Help deciding if the flock stays or goes . . .

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by libjim, Jun 30, 2016.

  1. libjim

    libjim New Egg

    Apr 7, 2016
    I need to make a decision and am looking for some advice.

    I ordered 6 day old chicks and they are now about 7 weeks old. I have four small children and wanted to get a pet. I am a "dog" person, but having owned dogs, I realize the amount of work they can be. I have two children with allergies and thought an outside pet would be best. Currently we have a Tractor Supply chicken coop in our garage. I'm not finding the care of the chickens to be a problem. They have a sand floor inside the coop and they daily cleanup doesn't take that long. It's about time to move them outside. We are on 3 acres and my initial thought was to free-range them. Now, I'm leaning towards having a large electric fenced in area for them. I'm seeing the start-up cost starting to rise. I have my eye on a $180 electric poultry fence, and a $60 rat proof feeder.

    My husband has a co-worker with a flock of 70 birds. He'll take any hens we decide not to keep. I'd like to keep the 3 friendliest hens. We do have 3 that don't mind being picked up and seem to like to be petted.

    Here's my question. How labor intensive is this endeavor going to be? I homeschool my 9, 7, 6 and 4 year olds. During the school year, the days can be overwhelming at times. I'm torn between really liking the hens and adding another chore to my day . . . I'm not looking forward to trudging to the coop in the winter. I'm 52 and finding that I don't have the stamina of a 28 year old. HA

    I find the chicken to be a calming influence on my busy and hectic life. I've been reading articles (The Chicken Chick . . . etc.) and two of my children are very interested in caring for the flock. Could you please share WHY you are caring for chickens and if you find them difficult to care for. I'm a bit scared about health issues since I've never owned poultry before. If I commit to them, they are here as pets, past their peak laying years.

    Thanks. Be gentle with me . . . I have a headache.
  2. Folly's place

    Folly's place True BYC Addict

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    Welcome! I'm a lot older, work full time, have dogs, cats, horses, and right now about 70 chickens. No little children, though! I find the chickens great entertainment, and not so labor intensive. Great eggs and meat, too. The big issue starting up is the coop and run; do it right the first time, and loose fewer birds to predators, and money and time rebuilding everything. Been there, done that. I sit out in the run and enjoy their behavior every day, and the chicks are too cute! I would consider keeping all six, especially if they are all pullets. It's not many, really, and things happen; some birds may only live a year or three, and you do have four children. They will no doubt have names for everyone, and be sad over losses. Three birds can become two, or one, and that's not good. Deep bedding, good (store bought) feed, and electricity to the coop, makes daily chores very easy. I can feed/ water everyone in ten or fifteen minutes once daily, and go out 2x daily to open and close the coop and run. Dogs take way more effort!!! Mary
  3. gummybear61

    gummybear61 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 12, 2016
    I would hate to see anyone have to give up their girls really i would.
    there a few things i notice going on here.
    1st let me just say i am a newbee in raising chicken myself. Before i went out and bought any chicken i did 1 whole year of research of the care for chickens and types of breeds. of course reading about it and doing it are two different things. I also have children of my own,im a single parent with a full time job and i have 3 dogs, so i had to be realistic about what it was going to take to put into a flock of our own. as you know having a family thing tend to get very busy.
    again after research i finally went out and adopted, bought seems so wrong, since they are a part of our family now. We have 3, 2 girls 1boy. i was smart enough to know not to take on more then i could handle especially since i had no idea what i was doing.But in truth i have found that caring for them is quite easy and well is just a part of our daily routine now. i wake up let them out their coop with the dog we talk to them while i give them fresh water and food and prepare them if the heat gets to intense. when we get home we let them out with the dogs let them roam and continue with our night. when it gets dusk i go out clean up all the excess food and poop and put stuff away so not attract preditors or rodents to to my flock. i put them away and go to bed. all this happens while children play around them and dogs as well.

    when it come to health issues. well as people we are naturally afraid of becoming ill by this or that. if you take all the precautions you should be fine. keep them and their coop clean. wash hands after handling them and obviously dont put any of their things near your eatjng area. you can also take them to a vet. we do. one thats specializes in aviation birds if u think there ill.

    questions you need ask your self.
    1 why did you do get so many? you probably should have started off with 2 or 3 and got more if you found it managable.

    2 Sand? is there a reason, other then for some scratch? i habe read that sand is not good for them they dont digest it well and it can make them sick. evem if it is easy to clean.

    i hope this helps
  4. teria

    teria Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 26, 2015
    Salem Utah
    We started our chicken adventure in March 2015. We got six chicks from two different feed stores. Two ended up being roosters (the ones that liked to be picked up or at least let us handle them without much fuss) and two ended up being meat chickens. We really didn't do enough homework. I had spent months learning what I could, but, when the chicks started coming in at the feed stores, well, emotion jumped ahead of preparation, and there we were.

