Help me plan my breed choice, coops, & run. (Pics)

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by mvktr2, Oct 11, 2009.

  1. mvktr2

    mvktr2 Out Of The Brooder

    Hey gang. I'd like to say thanks for creating this community and I'm proud to be a part of it.

    So here's my situation. I'm a pastor living in a parsonage (that's a home provided by the church so it's not mine to do with as I please). The home sits on an approx. 2.5-3 acre lot which is about 90% lawn/grass... I should know I have to cut it [​IMG]. I have a 5' cyclone fence in the rear with approx. 1/4 acre inside of it, it's the dog's area. Other than the property is bordered by woods on 3 sides & a rural highway on one side (not terribly busy).

    Anything I want to do which has a permanent footprint/mark on the property has to be approved by the church.

    All this means I need a solution with the following criteria:
    1a) I will not erect a permanent chick house or run. I'm thinking I can make do with 1-3 of the "chicken tractor" style coops and a free range flock.
    1b) Whatever I erect for chicken housing needs to be portable to a new location as I'll take the chickens with me when we eventually move. I say this as I'm a United Methodist minister and we submit to the "appointment process" which is to say we're essentially 'itinerate' preachers. The conference moves us on average every 3.5 years, I've been appointed since July(my first appointment I've been working toward it for several years).
    2) Number one is what I want to do, but my problem is going to be mostly dogs. Yes we have hawks & other wild predators, but I've got 1 large and 3 small (Chow, 2 Beagles, & Mini. Schnauzer) dogs which are my neighbor's. I really don't want to create enemies out of my neighbors by having free roaming chickens and complaining when their dogs attack them. I'm sure my chickens will possibly make their way over to their yard on occasion so turn about is fair play.
    3) I'd like a flock of 6-12 chickens (5-10 hens & 1-2 roosters). Looking for egg production. I'm considering meat production, but I'm a bit unsure of the amount of time it takes to dress a chicken being worth it.
    4) I ad this. Financing is a big reason for us wanting to do this. Without the details, we're in financial dire straits headed toward bankruptcy (both lost jobs on back to back days in Jan. of this year, can't make mortgage payments on home, we own/lived in before my appointment as pastor/parsonage living). So an effective and efficient garden and source of protein are going to be a real asset very soon. I'm even thinking of building a rabbit coup for meat production.

    My specific questions:
    1) Are there breeds "wild" enough to avoid becoming dog food?
    2) Are there males, Old English Game comes to mind, that might be able to fend off a dog?
    3) I'm wondering if not clipping the more flighty breeds wings would allow them to "fly" away? (I know chicken's can't fly very far, not true flyers)
    4) I'm favoring the Mediterranean breeds, is this a good choice?

    For the record I was raised on a farm with, well most everything so once I can get the chicks reared it'll become old hat too me.

    I'm also probably getting a few milk goats, son's cow milk intolerant and it's $8 bucks from farmers or $13+ per a gallon at the store. I'll also have a garden come next February, and have got my compost pile started!

    Thanks for the input and help. I'm sure I left out some stuff but with your help we can flesh it out!

    Phillip

    Ps wrote this a while back, went to shut down cpu & noticed I didn't post it, it's late! Thanks for your input.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2009
  2. kathyinmo

    kathyinmo Nothing In Moderation

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    Phillip,
    First off, [​IMG] This site is very educational and helpful!

    To answer your question, I have not heard of any breed of chicken that would fare well with dogs not accustomed to poultry. I wouldn't even attempt to try it! Check out the "Predators and Pests," section, and you will find MANY sad stories related to the subject.

    Good luck in your venture!
     
  3. wombat

    wombat Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 23, 2009
    Some smaller breeds are wilder and are fliers, but you'd run quite a risk of them getting off the property. They'd also be vulnerable to hawks.

    I've heard plenty of stories here about roosters fending off dogs and such long enough for the hens to escape, but the rooster usually ends up laying down his life for his flock in these stories. Not really a happy ending.

