New to Chickens and need some information

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by TexasChickenDance, Jan 21, 2010.

  1. TexasChickenDance

    TexasChickenDance Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 16, 2010
    Central Texas
    We bought 6 Rhode Island Reds hens (not sure if they are called hens as they are 4 months old) last Sunday and so far it's been wonderful having and watching them as they get use to our coop. Boy do I have alot of questions.

    1. We feed them a chicken scratch with grain that we bought at TSC. Is this an appropriate feed at 4 months? If not, what should we be using?
    2. We keep the feeder in the coop 24 hours every day. Should we be taking it out sometime during the day or night?
    3. We have a caliche/dirt mix in the coop along with hay on the floor. Do we need to buy grit?
    4. Should we use other products on the floor instead of the caliche/dirt/hay?
    5. We will eventually let them out to free range. We have horses and if the chickens start for the horse poo and do their scratching looking for insects and what not, will the eggs have a peculiar taste?
    6. We have 2 dogs. How do you get your dogs use to having chickens running around?
    7. We have one of the metal nesting boxes with 5 upper and 5 lower boxes. We found 5 of the chickens in 1 nesting box yesterday. Will they all try to lay eggs in that one box or will they figure out that the other boxes are just as good?
    8. On a day to day basis, what is your usual routine with your chickens?
    9. When the chickens start laying and they lay more than you can eat, do you give away or sell the extras?

    Can't think of anything else right now but if anybody has additional information for a newbie, it would be appreciated.

    Thank you,
  2. GardeNerd

    GardeNerd Chillin' With My Peeps

    Welcome to the wonderful world of chickens!

    I don't think I can answer all the questions easily in one post. There are lots of sections around that will get more in depth answers for you. In brief:

    1. Usually people feed the pullets grower mix feed until 16 to 20 weeks, when they are close to laying age. You might be able to just start with a layer feed. It is more complete nutritionally than scratch.
    2. It is okay to keep the feeder in the coop 24 hours every day for layers. If you are raising meat birds it is different.
    3. Unless there are small pebbles in bedding mix you mentioned, you need to give them access to grit.
    4. I think the bedding you mentioned is fine, but someone else might comment who has experience with caliche. I don't have experience with it.
    5. Unless the chickens get weird and decide to eat the horse manure, the eggs should taste fine. Chickens will only eat the bugs normally, not the poop.
    6. "How do you get your dogs use to having chickens running around?" That is a tough one, some dogs can never be trusted, some can be trained, and some could care less about chickens. I have a Golden Retriever who only wants to please us, so it was easy with him. I exposed my dog daily to the chicks with close supervision. If he even looked at them, I scolded him. Once he got to the point he just laid there and let them walk on him, I figured we were in good shape. Later, when the chickens were older, I would intentionally spook them while he was near by to check his reaction. Again, I scolded if he was curious and praised and gave a treat if he ignored. He figured it out, and can generally be trusted with them now. My buff orpington still walks on him when he is laying in the yard sometimes. It is pretty funny to watch. There is more info on this if you do a search here at BYC in the predators section.
    7. There is usually a favorite box, but they will use others if they don't want to wait.
    8. Daily: I change the water, check and refill feed, clean under the roost, feed treats, collect eggs. Weekly: I clean up a bit more and clean the feeder and water out thoroughly. Check over the hens to make sure they are healthy and in good condition.
    9. When I had 6 chickens I gave away a lot of eggs to friends and neighbors. We downsized our flock, so we don't have a lot of surplus. I only have an extra dozen a month.

    Best Wishes! You might become addicted.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2010
  3. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

    Nov 9, 2007
    SW Arkansas
  4. fiberart57

    fiberart57 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 31, 2009
    Welcome. Gritsar answered most of your questions but as I'm originally from Arizona I know what caliche is.

    Caliche will not substitute for grit because it's usually too salty or full of hard minerals. If they free range they will probably find rocks but I buy a 5 lb bag of grit from the feed store for mine anyway as they are selective about the size and so on. It costs about $2.50 and lasts me a year for six hens. I mix it with oyster shells, same price.

    If you get a good bit of rain, dirt and hay for a run floor will soon become a nasty soupy mess. I like sand. I use arena sand but you can get other kinds from a landscape supply place by the yard. If you can haul it yourself you'll save quite a bit of money as the main cost is in delivery.

    Like others, I have six hens and one nest box. I used to have two but took the separation out. They are all laying and doing so in the box; I've seen two in there at a time.

    Again, welcome and good luck.

  5. bawkbawkbawk

    bawkbawkbawk Chillin' With My Peeps


    Looks like you've gotten plenty of good advice already. Just to echo it - I only use scratch as a treat for my 7-month-old girls. I give them a few handfuls to coax them to go where I want them to, and a little bit at night when they come into the coop. I looked at the label on the laying feed from our feed store and it seems to have a high corn contect anyway, so I try not to give them too much scratch (even though they are obsessed with it! [​IMG] )

    We have food available in the coop 24/7 for our girls.

