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Anybody have a small flock of chickens? Beginner info needed

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  • Anybody have a small flock of chickens? Beginner info needed

    We go through a fair amount of eggs at my house...anywhere from 12 to 18 a week, depending on how much baking my wife does. Its me, my wife, my 13 year old, and my mother-in-law just moved in with us a couple months ago... we're still up in the air about what the final living situation will be, but she's a good ol' bird, and I don't mind having her around at all.

    I live on an acre, in a neighborhood of 1-acre lots. Half of my lot is developed, the back half is woods, soggy ground and a small creek at the back edge.

    About 10 feet from the back corner of my house, my shop starts. it's 32x40 long. The lot slopes, so the front of the shop is below the first floor of the house, while the ground is about 4 feet lower than the footings of the back wall of the shop. The back of the shop has about 12 or 15 feet of cleared area (currently overrun with wild black berries), and then the woods starts.

    I'm thinking I'd like to put a pen back there and put a couple of chickens in it. The neighbor on one side (the shop-side) is pretty cool and actually likes the idea. The lot on the other side is unbuildable, with a house on the other side of that. Neighbors across the street aren't great, but I don't really have any problems.

    So, does anybody who knows about chickens think this is a do-able idea? I could very easily have a pen behind the shop that's 12x12. How many birds would that hold, and how at what point do the birds start to smell bad? In other words, with an open-air pen, with a dirt floor, how many birds can live in there relatively maintenance-free and not smell bad?

    I love the idea of fresh eggs over commercially-raised... I've read a few places they're much healthier, and I know from eating my friends' that they taste better. And a bird on the table every now and then wouldn't upset me at all either.

    Does any of this sound feasible? (asking here because, frankly, it's the only place I know that has a farm forum!)

    -Brad
    Brad O

    '62 Suburban daily driver
    57 Chevy 150 2-dr station wagon gasser drag car
    56 Chevy 150 2dr Sedan
    54 Buick Special
    '73 Duster project

  • #2
    Call your local county extension service. They can no doubt tell you all the ins and outs of raising chickens in your area.

    Here's some basic advice from the U. of Ga: http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubcd/L429-w.html


    Your MIL may be "a good ol' bird", but she might not like a 12x12 pen behind the shop.
    --- RJL ----------------------------------------------

    Ordinarily I'm insane, but I have lucid moments when I'm merely stupid.
    -------------------------

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    • #3
      I saw a piece on one of the local Atlanta radio stations about this guy recently. Apparently the group knows all there is to know about raising chickens in backyards around Atlanta, and can even give some legal advice. It seems to be growing a lot.

      http://www.meetup.com/chickens/about/comments/?op=all
      Lincoln 175HD
      Miller Thunderbolt AC/DC
      Smith AW1, Dillon (Henrob) Mark III & Smith Quickbraze Little Torch

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      • #4
        had some once

        We had 5 in an 8'x8' pen. The waste did build up to need work, especially in wet weather.
        Had fresh eggs for quite a while. That was sure nice, and kinda fun too.

        It is said "a chicken and a half lays an egg and a half every day and a half".
        Four to six birds should meet your needs.

        Sad ending was the raccoons killed 3 in spite of lots of effort to beef up the pen and the roost. We gave the last two to someone else with more room, more time, and watch dogs. Their dogs were not happy at first and buried one alive. It was rescued, recovered, and they became friends of sorts.

        One neat trick is a portable mini-coup, about 15-18" high and wide, 6' long. It is left one on the bottom. You put a chicken inside during the day. It will complete weed, lightly cultivate, and remove lots of bugs under the coup. The mini-coup gets moved between garden rows. Oh yeah, they fertilize too. We think the "natural diet suppliment" made better eggs too.

        Fatherly advice: Plan what you will do if forced to get rid of them. Then, just go for it. That's about it except DO NOT get any roosters.

        Bob

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Bob View Post
          We had 5 in an 8'x8' pen. The waste did build up to need work, especially in wet weather.
          Had fresh eggs for quite a while. That was sure nice, and kinda fun too.

          It is said "a chicken and a half lays an egg and a half every day and a half".
          Four to six birds should meet your needs.

          Sad ending was the raccoons killed 3 in spite of lots of effort to beef up the pen and the roost. We gave the last two to someone else with more room, more time, and watch dogs. Their dogs were not happy at first and buried one alive. It was rescued, recovered, and they became friends of sorts.

