new to chickens

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by DaveBoy, Jan 30, 2011.

  1. DaveBoy

    DaveBoy Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 28, 2011
    I'd like to have a few chickens for the fresh eggs and the added bonus of fertilizer for the rest of the yard. My problem is I'm a total novice with chickens, I know nothing about them. With that in mind, I have a few questions. First off, how many chickens will I need to get roughly two eggs per day? Secondly, I'm uncomfortable allowing them to have free run of the yard (will they escape over a six foot fence for instance) so I'm thinking of keeping them in an enclosed pen area. I would put some kind of cover over it for security against predators since I've had a mountain lion in my yard before. Will they be happy enclosed permanently in such an area that is roughly 10 square feet per chicken? Thirdly, right now the pen area is dirt with wood chips. Is that OK? Is there something better? How about artificial grass? Fourthy, my spouse and I leave for four or five days at a time about three times a year with no reliable person to take over chicken duties. How long can they be left unattended? Of course they would have hopefully adequate water and food. Any help you can provide would be much appreciated. Much thanks in advance. Dave
     
  2. theoldchick

    theoldchick The Chicken Whisperer

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    [​IMG] I'll let the pros answer all your questions.
     
  3. ChooksChick

    ChooksChick BeakHouse's Mad Chicken Scientist

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    My Coop
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    Take a look at my BYC page , as there are a gazillion articles there to help new folks out.

    Hope it helps, and holler at me if you have any questions!
    [​IMG]
     
  4. elmo

    elmo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    DFW
    Welcome to the forum!

    Your best bet is to read, read, and read some more. Here's a good book to start with:

    http://www.storey.com/book_detail.php?isbn=9781603424691&cat=Animals & Farming

    You can also browse in the forum here for a wealth of information on pretty much every topic having to do with the chickens. This is a wonderful place for that.

    I'll try to take a crack at the specific questions you've already posed. Different breeds of chickens have different laying abilities. If you pick a breed known for being good egg layers, you could expect to average 2 eggs a day from 3, perhaps 4, hens. Remember, though, they're not machines, and egg laying tends to taper off and even stop during the winter, during broodiness, and as the hen ages. Many of the breeds that pump out a lot of eggs in the first year or two of their lives taper off dramatically after that. Here's a quick guide to different breeds:

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/breeds/breed-chart

    Yes, many breeds of chickens can easily fly over a 6 foot fence unless you clip their wing feathers (which will also take away much of their ability to escape from predators while free ranging though).

    You can keep chickens inside a secure, outdoor run. A rule of thumb often quoted here is 10 square feet per bird of outdoor space plus 4 square feet per bird of indoor space, although more room is always better. Again, much depends on the breed of chicken you choose; some tolerate confinement better than others. And your climate is also a factor. In very cold winter climates where chickens will often be confined inside during the winter months, building more than 4 square foot of indoor space per bird would be wise.

    Dirt with wood chips is doable, but in my opinion sand is better. You can sift the droppings easily out of the sand with a kitty litter or sand scoop. Whatever you use in your run, just make sure the area drains well and doesn't retain moisture. Accumulated chicken droppings plus wet conditions mean stink. Artificial grass? I wouldn't think so. The chickens would probably eat it, and I can't imagine that would be good for them. Not to mention a host of other problems like it would get nasty very quickly.

    I've read about people leaving chickens unattended for periods as long as 4 or 5 days, but it's not ideal. The eggs build up in the nests, making it more likely that one wil lend up broken, then teaching the chickens that there's tasty stuff to eat inside an egg, which could lead them to become egg eaters (a bad thing, if you want to eat the eggs yourself). Then there's the problem of some mishap to the water supply leaving the flock without water for that long a period. You can do it, but just be aware of the risks involved. It's really better to design your coop setup to make it easy for someone to come by once a day, collect the eggs, and make sure all is well.
     
  5. Chicken.Lytle

    Chicken.Lytle Chillin' With My Peeps

    Welcome to BYC. I started with chickens over the summer and the people of BYC were a great help. Feel free to visit my BYC Page for my blog links that may be informative or amusing.

    I think a covered run is the way to go. Be sure to use hardware cloth around the bottom and at least a poultry net over top.

    I estimated that I would get 1 egg every other day. That turned out to be a poor estimate as my pullets cranked out nearly 1 egg per day once they got going. Over winter they slowed down a little, but even my least efficient layer produces one egg every two days (with an occasional stretch to three days).

    Stay away from artificial grass. Chickens like to dust bathe. Sand in the run may be a good choice, especially if there is enough solid cover to keep the sand dry.

    It is possible you can find somebody near you on BYC that is willing to look in on your chickens for you. It is also possible to hire an animal sitter.

    If you choose to free range your flock, you are also implicitly choosing to risk losing them to predators. They can probably make it over a 6 foot fence if they want to. Mine made it over a 5 footer.
     
  6. DaveBoy

    DaveBoy Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 28, 2011
    Thanks to all who have replied. I had a neighbor once with chickens that often made it over our six foot fence into my yard so I'm pretty sure I would want them enclosed. Also, the sand sounds much better than artificial grass.

    One other question, is it possible to start with adult chickens or do I need to get chicks and the heat lamp and other equipment to get them going into adulthood before putting them in the coop? Do strange adult chickens get along when first place together?

    Obviously new to this business.
    Dave
     
  7. Chicken.Lytle

    Chicken.Lytle Chillin' With My Peeps

    Quote:I got my pullets at Point-Of-Lay (POL). They were only 3 months old, so there was a little marketing exaggeration involved in the POL bit. They all came from the same grower I found through the local feed store. If I had it to do over again, I would buy from a local BYCer instead.

    My birds came from a single flock. They went through a few bouts of pecking order adjustment. They also went through a couple bouts of sickness. Both of these issues would be magnified with birds from multiple flocks.
     

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