looking into getting Silkies - where to start

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by AmandaJaneW, Nov 2, 2015.

  1. AmandaJaneW

    AmandaJaneW New Egg

    Nov 2, 2015
    Hi there,
    My name is Amanda. I have an animal-mad little girl called Saoirse, 2 boys (less keen on animals), a geriatric, gentle basset hound, and Himself, who is not keen on animals but we'll ignore that...
    We live in a small city house with a small walled back garden - mainly paved and a deck of old railway sleepers and gravel paths with a few 4' square raised flower beds that step down towards the kitchen...
    I love the idea of chickens, but our garden is small.
    The hound cannot be bothered to chase anything, but his presence keeps the neighborhood cats out of the garden. He likes company. There are urban foxes around these parts but I have never seen one in our garden or our road.
    We have been looking at silkies, because S would love to cuddle a small animal (though the hound would always get more hugs) and I'm hoping they would be happy in a small space. We babysat a friends guinea pigs for a couple of weeks. S loved having them, but I am not keen on rodents in general, and I am not sure that the guinea pigs were that happy tbh (kept in a cage and grabbed daily for a cuddle...) Eggs would be nice, but not the main reason for having the chickens.
    So I was thinking of this coop


    I have a builder who can adapt it to suit the space (add a step down to the run to allow the run space over 2 levels, raise perches etc.)

    For 2-3 silkies, which I would put in the raised flower beds - so the ramp would come out of the coop, they would have the upper flower bed to mooch around in, and could hop down to the lower one too. That area of the garden is sheltered by old stone walls, bamboo and a willow tree and it is slug city. Things grow in the flower beds but they are usually eaten by slugs and snails. I am planning to give the willow tree a bit of a hair cut, and sow meadow flowers now. Sometime after Xmas, I would put up the coop, and then buy some chicks around easter time.

    There isn't space in the garden for the coop to be moved around - if I moved it anywhere, it would have to be onto a stone patio.

    I work from home, and the kids are home in the afternoons, so the chickens could free range a lot, but I wouldnt be able to leave them unsupervised as I would be worried about next doors cat. They would be locked in at night.

    We live in Ireland, so the climate is damp - it rains every day pretty much, but usually not heavy rain.

    This is the plan so far... please free free to pick holes in it. I do not want to keep any pet in misery.

    I would like to know about smell - would there be about as much smell from a couple of silkies as a couple of guinea pigs?

    I plan to change the sawdust in the bottom of the coop daily, and clean out the coop at the weekends.

    What about flies?

    How do you keep the run area clean (so it doesn't attract flies)?

    Many thanks in advance for your help,


    ps. Himself can be talked around, so long as the chickens are not too inconvenient.
  2. QueenMisha

    QueenMisha Queen of the Coop

    Firstly, regarding your coop; most coop companies lie about how many birds you can fit in a coop that size. I honestly wouldn't even think about putting more than two Silkies in a coop that size, much less two standard birds. Whatever coop space rules they are using are alloting 1 sq. ft. per bird, which is far too crowded. The common backyard rule is 4 sq. ft. per bird standard or 2 sq. ft. for bantams. 1 sq. ft. per bird is commerical stocking density, such as is used in broiler houses. And believe me - in a larger coop you can break rules to some extent, e.g. fitting 10 birds in an 8 bird house, but when the dimensions are this small, you need to adhere pretty strictly to space requirements.

    The second issues is run space. Many people read "all in one chicken habitat!" and think that this is where their birds will live 24/7. This is more false advertising. All box coops such as this are designed to go inside another fenced area, where they will spend the day; the enclosed coop is for them to sleep in, and the lower run area is for the few hours in the very early morning when they are awake and you don't want to be. That said, if you have only two birds, being that Silkies do not move around a lot nor require a lot of space, I would say the run would be adequate for just the two of them. They would be happier in a larger space, though, especially given that when all is said and done, the run will be crowded by a feeder, waterer, etc.

    The third issue is the ramp. Silkies have a terrible field of vision. I do not have ramp coops, so I cannot speak to whether or not they will eventually adapt to using one, but I personally have never seen my Silkiw jump on or climb anything. You may be able to train them to eventually, but a ground coop is significantly easier.

    Damp is definitely not good. While Silkies can handle cold a lot better than most people think - although not nearly as well as breeds with regular feathers - they do pretty bad in rainy weather. Their feathers do not keep water out at all.

    Having had both guinea pigs and chickens, I will say that chickens smell significantly better. If their coop is kept clean, they shouldn't smell at all.

    I would use pine shavings as bedding rather than sawdust. It's far less dusty, harder for them to eat, and pine is a natural deodorizer to chicken poop. Do not use any kind of cedar, as the oils are toxic; it's very hard on their lungs (which are their weakest organ to begin with) and it can be deadly to small chicks.

    Flies don't get too bad. There will be some but a small fly trap hung near the door is likely to kill most of them.

    If they had an outer run to roam in as well, I would say the run doesn't require any maintenance, but since they will be confined to only an inner run, raking it every week or two should suffice.
  3. AmandaJaneW

    AmandaJaneW New Egg

    Nov 2, 2015
    Thank you. That's a lot to think about.

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