings for the house floor. I let them out to roam freely in the yard (we live on a standard suburban lot) when we're home but I lock them up at night so the critters don't get them. They go inside to roost on their own when the sun starts to go down. They get along just fine with our cats but I hear dogs can be a problem. Their feed is really inexpensive compared to my cat food!