New to site and idea of chickens, lots of questions here.

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by JSR-Ranch, Jan 9, 2011.

  1. JSR-Ranch

    JSR-Ranch New Egg

    5
    0
    7
    Jan 8, 2011
    Hello everyone.

    Totally new to the site, and new to the idea of raising some laying chickens.

    My wife, 5 y/o and I just moved to 10 acres in rural Riverside County, CA and we want to put the land to some good use. I can’t help but think the idea of raising some chickens would be a great way to supplement our diet, and would also be great to teach my daughter a lot of useful information.

    Anyway, I have several questions and I am not really sure which forum to post them in so I am just going to give it a try here, sorry if this is in the wrong forum.

    First, before we decide to embark on this adventure, I was wondering if any of you ever leave your chickens alone for 3-5 days at a time? We travel out of state about once a month and don’t really have any neighbors who would be able to come and feed our birds. This is of course assuming we have a constant water and food supply and a totally enclosed run and an adequate coop for the birds. Will the chickens be ok on their own for a few days? If we are gone for a few days, will the eggs be ok while we are gone or would they need to be discarded when we returned?

    If this will work out, then we can move on the real planning.

    We are planning on an enclosure of about 10’X15’. I am not sure what size coop to build. I know that will depend on how many chickens we want to keep. So therin lies the next issue. How many chickens would be a good number to start with? We are not planning on having a rooster, laying hens only. I was thinking about starting with about six chickens. From what I have read that tells me I should have a coop at least 24 sq. ft in addition to the enclosure area. Does that sound about right? My brother and I would like to build the coop ourselves, so that will be another part of the fun, right??

    We will do everything possible to make the coop and run absolutely predator proof. It looks like hardware cloth is the way to go with an apron buried about 12” deep. We live in an area with a good number of coyotes, some bobcats possibly (haven’t seen one in while though), hawks, and probably a snake or two. I don’t imagine there is much I can do about the snakes other than use the “Snake-away” stuff I have read about. What size mesh should I be looking at for the hardware cloth, is three squares an inch too big??

    Our weather is usually pretty mild in the winter, although this December we did have 6 days of straight rain and temps down to mid-30’s. From what I have read, chickens are pretty hearty as far as the weather is concerned and this should not be an issue; we’ll insulate the coop and probably will not have a heat source.

    How important is it to start with very young chickens? I don’t really know if we are up to raising them from chicks, so my plan was to buy (or trade for) some about six months old, will that work out? Next will be choice of breed. We would like to have standard size chickens that yield med-large eggs. What would be a good choice?

    OK. I am sure I have more questions, but I will stop here.

    I love this site so far and look forward to getting lots of useful information here.

    Thanks,

    Jason
     
  2. annaraven

    annaraven Born this way

    Apr 15, 2010
    SillyCon Valley
    Hi,
    don't have answers as I'm pretty new as well. Just wanted to say hi and [​IMG]
     
  3. Jacklynn

    Jacklynn Chillin' With My Peeps

    Quote:Welcome to BYC ! The greatest online chicken forum ever ! [​IMG]

    Now to answer your questions... I think your chickens would be fine for a couple days on their own, as long as you make sure that they will have adequate food and water at all times. I have seen people on here using a big pipe type thing that leads to the food dish, the pipe holds feed and releases more into the food bowl as the chickens consume it. [​IMG]


    I think 6 chickens is a very good number to start with. Two chickens for every family member is a good rule to follow.

    Right now I don't have any chickens for egg production, I just have my fancy bantam breeds, but I think Welsummers and Barnevelders are good layers from what I have heard. [​IMG]

    I can't really give you any other good answers, but someone will come along who can.

    Again, welcome to BYC [​IMG]
     
  4. Wisher1000

    Wisher1000 Bama Biddy

    Hello and [​IMG]

    First, let me tell you about chicken math. Decide on how many chickens you may ever want to keep and double that number. Plan and build your first coop based on that number. Notice I said first coop, you will outgrow that one and will probably want to build another! You are right to make your coop and run as preditor proof as possible, it is easier to do from the beginning. Hardware cloth, 1/2 inch (2 squares per inch) will work fine. Plan on 4 square feet per bird inside the coop and 10 square feet per bird outside in the run. You are off to a good start. Keep researching and planning but try to finish your coop in time for spring chicks! Good luck! You have found the most wonderful source of information and comradery on the web! BYC rocks!
     
  5. AccioSarah

    AccioSarah Chillin' With My Peeps

    239
    0
    109
    Apr 21, 2010
    San Juan, Puerto Rico
    Hello and welcome to BYC!! I'm going to do my best to answer your questions. I'll post my writings in bold.

