Hi from Maryland, new to chickens and a boatload of questions

fiddlebanshee

Songster
10 Years
Mar 11, 2010
948
47
191
Frederick, MD
Hi all, I just found this website. We’re moving into a new (being built now) house probably in May or June. It is in Maryland on the top of a mountain ridge (1700 ft elevation), on 14 acres. It’s also very wooded. My husband came down with lyme disease last year, and obviously we’re a little apprehensive about ticks on a wooded lot, so we thought we’d do some tick control with chickens (we’ve decided not to have guinea fowl because of the noise, lyme disease also propagates an intolerance to loud sounds). I should probably add that we are totally new to keeping poultry.

I think the main goals we have with the flock to be would be that they are

*well foraging, so that they have a go at the ticks
*egg producing - we’re not necessarily into it for the meat.

At this point I'm considering Delawares since they are good foragers, and easy to handle. I'll be close to whitmore farm in Emmitsburg, so that's probably where I'd go to get them. Are there any other breeds that we should consider? How many should we get for pest control purposes? I'd assume that there is an economy of scale in terms of the amount of work - taking care of 4 chickens is approx the same amount as caring for 14?

Also, if someone can recommend a good book or website in addition to the Storey’s guide that I just got and this website that I'm still not finished perusing, that’d be awesome.

Your collective wisdom and willingness to share is greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Jo
 
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4-H chicken mom

Crowing
13 Years
Aug 3, 2007
17,491
170
431
Oberlin, OH
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and
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from Ohio. So glad you joined. Being that you are in Maryland, I would look into some cold hardy breeds.
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Backyard Hencam

Crowing
Premium Feather Member
12 Years
Apr 27, 2009
1,330
465
306
California Central Coast
Welcome to a site where you will get all the information and experience you can handle. I wish I could let my hens free range but we have foxes in the daytime and raccoons at night. We have to keep our hens secured. Good luck and welcome from a Californian.
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Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,294
20,152
907
Southeast Louisiana
Chickens have a certain egglaying efficiency cycle. They are most efficient the first couple of years, then egg production drops off on average about 15% per year after that. They will normally go through a molt every fall when they drop their old feathers and grow new ones. The molt also gives them a rest from egg laying and gives them a chance to recharge their system. If the primary purpose is pest control and eggs are just a bonus, this decrease in egg production may not matter. However, you might want to consider how often you want to replace your flock. And how. Buy more chicks or have a rooster and raise your own. It's probably not something you have to decide right now but I find it helps to have a plan. It may effect how you set up for chickens.

In a wooded area like that, you are are great risk for predators, especially since you are going to free range them to letthem go after the ticks. There is always a risk during the day but the risk at night, including the murky dawn and dusk hours, ar more high risk. You can reduce your risk by having a safe secure place to lock the chickens up at night. I highly recommend you plan for a safe coop. I also think you will at some point have to deal with daytime predators so expect some loss.

It sounds like you are not really looking at making your chickens pets. I'm not treating mine as pets, btw, but I am in a distinct minority on this site. Most people here are still nice to me or at least tolerant. The reason I am questioning how friendly you want them is I think your criteria points away from he standard dual purpose chickens. I like my Delawares and I think any of the other dual purpose breeds would be OK for you, (Wyandottes, Rocks, Dominiques, Sussex, Orpingtons, Australorps, Chanteclers, Buckeyes, the sex links, and others I am forgetting. I think what you should look at are probably the Olde English Game Hens or as a second choice, Leghorns. They are great foragers, are flighty and not always real friendly, they are smaller than the dual purpose but you are not worried about meat, but mainly they can fly better than the larger breeds. This gives them a better chance of getting away from predators. I usually don't recommend the Olde English Game, but I think they meet your criteria real well. Olde English Games do go broody a fair amount so they will petty much raise replacement for you if you keep a rooster, but you could actually wind up with a lot of chickens. Even if you don't want the meat, you can usually give them away to someone who does.

There is a certain economy of scale. During the spring through fall there is little difference in taking careof 4 or 14 when they totally free range. I'm not sure how much snow you get. Chickens do not forage well in the snow and even without snow you need to supplement their feed in the winter. Where the economy of scale breaks down is how much food you have to buy for them. Also, if the snow keeps them in the coop in the winter, you have more poop to deal with. You also need a larger coop if they are confined much in the winter.

Hope this helps. And welcome to the forum.
 

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