Interested in getting my first chicks - a few random questions

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by FoxRiverRat, Feb 8, 2016.

  1. FoxRiverRat

    FoxRiverRat Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 5, 2016
    Hi all!

    I've never owned chickens, but am very very seriously considering it. I've been looking around this site a lot, as well as watching youtube vids and plan on taking a workshop at a local farm before committing to getting chicks. A couple questions I've had trouble finding a firm answer to...

    1.) When you get 1-2 day old chicks from a hatchery, is it customary to expect to lose a couple? So, if I want to end up with 5 should I buy 7? Clearly, I'll take good care of them, but I was getting the impressive that no matter what you should just expect a couple not to make it.

    2.) I THINK I've concluded Road Island Reds or Buff Orpingtons fit my needs. I'm looking for good layers, cold hardy, and docile to some extent. I live in Northern Illinois. RIR's and Buffs a good start? Would you recommend just getting 1 breed or trying the 2 out?

    3.) To have "organic" chickens and eggs, I'm guessing I should NOT get the vaccine service offered by the hatchery? Or would you recommend I get the vaccination service done?

    4.) Any tips for introducing dogs would be welcomed. My dogs face a greater challenge than most, as I live on a river and have actually been praising them for chasing the ducks and geese off the lawn. I figured raising them from a day old, inside my house would help the dogs get used to them and hopefully help them understand these are different than the wild geese.....

    5.) Are there any bushes, plants, herbs that I could plant around the coop/run to help with any possible smell? something to that would just smell great and mask any possible chicken or ammonia odors? (I have read up on deep litter method, keeping coop dry and well ventiliated to control odor as well)

    Thanks for any tips and replies in advance!

  2. LJ33

    LJ33 Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 7, 2015
    HI Josh,

    I love Buff Orpingtons, very friendly and good layers. Reds can be a bit more aggressive. I also have Barred Rocks and Wyadotte. They are cold hearty and good layers. I had heard that Legghorns weren't that great in the cold, but mine did fine this winter. They are a nice addition since they lay large white eggs. . (im in northern WA State near Canada, so we get pretty cold/snowy winters)

    Dogs- I wouldn't even try to make them friends or introduce. Best idea is to make sure your dogs cant get to the chickens. No matter the training, natural instincts will win out every time.

    How many to get? Yes definitely account for loss or if one turns out to be a rooster (have had that happen). Plan on 5 eggs per week per chicken once they lay. From that you can figure out how many eggs you want and therefore how many chickens you'll need.

    I'll defer on the organic question.

    Good luck!
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2016
  3. FoxRiverRat

    FoxRiverRat Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 5, 2016
    Thanks so much for the quick reply! I'll have to look into barred rocks and wyadottes. I had a friend in Bellingham for years and used to love visiting him and skiing mt. baker or hiking in the chuckanut (spelling?) mountains.

    I just didn't want my dogs to bark at them, so thought it might help if they smelled and saw them in our house, but I hear you about the natural instinct ;)

  4. feetkissearth

    feetkissearth Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 3, 2016
    Maynooth, On
  5. Braxton Brigade

    Braxton Brigade Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 2, 2015
    Braxton, Ms
    I would say cold hearty and well laying breeds are

    Plymouth Rocks (any color variety actually)

    Australorps (hold the world record for most eggs in a year)

    Buckeyes are a great alternative to Rhode islands (they lay less though)

    Easter Eggers (purebreds are Ameruacanas and are recognized by APA)

    Salmon Faverolles (extremely cold hearty and a great layer)

    I would say your best bet it to find the closest hatchery to your home/state, the longer the chicks go without their first meal tends to affect mortality rates in my experience. You'll need to create a "chicken first aid kit" because it's always when stores are closed that you'll need something to save a chick.


    Powdered Corid (for coccidiosis)

    Oxytetracycline (for infections or in case of a open sore/wound)

    Blu-kote (Treats fungal infections, surface wounds, cuts, sores and other Germicidal and fungicidal wound)

    Nutri Drench (add to the water when your chicks arrive)

    Training the dogs will be as basic as having good control over them by means or commands like "leave it", "gentle" "stay" "down" and starting to desensitize them to the sight, smell and sounds of the chicks, over time they will find the chicks boring.

    I do not recommend the deep litter method, instead I use pelletized horse bedding and spot clean the poop every day or couple days, this leaves little to no odor unless I can't clean for a couple days. The chickens will get runny/smelly poop if they have worms, accounting for the normal cecal poops.

