What are the MUST KNOW basics of raising chickens (from chick to adult)?

rosemarythyme

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My Coop
My Coop

3KillerBs

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He also wants a variety of breeds, not just one or two breeds. These breeds must also be heat hardy, because in SC weather could be unbearably hot at times.

I've had excellent luck for heat tolerance with Australorps and, surprisingly, Brahmas. Also my California White, though she's not really a dual purpose and will eventuallly make a very scrawny stew hen. Really, any of the common, popular dual-purpose birds are widely adaptable for many climates.

One thing that I think has helped me has been that between the two flocks I've gotten most of my birds from Ideal. Since Ideal is in Texas their breeding flock is automatically selected for hot weather tolerance.

@aart, @3KillerBs, + everyone else - What should the dimensions of the coop be (he is planning to build it himself), if they are trying to get 15-20 chickens?

The Usual Guidelines

For each adult, standard-sized hen you need:
  • 4 square feet in the coop (.37 square meters)
  • 10 square feet in the run (.93 square meters),
  • 1 linear foot of roost (.3 meters),
  • 1/4 of a nest box,
  • And 1 square foot (.09) of permanent, 24/7/365 ventilation, preferably located over the birds' heads when they're sitting on the roost.
15 hens
  • 60 square feet in the coop. 8'x8' is easier to build than 6'x10'
  • 15 feet of roost
  • 150 square feet in the run. 10'x15', 12'x12' or 8'x20'
  • 15 square feet of ventilation.
  • 4 nest boxes.

20 hens
  • 80 square feet in the coop. 8'x10' is the most practical because 7'x12' or 6'x14' require a lot of weird cuts.
  • 20 feet of roost
  • 200 square feet in the run. 10'x20', 12'x16' or 8'x25' as suits the land available.
  • 20 square feet of ventilation.
  • 5 nest boxes.
They should consider an Open Air style coop -- which is essentially a roofed run with a 3-sided shelter on the windward end. My Neuchickenstein is that type: https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/large-open-air-coop-in-central-nc.1443812/ Here in the Steamy Southeast we may need at least double the minimum recommended ventilation OR deep shade so as not to turn our coops into rotisseries. :D

Here are a couple other Open Air coops (the first one is the one that inspired me):

https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/jens-hens-a-southern-texas-coop.75707/
https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/my-positive-local-action-coop.72804/
https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/california-living.68130/

And this article is a must-read to understand why the Usual Guidelines are *guidelines* not *rules*: https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/how-much-room-do-chickens-need.66180/
 

U_Stormcrow

Free Ranging
Jun 7, 2020
5,098
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North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
I've had excellent luck for heat tolerance with Australorps and, surprisingly, Brahmas. Also my California White, though she's not really a dual purpose and will eventuallly make a very scrawny stew hen. Really, any of the common, popular dual-purpose birds are widely adaptable for many climates.

One thing that I think has helped me has been that between the two flocks I've gotten most of my birds from Ideal. Since Ideal is in Texas their breeding flock is automatically selected for hot weather tolerance.



The Usual Guidelines

For each adult, standard-sized hen you need:
  • 4 square feet in the coop (.37 square meters)
  • 10 square feet in the run (.93 square meters),
  • 1 linear foot of roost (.3 meters),
  • 1/4 of a nest box,
  • And 1 square foot (.09) of permanent, 24/7/365 ventilation, preferably located over the birds' heads when they're sitting on the roost.
15 hens
  • 60 square feet in the coop. 8'x8' is easier to build than 6'x10'
  • 15 feet of roost
  • 150 square feet in the run. 10'x15', 12'x12' or 8'x20'
  • 15 square feet of ventilation.
  • 4 nest boxes.

20 hens
  • 80 square feet in the coop. 8'x10' is the most practical because 7'x12' or 6'x14' require a lot of weird cuts.
  • 20 feet of roost
  • 200 square feet in the run. 10'x20', 12'x16' or 8'x25' as suits the land available.
  • 20 square feet of ventilation.
  • 5 nest boxes.
They should consider an Open Air style coop -- which is essentially a roofed run with a 3-sided shelter on the windward end. My Neuchickenstein is that type: https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/large-open-air-coop-in-central-nc.1443812/ Here in the Steamy Southeast we may need at least double the minimum recommended ventilation OR deep shade so as not to turn our coops into rotisseries. :D

Here are a couple other Open Air coops (the first one is the one that inspired me):

https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/jens-hens-a-southern-texas-coop.75707/
https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/my-positive-local-action-coop.72804/
https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/california-living.68130/

And this article is a must-read to understand why the Usual Guidelines are *guidelines* not *rules*: https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/how-much-room-do-chickens-need.66180/
First, this ^^^ is excellent, as always.

Second, "chicken math" is a thing. Its much easier to build too big to start with than it is to add on later. While 8x10 will meet the "thumb rules", 8x12 involves less cutting, only brings the lumber bill up a few boards, and is now sized for 2 dozen. 12x12 is nicer still, taking you from 80 sq ft to 144 sq ft - but unfortunately causes a problem oft overlooked - roofing.

