Getting Started in Wyoming

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Whistling Badger, May 26, 2008.

  1. Whistling Badger

    Whistling Badger Songster

    May 26, 2008
    a burrow in a pasture

    Tom here, from Lander, Wyoming. Hope all you nice folks will allow a Badger in the hen house. I promise not to eat anybody's chickens except mine. [​IMG]

    We just order our first set of hatching eggs. They should be in Tuesday or Wednesday. We've been reading up a lot on keeping chickens, but I figure it would be good to actually talk with some people who know what they're doing. And I could probably search through the archives and find all the answers to my questions from past threads, but it's a whole lot more fun just to discuss, so that's what I'll do if that's OK with you. For now I'll just tell you what we have in mind and invite your comments. If the primary comment is "Are you crazy?!" then we'll consider changing our plan.

    About us: Mrs. Badger and I live on about three and a half acres of nice grass-alfalfa pasture that we want to start using go grow our own food. We're new to chickens, but experienced with small critters (dogs, cats, assorted domestic rodents) and we hunt, so we have no illusions or issues about killing, gutting, etc. I'm not bad at building and pretty good at improvising stuff once I have a good idea of what is needed. We've been out here about five years and we're getting fairly good at growing crops in our difficult climate.

    Overall plan: If the eggs don't hatch, we and/or the dog will enjoy a very expensive omelet. If they do, we'll raise them through the summer and see what they're like. If they're easy to get along with, we'll keep a few hens and maybe a rooster through the winter and try getting them to brood us some chicks in the spring. If they're too much of a hassle, we'll put the lot of 'em in the freezer next fall and feast on fresh chicken through the winter. I believe that is what you call a "win-win."

    Breed: We ordered gold-laced wyandottes because we hear they're easy to get along with, decent foragers and mothers, decent for meat and eggs, their coloring makes them slightly less vulnerable to predators than white chickens (we get hawks, foxes, and the occasional stray dog around here--I'm a good shot with the .22, but I can't be around all the time), and their feathering and rose combs make them fairly cold-hardy. That last thing is key--it gets pretty darn chilly here in the winter.

    We got our eggs off ebay on a semi-impulse buy. We've been talking about it for a long time, and I spotted a good deal yesterday and we decided to get on with it. The quality might not be the greatest, but it's hard to argue with the price, since this is just an experiment for now.

    Housing: I'm pretty sure we can borrow an incubator from the school. Once the eggs hatch we'll be keeping them in a large cardboard box in the living room (so they and our extremely gentle dog can get used to each other) with a hanging lightbulb in one corner, some sort of litter on the floor, a water/food container of some sort, shallow enough that they can't drown in it.

    Once they outgrow the box, we plan to put them in an enclosure about 75x50 feet, with four strand barbed wire and a couple feet of chicken wire along the bottom. We'll build a three-sided shelter out of scrounged lumber. This will be open on three sides in the summer, with hinged doors along the front so we can close it up in winter, with rafters for roosting, boxes on the wall for nesting. If the gods of the marketplace are with us, they'll be sharing this enclosure with a couple dairy goats, which besides giving us milk, will also help with predator control--goats are pretty hostile toward foxes and dogs, and might even discourage a hawk--and provide some warmth in the winter, since our shelter won't have electricity to it.

    Feeding etc: Once they're big enough to be outside, we're hoping to let them out for a few hours a day to forage, when we can be out to supervise them and make sure they don't go swimming in the pond of wander onto the road. Once we get our garden going (next summer) we plan on letting the chickens do come anti-bug patrols for us. But for now it's just the open pasture. If we keep a flock through the winter, we hope to grow our own feed, maybe a millet-buckwheat mix, that will take them through the winter in good shape. I've heard chickens love milk and it's good for them, too, but we don't have the goats yet so I'm not depending on that.

    OK, I've rambled on more than enough. That's our basic idea. I have lots of questions about hatching, feeding, imprinting, wintering, shelter, and hatching, but I'll try to shuffle those into the appropriate forums. For now, any comments/advice/reality checks would be greatly appreciated!

    Last edited: May 26, 2008
  2. megshenhut

    megshenhut Songster

    Jun 21, 2007
    Central Colorado
    Welcome, Tom. Hope you're hatching plans go well. Shipped eggs is always a gamble. But chickens are so much fun. The Wyandottes should do well in WY. The rose combs are important if you don't have anyway to heat the coop in the winter. I battle frostbite every winter here in CO and I do have a heat light going in there when it is the coldest.
  3. chcknrs

    chcknrs Songster

    Mar 7, 2008
    Kelso, WA

    Ya might want to consider four sides, and close them in each night. Four strands of barbed wire and some chicken wire will not keep predators out. You'd be surprised what is in your area besides fox and hawks and stray dogs. I let mine free range all day, but they are locked up at night.

