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Newbie questions about raising hens

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

I'm about to get chickens and have been doing lots of research, but I feel like I'm getting mixed messages reading all these threads. 

I'm going to get a secure coop, and put it inside a secure run (with the fence dug under the ground, rocks against the fence, all that recommended stuff). I've read threads about closing the coop door at night, and everyone says this is a MUST. However, people also say adult chickens can be left alone for a weekend, Also, I plan to let them free range outside the coop when I'm around during the day.

Questions: -If the chickens are left alone for a weekend (with food and water) just leave the coop open to the secure run?

-Is the answer the same if it is the winter? I live in the country (read: coyotes) in central NY. 

-Is it appropriate to ever leave the coop closed for a whole day?

-Do they need supervision when free ranging?

-How hard is it to get them back in the run/coop?

 

Any tips would be wonderful! Count down to baby chicks is 26 days!!!

post #2 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by LeahZ View Post
 

I'm about to get chickens and have been doing lots of research, but I feel like I'm getting mixed messages reading all these threads. 

I'm going to get a secure coop, and put it inside a secure run (with the fence dug under the ground, rocks against the fence, all that recommended stuff). I've read threads about closing the coop door at night, and everyone says this is a MUST. However, people also say adult chickens can be left alone for a weekend, Also, I plan to let them free range outside the coop when I'm around during the day.

Questions: -If the chickens are left alone for a weekend (with food and water) just leave the coop open to the secure run? Yes. I've done this several times.

-Is the answer the same if it is the winter? I live in the country (read: coyotes) in central NY. As long as the run is secure like you say, and has adequate room for the birds, there's no reason not to. Ideally the coop door is situation such that weather can't get in (rain/snow) but cold isn't a problem as long as they have non-frozen water access.

-Is it appropriate to ever leave the coop closed for a whole day? I would only do this if there was some reason the run wasn't secure or safe and make sure that the coop itself has enough room for the birds. You'll see 4 sq ft given pretty regularly as a base. That's a decision you have to make.

-Do they need supervision when free ranging? IMO, if you have to shepherd them, they aren't free ranging. I'll peek out the window if i'm around, but birds up the road truly free range and he loses very few birds. NEED is a strong word. Do they NEED it? No. Does free ranging increase the chance of predator loss? Yes. It's a balancing act.

-How hard is it to get them back in the run/coop? To this point I have free ranged very little because I can't afford any losses of birds. I plan to expand my free ranging once my flock is grown. Once they know the coop is home, that's where they want to be when the sun goes down (unless you have some birds that really love trees) the run can be trickier because chickens aren't the brightest critters out there. I've seen mine refuse to walk around a tarp, rather than around. I think the larger the opening you can give them to get back in the run the better off you will be.

 

Any tips would be wonderful! Count down to baby chicks is 26 days!!! However many birds you think you want, you'll want more. If you think your coop is big enough, you're wrong. lol


I'm relatively new to this too, but I'll share. I'm just going to respond to your items in the quote above so I don't miss something.

Don't be a helicopter parent to kids, pets, or livestock.
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Don't be a helicopter parent to kids, pets, or livestock.
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post #3 of 7
When you put your birds in the coop and run leave them in there for a week. Don't let them out. When you finally do they will return to the coop to roost on their own. I've left my run open all night before...many times but by accident only. Mine free range if I'm home or not. I don't supervise them at all. My advice is to try to brood your chicks in coop the as soon as they are fledged. They will spend weeks inside the coop and will adopt it as their safe zone.
I have a secure run and I don't ever close the coop door. I open the run first thing in the morning and close it at dusk after a head count. I have locked a few out for the night before. They just find a place to hang until they can get back with the flock. They will also roost in trees during the day in the summer. There is no substitute for free ranging. My girls.are.very happy and super healthy as a result. I've never gave meds...never had predator loss either. What ever I can do to let the chicken illustrate it's natural behavior I do. The result is big beautiful thick shelled eggs with that wonderful orange yolk.
Edited by Cartop Rob - 2/15/16 at 7:15am
post #4 of 7

If you coop/run is secure, then I never close the pop up chicken door. Coops need plenty of ventilation, do not need and should not be to be air tight. I do not ever lock my chickens in the coop. Chickens need fresh air and sunshine, and they know more about it than people do, set it up so they can make the choice to be inside or out.

