The Natural Chicken Keeping thread - OTs welcome!

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Bulldogma, Dec 13, 2012.

  1. loanwizard

    loanwizard Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oops, forgot! Intermittently I have to put hay where necessary for warm bedding.
  2. Bulldogma

    Bulldogma Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 29, 2012
    SW Virginia
    My Coop
    Scoop FF out and put in a bowl - sometimes I mix with scrambled eggs or other leftovers.
    Dish out FF on ground - by house on nice days and in covered run on nasty days. If ground is too wet, it gets left in 2 bowls.
    Leave run open so birds can free range (as long as its not pouring, sleeting or hailing).
    Count birds.
    Feed new Silkies in their own run.
    Check water.
    Stir up DL bedding.
    Open coop windows to allow bedding to air out.

    Scoop FF out and put in a bowl - sometimes I mix with leftovers.
    Dish out FF on ground - by house on nice days and in covered run on nasty days. If ground is too wet, it gets left in 2 bowls.
    Feed new Silkies in their own run.
    Close coop windows.
    Check waterers.
    Wait for free range birds to put themselves to bed.
    Close and lock run & coop.
    Count birds and say "good night."

    So far all of this is pretty much the same for winter and summer... we haven't had to deal with water freezing just yet.
  3. IttyBiddyRedHen

    IttyBiddyRedHen Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 30, 2011
    East coast
    I have a LAZY woman schedule... [​IMG]

    AM- I keep the FF in the house...530am, set FF portion to drain.
    Sunup- scoop FF into quart cottage cheese container...sometimes with sprouted BOSS.
    Walk to back 40 to unlock coop, open pop door, check for eggs, and deposit morning FF into their feed pan. (I use an old fry pan)
    Check water in coop waterer. They also have 1 bucket of fresh water out by the gate.
    Sometimes, I sit and watch the chickens for a while.
    It all takes maybe 1 hour.

    Check a time or 2 during the day, to give greens or scratch.

    PM- 3pm, check for eggs, and generally just observation. Somedays, they are more hungry, so I'll put a small amount of dry feed in their pan for evening. Not the full amount.

    I have 1 BR hen, 3 plymouth rock hens, 3 PR roosters, 1 EE rooster, 3 game hens. This is my 2nd year with chickens. Our first flock was 7 game chickens, 6 hens and one rooster.
    I have absolutely NO previous chicken raising experience, prior to June 2011.
  4. kian

    kian Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 20, 2012
    Lancaster, CA
    Newbie here:

    I have only had my chickens since October so here is my very limited experience :)

    I have the EASIEST routine ever, probably, in the history of chicken keepers LOL:

    Morning: Let them out of the coop into the run after laying down their feed and fresh water. While they're munching out, I toss either scratch, greens or both into the run.
    If the weather is nice I remove all window coverings, if it isn't nice I remove 2 for ventilation, keep the rest on to keep out the weather. 10 minutes at the most.

    Evening: close up the door after they go inside I gather up the waterers and feed bowls, replace window coverings. When it was hot here at night, I'd keep the windows open.

    Once a week I stir up the bedding (deep litter) and add fresh straw. That's only about 10 minutes tops.

    And the whole shebang is only like 7 feet from my living room window, so yeah, it's pretty easy going over here!
  5. Leahs Mom

    Leahs Mom True BYC Addict

    Feb 9, 2012
    Northern Indiana
    Questions for ALL FREE RANGERS - No Matter How Much Acreage You Have

    1. How long have you free ranged?
    2. Describe your free-range area and practices.
    3. How is that different in spring, summer, fall, winter?
    4. Do you use a guardian dog or any other guard animal?
    5. With or without guard animal - what has your experience been with predators? What about hawks?
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2012
  6. IttyBiddyRedHen

    IttyBiddyRedHen Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 30, 2011
    East coast
    I had to stop letting mine free range for now. Too many neighborhood dogs who have a taste for chicken. But they have a 32'x30' pen/run to scratch and play in.
    Last spring and summer, I had let all of the game chickens free range for 3 months, mainly because I couldn't get them to go back into the chicken tractor. [​IMG]
  7. Mumsy