    I think you'd be better off checking out the tractor designs, and building something sturdy enough to keep dogs and racoons out.

    Look for breeds that tolerate confinement well, and just keep them tractored unless you are outside and can watch them. Train them with treats to "coop up" when you're ready to put them back in the tractor, to avoid a chicken rodeo. I've used hand-fed peanuts with mine, and they will all come running when I call "PEANUTS!" and shake some shell peanuts in a plastic cup.

    I don't have any experience with mediteranean breeds. When I was first looking into what to get for my first flock, I couldn't find anything mediterranean that I liked and that met my needs. Most seemed more noisy and flighty and less productive, though I'm sure there are plenty of people here who could steer you to mediteranean breeds they are happy with. I keep thinking about getting some European breeds, but I never quite seem to get away from brown-eggers!

    This is an easy breed chart to glance through, and it does list recommendations for birds being adaptable to confinement and/or foraging:
    http://www.ithaca.edu/staff/jhenderson/chooks/chooks.html

    I think the rather common Rhode Island Red is a good "starter chicken. They're so common because they are productive and easy to care for. Orpingtons also do well in confinement and are easy to handle. Sex-links are easy to care for too, very productive, and you'd have the advantage of being able to ensure that you started with more hens and less chance of extra roos. All of the breeds I mentioned are brown egg layers.

    There's obviously nothing at all fancy or unique about the breeds I suggested. They are quite common. However, if you are looking for easy to care for birds for your first flock, and good egg production, they are perfect for that. I have the birds I've suggested, and they are low maintence, hardy, friendly, and we get about 5 eggs / week or more from the RIRs, and the sex-links are egg-a-day layers. Two tractors with a mix of these breeds, four hens in each tractor, and you'd have about 3 to 4 dozen eggs a week. Hard to beat that.

    Not sure what the roosters would add in the tractoring scenario. They eat, make noise, bother your hens, and don't lay any eggs. You can probably obtain a few new chicks each year through other means for less cost than feeding roos. You might want to spend a year with just hens and then decide how much you want to expand the operation. You could always get roos the following year.

    You could probably house meaties in plastic dog houses or something you build of similar size, and a wire run. You don't need "all weather" housing for them, if you stick to some spring and summer batches of birds, as they aren't around for long. Take the run down when the meaties are in the freezer.

    You might want to mention what general area you're in, as climate will have an impact on housing your birds and possibly in breed selection.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2009
  4. Mahonri

    Mahonri Urban Desert Chicken Enthusiast Premium Member

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    My Coop
    If you want eggs. Red or Black Sex links or Pearl White Leghorns. My BSL gives me 6 eggs a week.
     
  5. chicknjane

    chicknjane Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi Phillip and Welcome.

    I'll throw in my items for consideration and hope you find them helpful.

    First, depending on your location, you may not want Mediterrainean breeds. They are more acclimated to warmer climates and would not tolerate winter temps very well.

    As an inexpensive and movable fencing which keeps out dogs and keeps in chickens I have had success with using U-posts and #20 gauge poultry fencing. I left about 18" of overhang at the bottom to deter predators from digging under the fence and held it down with garden staples. (What I know of Chow's, they like to dig).

    You can use the same set up for goats, at least the people down the road from me have without problems.

    As far as impact on the land, let God take care of that. Its only my opinion, but the impact animals have on the land is minimal and less destructive than humans. Grass will grow back.

    There are birds that can fly pretty high. The heavier breeds are easier to confine. Mine, fully grown, can't get over a 5 foot fence. As juveniles, I was constantly rounding them up and getting them back in to pen. I won't clip feathers because I believe flight, even limited, is a means of escaping predators.

    Check out sections on housing. There are a lot of useful tips on this site for suggestions on how to enter this adventure with as little outlay as possible.

    Good luck.
     
