Hello, and some odd (?) questions

Discussion in 'New Member Introductions' started by DearYvette, Jan 8, 2011.

  1. DearYvette

    DearYvette In the Brooder

    Jan 4, 2011
    Hello, everyone,

    I have been lurking here for the last few months and trying to absorb as much as I can. I'd be very grateful if you would point me to other places in the forum, if I'd be more appropriate there.

    I am from and currently live in Miami, FL. At some point in 2011, I am planning to move to the suburban Boston area (where I previously spent 18 years). Part of my "growing roots" there will be to have an organic vegetable garden and a small flock of chickens, both of which I have always wanted and been unable to have.

    I'll want my chickens to be pets, mostly, with the added benefits of providing manure for my garden, and eggs. I currently have greyhound dogs and previously raised an iguana. I've never had chickens before. The majority of my bird experience has come from my best friend's cockatoo. Perhaps it will be a year before I actually GET my chickens. In the meantime, I'm trying to learn as much as I can.

    So far, I've researched and decided on:

    - Coop (~4x8 OR 6x8) and run size (~8x16)
    - Birds will be free-roaming, with supervision, locked in coop at night
    - Diet (organic)
    - Deep-litter substrate
    - Will vaccinate against both Mareck's and coccidiosis
    - Have already found a list of avian/chicken vets in the area, for emergencies and fecal tests
    - Starting with day-old chicks
    - Breeds, one of each: australorp, delaware, faverolles, orpington, plymouth rock, rhode island red, wyandotte


    Flock: I've (randomly) decided on getting a small flock of 8 hens. I've also randomly fallen in love with 8 different cold-hardy breeds. I plan to get day-old chicks all at once, one of each. Would having this kind of "blended family" be less than great idea, for any reason? Is it unwise to mix breeds like this, as chicks?

    Coop safety: Are regular old surface bolts enough to keep raccoons out of my coop/run, or do I need fancier locking hardware?

    Sweetness: I'm fairly familiar with parrots, though I'm new to chickens. If I raise my chickens all together from scratch and pick them up and handle them every day, is there a possibility that I may still not wind up with sweet friendly chickens?

    Deworming: Why doesn't everyone deworm their chickens? And for those who do, why isn't it normal to have a fecal flotation and direct smear done first? I'm trying to understand what looks like a shotgun approach to worming that I'm seeing among chicken keepers. Why would I NOT want a fecal floatation and direct smear first, to determine WHICH, if any, worms or protozoans my flock had?

    Coccidiosis: Some of you are providing medicated feed to build up immunity to this disease. Why might I, or might not, want to vaccinate, instead?

    Thank you very much for any and all thoughts you may have. I've learned so much here, already, and I still have a long, long way to go.

    I hope you are well.


  2. Chicken.Lytle

    Chicken.Lytle Songster

    Oct 19, 2010
    Montgomery County, TX
    Welcome to BYC. I am new to chickens this summer and my BYC page points to my blog posts that you might find helpful.

    My own flock is a mixed bag I bought from a local breeder as pullets (and one cockerel). They were raised together and got along fine. Handling will help make the chickens friendly, but they are fickle critters if you have no treats.
  3. Chick_In_The_Burbs

    Chick_In_The_Burbs Songster

    Jun 26, 2010
    Western Washington
    [​IMG] from Colorado Springs!

    For your questions:

    There should be any issues with a mixed flock; plenty of people have them. The only issues I've heard of are mixing Bantam chicks with standards or introducing different ages of chicks. Otherwise you should be good.

    For the locks; I haven't had to deal with Racoons but they have a reputation for sneakiness so others may have some good insight.

    To sweetness; much will do with how you raise them but their breeds will also influence temperment. I have EEs, so I can't really speak to the breeds you've chosen.

