Author Topic: Backyard Chickens  (Read 5536 times)

kevinb421

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Backyard Chickens
« on: December 17, 2015, 02:59:37 PM »
We finished our Coop and just got our first two adult birds!
Anyone else had any experience with having backyard chickens? looking for any tips for first timers. I'm the type of person who just figures things out from trial and error, but when dealing with life I don't want to accidentally kill my birds to learn a lesson.

So far we have had about 3 eggs every 2 days from the two birds together. It's been pretty great so far.

albireo13

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Re: Backyard Chickens
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2015, 03:39:24 PM »
We started our own coop years ago when the kids were young.  We went with bantams and had about 10 chix at any time, usually just one rooster.
We had a constant flow of eggs.  They were smaller eggs but great nonetheless.  We all enjoyed the experience.  You have be sure the coop is well insulated, or heated, for the winter.  Also, the pen needs to be well built to keep out predators.  We had problems with racoons, hawks, and Fisher Cats.  We eventually lost them all to animals and stopped when the kids were older.  We would let them roam the yard during the daytime and herd them back to the pen in the evening.  They were actually very low maintenance and the kids loved them.

  One thing I noticed ... while we had chickens we never saw ticks in our yard.  Since they have been gone, thet has changed.

If you have dogs you have to be sure they are compatible.  Luckily our dogs were well behaved and didn't chase the chix.

Before we got the bantams we started with two chix which grew to be full sized roosters with spurs.  Those birds were mean and nasty and went after the kids so, we gave them away. Since then we picked out our pullets at the local county fair and chose mostly hens.  $5 a chicken!


MicroRN

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Re: Backyard Chickens
« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2015, 04:42:56 PM »
We love having our chickens!  Check out the Backyard Chickens forum.  There's a ton of information available, and I spent a long time scouring the forum before we got ours.  We've been very lucky so far.  We lost a couple tiny chicks, one free-ranger to some type of predator, and one grown hen to what was probably an intestinal obstruction (out of a total of 35 birds).  Chickens aren't too complex.  They just need an appropriate set-up, plenty of fresh water, and a balanced diet.

v8rx7guy

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Re: Backyard Chickens
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2015, 04:51:23 PM »
We've been backyard chicken farmers for 3 years now... we love it!  One tip would be to get a light in the coop for the winter months.  Have the light on a timer so that the chickens get enough light to continue laying through the cold winter months... their productivity will go way down if you don't.  If possible, close the door on the coop at night time and open it in the morning at an appropriate time or else you will be woken up at 5:00am by that loud chicken everyone seems to get (pisses the neighbors off too haha).  Make sure to provide diacramatious earth (white powder-like substance) for the hens to bathe in... the particals are microscopically sharp and kill any bugs/critters that hide under their feathers.  Find a way to discourage hens from sleeping in the next box, they'll poop in there and make it so the eggs get soiled and tougher to clean.

Being the nerd I am, I like to keep track of eggs, production, profits, etc. and run it like a business.  If you view it as a business that helps make decisions for when hens need to be introduced to the hatchet and eaten for dinner.  It's a rough job, but you'll get used to it.

v8rx7guy

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Re: Backyard Chickens
« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2015, 04:54:02 PM »
A picture of our chicken & rabbit "setup".  This photo was taken while raising our new birds so we had them segregated until they were mature enough to intermingle.  You can see the coup in the back ground which is where the hens sleep and lay the eggs.  The complete run area is protected by heavy gauge wiring.  The rabbits reside above a portion of the coup run and the chicks will actually eat the rabbit droppings haha!
« Last Edit: December 17, 2015, 04:56:25 PM by v8rx7guy »

MayDay

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Re: Backyard Chickens
« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2015, 05:53:50 PM »
We got hens this fall. 

It has been a good experience.  Feed costs us less than eggs, but the upfront coop costs will never result in a money making undertaking, but I don't care. 

Our girls free range, which results in a yard covered in poop.  We live on 50 acres, so they have plenty of room, but tend to stay within 50 yards of the house and coop.  If we were to ever do this on a regular city/town lot, we would definitely contain them to a run so the whole yard wasn't a big poop-fest. 

We don't heat our girls.  Everything I have read says not to. 

jengod

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Re: Backyard Chickens
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2015, 06:08:54 PM »
A picture of our chicken & rabbit "setup".  This photo was taken while raising our new birds so we had them segregated until they were mature enough to intermingle.  You can see the coup in the back ground which is where the hens sleep and lay the eggs.  The complete run area is protected by heavy gauge wiring.  The rabbits reside above a portion of the coup run and the chicks will actually eat the rabbit droppings haha!

What a terrific setup! Some people just have worm bins setup below their rabbit runs, but having a chicken run under there seems very wise as well.

My one piece of advice is only feed them in the morning and don't give them more than they can finish in a day, otherwise you might get RODENT FRIENDS.