    Long story short, a full year and a half later and we have 14 chickens, no roosters, and we love them all. Yes, there is work involved in having that many, but, we added them on a little at a time, so, we did okay.

    If I were you, since the chicks are only 7 weeks old, you may find that some of your flock turn out to be roosters. So, before you give them away, perhaps wait until you know for certain what you've got. We have found that the friendlier chicks rarely turn out to be hens. It's the nature of the rooster to investigate things, charge up to things, and not be timid. Hens are aloof, and wary, just by the nature of what they are. That doesn't mean all your favorites will be roos, but, it would be sad to part with the hens and find you are left with no egg layers.

    That said, chickens are really pretty easy to care for. Especially if you invest in the right set up. We found that a walk in coop was best for us, because I hated bending and stooping to clean out the old coop. We modified a shed design, and just divided it in half, making the back portion the coop and the front and part of the "attic' area as storage. I keep all the chicken supplies in there, and that makes caring for them much easier than hauling feed out to the coop. I still need to invest in an automatic door opener for their little pop door. Til then, we go out in the morning (that's my 11 year old's job) to let them out and then at dusk we shut the door (they put themselves to bed just as dusk is moving in). Because they free range they eat much less feed which means I refill their feeder maybe once or twice a week. We also offer leftovers to cut costs on feed. Their favorite foods are rice, noodles, melon of any kind, chicken (yes they are omnivores), hamburger, and milk especially if there is cereal floating in it. We have so much less waste because of the chickens.

    I do most of the work, but, my 11 year old helps by scraping the droppings board in the morning and dumping the droppings into our compost heap. She will gather eggs when she thinks of it, but, all my kids like to do that. I use deep litter method inside the coop, using pine shavings. I also toss in some diatomaceous earth into the shavings. I add fresh layers of shavings now and then to freshen it up. Twice a year I scoop and sweep the old litter into the run through the pop door, and mop the floor with disinfecting cleaner, then refill with new shavings , about 6 inches deep. So, between the daily droppings board scraping, and the deep litter method, we have a nice clean fresh smelling coop. I also whitewashed the surfaces, and will be doing that again when I change the shavings in the fall.

    We made sure we have plenty of ventilation even in the winter to keep moisture down, which is pretty easy to do. We did not heat or light our coop at all, and only use a fan in the super hot days of summer because chickens do much better in cold weather than they do in hot weather.

    As far as sickness and injuries, we've had a few situations we had to learn our way through, but, overall, our girls are pretty healthy. You're going to have things happen. We did lose two to our dog when they were too young for him to see as anything but a toy. Other than that, we've been surprised at how easy they have been to raise. We don't have roos because our neighbors would hate us, but, would definitely have one or two if we could.

    We do have a fully 6 ft cedar fenced back yard, about a half acre size, so, they don't wander off our property at all.

    I hope some of this is helpful.
  5. Hello,
    I feel your pain...Being your a new Chicken owner I will tell you that Chickens are dusty. If your kids have allergies? get rid of all the Chickens. My sister can never come near my coop or she gets sick.
    They are nice, but not pets. Three chickens still need the same amount of time and work as ten chickens.
    If your not feeling the birds get rid of them..Best answer I could give.

    Good Luck
  6. FridayYet

    FridayYet Innocent Bystander

    Mar 3, 2011
    The Land of Enchantment
    The key to making care easy is, like Folly said, setting things up right in the first place. Mix some PDZ into the sand on the floor of the coop, and it will make cleaning easier. I scoop mine every other day or so, then dump it into the compost bin. The other factor is the size of your coop. Often pre-fab coops are advertised as being able to house way more chickens than they really can, and if you cram too many chickens in too small of a space, you can have behavior problems.

    Where do you live? Makes a huge difference in how you need to set-up your birds for easy care. Do you have long winters? Are they really cold? Plan for how you'll keep the water from freezing, and if you have enough indoor space if they have to hang out inside for extended periods of time. Will the food and water need to be inside the coop?

    It's awesome you have an outlet for extra chickens, and don't be surprised if you have a cockerel in your bunch, since vent sexing is only 70-90% accurate. Wish I had an outlet to reduce my flock size if needed! (3-4 of my cockerels will be culled next week.) Don't be tempted to keep any roosters unless you have 10 hens or so. Any less and the girls can get terribly over mated and you have to separate them. Many roosters can have nasty attitudes, too. My chicken care was definitely easier before I decided to breed them. (LOL)

    Love the electronet idea. Sounds like a good idea, depending on what kind of predators are around. Oh, and you'll need to reinforce your coop if they used any chicken wire. It only keeps chickens in, but won't keep predators out.

    Good luck with whatever you decide!
  7. FridayYet

    FridayYet Innocent Bystander

    Mar 3, 2011
    The Land of Enchantment
    That is a really good point. Yup, they are super dusty and depending on the type of allergies and whether the kids will be involved in the care should factor into your decision.
  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Welcome to BYC!

