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WrathofKhan
Jun 4, 2011


A few years back, I became a homeowner, and my mother-in-law made the snotty comment that 'You guys should get some chickens', apparently because the house is painted a barn-red color, with white trim. My husband looked at her and said "Y'know, maybe we will". So, that evening I looked up the city code, and, lo and behold, its legal to keep chickens in my city. Specifically, you can have up to ten birds, roosters are allowed if they don't piss off the neighbors. The more we thought about it, the cooler the idea seemed, and a whim born from wanting to spite my mother-in-law turned into a real plan.

After looking at the various options, we placed an order for baby chicks over the internet. Baby chicks don't have to eat or for the first 48-72 hours of their life, which means that its possible to ship them, although in the US, only the Postal Service will deal with shipping live chicks. We ordered from a website called mypetchicken.com, which at the time was one of two websites that would let you order less than 25 chicks. We ordered 17, figuring that this allowed for some mortality in the chicks, and for some being missexed. As it happened, all of them lived, and all of them were female, so the extra birds were sold on Craigslist once they reached 16 weeks, which is called 'point of lay', because most breeds start laying at between 18 and 24 weeks. Looking back, I would have just bought the full 25 and saved money on shipping, which is what I intend to do this year when I order some more chicks to add to my flock.
Since then I've added a couple of birds from a few chicks I picked up at the feedstore, as well as a couple from eggs that hatched when one of my hens went broody (I got fertile eggs from someone who had a rooster), and sold a bunch via craigslist. This past spring, we also raised a few birds for meat, but that was an experiment I don't think I'll repeat.

Owning chickens has been a lot of fun. In terms of care, I need to clean out the coop twice a week (which takes about 15 minutes) and put down clean bedding. In terms of the amount of work, its a lot like owning fish, but you get eggs. I compost the poop for fertilizer, so it all gets put to use. The quality of the eggs is much, much better than anything you can buy at the supermarket-nice orange yolks, whites that aren't runny, and the eggs have a more intense 'eggy' flavor.

Anyway, its a lot of fun, and I thought some goons might like to know more about it, so ask away.

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Fig Newton
Oct 29, 2005



I'm curious as to what your coop looks like, and specifically whether your neighbors recognize that it contains chickens. Do you let the chickens "free range" around your home's yard at all, or are they completely confined to their coop?

Metamucil
May 9, 2011


You should get a rooster, because roosters are gorgeous. Especially little bantam roosters.

Also pics please.

WrathofKhan
Jun 4, 2011


My neighbors all know that I have chickens, and opinions range from thinking its cool to not really giving a crap. We live in an older part of town, and the area is conservative-with-a-libertarian-bent, which sucks in some ways, but one of the benefits is that people tend to be tolerant of what you do with your own property, and raising your own food is viewed positively. I'm far from being the only person who has chickens, there are at least a dozen people who have them in my neighborhood. I've learned this by word of mouth, especially when, a couple of years ago, there was an abortive attempt to change the city code. Otherwise, you wouldn't know that there were so many chickens in the neighborhood, hens are pretty quiet and they don't smell if the coops are kept clean.

My coop is a converted block shed that was built by a previous owner. The coop itself has 81 square feet of floor space, and there is an attached 'run' (a fenced area that gives the chickens access to the outdoors), that is about 120 square feet. By way of comparison, commercially produced eggs are classified at 'cage free' if the birds have 1 square foot of space per bird, and 4 square feet per bird is usually suggested as the minimum for the bird's physical and mental health.

I let them out to free range occasionally, but only when I don't have vegetables growing in the garden, as chickens can and will lay waste to a garden in about fifteen minutes flat. To make up for this, they get fed plenty of weeds, grass clippings and table scraps, so they have pretty varied diet, even if they don't free range all that often.

We had a rooster for a year, and he was indeed beautiful, but his crowing was starting to annoy one of our neighbors, so I gave him to a guy in a small town near by who wanted a Easter Egger rooster to breed more pretty Easter Eggers. If that neighbor ever moves, I may give it another try, I actually liked the sound of the crowing. Flock dynamics also went a lot smoother with a rooster, there weren't any picky dominance fights, less squabbling over treats and so on. This isn't to say that things are terrible without a rooster, but they are a lot better with one.

WrathofKhan fucked around with this message at 02:01 on Jun 9, 2011

Alterian
Jan 28, 2003



Hooray backyard chickens! I only have 3, but they provide us with enough eggs.

