Considering Getting Chickens..Some questions..

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by SPedigrees, Sep 22, 2009.

  1. SPedigrees

    SPedigrees New Egg

    Sep 22, 2009
    New England (Vermont)
    We are thinking about maybe converting our small horse barn to a chicken house after our old pony is gone. Here are some of the questions running through my mind:

    We think of our pets (and the few hens we would get would be pets) as family members and I want to avoid any of our pets outliving us. Our animals live long lives (horses all but one lived into their 30s, all cats but one into their 20s, well you get the idea) and because chickens can apparently live to 15 or 20 yrs, I'd like to get old hens with a shorter life expectency so that the commitment would be shorter. We don't care if they never lay an egg. Is it possible to find anyone who has hens that are 10 yrs old or older that they would sell?

    We have cold winters here in Vermont. Would infra red lights mounted above the roosts be enough to keep the hens warm at night? We only want a few birds and I doubt if their body heat would be anywhere near enough to keep them warm on 20 below zero F nights.

    Also I'd like to allow them to free range on our two acre pasture during the days. We are in the process of replacing the perimeter fence with 3 foot page (welded) wire mesh. Is it possible to clip their wings so that they could not fly over this barrier and escape into the (unpaved) road or onto the neighbors' properties?

    Thanks in advance for any light you can shed on these dilemmas, and for any suggestions you might offer.
  2. miss_jayne

    miss_jayne Lady_Jayne

    Jun 26, 2008
    Columbiaville, MI
    welcome! your plan seems well thought out. here are my personal thoughts.

    a. most chickens do not live to be 15 years old. they can live to be that old, but they don't usually. you aren't going to find people with that age group to sell most likely, because they have already flipped them after two years if they use them for egg laying or they have put them in the soup pot, or they have died of old age at about 5 or 6 years. sure people will want to sell you a 10 yr old chicken. it'll be ready to croak it in about five minutes and they'll be $15 richer and not feeding something waiting for the angel of death any minute. (not being rude, being truthful, serious and a bit silly.) your asking for old age health issues.

    you may want to look for 2 year old chickens. that will be a great way for you to get pets that will lay, have WAY less health problems and still be around for awhile to go into old age which is more likely that 5-8 yr. range.

    b. red or white heat lamps will work for you. secure them, secure them, secure them. dust them, dust them, dust them. fire alarm, fire alarm, fire alarm, fire alarm. i say those things that way for a reason. ask how many postings we see every year that start like this....'I woke up to my coop burning down this morning!'

    c. wing clipping works great but i personally recommend doing both wings, not just one because i have watched birds with just one clipped go right up and over things by flopping one good wing just enough to clear what they want. but two will usually work, especially with heavy breeds.

    the other key to this is to tell your neighbors in advance under NO circumstance should they feed your chickens ever. EVER. from your side of the fence or theirs. the chickens will not think of them then as food sources and want to follow them. that will help a lot! A LOT!

    so glad you found us and glad you are here! wish you were right around my corner as i would have you over for cake and chicken fun! you could come get eleventy chickens right now! [​IMG] they like horse poop! horse poops is fun for chickens!
  3. CMV

    CMV Flock Mistress

    Apr 15, 2009
    I think your worries about your chickens outliving you are unfounded. Rarely do chickens live out the full span of their life expectancy. Predation is frequently to blame for untimely demises.

    Second, do not worry about your birds staying warm in the winter. They have built in down coats. Get a cold hardy breed and they will be fine. In fact, chickens more frequently have problems dealing with heat than cold.

    Free-ranging has a lot of risks. Most birds are lost to predators when they are free-ranging. That doesn't stop a lot of folks from doing it, but you have to be prepared for some losses. You can clip their wings to keep them from flying, but remember you are also removing one of their escape mechanisms when you do that. A great many people use tractors for a small flock. Tractors are small, movable coops with attached runs that can can moved every couple days to a new spot in a pasture/lawn for fresh grazing.

    I love my chickens and encourage everyone to get some. They are easy to care for and fun to have around. You'll love them. Check out the various areas of this site before you get your chickens and you will be able to get a great deal of info on their care, maintenance and upkeep.

    Good luck.
  4. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

    Jul 9, 2009
    Northern CA
    My Coop
    I don't have much to add to the above posts, all great info.

    Drafts are more important than the cold. Chickens can deal with cold, but not drafts. I agree on finding a breed that's more cold tolerant.

    Also, when you construct their roosts, make them big enough that they can lay down and their feathers cover their feet. This will prevent frostbite on their feet.