We recommend big overhangs and undereave venting - its weather protected, easy to frame, and provides easy 24/7/365 ventilation. But sheet metal roofing, which is very popular for a host of reasons (cost, ease of correctly installing, durability) is usually sold in either an 8' length or a 12' length - and you would MUCH rather cut lumber than tin. Trust us on that. So as a practical matter, single slope "shed-style" roofs are easiest to build over structures are best at 6' (with an 8' roof panel), 8 or 10' (with a 12' roof panel), or 14' with a pair of 8' panels. 14' is also easy if you do a traditional hip roof, with an 8' panel falling of either side of the center line.

1634341312258.png


Traditionally, this would be protected by 1/2" hardware cloth to deter predators - but I didn't when this photo was taken.
 
Last edited:

DonyaQuick

Songster
Jun 22, 2021
126
326
116
Upstate NY (Otsego county), USA
He will be purchasing chicks from TSC, so he is only able to get breeds that will be available there.
Not sure if it's just some TSC stores that are like this, but mine had a different selection of breeds every couple of weeks and some batches were straight run, others were sexed. If your folks want something specific they should talk to their local store's manager to find out if/when they'll get some in. I went in looking for either Orpingtons or barred rocks and just got lucky that it was an Orpington week (along with ISA browns and straight run Australorps if I recall). A couple weeks later it was Wyandottes and a couple other different ones that I forget.
 

3KillerBs

Enabler
Premium Feather Member
12 Years
Jul 10, 2009
11,913
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North Carolina Sandhills
My Coop
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We recommend big overhangs and undereave venting - its weather protected, easy to frame, and provides easy 24/7/365 ventilation. But sheet metal roofing, which is very popular for a host of reasons (cost, ease of correctly installing, durability) is usually sold in either an 8' length or a 12' length - and you would MUCH rather cut lumber than tin. Trust us on that. So as a practical matter, single slope "shed-style" roofs are easiest to build over structures are best at 6' (with an 8' roof panel), 8 or 10' (with a 12' roof panel), or 14' with a pair of 8' panels. 14' is also easy if you do a traditional hip roof, with an 8' panel falling of either side of the center line.

A good point here.

16x16 with a clerestory roof should not be attempted without some degree of roofing experience and skill at framing carpentry.

0917211627c_HDR.jpg
 

U_Stormcrow

Free Ranging
Jun 7, 2020
5,098
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OK, while @3KillerBs has first hand experience in your friend's climate which I do not (well, I've visited the State many times to backpack - hardly counts, but beautiful country), the short answer is the heat there is summer is much more concerning than the cool in winter, so long as they follow the excellent advice above - well ventilated, dry, draft free coops.

Anyhow, the point is (I'm terrible w/o coffee), your friend should be more focused on heat hardy breeds than cold hardy breeds. Look for clean legs, good sized combs, try and avoid the heavy feathered birds. I have Brahma and Wyandotte in an even hotter climate - it can be made to work - but its hard on the birds, and brings problems of its own.

On that subject, the Brahma should be right out for them. The bird eventually gets large, yes, but it takes forever. They are typically slow to lay, lay maybe 3 days in 5, and lay a medium egg when they do so - that's a long time to wait for not much reward. Also, feathered feet, which are greast in extreme cold, but a frostbite vector in wet cold.

My Wyandotte are smaller, faster growing, better foragers, roughly as smart/predator aware, and certainly more energetic - but still provide medium eggs with roughly the same frequency, and nearly the same delay. Better choice, but I'd still steer clear.

If they want very high egg production, aren't wedded to a breed, and a decent amount of meat (suitable only for soup, stew, sausage - its a very young bird that goes to table as anything else), they can look at black sex links. Readily available, frequent large brown eggs, 6# hens aren't unusual, which makes a 4# carcass in the stew pot.

Particularly if they are going to let breeding occur naturally, there's no reason to avoid hybrids at the start - offspring coloration will be chaotic, but it can be fun. Biggest problem with the hybrid sex links (whether black or red) is that they aren't bred for longevity, and are famed for reproductive problems, usually starting around year three, sometimes sooner, rarely later - but if they plan on regularly turning over the flock, that's not as concerning. Red sex links are like black sex links, but tend towards smaller bodies, so the health issues tend to be a little more pronounced. If a BSL "burns the candle at both ends", the RSL tries to light the middle, as well.

Next, and I learned this with my first flock. Though it requires a different set up, DO NOT buy all your birds at the same time, particularly if buying similar breeds, or all one breed. While seasonal light levels have a lot of influence on egg laying, with most breeds slowing or nearly stopping thru winter, if eggs from the flock are an important part of your diet plans, you don't want your entire flock, all one age, going into molt or slowing for the winter, all at the same time - or as I experienced, you might go from 20 eggs a day to 3 or 4. Sometimes, new layers will lay right thru their first winter, as well.

So even though its really tempting to get all the birds you think you will need at once, there's real advantage to getting roughly 1/3 of the birds you plan on at start of season, another third near mid season, and the final third near end of season, staggering age and onset of lay. If you rotate thru three breeds, it also makes it easier to know when its time to retire a portion of the flock, likely not later than second adult molt (if egg production is the main factor being considered).

Those are my AM thoughts, hope they are coherent.
 

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