I'll have to scrounge up some pics, but here are some videos!

2 1/2 weeks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXAF7jYwMfc

4 weeks old: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRUV...feature=related

3 months old: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hg0XlN7lwPg

Interesting facts about chickens: they love to kill the gently caress out of snakes and lizards and eat them, they love eating pork, and they'll drink human blood if its dripping on the ground from a wound of yours! They really are mini dinosaurs.

Trapick
Apr 17, 2006



Fallen Rib

What's the total cost like for bedding/feed/whatever, on a weekly/monthly basis? I'd love to do something like this when I have property. Do you plan to eat them at any point, or are they strictly for eggs? What's egg production like, and what do you do with the extras?

rangergirl
Jun 2, 2004
A shark on whiskey is mighty risky, but a shark on beer is a beer engineer

Trapick posted:

What's the total cost like for bedding/feed/whatever, on a weekly/monthly basis? I'd love to do something like this when I have property. Do you plan to eat them at any point, or are they strictly for eggs? What's egg production like, and what do you do with the extras?

Chickens are super cheap, especially if you let them free range and they can eat bugs and seeds and stuff. I buy a bag of food maybe once a month for my 12 chickens (it's under 20 bucks) and a Huge bale of wood shavings from Agway every few months.
They lay 1 egg every 36 hours or so, I currently have 5 dozen eggs in my refrigerator =/. I give extras away, trade them for coffee and stuff at work.

I have a Bantam Mille Fleur/Old English rooster who has the most adorable little crow ever. The big ones can be bullies or rough on the hens so I really prefer the little guys.

bewbies
Sep 23, 2003



Fun Shoe

I love your reason for deciding to get chickens in the first place.

I usually buy eggs at the local farmer's market for around $4 a dozen, which kills me as its 4x more than the crap at Wal-Mart, but they are so, so much better. Could you estimate your total cost per egg? Like, cost of chicken + feed + your time caring for them + whatever else I don't know?

Also from somewhere I got that chickens are particularly foul livestock (no pun) in terms of smell and whatnot, is that accurate?

Doug Lombardi
Jan 18, 2005


How do I keep my neighbor's chickens from pecking around my beets?

Totally Normal
Mar 29, 2003

WELLNESS!


Have you ever choked your chickens?

WrathofKhan
Jun 4, 2011


Chickens are pretty cheap to keep, the big cost is in start up. We already had a structure to use for the coop, but we then had to spend about $150.00 on hardware cloth and posts to make the run. I've seen people charging upwards of 1K for a fancy prebuilt coop, but if you're handy and use recycled materials you should be able to make a good coop and run for under $200. I was also able to recoup some of the startup cost by selling some of the chickens once they got to around four months. Prices vary, but around here a point of lay pullet (a pullet is a female chicken who is under a year) sells for around $25, and you can get a day old chick for around $2-$3.

Once you've actually gotten started, its really cheap. For eight birds, I buy a 50 pound bag of layer feed every two months for around $15, and spend another $10 every three or four months on grit (little rocks they need to digest their food) and oyster shell, which they need as a supplement, since eggshells are made of calcium. I use straw for bedding and buy a bale for $5 every 3 or 4 months.

Production varies a bit depending on the season, and chickens also slow down on laying as they age. At max production this spring, I was getting three to four dozen eggs per week from eight birds. I live in the southwest, and production drops in the hottest part of the summer, based on past years I'll likely only get a dozen eggs a week in July and August. In the fall and winter things slow down a bit as well, this year I got 2-3 dozen eggs a week. This is enough to keep my household of 5, and my mom's household of 3 well supplied with eggs, as well as the occasional dozen to give as a gift.

When I have 'extra' eggs, either give them away or store them in a airtight container in the back of the fridge. Eggs have a natural anti-bacterial coating on the outside, called the bloom, and if it isn't washed off eggs will keep for a long time, especially if refrigerated. How long? Well, in the '70s the lovely people at Mother Earth News tested various methods of egg storage, and they found that unwashed eggs were still safe to eat after being refrigerated for eight moths. The whole study is here: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Sust...Fresh-Eggs.aspx and is pretty entertaining to read.

The laying chickens we have all have names, and my kids are pretty attached, and my husband is a big softie, so I think we'll probably keep the birds around until they fall off the perch, although if it was up to me I'd have no problem with butchering once they got old enough that they aren't laying well.

