Tractor Forum banner

1 - 20 of 37 Posts

·
Registered User
Joined
·
674 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Now that we have been living at our "farm" for a month the wife and I are toying with the idea of getting a few chickens for eggs.

About 20 years ago a fellow gave me two white hens and one brown hen. I built a small hutch to keep them in and fed them cracked corn or sometimes this stuff called egg maker. Funny thing, the white ones laid white eggs and the brown one laid brown eggs.........

OK fast forward to today,
I want eggs for a family of three. I figure three or four hens. Should I get a roster? Will a hutch be OK or do I need a pen. I don't want to be chasing loose chickens around the yard. Should I get chicks? If so how many? How long before they will lay? I know that some will die. Or should I try to find some grown hens to start with? And lastly, What breeds should I consider?

Any constructive help is appreciated, I have been city-fide for too long.
 

·
EX Super Mod
Joined
·
5,317 Posts
I don't know to much about chickens but i wouldn't get a rooster unless you plan on raising chickens. Because you need the rooster to make the egg fertile. And unless you want to crack open a egg with a baby in it i wouldn't get a rooster.
Jody
 

·
a day ahead of y'all
Joined
·
1,311 Posts
Ed,

This looks like a good book that covers most everything. Scroll down and check out the reviews.

Greg
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
1,394 Posts
Well unless an egg gets past a certain temperature the embryo does not start to form. I hatch lots of eggs during the year and sell both hatching eggs, fresh eggs as well as chicks, and on the 8th day when I candle a tray of eggs and they still appear clear, they are culled and go in the house for table fare.......Never yet have we found a chick inside an egg destined for the table.

I have to add, that we do not "ever" refridgerate fresh eggs. They stay on the counter or in a cool place but not the refridgerator. Don't was em either until it comes time to use them, but you have to gather them a few times a day so they do not get soiled. Washing a fresh egg allows bacteria to infiltrate the shell and leads to faster spoiling, so until they get used they do not get washed.

You can tell what color eggs a chicken will lay by the color of its ear tufts/lobes........yes chickens have ear lobes. Mediteranian breeds are all white egg layers and will have white ear lobes, old European are usually all brown egg layers and will have brown or dark lobes. The only exception to this is in South American breeds called Aracaunas or their northern variety called americaunas or just commonly called Easter Eggers, which can lay a dark green, light blue, pink or real light tan colored egg, with the green being the predominant egg color. No matter what color the egg is they all taste the same and have the same level of nbutrients, regardless of what hype you may read on the internet about the easter eggers and brown eggs being higher in protein and lower in chlorestoral.


But unless you have a good ratio of hens to roosters, a rooster is pretty darn hard on a hen and it won't take much time until that hen is ragged looking and bare backed. So unless youy have a need for fertile eggs forget a rooster, as they simply are not needed. NOw if your looking to hatch eggs or let a hen set and hatch the clutchof eggs, yes, then you need the rooster, but just be aware broody hens are not as common today as they used to be, as broodiness seems to have been bred out of them. There are a few breeds that have more of a tendancy to set, but even with those breeds its a guess.

I just have to suggest Black Australops or Buff Orpingtons. Both are in the same family with the Buff being slightly larger. Buffs are supposedly broody types, were Black is questionable. Both of these breeds are some really laid back chickens, very very docile, easy to manage and not huge consumers of feed. The Black Austraulops have the worlds record on laying eggs. Buffs are a bit slower getting to the egg laying stage but once started are real egg machines. Blacks come in a bit earlier, and are superb in egg laying, and being a pound or two lighter consume much less feed as well. Unless you just like having chickens around, don;t feed grains or corn. All it does is make the chickens fat, and a fat chicken will not lay as well. The only time I have corn available for my birds is during the winter. It gets fed only if the temp is expected to fall very low, and then I may throw in some corn in addition to their layer feed, as it gives them a bit more body heat, but if the temps stay above 30 or so deg they do not get corn. Scratch feed is a waste, as chickens are no different than a kid or you and me. Theyw ill pick out what they like and let the rest spoil. Best feed is commercially sold starter grower feed for getting the chickens to size, and then feed them layer pellets. Pellets have much less waste than mash or crumbles do, although crumbles or mash type is what will feed to be fed to young chicks, until they can eat pelleted type feed. 16 to 18 percent protein with added calcium or any complete layer pellet is fine.

Unless you really want an uninterupted supply of eggs, it would be best to have two or ore groups seperated by about 3 months of age, so when one group goes into its molt and stops laying the others are still laying, and if you only have all same age chickens you may find a 2 or 3 month area without any eggs.

