New to raising chickens

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by kylestow, Jan 8, 2017.

  1. kylestow

    kylestow In the Brooder

    Jan 8, 2017
    I have decided to raise chickens in my back yard it is 1400 sq ft. We have decided on Barred Plymouth Rock and either New Hampshire or Rhode Island Reds. How many chickens would be ok in my pen and how many and of what breed rooster would be best? Thanks in advance.

  2. chippy99th

    chippy99th Chirping

    Dec 17, 2016
    First of all, are you planning to free-range in your backyard? If so, you can have more birds, but be warned, they'll make a mess on your porch!
    If not, you'll need to build a run in addition to your coop. The coop regardless should have about 4 square feet of space per bird. If you live in a really cold area, I've heard a little smaller coop helps them keep warmer; I wouldn't know, living in Arizona. The run should be 8-10 square feet per bird. Ours is a bit smaller but we let ours out to free-range frequently. Ultimately, I'd make it a bit bigger than you think you need. Chickens are like potato chips, you always end up having more than you planned on. :)

    Good choice on the breeds. I'd also suggest Buff Orpingtons, they're just my personal favorite, but our flock is mostly those and the Barred Rocks & Rhode Island Reds you mentioned. Great layers, pretty healthy. Barred Rocks tend to have more personality than Rhode Island Reds, though maybe we just ended up with birds like that.

    If you're free-ranging, you easily have enough space for a starter flock of 10 birds or so (I'd start with no more than a dozen if I were you, you can always get more in a few months). Whether you free-range or not depends mainly on local predators and, as I mentioned, your personal objections to mess. Ours make quite a lot of mess, but we have 30.

    As for a rooster -if you have 10 or 12 birds as suggested, you'll only need one. The general rule is at least 8-10 hens per rooster. For years, our mutt managed a flock of 20+ by himself. The one Barred Rock roo we had was so mean we had to rehome him. :( That doesn't mean yours will be, though. Buff Orpington roosters are supposed to be nice (sorry to keep ragging on that breed, they're just the best IMO) but I've never had a rooster that breed either. All our roosters have been mutts we've taken in...roosters are easily found online for cheap. It might be easiest to get an adult that you already know isn't going to grow up mean, or grow so big he'll hurt your girls. Other than that, the breed really doesn't matter.

    If you start out with chicks, I'd get an adult roo once they're already full-grown. For that matter, do you need a rooster? If you're not planning to breed them, it's not necessary to have one.

    Sorry for the essay! Hope I didn't make it sound intimidating. Honestly, the hardest part of chickens is the stage you're in -the planning. They're fairly sturdy, happy animals and you'll have a lot of fun with them. Good luck!
  3. kylestow

    kylestow In the Brooder

    Jan 8, 2017
    No I appreciate any input I can get it's our first experience with chickens and the rooster is more for want than need. Just would like one. Our porch is enclosed they would only be in the yard.
  4. Molpet

    Molpet Crowing

    Sep 7, 2015
    N. Illinois
    My Coop
    there are times you will need to have a run to lock them in for extended times.... predator issues, backyard repairs or used for people..
    mine have stayed in the 8x24' hoop coop for over a week because of the cold/snow... the door is open but only the bachelors have been out, only because the main roo runs them out.
  5. kylestow

    kylestow In the Brooder

    Jan 8, 2017
    I live in SE Texas no snow here

  6. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Crossing the Road

    Nov 7, 2012
    Are you allowed to have roosters where you live? Based on the size of your back yard, I'm guessing you have neighbors quite close to you. Are you and your neighbors prepared to put up with the constant crowing of a rooster. Not only do roos crow in the morning, they crow often, all day long. They may be silent for a few hours, but then they can go on to have crowing jags. Each crowing session can consist of 3 to 6 or more crows in a row. They often start crowing well before sun up. A roo is also a breeding machine. He will breed all of his gals often. The favorite hens will often have the feathers on their backs worn down from the frequent breeding. I've watched my roo treading a hen every 10 minutes during the summer. You will need a minimum of 10 hens IMO to cut down on the wear on any one hen. It is not necessary to have a roo at all, and based on the size of your yard, I strongly suggest that you have a small flock, (4 - 6 hens).

    If you allow your hens to free range your back yard, they will destroy a lot of the lawn, and will also tear up any flower beds you have.

    If you had 6 hens, you would need a coop that is a minimum of 24 sq. ft. I recommend that your coop be at least 4 feet tall, 6' would be better. You need the extra height to allow a good amount of bedding, and for the roost to be above the nest box, and you will need at least 2' of space above the roost to allow ventilation without placing the birds in a direct draft. Adequate ventilation is a must to prevent issues with frost bite. I also suggest that you have at least 1 if not 2 windows in your coop to allow natural lighting. The run should be a minimum of 60 sq. ft. If you want to make it predator proof, it will be strongly built, with a skirt of wire around it, the wiring will be 1/2" hardware cloth. And it should be covered to keep hawks and climbing predators from harming your birds. All openings in the coop should also be covered with hardware cloth. The more space you can give to your girls, the less likely you are to encounter behavioral or disease problems, and the easier it will be to take care of them.

    Contrary to above poster, I suggest that chickens in northern areas (I'm in gardening zone 4... pretty cold here!) have a larger coop rather than a smaller one. While a smaller coop will be warmer due to the concentrated body heat of the birds in it, it is more likely to have issues with high humidity. It's the winter humidity that is so detrimental to birds. Birds produce an incredible amount of moisture simply from their respiration. Add to that the humidity from their droppings, in a tiny coop, and you have a recipe for disaster. It's imperative that the coop be large enough to accommodate adequate bedding, and allow space above their heads for ventilation. Here in the north, temps can go below 0*F for days and sometimes weeks on end. In those temperatures, chickens often choose to stay in the coop. If they are in a small coop, even with 4 s.f./bird, there simply is not enough room to satisfy the pecking order protocol. Cabin fever can result in feather picking and other aggression related behaviors. So, no matter whether you live in north or south, give your birds as much room as you can afford to give them!

    Now, to the fun stuff. You're gonna have fun! Before choosing your breeds, take a close look at Henderson's Chicken Breeds chart. Got kids? If so, you might want to have a couple of Easter Eggers for their beautiful blue or green eggs. Want a puppy dog personality? You can't go wrong with Dominique. Warm climate? Large combed birds do well. Cold climate? Small combed birds are less prone to frost bite. I'd stay away from feathered feet and the pouffy head feathered birds no matter the climate. Lots of people have these birds, and love them. But: the feathered feet will track mud and other ground stuff into the nest. And the pouffy feathered birds are often picked on by their flock mates who sport more sensible "hair styles". Not to mention, those feathers hanging over their eyes make them more at risk to overhead predators.

    Other homework: Consider heating pad brooding. Much safer than heat lamp. Those of us who have tried the heating pad will never use a heat lamp again.
    1 person likes this.
  7. kylestow

    kylestow In the Brooder

    Jan 8, 2017
    The area which is fenced in is that size we have 5 acres. Only neighbors are family

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