New guy. Need help.

Discussion in 'New Member Introductions' started by ChikinLittle, Sep 11, 2011.

  1. ChikinLittle

    ChikinLittle New Egg

    Sep 11, 2011
    Hi there!

    New to the forum and new to raising chickens. Would really appreciate some opinions and help getting started.

    We live in northeastern Colorado close to the Nebraska border. We rent an old homestead that was once part of a larger farm, and are interested in keeping chickens. The property we actually rent is about 2 acres (unfenced). About 1/4 acre is lawn, another acre of ragweed that we keep mowed down during the summer, about 1/2 acre of elm grove with tall grass underneath, and about 1/4 acre that is an old corral next to an unused horse barn. The chickens will also have the run of a small 1/2 acre hay field, and a huge (160 acre) unfenced corn field that but up against our yard.

    There are several old coops on the property in various states of disrepair that can be renovated, or I have room to build a new one. We're planning on brooding our peeps in the garage next spring and at some point turning them loose on the property with a minimum of husbandry other than providing water, feed when necessary, and keeping the coop clean. We have a 300 sq foot fenced garden that we can cover and use to acclimate the birds to being outside during the day for a few weeks in the spring before we plant. We're not interested in raising show birds. Mainly interested in eggs, meat, and the entertainment of having them on the property.


    I guess mainly we're looking for hardy low-maintenance birds that can fend for themselves for the most part during the day when we're at work.

    We live in farm country on semi wild property several miles from the nearest town, and there will be exposure to predators. With the exception of rattlers, I have actually seen all of the following on the property - Skunks, Coons, Dogs, Cats, Hawks, Owls, Turkey Vultures, Coyotes, Garter Snakes, Bull Snakes, Rattlesnakes (haven't actually seen one yet, but we're on their natural range and I'm at least 75% sure there are at least a couple on the property).

    The birds will have exposure to wild bird flocks that live in our elm trees. Doves mostly, but some sparrows, larks, blackbirds, ravens, jays, geese, ducks, et cetera. Are there any vaccinations that we should consider a must for our chicks?

    The weather here is predominantly windy, with large seasonal swings. Temps can range anywhere from -20 in the winter to 110 in the summer. I suppose we can insulate the coop(s) and provide some heat for them in winter, but we can't really justify the expense of AC for the coop in the summer. There is plenty of shade on the property thanks to the elm trees, but also plenty of cover for predators to use back in there.

    The coops are towards the back of the property, but we do have a paved county road that runs in front of the house that gets moderate traffic in the mornings and evenings.

    We do not use pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers on the property as most of our food in summer comes out of our garden. The farmer we rent from is another story. He did not spray this year, but did have a cropduster buzz his corn last year when it looked like he might lose his entire crop to a hopper infestation, and we got a small amount of overspray.

    Other considerations:

    Bugs, bugs, bugs!!! There are truly staggering numbers of insects from late spring through early fall. Grasshoppers alone get as numerous as a dozen per square foot. We live about 1/2 mile from a river, and less than 3 miles from a large irrigation reservoir. Tons of flies, beetles, worms, whatever. We also have a large uncovered compost heap where we throw grass clippings, table scraps, and garden waste. During the winter, we have 160 acres of corn stubble behind the house they can rummage through. We really want birds that will help themselves to the forage available in the yard to cut down on feed costs and help us out with pest control in the process.

    We have lots of mice on the property. I understand some chicken breeds may mouse, and that would be a welcome help.

    We have two dogs. One (very smart) professionally-trained German Shepherd who for the most part does a pretty good job keeping the other neighborhood dogs and coyotes out of our yard. She also chases cats. We tried bringing home a cat to help out with the mice, but she chased it up a tree immediately and we haven't seen a kitty around here since. We also have a very laid back Chinese Pug. I'm sure the pug is no danger to grown chickens, but we're a little worried about him getting bullied and hen pecked. We don't have any children living with us, but family members do come visit us here on the farm all the time. We need something plucky enough to survive around here, but don't want something that will get vicious with preschoolers or the pug dog. The German Shepherd can be left outside to help guard the chickens during the day while we're gone, but she does come inside at night. Any help with training to get the chickens to imprint on the Shepherd and vice-versa would be much appreciated.

    We've done a little basic reading on breeds, and are looking into Buckeyes, Wyandottes, Jersey Giants, Plymouth Rocks, EE's, Ameracaunas, Sussex, Brahma, and Welsummers. Really need help from experienced folks narrowing our choices down a little. Please feel free to add to the list if you think there's a bird that would be a better fit for us. Also need ideas or resources for predator-proofing the coop.

    Thanks in advance for any help and comments, and look forward to being a part of this board in the future. [​IMG]
  2. Country Heart

    Country Heart City Girl With A

    Hello from California [​IMG]
    and [​IMG]

    The Sussex and Delaware (both dual breeds) have been the best foraging breeds for me - especially the Sussex, they will eat anything [​IMG]

    In terms of your coop, given your predator and fencing situtation, you might consider building your chickens a "tractor coop." This would allow you to keep them safe while moving them throughout the property so they can eat all those yummy bugs. [​IMG]
  3. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens


    from Washington State!

