Preparing for late summer chicks - need feedback!

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by EricaD, Apr 17, 2012.

  1. EricaD

    EricaD Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 28, 2012
    So here we go! I've been on BYC for several weeks now, doing lots and lots of research! I've thought through everything and wanted feedback on my plans, as well as answers to a few questions.

    For background:

    I live in Western WA, pretty mild. Summers generally max out in the 80's, with maybe a few really hot days. Winters get down to a little below zero, with mild to heavy snowfall once or twice per season, in general. Lots of rain, of course :)

    Regarding predators, we have coyotes, foxes, racoons, owls, hawks (I've only ever seen one smallish hawk over our house, and it was being mercilessly attacked mid-air by 2 crows) and a rare eagle. I also know we have bears, though I've never laid eyes on one personally. I'm on 5 acres, though only a small area is cleared - the rest is woods with lots and lots of tree cover and vegetation (ferns, huckleberry bushes, wild blackberries, huge old maples and cedars, lots of stumps, etc.)

    We have 2 big dogs (an 85 pound rottie mix and a 110 pound American Bulldog/Boxer) who spend their days outside in a large fenced dog run adjacent to the house (though it's on the opposite side of the house from the chicken coop). We also have 2 cats that go in/out, but they're mostly in unless the weather is really nice. The dogs are very intruder-aggressive, are always on alert and bark and chase other animals away, but have shown no aggression towards our cats nor have they ever killed anything in our woods (chipmunks, etc.) They've also shown no aggression towards DD's guinea pigs, lol. They're all bark, no bite :)

    There are also several large neighborhood dogs, all on invisible fences, but between all these dogs they do a great job keeping wild animals away. We've never spotted one on the property or in the neighborhood. One of our neighbors with dogs also keeps chickens and neither their dogs nor our dogs have shown any aggression towards them (and their birds free range and they haven't had predator issues at all). And our 2 cats are the biggest wussies ever - they jump at their own shadows (that's what living a sheltered indoor-only life for several years can do to a cat!) But obviously we would proceed with caution before allowing any of our animals interaction with the chickens.

    COOP: So, after much pondering, I've decided on a really cute Suncast resin shed from Costco, which I'll convert into a coop. At $699, I just couldn't beat the price. It's 7' x 7', has two opening windows (which I'll cover with hardware cloth for security), ventilation in the roof and double doors in front. It has an attached floor, so it will be quite secure, and I'm thinking of raising it above ground level, or at a minimum I'll set down concrete below it for added insulation and protection from moisture.

    I plan to use the deep litter method and will build free standing roost bars and nesting boxes that can easily be pulled out for annual deep cleaning. I want to avoid drilling/cutting the resin. I hope to raise everything up on legs so that there's still floor space underneath - for example, build a shelf on legs that's maybe 2' above the ground and set the nest boxes on top of that, so that they don't take up floor space. I'm still sorting through creative ideas.

    CHICKENS: I've ordered 10 chicks from Meyer for delivery in mid-August. 9 hens and 1 roo. They are an assortment based on desired egg colors and, well, just my own whimsy :) I got 1 golden campine female, 1 welsummer female, 1 cuckoo marans female, 1 blue laced red wyandotte female, 1 EE roo, 2 EE females, 1 ancona female, 1 golden laced wyandotte female, and 1 barred rock female. Should make for a fun and colorful assortment! Eventually I may also want to add 3 silkies to the mix, once I find a good breeding source, because my DD adores them. My wishlist also includes a buff brahma, salmon faverolle and a BC marans, so DD's silkies may not make the cut, lol - I only have 49 square feet of coop space to work with!

    GOALS: Eggs, pets, garden help, and fertilizer! Eventually, I'll probably let them breed so that I can select new hens to replace the older hens for egg production. Favorite birds will remain pets for life. Non favorites may be culled for food, or, if I don't have the heart to do it (which I very likely won't), given away. Newly bred birds, same thing - extra roos and hens will go to the stew pot, or be sold/given away. This is so that I don't exceed max occupancy for my coop (and if I eventually do, I can always add on for more space - I've read a lot about chicken math!)