WrathofKhan
Jun 4, 2011


Well, the first egg we got was pretty expensive . I think it got lost in a computer crash, but I took a picture of our $300 fried egg.
Seriously, though, after that costs dropped pretty rapidly. If you assume that the eggs are worth $3 a dozen (standard price in my area), and factor in the money that we made by selling a few extra birds, the flock had totally paid for itself in two years. So right now, I'm only paying for food, bedding, ect, and I'm spending right around $2 a dozen for eggs. Considering that 'cage free' eggs cost between $3 and $4 at the store, I'm saving money, but it doesn't compete with cheapo Walmart eggs cost-wise. That doesn't factor in the value of the fertilizer they produce, chicken poop makes awesome fertilizer, but I tend to assume that my labor is worth the poo poo I get from them.

Chickens don't smell any worse than any other animal, imho. I think that they get that reputation because the huge, industrial chicken houses really, really reek. A few chickens, if you clean up after them, don't smell any worse than a dog or a cat.

Doug: All you can really do is ask your neighbor to keep their drat chickens away from your beets. Either that or put up a fence around the garden. Chickens will eat the gently caress out of leafy greens so there isn't any simple way to discourage them.

Actually, chickens will eat the gently caress out of just about anything. As Alterian correctly observed, they're little dinosaurs. I'm not kidding, basically chickens are small ground dwelling feathered dinosaurs that found a niche that worked for them and stopped evolving, except for some changes that happened because of selective breeding in the past few thousand years.

And I've slit the throat of a few chickens, but I've never choked one :P

kafkasgoldfish
Jan 25, 2006

God is the sweat running down his back...

We built this coop for our chicks. They hadn't been moved in at the time of the pic which is why everything is still super clean.

Btw, has anyone with chickens noticed that Rhode Island Reds are particularly noisy and mean? We've had 3 RIRs butchered because they were too drat noisy. Great layers but christ, the awful midday croaking drove me crazy especially since I work from home. They also started to peck at us when we cleaned the coop, bastards.

We have a Buff Orpington and Speckled Sussex left and are almost ready to introduce three more, a Golden Comet, Jersey Giant and Cuckoo Maran. I get all everytime they squat for me

WrathofKhan
Jun 4, 2011


I've only got one RIR, but she's a real sweetie. Both of the Cuckoo Marans I got were absolute bitches, so I dunno.
For those who are wondering my current flock is composed of a Blue Andalusian, a Silver Laced Wyandotte, a Rhode Island Red, a Buckeye, a Easter Egger, a Barred Rock and two Brown Leghorns.

Kafka: I sometimes scratch their backs when they squat for me, even though it kinda makes me feel weird that my chickens have a interspecies lesbian crush on me.

smashczar
Mar 1, 2010

by Y Kant Ozma Post


WrathofKhan posted:


Kafka: I sometimes scratch their backs when they squat for me, even though it kinda makes me feel weird that my chickens have a interspecies lesbian crush on me.

When we kept chickens our (female) dog would mount them when they did this.

Chickens own and if you have the room and time to keep them you really should! Day old eggs poach and fry so much better than supermarket eggs, eat eggs everyday.

Wahad
May 19, 2011



Everything by design.


How is the "pecking order", so to speak? Do you often get your chickens ganging up on one to show her her place? Basically, is inter-chicken violence a big problem? My uncle owns chickens and one day he told me about how one chicken had been pecked to death because of details I forget (that was like 8 years ago).

As a follow-up question, are certain breeds calmer/more quiet/better layers than others or does it differ per chicken?

spog
Aug 7, 2004

It's your own bloody fault.


Are they noisy?

If I got just hens, would they annoy the neighbours?

Alterian
Jan 28, 2003



Photos of my flock

This is our coop. Its small enough that we move it every week. It helps fertilize our lawn. In the winter we move it against the house and if we get a super cold night (only a couple nights a winter here in NC) we can put a heat lamp in it.


The ladies.


Lacuna - barred plymoth rock hen. She's the sweetest, but pretty dumb.


Little Jerry - new hampshire red hen. She's the leader of the flock and lays the biggest eggs (sometimes double yolks!) She loves to come on our porch in the early mornings and squack until we come out and give them food.


Pickles: buff orpington hen. Most consistent layer. She lays in the winter when the other ones stop. Super fluffy and soft. Hard to catch, but when you hold her she doesn't fuss like the others do.


Looking for some bugs.


