New to chickens. questions I haven't found answers to yet.

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Primal Kidd, Apr 17, 2011.

  1. Primal Kidd

    Primal Kidd New Egg

    Apr 17, 2011
    Hello everyone! I currently live on 5 1/2 acres that is surrounded by a newly built cookie cutter neighborhood. We have 1 dog, 4 horses and barn cats. We live a primal (paleo) lifestyle so organic veggies, grass fed beef and pastured eggs are important to us. I grew up living in the country on 7 acres with virtually no neighbors and the same animals. Growing up we had a couple hens which were never in a coop but would just nest in one of the horse managers. They never seemed to stray far from the barn or get into the garden. I have read through all of the FAQ's and the Chicken 101 but I still have questions. on our property we have a very nice brick building which use to be an old milk house on the property. I have plans on converting the milk house into a chicken coop. I only need to cut a small chicken door into one of the two "people" doors, build a few nest boxes on top of the old milk trough and add a roost. My question is more about free ranging them or do I need to add additional fencing around the coop. The entire property is currently fenced but it is tensile fence which would not keep chickens in. The back 1/2 of the property has a 7' privacy fence around it so I wouldn't have to worry about them getting off the property there. The coop itself is about 1050' from the road but is located in the center of the property so if they go towards the road there is no privacy fence and they could go into the neighbors yards.

    I would like them to be free range. How close to the coop do they stay? Do they wonder far away?
    How time consuming is a small flock of about 8 hens?
    We have a garden on the back side of our house fairly far away from the chicken coop, would we have a problem with them getting into the garden?
    I have a 7 year old son we are teaching responsibility. would tending to the chickens be too difficult for him to do on a daily basis?

    Thank you for any and all help!!
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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

    I grew up in the country with chickens that were never locked up. We'd go years without a predator attack but eventually a fox, dog, or something would find them and have to be dealt with. I don't know where you live but you certainly have plenty of potential predators around. I'd think dogs, raccoons, foxes, possibly coyotes, snakes (mainly a threat to eggs and babies), hawks, posssums, skunks, maybe wildcats, and who knows what else. Anybody that free ranges chickens takes a risk with predators. It is almost inevitable that you will lose chickens, but whether that is measured in days or years, I cannot tell you.

    I would like them to be free range. How close to the coop do they stay? Do they wonder far away?

    Different chickens have different personalities. Some will stay close to home and some will wander further. Mine usually stay within 300 feet of the coop, but I have had some that really liked to roam. At 1050 feet, I'd expect yours to be pretty safe from the road.

    How time consuming is a small flock of about 8 hens?

    That depends on you and how you set it up. As a minimum, you need to let them out in the morning and provide feed and water. Then in the evening, you need to gather the eggs. When they go to bed, you need to lock them in the coop at night for protection. You can make it more complicated if you want, but you really don't have to if you set it up where the food and water lasts all day.

    One issue that could make it more complicated is poop management. They poop a lot. You'll notice that. If they are confined in a small space, that poop may buiild up where it has to be managed on a regular basis. I'd think that milk house is probably big enough that you would hardly ever need to clean it out with only 8 hens. You might want to read about the deep litter method.

    We have a garden on the back side of our house fairly far away from the chicken coop, would we have a problem with them getting into the garden?

    Good question. Part of it depends on how far it is, but if they ever find it, they will return on a regular basis. You can see how it goes, but I suspect you will need a chicken proof fence.

    I have a 7 year old son we are teaching responsibility. would tending to the chickens be too difficult for him to do on a daily basis?

    Darned it I know! I don't know your son or his routine. He could certainly gather the eggs. That was my responsibility at that age. Whether you can depend on him to let them out, lock them up, or handle food and water, that will vary by the individual.

    Do you need a fenced run? I'd recommend one. There will be days that you will not want them free ranging. Mine normally free range but there have been several times the run has come in real handy. If you build a run, you have a lot more flexibility in how you can manage your chickens. Say you do not fence your garden and they find it. You might want to confine them while you build a fence. If you find that some are not laying in the coop, you might want to lock them in the coop and run until you change that bad habit and they start laying where you want them to. There are plenty of other possible reasons for needing a run.