    RANGE PLANS: My overly optimistic goal is to allow the birds to free range over our property during the daytime (with simple fencing to keep them out of the veggie patch and other areas we wish to protect). I know, I know - predators may prove to be a problem. If that happens, I'll surely rethink my plan and will have a plan B on standby (fenced run). After reading "Chicken Gardens" I'm so inspired by what the birds can do for me with regards to weed and insect control, fertilizer, etc. And I truly believe this is healthiest for the chickens. That being said, I'm also entertaining the idea of using electric field netting as a moveable perimeter that we can change every week or two, which doesn't protect from hawks but will protect from the 4-legged predators who may be tempted to come during the day. As for hawks, there will be loads of places for the chickens to take cover, and hopefully the roo will alert them.

    And, if our dogs prove to be good with the chickens, we may eventually put them on an invisible fence for added daytime predator control. At night, of course, the chickens would be locked in the coop, and I'd add something like solar night eyes or predator preventer and a scarecrow (saw that someone used a beauty store head with a scarf and sunglesses on a stick body, love that idea, lol) as additional predator deterrents.

    I assure everyone that I'm taking the predator issue very seriously and will be very proactive about prevention and alternate options if we lose any birds. But I won't know if total free range will work until I try, right?

    My questions:

    With the chicks arriving in August, can I just devise a brooder inside the shed/coop and keep them outside from the beginning? It should be quite warm that time of year (stays warm through October), and the location of the shed will be shaded, so it shouldn't get overly hot with the windows open. I would add a temporary small adjacent covered run until they're big enough to have supervised free range time, and eventually unsupervised full time free ranging. I can run a power cord to the coop easily because it'll be very close to the front porch, which has outlets - I was thinking of getting a Brinsea EcoGlow 20, if I can ever get my hands on one - they're always sold out!

    I've read that adding light inside the coop will help with egg production in fall/winter months (and being this far north we have a lot of darkness in the fall/winter). Has anyone used solar landscape lights for this purpose - will they be bright enough? While I can run power to the coop temporarily for the babies, I won't have permanent power and would need something solar or battery operated with a timer. Any suggestions? How bright does nighttime lighting have to be in order to get any benefits?

    Should I order a couple more roo babies so that I can watch them grow and select the "best" one, rather than hope that the single roo I got meets my needs, and risking the chance that he won't and I'll have mature hens with no roo? The excess roos can be rehomed, or whatever. If this is a good idea, any recommendations as to breeds other than the EE roo I already ordered? I was really hoping for an EE roo so that I could eventually breed some olive eggers in addition to more EE hens - so maybe just order 3 EE roos and keep the best one?

    I'm 100% certain that DH and I will never ever be able to butcher our own chickens. NEVER EVER. Anyone in Western WA (I'm out on the Peninsula - Tacoma/Gig Harbor/Bremerton area) know of anyone I can hire to do the deed? Ideally I'd bring the chickens to their location, pay the fee, and return the next day for clean and bagged birds. A referral would be greatly appreciated!

    I think that's it for now!
     
  2. cabinonalake

    cabinonalake Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 6, 2012
    Many people on here will tell you that new day old chicks have to have 95 degrees in the brooder, that gets dropped 5 degrees every week. When I brought my first 2 chicks home they had a red heat lamp that generally stayed in the 70's, at 10 days old the chicks were moved from the house to the garage, and the temps in there have been between 40-70 degrees (all they have is a regular house light bulb for light), they've been out there for since last saturday the 14th. Our chickens are doing wonderfully out there and I plan on not even having the next batch of chicks or the ducks in the house at all, they are all going out in the garage the day they get here. I think your chicks will be just fine to go straight into either a garage like we're doing or into a divided off section of your coop. We're in Maine our chicks started going outside at 10 days old, twice a day everyday to forage. They also get held atleast twice a day as we bought these straight run and if they are roos we want docile roos. I would assume our climates are very similar, I know here in Maine August is VERY warm I think you'll be just fine to not have them in the house.. I am a newbie but that's what has worked for us. If you think about it for the hundreds of years that chickens have been around I doubt that every chick has been at 95 degrees for the first week and then following the "rule" of dropping every week by 5 degrees. Actually my inlaws have chicks year round that are in a small coop with no heat and do just fine in Maine winters.
     
  3. cabinonalake

    cabinonalake Out Of The Brooder

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    Also, I don't know about in your area but here in Maine the butcherer that I was told about is first come first serve and it costs $3 per bird.. I've heard good and bad about having multiple roosters, I think ir really depends on the individual personalities' of the birds. For example I've read on here that some people have nice, calm roosters however my inlaws have two currently and about a week ago it was a blood bath between the two of them. I saw them a couple days after the fight and one was still covered in blood (they plan on putting on in the freezer soon). I only plan on having 1 rooster for my 10-12 hens, but around here people give them away I am going to pick from over 140 roosters in about a week or so.
     