    I also agree on not letting anyone OUTSIDE of your property feed your chickens. Chickens will follow ANYONE for food. And they DO remember.

    I have 6 chickens, and only 2 have "escaped" over the fence. (and they've only done it once) They paced the fence to try to get back in......they never wandered off. My fence is 7 ft, but I think they got out over the gate which is only 4 ft.

    Don't get any less than 3. Chickens are social and need interaction with other chickens.

    Prepare to be hooked. I never thought anything of chickens (was the husbands idea to get them) and now I wonder why I never had them. They give you food, make you laugh (you'll know when you see one run), and have their own personalities. I enjoy them more than I ever thought I would.

    Guess I had more to say than I thought. [​IMG]
  5. bc

    bc Out Of The Brooder

    May 1, 2009
    San Joaquin Valley
    I would just recommend getting them young so that you can handle them frequently so they will be tame. And prepare to fall in love. I never dreamed how attached I'd become to a chicken. Enjoy!
  6. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    If you free range your chickens, long life expectancy will probably not be a problem ;> Even if they are in a predatorproof run, you will be lucky to get one *to* 10 years old! You really needn't worry about them living longer than that. It can happen, but only in the sense that I knew a 48 year old horse once [​IMG]

    I don't know if you've ever had a max-min thermometer in your horse barn before, but you will find that if it is mainly shut up, it stays significantly warmer than the outdoor temperature on the coldest nights. That, plus the fact that sensibly-chosen breeds of chicken generally do quite well with cold as long as they have a wide roost, adequate food, and DRY DRAFT-FREE AIR (which should be quite easy for you to ensure in your setup, unless the barn is incurably damp to begin with). It can't hurt to have electricity available just in case, but you will likely not need it. Electricity does come in real handy for running a heated waterer or waterer base, though [​IMG]

    You will want to think about predatorproofing arrangements. Even if you do decide to free range them (when hawk attacks from time to time are inevitable), there are things you can do such as improving cover from bushes and trees and so forth, putting a couple lines of electric on the *outside* of the paddock fence and ensuring they are always charged to 4-5,000v (stronger than you'd use for horses), etc. Also you will want to do some serious predatorproofing on the horse barn -- barns are virtually always quite permeable to things like weasels and rats and raccoons, and it will take a bit of work before it is chicken-ready.

    As others have said, don't be surprised if, after you've had a few, you decide you want more. They really are very personable and entertaining and beautiful creatures [​IMG]

    Good luck, have fun,

  7. ChickenEllis

    ChickenEllis Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 21, 2009
    Quote:I completely agree.
  8. juliawitt

    juliawitt Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 9, 2009
    I love my Dominique chickens! They are very, very sweet! I got them as peeps and handled them frequently and consequently...they are almost like canaries! They are 6 weeks old now, run to see us and just beg to be picked up and cuddled. The beauty of Doms is that they are encredibly sweet, good natured but yet are considered good layers. Once you get your house set up.....I would consider Dominiques as a very good chicken choice. Did I mention they are also "cold" hardy? When you pick out your chicken breed, you need to pick a cold hardy breed. Good Luck....Chickens are a lot of fun!
  9. CMV

    CMV Flock Mistress

    Apr 15, 2009
    I have Wyandottes and Giants, both cold hardy breeds, and like them both for different reasons. The Wyandottes are beautiful and the Giants are just the best birds ever- mellow, friendly, interactive, sizable (I was originally going to eat them after a few years of egg laying, but I like them so well they have a permanent home for the span of their lives). Both are good breeds.
  10. 2DogsFarm

    2DogsFarm Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 10, 2009
    NW Indiana
    I am just a near-4-month Newbie myself, but from my (limited) experience I agree with everything already posted here.

    My $.02:
    -Don't be put off if your young pullets act like you are the Angel of Death - food IS the key to a chicken's heart and with treats they will come around.
    My girls now follow me & do not object to being picked up or handled - some of them even ask for it.
    Reaching Point of Lay seemed to make them calmer also.

    Your 2ac pasture will be Chicken Heaven.
    Is there any way you can roof part of it so they could at least have a chance to escape predators like hawks?
    I used deer netting stapled to the posts to cover most of my yard - a space about 15'X20'. A determined hawk would at least hopefully get tangled in it & hopefully snowload won't take it down.

    Lastly: I totally agree w/pat - I got my pullets intended for tick patrol, manure spreading & eggs. But they are truly pets now.
    I had no idea they could pack so much personality into their little chicken bodies!

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by