Thinking About Getting Hens...

Discussion in 'New Member Introductions' started by hillrise, Mar 19, 2013.

  1. hillrise

    hillrise New Egg

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    Mar 19, 2013
    Hi all! I'm Cat. I'm pretty new to the chicken world. I've known a few chickens in my time, and I do like to eat eggs, but never really wanted to have birds around. Last year, my parents decided to get chickens so they could have fresh eggs and also for bug control in the garden, and the idea is slowly coming on to me.

    I raise meat rabbits, and keep a small garden. Controlling the bugs (flies and aphids in particular) is hard work! So, I've been thinking that a small flock of hens might be my answer.

    I'd like to have a few hens (NO roosters) for keeping down the bugs, particularly around the rabbits, which are kept in cages inside a dog kennel (keeps stray dogs out) on a dirt floor with scattered straw.

    My thoughts right now are to get some bantam hens (I don't know if my feed store carries banties or not, but I do have a friend who raises them), and once they're past the brooder stage (6 weeks old? not sure how old most feed store chicks are...) let them loose in the rabbit kennel (I would probably add chicken wire, at least on the bottom half, to make doubly sure they couldn't get out through the little holes).

    But, since I'm only really getting them for bug control, would you recommend keeping them over winter, or butcher when the cold weather sets in and buy new ones each spring? I could do a different breed, if it would make more sense to. I don't want huge chickens, and I'd prefer quieter ones (close neighbors). Also, most of my rabbit cage stacks only have about 6" of clearance underneath them. I clear out the rabbit waste weekly, but I think the chickens would like to scratch through it for bugs between cleanings.

    I'm not interested in eggs (my parents' hens produce more than enough for them, my family, and some to sell), but I'll take what I get if I do.

    It's already in my plans to get DE to help with bug control anyway, so I figured I could use that for the birds' dirt baths.

    What else would I need to take into consideration? Size of brooder? How many hens should I get? (10x10 kennel, may rotate into my 12x14 garden, or other areas of the yard/flower beds for "spot checks")

    Sorry for so many questions, just want to go into this as informed as possible.
     
  2. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

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    I would recommend getting some bantam hens and 'running' them full time - over winter for sure rather than deal with new birds each year - welcome to BYC.
     
  3. Mr MKK FARMS

    Mr MKK FARMS Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

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    Welcome to BYC!! [​IMG] Glad you joined us!! [​IMG]
     
  4. dawg53

    dawg53 Humble

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    Welcome to BYC.
     
  5. drumstick diva

    drumstick diva Still crazy after all these years. Premium Member

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    [​IMG]I don't think you'd have enough to eat on a bantam to be worth the trouble.
     
  6. redsoxs

    redsoxs Chicken Obsessed

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    Greetings from Kansas, Cat, and [​IMG]! Pleased you joined our flock! Sounds like you have a very well thought out plan!! I wish you all the best!!
     
  7. sumi

    sumi Égalité Staff Member

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    Hello and welcome to BYC [​IMG] Glad you joined us!
     
  8. 1muttsfan

    1muttsfan Overrun With Chickens

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    Hi and welcome to BYC from northern Michigan [​IMG]

    A bantam would have maybe a few chicken nuggets worth of meat.

    Chickens will decimate a garden pretty quickly - they love to eat plants as well as bugs. I have heard that feather-footed breeds (such as Cochins and Silkies) may do less damage when scratching.
     
  9. hillrise

    hillrise New Egg

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    Mar 19, 2013
    Thanks all for the welcomes!

    My friend who has bantams has phoenix bantams. Do you think those would be a good breed?

    I didn't see any bantams at the one feed store that has chicks already (can't remember what they did have...some sort of sexlink, and some wyanodettes, I think). I think I remember the other feed store having bantams last year, though.

    How many bantam hens do you think would be a good number for bug control? I was leaning toward 3, but I could do a few more. Should I get chicks equal to my max number in case of fatalities? I seem to remember most people who've kept chicks in brooders losing some number of them before they get out.

    If I end up getting chicks from the feed store, and they're not sexlink or divided by gender...is there a reasonably easy way to tell which ones are which? I've read some things about combs and wattles and legs, but I think most of those apply to ones that are a couple months old. I think I also saw something about how they walk? I'm not against vent-checking (I'd have to learn how, but I can do it on young rabbits, so I'm pretty confident)...but I don't know that a store would let you do something like that.

    Everyone I know with chickens lets them run through the garden without problems. They just have to keep the chickens off the new-growth plants, but once things are mature, the chickens are welcomed in for pest control. I'm not really much a fan of fluffy chickens...personally, I think barred rocks are the prettiest hens. Although, right now I'm flipping through pictures of chicken breeds...Buff brahma hens are CUTE (and I think the feed store actually has some of them...but the site I'm looking at says that they're pretty big). I like the Orpingtons, and Wyanodette bantams, too. I think in general, I like the rounder-looking ones with short or low-carried tails. Silver-laced color is very pretty. Need a winter-hardy breed if I'm going to keep them, though.

    What's your opinion of mail-order chicks? (That way, I could get a breed I like, if it's not available locally)
     

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