They aren't any noisier than a dog barking. They make noises when they lay eggs and if they see you because they want you to come and give them food. This is the noise they make when they pop an egg out (not mine) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idUD...feature=related

Different breeds do have different qualities and some are nicer than others. I got the breeds I did because they're people friendly. The more you handle them, the friendlier they are too. We've handled ours every day since we got them when they were 2 weeks old.

Here they are up on our porch (its about 12 feet off the ground) trying to get us to feed them. If we leave the door open to let fresh air in and forget, they'll wander into the house.


Pinkerton
Jan 21, 2002

Never sleeping...


I've been interested in raising a few chickens for years and, now that my wife and I are finally moving into a house, I'm planning to get started this summer. I have a couple of questions:

1. I live in New England and, while our winters are not as bad as say Fargo, temperatures can get fairly cold. From the reading I've done online, it seems that the use of heat lamps is pretty controversial. Some say they're necessary to prevent the chickens from getting frostbite while others say that chickens are fine without them even in cold climates. What are your thoughts?

2. Is it possible to sex baby chicks? I really don't want a rooster as I would imagine that the crowing at 6AM would be a nuisance. Does this mean I need to purchase older birds in order to ensure that they are female?

Alterian
Jan 28, 2003



Pinkerton posted:

I've been interested in raising a few chickens for years and, now that my wife and I are finally moving into a house, I'm planning to get started this summer. I have a couple of questions:

1. I live in New England and, while our winters are not as bad as say Fargo, temperatures can get fairly cold. From the reading I've done online, it seems that the use of heat lamps is pretty controversial. Some say they're necessary to prevent the chickens from getting frostbite while others say that chickens are fine without them even in cold climates. What are your thoughts?

2. Is it possible to sex baby chicks? I really don't want a rooster as I would imagine that the crowing at 6AM would be a nuisance. Does this mean I need to purchase older birds in order to ensure that they are female?

The best time to get chickens if you're going for chicks is the springtime to make sure they're big enough for the winter. We only use a heat lamp if it gets REALLY cold since our coop isn't fully closed. I've seen a lot of people use a heater meant for keeping dog waterbowls unfrozen in a bowl of water in the coop for heat. it gives just a slight amount of heat, but not a lot. Its not suppose to be good to use a heatlamp all the time since it doesn't acclimate the chickens to the cold when they're outside during the day.

We got our chicks at 2 weeks old and they were 98% certain they were all females.

GenericOverusedName
Nov 24, 2009

KUVA TEAM EPIC


Its sort of a pipe dream for me at the moment, but I would like to raise hens for eggs at some point in the future. About how many would you need for a dozen eggs a week? How much space would they need? How do you deal with predators (foxes, hawks, semiferal dogs, etc. )?

Pinkerton
Jan 21, 2002

Never sleeping...


Alterian posted:

Good advice

Thanks. I suppose I will wait until next spring to purchase chicks and spend my time this summmer perfecting the coop.

kafkasgoldfish
Jan 25, 2006

God is the sweat running down his back...

Pinkerton posted:

I've been interested in raising a few chickens for years and, now that my wife and I are finally moving into a house, I'm planning to get started this summer. I have a couple of questions:

1. I live in New England and, while our winters are not as bad as say Fargo, temperatures can get fairly cold. From the reading I've done online, it seems that the use of heat lamps is pretty controversial. Some say they're necessary to prevent the chickens from getting frostbite while others say that chickens are fine without them even in cold climates. What are your thoughts?

2. Is it possible to sex baby chicks? I really don't want a rooster as I would imagine that the crowing at 6AM would be a nuisance. Does this mean I need to purchase older birds in order to ensure that they are female?

1. I wouldn't say it is controversial, it's just a matter of preferences in some ways. If you are worried about it, buy a heat lamp and be comfortable knowing they won't freeze to death. Unfortunately, we don't live in a particularly cold climate so I can't provide any profound guidance there but wise coop design can certainly help.

For instance, Alterian's coop is quite open and probably very drafty. Conversely, ours can be locked up pretty tight, we've even cut thick cardboard inserts for the doors so the only opening was the ramp on the bottom. Since the roosts are up in the riser I bet the body heat of the chickens would be sufficient to protect them to very low temps.

