Chickens the lazy way

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by ForceFed70, Feb 4, 2015.

  1. ForceFed70

    ForceFed70 New Egg

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    Hi All,

    Thinking of getting 6 or so laying hens to provide eggs for my family of 4.

    We had chickens when I was growing up. Mostly I remember them as gross animals who'd peck each other to death, a stinky coop, constantly chasing escaped hens, regularly disposing of dead birds, and nearly having my eyes pecked out when I had to get the eggs. Chickens seemed like a bad investment and not worth the effort.

    I realize I'm pretty jaded and a lot of my negative experiences are result of poor coop design and care.

    My other challenge is time. We don't have a lot of it. We work full time, have 2 young children, have other hobbies, etc. I don't have much time to care for hens and refuse to neglect them. If I get chickens, I need to set up the coop, etc so that care for these animals is easy and doesn't take much time. 5-10min a day is all I'm willing to invest and perhaps a couple of hours once a month to clean out the coup, switch things up between summer/winter, etc.

    I have a large back yard that is mostly natural vegetation due to it being on a fairly steep slope. Pine trees, Oregon Grape, etc. It's not used for anything, so I can dedicate as much space as I'd like to the chickens.

    Here are my questions and requirements. Please let me know if they are achievable.
    1) I do not want to herd chickens every day but would love to take advantage of the large back yard and let them roam to eat bugs, etc. Is it possible to fence off an area and have the chickens migrate into the coop at night on their own? We do have dogs, raccoons, etc so need to protect from wildlife. Most of what I've seen shows some pretty elaborate fencing (covered top, netting, etc). 4' of chicken wire around the perimeter doesn't look like it'll cut it.
    2) How can I make cleanup easier? Are there design tricks that I can use when building a coop?
    3) 2 or 3 times a year we are out of town for 5 or 6 days. Is it possible to design feeders, etc such that we can leave the chickens completely unattended for this amount of time?
    4) Is 5-10min a day (plus a couple of hours once a month) an achievable goal for typical time spent taking care of the chickens?
    5) Any other suggestions for things I can do that would help reduce the time spent caring for the chickens?
    6) On a normal day, I only want to have to deal with the chickens once (likely in the evening when I get home from work). I do not want to be out there 1st thing in the morning before heading to work.

    Thanks!
     
  2. HighStreetCoop

    HighStreetCoop Chillin' With My Peeps

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    All of this is possible if you're willing to PAY for the convenience of it or spend the initial time to make all the things that are necessary. My set up isn't far off from what you're talking about.

    1) Autowater like The Chicken Fountain or a 5G bucket with nipples.

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/products/hanging-bucket-chicken-nipple-waterer (you can easily make one of these for <$10)

    2) Treadle Feeder, Silo type pvc feeder, or bucket feeder you can fill once a week:

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/109158/pvc-pipe-feeder
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/...te-5-gallon-25-feed-bucket-feeder-for-about-3

    3) Secure coop with an automatic door on a timer or with a light sensor. Because yes, your chickens will naturally put themselves to bed just before dusk. But if you have raccoons, you need to make sure that pop door is SHUT!

    4) How you deal with the litter in the coop is really a personal choice thing. Some people swear by deep litter with one or two cleanouts a year. Other people love sand and just scoop it out like a litter box once day. Others like poop boards. Some like a wire bottom so they can just rake it up off the ground a couple times a month (I know one guy who put in a tarp under the wire that funnels the poo into a bucket for extra simply removal).

    5) If you have a dog that's loose in the yard, you'll need SOMETHING sturdy between the dog's space and the chicken's space. So even if you don't build a secure run, you'll need some kind of paddock fencing to keep the two separate.

    6) And you'll likely have to be prepared to lose a bird or two along the way because that's the price of free-ranging.
     
  3. ForceFed70

    ForceFed70 New Egg

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    Feb 4, 2015

    Thanks so much for all of the excellent information!
     
  4. HighStreetCoop

    HighStreetCoop Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I spent a lot of time thinking about my set-up. Like you, I wanted it to be easy to manage, especially during the week when I'm working. So my waterer is automatic, my feeder is good for a week+, and my coop takes 5 min to clean out once or twice a month (scoop out bedding with a dust pan, dump into green composting bin, refill with fresh bedding).

    The only issue with leaving them for 5-6 days is the eggs building up. You might get broken eggs resulting in the hens become egg eaters or they might even go broody on you and stop laying. You could build a roll out nesting box to prevent that (but I'm sure someone will be willing to come check on the birds in exchange for free eggs, LOL!).
     
  5. Sweet Basil

    Sweet Basil Chillin' With My Peeps

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    If you have the money to spare, this feeder is great. I've been using it for a few months now. It keeps the mouse and rat population from exploding, which sometimes happens with open-type feeders; and the door is designed in a way that doesn't smash a chicken's head when it closes.

    Here's a picture of mine (I tweaked it to better accommodate a couple of my smaller hens, so it looks slightly different than the ones on the site.)

    [​IMG]
     
  6. HighStreetCoop

    HighStreetCoop Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I ended up shelling out for the Grandpa's Feeder because I wanted it to be water/weather-proof because it's in the run. If you have space for it inside the coop itself, or in a very well covered part of the run, that one would totally work for you.
     
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Sounds like you have a good idea of what is needed....which is refreshing.
    But your jadedness is disconcerting.....why have animals you find disgusting?

    Maybe more like 10-15 minutes a day..time to observe birds for potential problems.
    Of course like other 'pets', sometimes more time is needed to deal with a problem.

    The more secure space you provide, that is well designed for easy maintenance and good chicken health, the less trouble you'll likely have.

    HighStreetCoop has given a good overview of options.
     
  8. HighStreetCoop

    HighStreetCoop Chillin' With My Peeps

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    For me, the less time spent working is the more time spent watching my adorable chooks! But I get family pressure to get a pet you don't want.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2015
  9. Concrete101

    Concrete101 Out Of The Brooder

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    Do your research for the best coop design and double the size. 6 hens might not keep up with your needs. Pick the right breeds and you dont have to worry about losing an eye.
     
  10. getaclue

    getaclue Overrun With Chickens

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    This is going to be unpopular, but honest. I would not recommend chickens for you at this time. First there are your time constraints to consider. Chickens require more than 10 minutes a day, and an hour once a month, even with the most efficient of coop/run designs, and equipment. Yes, there are times that you can get away with that, but for the most part, 10 - 15 minutes a day, with an hour or two at least once a week is needed. This routine can work, but there ARE going to be times that this routine will be interrupted, and more time required to maintain a flourishing flock, which you don't have the time to give for those exceptions. 2 or 3 times a year you are gone for up to 6 days, but have no one checking on them on the 3rd. or 4th. day you are gone. In an emergency, yes it can be done, but this should not be done several times a year as part of your ongoing routine. I'm speaking about responsible animal ownership, not the bare minimum. You are already jaded in your opinion of them, which is not going to improve when something happens to break the routine, and they need some extra time, which you are unable to give. Maybe later on, when your schedule opens up a bit more, and you have more time to give, or becomes a bit more flexible, this would be a better option for you.
     
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