Newbie looking for advice

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by shandea, Mar 17, 2007.

  1. shandea

    shandea In the Brooder

    Mar 17, 2007
    First of all, HI, I'm Shannon. I'm so glad I found this site to get some good info.

    I have decided to get a few hens in order to have eggs and possibly control spiders and bugs in my yard without using chemicals. We've found several black widows and my son likes to run around barefooted. I have only about a 1/4 acre yard in suburban Raleigh NC. I plan on building a coop with a fenced run, and letting them loose in our fenced in backyard for a few hours a day. Here are some of my concerns or questions:

    Will close neighbors hear any noises if I get only hens? I worry about this causing problems. We have houses about 10 feet away from our backyard fence. Perhaps if I just share eggs with them... [​IMG]

    I've read about chickens getting fleas and lice. Is this a common occurrence, and if so, is there a way to get rid of them?

    What is a good laying breed that can withstand heat? Do most hens truly lay one egg per day, or so?

    I've read on here about feeding them cat food. Is this what most of you do?

    Are there any people here who live in a similar setting as myself? Just curious if this can really work out. I have checked and there are no ordinances against it in my city.
  2. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD

    Welcome to the community!
    Great decision! Chickens are great.

    I find my hens aren't too loud and it's really the rooster that makes the ruckus. The chickens will make some noise if they get scared or when they first start laying eggs, but as they get older, they aren't that loud.

    To make sure you end up with girls, you can get a sexlink breed which the males and females are born as different colors. I really like my gold sex link but find my black sex links are better layers.

    If you start with chicks, they shouldn't have fleas and lice so when they grow up, as long as you don't bring in outside birds and keep wild birds away, your chances of getting lice are not that high. If you do get lice though, which is more common, there are powders you can put on them or into their favorite dusting spots, in addition to DE which lots of people here like to use.

    As for withstanding heat, I would think that any layer breed will be able to handle it as long as they have water to drink and shade to hide in. My hens lay an egg about once every 26 hours, with that period of time increasing as they get older. So you can easily get 6-7 eggs a week from each good layer.

    Personally I don't feed cat food to the chickens but they come up and steal the cat's food instead. It's helpful when they are in molt.

    Hopefully I made some sense there.
  3. Picco

    Picco Songster

    Mar 14, 2007
    Hello future suburban farmer. I live on a 1/8 acre plot in town with neighbors close by. Its a lot of fun! Here are some answers [​IMG]

    1. Talk to your neighbors about your plans and explain the positive aspects of keeping chickens for you and them both (eggs, bug control, fertilizer for gardens...). If they don't like the idea but its legal for you to keep chickens go ahead - but keep within the parameters of the law and always be respectful to your neighbors.

    2. All chickens make noise but your average hen shouldn't be loud enough for your neighbors to have a problem with it. I don't recommend roosters.

    3. Parasites (lice, mites...) should not be too much of a problem if you keep the coop clean and you treat your birds from time to time for such pests.

    4. All domestic chickens trace their ancestry to Southeast Asia where it is very hot so most breeds can handle the heat as long as they have proper access to shade and ventilation. The light mediterranean breeds handle the heat best and are also the best layers, however, they are flighty and tend not to make good pets. The heavy dual purpose breeds and most bantams lay well and are easily tamed. Bantams also do less damage to the landscape since their feet are smaller - you can also have a few more since they are small and require less space. Breeds I recommend: cochins, japanese bantams, mille fleurs, wyandottes, americaunas.

    5. Cat food is a big NO NO, chicken feed is cheaper and better for them. Cat food could sustain them but they could suffer from malnutrition and other health problems as a result, as well as lay fewer eggs.

    6. Most production strains lay about an egg a day when fed a good diet and are exposed to light (natural or artificial) for 14 hrs/day. This production peaks between 1 and two years and falls after but not by too much.

    I would recommend keeping your flock to only a few hens - the fewer the hens the more tame they'll be and the less problems you will encounter. Chickens are great for getting rid of bugs, laying eggs and for having fun. Good luck and welcome to the world of backyard chickens!
  4. sdeneen2001

    sdeneen2001 Songster

    Feb 26, 2007
    Bellevue, WA
    One think that I just can't help but mention... You say that your son likes to run around barefoot. You should be aware that chickens do "their business" whenever and where ever and every 3rd poop or so is a smelly, slimy one. I don't let my kids run barefoot where my hens freerange. That said, I've watched them munch down hundreds of mosquitoes, I haven't seen any mice after my alpha hen found out that they were "good eatin'" [​IMG] and they decimated a termite mound (after I moved a fence so that they could access it).

