Author Topic: Anyone raise chickens?  (Read 6438 times)

Prepube

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Anyone raise chickens?
« on: November 08, 2014, 07:54:07 AM »
Anyone out there have chickens?  What did they cost you, and how much do you spend to keep them squawking?  Do you raise them for the meat or for the eggs?  Is it worth the trouble?  How much time do you spend per week cleaning up the poop and cleaning cages and coops?  I have read that many cities allow them without a permit... Do they smell bad?  Do roosters crow only in the morning like on the cartoons?  Do I even need a rooster?

Who knew I had so many chicken questions?  If there are any home chicken experts out there, I'd love to hear from you.  The spouse is thinking she wants chickens, but I know if we do this it'll be me who ends up tending to them.  Do I want them?

Jessa

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Re: Anyone raise chickens?
« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2014, 08:20:48 AM »
No. My mother in law does, so I get the best of both worlds, free eggs and I only have to care for them the 1 week/year she goes to Florida.

See this thread:
http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/chickens/msg145958/#msg145958

There are a lot of pros and cons in there, especially check out the link to NWedible's post on chicken raising.

begood

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Re: Anyone raise chickens?
« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2014, 08:23:34 AM »
I am far from an expert, but maybe it's useful to hear from a neophyte chicken keeper too. So here are my answers from our experience with about 16 months of having chickens. We have an 8' x 3' coop and have kept between 2 and 3 hens at a time (no roosters!). Four would be a better number, but we haven't dived in that far yet. Apparently 3-4 makes a "flock". I do know that 2 is not the ideal number, because when one dies (and it will!) then there's a lonely chicken left. They are flock birds and like to have company.

What did they cost you, and how much do you spend to keep them squawking?

Our first two were given to us, but when we've had to replace chickens (the sad but undeniable truth of keeping chickens: you will most likely lose some to predators) they have cost between $12 and $15 per pullet (female chicken between 12 and 16 weeks of age).

A 50 lb. bag of chicken feed costs about $15; the same for the wood shavings or straw for the coop. One bag of food and one bale of straw or wood shavings lasts us about 3-4 months.

Those are our only regular expenses, though we did spend $16 on bird netting to create a safe space for them to be out of the coop and in the yard, but safe from hawks (after one killed one of our pullets. still sad!)

Do you raise them for the meat or for the eggs?

Eggs

Is it worth the trouble?

Depends. Do you like chickens? They are awfully cute. My daughter has one she's trained to sit in her lap. They'll follow you around making burbling noises. If you're talking about the cost benefit - are the eggs worth the trouble of the chickens? Not in our case - ours aren't laying anymore!

How much time do you spend per week cleaning up the poop and cleaning cages and coops?

Maybe half an hour a week to get the poop down to manageable levels, then a thorough cleaning once a month or so that takes a couple of hours.

Do they smell bad?

They do indeed. Though we have found that the Rhode Island Red breed is less stinky than the Buff Orpington we recently added. Perhaps because the Orp is TWICE the size of the RIR. She also drinks way more water, so her poop isn't as firm, which seems to make it stinkier. TMI, I'm sure!

Do roosters crow only in the morning like on the cartoons?  Do I even need a rooster?

You do not need a rooster unless you want to raise chicks from eggs. Roosters can be aggressive and territorial, and they make a LOT of noise. And not only in the morning! Anytime they feel their space has been invaded or their hens are threatened!

Edited to Add: We live in a very high COL area, so chicken prices and feed/bedding prices might be high compared to other places. You can buy chicks cheap, but they require lots more equipment and they die a lot - a twofer we decided we did not want!
« Last Edit: November 08, 2014, 08:48:13 AM by begood »

Prepube

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Re: Anyone raise chickens?
« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2014, 11:02:10 AM »
No. My mother in law does, so I get the best of both worlds, free eggs and I only have to care for them the 1 week/year she goes to Florida.