Getting backyard chickens was one of the best things we've done and I will only give up having my own hens when they put me away in the home. Love the eggs, love their personalities, love the manure and rototilling. Congrats and enjoy your girls!

The_path_less_taken

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Re: Backyard Chickens
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2015, 08:02:01 PM »
Have had them since 2008. Love them, but if you buy feed by the bag and don't have a ton of green grazing for them....it's probably not going to save you any money.

The taste of the eggs, and knowing the chickens are treated humanely, makes up for that for me.

Because I can't kill them, some of mine are older, and I don't want to put lights on all winter, I'm not getting eggs right now. So I bought store eggs....ickkkkkkkk! No flavor, pale yolk....horrible. I actually had to throw a duck egg in there just to eat it.

RE: heat....there are a lot of people in Alaska that don't heat their coop. I have one 3 sided coop/run that is a hard roof and almost 3 fully enclosed sides, but the front is open:  they're out of the wind, but never got a closeable inside night coop in it for them: they're fine.

That said...I have a blind chicken that I got in 2008 who I bring in/out every night as I want her in the super insulated big coop: that one is warmer than my living room, thanks to their body heat.

Monkey stache

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Re: Backyard Chickens
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2015, 10:37:22 PM »
Egg laying will stop/slow down when the birds are a few years old. At that point you have to decide if you want pets or slaughter them for stew. Something to consider before they hit that age.

When you chickens get sick/hurt, will you take them to a vet or cull them? No right answer but figure that out before it happens. Most vets won't see chickens so you'll need to find one if that's the route you want to go. Personally I cull birds if I can't treat them myself.

Also I recommend that you keep a minimum of 3 chickens in case you lose one so the other one has a friend while you try to replace the third. They're very social animals and always need companions.

This will give you a run down of care: http://www.mypetchicken.com/backyard-chickens/chicken-care/chapter-7-caring-for-chickens.aspx

cerat0n1a

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Re: Backyard Chickens
« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2015, 05:37:17 AM »
When you chickens get sick/hurt, will you take them to a vet or cull them? No right answer but figure that out before it happens. Most vets won't see chickens so you'll need to find one if that's the route you want to go. Personally I cull birds if I can't treat them myself.

Also I recommend that you keep a minimum of 3 chickens in case you lose one so the other one has a friend while you try to replace the third. They're very social animals and always need companions.

Two very good bits of advice. We don't have chickens at the moment, and I really miss them. Can be a bit of a bind when you're away from home, as they need daily attention, so need helpful neighbours. I loved watched them poking round the garden though - there's a quote about a garden without hens being like a stage without actors.

Adding chickens to an existing group is always a challenge. My experience (in the UK) is that the most a vet would ever do is give you some over-the-counter antibiotics or other stuff that you can buy yourself. I think if you own chickens, you really have to be prepared to kill them if they get seriously ill (or know someone who will).

Kitsunegari

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Re: Backyard Chickens
« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2015, 11:43:44 AM »
We're also planning to start raising our own chickens soon-ish, which will be a real chaallenge considering we live in the city, our backyard is small and here gets really cold in winter.
Is there any breed that is good both as egg-layers and food stuff?

MicroRN

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Re: Backyard Chickens
« Reply #11 on: December 18, 2015, 12:35:23 PM »
We're also planning to start raising our own chickens soon-ish, which will be a real chaallenge considering we live in the city, our backyard is small and here gets really cold in winter.
Is there any breed that is good both as egg-layers and food stuff?

We've been really happy with our Orpingtons.  They lay well and are fairly hefty birds.

Bearded Man

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Re: Backyard Chickens
« Reply #12 on: December 18, 2015, 12:54:04 PM »
A picture of our chicken & rabbit "setup".  This photo was taken while raising our new birds so we had them segregated until they were mature enough to intermingle.  You can see the coup in the back ground which is where the hens sleep and lay the eggs.  The complete run area is protected by heavy gauge wiring.  The rabbits reside above a portion of the coup run and the chicks will actually eat the rabbit droppings haha!

Looks almost exactly like the setup I built from spare scrap wood the previous owner at my old house left behind. Worked great. I let the droppings pile up on the ground (only used top row) and used it as fertilizer for my garden. The chickens I had were Rhode island reds. They are a great meat and egg bird. Can't wait until I can move back there and have chickens again. Three of my  back yard neighbors have chickens! Pretty common where that house is apparently. Backyard rabbits too.

MayDay

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Re: Backyard Chickens
« Reply #13 on: December 18, 2015, 02:12:23 PM »
We have barred rock, chosen for cold tolerance and good laying.

v8rx7guy

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Re: Backyard Chickens
« Reply #14 on: December 18, 2015, 02:19:40 PM »
Barred rocks are great... I think we have 5 of them.  We also have 2 Americauna ("easter egger"), 2 California Grey, and 1 Rhode Island Red. 