  4. EricaD

    EricaD Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 28, 2012
    Well, I was thinking of ordering 3 roosters to grow out, but only plan to keep 1 as an adult. I thought this way I could choose the most docile of the bunch. I'd get rid of the other 2 eventually. But I suppose the trouble is that their personalities aren't really determined until they reach adulthood and by then, having too many adult roos could result in problems.

    Perhaps it's best to just get one male and if he turns into a butthead, we'll get rid of him and try to find a local source for a mature replacement roo that has a proven temperament.

    Thanks for sharing your experience on raising babies in the coop - it's very reassuring! I figure that if I section off an area of the coop for them and provide them with a heat source, and plenty of space to get away from the heat into cooler parts, and time to explore the outdoors, they should be able to find a comfortable temperature and will develop better instincts too!
     
  5. cabinonalake

    cabinonalake Out Of The Brooder

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    if you did get 3 roos, you'd be able to tell their coloring around 6 weeks (im assuming) and our 12 day old chicks allready have their personalities I'm sure it would be fine if one of them is not very nice then he can be thrown in the freezer until you figure out which of the other two you would want to keep...? couldn't hurt to try and with any resly you get you'd know for the future.. I also heard that keeping multiple roos together is fine IF they arent with the hens as well.. that way they don't fight over "mating rights" and whos girls' the hens are..
     
  6. cabinonalake

    cabinonalake Out Of The Brooder

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    another thing that i did for our chicks when they started out in the rubbermaid storage tote the heat lamp spread the heat throughout the tote and there wasn't much room for them to get away from it, I put a cardboard box upside down that way they could hide from the heat underneith it. The 2 chicks ended up sleeping under it every night..
     
  7. darin367

    darin367 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Dec 1, 2010
    Shelton, Wa.
    where at in wa......... i'm in shelton, have the same predators, weather etc..... you're chicks will be fine outside in coop..... set them up with a 100 watt bulb in a place they can get under it or get away from it as they want/need to...... as far as roos go, i've usually got 1 you can have..
     
  8. EricaD

    EricaD Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 28, 2012
    Hi Darin!

    You're not far from me at all. I'm in Gig Harbor, but travel to Bremerton every week, which I think is not far from Shelton, right?
     
  9. darin367

    darin367 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Shelton, Wa.
    i'm a bit closer to bremerton than gig harbor..... either way it's 40 minutes....... you can message me if ya want... i'll be hatching again in summer, so if you'd like a roo of mine in late summer early fall let me know....... all my roos have been very good boys so far, no mean ones, at least all the ones that i still know where they are..... they're mutts, barred rock, rhode island red, americana mixes....... my email is darin367 at yahoo feel free to drop my a line anytime..... good luck and take care!!!!!
     
  10. LindaJean

    LindaJean Out Of The Brooder

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    I also live in Western Washington - in McCleary - 20 miles west of Olympia. I'm new to chickens as well. I had the same brilliant idea - I got a 7x7 Rubbermaid storage building from Home Depot and I'm converting it to a coop - they were on sale last week for $549 - it has vents - planning on adding a few more roof vents, two fixed window doors and 4 skylights. I think for cleaning it will be great. My DH is going to cut the chicken door in the side. We're going to build free standing nest boxes and roosts and the run is getting fenced in today.
    Chick Day at the Montesano Feed Store was Saturday and I came home with 9 - 3 California Whites, 3 Barred Rocks, and 3 Araucanas. Of coures my order for 25 comes next week - I just couldn't resist. My biggest fear was that I would fry or freeze them. Didn't happen!!! I don't think I have it as warm as 95 but they seem happy - yes the big brooder light is shining, but I keep moving it up and up and they do indicate with their huddling or not their level of comfort. My order next week will bring 5 Rhode Island Reds, 5 Barred Rocks, 5 Red Sex link, 5 Australorps and 5 Brown Leghorns. On May 5 froom the Elma Feed Store I will pick up 3 Buff Orpingtons.
    Thank goodness my boss and another co-worker will take at least half. Like you, I wanted to try a variety of breeds to see which ones I really like and which ones do well. I still would like to try the golden comets. I think this area has lots of chicken owners - good to know as I, too, will need lots of advice. I'll be watching to see how yours do - good luck.
     

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