 

Predators will test you set up, most of us made mistakes they found. Personally, digging predators like to dig in a tight U shape. I have had very good luck with a foot apron on top of the ground. At first one has to hold this in place with rocks or bricks or staples (such as to hold garden fabric in place) but quickly the vegetation grows through it. Animals trying to dig near the fence will hurt their feet, and leave it alone.

 

Create a set up, in which they will have enough space to stay in the coop/run 24/7. Then they can if you are gone. A lot of people make the mistake thinking that they can get more chickens if they free range, and that does not really work. You need adequate space for the birds you have.

 

Free ranging does lead to predator loss. Some people can take that, some cannot. 

 

Good luck.

 

Mrs K

Western South Dakota Rancher
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Western South Dakota Rancher
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post #5 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mrs. K View Post
 

If you coop/run is secure, then I never close the pop up chicken door. Coops need plenty of ventilation, do not need and should not be to be air tight. I do not ever lock my chickens in the coop. Chickens need fresh air and sunshine, and they know more about it than people do, set it up so they can make the choice to be inside or out.

 

Predators will test you set up, most of us made mistakes they found. Personally, digging predators like to dig in a tight U shape. I have had very good luck with a foot apron on top of the ground. At first one has to hold this in place with rocks or bricks or staples (such as to hold garden fabric in place) but quickly the vegetation grows through it. Animals trying to dig near the fence will hurt their feet, and leave it alone.

 

Create a set up, in which they will have enough space to stay in the coop/run 24/7. Then they can if you are gone. A lot of people make the mistake thinking that they can get more chickens if they free range, and that does not really work. You need adequate space for the birds you have.

 

Free ranging does lead to predator loss. Some people can take that, some cannot. 

 

Good luck.

 

Mrs K

This. I also leave the door to the run open, because I'm confident that it's fairly secure. I know it will repel coytoes, raccoons, skunks and opossums, but a weasel or mink could get in. Fortunately, that has only happened a couple of times. When we're gone for the weekend, they are confined to the coop/run area. When we're home they get to free range. I don't "supervise" as I have more to do than sit and watch my chickens. The coop area is well away from my house, yard and garden where I would be spending my time. As Mrs. K said - free ranging does lead to predator loss. You have to figure out if you can deal with that or not. 

Chickens off and on for 25+ years and still learning.

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Chickens off and on for 25+ years and still learning.

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post #6 of 7

Welcome to BYC @LeahZ!!!

 

It's not so much mixed messages, as there a lot of different ways to keep chickens.....and a lot of different opinions on the best way.

You'll have to decide which is the best way for you and your flock.

Be flexible(build everything with screws), know you will make some errors, don't be afraid to make changes things if you find something is not working well.

 

There's a LOT of info on this site and it can be hard to navigate it all.

There are a lot of little details about chicken keeping that are all important, and easy once you get the hang on it, but can be absolutely overwhelming at first.

The first year is the toughest by far due to that steep learning curve.

 

Coop/run/brooder space are at the top of my list of importance, crowded birds cause problems.

Ventilation is the next on the list.

There are a couple great articles on Space and Ventilation in my signature, check them out.

 

 

I keep my flock confined to a mesh covered run mainly because I have a lot of hawks around, I am not willing to share my small flock with them.

I lock them up every night in a very secure coop, every opening has 1/2" hardware cloth and/or hasp latches with caribineers thru the loops.

My flock has spent 2-3 days running never leaving the coop on several occasions due to cold wind/weather and snow storms, so my coop is large and roomy.

Great article on VENTILATION, one of THE MOST IMPORTANT aspects of coop design.

Fantastic treatise to help decide how much SPACE your chickens need.

 

Chicken math is not just 'addition'...but also should include Division, Multiplication and especially Subtraction!!!

 

Quoting centrarchid:

"Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it."

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Great article on VENTILATION, one of THE MOST IMPORTANT aspects of coop design.

Fantastic treatise to help decide how much SPACE your chickens need.

 

Chicken math is not just 'addition'...but also should include Division, Multiplication and especially Subtraction!!!

 

Quoting centrarchid:

"Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it."

Reply
post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

This is all really helpful, it's great to know that with the right coop and run they should be able to be pretty independent. I'm still not sure if I'll free range, I'm not sure how much I trust my neighbors dogs, but as long as the run is big enough that shouldn't be a problem. Thank you all for the help!

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