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Unexpected Chicken Farmer - Any Advice

Discussion in 'New Member Introductions' started by Atharee75, Nov 22, 2013.

  1. Atharee75

    Atharee75 Hatching

    Nov 22, 2013
    Hello all!

    A few days ago my son brought home a live chicken. It was very surprising since we live in a suburb of Detroit. It looks healthy and is very people friendly so I assume someone was taking good care of it until it got loose somehow. We couldn't locate the owner and since we've had her we already got 4 eggs! Now my wife wants to keep her but we want to make sure we take care of her properly.

    We have a nice closed in yard, good size for a city setting. I've ordered a chicken coop that I decided on after looking over reviews but I have some concerns before committing. I really would appreciate some general advice from those of you with experience. Right now I let her roam the yard during the day and secure her in the garage at night. This is temporary until the coop comes but I built a small wooden cage to keep her in because she would poop all over the garage. But she seems to hate the cage and is so eager to get out the garage every morning. She has a spot in the bushes where she's been laying her eggs, I tried to put the cage near the same spot with open door for shelter but she won't go in it. Today it rained and she didn't lay any eggs.

    So my concerns are the following:

    1. Someone told us if she's alone she may die from loneliness? Is this possible? I try to check on her throughout the day, I'm worried about cats messing with her.

    2. Cold weather: It get pretty cold here in SE Michigan and can get pretty windy but I have a good spot for her coop behind the garage that can help against the wind but not the cold.

    3. The coup is not too big (see pic) but it has an area for her to be in and out. Is this enough or should I keep letting her roam the yard in the day like I have been and just put her in the coop at night?

    4. I purchased some organic feed for her, I want to take care of her properly and give her good stuff so she can give us good eggs! Other than feed, is there specific items I should add to her diet regularly or once and a while?

    This is all I can think of at the moment so if anyone can answer these questions or contribute more of what I need to know I will appreciated it and I'm sure the chicken will too! I know there is probably a lot of answers throughout this site but I'm just looking for some starter/general advice while I do my homework. Thanks everyone in advance.



  2. HEChicken

    HEChicken Crowing

    Aug 12, 2009
    BuCo, KS
    My Coop

    1. Chickens are a very social animal so its true she will be much happier with a companion. I don't know that she'll die from loneliness, but if you can find her at least one other, she'll be grateful to you. If it were me, I'd browse my local Craigslist, and/or place a wanted ad on there, explaining the circumstances, and see if someone would be willing to let you buy one of their hens so she won't be alone.

    2. Chickens can take very cold weather. They have a layer of down under the feathers and are actually far more cold hardy than heat hardy. People keep them in Alaska with no heat source and they survive just fine. That said, two will keep the coop space warmer than one. The main thing - which you have already considered - is that she not be directly in wind.

    3. I prefer to allow mine as much space to roam as possible. If you think your backyard is safe for her, she'll probably be happier roaming it during the day, than confined to a small area.

    4. Is the feed a layer formula? If so, that is all you need! If it is labeled as a "grower" or "finisher", it probably doesn't have enough calcium in it, in which case she will need supplemental oyster shell.
    2 people like this.
  3. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    Congrats on your new chicken!

    It is MUCH safer for her to be inside the coop when you aren't watching her free range in your yard. It only takes seconds for a dog to get her. I have seen a cat attack a fully grown chicken, and the chicken flew into the air to escape. Some cats will only attack chicks, so I don't know your area's cats are a real concern for you.

    Raccoons and hawks, weasels and rats, and other predators like dogs are more likely to get her if she is free ranging without supervision. If you put a dog kennel up next to your coop for her to range inside, be sure to line the fencing along the bottom with chicken wire or hardware cloth (1/2 inch hardware cloth is the only thing that is truly predator-resistant). Also cover the top. Owls and hawks, and also raccoons, will pull chickens through the chainlink fence.

    Of course digging predators can dig underneath unless you apron out some hardware cloth along the ground or bury some fencing to prevent digging. Personally my fencing isn't predator-proof - I don't have any fencing buried or aproned out, and so I make sure they are closed up at night.

    Yes chickens get terribly lonely - I don't know if it is enough to actually kill a chicken, but it is nice to have a buddy for them. Be cautious if you buy more chickens though...make sure they are healthy and haven't had "colds" in the past (which is really chronic respiratory disease, and can render them asymptomatic carriers).

    If you get them on Craigslist it is good to get them from someone with a relatively new flock where they bought the chicks from the feed store and they haven't been exposed to disease, or from a reputable breeder. If you get young chickens they will be too young to join her until they are close in size to her.

