First Chickens now 6 weeks old

Discussion in 'New Member Introductions' started by enigma9o7, Mar 30, 2016.

  1. enigma9o7

    enigma9o7 Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 30, 2016
    San José, California

    I bought 3 chicks around valentines day with no past experience. Two are Black Jersey Giant, one is Black Sex Link. (That's the only types they had, no other thought went into picking breed). So far so good, but now they're big enough I need to figure out this coop stuff and have a few other questions. I'm sure there's answers on here for most of this and plan to do some reading when I have time...

    #1 COOP. I bought one at home depot (pictured below), dunno if anyone is familiar with it, but at one end there are two little areas I assume to be where they lay their eggs. The info said this coop is for 4-6 chickens, but only two of those nest boxes. Do the hens just go over there, lay an egg, then leave? Or how is this going to work for more than 2 hens...

    Also, what do I put in the bottom of the nest boxes anyway? Just bare wood, or do I put something there, or buy some nest, or what?

    Do I really need to use the tray liner below their roosting area? The first few days before I bought the liners they pooped in there and it was easy to dump out from the sheet metal....

    #3 FOOD/GRAVEL. I bought a 20pound bag of purina medicated starter feed and they're 2/3rds thru it. We've got two toddlers who throw more food on the floor than they eat and the past couple weeks we've been giving that to the chickens too and they eat all that (mainly boiled veggies, rice, breads, cereals, and occasionally meat including chicken). I bought some canary gravel/grit at the supermarket pet isle and been sprinkling some of that on top of their real food. Is that necessary? If so, how much should I use, and is there something better? They pretty much get enough real food now they're not really eating much feed...

    Also, can they eat food scraps people wouldn't normally eat, like banana/orange/kiwi/etc peels? Do we have to cut it up? Do they eat lawn clippings? I usually let them fall into the yard but could use the grass catcher if the chickens will eat it...

    #4 YARD. We leave the coop open during the day and let them run around the yard, which is nice grass and some concrete path/patio area. Will they harm the grass by pooping in it? Will it disappear into the dirt/grass or do I need to actually pick it up by hand or something? Will they hurt the grass pecking at it, they certainly destroyed what's below their coop and wouldn't want my yard to turn into that...

    Also, any way to keep them from pooping on the concrete, the stuff they leave there gathers flies, plus of course easier to step on...

    #5 HEAT. We have a heat lamp in there now. They were hatched feb 11th. I read something about lowering 5/degrees a/week for the first 2 months, so this week they're supposed to be 70°. At night it's colder than that so I leave it on but it's at it's highest position I can fit it, so not too hot below it. How long until I can take it out completely? (I live in San Jose, CA, so not too cold at night anyway.)

    #6 CLEANING. They first started occasionally climbing out of their cardboard box (that was filled with wood chips and had a hamster waterer and little feeder) a few weeks ago and we took it out completely about a week ago and let them use the big feeder and waterer (as pictured). I guess I need to clean it out... I'm thinking of just vacuuming with a shopvac, does that seem reasonable? I still have a ton of pine chips, should I put those down there afterwards? Or just leave it as dirt, as the grass there has all completely died. I'd rather not use the pine chips if they're not necessary cuz my little girls can't keep their hands off it, were grabbing it from their box and spreading it all over the yard and I'm sure they'll do the same if I line the floor of their cage with it...

    #7 NIGHTS. When htey first starting leaving the coop they were mainly staying real close during the day and always going back at night, now they're venturing farther away, and the last couple nights went I went out after dark to close the door I've found them huddled together in random places in the yard. Both nights I picked one up and put it back in the coop the others followed. Basically, what's the risk of leaving them out all night? I live in a neighborhood area of a city, I'm sure there's the occasional wild animal, but all I've ever seen are cats (possibly feral), squirrels, and the occasional possum or rat. There must also be skunks in the area cuz they're occasionally dead on the road. Anyway, do any of those animals mess with chickens? Besides predators, is there any other reason to make sure they're in the coop at night? Are there predator birds that hunt chickens at night (owls?! I dunno).

    #9 LIFESPAN. My understanding is they'll start laying eggs sometime by 6 months old and keep going for a a couple years, is that right? At that point we'll probably eat them and buy new chicks and start over, unless our kids are strongly against it, in which case how long do they live before they die naturally anyway? Can you eat them if they die on their own, or do you gotta kill them to eat them?

    #8 GARDEN. I think I already know the answer to this one. We have a vegetable garden. Right now we've got a temporary fence around it composed of baby-playyard-fence stuff on one side and random sheets of plywood on the other - to keep our toddlers out until they're old enough to follow instructions - but I assume we also need to keep the chickens out or they'll mess with the growing veggies? I'm planning on putting up a real fence around the garden I think as I expect we'll probably keep chickens indefinitely.