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Re: Backyard Chickens
« Reply #15 on: December 18, 2015, 03:02:12 PM »
Don't read too much about chicken diseases/health problems or you will be convinced that everything in the world is out to kill your chickens.  Keep them well fed, watered, and look for obvious problems.  Many problems are more expensive to treat than the bird is worth, so I too, cull any afflicted birds.  Sad to say, but after 10+ years of bird raising, chickens are just notch or two above goldfish.     

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Backyard Chickens
« Reply #16 on: December 19, 2015, 07:24:03 AM »
We're getting chickens next year unless some major unbudgeted expense gets in the way. We have the city permit, a coop design picked out, and breeds narrowed down. My kids like the Australorps, which are another hardy egg-focused breed that hasn't been mentioned yet.

Pretty sure the rules here require us to keep them in a run that has to be so many feet from neighbors, etc, but I'll ask the city's "chicken lady" at the permit office if free ranging or temporary day pens are allowed in other parts of the yard.

Penny Lane

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Re: Backyard Chickens
« Reply #17 on: December 19, 2015, 08:04:45 AM »
I'm glad you're having a positive experience so far.  I just like having them around, such funny animals to watch.  And the eggs!  I made cheese puffs yesterday for a neighborhood party--"How did you get those so yellow??"  You can't go back to store eggs.

My 4 girls get organic layer pellets and some scratch feed; if I will be home by sunset, I let them out and they mostly stick around our one acre property.  The biggest threat to them is unleashed dogs;  I have seen hawks stalk them, but they will run under the rugosa roses and wait it out(the hawks have a harbor full of fish, too, so not a big threat).  We had a weasel once-- disaster!  They seem to kill for thrills and not eat the birds.  Get 2 waterers so you can swap out the frozen one in winter; when it's not too cold I can leave for weekend and they are just fine. 

I do have to protect certain crops I grow from them.  I have large pieces of chicken wire I put over recently seeded areas, and I have to cage most brassicas.  This year my 2 new hens liked pepper foliage-- a first.

HairyUpperLip

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Re: Backyard Chickens
« Reply #18 on: December 19, 2015, 10:11:21 AM »
good thread.


Jon_Snow

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Re: Backyard Chickens
« Reply #19 on: December 19, 2015, 09:17:20 PM »
I have had hard time envisioning my island-homesteading future without having chickens at some point. Almost more for their poop for my garden beds than the eggs...though I'll take the eggs...the whites anyway. ;)

little_brown_dog

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Re: Backyard Chickens
« Reply #20 on: December 20, 2015, 12:11:55 PM »
We don't keep chickens but we do have ducks! For anyone interested in the "other" egg layer, I highly recommend them. They're messier than chickens (the area around the water dish and kiddie pool is always a mud pit) but make up for that by being very cold hardy and resistant to disease. Our welsh harlequin girls are all still laying an egg per day with 0 artificial light, and they don't need any heating in their houses/pens. Our little boy is adorable and very gentle and quiet...no nasty roosters waking the neighbors :)  Great birds for those who want a low maintenance animal, or those who live in cold/wet climates.
« Last Edit: December 20, 2015, 12:14:04 PM by little_brown_dog »

Kitsunegari

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Re: Backyard Chickens
« Reply #21 on: December 20, 2015, 12:55:52 PM »
Interesting! Are they as noisy as geese or are they quiet? Do they need some water to paddle on?

little_brown_dog

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Re: Backyard Chickens
« Reply #22 on: December 20, 2015, 01:06:29 PM »
Nope much quieter than geese. The girls can be vocal when they are scared/surprised/excited to eat, so I wouldn't recommend them for a particularly small yard with very close neighbors. We live on a half acre so the noise isn't much of an issue. Our neighbors can certainly hear them if they are in their backyards as well, but you can't hear them from the road. The males are very quiet- they have this deeper, raspy voice that you can't really hear unless you are right near the pen.
They don't need a pond, but they do really appreciate bathing water. A kiddie pool is sufficient for their bathing needs. They also need water dishes that are deep enough to dip their whole bill in (they use the water to swallow food, and need to clean their nostrils). We use a cat litter pan as their water dish, and a kiddie pool as their swimming/bathing area.

kevinb421

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Re: Backyard Chickens
« Reply #23 on: December 20, 2015, 08:52:31 PM »
Love all the input! We have two right now as we were able to get them and they are a winter breed. My goal is to have about 12 once Spring comes around. I figure eggs make great gifts and they are good for my garden.

MayDay

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Re: Backyard Chickens
« Reply #24 on: December 21, 2015, 04:59:43 AM »
Ducks are on my list for sure. But H may be sent over the edge by ducks, lol. So we'll see if it ever happens.