A couple of newbie questions

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by ChickaChickaBoomBoom, May 9, 2007.

  1. ChickaChickaBoomBoom

    ChickaChickaBoomBoom Songster

    May 4, 2007
    Auburn, WA
    Hi all,

    First of all - this has been a very entertaining and informative forum. I've been a member of several hobbyist forums over the years, and you can really tell (and appreciate) the ones where folks are genuinely interested in helping and interacting with one another.

    Quick intro, then a couple of questions :).

    After "helping" care for our kids' Hermit Crabs for several years, and "helping" care for our kids' "temporary" feeder fish in a bowl (guess who cleans them - oh, and talks to them), and "helping" care for our kids' two outdoor rabbits (free ranging on the side of our house - guess who is out there all the time), and now vowing not to "help" my daughter with her two new parakeets (ya, guess who's feeding/watering them while she's away at camp this week), AND while entertaining (along with my wife) the thought of my son getting a Russian Turtle - I've become somewhat addicted accidentally to the idea of getting a couple of hens FOR MYSELF. I know, someone needs to stop this family! :)

    I live in a subdivision in Auburn, WA, and I am interested in putting a coop(converted rabbit hutch) and decent size run on the side of the house with the rabbits, in an area of about 450sf. I might occasionally let the hens free range in this area, as there is a lot to dig around in, but in reality I need to make sure I'm prepared for what lies ahead.

    My first question is that the area on our house is on the north/northeast facing side of our home, and is shaded from late-morning on. Obviously, this isn't a problem in the summer, as they can get the sun they need in the am without getting too hot, but will they be alright in the winter with little direct sunlight for much of the day?

    My second question is that I understand that we can clip one wing so that they are inhibited in their flying (for the purposes of discussion, I'm leaning towards a RIR or similar), but with a 6 foot fence around our yard, do you think I'll be safe from them getting out during their playtime? (This will be when I am around, and there are only occasional cats to worry about during the daytime hours.)

    My third question is does the food necessarily need to be in the coop, or can it be underneath in the run with 24/7 access? The rabbit hutch is similar to some of the ones seen on here, and should be ok for two hens if they have open access to their secure run, but if I need to keep the food and water in it as well, I'm feeling a little claustraphobic for them in the winter time.

    Finally (for now - this is addictive), my plan is to use pine shavings in the coop, with sand under the roost, and then sand in the run, with straw/hay/assorted other fun stuff over it. If the ground is covered by sand and hay though, what do they get to dig around in, or will they find their way to the dirt below? I don't intend to have the 1" hardware cloth under the pen, but rather extend it out to protect from predators. I mainly want the sand/hay as a way of keeping them dry in the rainy season (Early February through Late January) as well as to help control/manage the smell factor.

    Any thoughts on this are greatly appreciated. I've spent so much time reading the threads on this forum, but I am starting to hit the TILT point where I am confusing myself with too much information. Besides, I am still working on Plan B of convincing my wife that they would be a great pet (patience worked for my model train "problem", so hopefully it will here too.)

    Thanks again!

  2. quiltymare

    quiltymare Chirping

    Feb 3, 2007
    Central Washington
    Wow... you sure do have a lot of questions LOL... that is really good.

    1st, I'm moving to Kent in a few weeks! We'll be virtually neighbors!

    Can't really answer you about the location issue as I'm unfamiliar with the weather up there as yet...

    As far as the wing clipping... that really depends on how intrepid the bird is. I've seen birds as small as Old English Games clear a 6' fence with one clipped wing. Had a neighbors end up on my roof once, too! My solution to that was having birds that could not fly... cochins and silkies... but have heard that isn't as great a choice where it is muddy... so might not work for you. Actually, a bird the size of the RIR should be good but you might just want to go ahead and clip both wings...

    Whatever you put on the ground... will all get spread all over the place and mixed into the dirt pretty quickly if the dirt is soft. Chickens love to dig and scratch and pretty much thwart any plans you have on keeping certain bedding materials in specific places.

    I am thinking you are talking one of those rabbit hutches that has a slant roof??? I could be wrong... but there are a few problems I see with this... first, your girls are going to need a place that is sheltered from the elements. Now, if the coop has a place that meets that need, that's great. But, you want to be able to close it up for them to protect them from night-time marauders... including rats! so, if the food is out and they are in... that's fine for sleeping time but not long periods of time. We use those types of rabbit hutches for bantams here in So Cal all the time. Work great for smaller birds and milder weather. Perhaps someone with more experience with your winter weather can help you with this...

