New to this.. so many questions!

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Newbiechickchic, Mar 15, 2017.

  1. Newbiechickchic

    Newbiechickchic Just Hatched

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    We finally have a home with fields, a barn, a coop... the life I've waited years for! I've wasted no time getting started with barnyard animals.. one glimpse of Spring and now I have 2 ducks and a flock of adult chickens I just got from someone on Craigslist. I almost went with chicks, but thankfully cancelled the idea once I found this girls ad. So, the existing coop is an old one, built like a shed so everything is all in once open space. After gutting it and cleaning as best as I could in 2 days time (the gal needed the chickens picked up asap), I filled it with new boxes, roosts, and of course pine shavings. I used some new plywood on the section of floor where the food and water are, and used 2in risers to lift them up some. However, they are constantly filling with shavings due to the chickens scratching (no surprise). After reading, I am still lost on this matter of bedding material. I guess I've concluded the kiln-dried shavings are safe, but if they get into the water do they release the toxic oils into the water?? I have some straw in there too, and I've already pulled strands out of 2 chickens mouths. Isn't that a bad thing? I am also confused on the moisture/ventilation issue. This coop wasn't designed with ventilation, just 2 windows and a door. There are some gaps around the window, the chicken door, and the rafters, but due to the northeastern winter cold I have filled them with weather stripping. I have 16 chickens and 2 ducks in there (plenty of roosting space left, but not so much floor space left). The floor bedding seems moist in the morning near the food area, so do I assume it is from the watering bowls? Also, when they scratch, it of course gets very dusty in there. Not such a big deal when the door or windows can be opened on warmer days, but it concerns me for the colder days. I added some lime to the floor before filling it with bedding, so there is dirt dust, lime dust, and shavings dust they're scratching up. Is that okay for them? With regard to ventilation, I need help understanding how to add holes that can be covered when it's cold, and WHEN is it too cold? Plus, if they can't be under drafts, then in this open space coop how do I have ventilation holes that won't make drafts over them? I have thought of making panels to hang from hooks on 3 sides of the roosts (side, back, and above) that will have straw fenced to plywood. I can hang them in the winter to close the space around them a bit and help keep them warm, then remove them in the warmer weather. The existing leaks in the rafters are right above the roosts, so if I take the weather stripping out then drafts will come down on them unless I create a floating, insulated ceiling to hang just above them. This is my solution so far, but people also keep telling me I'm worrying too much and they're hardy birds. Would love your input!

    I'm also wondering about grit - do they need it everyday (I throw corn in for them, so I'm guessing yes)? And, do they like coming out in the snow or is that not recommended? I've opened the door today after our 8in. snow storm last night.. figured they'd come out in the shoveled path, but they aren't.

    Next question.. how do you all wash your eggs, and how do you keep track of their age - especially when you are only getting a couple a day?

    Is anyone on here making their own food, if so, what/how? I'm keep them on their same diet as they had before for the moment, but know I can do much better (considering I'm a health food naturalist kind of gal).

    Last question... my hens range in size, some going on 3 yrs old and rather large, and I've used 5 gal buckets as nests. Are those going to work??

    That's all I can think of at the moment, and thanks for your input! (curious.. why is there a paste function on here, but not a cut function?)

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    Last edited: Mar 15, 2017
  2. peopleRanimals2

