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Old 05-09-2011, 07:31 PM   #11
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I haven't run into the pest problem yet. I don't have a walk-in coop though, so my girls are in one area and their food another. I read where some people have a problem with their chickens attracting rats and I was very concerned with this, as I hear rats are in the nearby vineyards, but so far so good.
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Old 05-10-2011, 08:02 AM   #12
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I keep the feed in the the chicken house, and have never had a problem with varmints. My chicken house is on blocks, about a foot above the ground, and that is supposed to keep rats from nesting under the house. Seems to work.

Heaven help the mouse who ventures in--extra protein for the girls. :)
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Old 05-10-2011, 10:48 AM   #13
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Thanks! We have an old (unused) freezer in the barn where I was planning on keeping the feed. I'll try and get some pics of the barn and pen. The dog pen is 12' x 12' chainlink, the floor is concrete. I was thinking of putting 3 wire crates in the pen and put dowels in them for roosting, and putting nesting boxes in them (I guess these should be off the pan of the crate?). I have 48" dog crates (and 54" crates, but the Saints use those). I also have 48" varikennels...would the hens get too warm in those at night?

I guess the DH will have to put up the dog run panels for the chickens...I thought the fenced veggie gardens would be ideal, but I don't want them eating the veggies!

Someone told me that the eggs get bigger as the hens age? True or false?

I've read about raising day-old chicks, but I'd have to get 10. I don't need 10 laying hens! But, I can get a few ready-to-lay pullets, so thought I'd go with those (and, I don't want to do the heat-lamp, incubator thing). I also thought I could house them in the basement if it gets too cold...the house is set up so the dogs can't get to the basement...there's a door between the main part of the house and the basement, and the woodstove is down there, so it isn't cold. And, it is empty and there is a spare room where I used to keep the cat at night because I'm allergic to cats and she came with the DH.

I'm going to clicker train mine <g>. Has anyone done that?
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Old 05-10-2011, 11:04 AM   #14
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Crates? Crates are fine if someone needs quarrantined, but I don't understand how you plan to use them otherwise, as the birds like to nestle together when they roost. And dowels are technically too small. 2x4s layed flatways with the corners beveled off are ideal. The hens can warm their feet when they roost when it's cold that way. I've seen people use ladder sections and the birds using the rungs, but that's not really good for anything but banties, which are smaller (and can actually fly pretty well).

Once you do some research and looking at others' coops, you'll see what I mean.

And no sense bring them in downstairs. If you get cold weather breeds, which have short combs and waddles, they should do just fine. Provided they can generate a little body heat.

Mine come when called because I trained them with treats.
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Old 05-11-2011, 10:05 AM   #15
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I think the hens would be more likely to roost ON the dog crates rather than IN them.

You don't want chickens in the house--you know how much mess a little parakeet can make, with seed hulls and teeny poops? Magnify that by 100 for each hen. :) Your house would be smelly and dusty, no matter how many doors you have between you and the birds.

I have about 20 chickens in a 6 by 8 coop--big enough for a couple of two by fours for roosting, and 8 nest boxes. They roost near the ceiling (heat rises) and their body heat keeps them warm enough for a Missouri winter. My rooster with the big comb did have a little frostbite this winter--part of his comb turned black and then sloughed off.

Chickens do NOT like to spend the night on the floor--they are more vulnerable to varmints down there, and they instinctively want to roost as high as they can.

I don't know how cold your winters are, and I don't know how big your barn is, or how high the ceiling is, but if you can enclose the birds, they will stay warmer.

Yes, eggs do get larger as the hens age--pullet eggs can range from the size of a marble on up--some of the earliest ones might not have a yolk. Takes them a while to figure things out, I guess.

Clicker training (with accompanying treats) will work--as long as you aren't trying to teach them anything too complicated! The phrase 'bird-brain' is founded in fact. :)
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Old 05-11-2011, 10:14 AM   #16
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Don't make your enclosure too tight--chickens don't mind cold, but they get sick if they are in a damp area without ventilation. Each chicken produces moisture in their breath and if they are outdoors in the rain or snow, they bring that water in. If that moisture can't escape, you can have problems.

Now that we have told you all the troubles you can have, let me add that my chickens are most carefree livestock I have ever had. As long as you keep the waterer and feeder full, they are happy and healthy.

I use the deep litter method in my coop--I put a foot or so of straw on the floor, and when it gets damp or dirty, I sprinkle some 'scratch feed' on the surface, and the girls dig and toss the straw around, mixing the damp with the dry underneath. When that layer starts to diminish and get too dirty, add another 6 inches of fresh straw.