    Having them vaccinated is wise if you have many native birds or captive birds in your area, generally a few chicks may die after a hard trip or if they had to stay in the box longer than intended, if you like a specific breed get a few extras just in case.
  6. MissJane

    MissJane Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 13, 2015
    NW PA
    I'm new too.... My first chicks won't arrive until June. Not knowing your dogs or you, I can't say this will definitely work for them. You'll now how much they can be trusted with it by how they handle sticking to the rules. But I would start working with them on a "leave it" comand if they don't already know it. "Leave it" is something I teach right along with all the basics. I use it with food ( which I always end with me giving the OK to eat) and with things/animals that I just don't want them bothering, smelling, trying to eat or roll in. My dogs seem to get it real well. Even though one is a strong hunter. I admit that they don't have to live with chickens yet, but we've visited people with ducks and rabbits and "leave it" works for keeping the dogs from going after their animals. Once you think they get it you could teach them to "leave it" with the geese/ducks and give the "OK" when you want them chase them off. Always trust yourself though. If you don't think the dogs are safe with the chickens, keep them away.
  7. keesmom

    keesmom Overrun With Chickens

    Jul 28, 2008
    Do you have a preference on egg color, egg size or color of the bird? Any of the varieties of Rocks, Wyandottes, Orpingtons and Brahmas are cold hardy. So are Easter Eggers, black sex links and Faverolles. Though Favs can to be overly docile and bullied by others. RIRs and red sex links can be on the more aggressive side.

    Ordering extra chicks is a good idea. In case some do not make it, or some are cockerels, or some have a temperament you don't like.

    As for vaccines, I assume you mean for Marek's? It's the most common vaccine given as the disease is worldwide. It can cause paralysis and high mortality. Check out the Great Big Giant Marek's Disease FAQ on this site to decide if it's for you. Some always have chicks vaccinated, others do not (myself included).

    I would make sure your dogs can't get to the chickens. Many dogs are not to be trusted with them no matter how much training you do.
  8. realsis

    realsis Crazy for Silkies

    Jan 17, 2013
    Hi. barred Rocks are great layers and cold hardy and are said to be long lived..I just ordered 7 females my self from Meyer hatchery. Their hatch and ship date is April 11th. I do HIGHLY recommend getting the Mareks vaccine because Mareks is basically everywhere and the vaccine helps protect your far as introducing dogs I'm just going to do it slowly and let my dog know the birds are part of "our pack" watch the dog closely and keep the birds safe and away from my dog until I feel I can trust her. I think you will love raising chickens! These little guys can get in your heart pretty quickly! do take a look at the barred Rock. They are smart friendly and lay large brown eggs!
  9. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

    Nov 7, 2012
    Josh, welcome to BYC. You are wise to do your homework before getting chicks. Here's some suggested reading:
    Henderson's Chicken Breeds Chart.

    1. The likelihood of loosing chicks when buying from a hatchery is directly inverse to whether you bought "extras". Also, If you intend to have 5 birds, and buy 5 chicks, you're likely to end up with one or more roos.

    2. Do you intend to hatch your own chicks in the future? If so, you might be happy with the BO. If you don't intend to hatch, you might want to choose a bird less likely to go broody. I've never met a RIR that I liked. They tend to be on the aggressive side to their flock mates. I highly recommend having a mixed flock. If you get all of the same breed, you might have a bit of a time telling them apart. IMO, it's fun to have a flock of widely varied color patterns.

    3. Vaccination is a personal preference. Some hatcheries suggest that it's not necessary for the back yard flock. Talk to 3 different people and you'll get at least 4 different opinions on the subject. Same goes for medicated feed, and using antibiotics to treat illness, and worming your birds. I am in the camp that prefers to boost the bird's natural immunity instead of vaccinating, using medicated feed, antibiotics or worming my flock. A lot of the preference in this area hinges on how you view your flock. Are they pets, or are they livestock. If a bird gets sick, will you cull her, or will you take her to the vet?

    4. I can't offer much advice re: your dogs and your chicks. I'm currently starting a Jack Russell Terrier/mix pup, hoping that she will become a flock guardian. At the very least, her presence and scent should help to keep hawks and land predators away.

    5. A properly managed coop and run should not be smelly. There should be no ammonia smell. If you intend to have deep litter in your coop, and that is by far the easiest to manage, you would do well to design the coop with a buried skirt around it, and no floor. This sets up the perfect environment for a composting deep litter that will be essentially odor free and very easy to manage. This set up does require good drainage. Plan at least 4 s.f. in the coop, and 10 s.f. in the run per bird, allowing extra room for the addition of extra birds. Eventually, you'll need to add some replacements, and remove the old birds, unless you intend to operate a gallus geriatric community. Chicken wire will keep chickens in, but will not keep predators out. To keep your flock safe, use 1/2" welded wire. Get your coop ready before getting your birds! It will save a lot of hassles.
  10. prairie

    prairie Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 23, 2011
    Hi, I've had chickens for most of my life -- just love the little buggers! We live on a farm and have 2 dogs -- labs -- 2 cats and chickens and guineas.

    The first thing we do when we have a new dog (got a new golden lab last summer cause our 17 year old black lab died) is to teach them to leave the cats, chickens and guineas alone. My husband takes the chickens into the yard with the dog on a leash and works with him several times a day for a week or two. Never had a problem.

    Our chickens love the dogs and they even eat scraps together. We used to have dogs that they dogs would let lay on top of them when they were napping. Quite a sight -- dogs, cats and ducks napping together.

    good luck

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