Desperately seeking advice

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by mmonique22, Mar 5, 2012.

  1. mmonique22

    mmonique22 New Egg

    Mar 5, 2012
    I am hoping to start a small (3-4 hens) coop for personal egg consumption. I am starting from scratch and with no experience and am finding some of the information very confusing and hard to sort through. Iwas hoping to get some clear and concise advice on feeds and supplements and treats. When to feed, how much, and what is the best way to distribute to keep the chickens active and entertained in a small (not too small) run with only supervised access to free roaming (when my dogs are put inside). Any help would be greatly appreciated.
  2. flowergirl60

    flowergirl60 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 13, 2011
    Austin Tx
    Welcome. I have 3 hens and all I really do is provide food and water 24/7. I feed them organic feed from the local feed mill. I let them forage in the backyard all day and give them lots of greens spinach, collard greens, romaine lettuce BOSS (black oil sunflower seeds) I give these as treats. As long as they have plenty of fesh water and their feed available the are fine. The reason I have found it can be cinficting at times is because everyone has different size flocks and different coop setups. I learned from this site and trial and error. My girls seem to be very happy with our setup. Glad you joined :) Oh and as far as eternainment some people put a branch for them to roost on in the run or throw a head of cabbage for them to peck around with. Since my girls roam the yard all day they really keep themselves entertained. Stay on this site and you really will fin good info.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2012
  3. naturalfeddogs

    naturalfeddogs Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 8, 2011
    We just keep layer feed and water available all the time. Ours have a good sized coop which is mostly dirt, so I also give them grit and some sort of greens daily for treats. The greens also help make the yolks a real deep rich gold color.
  4. Tivona

    Tivona Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 2, 2011
    I would recommended having the food and water always available. It is easiest and they do a pretty good job of knowing what and how much they need.

    Are you planning on getting chicks or full grown birds? Starting with chicks is fun but much more challenging then keeping the full grown birds. I started with free adult chickens from someone who was retiring older layers and starting with more younger birds. Many times you can find older layers on Craigslist or other local papers. The birds lay the heaviest for the first 2 years but then slowly reduce how many eggs they lay per year so even getting older birds should give you a fair amount of eggs to start. Plus you don't have to wait for them to get old enough to lay.

    The only other thing to prepare for is to make sure your coop is very predator resistant. When you lock them up at night many things will come check out the pen and they will search for any way in so make it sturdy and use wire that won't let them reach in towards the birds.

    As far as keeping them happy, once a day throw in a handful of scratch (cracked corn) or wilted lettuce or even dandelions from your yard (not sprayed). They love picking through lawn trimmings too. Basically keeping a few laying birds like your saying is very easy. Don't be intimidated by others fancy set ups.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2012
  5. OldGuy43

    OldGuy43 Chillin' With My Peeps

    I never get tired of saying this; You don't need to know a lot about raising chickens. The chickens know all about it. [​IMG]
  6. Den in Penn

    Den in Penn Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 15, 2011
    SE Pa.
    The basics food, water, shelter. That is all you need to start off.

    Food: A good age appropriate feed. Chick starter-raiser-layer. A full grown chicken eats from 1/3 to 1/4 pound a day. Two ways of feeding; Unlimited, filling a feeder that holds several days. Ration; Feed only what they clean up in a day. Neither are wrong. No treats are not necessary for a healthy bird.

    Supplements: Grit needed to digest unmilled food is either provided in a side dish or found when scratching the ground. Oyster shell (calcium) not to be confused with grit. Is made available to laying hens again usually as a separate side dish.

    Water: Always.

    Shelter: A place for them to roost protected from the weather. Secure from predators.

    That's the basics for keeping chickens.

    With three or four you'll probably be giving treats. Whole grains(scratch) and vegetables are the usual treats. It is easy to unbalance a diet with treats, so remember all things in moderation. Supplements other than the grit and shell like vitamins are used when the birds need a boost which means its not an every day thing. Added protein again is added to boost a bird through a hard period like molt.
    Start with covering the basics. Expand on what you do with the experience you gain. Study, read ask questions. Confusion usually less with doing. And I'm still sometimes confused at times when I read or hear something.
  7. allpeepedout

    allpeepedout Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 2, 2011
    Southern Indiana
    Sounds like you have gotten some good information. My chickens have been confined to a run this winter, so in addition to providing free access to the appropriate commercial feed, I feed something green daily both for nutrition and to reduce boredom. Others have mentioned things like cabbage and dandelions, and kitchen scraps. My garden has continued to produce greens all winter, so I feed those, like 1 large leaf of kale or swiss chard per bird per day. I alternate with a flake of leafy alfalfa hay or soaked alfalfa pellets/cubes, a generous amount per bird like 1/2 - 3/4 cup per bird soaked. Rather than scratch I toss whole oats into the run, a heaping cup or more per day total for 7 birds, and they have fun finding the grains under the leftover hay. I am not concerned with optimizing egg production but enjoy providing more variety in their food than the standardized commercial feed. Enjoy your birds!
  8. Daisy8s

    Daisy8s Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 12, 2011
    Central Michigan
    Good general advice from others. If you want specifics here is what I've done.