    First, before we decide to embark on this adventure, I was wondering if any of you ever leave your chickens alone for 3-5 days at a time? We travel out of state about once a month and don’t really have any neighbors who would be able to come and feed our birds. This is of course assuming we have a constant water and food supply and a totally enclosed run and an adequate coop for the birds. Will the chickens be ok on their own for a few days? If we are gone for a few days, will the eggs be ok while we are gone or would they need to be discarded when we returned?

    Absolutely. With the right watering system, this should not be a problem at all. I recommend looking into watering systems that use chicken 'nipples'. It's what I use here in freezing Wisconsin, and we only have to fill the waterer every two weeks, which allows us to leave our chickens for whole weekends.
    You can even get nest boxes where the eggs will gently roll into an area unreachable to the chickens. If the weather is warm though, eggs left out for an extended period will have to be tossed. If the weather is cool- then no worries! The world is your refrigerator!
    Here is a good link to a board discussing nipple system waterers. Neil, who posted on that board, is the person to e-mail about getting the pieces.

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?pid=5218061



    We are planning on an enclosure of about 10’X15’. I am not sure what size coop to build. I know that will depend on how many chickens we want to keep. So therin lies the next issue. How many chickens would be a good number to start with? We are not planning on having a rooster, laying hens only. I was thinking about starting with about six chickens. From what I have read that tells me I should have a coop at least 24 sq. ft in addition to the enclosure area. Does that sound about right? My brother and I would like to build the coop ourselves, so that will be another part of the fun, right??

    Building the coop yourself is so rewarding! Just remember- when it comes to coops- Bigger is always better. Once you get started, you will want to add to your flock, it always happens.. around here we call it chicken fever! We currently have 4 hens here, but have plans to add 3 more in the Spring. Keep in mind that we live in a city with limited space, so we're pushing it! Generally- you'll want to give each standard size hen 4 sq feet in the coop, and much more in a run area. If you choose to allow your hens to leave the run and free range during the day, the run can be a little smaller.

    EDIT: Forgot to add- I would say about 10 is a perfectly fine starting point. Or half, then if you like how the first 5 go.. you can add more!!





    We will do everything possible to make the coop and run absolutely predator proof. It looks like hardware cloth is the way to go with an apron buried about 12” deep. We live in an area with a good number of coyotes, some bobcats possibly (haven’t seen one in while though), hawks, and probably a snake or two. I don’t imagine there is much I can do about the snakes other than use the “Snake-away” stuff I have read about. What size mesh should I be looking at for the hardware cloth, is three squares an inch too big??

    I don't have much advice here... hopefully someone else will!


    Our weather is usually pretty mild in the winter, although this December we did have 6 days of straight rain and temps down to mid-30’s. From what I have read, chickens are pretty hearty as far as the weather is concerned and this should not be an issue; we’ll insulate the coop and probably will not have a heat source.

    This is perfectly acceptable, especially if you plan on having standard size hens (no bantams). We don't offer a heat source for our hens, and even in our ice cold climate, the girls have been fine and laying like stars!


    How important is it to start with very young chickens? I don’t really know if we are up to raising them from chicks, so my plan was to buy (or trade for) some about six months old, will that work out? Next will be choice of breed. We would like to have standard size chickens that yield med-large eggs. What would be a good choice?

    I find that watching the chicks grow is a LOT of fun, especially with young kids! My 6 year old sister loved the experience of helping raise the chicks, naming them as babies and helping build the coop! It was a great learning experience for her... which is exactly why we are getting more chicks this Spring!



    GOOD LUCK!!! If you have any other questions, you have found an AMAZING group of people to help out! Feel free to send me a message as well. Have fun with it!!
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2011
  6. abhaya

    abhaya Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 5, 2010
    cookeville, tn
    Quote:I hope those answers helped a little the main thing is have fun [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2011
  7. dsqard

    dsqard Crazy "L" Farms

    5,312
    212
    311
    Jun 11, 2010
    York PA
    You are getting great answers and the only thing I would add is if you want to start with 6 month old birds I would get all of them from the same source. That way you won't have to worry about quarrantine when you get them. Taking care of little chicks actually is not all that hard but if you are going to go out of town it probably would be better to start with birds that are older. I do want to echo what others have said about "chicken math". I just started raising chickens last year. I started with four month old chicks. We built our first coop just the right size for them. Then I wanted more so we bought another coop and five more chickens that were a month older than our original four. I thought the coop that I bought was going to be big enough for all of them. No it wasn't so I built our next coop. I used the Chicken Coops for Dummies book. It has great plans and explains all about how to use different tools, how to make different types of cuts etc. I built the 8' X 8' walk in. I am hoping that will be big enough for all the chickens I will wind up having. [​IMG] I got an incubator for Christmas as an early present and just hatched out our first six chicks. That was so much fun. I never knew how entertaining chickens can be and the eggs are great. Welcome!
     
