Our Chicken Adventure (So Far ...)
Hi Everyone! We have never raised chickens before but we've got some friends who do, and we decided to give it a try! We live in upstate New York and have an old farmhouse on about 12 acres. The original house was built in 1775, then it was expanded sometime in the 1800's, and again in the late 1900's. It's a very cool big, old house and we love it. We also have a large barn and an old chicken coop ... and that is how we arrived in this forum!
We've lived here for 14 years and always talked about renovating the coop and getting some chickens, but other projects always seemed to get in the way. (Our last "project" was the birth of our new baby boy and a major house renovation to finish off the 3rd floor as a bedroom for our 9 year old twins LOL!) Finally, this year, we decided to fix it up. We installed new siding over the old siding, replaced some floorboards on the second floor, and dug out quite a bit of old "organic matter" from the first floor. It was about 1 foot deep with old corn cobs, hay, dirt, and rocks. We predator-proofed the place (we hope) by installing wire screening all along the bottom perimeter. The bottom edge of the screening is buried about 6 inches deep in concrete. Then we painted the whole first floor to give it a brighter, cleaner look. Love it!

Before Pictures

New Siding is Installed. The windows were leftovers from another project. Notice the second floor window that looks into our field ... a perfect deer hunting stand LOL! We still need to stain & seal the siding.

Up until this point, we were basically just cleaning up an old structure on our property - we could have used it for lots of different things. Actually, my husband Tim suggested to me a couple of times that just because we were fixing up the coop, it didn't mean that we actually had to get some chickens! I will admit that I was the one who was gung-ho about getting some chickens - I just love the idea of having our own farm-fresh eggs. After a few weeks (after the chicks arrived), he got more excited about the whole thing!

The next steps were the chicken-specific modifications. The inside dimensions of the coop are 22' x 15'. The chickens' living area is 16' x 15', and the remainder is the entry way, stairs to 2nd floor, and storage space. We are not currently using the 2nd floor for anything - maybe that's where the brooder will be next year, instead of the garage! Tim built a great roost with a droppings board below for easy cleanup. He also built nesting boxes with access from the rear to collect the eggs. It is funny that he wasn't too keen about getting the chickens, because as he was designing these things, he built them for twice as many chickens as we have because "next year we'll probably get some more!". We are really enjoying this. By the way, BackYard Chickens was very helpful in giving us ideas for the roost and nesting boxes. Thanks everyone for sharing your knowledge and experience with us!

Roosting Bars with Droppings Board - I love how the chicks have so much space but they cluster in one corner!

Nesting Boxes - the 3rd picture shows the doors that we open to access the back of the nesting boxes to collect eggs.

Now we are working on an enclosed covered run for the chickens. There will be a larger fenced-in area (not covered) for them to forage. We can't let them free-range unfortunately, due to the fact that our neighbors have two dogs. I will post another picture when its done.

Here are some pictures of our little chicks. We ordered them from mypetchicken.com. That is a great website for beginners, but I don't think I will order from them again. The chicks are slightly more expensive than other sites. The shipping is very expensive because you can ship as few as 3 chicks, whereas other sites require orders of at least 25. We ordered 12 chicks and it cost ~$72. Next time I will share an order with my other chicken farmer-friends and save some money! Note that I paid $0.50 extra per bird for females, and another $0.50 extra for the Marek's vaccine. I don't know if the vaccine was a good idea or not ... I need to do some more research on that.

I ordered 2 Barred Rocks, 2 Rhode Island Reds, 2 Easter Eggers, 2 Salmon Faverolles, 1 Partridge Rock, 1 White Rock, 1 Speckled Sussex, and 1 Australorp. I allowed substitutions on my order however, and I didn't get this exact mix. I received 2 White Rocks and I don't think I got the Partridge Rock. One of the Salmon Faverolles died within 3 days ... it looked weak as soon as I received it and it didn't eat or drink very much. Another bird died 2 days later; I think it was the Speckled Sussex. (UPDATE: It turns out that it was an Easter Egger that died. My Speckled Sussex is named Victoria and she is one of my favorites!)

Then we had a crazy situation with the other Salmon Faverolle ... they are supposed to be very docile birds, but this one was very aggressive and was pecking the eyes of all of the other chicks! This behavior began about 1 day after I received them. She actually drew blood on one of the other chicks, right near her eye. I isolated her from the others for about 2 days, letting her in with the other chicks every 12 hours or so to see if she learned any lessons. Nope! Within 10 minutes she resumed her aggressive behavior. One of my friends received chicks the same week I did, and she traded me one of her new chicks (a white Easter Egger) for my crazy Salmon Faverolle. She put the crazy chick in with birds that were 3 weeks old - and she chased them around even though she was tiny compared to them! However, this worked out better because the older chicks could fly away from her. After about 3 weeks, she put all of the chicks together - 3 week olds and 5 week olds. The crazy Salmon Faverolle has been doing fine now. It seems that her aggressiveness went away after being with the older birds for those 3 weeks. I am glad that it worked out, but I don't think I will be ordering any Salmon Faverolles again. I am 0 for 2 with that breed!

Thanks for reading about our little adventure. Check back for updates!
- Lisa - July 5, 2010