Chicago backyard chicken owner needs help/advice PLEASE

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by kschmidtnebril, Nov 27, 2010.

  1. kschmidtnebril

    kschmidtnebril New Egg

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    Nov 27, 2010
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    Hi
    I am totally new to this website and am searching for some good info/advice on my chicken situation. So here's my story ... late this summer one of the neighbor kids found a white chicken(hen) running around our local park and as the kids all play with my kids and I am a huge push over they brought it to our house because they didn't know what else to do and we didn't want it to become pitbull bait etc. I believe it was relatively young but not quite full grown and the best I could tell from searching the web is a leghorn. I have been letting it have the full run of my backyard which is securely fenced and although a small yard I have a backyard pond, flowers, grass many natural spots etc. She seems very happy scratching around eating bugs I guess. I also feed the birds/squirrels so chicky gets right in there with the others it's actually funny to see. I feed her on the ground twice a day with cracked corn, shelled sunflower seeds and "Layer mash/oyster shells" which I thought was just chicken feed that I purchased online. She loves the sunflower seeds and seems to eat that the most. Then as food scraps permit I give oatmeal/veggies etc. We were keeping her in a dog crate(with hay) at night inside a chickened- wired corner of the backyard but now that the weather turned cold I have moved her to inside the garage at night then let her out in the morning. I don't have a lot of backyard space and would love to eventually get a real coop. So my specific questions are these: 1. Is keeping her in the dog crate in an unheated garage ok? Many posts I read said NOT to give them heat. 2. Once the weather gets worse should she be confined to the garage where she can eat/run around or do I continue to let her out daily into the yard? 3. Is she ok as the only chicken or does she need another chicken friend? If so any advice where I could get only one or two more chickens I don't want 10 or 20 like most places are selling. 4. What should her daily food be is cracked corn/sunflower seeds enough over the winter? I could but her crickets at the local pet store to eat. 5. She has not laid a single egg but I am not sure of her age she has a small red comb and her cheek sides are just now almost completely red, her feet are large and kind of whitish not yellow.
    Our family has thoroughly enjoyed having her around the yard and she gets along well with my shih tzu and cocker spaniel who just seem to ignore her. Any advice is greatly appreciated!!!!
     
  2. muddyhorse

    muddyhorse Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 11, 2009
    Bloomsdale, MO
    [​IMG] keeping her in the garage is just fine, real birds sleep in trees all winter long:) being a single bird is fine but you can get her a friend if you want. It sounds like somebody got a chick for easter and let it go when it got big. get her some layer pellets to eat if you can i'm sure you can find some there has to be a tractor supply or purina dealer in the greater chicago area, I was just in Grayslake and I know they have one. you can let her out in the snow she will be fine, not -19 or anything but yes she can go out. If you post a picture of her maybe we can guess her breed. most birds start laying when the heads start turning red so you should be getting close [​IMG]
     
  3. NottinghamChicks

    NottinghamChicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Quote:That's great that you took her in! I think the dog crate at night is a great idea also even if it is unheated. They like to cuddle with a friend [​IMG] so I would go on Craigslist or to the local humane society and adopt one of similar breed and age for her. I think they prefer a friend, especially in northern climates. I would also get her some layer crumbles as she sound old enough to start on them. Also very important to have "grit" for digestion as she may not get enough with snow cover. everything else you want or have been giving her is fine. You can get her meal worms at the pet store and she will go crazy! Be very careful not to have any oil or antifreeze accessable in the garage you don't want any accidents [​IMG]
     
  4. Imp

    Imp All things share the same breath- Chief Seattle

    A warm welcome from an imp in Washington

    So nice of you to take in the chicken

    1. Is keeping her in the dog crate in an unheated garage ok? Many posts I read said NOT to give them heat.

    It is OK to keep her in the crate in the garage. If the garage is draft free so much the better. Heat is mostly optional. You could cover the crate.

    2. Once the weather gets worse should she be confined to the garage where she can eat/run around or do I continue to let her out daily into the yard?

    She may not want to go out in the weather, but it is OK to let her out to run around year round. You may want to keep her in, in severe weather for her protection.

    3. Is she ok as the only chicken or does she need another chicken friend? If so any advice where I could get only one or two more chickens I don't want 10 or 20 like most places are selling.

    Chickens are social, so a friend may be nice. Be aware they may not take to each other right away. That being said I have a neighbor that have 1 survivor from a massacre a few years ago and it is doing just fine.
    As far as getting just 1 try feedstores, craigslist, asking here on BYC, or searching out someone else with chickens that you could get one from.


    4. What should her daily food be is cracked corn/sunflower seeds enough over the winter? I could but her crickets at the local pet store to eat.

    If she hasn't laid an egg yet, probably she should be eating starter or raiser or the equivalent. Once she starts laying then a layer feed. All the rest should be treats 10% of her diet or less. And chickens will eat about anything.

    5. She has not laid a single egg but I am not sure of her age she has a small red comb and her cheek sides are just now almost completely red, her feet are large and kind of whitish not yellow.