2. I was told that the really good breeders can sex to 90-95% accuracy. If you want to be absolutely certain though, you can buy sex-link breeds which are much more easily sexed because the roosters look different than the hens http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_Link


edit:


GenericOverusedName posted:

Its sort of a pipe dream for me at the moment, but I would like to raise hens for eggs at some point in the future. About how many would you need for a dozen eggs a week? How much space would they need? How do you deal with predators (foxes, hawks, semiferal dogs, etc. )?

3 good layers would ensure more than a dozen eggs a week for most of the year. In terms of space, I think the rule of thumb is 2-4 sq. ft. per bird in the coop plus about 1 ft. per bird of roosting space. The run should be several times that depending on whether you let them out into the yard or keep them in the run 24/7. Your run should be built sturdily enough to protect your girls from predators. Incidentally, chicken wire keeps the birds in more than it keeps things like dogs out. Cyclone fencing or hardware cloth are much more reliable against larger predators. We don't have any birds of prey that would go after a full grown chicken where we live... Keep a roof on your run and don't let them out? I dunno

kafkasgoldfish fucked around with this message at 16:39 on Jun 9, 2011

Do it ironically
Jul 13, 2010


I heard egg production will drop off significantly after 2 years, do you plan on eating them after that? You going to keep them as pets and get more to lay more eggs?

Dr. Octagon
Aug 12, 2008

Ride or Die Bitch, Esq.


GenericOverusedName posted:

Its sort of a pipe dream for me at the moment, but I would like to raise hens for eggs at some point in the future. About how many would you need for a dozen eggs a week? How much space would they need? How do you deal with predators (foxes, hawks, semiferal dogs, etc. )?

The amount of eggs you'll get depends on the breed of your hens, their age, and the time of year. We've got 15 Rhode Island Red/White Rock cross hens, and we are getting roughly an egg per day per hen. They're in their second summer of laying - egg production was a bit slower when they first started, and slowed way down in the winter. Productivity will also drop off as they age. This chart has more information than you will probably ever need on chicken breeds, including their productivity, hardiness, egg color, etc. If you want about a dozen eggs a week, two or three chickens with at least one of a productive laying breed would probably be a good start.

You wouldn't need a whole lot of space for only three chickens. I'd recommend a tractor-type coop so you could move it around as needed. We can't do this, as most of our land is densely wooded. If you're talking about just having a few chickens in a yard, something mobile will be much easier for mowing a lawn and will reduce cleanup.

Predators, again, will depend on where you live. We live in the middle of the woods, and chickens are very delicious, so we lost a few chickens as pullets last spring/summer. Raccoons got most of 'em. We made their coop really secure and hooked up a motion-activated light, and haven't lost one since. The gross/sad thing is that if a chicken is visibly injured or bleeding, the others in the flock will viciously peck at it.

I love having chickens! Fresh eggs rule and I love being able to toss them my kitchen scraps. We found out that they really enjoy cake:

Alterian
Jan 28, 2003



Our chickens are in our fenced in backyard and at least one of our dogs is out in the yard 95% of the time. They keep a good eye on them.

legsarerequired
Dec 31, 2007


College Slice

I grew up in a suburb, and one of my neighbors kept chickens. The rooster used to wake me up every morning, and we have a home video of a momma hen and her chicks walking around my front yard and hiding under a bush.

WrathofKhan
Jun 4, 2011


Wahad: In general, hens will figure out a pecking order and stick with it. Interchicken violence is usually only an issue when something happens that disrupts the pecking order, like introducing a new bird, or when a old bird dies or otherwise leaves the flock. Even then they usually sort it out pretty quickly. It can also be a problem if you have a particularly foul tempered bird that is a bully, in which case the best thing to do is to get rid of that bird. Usually if it gets to the point that blood is being drawn, it means that either your chickens are overcrowded or you've got a problem chicken.

Laying and personality can vary a bit from chicken to chicken, but there are certain strong tendencies for each breed. A very good resource is Henderson's Chicken Chart: http://www.ithaca.edu/staff/jhender...oks/chooks.html which includes a description of pretty much every breed easily found in the US. Based on my own experience, Andalusians, Rhode Island Reds, and Easter Eggers are pretty quiet, friendly and good layers.
To tie in to another question about laying, the first two years are the most productive, but the hens don't totally stop laying after the first two years. Its more that a hen who had been laying 5 or 6 eggs a week will now start laying 3 or 4 eggs a week. This is especially true if you pick 'heritage breeds', sex-linked hybrids and production strains of Leghorns tend to lay daily for the first two years and then really, really drop off after that.