          One neat trick is a portable mini-coup, about 15-18" high and wide, 6' long. It is left one on the bottom. You put a chicken inside during the day. It will complete weed, lightly cultivate, and remove lots of bugs under the coup. The mini-coup gets moved between garden rows. Oh yeah, they fertilize too. We think the "natural diet suppliment" made better eggs too.

          Fatherly advice: Plan what you will do if forced to get rid of them. Then, just go for it. That's about it except DO NOT get any roosters.

          Bob
          Boy, I can't believe the results to my off-the-wall question, in such a short time! Thanks a ton guys!
          Our town is still really pretty rural--it's grown up a lot in the last 5 years, but there is a lot of agriculture and animals within the city limits, though they probably were grandfathered in to any "No farm animal" rules. My lot is big enough, and my shop is big enough, that the only person who might figure out something is up would be the meter reader for the shop. Hmmm... hadn't thought about that. However, our city government is still small-town enough that they pretty much live and let live--they don't stick their nose in everyone's business.

          Two years ago, there was a pretty decent sized raccoon living in the woods behind my house--I saw it back there while I was sitting with my bow waiting for deer (haven't gotten one from there yet, but I've seen plenty). My neighbor is VERY cool, and wouldn't think twice about a single shot from a .410... there's nobody else close enough that it'd be a worry BBs hitting their property (and I'm not enough of a wingnut that I'd shoot toward his house), and nobody else in the neighborhood could determine where a single shot came from. We do hear a fair amount of target shooting from the area surrounding our neighborhood, so it's not a huge concern. Plus, I have a 14 year old with a scoped pellet gun who is a helluva shot. Raccoons and possums would be dealt with after the first sign of a problem.

          As for the contingency plan on what to do with them if I DO have to get rid of them? No problem... in the freezer they go, next to the venison, fish and rabbits.

          I believe I will set this up this summer!

          If anybody has anything else to add, or would like to reply, I'd LOVE to hear more! These answers have been VERY encouraging.

          -Brad
          Brad O

          '62 Suburban daily driver
          57 Chevy 150 2-dr station wagon gasser drag car
          56 Chevy 150 2dr Sedan
          54 Buick Special
          '73 Duster project

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          • #6
            Brad,here is the section of your Municipal Code dealing with animals. They seem to have written it mostly concerned about bad dogs. (Note that fowl are considered livestock in this code.)

            http://www.municode.com/Resources/ga...d=14251&sid=10
            "Good Enough Never Is"

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            • #7
              Brad, be careful of the "public nuisance animal" law. I was once attacked by a rooster. I still have a scar.
              --- RJL ----------------------------------------------

              Ordinarily I'm insane, but I have lucid moments when I'm merely stupid.
              -------------------------

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Hotfoot View Post
                Brad,here is the section of your Municipal Code dealing with animals. They seem to have written it mostly concerned about bad dogs. (Note that fowl are considered livestock in this code.)

                http://www.municode.com/Resources/ga...d=14251&sid=10
                wow... that was really cool. I wouldn't have even known where to look for something like that. Thanks! Makes me wonder if I can get a miniature cow to put in the woods! THAT would be funny as ****!

                I'm going to do this. She Who Must Be Obeyed likes the idea (of the chickens... we haven't talked about a mini cow).

                -Brad
                Brad O

                '62 Suburban daily driver
                57 Chevy 150 2-dr station wagon gasser drag car
                56 Chevy 150 2dr Sedan
                54 Buick Special
                '73 Duster project

                Comment


                • #9
                  Bob again, since you asked

                  Recommend "barred rock" breed: mixed dark gray and white feathers that sometimes form bar patterns. Large, brown shell eggs. Seemed smarter than the reds.
                  We just used dry grassy weeds for them to bed in. They usually 'announce' when they lay. They can form a 'sitting' habit if you let the eggs stay too long. Not a rush rush but its best to take the eggs same day they are laid.
                  They also seem to like eating 'compostable kitchen waste': carrot tops, pea pods, etc, and egg shells!
                  Bob
                  ps: weld something ... roost support, pen door, whatever, and post a pix

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                  • #10
                    Remember they will strip every blade of grass from the pen area down to bare earth.

                    If you don't clip their wing feathers they will fly the coup so to speak.

