New to raising chickens ... please help, want to raisers layers

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by mdarby78, Dec 1, 2012.

  1. mdarby78

    mdarby78 New Egg

    Dec 1, 2012
    Truth first: we have never done anything with chickens in our lives short of eating them ... and the eggs of course.

    What we're thinking: we hope to raise 5-10 layers for eggs only. We would like to make this as low-maintenance as possible. Through the little research I've done, it seems the coop and run system is the way to go if you can give your birds more-than-enough space ... which we can. Our goal is establish a run big to enough to provide a significant amount of their diet without having to provide a lot feed.

    The advice we need: how big should we make our run? should we expect/how much should we expect to need to supplement the diet with feed? And ... anything else you think we should consider or that we might need to know.

  2. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    How much space? As much as you can give. I'm not kidding. How much room are you talking about here? For ten layers the bare minimum is 100 square feet of run space. Personally, I like to give more space than that, right now I think I have around 2dozen birds in the main run and it's 16x32 I think. By far most of the chicken husbandry issues come from folks trying to cram as many birds as possible into their space.

    Now, if you're wanting to enclose a space to provide feed also, you're going to need a lot more room. Again, I can't say exactly how much not knowing where you live or what type of land you're talking about. My run is bare dirt, even with that much space. If you're wanting to have grass, etc, the best way is to have seperate runs and rotate them to give an area a rest. Two areas might be enough, three would be better.

    Is free ranging an option where you live?
  3. TallChickMagnet

    TallChickMagnet Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 30, 2012
    Jurupa Valley, CA
    I have 21 birds and their pen is 12x8 and opens into a run that is 12x16. They have plenty of room. They are happy, healthy, and safe. I even go into the run every day and sit with them, drink my coffee, and give them treats. In their pen is water, food, three staggered perches, and a four slot nesting box. They also have water in their run, and I spread out a few scoops of scratch on the ground almost everyday. My neighbor also brings over his grass clippings every once in a while, I just throw it in the run and watch them dive in and have a ball.
    I go through about one bag each of Lay Mash and Scratch (25lbs. each) every three months. I supplement with table scraps, and treats. I get way more eggs then I can use so I sell them for $2.00 for a carton of six. It pays for their feed plus some.

    My pen is a converted dog kennel that I put a roof and side walls on. I keep it neat, but only do a major clean on the first Saturday of each month.

    I use pine shavings in the nesting boxes.

    I keep the bags of feed in a sealed plastic trash can right outside of the run entrance, along with a feed scoop and a few hand tools. I keep a rake nearby for clean up. When I clean up I put everything in a compost pile out of the way.

    My cat goes in the run with them and noises around everyday, until they chase him out that is...
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2012
  4. off-grid hen

    off-grid hen Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 1, 2011
    Upstate NY
    Just continuing along the same lines as donrae... If you want them to get much of their food from forage, you will need to give them a LOT of space. If you have them enclosed in a covered run, they will quickly bring that area to bare earth. I have a 10x30 covered run (covered with welded wire with 2x4 holes) attached to my 8x16 coop for 23 birds. When I only had 16 birds, they decimated the grass within a month. I now let them out to free range most of the time, but I have 7 acres. They naturally choose their range area over approximately 2-3 acres.

    You can put deep litter in the run, which will provide some bugs for forage. Do not add Diatomaceous Earth (which kills bugs that chickens eat) if you want them to use this area as a food source. I add lots of leaves in my run, which the chickens love to scratch through. This fall,I collected all my dry leaves in bags so I can spread them in the run after I shovel it. In the spring it will be a muddy mess, but will soon dry out as it is fluffed up by the hens or my rake.

    Not sure what your predator situation is. I have a LOT of aerial and 4-legged predators here. If I had to fence them in all the time, I would have electrified fenced area with many places to hide from birds of prey. But since mine are allowed out, they hide under the spirea bushes, under cedar bushes, and the garden shed. I haven't lost a bird to a hawk this year, which is surprising because the red tails were thick here in September. But I have good roosters and lots of hiding spots.

