Originally Posted by FoxRiverRat
I've never owned chickens, but am very very seriously considering it. I've been looking around this site a lot, as well as watching youtube vids and plan on taking a workshop at a local farm before committing to getting chicks. A couple questions I've had trouble finding a firm answer to...
1.) When you get 1-2 day old chicks from a hatchery, is it customary to expect to lose a couple? So, if I want to end up with 5 should I buy 7? Clearly, I'll take good care of them, but I was getting the impressive that no matter what you should just expect a couple not to make it.
2.) I THINK I've concluded Road Island Reds or Buff Orpingtons fit my needs. I'm looking for good layers, cold hardy, and docile to some extent. I live in Northern Illinois. RIR's and Buffs a good start? Would you recommend just getting 1 breed or trying the 2 out?
3.) To have "organic" chickens and eggs, I'm guessing I should NOT get the vaccine service offered by the hatchery? Or would you recommend I get the vaccination service done?
4.) Any tips for introducing dogs would be welcomed. My dogs face a greater challenge than most, as I live on a river and have actually been praising them for chasing the ducks and geese off the lawn. I figured raising them from a day old, inside my house would help the dogs get used to them and hopefully help them understand these are different than the wild geese.....
5.) Are there any bushes, plants, herbs that I could plant around the coop/run to help with any possible smell? something to that would just smell great and mask any possible chicken or ammonia odors? (I have read up on deep litter method, keeping coop dry and well ventiliated to control odor as well)
Thanks for any tips and replies in advance!
Josh, welcome to BYC. You are wise to do your homework before getting chicks. Here's some suggested reading:
Henderson's Chicken Breeds Chart.
1. The likelihood of loosing chicks when buying from a hatchery is directly inverse to whether you bought "extras". Also, If you intend to have 5 birds, and buy 5 chicks, you're likely to end up with one or more roos.
2. Do you intend to hatch your own chicks in the future? If so, you might be happy with the BO. If you don't intend to hatch, you might want to choose a bird less likely to go broody. I've never met a RIR that I liked. They tend to be on the aggressive side to their flock mates. I highly recommend having a mixed flock. If you get all of the same breed, you might have a bit of a time telling them apart. IMO, it's fun to have a flock of widely varied color patterns.
3. Vaccination is a personal preference. Some hatcheries suggest that it's not necessary for the back yard flock. Talk to 3 different people and you'll get at least 4 different opinions on the subject. Same goes for medicated feed, and using antibiotics to treat illness, and worming your birds. I am in the camp that prefers to boost the bird's natural immunity instead of vaccinating, using medicated feed, antibiotics or worming my flock. A lot of the preference in this area hinges on how you view your flock. Are they pets, or are they livestock. If a bird gets sick, will you cull her, or will you take her to the vet?
4. I can't offer much advice re: your dogs and your chicks. I'm currently starting a Jack Russell Terrier/mix pup, hoping that she will become a flock guardian. At the very least, her presence and scent should help to keep hawks and land predators away.
5. A properly managed coop and run should not be smelly. There should be no ammonia smell. If you intend to have deep litter in your coop, and that is by far the easiest to manage, you would do well to design the coop with a buried skirt around it, and no floor. This sets up the perfect environment for a composting deep litter that will be essentially odor free and very easy to manage. This set up does require good drainage. Plan at least 4 s.f. in the coop, and 10 s.f. in the run per bird, allowing extra room for the addition of extra birds. Eventually, you'll need to add some replacements, and remove the old birds, unless you intend to operate a gallus geriatric community. Chicken wire will keep chickens in, but will not keep predators out. To keep your flock safe, use 1/2" welded wire. Get your coop ready before getting your birds! It will save a lot of hassles.