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Author Topic: Zillions of chicken questions!  (Read 5131 times)

loosey

  • Joined May 2010
  • Cornwall
Zillions of chicken questions!
« on: February 23, 2011, 01:21:03 pm »
Hi All

I think this is my first post on the poultry section! ;D

This year we will be introducing chicknes to our small holding and I have many questions if you can help!

- I have designated an area of approximately 10m x 3m for the time being (partly shaded, fairly rough ground, concrete area for house to go on, backed by 8foot stone wall ... I think it's a good spot. Is this big enough for 8 birds?
- We'd like to start just keeping chickens for eggs. I like the Plymouth Rock's but wouldn't mind some suggestions  from you all?!
- If I let them out to free range for a few hours a day I'm a bit owrried about them walking into the pig fencing (electric!) should I be?
- Is hay, straw or shavings best for their nesting boxes?
- meat birds ... any recommendations for breeds?
- Do you dispatch your chickens yourselves?
- If so how do you prepare them, do you pluck them yourselves? Is it a real pain?!

I'll have may more questions before we take the plunge I expect!

Thanks in advance!  :chook: :)

Frieslandfilly

  • Joined Apr 2009
Re: Zillions of chicken questions!
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2011, 01:41:14 pm »
Hello

Lets see how many I can answer from experience!

An area that size sounds fine to me (if I have worked it out in feet correctly!) I have found that if you can fence part of it off and use it in rotation for when the other area is wet and muddy that would be useful.

Type of chicken is personal choice, I have Orpingtons (good broodies but have patches of not laying) I also have Marans, lovely egg and lay well and some hybrids that lay brilliantly, a couple of light sussex bantanms that also lay very well, Welsummers (which I find a bit fiesty).

We despatch our own and dress them out, the first time we did it we followed the instructions in a smallholder book! We decided to go on a despatch course but to be honest did not learn much more than from the book, just the presentaion of the bird was a little better!

We have for the first time bought in Hubbards for meat, but I dont think I will again, they are programmed to just eat and eat and eat! They are a very good weight but I feel sorry for them, the body seems to outgrowing the feathers and they dont move very far from the food bowl!  (they are 5 weeks now)

What you put in thier nesting boxes is a matter of personal choice I think, I have some on straw (because we have it available for the horses) and some on shavings (Orpingtons) because they have a fluffy backside and I have found it is cleaner for them.

As for the electric fence, they will soon learn!

Hope some of that helps :)

egbert

  • Joined Jan 2010
Re: Zillions of chicken questions!
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2011, 08:27:51 pm »
I have had chooks for 10 months, so I will tell you how we got on -

I am sure I read somewhere that you should work on there being 1m square per chicken. You have 30 m square so more than enough. We have 6 in a 4x4m run, although we intend to expand it. We are going to roof ours, as over the winter the ground in their run is just a bog, and that way we can clean the ground without having to keep moving the run.

We keep ours for eggs, we started with 2 Copper Stars and 3 ex-bats. The Coppers were POL and now lay pretty much every day. The ex-bats were 18 months - 2 have died since but one is going strong although lays less. The Coppers are expected to lay about 320 eggs a year I think. We now have 3 more different breeds - Sussex star, Speckled Star and a blue, each of which lay 260 a year. If you want the eggs you should think of getting a hybrid based on the number of eggs they lay a year. The breeder you get them from should be able to tell you the volume to expect.

Pig fencing - they will soon learn!

I have used straw, but I know some people on here say not to as being hollow the red mite can live in it. I have a mix of shavings now with a load of hay on top and they seem very happy.  ;D










northfifeduckling

  • Joined Jan 2009
  • Fife
    • North Fife Blog
Re: Zillions of chicken questions!
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2011, 09:56:50 pm »
The area seems small to me for 8 but if they can get out to free range some time of the day should be fine. I find that my 7 find inexplicable ways of escaping their run if I keep them in for longer than 1 hour!
Re bedding - I found that hay is more absorbent but very dusty, so not good for birds' lungs. Shavings I have cought them eating!!!! and straw harbours parasites like mites in the warmer season.
Take your pick  ::) I will try the hemp bedding one day...
I happily pluck, prepare and cook but can not kill anything larger than a moskito - especially not if I have looked after it with loving care  ::)
 :chook: :&>

benkt

  • Joined Apr 2010
  • Cambridgeshire
    • Hempsals Community Farm
Re: Zillions of chicken questions!
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2011, 09:34:40 am »
At our old place, we had between six and ten chickens in a 10x3 run which was split into two bits to enable half to recover whilst they used the other half. It never really seemed to help much - both halves remained muddy and barren however much I tried to rest part of it, so in the end I left the door open and they had the whole lot all the time. They were always healthy and layed well so I assume it was a big enough space. They do like some shelter from the rain though - my coop was up on stilts and they always used to stand around under it when the eather got wet.

re: breeds, I reckon that marans lay the best eggs so get some of them, but they don't lay masses, so get something that will, perhaps rhode island reds or light sussexes.


janeislay

  • Joined Sep 2010
  • Isle of Islay
    • Ellister Islay Highland Ponies
Re: Zillions of chicken questions!
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2011, 10:14:15 am »
We have an automatic plucker, bought from Ascott; it certainly saves a lot of time when you have a dozen or so birds at a time.