    If you can't let them have a considerable area, and they can't get much of their diet from forage, you will have to give them much of their diet by feed. Keep reading around BYC for different perspectives. Opinions vary widely on how much space is sufficient.

    Welcome to BYC, and good luck!
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2012
  5. mdarby78

    mdarby78 New Egg

    Dec 1, 2012
    Thanks for all the great info ... and for taking your time to help a newbie like me!!!
  6. Cindy in PA

    Cindy in PA Overrun With Chickens

    Jul 8, 2008
    Fleetwood, PA
    You go through only 50 lbs. of combined feed & scratch in 3 months for 21 chickens??? You must have a lot of scraps to feed. Are they all laying 4-6 eggs per week?
  7. mtnviewfarms

    mtnviewfarms Chillin' With My Peeps

    Welcome to the forum and to 'life with chickens'. Don't be shy - we were all chicken 'newbies' at one time. I was able to learn much of what
    I know about caring for and raising chickens from this site and links. Not all of us here who post agree on how to do everything but what we
    do all agree on is how much fun and how rewarding it is ( and I don't just mean the fresh eggs which are great ) raising chickens.

    I started about three years ago and, like you, just wanted a 'few' for the fresh eggs. Then 'chicken addiction' or 'chicken math' as some here call it
    kicked in and flash forward to now and I have a fantastic chicken house DH made for me out of recycled materials - it looks like it's been where it stands
    for the last 100 years - love it - and I have had as many as 100 chickens at one time but am now down to 40 in the house and predator proof run area
    and currently have 40 baby chicks ( all pullets who will lay colored eggs ) in my foyer in four 'pre-brooders' I made so I can keep a close eye on them for
    the first two weeks then if all goes as planned they 'graduate' into the chicken house to the brooder room where I have two very large secure brooder
    boxes that DH made for me several years ago.

    I also have another 25 day old female chicks on order that will arrive mid March. I sell our farm-fresh multi-colored eggs at two local farmer's markets
    and I also sell started pullets, point of lay pullets, chicks, roosters and hatching eggs!

    There is so much to learn about raising these fantastic and infinitely interesting creatures that you can take it to whatever level you desire w/o ever
    getting bored with them. I am a retired psychiatric professional and if someone had told me years ago that I would be sustainably farming and raising
    chickens I would have thought they had 'lost their marbles' and needed a 'session' but here I am having the time of my life and watching 'chicken TV' whenever I can. Enjoy!
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2012
  8. TallChickMagnet

    TallChickMagnet Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 30, 2012
    Jurupa Valley, CA
    I miss worded that. Each bag is 50lbs. 100lbs all together...[​IMG] I just went to the feed store yesterday and had to carry the 50lbs bags, plus 40lbs of diatomaceous earth... all in one trip...
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2012
  9. dreamcatcherarabians

    dreamcatcherarabians Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 29, 2010
    I have 24 layers, 5 Cochins who lay when they feel like it, and 1 roo. I go through 4-5 50 lb bags of layer feed every month and I keep a bowl of oyster shell full that they can crunch free choice. I free range all day long on 10 acres, but in reality they probably only use about 2-3 acres. I don't feed scraps at all. I get right around 18 eggs per day, plus or minus a couple, and really have very little maintenance for the flock. I use deep litter in their coop and change it out every 3 months or so, when I think it looks grungy, and I keep a 35 gal stock tub full of clean water for them and 3 separate feeders set out around the yard. They go in the coop at night, out in the morning and I fill/clean feeders and water tub about every 3 days. They let me know when they need more feed, we laugh about getting mugged by 30 chickens when we go out the front door. They are so low maintenance it's hard to believe.

    Chickens are very addictive and you really have to watch out for "chicken math", you can end up with LOTS more chickens than you EVER dreamed you'd have! And the hilarious part of that is, they make you love it. [​IMG]

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