See this thread:
http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/chickens/msg145958/#msg145958

There are a lot of pros and cons in there, especially check out the link to NWedible's post on chicken raising.
Thanks for the link!  For some reason I didn't see that when I searched this morning.  I blame the lack of coffee.  I hate it when people don't search first... with half a bazillion posts already on this board, there's probably not much that hasn't already been addressed somewhere.  Sorry.

Jessa

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Re: Anyone raise chickens?
« Reply #4 on: November 08, 2014, 11:09:15 AM »
Thanks for the link!  For some reason I didn't see that when I searched this morning.  I blame the lack of coffee.  I hate it when people don't search first... with half a bazillion posts already on this board, there's probably not much that hasn't already been addressed somewhere.  Sorry.

You're welcome, and no worries. I happened to be reading it last week and remembered it when I saw your post.

mrm

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Re: Anyone raise chickens?
« Reply #5 on: November 08, 2014, 04:29:04 PM »
We've had chickens for just over a year now.  We love having them. 

What did they cost you, and how much do you spend to keep them squawking?
We paid $50 dollars for 7 three month old hens.  We lost 3 to raccoons in the first few weeks, but have kept the last 4 for the better part of a year. 

I built a 6x6 coop from scrap wood for about $20 bucks.  A bag of feed costs $12.50 and lasts a little over a month. 

Do you raise them for the meat or for the eggs?
Eggs.  And we get 4 of them every single day.

Is it worth the trouble?
Absolutely.  We get 4 free range, near organic, eggs every day.  We picked up some store bought eggs one week when we were running low.  DISGUSTING.  I had no memory of what eggs used to look like.  The yolks are pale yellow and sickly.  And there is all of the "snot" in the whites.

Our eggs have a vibrant yellow yolk and crystal clear whites. 

How much time do you spend per week cleaning up the poop and cleaning cages and coops?
I made our coop using the "deep bed" method.  Basically you put 12 inches of wood chips on the bare earth inside the coop.  This basically composts over time so you never need to "clean" anything.  It just turns into compost.  Occasionally I'll stir things up with a shovel. 

Do they smell bad? 
No.  They free range during the day and the coop was built using the "deep bed" method.  I believe you need 3-4 square feet per bird of deep bed to eliminate odors.  Otherwise the nitrogen in the waste builds up faster than it can compost. 

Do I even need a rooster?
No.  We've never had a rooster. 

Indio

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Re: Anyone raise chickens?
« Reply #6 on: November 08, 2014, 04:39:08 PM »
I have chickens too and they don't stink. When you hear about chickens stinking it is because there are too many in a small space. My coop gets dirtier in Winter. The chickens go in when it is dark so they spend more tiem in the coop in Winter. I compost all of the shavings and my garden loves it. People even sell chicken shit on craigslist.
If your coop is directly on the ground, you risk having a predator dig under it. It's safer to have an elevated coop.

FarmFam

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Re: Anyone raise chickens?
« Reply #7 on: November 08, 2014, 05:59:15 PM »
Anyone out there have chickens?

We started with 6 chickens from Tractor Supply on Easter.  Since then we bought 20 more, but a stray dog got on our property and we are now down to 19.

What did they cost you, and how much do you spend to keep them squawking? 

I bought them as chicks at 2.50 each.  50lb bag of food is $15, we use pine shavings to keep down flies and smell at $5.00 for a large 50lb bag.  The food lasts about 3 weeks for all 19 chickens since they free range and eat mostly bugs and weeds.  The pine shavings last months since we only use in the nest boxes.

Do you raise them for the meat or for the eggs?  Is it worth the trouble?

Eggs.  Yes, great quality eggs compared to the store. And the chickens are really no trouble to take care of.

How much time do you spend per week cleaning up the poop and cleaning cages and coops? 