    Deworming; usually if one chicken has it then they all do. So given the cost of going to the vet, checking and deworming you may as well just give them a dewormer once a year or when you notice a problem. Vets can be just plain expensive, especially for something as simple as worming. There are also some natural dewormers that you can give them (pumpkin seeds, for example)

    Coccidiosis- I've never seen a vacine for this. The hatchery I ordered from offered Mareks Vacine but that was it. I also took my chicks to the vet for an initial checkup when I first got them as I was just about as new to bird ownership as you are. They did not offer the vacine either. I ended up with them on the medicated feed. I always error on the side of vacinating vs not; it doesn't harm the birds as far as I can tell or affect them later in life beyond avoiding sickness that they could otherwise contract.

    Good luck, and have fun!
  4. DearYvette

    DearYvette In the Brooder

    Jan 4, 2011
    Chicken Lytle, thank you for your reply. I love your blog post on rooster dominance. I'll be poking around your site in a bit. Growing iguanas was, for me, similar to what you've described with your rooster. They're all naturally dominant. Really, like dogs, they naturally need SOMEBODY to be dominant (not mean, or abusive, or aggressive, just "in charge"), for the safety of the flock/pack. I've got reptile and dog psychology down...I hope to gain your kind of chicken insight.

    Thanks so much!


  5. [​IMG] from North Carolina
  6. WhiteMountainsRanch

    WhiteMountainsRanch Crowing

    Jun 19, 2010
    San Diego, CA
    First of all HI and [​IMG] It's a great place!

    1. Should be no problems with a mixed flock like that. There is always some possibility of a little bit of "picking" but that is normal chicken dominance behavior (kind of like dogs). You may also want to take into account that you *may* have a chick die, (they are pretty sensitive) or that you *may* get an occasional rooster from a "mis-identification" at the hatchery (if your getting them from a hatchery or feed store)... most people start out with 2 of each breed methinks.

    2. If you have predators ALWAYS go bigger, better, stronger.

    3. If you do all the things you listed above you probably WILL have friendly chickens, but they are kind of like people, there may be one that DOES end up just naughty for some reason. [​IMG]

    4. Everyone *probably* SHOULD deworm their chickens, but it's personal preference, AND it depends on where you live. Here we have almost none, so I go with once a year. In the midwest where there are higher counts some people may do as frequently as every 3 months... it depends on your preference and area. *Also to note; after MUCH research on here, it is pretty much deemed truth that holistic "cures" (pumpkin seeds, pepper flakes, D.E. etc.) are only good for preventative measures, whereas if you actually *have* an outbreak you will need ACTUAL medicine. As far as the fecal or smear, again personal preference, personally I wouldn't want to spend the money to do those, I just go ahead and worm once a year, (unless I actually see them, although I never have) If you have the money to spare and don't want to unnesecarily worm them sure go right ahead and then pick the best wormer for your particular situation. [​IMG]

    5. Cocci (Coccidiosis)- Again, personal preference, the medicine in feed is Amprolium, a niacin blocker, which keeps the birds from absorbing niacin, which the cocci need to live. Most birds will be subjected to it as it is in the soil, but baby chicks cannot deal with it well and usually die, but baby chicks aren't usually kept on dirt, so again personal preference, (I only use it for the first week or two) then switch to my organic. *Also, I believe there is NOT a vaccine for cocci at this time.

    Lastly I must mention about your coop. I just built a 4' x 8' for my baby coop to grow them out in, but it is MUCH too small. If you want 8 hens I would HIGHLY recommend going with the larger coop size, you will be MUCH happier that you did so! [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Hope this helps! [​IMG]
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2011
  7. DearYvette

    DearYvette In the Brooder

    Jan 4, 2011
    Chick_In_The_Burbs, thank you!

    One of my chosen future flock children that I didn't list was a Silkie bantam. While I've chosen the other breeds for egging and cold-hardiness, silkies aren't known to be prolific eggers (as far as I can tell), but they are reputedly sweet and loving chickens. Also, I'm just in love with the way they look. It's the only bantam hen I have on my radar. Thanks for the tip. If being picked on is an issue, I'll want to think a bit more about having a silkie in this flock.

    WRT sweetness: I'm a hands-on kind of animal person. If this is helpful, then I am hopeful!