    I feed mine a chick grower when I first get them, then layer pellets when they get a bit older. I do feed cat food when they are moulting. I fill an old plastic tray with dry food and cover it with warm water in the evening so that is it soft and easy for them to eat in the morning. But I use it sparingly because it doesn't provide the right daily nutrition for them and they will eat it instead of their regular food - given the choice.
  5. shandea

    shandea In the Brooder

    Mar 17, 2007
    Quote:Yes, I thought of that as soon as I typed it! No big deal though... I'll just make him wear flip-flops outside.

    Thanks for bringing that to my attn!

    And thanks to all of you for this wonderful info.
  6. shandea

    shandea In the Brooder

    Mar 17, 2007
    OK, couple more questions:

    I have a 6' privacy fence. Will I have to worry about clipping their wings, or can they get that high? What breeds are best for NOT flying?

    What is the reason for some people making their coop mobile so they can move it? Is this a good idea? I have found lots of good plans for free online. Have any of you used these? If so, please send me a link to the one you used and have had success with. It has to be small (for 3 or 4 hens), as I have a small yard.

    What's the one good book that you guys recommend? I'll go buy it today so I can stop with all these questions!
  7. 4H kids and mom

    4H kids and mom Cooped Up

    Mar 10, 2007
    Southern Wisconsin
    A mobile chicken coop is referred to as a chicken tractor. People move them around so that one area can have a chance to regrow after the chickens have used it for awhile. Chickens do alot of scratching and can uproot grass and plants. They've also been known to eat sprouts from gardens.

    As far as flight goes, it is safe to say that the larger chickens wont fly AS WELL but all chickens can fly, some can fly quite a distance. I know that the Bantams (I think of them as "mini chickens" lol) can fly far and fairly high too so they may be able to scale your 6' fence. To avoid this you have mainly 2 options: clip their wings, or build them an enclosure with a top to it.

    Clipping their wings has advantages and down sides. If you dont coop your chickens before dusk, a predator could get in the yard and a clipped chicken might not be able to get away. However, you could avoid this by cooping before dusk, and leaving them cooped until after first light. Most predators dont hunt during the daylight hours. They dont like to be seen and stay away from people. Generally if you see a coyotte or something during the day, there is something wrong with them (rabies, distemper, etc) and you should REALLY be worried, not just for the chickens.

    The easiest way to keep your chickens safe is build them/buy them an enclosure with a top (such as a dog type kennel or run). This way they can't fly away, predators cant get at them, and they'll be easier for you to 'round up'.

    As far as books, you NEED Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens. She also writes a Guide to Raising Poultry, which is also good, but goes more into the commercial stuff IMO. The Raising Chickens book will walk you through everything from day one to dressing a chicken for the table, as well as coop and tractor building, and all sorts of other very crutial knowledge. I also know that if you dont get it on your own, someone here is likely to throw one at your head or cram it down your throat! [​IMG] So, for your own safety, buy it today! lol

    PS....If you want to go with a breed with really unusual eggs (to appease your neighbors? [​IMG] ) you can go with Ameraucanas. They lay eggs of blue and green, but you sometimes get eggs of other shades and tints. Eggs of pink and yellow have been reported! Some hatcheries call them Easter Eggers (or EE's) but this is actually a 'mongrel' type mix (not good for show) that looks similar, and lays unusual colored eggs as well, and sometimes you get lucky and find TRUE Araucanas which are the rumpless "purebred" counterpart. Gerenally, the Ameraucanas are most common. I am currently raising both Ameraucanas and Easter Eggers. I liked that all the chicks look so unique from one another and cant wait to see what they'll look like when they feather out. Plus, there is a big market around here for the more 'unique' farm fresh egg, so I hope to be able to bring in a buck or two selling them at the local Farmers Market this summer. [​IMG]
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2007
  8. shandea

    shandea In the Brooder

    Mar 17, 2007
    Quote:Yeah, I plan to make a coop out of my son's Little Tykes playhouse that he's outgrown. I will probably actually put wheels on 2 sides so that it can be moved around. Out from that I will put an A-shaped run made of wire. My question about flying over the fence was because we have lots of spiders in our yard and so I'd like to let them wander the yard a couple hours a day.

    You gave me lots of good info. And I am going to get that book NOW when my child is napping. Thanks!
  9. asher

    asher Chicken Enabler Extraordinaire

    Jan 26, 2007
    Mountains of NC
    Silkies really cannot not fly much at all because their feathers are more fur like than feathers. However, you cannot sex most of them until they are quite old, around crowing age which seems to be later with silkies than other breeds so they may not be the best option for you. They are fantastic for kids, though, as pets. [​IMG]
  10. JudyMcKinn

    JudyMcKinn Songster

    Jan 24, 2007
    SW MO
    Someone mentioned bantams. They are cute, and tame easily, however, I thought I would mention that if you intend to appease the neighbors with fresh eggs, bantams won't be too successful, as they lay small eggs (takes 2 to be the same as one regular egg) and most people aren't too impressed with them when you try to give them away. At least not in my area.

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