Maybe 5 minutes a week.  Just to scrape some chicken poop off the top of the nest boxes and the food container and to replace the pine shavings in the nest boxes.  Maybe once a month will shovel some of the ground out for compost.

I have read that many cities allow them without a permit... Do they smell bad?

No.  We don't have any problems with smell at all.  But the pine shavings and a good airflow in the coop keeps down flies.

Do roosters crow only in the morning like on the cartoons?  Do I even need a rooster?

You don't need a rooster unless you want to breed.

The things to look out for are predators and fowl pox (like chicken pox for humans).  Our chickens got fowl pox and have not been laying since they are sick.  You can vaccinate for this to prevent.  Then when they are too old to lay, you can butcher them for soup if you got a dual purpose hen.  A dual purpose hen is like a rhode island red breed that is good for laying and has enough meat on her for cooking.  I only got the white leghorn breed which is one purposed for laying.  They have very little meat on them but lay almost an egg a day.

Spiffsome

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Re: Anyone raise chickens?
« Reply #8 on: November 08, 2014, 05:59:45 PM »
We paid $20 per chicken for 4 point-of-lay Orpington hens. Specialist laying breeds like the ISA brown will lay 1/day for a shorter period of time and have a shorter overall lifespan. Heritage breeds will live longer and lay for longer but lay less intensively over that period. We won a chicken tractor (cage on wheels) in a raffle, but those go for upwards of $200 if you buy them, or you can build your own relatively cheaply.

We fenced off approximately 20 square metres at the end of our yard. That area has now been stripped bare of greenery. Every weekend we let the chickens out into the larger yard. They will need to be shut away every night in a predator-proof pen. Even urban areas will get foxes and other predators.

We buy laying mash (mixed grains specialised for laying hens) from the produce store. That costs about $20 every month for a 20kg bag. We get about 16 - 18 eggs per week. That would probably increase if we fed them more scraps, particularly meat scraps, but our household of 2 doesn't generate that much.

 

horsepoor

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Re: Anyone raise chickens?
« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2014, 06:42:34 PM »
Absolutely.  We get 4 free range, near organic, eggs every day.  We picked up some store bought eggs one week when we were running low.  DISGUSTING.  I had no memory of what eggs used to look like.  The yolks are pale yellow and sickly.  And there is all of the "snot" in the whites.

Our eggs have a vibrant yellow yolk and crystal clear whites. 


Totally.  Don't get chickens if you're not prepared to get totally spoiled for any other eggs.  When we run low I splash out for the $4/dozen eggs and they're still not nearly as good.  Today I thought about buying the $7/dozen eggs to see if those might compare.

I have 6 silver laced Wyandottes.  Their coop is 4x8' and the run is 8x16.  The coop is perfect, but in hindsight, I would make the run bigger (actually working on expanding it).  My hens are a little over two years old, and not laying that much; be prepared for this decline after the first glut of 1 egg per day per hen.

I am a lazy ass chicken keeper and let the coop get dirtier than a should, but it really only smells when you're up close and personal with it.  However, we live in an arid environment, and I could see it being stinkier in a more humid place.

I've never really tracked feed costs closely, but it seems like I go through a 50# bag per month @ $14-17 per bag.  They also eat lots of garden and kitchen scraps, so the more of that they get, obviously the less feed they need.

I wouldn't do meat birds unless I had at least an acre or so of land.  Doesn't seem worth it to me.

Jesus Christ

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Re: Anyone raise chickens?
« Reply #10 on: November 08, 2014, 07:14:23 PM »
Random thoughts-

If your coop is on the ground and you have sandy or soft soil, bury the chicken wire at least an extra 10 inches into the ground to prevent predators from digging into the coop. Maybe less if your ground is harder.

Look around youtube for automatic feeders and watering set-ups. I use the water nipples and i have it attached to a 5 gallon bucket of elevated water. They only lay eggs when they are happy thus keep them eating.

