09-26-2012, 05:40 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
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.
Liz - mama to four boys
* Connor 11/16/02 * Riley 11/14/03 * Danny 8/23/06 * Wyatt 5/24/10*
Last edited by 3lilbubs; 09-26-2012 at 05:44 PM.