    Good luck! Hope this helps, and once again, [​IMG]
  3. Primal Kidd

    Primal Kidd New Egg

    Apr 17, 2011
    Thanks for the help! We basically have a small horse farm in the middle of the city so I was really concerned more about them wondering away towards the neighbors who aren't farm people at all. We use to have a problem with coyotes but since the neighborhood has gone up and the huge privacy fence was installed we haven't seen or heard any.
  4. white01

    white01 Brady Brook Poultry

    May 11, 2010
    West Enfield,Maine
    [​IMG] [​IMG] from Maine
  5. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Chicken Obsessed

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    I would recommend a run, there are days when you want to be gone, and a neighbor's dog can kill them quick.

    I let mine free range fairly often, but not always, and they will come like to a magnet to freshly turned earth. Which can be great in the very early spring, they will scratch it up, get rid of weed seed and bugs, however, you will need a chicken proof fence the rest of the year, or your garden or any landscaping will be torn up.

    I have 7 hens, and get more than enough eggs for 3 people, I give lots away. As for your son, I would recommend only having hens until he is much bigger. Roos can attack, and do so violently. Many people hate chickens for the rest of their lives over a bad roo. And the roo may seem alright around you, but terrorize your son, when you are not there.

  6. mariel37

    mariel37 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 11, 2011
    We have 5 acres, fencing, paddocks, lots of dogs, lots of horses and because there just wasn't ENOUGH chaos in our lives, we got chickens a few weeks ago.

    Please build a run that is caged all the way around ... it really provides a piece of mind that is priceless.

    I found out the hard way (while the run was being built) that it takes a split second for the dog to get his mouth around a chicken - even as I was standing there. He grabbed the chick - I grabbed him, and she has been trying to recover for a week. Not sure yet how it will turn out.

    Run! Run! Run! (build one, not the physical exercise run)
  7. HeyItsDebV

    HeyItsDebV Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 28, 2011
    Edmond, OK
    I am 5 weeks new to the BYF and have 14, 1 month old chicks [​IMG]

    We too live on 5 acres, 6 dogs, 5 G. kids.... nice neighborhood... [​IMG]

    A few days before the 14 chicks one month birthday, I kept finding many of the 14, sitting on the rim of the stock tank brooder...if they flew to the utility floor...they didnt stay long...but the mess was beginning to get noticeable AND HUBBY didnt like it at all!!!! [​IMG]
    We had started the ground work for the coop, but were just working on lot clearing and padding up the coop site...
    When chick poo began to show on our utility floor, this got hubby moving [​IMG]

    For 3 days we worked as hubby would say "we are working with a purpose"!!! We worked until sundown for 3 days...

    On the Chicks one month birthday we moved them to the new coop... They ran all over [​IMG] They loved it! There were 6 nesting boxes, coupled on both sides, with a roosting bar in front of the top boxes for the hens one day to be able to fly up and have a landing to "step into the nesting box" as the BYC BUILDING COOPS FOR DUMMIES book had said to do [​IMG] ...And Hubby had built 2 shuttered / wire screened floor vents at both sides of the coop to ventilate the coop and for the chicks to look out...the Chicks all stood on either side of the coop looking out into the chicken run to come. They all crowded about to look around. [​IMG]

    That night we ran extension cords to their heat lamp and clamped it above the chicks as we had done in the brooder... I shuttered closed the 2 floor vents and closed the 2 wired and shuttered wall windows...I peaked at them after dark many times...[​IMG] ...some were flocked together in nesting boxes and some on the floor in a corner... and some were on the new low roosts bars in front of the nesting boxes... I had spread pine shavings in all the boxes and on the floor... the chicks all made their happy chick peeps all evening... [​IMG]

    The next day we finished putting up the wire in the covered run... hubby made the ramp and made the chicks a door to to pass from the coop to the run... [​IMG]

    Oklahoma has been very very windy and the nights have been in the 40's...but the chicks are so so happy in their new coop and run...[​IMG]
    We still need to paint the coop and run and do some finish trim work, but we are more than pleased as are the chicks [​IMG]

    It was time to move them out and 4 weeks old was not too fact...the chicks have become more loving [​IMG] ...when I take a lawn chair into the run and sit...ALL of the chicks fly up on me! [​IMG] On my shoulders, on my arms and is CRAZY fun! They seem to want to look me in the face! !!! (Is this normal???) [​IMG]

    It is, no joke as my hubby says, MY CHICKS LOVE ME! They run to me when they hear me coming! Love it! Love them! I am now Chick Possessed! [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Here is where we are to date...the chicks have only been in the coop 3-4 day and I am ready to take them out on shorts walks to free range...THIS is the first day that we dont have wind in Oklahoma...
    What do I do first? I bought a big FRENCH Bread to cox them out and to follow me..will that work ?

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by