It is best just to have hens for multiple reasons: The eggs are not fertile so you can keep them outside longer before you have to bring them into the fridge. ( I heard up to 3 weeks) The roosters make noise and eat your precious feed. They are bullies and noisy. If you do have roosters just do what everyone in my town does and put them on the "free" section on craigslist if you are not willing to eat them.

When you butcher them, kill and skin them one a time. They are tough to skin if they have been sitting awhile.

Mcmurrayhatchery.com is a good place to get mail order chicks at a great price.

Don't go overboard with the spending, around my town people spend $36 dollars for a 50lb bag of organic feed and buy pre-fab chicken coops for $1000 dollars. My girlfriends ex-husband took his two sick chickens to the vet office because they were sick last year. The vet treated the one chicken for a urinary track infection. The other chicken was put "down" by the vet and he paid to have the chicken cremated. I was laughing after hearing that news.

homehandymum

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Re: Anyone raise chickens?
« Reply #11 on: November 08, 2014, 10:02:08 PM »
We have 6 chooks in the suburbs.  Actual prices won't mean much because of the whole different country thing, but I have two thoughts.

1) We eat a lot of eggs, and quality is important to us.  Growing our own is superb for this.

2) The maximum you can possibly 'save' by owning chickens, is the amount that you currently spend on eggs (less any feed and setup costs of course).  If eggs only cost you, say $10 per month (just throwing a number in there), then that is the *maximum* savings you can make. 

They generally don't stack up on purely financial terms, but in terms of flavour and basic satisfaction, they're great.  And if you want to own pets, then they are a category of pet that is actually productive, so that's a win :)

mrsggrowsveg

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Re: Anyone raise chickens?
« Reply #12 on: November 10, 2014, 11:55:38 AM »
I have about 20 chickens at any given time.  We have a large coop and a fenced in area.  They often fly out and roam around our farm.

What do they cost you?
We got a few on Craigslist around $5 each, but for the most part we started with a small flock and rooster and hatch our own eggs.  They eat sprouted oats and some add-ins that we buy in bulk.  We buy those things for the pigs and the chickens just eat a little so we just account for cost to feed the pigs since the pigs also eat eggs.

Do you raise them for meat or eggs?  Is it worth the trouble
We do egg chickens right now.  I could not go back to grocery store eggs at this point.  The eggs are also a wonderful bartering tool for other farm fresh goodies.  The chickens are easy to keep, so it is worth it for us.

How much time do you spend per week cleaning up the poop and cleaning cages and coops?
Every few weeks it put more hay into the coop and let the poop just compost down.  That takes like 5 minutes.  Every few months I dig out the bottom layer and put it in my compost pile.  Our coop stays pretty clean because they free range during the day.

I have read that many cities allow them without a permit... Do they smell bad?
Ours don't smell bad, but cleaning the coop gets dusty and a bit stinky.  If they don't get outside during the day or have a tiny coop it may smell worse.

Do I even need a rooster?
No.  We keep a rooster around for protection because we are in the country.  We also hatch out eggs.  Roosters turn into real jerks around a year and a half.  At that point we get rid of them in favor for a young still nice rooster.

Another note, is that the breed of chicken is important.  Some breeds are better suited for in town than others.  Some are also more friendly.  We have mostly Astralorp crosses.  They aren't friendly but lay massive eggs.  In town, I would prefer Americanas.  They are the gentlest chickens I have raised and lay very consistently.  Their eggs are also colorful and pretty.

Eric

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Re: Anyone raise chickens?
« Reply #13 on: November 10, 2014, 02:51:53 PM »
How do you know if a specific chicken has stopped laying eggs?  If you have, say, 8 chickens, how do you keep track?  Are they creatures of habit that always lay in the same spot?

horsepoor

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Re: Anyone raise chickens?
« Reply #14 on: November 10, 2014, 10:52:18 PM »
You can kind of tell NY the color of the comb.  It's red when laying and faded when not.  If you have a variety of breeds you'll start to recognize the eggs each kind lays.