Its totally possible to sex baby chicks, if you are a highly trained professional. There was an episode of 'Dirty Job' that explains how its done, possibly in more detail than you want to know, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tmEO9xRqvo As others have said, its about 95% accurate. The alternative is to buy adult birds, but that is considerably more expensive than raising your own from chicks.

I'll echo Alterian, Kafka and Dr. Octogon in saying that chickens aren't any louder than a dog. A normal dog, not some hell beast who barks non-stop 24 hours a day. I've got eight, and most of the time you wouldn't even know I had any by noise.

I don't have any experience with predators, the only animals in my area that are running loose are cats, and honestly the cats are scared of the chickens. Awhile ago, Mother Earth News did a article on how to make a inexpensive, portable chicken coop with an attached run that would work well if you're going to have a few birds. http://www.motherearthnews.com/do-i...zm0z11zhun.aspx

Alterian
Jan 28, 2003



I swear Mother Earth News has an article an issue about chicken coops.

Stroph!
May 6, 2008


Alterian posted:

Our chickens are in our fenced in backyard and at least one of our dogs is out in the yard 95% of the time. They keep a good eye on them.

Have you ever had any problems with your dogs getting hungry?

Alterian
Jan 28, 2003



Stroph! posted:

Have you ever had any problems with your dogs getting hungry?

They don't bother the chickens, but if they lay an egg somewhere that they can get to they eat them. They also seem to think chicken food is delicous.


Grossest thing I've ever witnessed. We feed whole dried corn kernals along with chicken food to our hens especially in the winter. One morning this past winter I let the dogs out for the morning. Or lab started to take a poop, but he had a bunch of chicken corn in his turds. Little Jerry went over and started picking the poop out of his butt so she could eat the corn.

Alterian
Jan 28, 2003



Alterian posted:

They don't bother the chickens, but if they lay an egg somewhere that they can get to they eat them. They also seem to think chicken food is delicous.


Grossest thing I've ever witnessed. We feed whole dried corn kernals along with chicken food to our hens especially in the winter. One morning this past winter I let the dogs out for the morning. Or lab started to take a poop, but he had a bunch of chicken corn in his turds. Little Jerry went over and started picking the poop out of his butt so she could eat the corn.



Our lab is a little When the chickens were first running around the yard, he'd bring them his toys and set them down next to them to try and get them to play fetch.

Join Us!
Mar 16, 2008

Why not?


I heard that some female chickens won't lay eggs unless there is a Rooster present. What benefits are there to owning a Rooster?

WrathofKhan
Jun 4, 2011


Its a myth that hens won't lay without a rooster present. Ovulation happens independent of fertilization, and hens will lay with or without a rooster. Hens are more likely to go broody with a rooster around. I'm not sure if this is because of geting laid, or because of the rooster engaging in behavior that makes them want to nest.

That said, there are advantages to having a rooster around. A rooster will break up fights and keep low-status hens from being picked on. If you integrate new hens into your flock, it goes a lot more smoothly with a rooster around to help the new girls find their place. If you free range your birds, the rooster will warn the flock if there is any danger, and will help the hens to find food. Even if you're giving them the treats, the rooster will call everyone over, and make sure to point out especially choice morsels, which they seem to like. If a predator does attack the flock, the rooster will sound the alert and try to stop the predator, laying down his life if need be. Plus, it lets you maintain the size of your flock through natural reproduction, which saves money and decreases the risk of disease.
Plus, roosters are pretty to look at.

As a side note, you want to have at least three hens per rooster, and the ideal ratio is around 10 hens for one rooster. Having more than one rooster in a flock is tricky. If you have enough hens, and one of the roosters is less dominant, you can have multiple roosters. Too few hens and can have their back feathers ripped up from being overmated. If both of the roosters are very dominant, you'll have constant cockfights.

Jork Juggler
May 22, 2007


I live out in the sticks, and my family has kept a few chickens as a hobby for about 15 years. We get eggs out of them and they are a form of mild entertainment.

Until recently we kept the chickens in a stall in a pole barn. We had to keep a heat lamp on them to keep them alive through the winter and they never, ever laid eggs in the cold months (Minnesota). Two summers ago we decided to build a free-standing coop nearer to our house and get one of the most ridiculous looking breeds of chicken, the Polish Crested.




