Series of Basic Questions

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by daveshay, Feb 3, 2011.

  1. daveshay

    daveshay New Egg

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    Hi, We live in Indiana and are considering getting three or four chicks to raise and keep (for the eggs yes, but also as pets). We have a farmhouse with an old coop that was built before we bought the house, but we have never used it. It has been repaired, however, and is in decent shape. I have tried to learn more about chickens and chicken raising on this site and still have some questions that I would love for someone to answer. Forgive my ignorance.

    1. Regarding Runs: What exactly is a run used for? What do the chickens actually do in the run? How long are chickens in the run per day? We have plenty of space for them to "free range," so how long should we allow them to be outside of the run (considering the predator threat is not great during the day but becomes more so at night)?

    2. Runs, part II: Should the sides of the run be buried into the ground a few inches to discourage predators who might dig underneath it (and get into the run) or shouldn't I worry about that? How would I prevent a predator getting into the run, and going into the coop through the chickens' door?

    3. The interior of our coop used to have wire (which I took down long ago) strung from one side to the other about four feet above the concrete slab, and on top of the wire was straw. What do you think was the purpose of this? Were chickens up there (about four feet above the concrete slab)? I'm confused.

    4. How necessary is it to clip the birds' wings to keep them from flying? Does it hurt the bird?

    5. What temperature must the coop stay above in winter for the chickens to survive? Our coop has four south-facing windows but no electricity. Should I run an electric line out there?

    6. If you were to recommend one common breed that would be especially well suited as a "pet" for two young children, what breed would it be? Egg laying is a bonus.

    Thanks for any help you can offer, Dave
     
  2. Buff Hooligans

    Buff Hooligans Scrambled

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    I will try to answer some of your questions:
    1. Enclosed runs are a safe way to let your chickens be outdoors when you are not around to supervise free-ranging. I myself never let my girls free-range, so they don't miss it. There are coyotes and hawks in my area and I do not wish to give them free dinners and break my heart.
    If you do make a run, skip the chickenwire idea and use hardware cloth instead. Even neighborhood dogs can rip though chickenwire.

    2. Yes, bury the hardware cloth two feet down into the ground to prevent digging predators.

    3. [don't know the answer to this one]
    4. Re: wing clipping - this usually isn't done unless you've got a real overachieving flyer that likes to visit the neighbors fenced yard (to the delight of their dogs).
    5. My coop has no heat either. As long as you have a winter hardy breed (any of the larger, heavier ones such as Orpingtons, Brahmas, Australorps, etc), just shelter and no blowing breezes on them while they sleep, they should be fine.
    6. Breed? Buff Orps of course. (I'm very partial...) But remember that when chicks grow in their first year, they are incredibly inquisitive and use their beaks to get answers. Therefore, shiny eyeballs nearby can be a target (says one who lost a contact lens to a young pullet). So until the pullets learn what's edible and what's not, take care with your children's interactions with them.

    Hope that helps. Others will probably chime in too. Welcome to chicken love!

    Here's our setup:
    [​IMG]

    Here it is in winter:
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2011
  3. Chicken.Lytle

    Chicken.Lytle Chillin' With My Peeps

    Quote:Welcome to BYC and the world of chickens. Please visit my BYC Page for links to my blog that you may find helpful or amusing.


    1. The run is where the chickens do their scratching around and dust bathing and other non-sleeping behaviors. Free ranging lets them eat more free food and exercise further afield, but there is no wire or net top like a run should have, so you are accepting the probable loss of chickens if you let them range. Most people that do part-time free range let them out for an hour or two, usually with a human keeping an eye on them.

    2. The recommended practice is to put a wire skirt around the run like a below-ground L. The run structure itself has many possible variations, depending on your budget. Typical runs have welded wire sides and hardware cloth lower rank to keep raccoons from pulling chickens through. If you have weasels, then a fully enclose half inch hardware cloth run would be more effective. My run is big so I have poultry netting over the top , which will not stop a raccoon. The coop itself needs to be Fort Knox with a closed pop door at night and hardware cloth screwed down over all openings.

    3. No clue

    4. Not needed if the birds are confined. Recommended if the run is open-top or if they free range. Does not hurt the chicken -- it is like trimming a fingernail.