BooksAreNerdy

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Re: Anyone raise chickens?
« Reply #15 on: November 11, 2014, 06:07:21 AM »
We have 6 hens for eggs. We also do 25 meat birds a year. Do not do meat birds right off the bat. Ease into that one. Heritage breeds don't taste as good and take twice as much time/feed to get to butchering weight. Cornish rock x (meat birds) are delicious and ready to eat in 8 weeks. They are smelly freaks of nature who sometimes die from growing so fast. They were only a money saver for us because we had a milk cow and fed them 2 gallons of milk a day and were able to reduce their food intake.

About hens, we do deep litter in their coop and completely clean in out 2x a year. If the coop smells, add more carbon (straw or shavings). We add grass clippings and old hay to the run area when available. 6 hens go through about $15 worth of food a month. But we get 8-10 dozen eggs a month. So, cheaper to feed them than buy eggs. They also eat all of our kitchen scraps and reduce our waste.

We have two red laced wyandottes-cream colored eggs, two blue copper madam such I col are brown eggs, and two amerucanas-blue eggs! The multi colored egg basket is what makes it really fun for kids (and me).

We built the coop and run from recycled materials, but we did spend about $300 on 1/2" hardware cloth to double layer over all windows and wrap the whole run, including a buried apron around the perimeter. A bit overkill? Maybe. But in 2+ years, we have never lost a single hen.

I added a pic of the coop.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2014, 06:12:46 AM by BooksAreNerdy »

greenmimama

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Re: Anyone raise chickens?
« Reply #16 on: November 11, 2014, 07:18:03 AM »
I could write a book on our experiences but I will boil it down to this, you won't save money, we fed our chickens for months and months last winter with no eggs, once they started laying again it was at least $85 worth of food for that doz eggs, plus you had to make sure they had water that hadn't turned to ice, buy from your local 4-H kid and eat well

Prairie Stash

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Re: Anyone raise chickens?
« Reply #17 on: November 11, 2014, 11:13:22 AM »
As a kid we did free range chickens. They're excellent for large gardens, chickens will preferentially eat bugs whenever they can. Chickens also like eating weeds; dandelions are delicious to them. You can also feed them vegetable scraps, dry breads, etc. We had a neighbour who bought "screenings from the local grain elevator, basically weed seeds they removed from wheat. It can save feed money if you give them more space to find their own foods. How much land can you give them? Do you have a cold winter that would require a heated shelter?

Heywood57

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Re: Anyone raise chickens?
« Reply #18 on: November 11, 2014, 11:51:57 AM »
We currently have 11 hens
Elevated 4x8 coop with power and a heat lamp on a timer in the winter.
16x32 pen
7 gal feeder that we have to fill once a week.
A local feed store sells chicks in the spring for $3 to $5 each depending on breed.
We get 3 or 4 eggs a day in the winter 7+/day in the summer.
Smell is not an issue.
On the coop floor we use dried grass clippings in the summer or
a mix of wood shavings and straw in the winter.
Chicken waste is used in the garden or given away.

Flies are an occasional problem but a Rescue Fly Catcher hung on the fence cleans them up quickly.

Hens are rotated out after 2 or 3 years.

We installed an automatic chicken door this spring
   http://www.chickendoors.com/
No more walking out at sunrise to open the coop
and after sunset to close the coop.  It was well worth the price.



Bateaux

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Re: Anyone raise chickens?
« Reply #19 on: November 11, 2014, 12:46:59 PM »
Unless you just enjoy having chickens buy your eggs.  Feed is expensive,  far more expensive than eggs.  Even free range eggs.  I got rid if my chickens, pain in the butt.

BuffaloStache

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Re: Anyone raise chickens?
« Reply #20 on: November 26, 2016, 04:12:02 PM »
I very much want to get into this when I own a house/a place with an actual yard.