    1. Medicated chick starter for new chicks (I bought medicated to avoid pasty butt but the chicks still got it so I'm not sure this was necessary).

    2. After a few days add grit and introduce bugs or grass clippings or vegetable scraps, if you want. Not necessary but fun. Grit must be added if feeding these non-feed items.

    3. Keep fresh water available all the time. I was amazed that I had to clean out or refill their waterer nearly twice a day--they drink and spill a lot. Try raising the waterer to keep poop out of it--so long as it's at chest level it's okay. Watch to be sure all birds can comfortably dip their beaks in to drink. When they are big enough to move out to the coop purchase a large, 5-gallon waterer so you only have to fill it every few days. Again, keep raising it to chest height to keep bedding out of it. If you're in a climate cold enough to freeze water in winter search BYC for how to make a homemade water-heater. It works great! Or, buy two waterers and keep one thawing in the house all the time and switch them at least once a day.

    4. Switch to layer pellets when they're approaching laying age (around 20 weeks). I find pellets lead to less mess and waste than crumbles. I use Purina Layena Pellets because it's available at the closest store and the best price. You may want to try purchasing from a nearby feed mill, if this is possible. Some say this is more cost effective, depends on how far you have to drive and local prices, of course.

    5. Provide purchased feed free will (always available). Chickens won't overeat the way some fowl will. As a supplement I throw in kitchen scraps every day to encourage the birds to turn under their bedding (using deep litter method). I keep those large tubs that yogurt or cottage cheese come in and fill them as I'm cooking. Each day my birds get about two of these. They clean up the scraps in 10-15 minutes. I like that my scraps aren't being wasted and that the bedding is getting turned under so no smell from fresh manure. But, feeding scraps isn't necessary. (I limit scraps to fruit and vegetables, no meat or dairy.)

    6. If you have trouble with thin-shelled eggs you can add oyster shell for calcium. I provided it free choice in a bowl and nobody ever ate it. So, I finally had to resort to grinding it with my mortar-and-pestle and then adding the powder to the feed pellets. Took care of the thin shell problem--I notice a difference if I skip doing this but I have 3-yr-old ISA Browns that are pas their peak egg production years.

    7. Free range the chickens as much as you can--good for their system to get bugs and greens and good for your feed bill. I feed one 40 lb bag of Layena every 2-3 weeks for 7 birds in the summer when they're ranging more; whereas I go through a 40 lb bag for the same birds every 1-2 weeks in the winter. Those numbers are very approximate and will vary for you depending on what kind of birds you have--I have two big birds, four medium-sized, and one bantam.

    8. In the winter I also put out suet cakes (cheap type at discount store for wild birds) in a suet cake feeder for when they're bored in the coop since mine appear afraid of snow. Or, you can save fat from cooking and mix it with wild bird seed to make your own suet cakes.

    9. I do not provide any grit because my birds free range. I have an old gravel driveway that I see them pecking around in to get their grit, even in winter.

    I hope that info helps you. Of course this info is specific to my flock, different things may be a better option for you depending on where you live and what kinds of birds you have. Enjoy your chickens, though, they're great fun for the whole family. My cousin says watching her flock is as soothing to her as watching fish in an aquarium is for other people!
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2012
  9. mmonique22

    mmonique22 New Egg

    Mar 5, 2012
    Thank you to everyone for taking the time to respond and help out a newbie. Hope to be able to post some pictures of Kevin and my new chicks in the next month or so. Again, thanks for all your help.
  10. Capvin

    Capvin Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 13, 2011
    Lake Placid, FL
    I am always amazed that when a newbie asks a question (even if it is one that has been asked many times previously) the good people on this site always respond with great information. You have been given some very good info already so I will just try to expand on the treat side. I can usually find large bags of collard greens and for my 6 chickens I take a couple of large handfulls and just put it on the ground for them. They demolish it in seconds and the greens, as been said, makes nice yolks. I love to feed mine a treat daily or at least every other day. It will always consist of plain yogurt mixed with some of their ground up egg shells (extra calcium), maybe some oatmeal, corn meal and either some type of vegetable (broccoli florets) or any kind of cut up fruit that I may have available. They love almost any fruit except that I do not give them citrus. They like apples, peaches, grapes are a favorite. You should know that your chickens will probably do quite well without all of the treats, but I like to give it to them and since they have been so kind to give me eggs every day I feel I should give something nice back to them.

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