We bred our own birds for years, in order to get eggs which matched exactly our waterfowl species' eggs.  Now we're adding in more Marans, on top of the Light Sussex, Silkies and Aracaunas, to get better eggs for eating. 

plt102

  • Joined Jan 2011
Re: Zillions of chicken questions!
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2011, 10:28:54 am »
Just a little note on bedding on straw. We use it because I am less allergic to it than shavings and I find it stays cleaner (especially in the nest box where they can make a lovely nest with it), however we did get an infestation of mites as said in earlier posts. After many attempts to get rid of them (you think you get rid of them and then they appear again from nowhere), we succeded by placing a layer of Diatomatous earth on the floor of their house before putting down the straw and also putting some in their dust bath with some chinchilla dust. This made a nice even coating of d.E everywhere and we have seen no chicken mites since then (about 7 months).

loosey

  • Joined May 2010
  • Cornwall
Re: Zillions of chicken questions!
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2011, 11:29:08 am »
I'd like them to be able to free range all day but in the depths of winter it will be a problem getting them in before dark and no matter how big a war we wage, we are over run with foxes at night. Also a little worried about our liveries dogs so will have a chat with them and see what we can come up with (our 3 are fine with all livestock, although yet to see what the cat will make of them!).

Thanks for advice so far, there will be many more questions, no doubt!  ;D :chook:

northfifeduckling

  • Joined Jan 2009
  • Fife
    • North Fife Blog
Re: Zillions of chicken questions!
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2011, 11:58:03 am »
hens are usually quite good at putting themselves to bed way before nightfall. All I have to do is shut the doors. the ducks are more difficult in the summer. Some hens got confused in the snow so they were kept in their run until the melt.  :chook: :&>

egbert

  • Joined Jan 2010
Re: Zillions of chicken questions!
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2011, 04:42:22 pm »
Just found the Defra guide for chickens which says they need 250cm square per chook -

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Environmentandgreenerliving/Smallholders/DG_189309

Buffy the eggs layer

  • Joined Jun 2010
Re: Zillions of chicken questions!
« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2011, 08:46:26 am »
Hi,

      its good to ask questions as so many people are happy to share advice and encoragement. In the end most of what people do comes down to personal prefference though some topics such as which bedding to use can often spark a heated debate.

    I agree with the advice that you have recieved from other forumers so my only addition would be to say,

Like you you I have to confine my birds in winter as I cant get home in time to shut them in at dusk. As a result I find that the recomended run space is insufficient for my birds to be stuck in for 4 - 5days a week. I understock in terms of run space and nest boxes as this avoids stressing the birds and causing feather pecking, bullying etc. I keep my runs on hard standing coverd with lots of straw which avoids poached and sick patches of land. The runs are covered and have perches. I scatter corn in the run and hang up greens to provide a balenced diet and stimulation / activity through the day.

In respect of breeds the advice you have been given above is all good buty you may also want to concider breeds which tollerate confinement well for the months that their free ranging is limited. If you fancy keeping a pure breed or rare breed there a number that have been traditionally kept for both eggs and table though none that can compaire with the modern commercial strains. I keep rare breed Croad Langshans, Sussex and Plymouth rock which were all popular dual purpose breeds kept during the second world war but were all surpassed by the introduction of the hybrids introduced by the Americans after the war.


In regard to the red mite issue with straw in the nest boxes I uset along with D.E as mentioned above. In addition to this I creosote the inside and outide of my coops which kills the mites and have removeable pearches\ boxes where possible so that I can open the whole place up to uv rays which red mite cant tollerate.

Lastly, if you dont want to pluck the birds you can skin them and cassarol the meat rather than roasting it.

Buffy

loosey

  • Joined May 2010
  • Cornwall
Re: Zillions of chicken questions!
« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2011, 10:02:59 am »
Thanks Buffy, I may well set up 2 runs in that case and maybe have one bigger one on woodchip for the winter with toys etc and therefore the summer run could have a rest too ... would that work?!

Buffy the eggs layer

  • Joined Jun 2010
Re: Zillions of chicken questions!
« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2011, 11:26:14 am »
Yes that would work,

  If you keep the run in the same place all and put chippings down it needs to be a dry, sheltered and well drained spot. you could try a layer of sand under the chippings too. I find keeping them on a hard surface prevents rats and foxes burrowing under so if you have a fox problem, remember to set some netting around the run to stop them digging under or fit electric fence.

As regards your liveries dogs, electric fence might prevent them worrying the hens in their run when you are not there.

A dust bath in the run with D.E in it will also add to their comfort and keep the mites at bay.

They will also need a dish with digestable and indigestable grit and some where to hang up their food and water to stop them pooing in it or vermin eating it. If you leave them first thing on a morning and dont get back till evening in the winter as I do then a dull emmitter heat lamp and electric water defrosters will get you through the winter when the weather is so cold that their water freezes as soon as you fill it up. 

If your not in a mad rush to start, I would suggest visiting a couple of poultry shows to get an idea of breeds you like the look of and find out more about them from the breeders. You wont fing the commercial breeds there though.

Buffy

loosey

  • Joined May 2010
  • Cornwall
Re: Zillions of chicken questions!
« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2011, 12:18:10 pm »
 :-[ Can you explain DE please?!

We're not so bad here for temperature, being close to the coast etc. My OH also works from home sometimes so at least in the winter we'll be able to get them out for a few hours at least 4 days a week (I also have one week day off!).

I'm now thinking about exactly how much spare ground I've got and how many various runs I can set up ... sure my OH will be thrilled with all the work I have planned for him!! ;D

Buffy the eggs layer

  • Joined Jun 2010
Re: Zillions of chicken questions!
« Reply #14 on: February 25, 2011, 02:14:04 pm »
Hi

   D.E as mentioned in plt102's reply to your post is Diatomaceous Earth. Its a very fine powder made from the remains of millions of crustaceans. its harmless to plants and animals but kills lots of bugs and pests by slicing through their bodies protective layer and drying them out. You can put it in their coop and in their dust bath areas as well as directly on their skin. You can also use in in the garden and on your pets.  Google Diatom for more info and good luck with the new additions.

Buffy

 

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