Looking for Beginner Advice


8 Years
Mar 8, 2011
West Alexander, PA
Ok so I've done my reading, books, magazines, online, and I'm thinking that chickens are a pretty good idea.

Hubby and I bought our house last June and we have a little over half an acre in a small town where chickens are legal. We've done some research into coops and breeds and we want to build an A frame chicken tractor and we're planning for a mixed flock of about 6-8 hens. So far we like the looks and sounds of Buckeyes and Easter Eggers or Ameraucanas. So far, we've been resisting the temptation to pick up a few chicks at the local Tractor Supply store where we get bird seed for our feeders, but I fear the resistance is running out.

So, I have a few questions and am looking for any free advice that anyone would be willing to lend.

1.) My mom swears that chickens stink badly - I've not read anything definitive on this subject, what do you all think? Please be honest.

2.) Is it difficult to go on a vacation and leave your chickens behind in the hands of, say, a mother in law?

3.) What is the average noise level like? While we have a big yard and pretty cool neighbors, I don't want to make anyone insane in my effort to have fresh eggs.

4.) With a flock of say, 6, how many eggs should we expect in a week?

5.) I've read some negative things about chicken poo and gardens/vegetables and some good things. One thing I read seemed to imply that fresh chicken poo is rather harmful to plants/veggies. Is that true? I was hoping to use chicken manure to augment compost for my veggie garden.

6.) Does anyone else use an A frame chicken tractor? What have your experiences been with it? Is an A frame a good design or should we look to something more shed-like?

Thanks so much in advance for any advice that you offer, I'm feeling like I need some encouragement at this point.
1. As long as you keep the coop clean, chickens don't stink any more than any other animal does. You can either use the deep litter method or clean it weekly.

2. We go away and have my BFF take care of collecting eggs, feeding and watering. Most of the time we are only gone for a day or two so the only thing she has to do is collect eggs. Make sure whomever will be taking care of them knows exactly what they are supposed to do and you go over and over it with them and make them walk thru it with you.

3. If you are just getting hens for eggs, the noise level will most likely be loudest right before and right after they lay. My roosters crow off and on all day long, but my neighbor doesn't mind.

4. With a flock of 6 you can expect up to 6 eggs a day when they are all laying, but usually between 3-5 because of the egg cycle. Production can stop totally or just slow waaaaay down in the winter, so keep that in mind.

5. You ca use chicken poo for your garden, but it needs to compost first. You can't take it right out of the coop and put it onto the garden because it is too strong and will kill your plants. Chicken poo will make your garden grow wonderully if properly composted first.

6. I have 2 "A" frame and love them. They have tons of room underneath to scratch around in the grass and a nice big coop area to sleep and lay eggs. Ours are 4x8 full sheets of ply wood for the coop and the run ends up being about 8x8. We move them every 3 days usually so they don't run out of grass and bugs. Also, you will notice a considerable difference in the lushness of your grass from where the tractor has been.

Good luck with your chickens and don't let your mom discourage you. Show her she is wrong!
I have 7 layers, and a roo. I get way too many eggs most of the time. 5 eggs x 7 days = 35 or just slightly under 3 dozen eggs a week. Last summer I had 5 hens, but two were brooding, and really 3 hens kept me in eggs fairly decently through the summer, but the winter they do drop off.

To be honest, I would not worry a great deal about buying chicks at the feed store, unless you are showing birds, or in a serious breeding program they will work just fine to get you started. Now as time goes on, you will probably want a certain kind, and you will have some chickens so it is easier to be picky. But to just start out on, you are going to be happy with the feed store chicks. Get a couple different kinds and see what you like.

As for smell, it depends on your bedding, in mid summer, it can smell, but it should not smell terrible strong. Composting it is a wonderful idea, and it will make good compost, heats it right up. Let is set about 5-6 months before adding it to the garden.

Thanks so much! I knew going to people who have chickens would not only be encouraging, but would also provide me with straight answers that are easy to understand.

Christine, with the A frames, do you notice that only the coop area gets a smell or will the lawn get a smell from moving the chickens around? It seems to me that moving it around would prevent the buildup in one particular area that would cause a big stench. My mom's notion of the smelliness comes from someone who had chickens in a stationary coop that I'd wager wasn't cleaned out frequently enough. Also, how many chickens do you have per tractor? That sounds just about the size we were planning for.

Also... on a more general note: should we have the coop constructed before we get the chicks to be prepared or is it safe enough to just dive right in? Hubby has gotten so excited about the idea of chickens (and mostly about chicks) that he is calling the other local feed stores to see if they will be getting in any of the breeds he is interested in! LOL when he gets a notion in his head!

Thank you so much, I do look forward to this new adventure into backyard farming.

What a nice place to swap info and get support from others. Glad I found this site!
You will only have a smell if you don't clean the coop. They will spend most of the day down on the grass, so the poop will be there, however they will poop quite a bit overnight while they are roosting. We clean out our coops completely once a month. If you throw some scratch in there and keep it stirred up, the smell will be cut way down.

Any other questions, just ask!
We are new chicken owners and built an A frame. You can check it out on my BYC page. There are step by step pictures.

My neighbor thats backyard butts up to mine has a small flock of hens as well. I've never noticed a smell
One problem with a chicken tractor for that many chickens is size vs. weight. It's good to buld no less than 4 square feet of indoor space (coop) per chicken plus 10 square feet of outdoor space (run). If you want to be able to drag the tractor around, you have to be very careful about the materials you use for something this size.

And, of course, it's harder to make a tractor secure from predators (particularly the really scary ones that come out at night, like raccoons) than it is to secure a stationary coop. I have a stationary coop and run and use a day tractor. Because the day tractor doesn't have to include any roosting quarters or shelter from wind or rain (I only put the flock in there for nice weather) I was able to build it nice and light and easy to move.

The more room you can reasonably provide your chickens in whatever style of housing, the happier they'll be and the happier you'll be ..because it will be easier for you to keep clean and odor free. Chicken poop that accumulates and then gets wet smells bad; avoid that, and you'll be in good shape, odor wise.
Thanks again for all the advice, support, and encouragement.

One more question: Those with the A-frames - do you have to make any special changes to your tractor for the winters? I'm in PA so our winters aren't terrible bad but can be chilly and we have had years with a lot of snow. Do you continue to move them around in the winter or do they have a stationary position for the cold months?

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