New and have questions.

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Cliff4504, Jan 22, 2014.

  1. Cliff4504

    Cliff4504 Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 21, 2014
    I may have repeat questions, but trying to sift the forum for answers is difficult. Normally when searching, the answer I find is "it depends on x,y, and z." So I'll try to be as specific as possible.

    Three months ago I bought an old farm house on 3.3 acres in southwest Michigan. My plan is to maximize the potential of my property to help provide for my family. I want to be as diverse as possible. I have a small orchard planned as well as a vegetable garden. Raising chickens seems to be an excellent option for a protein source.

    My property is entirely flat. Currently my home, adjacent outbuildings, and yard occupy approximately 1 acre. The vegetable garden will be up close to the house. There is a tree line that follows the property line composed of primarily black cherry trees and unidentified bushes. I can estimate the tree line consumes the .3 acres. Leaving me with right around 2 acres to plant orchard and raise chickens on. The 2 acres is lush and green. It's a mix of grass, clover, and whatever grew wild there and it has been mowed.

    I have decided to get a general purpose species to start off with raised in a paddock system. I will be using a portable hen house and portable fence system. I would like to raise 24 chickens. Now here are the questions.

    1. Excluding extreme weather conditions will 24 chickens survive with no supplemental feeding in the space that I have available?

    2. Assuming that I move everything once a week, what would you recommend the square footage be for the portable fenced area?

    3. What would you recommend the LxWxH dimensions be for the hen house?

    Thanks for any reply
    I'm sure I'll have follow up questions.

  2. Smithyard Farm

    Smithyard Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 15, 2012
    Pembroke NH
    sounds like a great piece of property! congratulations!

    My initial thought is no... you would need to supplement. 24 chickens can demolish a 50x50 area pretty quickly, I think also, the food / water area is part where the chickens call home. [​IMG] as far as dimensions go.. for the coop.. you will want at least 2-4 sq feet per chicken. . some will go less, some will go more. bigger is better, and as far as the dimensions of your portable fencing.. go as big as you can.

    perhaps someone else will weigh in on the feeding part. I have no experience in having my birds fend for themselves. good luck!

    and welcome to BYC! [​IMG]
  3. Alaskan

    Alaskan The Frosted Flake

    If you want animals to fend for themselves....

    I would pick geese. Get a mated pair or trio and even though you will have to feed them through the winter, when the grass is growing they will eat that before they will even look at pellets.

    Pick a breed that is good at raising their own young, and eat the babies in the fall when the grass starts to slow down.

    I had 6 geese on my place this year.... They only like mown areas, since they prefer the new shoots. I couldn't talk mine into eating the tall stuff.

    Also, I had some difficulty in getting them to mow evenly, but that would be solved if you forced them from one place to another with an electric fence.

    Geese really do NOT mind the cold, and are happy to walk about on the snow, so it would be easier for you to keep them happy.

    Now for eggs, and eating just the extra roosters, get 25 of whatever egg laying breed you think is prettiest, eat most of them, keep about 6 hens and 1 rooster. For those, give up the idea of rotating them (do that with the geese instead). Have them in a covered run (so no snow gets in and so they have lots of sheltered area all winter), and treat them like pigs, ie garbage disposals. Chickens will truly eat almost EVERYTHING! Slugs, bugs, weeds, burnt food, and they will clean off bones. Set it up so that the chickens have access to your vegetable garden every spring before you plant. Most wonderful thing I have ever done! They eat the ground to bare dirt, eat every weed, dig through the dirt to get every grub, and then fluff up the spoil for me too! All I have to do is kick them out then take the back of the rake and smooth it all down and plant!

    Of course, if you are feeding them mostly 'other stuff' you should always make sure they have some calcium on the side (baked crushed egg shells or crushed oyster shells), and read up a bit on chicken nutrition so that they get a balanced diet,

    Only other pointers..... I do think that muscovy ducks would give you more meat a year than the geese...... But you couldn't keep them on almost 100% grass all summer. Also, my muscovy are way too cute.....I have a harder time butchering them than I do the chickens. But, one muscovy can give you a clutch of 11 ducklings at least twice if not four times per year. The ducklings you can start to eat at only 12 weeks, with a good amount of flesh on them. Downside is that my muscovy do NOT eat as much scraps as my chickens do, they also do not graze as much as the geese, so they are more expensive to feed. I have only had my muscovy for about half a year now....... So, they might be a better cost investment with some more research.
  4. Alaskan

    Alaskan The Frosted Flake

    I didn't clearly answer your questions...

    1. Nope, not enough space

    2 and 3, no longer relavent since 1. Is no, see super long post above.

    I am trying to figure in my head how big my yard is.... It was a little too small for 6 geese..... I think it is a total of about 120 x 120
  5. Cliff4504

    Cliff4504 Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 21, 2014
    Thanks for the replies,

    Now I'm going to ask how many COULD I keep here without supplemental feeding? Half that 12? 6? What do you think? Then of course the same questions regarding pen and coop dimensions.


  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop depends...sorry, but it does. It depends on what grows on your property and how it's nutritional value matches up to what your birds need.
    Only way to know for sure is try it and see if they survive, and if they thrive enough to lay eggs and put on a good carcass for meat.
    Provide them with a poultry feed that has balanced nutrition, you will see that if they can forage for what they need, they will leave the feed alone or eat much less of it.

    It certainly won't work in winter around here, you'll have to feed them, there's not much growing or bugs living from November thru and into April.
    I'd make your coop as big as possible, 5-10 sq ft per bird because there can be weeks at a time that they won't even leave the coop due to snow cover.
    ...and it's pretty hard to move a chicken tractor thru 2 feet of snow.

    And if you have a predation problem, they will need to be confined to coop and/or secure run to keep them from being eaten by hawks, fox, coyotes, stray dogs etc.

    I'd also plan on building chicken wire cages around all your fruit trees or they will destroy the roots until they are very well established.

    ETA: this is a really good write up on space requirements....and a good one on ventilation, important in our hot/cold climate
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014
  7. chickwhispers

    chickwhispers A French Hen

    Apr 16, 2012
    Northwest OH
    My Coop
    [​IMG]@aart and @Alaskan are very knowledgeable. I'm in NW Ohio and have 2 1/2 acres with about 2 acres for the hens to feed on. Last year I had 5 hens and 9 pullets. Even when it was just the 5 hens they still required feed. They don't eat as much feed in the summer, but they do eat it. In the winter, 14 of them were eating about a 50lb. bag every 4 weeks or so, BEFORE snow covered the ground. Now I'm back down to 5 and they are going through a 50lb. bag in about 5 or 6 weeks. Winter feeding is different too, since I give them scratch daily, not a lot, but it still figures in. I don't feed "scraps" but I do give vegetables, fruits, oatmeal, and once a week they get 1 egg (scrambled and cooked), for each hen. So it really does depend on a lot of variables, but I don't believe you could raise them and let them "fend and forage" totally for themselves. I sell my extra eggs when I have them to help defray the cost of their feed.
  8. SavageDestiny

    SavageDestiny Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 11, 2014
    Bend, OR
    No matter what animal you get or how many, you're going to have to feed them. Feeding is part of owning animals.
  9. chickwhispers

    chickwhispers A French Hen

    Apr 16, 2012
    Northwest OH
    My Coop
    Well said.
  10. Hokum Coco

    Hokum Coco Overrun With Chickens

    Dec 6, 2012
    New Brunswick,Canada
    They will eat considerably less however.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014

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