    5. Chickens are OK with cold more than heat. There are unheated coops in Alaska. I do not recommend electricity due to the fire hazard. It is important to keep drafts off the birds as they roost while still allowing ventilation.

    6. Others are better qualified to answer this one.
     
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:Are you a horse person by any chance? It is the chicken equivalent of "turnout" [​IMG] They hang out, out there, and scratch around for bugs and seeds, and eat any weeds that are sprouting up, and sunbathe, and dustbathe, and snap at flies, and watch the world go by. It is a place for "being a chicken" outdoors that is SAFE from predators. (Well, reasonably safe, depending on the particular run). Usually you'd let the chickens have access to it all day every day, even if the weather is yucky (let THEM decide where to be).

    We have plenty of space for them to "free range," so how long should we allow them to be outside of the run (considering the predator threat is not great during the day but becomes more so at night)?

    WHile predation risk is higher at night, and it is *partly* because there are lotsa nighttime predators, a lot of it is just that chickens are a) basically nightblind and b) when sleeping on the roost have really very little evasive capacity. Daytime predators can be a serious problem too, even for the awake and inclined-to-flee chicken. By all means you can free range chickens, but recognize that hawks are an unavoidable risk (on the bright side, a hawk will usually only take one chicken at a time) and loose dogs can be a devastating daytime predator, much more common than you might think. They can kill an entire flock in minutes. THis includes your own dog who you were *sure* would *never* hurt a chicken and maybe has even been fine with them for <however long>. I am not trying to discourage you from free-ranging the chickens, and certainly it's what the chickens would prolly prefer if you asked them, but you need to have realistic view of how it will work. Also you will tend to end up with dug-up garden beds and a pooey back porch [​IMG]

    If you free range, a run is optional but still desirable, because it gives you a way of confining the chickens when circumstances require (someone's dogs are loose and rampaging around; or you do not want chicken poo all over your fourth of july bbq picnic; or one of the chickens is ill and should be kept under observation; or you are training the pullets to lay in the henhouse rather than randomly in hidden places around the whole property).

    2. Runs, part II: Should the sides of the run be buried into the ground a few inches to discourage predators who might dig underneath it (and get into the run) or shouldn't I worry about that? How would I prevent a predator getting into the run, and going into the coop through the chickens' door?

    A few inches burial won't do much. 18" is more like it. A (better, IMO) alternative that is much less work with pretty much equal benefits is to lay some 2-4' wide stout wire mesh flat on the ground just outside the run fence, securely affixed to the base of the run fence, with the free edge pegged down or buried under mulch/dirt/sod/turf/pavers/rocks/whatever.

    3. The interior of our coop used to have wire (which I took down long ago) strung from one side to the other about four feet above the concrete slab, and on top of the wire was straw. What do you think was the purpose of this? Were chickens up there (about four feet above the concrete slab)? I'm confused.

    It may have been a form of droppings board under the roost. I dunno. THere are better arrangements, generally, so do not feel you must reconstruct it.

    4. How necessary is it to clip the birds' wings to keep them from flying? Does it hurt the bird?

    It does not hurt them unless you clip too far back into the blood-bearing 'quick'. It is not "necessary", and also it does not always WORK, but if you are having problems with them going over fences it is always something to TRY and sometimes will do a good enough job.

    5. What temperature must the coop stay above in winter for the chickens to survive?

    -30 or -40 starts to get pretty tough on chickens. Really anything above 0 F is pretty decent from a chicken perspective, as long as you have dry air; certainly anything above 15-20 F is *nuffin'*, cold-wise, assuming sensibly chosen breeds in a well managed coop.

    You may wish to look at my ventilation and cold-coop pages, links in .sig below.

    Our coop has four south-facing windows but no electricity. Should I run an electric line out there?

    Where do you live? (what are your winters like). If you spend months entirely below freezing, it is really really nice to have a heated waterer or waterer base, to keep the water liquid. Otherwise you "get" to schlep water out there multiple times a day as needed to keep it liquid. Also it is always nice to be *able* to run a lamp for warmth *if* you should need it e.g. sick chickens.