    It's pretty hard to tell the age of chickens. If you could post a pic that would help. I have found that as a hen gets a few years on her she starts looking more heavier and lower to the ground. Kinda like people lol. Sounds more likely that you have a pullet that is either close to laying or might wait till spring.

    Good luck with her

    Imp
     
  5. bywaterdog

    bywaterdog Chillin' With My Peeps

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    What a lucky chicken, your family sounds like "good people." The snow might not be too much trouble, but being alone is not the best for a social animal like a chicken. Have you thought abut contacting a local animal shelter for other chickens? Lots of folks drop them there when the novelty of a new pet wears off, also your local Craigslist might have free chickens. Good Luck on your new pet.[​IMG]
     
  6. mandelyn

    mandelyn Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Goshen, OH
    1. Is keeping her in the dog crate in an unheated garage ok? Many posts I read said NOT to give them heat.
    Dog crates, if they're large enough, are great for winter management. When I was a kid, I had 7 of them lined up on tables in the basement. Having it at table height made it easier to clean. I'd put a roost in the back, about 4 bars from the back and 1 bar high (on metal crates) with the food and water containers attached to the sides in front so they couldn't spill it.

    2. Once the weather gets worse should she be confined to the garage where she can eat/run around or do I continue to let her out daily into the yard?
    If the wind is bad, keep her in. Same if it's raining/snowing, and especially blizzard conditions. You can look on craigslist.com for a doggie exercise pen, the metal panels, clip her wings so she can't fly out of it, and attach it to the front of the dog crate. (depending on the height of the crate and if it's the flight kind or the metal kind) Or, you could build your own panels from wood and rabbit wire, to be used later as panels to an outdoor run. Lowes sells a black plastic bird netting in a 14x14 size that you can use for a "lid" to keep her in. I think it's like $5.99 though it does not offer protection from night time critters, just hawks and keeping the chicken in.

    3. Is she ok as the only chicken or does she need another chicken friend? If so any advice where I could get only one or two more chickens I don't want 10 or 20 like most places are selling.
    Ideally she needs a friend. You can check online for hens around her age, or you can find a feed store (may need to leave city limits!) and buy 2 chicks in the Spring. If you buy only one chick, it won't be able to live with her until it is mostly grown, so the chick would need a buddy. Finding a young adult would be your best bet to avoid having to have a brooder set up and everything that goes along with raising chicks, and she would have her friend sooner. You wouldn't want to put them in the same cage/house for 2 weeks or more, 1st to have a quarantine for the new bird, and second so they can get to know each other in safety to increase the odds of them getting along. It's hard to say which one would be the trouble maker. They may both be the submissive kind and get along perfectly from the start, or they both may be the dominant kind and bicker about who's the leader for weeks. Or one of each, avoiding argument. You won't know until they meet.

    4. What should her daily food be is cracked corn/sunflower seeds enough over the winter? I could but her crickets at the local pet store to eat.
    The cracked corn helps produce body heat, and is fine as a supplement more so than a staple of the diet. The sunflower seeds are high in protein and fat, and chickens just LOVE it. But again, feed as a supplement and not a stable. At her age, you can start her on a layer mash. Look up retailers of Layena or other brands, likely these retailers will be selling chicks in the Spring as well. You can call around and ask. Tractor Supply would be a good place. They've also started to carry Manapro, my personal favorite feed choice. $1 cheaper than found on line usually, and no shipping charges. But with all the supplemental feeding you provide, Layena or something similar would be fine. The crickets are good, as are meal worms. At an international food store I found flavored mealworms, I got them the Cranberry. LOL

    5. She has not laid a single egg but I am not sure of her age she has a small red comb and her cheek sides are just now almost completely red, her feet are large and kind of whitish not yellow.

    She will be laying soon. One of your search terms when looking for her friend could be Point of Lay Pullet, or POL pullet. That would put you in the same age range. When you go to catch her, if she's getting close to laying, she'll lower down and put her wings out a bit. This is called squatting. You'll also notice that her fluffy butt will get larger than it is now. These signs plus the red in the comb/waddles means she'll lay an egg any day. Or week. Don't get your hopes up. Just know that it will be "soon".

    Was looking online on CL for Chicago, this would be the cutest chicken house EVER!

    http://chicago.craigslist.org/nwi/bab/2079218673.html

    Good deal for small run supplies...

    http://chicago.craigslist.org/nch/for/2081240919.html

    Couldn't find any hens but teeny tiny Seramas and they came with roosters. Maybe post a wanted add.
     
  7. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:As long as there aren't nasty fumes from anything else in the garage, and predators can't get into the garage and (sorry to be gruesome) dismember/eat her through the bars of the dog crate, then sure. She'll probably be fine. A closed garage, even if unheated, usually stays significantly warmer at night than the outdoor nightly low, in the cold part of winter. (You can put a max-min thermometer out there if you really want to know). It would not be a bad idea to be prepared to previde a little bit of heat IF she should start to have problems e.g. beginnings of frostbite but I think it is quite likely that won't turn out to be an issue for you.