    peopleRanimals2 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Okay, this is going to be a long post, so get ready. :)
    1. Good for you, and [​IMG]
    2. It may be a good idea to keep the water outside, (And the food, if you don't have bird problems like we do) at least during the day if you don't let your chickens out first thing in the morning. This prevents some moisture problems, and keeps them shaving free.
    3. If you got your chickens off of craigslist, it may be a good idea to check them for mites, because you don't know where they have been. Just a precaution.
    4. Where do you get your bedding from? If you order it, you may want to look into ordering a bedding made for poultry, such as KoopClean. This is what we use, and it works really well for us, and the chickens love it. :)
    5. The chickens will eat straw, dirt, and pretty much anything else they find. As long as they're not eating trash or poisonous plants, they should be fine.
    6. For ventilation, you can use the vents that houses have to ventilate their attics. I have a long one on the front of my coop, but you should put it as high up in you coop as you can, in as many places as possible. This lets the warm, moist air exit, while permitting the poultry to keep the warm air under them in the cool weather. If you have good ventilation, it shouldn't ever need to be covered up. Ventilation is especially important in the winter, because it lets the ammonia fumes from the poop escape, and prevents frostbite and a whole lot of other stuff.
    7. All that you need on the floor of your coop is bedding. I'm not sure what your schedule is for letting your chickens and ducks outside during the day, but they should be let out as much as possible every day except in hurricane, blizzard, or natural disaster situations. This prevents a lot of problems such as fighting due to too little space, and it's much better for their respiratory systems, because they are not breathing in shaving dust all day.
    8. Not really sure what you mean about the ceiling, sorry can't help you there.
    9. For grit and oyster shell, you can get one of those dog bowl stands that holds 2 dog bowls, and fill one with oyster shell and one with grit. That is what I do, and it works really well. You can provide grit and oyster shell in any number of ways, but the main idea is to have both available at all times.
    10. You should only wash your eggs if they are dirty or if you are planning to sell them. Washing them washes off the natural germ barrier, called bloom. Washing them actually lets in more bacteria than it washes off! Fresh eggs can stay good in the refrigerator for much longer then store bought eggs, so as long as you use them withing a week or so, they will still be extra fresh.
    11. Making your own food is a lot of work, and if you get it wrong, your chickens get an incorrect amount of each nutrient, and they usually get pretty sick. That doesn't mean you shouldn't make your own, though. I would recommend using store bought until you get into a routine with your chickens, then you can start researching how to make your own, and experimenting, while still providing some store bought just in case. When you have a good recipe that you know is providing everything your chickens need, then you can make the switch all the way.
    12. A five gallon bucket should be fine, you may need a bigger one for your ducks. If you notice eggs being kicked out or the hens looking uncomfortable, or refusing to lay there, you may need bigger ones, or more.

    Not sure about the copy/paste thing, sorry :)

    Well I hope this was helpful and if you have any more questions, don't hesitate to ask. Good luck!
    -M
     
  3. peopleRanimals2

    peopleRanimals2 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Cute chickens, btw [​IMG][​IMG]
    Sorry it took so long I found it only about 10 minutes after it was posted but it took me twice as long to get all my thoughts down XD
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2017
  4. Newbiechickchic

    Newbiechickchic Just Hatched

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    Phew! Well, 1st lesson learned!! DON'T LET DUCKS OUT IN THE SNOW! Omg, thought after I shoveled a pathway out to the coop, the chickens and ducks might like getting out. After a while I checked on them, only to discover my ducks were missing. Boots on, I trampled around our property in a foot of fresh snow. When I finally found them near the road, I attempted to slowly guide them back. Near the coop (after much effort) they took flight and landed IN the road, then went across it to the neighbors yard. BUSY road, now terrified, I spent an HOUR on all 4's climbing through evergreen limbs, trying to guide them into the cat kennel, or back to our property. Once they flew back across the road, I worked hard to get them near the coop. They are now under an evergreen 20 ft from the coop door.. but aren't going back in. Do I let them be? I made sure they heard the food and water nearby... but I have an appointment this afternoon and will have to leave. Dogs need to go out for their business soon.. with all this snow they will be in the same space as the ducks. Ugh, what do I do?