    But if you don't get below freezing all that much, and do not intend to add extra light in wintertime to reduce the seasonal dip/cessation in laying, then electricity is pretty optional.

    6. If you were to recommend one common breed that would be especially well suited as a "pet" for two young children, what breed would it be? Egg laying is a bonus.

    Almost any dual-purpose type breed, particularly if you can find out what that particular LINE is like in terms of temperament (there are really scatty or aggressive lines of a lot of breeds, even if the general breed overall is generally calm). Pick something you like the looks of [​IMG]

    (BTW they all lay eggs, it is just a matter of how many and for what portion of the year [​IMG])

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat​
     
  5. Dogfish

    Dogfish Rube Goldberg incarnate

    Mar 17, 2010
    Western Washington
    1. Chickens like to be outside. They'll poop, scratch, fight, eat, drink and most of all get outside in fresh air.

    2. Wire can be burried straght down 12-18", or down a little bit and out flat 12-24". Use 2x4 or hardware cloth, not chicken wire.

    3. Dunno?

    4. Not necessary unless you think it is. Haven't done anything to my birds.

    5. My birds did fine in 17 degree weather outside, but my coop is insulated. Electricity is handy in the coop to run lights, heat lamps, auto doors, etc. If you have the time, money and ability, run a line. Mine is fully wired.

    6. Lots of nice breed out there. Folks seem to like Buff Orphingtons. I don't have any of those, but my barred rocks and rhode island reds are very nice to me. Start the chicks with lots of attention, supervised of course, from the kids, and they should be friendly.
     
  6. Buff Hooligans

    Buff Hooligans Scrambled

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    Quote:Dogfish brings up an important point - insulating the interior walls of your coop. My hubby used rigid insulation, then nailed barnboard over it.
     
  7. wsdareme

    wsdareme Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Everyone has done a good job of addressing #1 through #5, so I'll just add my 2 cents worth for #6.

    This is a great link for selecting a breed or breeds: http://www.mypetchicken.com/chicken-breeds/which-breed-is-right-for-me.aspx

    I
    chose to get several different breeds (okay, so it was 9 different breeds and several colors of a couple). It's fun to have a variety of colors of both chickens and eggs, and it's a lot easier to figure out which one is "Daisy" and which one is "Marlyce" when they don't look the same.

    My recommendation is to buy day-old chicks from a hatchery and make sure you opt for females and not "mixed run". With kids and to have them be pets, you really don't want to be messing with any roosters. MyPetChicken.com allows you to buy as few as 3 chicks, and I believe they get their stock from Meyer Hatchery. The higher shipping costs were worth not having to buy 25 chicks and get 15 roosters in the batch.

    Buff Orpingtons are nice, and we really like our Barred Rock and Dominique (although those two look almost identical except for comb type). We have 3 different colors of Cochins, and they are just fun to look at. You might want to use the breed selector and pick 3 or 4 different breeds that make good pets and are varied in feather color and egg color. And, I highly recommend an Easter Egger!!! I have 6, and I get 5 shades of green and 1 blue egg from them.

    Good luck, and welcome to BYC! You'll find this to be a most informative site!!! [​IMG]
     
  8. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:That said, you and the kids need to realize that even when you buy sexed "pullets only" chicks, there is STILL a pretty decent chance that one or more may turn out to be a cockerel (young rooster). It is not a perfect process. So you need a plan for dealing with any unexpected males, and to have thought thru how it will be billed to the kids.

    Pat
     
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Northwest Arkansas
    Some good questions. Like many good questions, they are not always easy to answer.

    We keep chickens for different reasons; pets, eggs, meat, to show, to eat bugs, manure for compost, just because they do neat stuff, to hatch chicks, or a combination of these. We have a wide range of conditions we keep them in. One answer may not fit all situations.

    1. Regarding Runs: What exactly is a run used for? What do the chickens actually do in the run? How long are chickens in the run per day? We have plenty of space for them to "free range," so how long should we allow them to be outside of the run (considering the predator threat is not great during the day but becomes more so at night)?

