Howdy from Austin (new member intro)

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Revill, Apr 11, 2011.

  1. Revill

    Revill New Egg

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    Apr 11, 2011
    Howdy everybody:

    I'm in Austin, and I've kept chickens in my backyard now since the middle '80s. It's kinda funny to see all the excitement about backyard chickens these days. We got our first flock back when the kids were little, as a learning experience. It was, for everybody. Now the kids are grown and my daughter has her own backyard urban flock and the neighbors are starting to get flocks of their own.

    I've developed some rather firm ideas about keeping urban chickens over the years in Texas. I've tried all sorts of coops, feeders, roosts and such. And I've got a system that is low maintenance, attractive and clean. Want to hear about it? (like you can say no.. well, you can go to the next post, I guess..)

    First and foremost, the best thing about keeping half a dozen or so chickens is not the chickens. It's what they do to leaves and grass clippings. At heart, chickens are feathered rototillers. There's nothing in the world they like better than a nice thick compost heap to dig in. And if you let them, they'll keep the place nice and clean and fly free. I've come to HATE COOPS! They're nasty, smelly flybreeders and wonderful homes for lice. Yuk.

    My birds live in a fenced corner of the backyard I keep filled with 1-2 feet of mixed leaves and grass clippings. I go around the neighborhood and steal bagged leaves from the street before the City yard waste truck can get them. Five chickens will convert a pickup truck full of bags of leaves into nice fluffy mulch in couple of months. That's about five or six times as fast a a well watered, well turned compost pile. And the birds have so much fun doing it. Just watching them attack a fresh bagful is better than television. Don't give them too much room. You want the leaves to pile up a bit so the birds have something to dig in. If you let it get down to bare dirt you'll have dirty birds.

    Like all compost piles, the finished product reduces by about 90%. I shovel the top layer to the side and shovel out wheelbarrow loads of the good stuff onto my garden. Back a while ago I got tired of having to deal with a flock that had gotten so old that the girls couldn't get into the roost anymore. My wife objected to the obvious answer, so we just waited them out. Do you know how long a chicken can live? Those went over TEN YEARS. They were healthy birds. By the end, I had to build a ramp so they could get on the roost at night. (I had a coop then, and flies) Geriatric chickens. After that, I didn't restock and we were without chickens for a couple of years.

    My garden stopped producing. Without fresh compost I was mining my soil and you can't do that very long. So a couple of years ago the wife and I had a talk about the life cycle of chickens, and now the garden is producing quite well, thank you. Three year old flocks mysteriously turn into soup while the wife is out of town.

    These days for a roost, I drove four six foot fenceposts into the ground and tied sticks between. Alternate between the pairs of posts so it makes a zigzag ladder. On top I put a roof of recycled corrugated greenhouse roofing that extends down the back (against the fence) to make a bit of shelter from wind. And that's it. In very cold weather I sometimes wrap plastic or cardboard around the whole thing for more protection, but that comes off as soon as it warms up. Keep it simple and well ventilated with no nooks or crannies for lice and maggots, and you'll keep it clean and nice.

    I've tried all sorts of nesting boxes. The birds seem to prefer a big black plastic flowerpot on the ground best of all. They'll decide whether or not it is half full of leaves, and if you decide to either fill or empty it they will immediately put it back the way they want it. So let them drive. Black plastic is apparently 'nestier' than wood or clay. And a pot on the ground is nestier than a nest box at a more convenient level for collecting eggs. Given the choice, they'll take the black plastic pot on the ground every time. When we had a coop with nesting boxes I had to check all the corners of the pen every day to get all the eggs. And sometimes those we found in odd places weren't the very freshest, if you know what I mean. Now that I have a couple of big plastic pots turned on their sides they all lay in the pots and nowhere else. This has been consistent for three flocks now, so I think I'm onto something.

    I know some people have predator issues and lock their birds up at night. I used to, until one day I forgot to open the door one hot summer morning and came home from work to find six dead chickens piled up by the door. Since, I've had maybe three or so unexplained vanishings over decades. My daughter has a conventional coop and she's lost two entire flocks to racoons who regard chicken wire as lunch wrapping. I have no idea why coons don't bother my chickens. We certainly have coons. I trap four or five every spring and return them to the greenbelt. They just don't bother the chickens up on their roost. Maybe because they're up four feet off the ground? Maybe because I fenced with heavier wire? Whatever the reason, it works.

    One final tidbit: Let kids play with your chickies. The more the better. When they grow up they'll be a LOT easier to handle. If you don't have kids, borrow some or handle the chicks yourself. Kids do a better job though. Kid raised chickens are friendly and sweet, and will follow you around the pen.

    So how's that for an intro note? Anyone want to comment?

    Revill
     
  2. CCourson05

    CCourson05 Popping like kettle corn...

    Jan 5, 2011
    Hickory Flat, MS
    [​IMG] from Mississippi...

    sounds like you have a nice system for keeping yourself and the chickens happy.. [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2011
  3. YYZ

    YYZ Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 16, 2010
    Maine
    Hello Revill !

    I agree All chickens like to dig! So funny watching them.

    Sounds like you know what your doing and we can all learn by your post. Thanks .
    Nice to meet ya !

    [​IMG]
    FROM MAINE
     
  4. dkvart1

    dkvart1 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 5, 2010
    Since I haven't got any chickens yet, I'm always interested in how folks do things... sounds great if you are in a warmer part of the country, but sadly I'm headed for Wisconsin and can't see that setup working very well, although the flower pots would work nicely I think.

    Thanks for sharing your technique and [​IMG]
     
  5. ThinkingChickens

    ThinkingChickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 18, 2011
    Wow, that's quite an introduction! I'm marking this so I can reread it again in the morning over coffee. I really like the leaf idea!
     

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