    So I ended up writing a lot here, hope wasn't too boring or the same old questions everyone asks over and over...

  2. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Monkey Business Premium Member

    Jan 30, 2015
    Africa - near the equator
    Hi and welcome to BYC - glad to have you join us.

    I'd suggest going to the the Learning Centre as this is a great resource, that will help answer most of your questions.

    Joining your state thread will put you in touch with other BYC members in your area, which can be helpful (just type the name of your state in the search box).

    All the best
  3. drumstick diva

    drumstick diva Still crazy after all these years. Premium Member

    Aug 26, 2009
    Out to pasture
  4. N F C

    N F C More coffee please! Premium Member Project Manager

    Dec 12, 2013

    x2 on the Learning Center!
  5. sunny & the 5 egg layers

    sunny & the 5 egg layers Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 29, 2011
    Welcome to BYC!
  6. BantamFan4Life

    BantamFan4Life LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO. Premium Member

    Jun 15, 2012
    My Coop
    Welcome to BYC! I'm glad you joined us! :)
  7. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    #1 The coop is maybe big enough for 2 adult medium sized birds. Not going to be large enough for 3 large breeds like you have. You only really need one nesting box per 4 hens. The roosting bars in that coop aren't wide enough for an adult either.

    #2 Keep the trays to protect the floor from damage. Chicken poo will rot that flimsy wood in a matter of weeks.

    #3. They need an unlimited amount chick starter. Extra treats should be kept to no more than 10% of their total diet. Do not start them on layer feed until they are all laying.

    #4 If you don't want them pooping on the patio or all over the yard, you will need to contain them. The coop does not have a large enough run, so you will need to build a proper run, with at least 12 sq ft per bird, for your large breed girls.

    #5. They don't need heat once they are mostly feathered in. Get that heat lamp out.

    #6. The only place the birds need the shavings is inside the coop. They don't need shavings in the run portion. Bare dirt is fine there.

    #7. Always, always make sure they are secured inside their coop at night. You may have only seen a few nighttime predators in your area, but if you are in North America, I can guarantee there are many more that you have never seen, even if you live in an urban area. You likely have coyotes, raccoons, and bobcats in addition to the predators you are aware of. Chickens are pretty helpless in the dark.

    #8. You have two options when it comes to protecting your garden from chickens. Either pen the chooks, or fence the garden.
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2016
    2 people like this.
  8. enigma9o7

    enigma9o7 Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 30, 2016
    San José, California
  9. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    Follow ups - The coop is the secure shelter that they roost and lay in, run is outdoor space.

    - Space- Medium sized breeds, like Leghorns, Andalusians, and Hamburgs need about 4 sq ft of coop space and 10 sq ft of run space per bird. Larger dual-purpose breeds need about 5 sq ft of coop space and 12 sq ft of run space per bird. Bantam breeds only need about 2 sq ft of coop space and about 6 sq ft of run space per bird.
    Your coop/run is adequate for about 3 or 4 bantams, or 2 medium sized breeds.

    - In regards to eating the birds you have a starting over with smaller birds- Bantams are not usually available as sexed pullets. They are normally straight run, which means you will have cockerels. Also, little chickens lay little eggs.

    - Roosting space- you need about 12 inches of linear roost space per adult bird. And roosts need to be large enough for their feet. Most standard sized hens need about 4 inch wide roosts. Most bantams only need roosts about 2 inches wide.

    -Regarding treats- Feeding too many treats will cause them to eat less feed. It can get to the point that they refuse their feed and wait for the goodies to show up. Not eating enough of their feed can cause all sorts of nutritional deficiencies. That can lead to bone and growth deformities and feathering picking. I know it's fun to see them gobble up all those left overs. And I know they love that stuff. But it's like giving candy to children. They love it, but it's not going to keep them healthy and growing. Limit them.

    - Nope, no magic anything that will keep a determined chicken from getting to where they want to be. Fencing is a must.

    - The big issue I see with your cute little pre-fab coop, is security. It's light-weight, which makes it easy for predators to target. Ask your kids if they can lift an end up. If your little ones can raise an end, a raccoon could flip the whole thing. Can your kids work the latches? Raccoons have opposable thumbs. If a small child can work the latch, a raccoon can too.

    It's adorable, and I'm sure it cost a fair bit of money, but it's just not a safe place for such edible birds. Prefabs rarely ever are a good idea. My advice, build something that will be appropriate for the birds that you have. A simple 4x4 box out of plywood and pallets will give them more room, and will be safer, stronger, and longer lasting.
  10. NickyKnack

    NickyKnack Love is Silkie soft!

    Welcome to BYC and the coop! There's a lot of great peeps here! Feel free to ask lots of questions. But most of all, make yourself at home. I'm so glad you decided to join the BYC family. I look forward to seeing you around BYC.

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