Compete newbie--dumb question??

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by RawMuscleGirl, Nov 29, 2009.

  1. RawMuscleGirl

    RawMuscleGirl New Egg

    Nov 29, 2009
    Hello, all,

    I found this wonderful site and have spent hours learning about keeping chickens! I know absolutely nothing about chickens but am eager to learn! I live in a suburban area and really want to have my own eggs, because I eat my eggs raw and I want to KNOW that they are safe, free range, and organic! My neighbors want to go in with me and share the responsibility for having a flock of chickens.

    This may be a dumb question, but I haven't seen the answer anywhere: How much sunlight do chickens need? Does the coop and run need to be in the sun?

    I have a huge deck on the back of my house, surrounded in lattice, with a nice heavy door to access. I was thinking that under the deck would be a perfect, safe place for the coop and roosts. I have lots of wildlife around here that would probably love to eat chickens. But there would be no sunlight. Can I just let them run loose in our yards during the day? We live on a lake, so there is water, lots of trees--really nice.

    Any help or suggestions would be most appreciated.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. tulie13

    tulie13 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 12, 2009
    NW Florida
    You do need to keep them safe - when they go to bed at night they don't need sunlight. That would be where they "roost". They like high-ish places to roost, and will go in trees if no roosts are provided. They need to be kept safe from predators, and most predators come out at night - raccoons, coyotes, etc. However, hawks and dogs may be around during the day, so free ranging can have its risks, too.

    I'm sure others will come and post more about specific living conditions. They do need sunlight at some point, so you would not want them to be stuck under your deck all of the time. If the deck area is their "coop", you could build an attached/enclosed "run" that they could go into during the day and be in the sun. Can you take some pics of your setup and post them? How big is the "under the deck" area? How many chickens were you wanting?
  3. Princess Amri

    Princess Amri Is Mostly Harmless

    Jul 16, 2009
    best coast
    Having half your run in sun and half in shade would be good. There isn't a set rule about how much sun chickens need.

    I'm not sure about your second question.
  4. JP33

    JP33 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 14, 2009
    Southeast, Louisiana
    I'm new to chickens as well but here's my two cents. The coop under the deck is fine as long as they can roam in the sun in daylight.

    Not sure about eating free range raw eggs, my guess is you at least need to wipe the shells clean before cracking them open. It may not be what's inside that can harm you but what's on the outside of the shell that may be harboring bacteria and possibly salmonella that would concern me.

    Store bought, don't even think about eating those raw.

  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Do chickens "need" sunlight? Commercial operations have thousands of chickens that never see sunlight and get a lot of eggs from them, so, no, they do not "need" sunlight. However, I don't know of anyone on this forum that advocates that as a good thing.

    My chickens don't seem to like direct sunlight that much, at least in the heat of the summer day. They like to stay in the shade. I think what chickens need to be healthy without extra measures is fresh air and and enough room to be active. I'd think having the coop and run in the shade is fine as long as they stay dry and are able to air out. I would worry about too much moisture from lack of sunlight but not worry about the absence of direct sunlight. If you can give them a dry place with indirect sun and decent room, they will be pretty well off compared to many others.

    I would be careful housing them right next to your house. As long as it stays dry, you can probably keep the smell down, but there is a real risk that the smell will bother you. I'd expect you to have to take extra measures to manage the poop because of the smell. Chickens can also create a lot of dust and dander. This may or may not cause you problems ifthey are close to the house.

    I don't know how much property you have, how it is fenced, or other things about your property. If you can keep them on your property and let them roam outside during the day, they will really enjoy that, but you always have the risk of predators. Hawks and dogs are probably the biggest daytime risks, but other predators will be out during daytime. I've seen foxes and raccoons out here during the daytime. But predators is not what keeps me from letting mine roam. I can't keep them out of the road.

    Hope this helps some. And welcome ot the forum. There are some nice people here.
  6. fowlmood

    fowlmood Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 28, 2009
    northern Michigan
    Have you checked out the coop and run design site? The predator sites might also be informative for you. Please keep in mind that sunlight may only be part of your problem if you only have lattice work around for a coop. Not exactly sure what your set up is, chickens don't care so much about the lake and the trees, as long as they can find plenty of bugs and/or greens to eat they'll love to free-range. Regardless where they are during the day, they need a safe place at night. Good luck and welcome to the forum!!!!
  7. RawMuscleGirl

    RawMuscleGirl New Egg

    Nov 29, 2009
    Thank you for your responses! I should be more clear: I was thinking of building a coop INSIDE the lattice for a DOUBLE layer of protection. I am prevented by law from having a building or any kind of fence in my back yard because we live on the lake, and the land between my house and the lake is a wildlife buffer called 'fringeland' owned by the government. The 'Nazi' regime of the 'fringeland police' made my neighbor move his children's swingset off the buffer, even though it wasn't a permanent structure, so I know I can't have a chicken coop. But it is rich in trees, plants, bugs etc that the chickens would really enjoy!