    Mumsy Chillin' With My Peeps

    5:30 am check the chicks under the lamp and refill their dish with FF (chick crumble) and clean the waterer. Takes a few minutes.
    7:30am Fill a stainless steel bowl with FF in the house. I fill two clean troughs set out the night before and enter the barn as the motion detecting lights come on. I turn on extra lights in the barn in the winter and remove the troughs from the day before and sprinkle garlic powder and cayenne powder over the FF when it's in the dishes. I set the two dishes apart from each other so A team and B team can eat in peace. While they start eating I feed a special FF to the Silkies in the breeding pen and check their water bottle. I give a glance to the LF dog waterer too at this time. If they need topping off I use a gallon of water from the house that I keep in the barn that always has Un-ACV in it. I don't leave the barn without giving everything a good looking over. Checking the barn for signs of vermin or anything amiss. Then I close the barn door behind me to let everyone eat. I spend maybe total 10/15 minutes in the morning depending if I need to re fill waterers.
    I go back outside an hour or two later to let the birds out to free range in the orchard and potager garden while I fork over the DL and hose out the troughs from the night before. I like to spend some time with the flock and Silkies in the barn just hanging out and watching them. Or I'll work in the gardens or orchard depending what needs to be done in what ever season. Today I spent time with Johnny and the girls thinning and tieing up raspberry canes. If I am going to spend a lot of time in the house or need to leave for the day, I herd the flock back inside the barn and close them up until I'm back. I don't trust the eagles this time of year.
    PM chores are quicker than morning because I only feed and hose out dishes once a day. All I need to do is check water levels and make sure all birds are present and where they are supposed to be. I spend maybe total 1/2 hour a day actually doing chores. The rest of the time is just hanging out because I want to. Once a week I may add shavings, leaves, or peat-moss to the DL. A couple times a week I give everbody a Johnny Cake. I take household scraps to the compost pile and let the chickens at it a couple times a week. Then I bury what they don't eat. No need to attract vermin. Some-days I may spend time repairing something in the barn or switching things up with the pens. I don't really count that as chore time but general upkeep.
    The new chicks are three weeks old and I just took them out of the house and put them in the old dove house close to the back door. I walk past this pen on my way to the bigger barn/coop. It may take me a bit longer as they get older and need more attention.

    I have one Production Red roo, four mixed breed pullets, two Grey Silkies under six months, three Bantam RIR chicks and four white Silkie chicks. I plan on raising Heritage turkeys and purchasing more chicks in the Spring.
  8. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j True BYC Addict

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    1. Ever since I've had chickens. Well, except for the few years we had the chicken-killing lab.

    2. We live on a farm. A real farm with cropland around us, not a "ranchette" or some development in a "rural" area. We're 20 miles from town and our nearest neighbors are over a mile away. Our outbuildings are maybe the equivalent of a city block or so from the house. We go down, let the chickens out in the morning, and shut the coops at night. The chickens wander around the buildings, horse pasture, and into the field.

    3. The only time it's different is in the winter when they don't like to leave the coop because of the snow. My coops are two sheds. One is 12'x8', the other is 15'x8'. I make sure there aren't so many chickens that they are overcrowded.

    4. Our "guardian dog" is a 9 1/2 year old black lab. During the day, he hangs out with the chickens. Either lays down around and about where they spend their time, and occasionally entertains himself by going chicken bowling. He breaks up the spats between the hens, and this fall when the cockerels were getting frisky, would stop them from chasing the hens. (Those boys were locked up shortly after that [​IMG] )

    5. Predators. We have them around, and have had a few problems over the years but it's not a constant battle. One year, raccoons were opening the cages that I had my OEGBs in. At first I thought the kids were forgetting to latch the doors when they did chores, but when it happened after I did chores and I KNEW I shut the latches.. I've also had a mink take out most of my birds once, and weasels a couple of times. One year I had chickens that refused to roost in the coop. I started finding headless chicken bodies on the ground in the mornings, Yep - our resident Great Horned Owl was helping himself. We got wiped out by coyotes one year, too. I was gone for a couple of weeks, and DH didn't shut the coop door most nights. They disappeared one or two a night. Hawks are not a problem. We have them in the area, but they don't bother my chickens. I'm not sure if it's the near-constant presence of the dog, plenty of hiding places, or because there is enough wildlife around that they don't have to come into the building site to get a meal. Maybe a combination of things. I just know I've never lost one to a hawk, and I can go several years between problems of any kind. Oh yeah - I forgot to mention the one other predator problem we had. Nephew brought his hunting dog out one day. I didn't know he was coming, and he didn't know how the dog would react to the chickens.... 'nuf said.
  9. Maven

    Maven Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 30, 2012
    The things that I've learned from the OTs - both here and IRL - could fill a book! And they have made my chicken keeping easier, my chickens healthier, my eggs bigger and stronger, and my pocketbook fatter! [​IMG]

    This is the ongoing list I keep in my chicken keeping book in a section called 'OT tips.' It's a long list, and a lot of the items have been mentioned several times, but it is what it is. Hope no one minds the length. In no particular order, I've learned....