    Chickens need a certain amount of space. How much depends on a whole lot of different things, but suffice it to say most of us do not keep our chickens in the same conditions as a lot of commercial operations. Some people provide that space by having a big coop, an enclosed predator-proof space where they normally have roosts, nests boxes, feed and water.

    In addition to that, most of us have a run. That is usually a fenced in area bigger than the coop that allows them access to sunlight. They eat all the green stuff in the run if they are confined there much, so they really don't get much food there, but they can sun themselves, scratch in the dirt and take dirt baths. Runs are usually less expensive to build than coops, so you can economically provide more space. Runs are normally harder to make predator-proof so a lot of people only allow access to the run during the daylight hours.

    Then there are people that lock them in coops during the night, have runs for the times you want to lock them up during the day, but also allow them some type of free-ranging. There are different reasons you might want to leave them locked in the run and not free-range. How you manage this depends on your risk tolerance, experience, and situation.

    2. Runs, part II: Should the sides of the run be buried into the ground a few inches to discourage predators who might dig underneath it (and get into the run) or shouldn't I worry about that? How would I prevent a predator getting into the run, and going into the coop through the chickens' door?

    Again, we have different philosophies about this. The way I do it is to put down an apron. I took wire fencing and laid it horizontal on the ground around the outside of the run and attached it to the bottom of my run fence. That way I did not have to bury it. The idea is that a digging predator will approach the fence, start digging, hit the fence, and not know to back up. A lot of people remove the sod, put in the apron, then put the sod back on, thus just burying it a couple of inches. I did not bury mine but it sort of self-buries here pretty quickly.

    Many predators can climb a fence, so just erecting a fence and installing an apron does not make the run predator-proof. There can be the issue of hawks also. Some people accept this risk and some people put a top on the run.


    3. The interior of our coop used to have wire (which I took down long ago) strung from one side to the other about four feet above the concrete slab, and on top of the wire was straw. What do you think was the purpose of this? Were chickens up there (about four feet above the concrete slab)? I'm confused.

    I have no idea.

    4. How necessary is it to clip the birds' wings to keep them from flying? Does it hurt the bird?

    Does it hurt the bird? No, no more than when you trim your fingernails. Some of us clip the wings but I'd guess most of us don't. Again, different circumstances. Some chickens seem to like to fly to places they are not allowed and some seem to never think about it.

    5. What temperature must the coop stay above in winter for the chickens to survive? Our coop has four south-facing windows but no electricity. Should I run an electric line out there?

    This is a complicated question. Did the people that kept chickens in that coop have electricity to them? Something to consider. Again, it depends on a lot of different things. Most breeds of chickens can do quite well in below zero Fahrenheit temperatures in a properly constructed coop. A properly constructed coop does not allow a breeze on the chickens when they are roosting, yet allows decent ventilation to carry away excess moisture and ammonia. Chickens wear a down coat year round. That can keep them pretty warm.

    6. If you were to recommend one common breed that would be especially well suited as a "pet" for two young children, what breed would it be? Egg laying is a bonus.

    There are so many possibilities that it is hard to get down to a dozen or so. It is hard to come up with a bad one. Each chicken has their own individual personality. If you raise them yourself from chicks and handle them a lot, they will about all make good pets. It is always possible to get a warped individual, so there are no guarantees. I don't know if you plan on hatching your own with a broody. Some breeds go broody more often than others. Broodies are a pain if you don't want one but great if you do. If you want broodies, probably think about Silkies or Cochins as unique, weird looking chickens. If them going broody is not what you want, I'd recommend you consider Easter Eggers. This is not a specific breed but a type of chicken that has the blue egg gene. Since they are not a breed, they can come in all kinds of colors and patterns and might lay blue, green, or brown eggs. Makes them kind of special. Another option is to go for a mix since many chickens of the same breeds can be hard to tell apart. Get one of any of these: Delaware, Australorp, Sussex, Orpington, Rocks, Brahma, Wyandottes, or many others.

    This looks like a long post but these are pretty good questions and each reallly deserves a much more detailed answer. Hope it helps some.
     
  10. daveshay

    daveshay New Egg

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    I just wanted to thank everybody who responded to my post. The replies were quite helpful, and I'm sure to have more questions in the future. Thanks again for responding.
     

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