  6. Laney

    Laney Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi,

    Welcome to BYC. We Free Range our Chickens here and we have dogs. One of our dogs is a chicken killer. What I will tell you is that you need to have birds that can fly and a safe place for them to fly to.

    Our coop is inside of our goat pasture where the dogs can not follow. All of our chickens can fly, some better than others. However, our Silver Phoenix are the only ones that fly well enough to regularly free range outside the goat pasture.

    This is because the others have decided it isn't worth the risk with the dogs, or the effort trying to get over the 4 1/2 foot fence.

    The SP Lay very small eggs, but they are still delicious. Sweeter birds can't be found. (Hens anyway, the Roosters can be a bit evil.) If they see the Dogs out and heading their way they fly back to their safety zone. So that is one way to handle the problem. The issue is, you have to have what you call "acceptable losses" and a way to replace chickens if that is the way you want to handle things.

    My in-laws are passionate about dog rescue, so I can't ask them to give up this dog. What we have done is agreed that they will take in no more of this breed.

    If you do build some kind of tractor, do not use chicken wire as a dog will get thru that in no time. Use rat wire or something stronger.

    Just remember that the chicken will be flying to their safe zone, perhaps build them a high roost?

    Laney
     
  7. wombat

    wombat Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 23, 2009
    Do you think fliers would be ok with the space he has? Sounds like he has < 3 acres, and a lot of it is lawn.

    I've considered getting Lakenvelders, but I'm afraid they'd be in my neighbor's yards too often! We have a lot of pine, and even my large breed birds can get fairly high up, going from branch to branch, but they stay on our property. I'm afraid that fliers would be over the fence in no time.
     
  8. Mojo Chick'n

    Mojo Chick'n Empress of Chickenville

    Hello [​IMG] first off, welcome to BYC and Congrats on getting your appointment [​IMG]

    Is it possible to put up "temporary" fencing - as in something that can be taken down when you move with no ill effects? I am thinking perhaps T-posts with chicken wire or hog panels and maybe some hotwire running around it, to deter the dogs. The hog panels would be more costly, but sturdier than chicken wire. Maybe you could just "hog panel" a section of the yard for the chickens?

    meri
     
  9. digitS'

    digitS' Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Attala County is in central Mississippi, so winter cold won't be much of a problem. Those dogs probably will be.

    I might go with a good strong tractor and one that can't be dug under. Even at that, chickens aren't grazing animals and you won't realize much more than a 30% savings off feed costs with them eating grass - something that they truly love and benefit from.

    You may just want to bring them the grass and garden produce. A coop can be built with the idea that it can be loaded into a pickup or onto a trailer. You can look at my BYC page for an example. After about 12 years, my coop hasn't moved a foot. I hope you find some real stability in your life and lifework so that may true for you also.

    Five hens in a coop that can fit into a pickup bed is about right. You can even have more in that space (about 50 square feet) without difficulty. A run can be built around something like heavy livestock fencing (to keep the dogs out) with chicken netting around that (to keep the chickens in).

    Mediterranean breeds should work fine for you in such circumstances. They are "flighty" however. Getting out of their run may mean you have a great deal of difficulty getting them back in.

    Goats and problem dogs don't go together . . . just a word of caution. I wouldn't bother with a rooster - just wouldn't, but that may just be me.

    Welcome to BYC's [​IMG]!

    Steve
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2009
  10. sbarab

    sbarab Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Conroe, TX
    I definitely suggest a tractor....

    Here are the things that I wish I had considered when building my tractor:

    1. Needs to be tall enough to stand inside. Thankfully, I have two shorter kids to crawl around inside when we're trying to catch a chickie.

    2. Make sure your wheels are sturdy cauz that thing will be heavier than you ever thought it would be. We used lawn mower wheels and they should have been bigger.

    3. Plan a coop space inside that is closed in. Mine is just an A frame w/o a closed in space. It does have a covered area, but I have to bring the gals out at night and put into a dog crate for safety.
     

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