We are planning on 15 chicks this April, but don't have the coop built yet (that will happen from mid-April until about June 1).
I want a variety of good laying hens, and aren't planning on roosters, but we'll see if any of the pullets I get turn out to be roos!
Chicks picked up at the store on April 2 and April 3, 2010: 5 Australorps, 5 Golden Sex Link, 5 White Leghorn, 2 Ameraucaunas. The local feedstore had a deal with 5 free for 25 lb starter food, I got 5 sex link that way, and my college going son got 5 leghorns that way. Fingers crossed that they'll be all happy, healthy, and bountiful layers! (Note, one Ameraucana is a rooster!)
Phase 1) Brooder (2 weeks) : "Peep Show" 1 106 qt plastic tub, with latching lid, half of which was cut out and replaced with contractor's wire mesh, 1 brooder lamp, 1 100 watt red flood light, (bought a 250 watt infrared for starters too), 1 1qt metal water base, 1 metal 8 hole feeder. Starting them on towels for a few days, changing it daily, or twice if I think the smell is too much (currently they are located in the dining room on a little camp table, where I can see them and come to their rescue if need be).
Phase 2) Grower (2 weeks - 8 weeks) : Finished build on "The Birdello" page. "The Birdello" Dog-house 30" x 42" sized mini coop abutting an 8x8 run built from Cattle Panels cut in half (8' long), and covered on the bottom with 1" plastic poultry wire. I'm designing this to open from the top (hinged on one side of a shed roof), a swing out door on one end with a flop down door on the other for ease of cleaning, plexiglass windows for viewing (chicks and us!), wheels and handles to move it, and a guillotine style door raised up a tad to keep the bedding inside. We'll see how this turns out. My husband is looking at me funny with all the design elements. This will be dual purpose, as after the chicks move into the coop, this will be moved into the coop for storage under the shelf on one side. I plan on putting in extra bedding and store the brooder and such in there as well.
Phase 3) Coop (8 weeks on) : "The Chicken Ranch" New 10x14 shed with 4' as a storage room. I'm hoping this will be built by June 1, and the big coop run by June 15. Until then, we'll use the Cattle Panels for a mini run. Note: coop finished July 1st (except for outside painting). Chicks were ready to move in!!! Nest boxes completed July 31st. First egg laid July 30th, (White Leghorns), with Golden Sex Links all laying by middle August, and Black Australorps laying by the end of the month. MooShoo, my Ameraucana hen, began laying in the middle of September, then took January-February off (not molting, just too cold or not enough light). I did supply supplemental light starting the end of October, and bought a fancy automatic Coop Controller from Murry McMurry Hatchery for me for my birthday. What a great present, it gives me peace of mind that the hens will be safe at night, and get the light they need (light comes on 8 hours after dark, so 16 hours of light per day, optimal for egg production so they say). $300+ with shipping IS expensive, but not as expensive as a raccoon or fox decimating the flock should I forget one night because I'm out late at dinner. It has worked well so far, I just needed to make an adjustment to have it close later (we have rainy, cloudy days often, and bamboo 25 feet away, which makes it darker sooner).
1 Cuckoo Maran (my curiosity chicken)
1 California Grey
3 Black Sex Links
10 Golden Sex Links
I had so much luck with my Golden Sex Links last year, they regularly laid large-XL-JUMBO eggs. They have been very inquisitive, and love to hunt for bugs and worms. As of today, April 1, 2011, my 16 hens have laid over 3100 eggs!
As the Golden Sex Links are free (5 free with 25 lb bag) with a bag of feed at my local Coastal Farm, I will continue with them as my main egg producers. I'm increasing my flock size, and trying out new hens this year. I'm hoping the California Grey, which is a cross between a Barred Rock and a White Leghorn, will be a good replacement for my Leghorns. I will probably sell 5 hens this Fall, as the new chicks come in to production, and to make room in the chicken coop, and then sell the other 10 hens (not the Ameraucanas) next year. I'm working out my balance of getting new chicks, and letting the older girls go. I do not intend to send anybody to "freezer camp" that is not why I have chickens.
We've set up a temporary fence beyond the original pen to give the chickens more foraging options. They LOVE it! I let them out at noon, when I gather the bulk of the eggs, so that would encourage the laying to happen in house. I don't want to find a nest of eggs in the Bamboo Forest! They now have about 1 acre to run around on. What a chicken's life it is...
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