Please help me survive the pull of chicken math

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by cmlew99, Mar 9, 2015.

  1. cmlew99

    cmlew99 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi everyone! It will soon be a full year that I have had chickens, and I really have enjoyed it. Although, this winter has been really rough. How better to celebrate the new coming spring with… baby chicks! Right?

    So I need some help here. I have four chickens. A big BO rooster, Edith; a Buff Brahma hen, Mary (both of which I raised as chicks); I also have an EE hen and RIR hen that I bought this fall as pullets. My run is about six by seven feet (or 42 square feet). The coop floor is 3 1/2 feet by six feet, and there is an upper platform that is 3 1/2 feet by 3 feet that they can fly up onto. Since we just finished this "winter proof" coop right before the snow started, we didn't have time to expand our run (but we plan on expanding it quite a bit in the spring/summer). There is a portion about 3ft by 6ft of the coop that I am currently using for storage but could easily cover in pine shavings for more chicken space.

    I also have an A-Frame coop that is currently not in use that I could raise any new chickens in until they reached a good age to integrate.

    Am I crazy? I want to know if getting more chicks would be harmful to my current chickens, that way I can stop this silly dream in its tracks. If you don't think I'm a nutcase, how many would I be able to get? The other thing is that my current hens have bare patches on their backs from my rooster mating. Would getting more hens solve that problem? Or just lead to other issues that I haven't even thought of yet?

    Also, one last thing. My Buff Brahma hen had a strange respiratory illness back in December. None of my other chickens were affected in any way, but her eyes were watery and she sneezed a lot. I gave her doses of Baytril as ordered by our vet and she has been perfect ever since. Would this affect anything?

    Thanks everyone!
     
  2. Monguire

    Monguire Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sounds like your biggest limitation is space. BOs, Brahmas...those are BIG chooks. The general rule of thumb is 4 square feet of coop space per chook and 10 square feet run space per chook. Being in MASS., there are going to be a LOT of snowed-in days where the chooks will be confined to the coop unless your run is also covered. This could go on for days/weeks inviting behavioral issues into your flock if you don't provide sufficient space for them to get away from one another. Additionally, the rule of thumb on roost-space is 10 inches per chook. If you have say 6 birds, don't think that 60 inches will be all you need. In my experience you'll need at least 50% more (90 inches in this example) just to accommodate the pecking order. Just picture a bunch of squabbling kids ("Don't touch me!" "Eeeewwww, I don't want your cooties!" etc)...more roost space will permit them to find a happy equilibrium.

    The First Law of chicken math is always build bigger than your intended flock size as that will allow you to delay the Second Law of chicken math (always keep your tools handy for building additions) as long as possible! [​IMG]
     
  3. cmlew99

    cmlew99 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hmmm... What about bantams? Would I need less space for those little guys? I have a total of 72 inches of roosting space at the moment, and my run does happened to be covered. Although I definitely know what you mean as far as being snowed in... I told myself in the beginning that I'd be fine as far as the temptation of chicken math- I just didn't realize it had such an affect! :D
     
  4. Monguire

    Monguire Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Absolutely bantams would allow more in less space but more space is ALWAYS better. Sure you could actively manage (i.e., cull) problem-chooks out to keep harmony in a flock at or near living-space capacity but me being lazy, I would rather give them the tools (adequate space, clean, secure environment, etc) to let them sort the day-to-day tussles while I focus on the larger issues.

    It is AWESOME that you are asking yourself these questions versus just getting a gaggle of chicks and hoping for the best. Its a basic tenet of good animal husbandry. Keep in mind though that things like space requirements are GUIDELINES. You might happen to have the most laid-back, easy-going and well-adjusted chooks on the face of the planet and never encounter any issues like feather-picking, cannibalism, etc. I'm solidly in the "why risk it?" camp. Those with a healthy flock dynamic often take it for granted until they see or experience an unhealthy one.
     
  5. cmlew99

    cmlew99 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 5, 2014
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    Thank you for your sensible advice! I definitely don't want any more problems on my hands- there is already some squabbling between the second-in-command hen and the hen below her. I will definitely take into consideration the space I have and the stress it might cause my flock before doing anything rash.
     
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    My Coop
    I would not put more birds in that coop space, it's probably already a bit small as you've found this winter.
    The 4-10 'rule' is, IMO, a bare minimum...especially if you live where winter is like where we live.

    The respiratory issue could in fact be caused, or exacerbated, by the close quarters.
    Bare backs are not uncommon even with a good rooster/hen ratio, depends on the roosters personality / technique and some hens just have more brittle feathers than others. More hens might help, getting rid of the rooster would definitely help..... if you don't need a rooster.

    Just say no to chicks for this year....then start planning to build a bigger coop and covered run for next year.
    More chickens and eggs are fun (tho cleaning up more poop is not fun), but can be a nightmare if you don't have adequate space for them.

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