This is the coop we built. It is more than large enough for 10 chickens, and the windows combined with the roof overhang control the temperature of the coop. On hot days in the summer it is cooler in there than it is outside and in the winter it is warmer inside. I was in architecture school when I built the thing, so it was a fun exercise in passive solar design, and it works. The chickens that live in it lay eggs all through the winter, though about 1/4 as many as in the warmer months.




This is the run off to the side, with welded wire buried 2 feet into the ground to thwart predators. The chickens used to run free around the yard but they are now confined to the coop/run unless we are outside with them. They put themselves away at sundown like clockwork but it is nearly impossible to round them up back into the run before then.



Pinkerton posted:

1. I live in New England and, while our winters are not as bad as say Fargo, temperatures can get fairly cold. From the reading I've done online, it seems that the use of heat lamps is pretty controversial. Some say they're necessary to prevent the chickens from getting frostbite while others say that chickens are fine without them even in cold climates. What are your thoughts?

Most breeds of chicken are capable of acclimating to the cold. The hens that we kept in the windowless barn stall would occasionally end up with frostbite even with a heat lamp. The ones that live in the coop have made it through two winters without any heat source, including the ridiculously cold one we just had.

You want to seal up the coop as best you can, but leave a small vent opening at the top. This is to vent excess humidity, as that is pretty much the cause of frostbite on the chickens' combs. The other trick is to position the plank they roost on as far away from the vent opening as possible, and use a 2x4 laying flat. The wider roosting plank is so that their feathers are able to completely cover up their feet. On a narrower plank their feet are left exposed, and they get frostbite.

Alterian posted:

Our chickens are in our fenced in backyard and at least one of our dogs is out in the yard 95% of the time. They keep a good eye on them.

I would be very cautious about this. We have a Border Collie that is absolutely fascinated with the chickens, and spends hours every day staring at them. He was fine for over a year, just watching them roam around the yard, and one day he decided to attack one and it died a few hours later. After this happened we rarely let them out of the run. It sucks, because the chickens loved roaming free and the dog even scared off foxes a few times. Some say that no dog can be trusted around chickens.

Jork Juggler fucked around with this message at 09:27 on Jun 10, 2011

smitz
Nov 5, 2003



Jork Juggler posted:

Some say that no dog can be trusted around chickens.

Tie the dead chicken to the dogs collar. Leave it there for a few months. That dog will never kill another chicken.

spog
Aug 7, 2004

It's your own bloody fault.


Alterian posted:

They aren't any noisier than a dog barking. They make noises when they lay eggs and if they see you because they want you to come and give them food.

WrathofKhan posted:

I'll echo Alterian, Kafka and Dr. Octogon in saying that chickens aren't any louder than a dog. A normal dog, not some hell beast who barks non-stop 24 hours a day. I've got eight, and most of the time you wouldn't even know I had any by noise.

So, if I were living in a suburban house, I could keep hens in my garden without disturbing the neighbours - even if they are the fussy type?

Alterian
Jan 28, 2003



spog posted:

So, if I were living in a suburban house, I could keep hens in my garden without disturbing the neighbours - even if they are the fussy type?

I live in a suburban house and haven't had any issues. It probably depends on your neighbors though. Ours are all pretty laid back.

Marchegiana
Jan 31, 2006

. . . Bitch.

It all depends on your local code too. If you're not legally allowed to keep chickens and you have a neighbor who takes offense, then you have a problem on your hands. However, if it's within your legal right to keep chickens and a neighbor doesn't like it then they can just sit and spin about it.

Which of course is the only reason I don't have chickens. Chicken coops are currently illegal where we live, with a fine of $1000 per chicken per day. People around us still keep chickens illegally, but I have a neighbor behind me who is the type that would totally call the cops on chickens. So instead I'm doing things to support the locals who are petitioning to change the code.

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WrathofKhan
Jun 4, 2011


Spog: My neighbors don't have a problem with it, but they're pretty laid back about most things. Its possible, if you have a really picky neighbor, that they might gripe about the noise from a few hens, but based on my experience and what I've heard, a neighbor who is going to gripe to you about a few hens is a neighbor who is going to gripe about *something*. And, as Marchegiana said, if you're allowed to have chickens, and you're following the local laws, they can't really do anything to stop you.

If you live in the US, the Backyard Chickens website has a database of information on laws related to chickens http://www.backyardchickens.com/laws/search.php and if you find out that you can't have chickens, a number of cities in the US have recently changed their laws to allow chickens.

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