Roosters can be one mean critter, and some breeds like Rhode Island Reds can get downright nasty. They can get to a point that they will attack or jump anyone, so if any little children may be around, a rooster may not be a good idea by any means unless its in a pen. When my youngest son was abaout 3 years old he got in amongst the flock of RIR's I had and a big old rooster promptly jumped him, and actually did a dance on my sons head and shoulders spurring a flogging him. So a rooster can be one bad actor.

YOu can let your chickens free range, and train them to return to the coop at night, but once they free range finding eggs may be a chore, and you also risk loosing them to predators. You also run the risk of them scratching up flower beds, gardens, lawns etc so free range may not be the best idea for some folks.

Just this past weekend (Actually thursday evening) I had a hatch of 190 chicks come out. I plan my hatches to come on Thursdays. We have a free advertising magazine that comes out every thursday, and I always place a ad in it for selling chicks. This way it gives folks Thursday evening, Friday and all weekend long to buy chicks, and I do not have to feed them, just keep em warm for up to 3 days, so I have no money invested n brooders and feed etc up to that point. Any that remain unsold are either killed, or placed in a pen and 10 cents added each week until they reach a point where pullets are no longer sold, aas they are kept to replace older birds, or the roosters are killed or put n the deep freeze. I sell off my older birds every 2 or 3 years and replace them all with new stock . ONce the new stock is laying, the elders get sold, usually at an auction where folkls are more than willing to pay from 5 to 7 bucks each for laying hens. They are usually good for 5 years or so, but each year their egg laying decreases, but they eat the same so out they go and in come the new replacement recruits.

This is probably going to be my last year rasiing and selling chickens, eggs and chicks though, as I am going to concentrate on the peafowl and guinea fowl. Guineas around here fetch $15 and up and peafowl routinely bring $30 and up for a young unsexed chick. Guineas keets unsexed bring $5 each, which is a lot better than $1.25 for a unsexed chicken, and the guineas and peas also eat a ot less feed and do not make as much of a mess.

I have 5 dfferent types of peafowl, 12 different colors of guineas, as well as Brown china geese which seem to be a pretty popular animal as well. They make good constant weeders in an established garden, but they do make a mess. I normally let the geese set and hatch their own eggs, and then either keep a few and sell the rest, as its hard to mix chicken and waterfowl eggs in the same incubators as they both have different humidity requirements and young ducks and geese are a real mess to raise up as they are pretty darn sloppy as compared to chickens.

Sorry about the long rant, but chickens are interesting and its nice to watch a hen and her biddies, or just watch the fowl in general. Very relaxing, and those fresh eggs are not even in the same class as store bought eggs are. First cake or omlet you make with them will prove that. Difference is like night and day.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
3,786 Posts
Wow great info! --- i have been actually thinking about setting up a small pen/coop for a couple hens to lay eggs. Does anyone have any pictures, designs and is there an easier breed of chicken for newbies than others? Looking for nice large white or brown egg layers --- nothing too profuse in laying (can you control the rate of the egg laying?) just a couple eggs a day would be more than fine.

Let me know and thanks so much for the info! :D

BAAAAAALK BAAAAAAAALLLK!:chicken: :chicken: :chicken: :chicken: :chicken: :chicken: :chicken:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
44 Posts
Chip knows his chickens!

Having grown up around chickens, the only thing I can emphasize about what he said is that unless you want a lot of hassle, DON'T LET THEM FREE RANGE! Chickens are the reason for the term "bird brain" and if you let them loose, they will prove it to you time and time again!
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
3,786 Posts
Gotcha ---- plus my doggies would love to eat fresh chicken! YUMMY TUMMY. :)

What are some good starter varieties and plans?


I AM GOING CHICKEN KOOKOO

:chicken: :chicken: :chicken: :chicken: :chicken: :chicken:
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
1,394 Posts
Personally I would go with a chicken that is not hyper, but one that is laid back and very docile. Usually these are brown egg layers. I have had all kinds of breeds over the years and the easiest and most docile have been the Buff Orpington and Black australops. Average weight full grown is between 5 and 7 pounds or so. Rhode Island Red, New Hamps etc are nice but more excitable and hyper, but are decent layers. Most any decent recognizeable bred is capable of 260 to 300 eggs a season, and all lay one a day usually. (I have one hen that has been known to lay two in one day skip a day then two more and skip a day or two and then a single and then a double.)

It does not take much room or fancy housing to make a hen happy, but fencing or being in a run attached to the coop is important for longevity of the birds as they are easy prey to dogs, coons, oppossums etc etc, as well as a size 10 boot when they tear up the garden.