    The allergies thing could be a deal breaker for sure, the dust.....from bedding, feather sheaths, pulverized poops.....can be un-be-liev-able.

    Something else that caught my eye was "Tractor Supply chicken coop in our garage" and "trudging to the coop in the winter".

    Is the TSC coop your 'permanent' coop?
    Those coops are not made to withstand harsh winter climes,
    are not very healthy environments to begin with(too small), and are very difficult to maintain IMO.
    If you live in a freezing climate the birds don't need heat but they'll need lots of coop space and a heated waterer to reduce 'trudges' to the coop.
    hat is your climate? Putting your location in your profile can help folks give better answers/suggestions.
    I get a lot of snow and have to keep the path to coop, part of the run (and sometimes the mesh roof of run) shoveled out......
    ......chicken don't like to walk on snow, either do I.

    Chickens can be pretty easy...IF (big if) your set up allows for easy access and maintenance...a good set up can be labor intensive and expensive.
    Keeping live animals can be a joy and an education for all, but it is work, a huge responsibility, and can involve time eating and heartbreaking 'emergencies'.

    So, those are some things to think about that might help with your decision.

    Now, why do I keep chickens? Food and useful purpose for myself.
    I do not have a busy life, to say the least - ret(f)ired and have mobility issues, and so can spend a lot of time taking care of the birds from hatch to harvest and keeping their facilities in top notch order for their comfort and my ease. Egg sales cover feed and bedding costs (not counting all the eggs I can eat), extra cockerels and old hens provide meat.
  9. K813ZRA

    K813ZRA Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 29, 2016
    All I can add is that to me chickens are likely the easiest animal to care for that I have ever had and I have had a lot of animals over the years ranging from simple things like cats and dogs to live stock such as cows and pigs as well as exotics like snakes. I have even had skunks and raccoons. Believe it or not the hardest thing I have found to care for is fish, yes fish. Particularly when talking about saltwater setups as you have to deal with temperature, salt levels, ph, scale buildup, growth, cannibalism and you name it!

    Now, lets focus on chickens. I have two flocks: The first is comprised of six Rhode Island Red's, three Black Australorps, one Barred Rock and I have three Pekin ducks in there (don't get ducks if you don't want to deal with a big mess). My second flock is 18 3 week old Buff Orpington's. The chicks obviously require more care such as more frequent feeding, watering and cleaning but the adults are a bit different. I too am on three acres and let them free range during the day but there is always someone home which makes a difference as we can let them put themselves away at night. If you intend to round them up to put them away then things can get tricky if they decide that they are not ready to be confined to their run. Aside from that I feed and water them twice a day and lock their coop door after they put themselves to bed. When it comes to cleaning I add about a 4 inch top layer of straw to their run once a month and that is it. I do relocate their bedding and manure twice a year to the compost pile.

    So if you only have a few chickens and keep them in a big enough run/coop then they are rather easy to care for and it only takes about 10 minutes twice a day. Free ranging can up the work a wee bit but not by much.

    That said I guess I am forgetting the weekly or monthly maintenance as well such as picking up bags of feed and or bedding as well as cleaning feeders and waters well. However these things can be made easier if you have trouble with them as well. You can order feed and have it delivered and you can use auto feeders and waters (I like PVC systems such as chick fountains and a troth style feeder).

    I suppose you could add things like egg collecting to the list of chores but I have never thought of it that way. However to alleviate this chore you could switch out to an ornamental bird that only lays a few eggs a year. The point is that the possibilities are almost limitless.

    To sum up, chickens take work but not much. That said you have to decide what is best for you and if that means re-homing the chickens then that is what you have to do. Good luck on your decision.
  10. CluckerCottage

    CluckerCottage Chillin' With My Peeps

    Co-workers call me the "lady of many chicken".
    True! And, they love our eggs!

    Any animals you have are work but if you love and enjoy them, the work doesn't seem like a chore.
    Routine inspections of chickens take time but it's so very necessary.

    I check poops, butts, feet and feathers every day while I am out enjoying my flock.
    Looking for signs of illness, mites, lice, etc.
    You need to know about poultry diseases, emergency care, external and internal parasites, symptoms of eggbinding, etc....
    And you need to take care of anything "bad" that you find--- immediately.

    We have a lot of birds and we collect eggs 2-3 times every day-- even in winter, as you mentioned that you are not looking forward to.
    We use the deep litter method in our coop so not too much cleaning is involved-- just cleaning the boards with a scoop.
    That time is good to check for buggies around roost bars and in nest boxes.
    They get fresh feed and water twice a day. Fresh fruits and veggies too.

    Can you deal with that, being a busy and at-times overwhelmed home school momma?
    Can you and your kids deal with illness and death of your beloved birds?
    Sounds awful, doesn't it? It's sad to think of but it can and will happen eventually.

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