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Bekki 09-26-2012 01:01 PM

Want Chickens - Where do I start?
We bought our first house and moved a couple of weeks ago. Now I want chickens! But I don't know where to start!

Here's what I know about chickens:

1 - They are birds.

2 - They lay eggs.

3 - They are delicious.

That's about it.

We have 3 acres of property, but the vast majority of it is wooded. We have a little yard behind the house, and a bit of grass around the front and the side.

I want to raise free range chickens for eggs and meat. The town will allow me to have up to 60 chickens at once. I think I will start out with less, though. LOL

I know that I will need a coop. Not sure where to get one, though. I would love to build one, but I am not handy in that way at all.

I am also a bit concerned about the woods. I am told that chickens love to forage in the woods. But predators concern me. I guess with free ranging, I should just prepare myself to lose some.

Also, is there one time of year that is better for starting all of this over the others? I live in New York, so winter will be on its way soon. Do free-rangers go out and forage in the snow?

Just trying to educate myself. :)

Geckmumto3 09-26-2012 02:55 PM

Re: Want Chickens - Where do I start?
For us, the number one was creating a safe coop for them to roost. IME, if you have a sturdy, draft-free coop, that is predator safe, everything else with chickens is really easy. You can google search coop designs, or you can purchase kits or ready made. TSC is one shop that is local-ish to us that I know sells coops ready made.

Our girls like to forage in the woods, too. We have a rooster, but not for long. He has become aggressive and is not going to be able to stay. Roosters are tricky because they provide protection for the hens, but they can be aggressive with kids or pets (not to mention adults, LOL, ours dislikes my DH).

Oh, and we are in S. Ontario, and our girls free ranged last winter. It was really mild, though. We just leave the barn door and the coop run door open so they can go in out of the cold and they went in and out all day.

3lilbubs 09-26-2012 04:40 PM

Re: Want Chickens - Where do I start?
Yes a coop should be a priority. Build your coop with your potential final number of birds in mind. I wish I had made mine a bit bigger and I did expand the run just recently because I felt that even though we adhered to the guidelines they were still crowded. We didn't have a plan, just a idea of square footage based on size of flock and a pile of lumber we needed to make work so the "plan" was all in my dh's head. LOL You can buy plans, you can buy kits or you can hire someone to make it for you.

Free ranging makes for happy birds but as you mentioned there is a measure of risk to it. Predators will find them and you have to go into it knowing that it's simply a matter of time. My flock is small and they are partly pets. What I do, is I have a small enclosed yard (run) attached to my coop so they always have somewhere safe to exercise. I let them out to free range in my yard for a few hours out of the day while we keep guard. I do have a rooster as well, he isn't crazy about my kids right now so that's something to consider - that they can be mean. On the other hand, he has warned the girls of predatory birds more times than I can count long before I ever saw them.

Egg hens/meat hens are two different directions. If you want to keep a lot of dual purpose birds you'll have to know that they take some time to reach a butchering age/size usually around 6 mos old and they won't be like the chickens you buy in the grocery. They'll be much smaller and leaner and more of the meat will be dark. If you want chickens like the foster farms you pick up at the store those are a different breed and need to be kept differently. They are cornish X hens (broilers) and they get from chick to massive 6-8lb birds in a mere 8 weeks and then need to be butchered. They never reach laying age. Most people keep them just once or twice a year in fair weather in a portable chicken tractor. Dh and I plan to give this a try next spring. From what I understand chickens don't like deep snow so you will have to shovel out an area for them otherwise they'll stay up in the coop. :) For myself, I found that late spring/early summer was a great time to have chicks because they could go out into the coop at an earlier age or spend days outside in warm weather rather than in my house being stinky. My friend Deborah says that late fall is the best time for broilers because the cool air keeps them from stinking and the night frosts keep flies at bay.

I hope that wasn't too much info!

egg layers - reliable for eggs, don't eat a lot but don't have a lot of meat on them

dual purpose- good for eggs, make decent smaller broilers, eat more

meat birds/broilers - eat a TON, don't reach egg laying, produce heavy eating broilers.

vjbakke 09-27-2012 02:06 PM

Re: Want Chickens - Where do I start?
Do as much research as possible, I recommend Lots of great info, coop designs, great forum to ask questions. Also the book Back Yard Chickens for Dummies was a good book I read before getting chickens. I think in most places people order or get chicks in April and many breeds will be laying by Late Aug into Sept sometimes longer.
We don't free range because we live in town and can't, If I could I would limit it due to predators and dogs have been known to take out chickens pretty easily.

Good luck! They are addicting !

Nielsen6 09-27-2012 02:39 PM

Re: Want Chickens - Where do I start?
Build/buy a coop.

You could check your local craigslist for chickens, you could buy chicks too but be aware that getting them now means needing an insulated safe coop for them by the time it gets cold and they can handle it (around 5 or so weeks of age). And you'll need to keep them indoors till then.

Lauren Jenks 10-15-2012 04:15 PM

Re: Want Chickens - Where do I start?
Thanks for the info!

rileykidmama 10-18-2012 07:15 PM

Re: Want Chickens - Where do I start?
My best friend has chickens. She had a really good recycling idea; she used old kitchen cabinets for the laying boxes. Attached to the outside wall of the coop, they don't take up any interior room; just unlock the cabinet doors and take the eggs out. I wish dh would let me have chickens; just sayin'. :goodvibes:

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