    Like Gritsar, I provide grit and oyster shell to my girls even though they free-range almost every day.

    Can't comment re horse poo, but my three forage for worms and bugs like little eating machines and no one has complained about the taste of the eggs. I've heard that garlic can impart a strange taste to eggs, but that's the only thing I'm aware of. I don't think chickens eat poo, per se - I think they go for the insect larvae that form in it. At least that's what I read in "Omnivores Dilemma" about Joel Salatkin's practice of sending chickens to his pasture three days after the cows have been there - he claims it's the optimum time for the chickens since it's just before the larvae hatch and the chickens thereby "clean" the pasture while getting lots of yummy [​IMG] protein.

    We also have two dogs but they've been a piece of cake around the chickens. One is a small dog who is afraid of her own shadow so no problems there, and the other a golden retriever - she initially wanted to chase the chickens but we just said no and she completely leaves them alone now to the point where the chickens come over and "groom" her fur and she doesn't move a muscle.

    We give away our extra eggs. I think you're supposed to have some kind of a license if you're going to sell them.

    I've read that 3-4 chickens can share one nesting box and I've also read that chickens will often compete for a particular nesting box. Mine refuse to use the nesting box at all - they lay on the countertop next to it. Go figure.

    Enjoy your chickens!
  6. chickensnax

    chickensnax Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 24, 2009
    south Texas
    Hey TexasChickenDance, welcome to chickens and [​IMG].

    I'm new to chickens as of last year, but they are easier than you think and of course a lot of fun too.

    Dirt and colechie will be fine for thier coop and pen, it just can get messy during a ranny season but usually the chickies don't care, its really your personal preference. Our coop it floored but wasn't always and thier pen is just dirt and leaves.

    We started free ranging last summer and with our dogs we just scolded them if they showed any undo interest in the chickens and now they don't care either way, and when we feed treats the dogs, cats, and chickens are all eating together.

    Their feeds what we do is leave one feeder in their pen but I put a cover over it so rain doesn't ruin it but the girls can still eat it, and another feeder where they like to hang out during the day with another cover, that way they aren't eating the dog and cat food all the time, [​IMG] and git the food they should be eating, I found the girls like the crumbled food better than the pellets. The crumbles seem easier for them to eat. Then I give them scratch usually twice a day as a treat.

    We free range the girls if we are home but if we'll be gone all day or for the weekend they stay in their pen, just because we don't want anything to happen to them. But they have been trained because at first we didn't let them out till they learned where their coop is, Now at dusk they put them selves to bed in their coop and all I have to do is a head count and close the pen up. Then they are in their pen in the morning untill I get up and let them out, or get around too it times will very.

    As far as eating the horse poo, it shouldn't be a problem because they will just scratch around in it looking for bugs and any left over feed, not the actuall poo its self. But you will be amazed at what they will eat, sometimes it gets pretty grose, I have never noticed a change in taste in their eggs. I look at this way the eggs are really just getting the protiens and such from what they eat, the stuff of their food is not directly entering the eggs.

    Nest boxes I have learned you can have many but just need a few. I have six boxes for 13 girls but only two gets used, three in an emergency. I have learned from some book or another that chickens will lay where they think its safe, and if another chicken has already laid their then they think its safe because the other hens thought it was safe. SO when they free range and I don't like doing the egg hunt all the time I keep a fake ceramic egg in their boxes, one each to keep them coming back instead of using the yard. Some people use golf balls or wooden eggs just don't use more than one or two and let more than a couple eggs build up in the box. I found out the hard way that not collecting the eggs till the end of the day and having two many leads a hen to go broody and am now the proud owner of two mixed breed 3 month old roos that have been a joy to see grow up and learn from their mom.

    My husband sells any excess egggs we get to his coworkers or we give them to our friends and family.

    What part of Texas are you in, Gulf coast region myself. You'll find this site a great resource of information, all it takes is a little time and reading, or in most of our cases alot of time and much reading but its great stuff and lots of great pics. Good luck and any more questions keep them coming.

  7. TexasChickenDance

    TexasChickenDance Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 16, 2010
    Central Texas
    Thank you all for the valuable information. [​IMG] Seems it's much easier than I thought. Will go out this weekend and get the necessary stuff to make the chickies as comfortable as possible.
    Chickensnax, I live in Central Texas...Medina to be more specific.
  8. chickensnax

    chickensnax Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 24, 2009
    south Texas
    I agree chickies are alot easier than the would first lead one to believe. Plus living in Texas I think we have it alot easier than most. Don't have to worry about dealing with the snow and major freezes like those who live up north. Today for example a nice balmy 70 something, all in all a nice day to be scratchin around the yard. oh and the girls liked it too. [​IMG]

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