    Wondering what happens to the chickens getting roundworm treatments when they actually have some other endoparasite that doesn't respond to roundworm dewormers? I'm probably being overly neurotic (evidenced by the fact that I don't have chickens yet). Clearly, a squillion happy-chicken owners can't be wrong, but there's got to be something about chickens that justifies breaking this basic safety protocol. Honestly, poultry seems hardier than parrots (or iguanas!). Thanks so much for the food for thought.

    WRT vaccines...yes, there is a very successful Coccidiosis vaccine out there. As with any vaccine, there are issues with it (as there are with Marek's, which I've already decided is a must-have, for me). The Coccidiosis vaccine inoculates with live organisms, which means that a certain number of chicks will become infected (just like the measles or flu vaccine for humans). It has to be applied when the birds are chicks. But it's quick and cheap to administer and doesn't subject the birds to perpetual chemicals. I still don't know why to choose one over the other. (The feed method isn't 100% effective, either, and also seems to have its drawbacks.)

    Organic chickens are also allowed to have vaccines for things like Newcastle Disease. As far as I can see, this and the other available vaccines are both effective and ridiculously cost-prohibitive. The manufacturers and protocols are thinking of commercial chickens and not backyard chickeners. If I could afford them, I'd look into all the vaccines, but this doesn't seem feasible for me, with only 8 chickens. The vaccines assume that our chickens will at some point come in contact with poop from wild birds of multiple species. I believe I'll want to weigh my costs against what's likely to happen to my birds. Marek's, Coccidiosis, and ectoparasites (mites, lice, etc.) seem to be the things that ail small-flock owners, most predominately.

    And yet, it's going to break my heart when one of my chickens dies for no apparent reason. Will it be because I didn't spend $5 squillion dollars on a Laryngotracheitis vaccine? I think I'm going to need to need to learn how to do the best I can, and then suck it up. :)

    Thank you so much for your thoughts.


  8. Wild Trapper

    Wild Trapper Songster

    Jan 1, 2011
    [​IMG] from Ohio
  9. DearYvette

    DearYvette In the Brooder

    Jan 4, 2011
    WhiteMountainsRanch, thank you very much for your reply!

    #5 You all have me thinking, now. Before I asked the question, I'd done a fair amount of hunting and pecking about organic chicken vaccines...in particular, Marek's and coccidiosis, which, as I mentioned a moment ago, are the only ones that I'm worried about and (as far as I can tell) are the only ones that my little flock are likely to be exposed to, AND the only affordable vaccines for someone who doesn't have 10K chickens. You're the second experienced chicken keeper here who's said that you've not heard of the vaccine. I need to check to see if I'm imagining things. Thanks very much for your input.

    #1 I appreciate your mentioning that, no matter what I do, my chicks (or chickens) might die. I hope you'll (plural) keep reminding me of this. It goes against my grain, to assume that animals in my care might just die. One of the bloggers I've just discovered who has chickens said that, in order to have chickens, you need to "grow a pair". She was also talking about predation. I swear, I will try to grow a pair. I'll try like mad. Though, I'm already concerned.

    Is it possible to establish myself as the flock leader, like I'm the dog leader? Does it work the same way?

    Yes, the rooster issue...I thought of that. I can't have a rooster in suburban MA. I hope to ID the potential roosters in my hatchling flock and give them away before I grow attached enough to object to him being eaten? I'll need to grow a pair, here, too. God, help me.

    #4 I don't know much about chickens yet, but by the time you can SEE worms in ANY animal poop, your animal is already very heavily parasited and actually in health-danger. Normally, worms are picked up in a fecal float as eggs or microorganisms. Adult (visible) worms are bad, bad news. Listening to the collective here, the choice to self-treat is financial? Got it. Having an avian vet do a float/smear doesn't cost that much. But it's not free!

    Thank you!


  10. DearYvette

    DearYvette In the Brooder

    Jan 4, 2011
    Muscovies and Wild Trapper,

    Thank you for your welcomes. [​IMG]


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