    2. Once the weather gets worse should she be confined to the garage where she can eat/run around or do I continue to let her out daily into the yard?

    Can you rig some kind of popdoor arrangement, or open window of garage or something, so she has a choice? That would be idea. As long as she can easily get back into shelter if she wants to, she'll be fine going out. Although bear in mind that predation can be more of a problem in mid- and late-winter as predators get *hungrier* and sometimes start hunting while it's still daylight.

    3. Is she ok as the only chicken or does she need another chicken friend? If so any advice where I could get only one or two more chickens I don't want 10 or 20 like most places are selling.

    In principle chickens are happier in flocks. In reality, though, if you add a couple friends there may be some violent working out of the social order and it may not be pretty. I gather she's been an "only chicken" for at least some months now? You know what, if it were me, unless I just plain WANTED to get some more chickens, I'd be tempted to see how she did alone. If she seems happy, an argument could be made for not rocking the boat. Not all animals of a social species are *equally* social, and if she's fine alone it would spare her (and you) the upheavals that will come along with adding chickens.

    If she does seem unhappy, or if you just plain want a few more chickens which would be understandable [​IMG], one option is to order just a coupla chicks from My Pet Chicken, or buy just a couple from the local feed store in the spring. (As "local" of a feedstore as you have, anyhow). Alternatively, you could look for someone selling pullets or older hens -- but Id' suggest you be very picky about their health and temperament.

    4. What should her daily food be is cracked corn/sunflower seeds enough over the winter? I could but her crickets at the local pet store to eat.

    She's probably been pretty good with this while getting lots of food foraging in your yard all summer, but for wintertime I'd really suggest getting a sack of actual layer feed for her. You can add cracked corn or sunflower seeds to that in small amounts but you don't wnat to get the nutrition too out of whack -- the sunflower seeds are probably better for her than the corn IMO, as they contain both oil (calories) and a decent amount of protein. Table scraps are fine in moderation too. I wouldn't bother with crickets unless it just happens to entertain you [​IMG] -- if you feel she needs more protein, meaty scraps from the kitchen are more efficient and cheaper.

    5. She has not laid a single egg but I am not sure of her age she has a small red comb and her cheek sides are just now almost completely red, her feet are large and kind of whitish not yellow.

    If you can post a pic people could prolly guess her breed and whether she's old enough to lay. Also is it possible she's been laying somewhere in your yard that you just haven't found, or laying and eating her eggs (or something else eating her eggs)?

    Good luck, have fun, bless you for taking care of her, and welcome to the world of chickens [​IMG],

    Pat​
     
  8. jessylee

    jessylee Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Olympia
    [​IMG]
    I am new to chickens as well. It's so funny how easily a small bird can steal your heart! I have four chickens 2 sets of sisters. And they mostly roam around the yard in two's(siblings) They are best friends REALLY cute to watch!! I suggest you get her a sister. I was told by other more experienced chicken owners that sometimes chickens can be judgmental of the way other chickens look? I am trying not to say racist but yeah. My moms flock is mostly all one type except the two little silkies really get picked on by everyone! So sad, So my point is get her a sister that looks like her and is in the same age range (pre-laying) Your set up for her in the garage sounds good, if she gets out when she wants. They are such special creature, If you love her this much now just wait til she starts "Making your breakfast!"[​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2010
  9. drumstick diva

    drumstick diva Still crazy after all these years. Premium Member

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    The thing about adding a "sister" aside from pecking order spats etc., you really should quarantine any newbies to be sure they don't expose your girl to something really bad. That would probably be hard to do in your small yard and garage. You could take the chance if you were fairly certain a new addition was healthy, no mites, lice, signs of illness, disease etc. Your girl sounds pretty happy as it is, and who knows as you guys bond, you may decide to bring her inside for extra cuddling and pampering. Some people end up having a house chicken but allowing it the freedom of the back yard also.

    If you are in a Chicago residential area, you aren't too likely to run into skunks, opposums, fox and coyote, or snakes(in summer) other than the garter variety. But Chicago does have it's share of rats, mice, Kestrels and Peregrins Hawks etc. So predator proofing would probably require an overhead netting or top on her run area to prevent attacks. Please do post pictures, we'd love to see her, and know her name. It's a great sign that your dogs don't bother her. Welcome to the flock.
     
  10. drumstick diva

    drumstick diva Still crazy after all these years. Premium Member

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    PS A bad thought just occured to me. You feed the squirrels and birds - oh boy!! I have found the Kestrels, Hawks etc. do not swoop down from the sky, they sit on telephone poles or rooftops or tree branches near bird feeders and grab a quick lunch. I used to find the remains of cardinals, gold finches etc. and once, both the Hawk and the lunch dead on the ground = apparently the hawk wasn't cleared for takeoff and smashed into the telephone pole killing predator and victim at the same time. I had to stop feeding the birds because of this. The hawks were having a field day, it was so easy for them and so upsetting to me.
     

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