    If you are giving her Organic Layer Pellets or crumble, that is wonderful feed. She should also have a small dish of oyster shell available in case she needs more calcium. She won't need grit unless she cannot obtain gravel from your soil- but it sounds like she is all over the ground so I'd not worry about that.
    1 person likes this.
  4. Teila

    Teila Bambrook Bantams Premium Member

    G'Day Atharee75 [​IMG]
    Welcome and some words of warning .. chickens are addictive and chicken math invariably means this is just the beginning! lol
    Your new feathered friend looks like a real cutie and I'm thinking she picked you!
    I am relatively new to chickens (12 months or so) and no expert but I may be able to help with some starter advice and answer to your questions. Others and more research will probably provide more helpful information.
    I started with two bantams, which quite quickly grew to three, sadly one recently passed away. Then one became broody and its a long story but I now have 2 adult bantam hens and 5 x 5 weeks old chicks! Chicken Math!! lol

    1. The lonely chicken?
    While the majority of chickens thrive with company, the occasional few are quite happy on their own. I have friends who have one pet chicken and they are just an extension of the human family. Your little cutie may have come from a single-chicken environment and be quite comfortable on her own. I guess if she does not seem stressed and does not appear to be looking for others, she may be OK on her own.

    2. Cold Weather?
    Sadly, definitely not an expert on this subject, living in Australia, I will leave that one alone! :)

    3. The coop v free range?
    As you mention, predators (including cats) are always a concern with free ranging chickens. My girls are confined to their coop/run during the day and every afternoon they get let out for a supervised free range in the garden; all day on the weekends if we are home. You have a whole different range of predators to what we do but Hawks are always a concern.

    4. Food?
    There is lots of information on what to feed them on BYC but you are off to a good start with the organic feed. Already laying eggs she will need a lay mash or pellets. She will probably enjoy any food scraps you have from the kitchen but they are a few don't feed items which you will find. Uncooked potato peel and anything with mold are biggies on the don't feed. She will probably enjoy green vegies and rice, pasta. Boiled egg, well crushed (shell and all) so it does not look like an egg and scrambled eggs would most likely be a favourite. If you are not sure of something, a quick Google search will tell you if they can have it or not .. I still do that! :)
    It is a personal choice on whether to feed them meat, but mine enjoy left over roast and yes, chicken! etc.
    When she is free ranging, she will get all the grass, bugs and grit (needed for digestion) she needs.
    Of course, always have fresh water on hand.

    General care ...
    She will need worming and dusting for mites (lots of info on the internet) and if you have a local produce store, I have always found them to be helpful with advice.
    Oyster shell grit needs to be on hand for her calcium levels. This should be in a separate container where she can help herself, not sprinkled on her food.

    If it was me in your shoes, I would keep her confined to her new coop for a week or two (no free range). She would then become accustomed to laying her eggs in the nesting box and also to sleeping there each evening. After this time, if you let her out for a free range an hour or so before sunset, you will probably find she goes back to the coop to roost and also lay her eggs there.

    In my opinion, the coop you bought looks pretty good for one or two girls! Chicken-math! lols

    I hope that helped and happy to help more, if I can.

    I wish you luck with your new feathered friend and if she hasn't already, she is definitely going to become a very loved, important part of your life!
    1 person likes this.
  5. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    Welcome to BYC. Excellent advice from the first three posters.
  6. Atharee75

    Atharee75 Hatching

    Nov 22, 2013
    Thanks everyone, great advice.

    Fortunately I work from home so I can easily take time out to check on her but as one of you said it only takes seconds for a predator to attack. Unfortunately the only neighbor who has a dog is directly behind my garage (no alley), where I want to place the coop. However it is a house dog and it doesn't really give us too much trouble other than barking at us. I don't think it will come over the fence because it never has in our 3+ years at this residence. However with that said I will take extra precaution and keep her in the coop with supervised roaming. I think keeping her in for 2 weeks straight is a good idea. Our yard is totally fenced but chain link only.

    I was so happy this evening because when I went to put her in the garage for the night she was already in! I cracked the door in the day due to the rain and her instincts made her come in on her own at sunset. Smart girl! When I get the coop I will reinforce it if need be to keep out raccoons and other possible predators. There are cats roaming the neighborhood so thats my biggest concern in the day.

    This is what I ordered from Amazon: Organic, Soy Free Layer Chicken Feed, 25lbs. Should I get anything else?

  7. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    Chickens can get over fences pretty easily. So I would be concerned about your chicken going over to visit the dog and it ending badly. You may wish to clip the flight feathers on one side if you observe her trying to get over the fence.

    Your local feed store will be the cheapest source of feed most likely. Some feed stores may order organic feed for you if they don't already carry it.
  8. Teila

    Teila Bambrook Bantams Premium Member

    Hello again Atharee75 [​IMG]
    They are clever little girls, having said that, we just had a brief rain storm and of my 2 adults and 5 babies, 1 was smart enough to take cover! The sun is back out now so the bubbies will dry out nicely :)

    A slight hitch may be that by the time you get the coop and pop her in it, she will be used to sleeping in the shed and will be a little stressed that she cannot get to it .. they do not like change much. She will, however, find somewhere in the coop to roost for the evening and with time, will adjust to the new sleeping arrangements.

    I'm not an expert on the different types of layer feed, but I think as long as it is layer, should be OK. Personally, I would still have the oyster shell available for if she wants it and of course, vegetables etc :)

    Sounds like you guys are bonding well .. that is great news, I don't think you will be sorry, she is going to bring you lots of happy moments and chuckles at her antics! :)
  9. HEChicken

    HEChicken Crowing

    Aug 12, 2009
    BuCo, KS
    My Coop
    That sounds perfect!

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