    As far as the smell--I saw several places on this site where it said the chickens didn't smell! I guess, if you don't practice good hygiene and cleaning, they would. Do they STILL have a smell? I grew up in NE Ga where ALL you can smell is the millions of commercial chickenhouses, so it wouldn't bother me at all, but I don't want to offend any neighbors.

    How do I put a picture in here?
  8. gkeesling

    gkeesling Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 24, 2008
    Hagerstown, IN
    I don't have a smell with my chickens but the rain cleans the run and I remove and replace the pine chips in the coop once a month or so. If the run and coop don't get cleaned on occasion - yes they will smell rather badly.
  9. Keri78

    Keri78 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 17, 2009
    I don't have much to add but her goes my 2 cents...I keep my chickens(14 of them) in my side yard with no issues at all. I keep hay in the "run" area as well as in their hutches where they sleep at night. As of right now their little hutches(large wooden boxes) are sitting on the ground and there is no place for them to roost but they really don't complain about it(lol)!!! In the morning, I let them out and they love roosting in the big pine tree in my side yard and although we live really close to a bad road with alot of traffic they never wander out of the yard...they don't even go in the front yard...someone on here said that they always like to be able to see their "home" and for us that has proven true. If your town is that strict with ordinances I would be sure not to get any roosters b/c I'm guessing that they wouldn't be open to hearing any crowing in the morning![​IMG] I would say as long as you have enough room to get underneath with a rake once every blue moon and rake it out completely and then add fresh hay you'll be fine. Smell shouldn't be an issue but just keep in mind that the more you have the more possibility for smell issues. Overall, chickens are the easiest pet I think to care for...they really can get by with very little and are also really cool to have around! [​IMG] Do your research and make sure you get a breed that is going to work for you! Blessings, Keri PS. Just a thought...if they are roosting under your porch you will have to have a way to get under there to collect the want egg collecting to be easy, clean and simple for everyone. Oh chickies hide from the sun in the summertime during the heat of the day and only will come out for an hour or two before dark to free range. I actually had to add tarps to their chicken tractors this summer b/c they needed the protection from the sun and being baby chicks they couldn't regulate their body temps and it could be deadly. Once fall came they love to be out all day long free ranging and will go to bed promptly at dinnertime!(lol) I'm always keeping an eye out for predators and always make sure that they are locked up securely at night. We have friends that live on a farm and free range their chickens with dogs(all sizes and breeds) and cats and they have lots of wild predators as well and although they may loose a chicken on a very rare occassion to a wild predator...overall it doesn't stop them from maintaining a nice flock of chickens!
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2009
  10. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    If you are feeding commercial feed, it has enough vit D in it that you are not going to see sunlight-deficiency problems in a nutritional sense. That said, chickens do awfully-much LIKE lying in the sun on a cool day, etc.... but if you are free-ranging them, this is not a problem.

    From an olfactory standpoint, what matters is not so mcuh sunlight per se as the moisture of the ground. If you are on clay and fairly flat ground, and/or an often-rainy humid climate, you may have trouble keeping things dry enough under the deck to prevent smell and flies. One thing that can help is to put a waterproof roof underneath the deck to divert all water to gutters and downspout, but if the earth is basically damp it's still possible to have persistant problems. So, without knowing your exact situation, it is hard to make guarantees. Unless you can keep the coop and run BONE dry all the time, you are likely to have some noticeable 'animals live here' odor on the deck, but only if things are persistantly damp under there would it be something to potentially bother neighbors.

    Another possible consideration is that if you have ANY rodent problem around, be it mice or rats, housing chickens right under the deck has a good chance of giving you more rodents in your house and walls. Not saying that should necessarily stop you from putting chickens there, just something to have thought about how you feel about it first [​IMG]

    If you are allowed to have chickens (I am guessing you are, since you're planning on free ranging them, which is not exactly stealthy <g>) but are just limited by the restrictions on building a structure, can I suggest two other options to ponder:

    -- you could put the coop under the deck but build a securely-fenced run protruding out from under it. That way they would have somewhere safe (also pleasant) to hang out when they can't be allowed to free range at the moment.

    -- or, if you are pretty positive you will be letting them loose all the time (although remember they will not necessarily stay in your yard, and will be vulnerable to hawks and loose dogs and so forth) then you can usually do an end run around zoning laws by building a moveable 'tractor' type coop, which not being a fixed structure is usually not bound by setback restrictions (although it'd still be smart to keep it near the house).

    As far as raw eggs, please bear in mind that home-raised eggs are not guaranteed to be free of salmonella or e coli other problem bacteria. First, because home-raised eggs are no less likely to have fecal contamination on their outsides than commercial eggs are (actually for most backyarders, our eggs probably have *more* surface poo than commercial eggs which are laid in unbedded rollaway gadgets - especially since commercial eggs are washed and most backyarders do not wash their eggs), and as far as bacterial contamination INSIDE the egg, that too can happen in backyard chickens, I would not venture to guess how the rate compares to commercial farms. Although certainly your eggs, if collected and eaten promptly, will be *fresher* than commercial eggs, which may be a factor too. I am certainly not saying you shouldn't eat your homegrown eggs raw if you want to -- just, don't do it under some illusion that they can't give you food poisoning.

    Good luck, have fun,


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