                    All they need is a small shed to roost in at night and lay eggs and they're happy creatures.

                    If you can build it so they can be protected from other animals getting to them and fix the nests along a wall with an opening door to the outside,it's easier to get to the eggs everyday.

                    If you only have a few,maybe a post mounted roost/nest with shield/shields to keep predators out...open wire bottom.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by mudbug View Post
                      Remember they will strip every blade of grass from the pen area down to bare earth.

                      If you don't clip their wing feathers they will fly the coup so to speak.

                      All they need is a small shed to roost in at night and lay eggs and they're happy creatures.

                      If you can build it so they can be protected from other animals getting to them and fix the nests along a wall with an opening door to the outside,it's easier to get to the eggs everyday.

                      If you only have a few,maybe a post mounted roost/nest with shield/shields to keep predators out...open wire bottom.
                      My plan is going to use the back wall of the shop for one of the walls, and then build the other three sides with wire, and either a metal roof, or a roof made of clear plastic siding so they get some light. 10x10 will be VERY easy to do. Right now, all that's back there is weeds, so bare dirt would be an improvement. I should be able to easily walk into the pen. Keeping the local raccoons, possums and the neighborhood cats out will be the biggest problem.

                      -Brad
                      Brad O

                      '62 Suburban daily driver
                      57 Chevy 150 2-dr station wagon gasser drag car
                      56 Chevy 150 2dr Sedan
                      54 Buick Special
                      '73 Duster project

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I've heard that varmits dig. The solutions I've seen include sinking the fence 24" deep or extending it outwards laying on the ground 24" - so when they try to get under it at the edge of the pen it turns out they're already standing on the fence and no-can-do. Corners would need more thought. Also, you need welded wire hardware cloth - coons unravel wound chicken wire; they can also open a lot of simple latches. Lots of info (hours and hours of it) on the net.

                        Best luck, good eating.

                        Rufus

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                        • #13
                          McMurray Hatchery has some really good information and a selection of "birds" to choose from. My son and I ordered 25 of their brown egg layers. Recieved 27 birds. My setup was a covered pen (metal) about 10x20 with an additional 10x16 open area. The open area is has 10 foot sides, all covered in chicken wire. About the first 5 feet all the way around the open area is 1x4 pickets to keep the goats from pushing the chicken wire in. We get from 16 to 22 eggs a day. They get turned out on the weekends and put backup at night. The hens are a hoot to mess with and the kids basically take care of them. You'll have alot of fun with 5 hens or so and will provide you with plenty of eggs. Check the Inet..lots of info on "hen houses" and care. Good luck.

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                          • #14
                            When I was in the Peace Corps in Thailand, an old farmer showed me a way to make a hen fall asleep. He tucked its head under a wing and gently rocked it back and forth. Maybe it was just dizzy or mesmerized, but it sure slowed that bird down. He just set it down when he was done and it stayed put quite awhile.

                            Same guy had a dog who would go put scraps on the compost pile if he told him to. Amazing. The old guy was also a blacksmith and could make the most amazing machetes and knives using a charcoal fire and a sledgehammer head for an anvil.
                            --- RJL ----------------------------------------------

                            Ordinarily I'm insane, but I have lucid moments when I'm merely stupid.
                            -------------------------

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                            • #15
                              Chickens will eat anything(even leftover chicken!)

                              I kept a dozen chickens(layers) for about 10 years up until racoons got them all a couple years ago, killed 5 'coons in a three month period....pretty smart animals-they couldn't get in the pen so they would reach thru and grab them and pull them apart.....anyway I have a henhouse or egghouse with a raised floor and a little ramp for them to walk up from inside the pen- hardware cloth on the floor-had 8 nesting boxes with fencing stapled on the bottom-kept straw in the boxes for them to lay, they go in at sunset to roost, they love to get as high as possible to roost so I mounted some 2X2's 12" from the ceiling....even if you have enough roosting sticks for twice as many birds they will shuffle and knock each other off for what they think is the best spot, very comical to watch....DON"T use styrofoam anywhere they can get at it-dumb birds will eat it all!! make sure there's no place where a rat can nest, the feed and eggs will draw them in...and that brings snakes!...But there is nothing better than fresh eggs for eating and baking...enjoy!!!
                              "Associate yourselves with men of good quality, if you esteem your own reputation, for it is better to be alone than in bad company" George Washington

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