A few quick ???s

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by CountryFried, Sep 16, 2010.

  1. CountryFried

    CountryFried Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 6, 2010
    SE AL
    Hi all [​IMG]

    So, we've bought a house with about 6 acres and I'm preparing for chickens! I have a few questions, I know I've read the answers somewhere, but now that I need them, I'm not remembering them, sigh.

    1. Roughly how long from hatching will I need to keep my babies in a brooder/indoors? I live in SE Alabama, zone 8a. I'd like to do a hatch soon (incubator is on the way), so I can have laying hens in the spring. Average winter temps for my area are high 50s/low 60s during the day and low 40s/high 30s at night. Basically I'd like to know how long my babies will be inside, and how long I have to build their coop. (I have plans and most of the materials already)

    2. I bought plans for an A-frame (ark?) coop that I can move around the yard. After I bought them, someone at the local feed store said if I put them on my lawn, they will fry it. Other things I've read say if I move one or twice a day, that won't be an issue. Give me the nitty gritty here, is the manure going to burn my yard? How often do I need to move them to prevent that? Should I water the area to dilute the manure as soon as I move them? My yard looks like crap already, it hasn't been well taken care of in years. The reason I chose this particular coop was because of the ease in moving it around, to take advantage of the free fertilizer. Then, after talking at the feed store, i read that I should compost the manure for 9-12 months before using it??? Thoughts and experiences, please?

    3. I live in the country, but I'm not sure what the natural predators are here. I know owls are an issue, I assume we also have deer, raccoons, possibly bobcats. We have one or two outside cats (they came with the house, we think one was killed by a car this morning [​IMG] , they are wild, we haven't been able to catch or trap them). I don't know what else may be in the area, what would you guys recommend for the bottom of the pen/coop? I want the chickens to be able to get to the grass and ground, of course, would chicken wire or hardware cloth be the best choice?

    Thanks for any advice!
  2. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

    Jul 9, 2009
    Northern CA
    My Coop
    Congrats and [​IMG]

    1. Until they are feathered out, which is usually around 6 weeks.

    2. Nope, it won't burn the grass, that would require the grass being there. The chickens will eat/scratch the grass until it looks like a moonscape. ETA: For composting, yes, it needs to decompose first. Fresh manure will burn plants.

    3. I'm on 5 acres, and with the predators we have around here, I would not do a chicken tractor. (besides, they just don't fit enough chickens) I have lost chickens to hawks and a raccoon. (plus there's skunks, bears, foxes, coyotes and mountain lions here) I do have a coop that is tractor like, and that's where I've lost my chickens. I bought this coop for raising babies. I've never had any trouble with my main coop. (other than the run, which is where I lost one hen to a hawk) You may consider building a more permanent structure for the chickens with a run, then you can always let them out to "free range" on your grass. This would keep your grass nice and keep the chickens safe. DO NOT use chicken wire, it will not keep predators out.
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2010
  3. buildingmyark

    buildingmyark Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 2, 2010
    Hi and welcome to BYC! I'm in SE Mississippi! I would say that you need to keep the babies inside for at least 6 weeks. The main thing is that they're fully feathered out. You may even want to use a heat lamp once you move them outside. Just make sure they have a warm, draft-free living space during the winter.

    I don't really know anything about the tractor pens. I know that we're both dealing with similar predators. You may also want to keep an eye out for foxes. Deer shouldn't be a problem for your chickens. My coop has an actual floor (wood with vinyl on top). The run is just a fenced- in area/ no floor, just grass (what's left of it anyway).
  4. adkchickmama

    adkchickmama Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 29, 2009
    Hi CountryFried and [​IMG]

    1. Yes 6 weeks is a good rule of thumb, until they are feathered out pretty well. Ikept mine inside in a tupperware tub with a screened top until they were 8-9 weeks . If you put them out after that I would still keep a source of heat so they can move under or away from it as needed. AFter all they won't have a Mama to provide the warmth. They grow quick so build FAST!!

    2. I had only two chicks hatch from a batch of 12 hatch this summer so I put them out in a tractor by themselves for a while until they could join the rest of the flock. I moved the tractor every other day.(they spent the night in a closed coop). Depends on how many chicks you have in there. If you move the tractor often (every day) their poop shouldn't burn the grass . Mine free range and poop all over the grass and it's ok. We get pretty frequent rains here and it seems to wash it down. If you don't get much rain, a hosing of the area might not be a bad idea. That being said when I remove their poop and shavings from the coop, I do compost it over the winter and add it to the garden the next spring so it doesn't burn the tender seedlings.

