Neewb Questions

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Nyxish, Nov 23, 2009.

  1. Nyxish

    Nyxish Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 23, 2009
    Hi. i've been lurking and reading, and i think this is the best place to add these questions. i'm new to the chicken thing, and have some really basic and probably stupid questions:

    i live at the edge of the woods, in a non-fenced area. i own 13 acres (tho 1 neighbor is very close) and most of that is forested, with at least 30 forested acres behind me - translation: lots of potentially chicken-muching wildlife. i've raised chickens to "teenage" phase, but then had to give them away, so i've never *kept* chickens. i'm looking at Buff Orfingtons (sp) because i live in upstate NY and it gets freaking cold here, about 6 of them, plus maybe 2 or so ginae fowl to munch on local ticks. i'm looking at some pretty serious coops (henspas etc) and thinking about seriously fenced runs for the (potential) girls.... but i'm worried i might just be damning them to unhappy birdy deaths because of where i live.

    The hope is for bug reduction, eggs, and general compost from the birds. (As well as the delight i would totally take in their very existence and care.)

    My questions: (they are probably really dumb)

    1. i've been told once they reach maturity, hens only lay for...3 years, tho they live much longer.... is that true and erm... what do you do with them after they stop laying? i'm a big sucker and not sure i could send them to be butchered... [​IMG] The very idea makes me....well, i'm a big sucker and i get attached..and let's leave it at that.

    2. Do they realize that the coop = Home/Safe? As in, if i were to say let them free range around the yard while i'm out and about around the house.... will they take off into the woods and vanish? Do they come home? How do i get them into the coop at night? Or once i establish that coop = home will they come home out of habit?
  2. oliverd2

    oliverd2 New Egg

    Nov 23, 2009
    I'm with you on the attachment thing. Our chickens are our kids - we love them and will keep them even after they stop laying.

    As far as wildlife being potential chicken munchers - you are right to be concerned. If you are serious about keeping chickens, you will have to completely enclose your coop. Pig wire on the sides, vinyl-coated chicken wire attached at the bottom and buried under a layer of landscaping such as grass (this will act as an anchor and keep animals from digging under the fence to gain access to the coop) and overhead chicken wire to prevent hawks from picking off your girls from above. Don't forget shelter from the sun and rain and a nice sturdy door and window. Oh - and a self-watering system is very handy. And a self-feeder.

    Chickens are wonderful pets with each having their own personalities. We love our girls. Good luck!
  3. feathersnuggles

    feathersnuggles Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 4, 2009
    The post above covers some security issues.

    About egg-laying & life-span issues... hens can live a lot longer than they lay, for sure, especially if they are well cared for. What do people do? Some people eat them. Some keep them as they would any beloved aging pet (and their poop is bonus garden fertilizer). Some give them away to other people who keep chickens as pets, etc.

    About free-ranging... hens love love LOVE to free-range and roam around digging up insects & eggs, dirt, seedlings, and they like to run and flap their wings and take huge dust baths. You're lucky with 13 acres! I just have a city lot. My hens always want to come back to the coop after free-ranging because I have associated it with them getting a special sunflower seed treat. I started that when they were younger. Now it doesn't happen as much, but they are still coming back. I think, if Home is the Bestest Place, ever.. if home is not dark & creepy, not stinky or damp, not crowded and cramped, but toasty and snug, and filled with great treats, and all the wonderful & familiar things that make a chicken's heart beat faster, they'll come home. Of course, if a hen goes broody, and you don't look for her, she might stay outside after dark sitting on a hidden nest and she might be attacked. So, that is a reason to count heads at night, if you can.

    If you have a dog that has been taught to protect the chickens, you could let them free-range together with the dog outside. My farmer friend runs his hens on a large acreage with forest partly surrounding, and he uses 2 alpacas to protect the hens. But a dog would work, too, as long as the dog doesn't become the predator. A rooster would also protect them and keep the flock together. If I had 13 acres, I'd use a rooster AND a dog.

    And BTW welcome! [​IMG]
  4. First off:


    Chickens will free range from dawn until about 30 minutes before dusk

    They rarely go to the point where they can no longer see the coop or barn.

    Now, Guinea fowl will roam and roam a big distance, but they always know where the barn is.

    Chickens will go back to the coop or barn many times during the day. They lay their eggs, look for other roos to

    bother, get a drink, take a nap, eat what you have for them, etc.

    If you have an area where they can take dust baths in your barn, they usually will go there for safety sake.

    I find a bunch of them under the bushes near the house taking naps and sun bathing.

    I have seen them go to roost as early as 5 o'clock during the summer and 4 o'clock during the winter.

    Guineas will stay out until they HAVE to go to roost or get eaten.

    Chickens love to run and flap their wings and fight and such.

    They keep themselves pretty darn busy during free range.
  5. Paganbird

    Paganbird CrescentWood Farm

    Apr 25, 2009
    Western Pa
    I live on 18+ acres in NW PA and I have chickens at all different life stages. Just because a chicken doesn't lay as well as she used to doesn't mean we get rid of her. We just hatch out a few new layers each year.
    If you have that much acrage, consider building a small shed for your chickens instead of buying an expensive coop. Once they realize the coop is home, they'll come back every night.
    I have a 3.5 foot high fence around my coop, but I still have 4 (of 41 total) chickens that will jump the fence to free range. I allow them all to free range my property in the summer, but not during other seasons. The roosters keep them nearby and let them know if danger is nearby - then they'll all run into the coop. I close & lock my coop at night due to previous issues with raccoons.
    They all automatically come into the coop at dusk (5:10pm tonight) and I go out & lock up. The ladies that had jumped out of the fence jump back in again. The silkies go to their little coop, the standards go to their big one. They know "home."
    I just do a head count each night as I'm locking up.
    I haven't lost a chicken to a predator since April/May and it was because I didn't close up the coop. I should also add that 15 of my acres are wooded and I am right by PA state gamelands. I have seen bobcats, fox, bear, oppossum, raccoons, hawks, and always... stray dogs.
    Also... if you get a decent flock of guineas... I hear they will attack a dog, if it gets too close.
    They'll watch your flock, too.

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