    Once they grow up they are fairly easy to take care of. As little chicks, the brooder in the house is fairly easy, but once they get about 4-5 weeks old they can start to make the house smell like the barn. Having a light in the coop will help get them through winters, but will also enable you to put them out sooner. I remember winter about 6 years ago or so in western Nebraska, it got down to -28. Your chickens need a little help keeping warm at those kind of temps.

    Also, if you are going to be milking a goat, you will find you want a light in there so you can see in the mornings and evenings during winter hours.

    Anyway, good luck to you!
  4. GlacierNan

    GlacierNan In the Brooder

    Mar 22, 2008
    Welcome Tom and Mrs Tom!!!!

    I somehow doubt your egg purchase was spur of the moment what with that Great plan! WOW!
    I think it sounds terrific and you will adjust it as you find out what works for you.
    It is a learning experience!
  5. corancher

    corancher Songster

    Apr 18, 2007
    welcome, this forum is a good place to get your questions answered.

    I agree that you should have coop with 4 sides to lock the birds in at night. They will go back to the coop every night to roost and you just lock them in.

    If you want to keep predators out then you will likely need something a little more than barbed wire and chicken wire on the bottom. However, if you are okay with the birds free ranging during the day and locking them up at night then this may work okay. It will not keep predators from getting your birds in a three sided coop.

    I think you will find chickens are easy keeper, however they will eat your early spouting crops so keep them away until the crops are growing nicely. Mine like to eat my roses which doesn't make me real happy.

    If your eggs hatch, then any hens that you hatch will not start laying for 6-10 months so you will be in the winter. I would suggest you start planning for winter shelter since once you have some birds it just seems that you can't get enough.[​IMG]
  6. Katy

    Katy Flock Mistress


    You might want to get on the incubator ASAP since it needs to be set up and running to get stabilized at least a day or two before you put the eggs in. When they arrive, after you've let them settle for a few hours you'll want to get them incubating and not have them setting around while you find an incubator. Shipped eggs are a gamble so you need to have as much going in their favor as possible.

    If I were you I'd plan on the dog having the omelet if they don't hatch.....not something I'd care to eat!!

    I agree that barbed wire and chicken wire aren't going to keep them safe.
    Last edited: May 26, 2008
  7. Whistling Badger

    Whistling Badger Songster

    May 26, 2008
    a burrow in a pasture
    Thanks for the input, everybody.

    The wire enclosure is more to get the chickens (and hopefully goats) to stay put when I need them too. Seems like there isn't much that will keep out a determined weasel. I know chickens can fly, but will wyandottes stay put behind a fence if they're well fed?

    The idea of a predator-proof shelter that we can close up at night makes a lot of sense. I'll have to read up on that. I notice a lot of coops are built up off the that for ventilation, or predator control, or some other reason? I can't think that little rise would do much to deter a fox or even a skunk.

  8. Standard Hen

    Standard Hen Songster

    May 17, 2007
    Welcome to BYC Tom. I do have to agree with locking them up at night, chickens are predator magnets and something will get them for sure.

    If this hatch does not work out look around for some already hatched chicks or pullets. The local feed & grain might be able to help you too. I say this because YOU AND THE MRS ARE GOING TO LOVE HAVING CHICKENS. That said, good luck and keep us posted.
  9. Whistling Badger

    Whistling Badger Songster

    May 26, 2008
    a burrow in a pasture
    Thanks for the welcome. I think chickens are going to be fun. I only have three worries:

    1. time. I'm a full time teacher, and Mrs. Badger and I are both full-time grad students. Not a lot of time for goofing around with chickens. That's one reason we're not committed to keeping them past the winter.

    2. expense of feed and housing. We're hoping, once things are set up, we won't have to pour a whole bunch of $$ into this merry little project. We're hoping to grow our own feed and build our own housing for them out of scrounged/salvaged materials. I have started threads for questions about growing feed and fencing (enclosure, not sword fighting). Please feel free to find those and advise me--I can certainly use it!

    3. I am a very light sleeper, so I'm not sure how a rooster and I are going to get along. We'll see. [​IMG]

    Oh, and my lovely wife tracked down a local source for chicks if our eggs fail, so it looks like we're into chickens even in the likely event that we manage to not hatch any eggs!

  10. Katy

    Katy Flock Mistress

    If you are wanting layers, but aren't planning on keeping them past the winter I hope you realize....they wont even start laying until late fall/early winter.

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