My chicken house doesn't stink, unless we get a week of rain and everything gets damp. I clear that straw/manure mix out once a year and put it directly on the garden. Because it has so much straw, the manure does not burn the plants.

You will need a thresh hold board to keep the straw inside the coop.
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Old 05-11-2011, 11:56 AM   #17
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My girlfriend keeps 10-12 laying hens, I can't remember exactly as she added to her flock a few months back, in her "urban homestead" that is located in the burbs of a major metropolitan area. Legally, she's not supposed to keep chickens but she does and most of her neighbors don't even know they are there as she doesn't keep a rooster. She has them in the backyard, bought a nice coop for them as she and her husband aren't handy enough to build one themselves though they did manage to assemble the one they bought. They have their own little fenced in area around the coop as my friend has dogs that use the backyard too.

She grows veges in beds in her front and back yards. In the summer, since you can't really grow anything in the heat in S. Fla, she lets the girls have the run of the back yard, except when the dogs are out. Deadly Dachsunds who managed to kill one of the hens when hubs forgot the hens were out and let the dogs out. Anyway, the hens keep her vegetable beds weeded and naturally supply fertilizer, as well as keeping the dirt broken up thru the summertime.

Down here, of course, we don't have to worry about the cold except on rare occasions but she did have to get a mister for a chicken cool spot and has provided a lot of shady areas for the hens.

She's right now in the process of growing up a bunch of meat birds. Since she's a little squeamish about the dispatching part, she made a deal with a friend. She grows them and her friend will dispatch, pluck, clean, and butcher some when it's time, then get half for her share.

She keeps her feed in sealed containers and hasn't had a problem with rats. Believe me, she would hear about it if the few neighbors that know she has hens saw rats.

They did, however, have something either get in or almost get in the coop that upset the girls for days, they quit laying. It had chewed/dug a hole thru the bottom of the old coop. So, the new one they got for the layers has a metal exterior on the bottom so nothing can get in that way.

Oh, she also told me that when the dogs are gone (they are all getting up there in age) that she thinks she'll just keep chickens for pets as they like to sit in her lap, follow her around, etc.
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Old 05-11-2011, 12:11 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by medtran49 View Post
My girlfriend keeps 10-12 laying hens, I can't remember exactly as she added to her flock a few months back, in her "urban homestead" that is located in the burbs of a major metropolitan area. Legally, she's not supposed to keep chickens but she does and most of her neighbors don't even know they are there as she doesn't keep a rooster. She has them in the backyard, bought a nice coop for them as she and her husband aren't handy enough to build one themselves though they did manage to assemble the one they bought. They have their own little fenced in area around the coop as my friend has dogs that use the backyard too.

She grows veges in beds in her front and back yards. In the summer, since you can't really grow anything in the heat in S. Fla, she lets the girls have the run of the back yard, except when the dogs are out. Deadly Dachsunds who managed to kill one of the hens when hubs forgot the hens were out and let the dogs out. Anyway, the hens keep her vegetable beds weeded and naturally supply fertilizer, as well as keeping the dirt broken up thru the summertime.

Down here, of course, we don't have to worry about the cold except on rare occasions but she did have to get a mister for a chicken cool spot and has provided a lot of shady areas for the hens.

She's right now in the process of growing up a bunch of meat birds. Since she's a little squeamish about the dispatching part, she made a deal with a friend. She grows them and her friend will dispatch, pluck, clean, and butcher some when it's time, then get half for her share.

She keeps her feed in sealed containers and hasn't had a problem with rats. Believe me, she would hear about it if the few neighbors that know she has hens saw rats.

They did, however, have something either get in or almost get in the coop that upset the girls for days, they quit laying. It had chewed/dug a hole thru the bottom of the old coop. So, the new one they got for the layers has a metal exterior on the bottom so nothing can get in that way.

Oh, she also told me that when the dogs are gone (they are all getting up there in age) that she thinks she'll just keep chickens for pets as they like to sit in her lap, follow her around, etc.
Wooooooo Hoooooooo what a great report, Med!!

Look out Frank, Kathleen has some real ammunition now.
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Old 05-11-2011, 02:54 PM   #19
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My grandma had a garden twice as big as she needed, that was adjacent to the chicken house. It was split in two, and one year the chickens would be in one half, and on the other side the next year. That method added fertility and cut the bug and weed seed numbers way down. I am trying to figure out how to do that with my girls.
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Old 05-12-2011, 07:36 AM   #20
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My friend actually blogs on her urban homestead, although they've bought a small farm up in northern Fla and will be moving up there soon. I'll post the link if anybody is interested.
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