    • UP-ACV in all waterers and in the FF
    • Fermented Feed only because:
    1. It creates good probiotics
    2. It increases the available nutrients in the feed so that the chickens utilize the feed better
    3. Increases good bowel/digestive flora
    4. Helps create a 'hostile' environment for parasites and disease
    5. It has cut my feed bill by nearly 2/3s

    • Stick to the natural light cycle - chickens need the down time during shorter days to moult, to rejuvenate, and to rest
    • Never heat the coop in the winter - chickens have feathers for a reason
    • Good ventilation is always essential. Especially so in the coldest part of winter to keep the humidity from building and causing frostbite
    • A cool pan of water in the shade to stand in on the really hot days will make you a god(dess) in the eyes of your chickens. As will frozen watermelon. [​IMG]
    • Curcubits are a good natural deterrent for worms/internal parasites
    • Make sure the roosts are always higher than the nest boxes. Level roosts made my life saner
    • Cull without mercy
    • DE in the litter under the roosts keeps the smell way down and the litter dry
    • Deep litter makes things a LOT easier and the chickens happier and warmer in the winter.
    • Wood ashes/DE in the dusting area controls mites and lice beautifully
    • Always keep your flock as closed as possible. Quarantine new birds brought in
    • Calcium Carbonate lasts longer and eaten easier than oyster shell and they seem to like it a LOT better
    • Chickens love BOSS and it is very good for them - I add that and whole grains to FF
    • BOSS/Scratch thrown in the DL will get your chickens to do most of your coop chores for you!
    • Paint the roosts with BMO (burnt motor oil) to avoid scale mites - works like a charm
    • Vaseline on the legs can smother scale mites if you do get them
    • Establish your Alpha position with the flock, and ALWAYS with a roo from the git-go or there's gonna be trouble with that roo
    • Chickens MUST have animal fat and protein to be healthy - top dress with both OFTEN - it's 'liquid gold'
    • Pay very close attention to the interaction between the roo and the hens - if he singles one out, and not in a good way, there may be something wrong with her
    • Nothing beats a good roo for peace and protection in the flock
    • If a single purpose, dedicated layer is not laying when she should, there is something wrong with her
    • The more chickens free-range and the further afield they range, the stronger, healthier, happier and more parasite/disease free they will be

    There are a few more points on the list, but they are mostly incorporated in the above list in more general statements.

    Free-ranging: we have 70 acres - about 20 in pasture and the rest in timber. When the run door gets opened for them to head out in the morning the only limits they have are the ones they place on themselves. [​IMG] They are getting pretty darn adventurous these days!!

    Daily chicken keeping routine:
    • 7am head down to the shed, scoop up FF, mix with one or more of any of the following: cayenne pepper, stock/fat/meat mixture, garlic
    • Mix scratch for the run in a coffee can to take along
    • Open the coop, take the mentally challenged roo off the roost and put him in his 'suite' with his own feed
    • Open the pop door to let the rest out into the run, scoop out the feed, check the waterer, then sit in my chair in the run and watch them for a while
    • At this time I count them, note their size, how lively they each seem, how well they eat, how they feel in my hands, check vents and under wings when they let me pick up
    • After about a half hour or so - sometimes a lot longer when it is really nice out - I go back into the coop, collect any available eggs, toss the litter under the roosts and scrape the roosts
    • Go back in the shed and add dry to the FF, stir and cover
    • 11am head down to the coop and open the run and let the mentally challenged roo out of isolation with the rest of them. They free-range the rest of the day
    • Collect any other eggs that have been left
    • 4:45pm Go down to the coop, watch them put themselves to bed, lock them up and say goodnight.

    that's about it. [​IMG]

    ETA - I had chickens for a very short while about 30 years ago, so I count myself a pure newbie this time around. I've had these girls since early July this year and they've just really started laying. As of today, I have 7 laying. I have a mixed flock of 27 pullets and 2 cockerels.
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2012
    3 people like this.
  10. Mumsy

    Mumsy Chillin' With My Peeps

    Quote: My outer property is surrounded by a thick brambly hedge/shrubbery up against a fence. Effectively keeps all coyotes and roaming dogs out of my garden and barn yard. I string a simple two wire electric fence. I drive 2"x2" short lengths of posts in the ground all around the perimeter of my barns and out side pens. It keeps cats and raccoons away. Has for a long time. Once there are turkeys in the hoop coop I will run a wire across the top of the wooden fence behind. Whidbey Island does not have skunks or possum. Fox mink and weasels are all but disappeared on my island because of coyotes. Eagles, large hawks, and owls are the predators I need to keep guard over. I could understand this not working for some folk that live in different parts of the country. It will work very well for me. I have no doubts. I will keep you posted on what happens. I won't lie here. If it doesn't work, you all will be the first to know.

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