    3. We had a remodeled rabbit hutch /turned chicken coop for 8 chickens when I started out. Used wire cloth on the windows and heavy latches on the doors, DH covered the wire run with plywood and made the doors open out so it was easy to clean out. He put in a bar for them to roost on right down the middle of the old run. We also put it up on cinder blocks so the chicks could run under during bad weather or summer heat and hung the food and water under there. This coop is inside of a 7' x12' x 6ft high chain link dog run we had on hand. I did screen the bottom to keep out predators and ran hardware cloth around the bottom two feet to keep young chicks IN. To get this together in the right order we put down the hardware cloth on the ground, set up the 4 corners of cinder block for the 2.5' x 6' coop. put the coop on it and lifted the dog run OVER the top of the coop and set it down. I then pulled up the hardware cloth on all sides and fastened it to the chain link with zipties. We also covered the top with chicken wire (for hawks). AT night they are always locked up tight. In the winter we cover the windows with plexiglass. Have not lost a chicken from this set up in 3 years. And we have fox, coyotes, racoons, fisher, bear, dogs, hawks bobcats etc.
    To give them a better place to scratch up dirt I make a 2x3 area with left over 2x8 wood and added that at the end of the run, put in some sand and voila! they have a dust bath spa!!

    Course grass will not grow IN the run once the chicks start their scratching, I let mine free range durning the day once they are a few months old. But before that I would pick and give them a bucket of grass each day (they are spoiled). In the winter I buy kale spinach, lettuce cabbage and give them some each day so they still have greens. It freezes here so I just give them enough at supper as they'll clean up in 20 minutes.

    Have fun with your chicks and send us pics when they hatch!! ADKmama
  5. iluvsedward

    iluvsedward Overrun With Chickens

    Jan 19, 2010
    Calvert County MD
    u will need a bottom on the hutch. [​IMG] u will have fun on here [​IMG]
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 16, 2010
  6. blueberrychickens

    blueberrychickens Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 12, 2010
    Hudson, MA
    1st off, [​IMG] I put my chicks out in their coop @ 4 weeks, they were just out growing thier brooder box too quickly. We had started the coop a good 3 weeks before the babies arrived & good thing too cuz it took alot longer that we thought it would to build the coop & the run. I only had to supplement heat a couple of nights as it was mid July when they moved outside.
    We have lots of predators here, so we built them an extra large run, 10x25 for 8 chickens. I dont have a tractor & after 2 months of daily chicken scratchin', the grass is pretty much all gone in the run.
    I wouldn't worry too much about the chicken droppings burning your lawn, unless you've got 50 chickens in your ark!!! [​IMG]
  7. CountryFried

    CountryFried Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 6, 2010
    SE AL
    http://catawbacoops.com/ is the coop I plan on building.

    I haven't decided whether I want to build a large coop or whether to build several of the arks, you guys have given me food for thought.

    At this point, I only want the chickies for eggs and manure. I don't know whether anyone here has them for meat, but I'm way too squeamish for that right now [​IMG]

    Blah about the tractors, LOL, I was really hoping this would be an "easy" way to fertilize so I wouldn't have to haul compost around my yard (and wait for it to compost, we only bought the house a few weeks ago). My front yard is about 1/2 to 3/4 of an acre, and then we probably have about an acre of lawn behind the house, maybe a bit more.

    (Showing my ignorance) Are predators a big issue during the day or mostly just at night? (Trying to figure out how I could cheaply secure the chickens at night, if I could use the ark during the day) I do have a small section of yard (probably about 2000 sq ft of ground) that is fenced with 6' chain link, but there are huge trees growing in there that would make covering the whole area with wire unfeasible. Building a small fenced area isn't too much of a problem, but I'm lost when it comes to building a larger coop, and I really don't want to lay out the money for that right now. (We've just moved from Alaska, and I was unable to ship all my jillions of pieces of scrap wood, so I'm literally starting from scratch here, and I've had no luck finding usable stuff on Craigslist or Freecycle as of yet)

    Could someone recommend a good set of plans for a larger coop? I can figure out the run, but I need specifics for building the actually coop, hubby and I have zero woodworking skills, so we need it spelled out in detail LOL. The simpler/cheaper the better for now.
  8. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

    Jul 9, 2009
    Northern CA
    My Coop
    Your run does not have to be covered. Sure you take a little additional risk by not having it covered, but so do people who completely free range. It's just a choice. My run is surrounded by 7ft non climb field fencing. Here's a picture of the run, the t-posts are to keep the hawks out. (we call it the hawk obstacle course - looks funny, but it works)
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2010

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