    "and are looking into Buckeyes, Wyandottes, Jersey Giants, Plymouth Rocks, EE's, Ameracaunas, Sussex, Brahma, and Welsummers."

    Well, I had Wyandottes once and didn't like their personalities. You can do a search on here and read many people complaining about Wyandottes. There are also some Wyandotte lovers!

    I have two black Jersey Giants now and adore them. They are hatchery-born though and so won't get very large. If you want really big one's I would recommend a reputable breeder (reputable to avoid disease).

    I used to have two Welsummers. They are friendly to people and fairly docile but I think the roos might have a bad reputation- you might do a search on BYC for "Welsummer roo aggressive" - I might be mistaken on that completely. I sold my roo before he got too old so can't tell you. We ended up giving our hens away after a year or so because they started pecking my children severely, associating them with mealworm handouts (as in, coming up to them and pecking their legs HARD).

    I have both EEs and Ameraucanas. I LOVE them. I wouldn't be without some in a flock.

    You also might consider Javas (investigate whether the roos are aggressive though as I think I remember reading something about that) and Hinkjc's Orpingtons.

    You might consider also Norwegian Jaerhons. They apparently fly up to trees (even roosting there for some folks) and are very self-sufficient from what I have read...I really would love to have some one day.
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2011
  4. kidcody

    kidcody Overrun With Chickens

    [​IMG] [​IMG] from WA. glad you joined us [​IMG] [​IMG]
    You have come to the right place to find out about the right chickens for your situation. You should see my chickens when they are on a mission to hunt mice! Determination!
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    [​IMG] Welcome to the forum! [​IMG] Glad you joined us! [​IMG]

    That's a whole lot to respond to, so I'll just hit a few high points. As far as breeds, the dual purpose heritage breeds were generally developed to do what you are talking about. The Jersey Giants and Brahmas are generally slow to mature and are fairly inefficient in feed to egg or meat conversion, but if you are not buying most of their feed, they may work for you. I'd consider the winter more than the summer when thinking about feeding them. Because of winter, I'd put a red flag by them.

    I'm not going to help you narrow your choices much. I really think any of the Wyandottes, Rocks, Sussex, Orpington, Delaware, Australorp, New Hamshire, Dorking, Favorelle, Rhode Island Red, Chantacler, or Buckeye will suit you real well. I'm sure I'm forgetting several breeds. With the criteria you listed, it would be hard to go wrong with any of these. The risk to kids is if a rooster becomes human aggressive. That can happen with any breed. It is very much more an individual than breed thing.

    If you free range your chickens, you will probably lose some to predators. It is a risk you take. You may go years between predator attacks or you may get your flock wiped out at one time. I can't tell you what will happen in your specific circumstances. I live out in the country with woodlands and pastures all around me. I lost two in three years, but recently some irresponsible pet owner dropped two dogs off in the country for the good life. I lost eight chickens in one day and was lucky it was not more.

    Practically any predator can be a risk during the day, but many are more active at night. My basic philosophy is to let them free range during the day but lock them up very securely at night. To secure a coop, block any opening more than 1". Weasels, snakes, rats, and mice can still get through, but it is real hard to totally keep those out. Weasels will kill your chickens, snakes and rats are more a danger to eggs and baby chicks, and rats amd mice will eat the feed. I cover any opening with 1/2" or 1" hardware cloth. You can do a search on aprons to stop digging predators. Raccoons especially are real good at opening locks, so don't be too lax in securing doors. I use snap locks or carabiners.

    The key in winter is to see that they have good ventilation but are not in a draft when they sleep. I achieve that by having the ventilation openings well above the roosts. The tops of all four of my walls above 8' are open and covered with hardware cloth. My roosts are about 4 feet high.

    I think these are good articles for anyone considering building a coop.

    Pat’s Big Ol' Ventilation Page

    Cold Coop (winter design) page:

    Big Ol' Mud Page (fixing muddy runs):

    luck and once again, [​IMG]
  6. weimarmama

    weimarmama Overrun With Chickens

    Jun 4, 2010
    My Coop
    [​IMG] & [​IMG] from Alabama. Glad you joined us. We have Jersey Giants and Easter Eggers in our flock, and really love them [​IMG] Have you thought of having guineas, too? They're great at controlling insects and make wonderful "guard dogs".
  7. KYTinpusher

    KYTinpusher Master Enabler

    Sep 3, 2011
    Northern KY
    [​IMG] from Kentucky!
  8. ChikinLittle

    ChikinLittle New Egg

    Sep 11, 2011
    Wow. Thanks for all the replies so far. Looks like Wellsummers and Wyandottes might be off the list. Speckled Sussex look like a good bet for us.

    Anyone have experience with Buckeyes?

    Also - lots of great information on coop design and temp requirements for chickens. Thanks a bunch! [​IMG]

    Will probably post up pics as the project goes on. Great site. Thanks for the welcome.
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2011
  9. dawg53

    dawg53 Humble Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2008
    Jacksonville, Florida
    Welcome to BYC.
  10. NonnasBabies

    NonnasBabies Muddy Acre Farms Premium Member

    Sep 20, 2009
    On the Farm!
    [​IMG] & [​IMG] from Louisiana!!

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