    Basically, sounds like you are on track and have a good plan. Plans are meant to be adapted and you'll learn as you go what works for your specific situation. You are going to LOVE having chickens. I've owned everything from rats, reptiles, horses, cattle... but chickens just Rule!
  3. SpottedCrow

    SpottedCrow Flock Goddess

    I had my birds in a rabbit hutch, until Jerry started to crow...I rehomed him and then one of my hens started to crow, so now I have house chickens...they have their own room, my enclosed back porch.
    The rabbit hutch is a very good thing, because it's easy to clean with the pullout pan underneath. Just pullout the pan and take it to the compost heap.
    In the winter, you can add a light so that they may continue to lay and you can also enclose the sides with plastic, plexi, glass, or boards to keep it warm.
    Rhodies aren't the best flyers, because they're a "heavy" breed. Bantams usually fly well, as do "light" breeds.
    Sounds like you're ready for 40 days and nights of rain with all them critters. LOL
  4. cookinmom

    cookinmom Songster

    Mar 14, 2007
    Saint George GA
    the rainy season (Early February through Late January)


    Hi Dave!
    Welcome to the insanity!! [​IMG]
  5. michellerene

    michellerene Songster

    Apr 23, 2007
    Graham, WA
    Hi neighbors... I'm in Graham, WA! [​IMG]
  6. ChickaChickaBoomBoom

    ChickaChickaBoomBoom Songster

    May 4, 2007
    Auburn, WA
    Thanks for all of the great feedback! I appreciate the advice that is shared on this site - very fun and educational.

    Quiltymare: Welcome to the northwest! Will you be in the City of Kent? I had heard that they don't allow backyard chickens (gasp!) but that there was a recent hearing which I never heard the outcome of.

    You mentioned clipping both wings, but I had read mixed results of clipping both. I think i would just go ahead and go this route, just to do the most possible. If they fly over...well, that'll be a bridge to cross. I don't think any of our neighbors adjoining our yard have pets.

    Regarding the rabbit hutch, yes it is one of those roughly 3'x4' ones with the slanted roof and pull out tray. It has a small door on the front that I would keep open to the secure run, other than in severe weather, but I would make some removable boards (perhaps a couple different ones) for each side to shelter them from the elements.

    Inside the HutchCoop i'd probably have a roost, a nesting box, and not much else, unless the food is in there. That way the two would have enough room so that they didn't drive each other crazy. Like you say, though, everything is open to adaptation - I just want to keep the HutchCoop as close to its original state (other than a permanent egg door) so that it could be resold if not needed later.

    SpottedCrow: I hope the hutch proves a good starting point. My biggest issue - aside from not alienating everyone around me - is controlling the cost, in case I find I'm in over my head with them. I have a tendency to "piddle", and before long I'll piddle a new border fence, new plants, etc into their area. Last week I "piddled" some sod from our yard into the rabbit area. The less I start with, the better. :)

    Trust me, I'm very aware of the growing pet population around our house. The crabs have gone to crab heaven, though, and the fish may be relocated to a (nonexistant) outdoor water feature, or move to a new home. Gotta make room for the hens, you know!

    Cookinmom: Thank you for the warm welcome!

    Michellerene: Hello! My sister and her family live in Graham. In fact, they had chickens, and she has repeatedly advised me to NOT get a couple. That's ok. I figure it has to be something that you want, and lately when I'm at work, I enjoy thinking about coming home and visiting the rabbits AND the hens.

    OOPS - I forgot one question earlier (probably more, but I'm trying to get my answers from previous posts first): With two hens, how noticable will they be in regards to noise? I know they won't be doing the rooster crows usually, but if they are about 15-20 feet from our neighbors yard, and perhaps 25 feet from the side of their house, should I be overly concerned about their "chatting"? My neighbors are Ukrainian, and while we talk with their kids, we really have very little interaction with the parents due to language.

    Anyhow, thank you so much once again! Glad to finally my the splash into the forum pool!

  7. Lunachick

    Lunachick Chicken Slave

    Mar 19, 2007
    Brick, NJ
    Hi Dave! Welcome to BYC. I have the same hutch/coop thing I think you're talking about. I had to modify it for security reasons, and am planning to add some kind of insulated boards for the front cage part and sides for the winter, I'm on the east coast of New Jersey, so they need that protection. I have two hens I just received yesterday! They love it in their coop and run, no complaints yet! BUT I'm already eyeing my tool shed for a future coop. Let me tell you, it's like gardening, you are never DONE, it just keeps evolving! Good Luck and when you get your hens, have fun.
  8. ChickaChickaBoomBoom

    ChickaChickaBoomBoom Songster

    May 4, 2007
    Auburn, WA
    Quote:Thanks! I'll probably have to do exactly as you said, and add some sides with venting for protection from the elements.

    Speaking of tool sheds, I'm thinking of how to incorporate some sort of gardening tool/supplies storage at the end of the run for my wife, to help her "buy in" to my chicken interest.

    We'll see. [​IMG]

  9. SpottedCrow

    SpottedCrow Flock Goddess

    We had new neighbours move in last summer. The wife is Polish and the hubby is German. Their little girl loves to look at Obelisk and Penny. She calls them "ducks". LOL
    The hens don't make too much noise, compared to a rooster.
  10. ChickaChickaBoomBoom

    ChickaChickaBoomBoom Songster

    May 4, 2007
    Auburn, WA
    Quote:Thanks. I would think that at night would be the most critical time, and it sounds like by and large they are quiet(er) then. During the day, hopefully they would think it was charming, or at least entertaining.


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