  8. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

    34,028
    456
    448
    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    You probably won't get cold enough that they freeze and crack. For heat, keep in mind that in Europe, eggs are not refrigerated for storage and sale. They last at least a month or two at room temp. Your biggest problem may be their clumsiness, knocking them around walking on them. You might consider building a couple of rollaway nest boxes (see below.)

    I would strongly urge you not to build a small, short box type coop. In that climate what they will need most of the year is lots of shade and breeze. If I lived there I would build a three sided affair with hardware cloth extending out and covering the 4th side. If the run is predator proof they do not need to be closed up in a coop, which you won't be doing anyway when you are out of town. Look at some of the coops in this thread: https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=163417&p=1
    And
    remember that chickens are much more tolerant of cold than heat. They come with a down coat, people keep chickens in Alaska in unheated coops, but temps over 100 degrees can actually be life threatening for them. You don't need heat or insulation.

    Most people prefer 1/4" mesh. I assume you are talking about the apron laying on the ground, fastened to the ground with big staples. Lots easier and just as effective as burying something. Snake repellants are probably not effective, except maybe moth balls, and of course they are toxic. 1/4" should keep out anything big enough to eat eggs. Snakes take eggs, for the most part, not chickens. Use something like screws through big fat washers to make it hard for a strong animal to tear the hardware cloth.

    What is important is that it can be very difficult to add birds from different flocks, or try to mix birds from more than one source. Raising baby chick is really quite simple if you do it outdoors in a brooder, which could be a simple wooden box with a hardware cloth top and a heat lamp set on top, in a garage or shed. If you go with point of lay (POL) pullets, try to get them all from the same flock.

    Breeds may be whatever is available in your area, especially if you go with POL pullets; some places do ship them but shipping older birds is expensive and a bit of a risk, more so than chicks. If I were you I'd talk with feed store people in you area and see who sells chickens around there. Beware of chicken auctions, good way to get diseased birds. There is a good breed chart on BYC or you can google Henderson's breed chart, but first you might want to see what is available locally, then look up those breeds. Don't rely on most feed store employees for advice on chicken keeping, by the way. Come here instead. BYC also has a list of breeders and hatcheries, by state. Hatcheries have been breeding chickens for good egg production for quite a few years so many or most breeds will give you lots of eggs. The old standbys I guess are Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire Red, Plymouth Barred Rock, and probably Australorps and Orpingtons. But then there are Wyandottes and Marans and.... LOTS of breeds! Australorps and Leghorns probably beat the rest for eggs, at a good 6 a week, but you will get 6 most weeks from multiple other breeds as well. Commercials generally use Leghorns, at least for white eggs; I don't much care for them as they are flighty, meaning skittish around people, difficult to tame or handle.

    A good site on adding or mixing chickens:

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=2593-adding-to-your-flock

    Rollaway nest boxes: https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?pid=3499006#p3499006

    BTW
    , if you want tame chickens, by far the best approach is to raise them from babies and handle them a lot.

    Good luck!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 9, 2011
  9. MTopPA_18707

    MTopPA_18707 Chillin' With My Peeps

    quoting ddawn "Australorps and Leghorns probably beat the rest for eggs, at a good 6 a week, but you will get 6 most weeks from multiple other breeds as well. Commercials generally use Leghorns, at least for white eggs; I don't much care for them as they are flighty, meaning skittish around people, difficult to tame or handle."

    For this reason we are starting our flock with Australorps.

    best of luck,

    X
     
  10. joyous

    joyous Chillin' With My Peeps

    495
    1
    123
    Oct 3, 2009
    Davenport, Iowa
    "We will do everything possible to make the coop and run absolutely predator proof. It looks like hardware cloth is the way to go with an apron buried about 12” deep. We live in an area with a good number of coyotes, some bobcats possibly (haven’t seen one in while though), hawks, and probably a snake or two. I don’t imagine there is much I can do about the snakes other than use the “Snake-away” stuff I have read about. What size mesh should I be looking at for the hardware cloth, is three squares an inch too big??"

    Congrats are your new exciting adventure! I would only add to the great advice you have already received, is that if you are going to be gone for a few days at a time you might consider an electric wire to go around the perimeter of your coop and run. I have one wire about 6 inches high. Anything poking around gets a shock on the nose and runs off! I am wondering since you live in California and have snakes if another wire an inch off the ground would be a deterrent to snakes?

    I don' t how hot your summers get, but in Iowa I use a fan in the coop, can get pretty heated in there!
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by