    Thanks for all the input on the chickens! I will post back to those after more replies. Love the help!!!! :)
     
  5. peopleRanimals2

    peopleRanimals2 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oh no! hmmm... Do you have a treat container that they will recognize the sound of? I didn't realize your yard wasn't fenced in :/
    If they know what the treat container sounds like, you can lead them back inside with that.
    When was the last time you let them out? They may just not want to go back inside because they don't want to be inside any longer. Are the rest of your chickens inside? It might be worthwhile to build a run connecting to the coop so that they can be outside whenever they want, and when you are home they could free range.
    Any treats or food that you think they might like, you can put in the coop to lure them in. What I do to 'herd' my chickens is I take a rake or a broom, and walk towards them with it held vertically. Then, when they try to go to the left or right, (Or any way you don't want them to go) You hold it out to 'steer' them with it. Good luck!!!
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2017
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  6. AuntJamie

    AuntJamie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I would take the dogs out on leashes. Who knows, maybe the dogs will scare the ducks back home to their safe place and they'll learn a lesson. Stay close or bad stuff can happen!
     
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  7. Newbiechickchic

    Newbiechickchic Just Hatched

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    They're in! Phew!
     
  8. AuntJamie

    AuntJamie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oh, good. Now train them to come when called in for treats. I'm training my chicks to come when I holler "who's finger lickin' good?"
    And how did you finally get them corralled?
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2017
  9. Newbiechickchic

    Newbiechickchic Just Hatched

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    Well, I didn't. Once I got them within 20 ft of the coop, I went in the coop to the chickens and shook the food, made noise with the water so they'd hear it, talked to the chickens, and then let them be. They stayed under the tree for at least 30 mins. but independently went back into the coop. Thank GOD! I need to figure out how to clip their wings!
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2017
  10. PapaBear4

    PapaBear4 Out Of The Brooder

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    Another big reply. It does take a few minutes to get all the thoughts out, doesn’t it? And welcome to BYC!

    Quote: I’ve never heard of any issues regarding that. I use pine shavings or straw, but I’m going to be experimenting with sand this Spring.

    Quote: Nope, won’t hurt a thing.

    Quote: I don’t have any duck yet, but I hear they’re messy. I blame them. Also, moving the food and water outside the coop will help. And your bedding will last longer.

    Quote: Not sure about the lime dust, I’ll look into that. Everything else is just part of their normal environment.

    Quote: I think that Ventilation vs Drafty is the most confusing thing about chicken keeping. As I have come to understand it ventilation = lots of air exchange with the outside, and drafty = cold winds blowing directly on them. Most breeds of chickens can survive temperatures well below freezing if they have somewhere to perch that is out of the direct wind and weather.

    Quote: The holes between the rafters at the top of the walls should be open to let warm, wet air up and out of the coop. Air coming in through there and falling on them won’t hurt them a bit. The more openings the better (up to a point obviously). If you can add a window it wouldn’t be a bad idea. Or even a prettyd up hole between studs. Just make sure you cover it with wire to keep the predators out.


    Quote: They are remarkably hardy critters. They’re far more likely to get eaten by a predator than die from any living condition issues.

    Quote: Some feed has grit included in it. But, if you’re letting them out in your yard they’re able to find their own grit. You can add a free-choice bowl of grid/sand if you want to.

    Quote: My chickens despise snow. If I clear a space they’ll come out for food and water, eventually.

    Quote: Most people agree that a clean(ish) unwashed fresh egg will be just fine on your counter for about 3 weeks. That’s my rule of thumb anyway. And I’m sure that I’ve eaten them that have sat for a lot longer than that, and I’m not dead yet. That’s not to say that one won’t kill me tomorrow though.
    Egg should be washed immediately prior to use. When you wash your eggs they need to be cooked or put in the fridge. There are several threads in the forums that talk about egg washing. I use warm to hot water and a soft brush or rag.

    Quote: Lots of threads on this in the forums. I don’t have any personal experience with it and opt to buy a locally manufactured layer mash. That’s awesome that you have that background/interest, maybe you can share some of your expertise!

    Quote: Yes, for the most part. General guideline for a standard size chickens is 12x12x12. I think 5 gal buckets measure 11”+ across at the mouth. Training chickens to use the nests can be difficult at times, and some refuse to learn. I have several in my flock that ALWAYS lay them in a corner of the coop. At least they’re consistent.

    Keep asking good questions! There’s a wealth of knowledge available throughout the forums. Just try not to get overwhelemed. :)
     
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