Raising up biddies from just hatched (typical of what is available from sources that mail order chickens) can be a chore until you get them to a point that they do not require auxillary heat, even if its 80 deg outside, until they get fully feathered out they need auxillary heat (6 to 8 weeks or so) and a 40 watt light bulb suspended over them about 8 inches off the floor will work fine for about 12 chicks per light (with a pie pan type reflector to direct heat downwards)

Odds are in favor of you buying straight run chicks from a hatchery that you will wind up with about a 70/30 mix of cockerels to pullets, but you can also buy already sexed chicks and take your choice of how many pullets or cockerels you want, in lots usuall;y of 25 minimum as they need that quanity to retain warmth during shipping, and they usually ship very well. Its not uncommon to loose a few in the first week or two.......

Landscape timbers used as fence poles work fine, and the fence should be at least 60 inches tall. A top is not necessary unless you have a flying predator problem, and then you can get an aviary mesh which is pretty cheap to buy made of monifilament or nylon line like a huge net wold be made. I would use 1 inch poultry wire, as 2 Inch wire is half as much as the 1 inch costs but it allows their heads to poke through and it may not hold in a biddie, and it also allows more manuver room for a coon etc to pull a chicken through. I have seen chickens literally pulled through chicken wire, hard to imaagine but true. Only real requirements are some shade, sunshine, out of th wind and heavy drafts, food and water and kept dry, and they will do what a hen does best for you, no matter what th breed. Bantams are neat but eat almost as much as a full sized chicken does and their eggs are pretty small, much smaller than a small fullsized chicken egg. The varieties I listed all lay large to extra large or jumbo sized eggs and are relatively misers on feed consumption, at least in quanities of under 2 dozen. Oh, some hatcheries as the year goes on and gets hotter will not ship chicks, and others will actually reduce the minimum order of 25 to 12 chicks. Places like TSC and farmers coops and feed stores routinely sell chicks, at just about what it costs them as they look to future feed sales to make their profits from.

For feeders in a small flock the hanging type 3 or 5 pound capacity feeders are best as they allow sufficient feeding room and take up little space as a trough type feeder does. Watering is easy if you use a low pressure water system which is pretty cheap to setup and buy. As chicks you need to use individual; gal or quart sized waterers. Its important to check on them daily and these smaller waterers are less apt to cause a chick to drown. Deep dishes and such are a no no for small babies. Low pressure water systems use either house pressure water reduced by a regulator down to less than 25 psi of water pressure, or you can use a 55 gal drum or a 5 gal bucket and attach a hose to it and let gravity pressure feed the water. They work great. You canbuy elbows, T's, couplings and individual waterers, and last I looked $20 or so bucks will get you a starter kit of 5 waterers and 50 feet of tubeing. They work on the same principal as drip irrigation. I water mine from 2 55 gal drums in the barn loft. I fill the drums with plumbing I run at street pressure, and once full let gravity do the rest.

Once they get old enough to lay the plastic milk cartons that everyone seems to have works fine for a nest or does a simle woodenbox, old tire etc.......they are easy to keep happy.

Lots of tmes varous hatcheries have a fry pan special or hatchey choice special. This is where they sell an assortment of whatever chicks thewy have left over (its illegal to ship chicks after they are 72 hours old at least according to USPS regs) After 72 hours of hatch another set of rules and regs come into play and birds may require certain checks and tests and paperwork depending on the state your in or from where chicks are sent from. Shipping for 25 chicks is usually around 8 to 10 bucks in the lower 48, and pullets (young hens) will cost more than cockerels(young roosters), and straight run is usually cheapest. Coornish hens are not a good deal if your looking for eggs as they are a meat bird, and dress out fully matured within 10 weeks or so, require a high protein food and suffer a lot of losses in that period of time.

Buff Orps, Black Aust, Barred Rock, White Rocks, Golden comets, Hew Hampshire, Rhode Island Reds are all good egg layers. Stay away form leghorns and other hybrid types as they lay a lot but are short lived in egg laying as they are pretty hyper and lay out themselves pretty fast in a year or so, and none really ever get enough meat on them to eat except perhaps in a meat pie. Get bare legged chickens as they are less prone to mites etc and stay cleaner easier. Aracauna or Americauana are also a neat breed that lay well and produce those colored eggs which is a big novelty with kids and adults alike. They are usually easy going as well, but the roosters can be a different story.
 

·
Registered User
Joined
·
674 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
Wow, Thanx for all the great info especially on the breeds. And the food pellets too. Seems like the way to go. I have seen chicks advertised at TSC and may go that route. I was hoping I could keep them in a large box with newspaper and a light over them for warmth in the seller for a few weeks until they gained some size. Then move them to a hutch outside. As they grow I would build a pen around the hutch and let that be their home. There are a lot of hawks and vultures in my neck of the woods, so a top would be needed.

BTW, How long will it be from chick to egg laying hen?
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
3,693 Posts
Hey Chip you brought up a thought that did not ocure to me. Flying predaters. I have been thinking in the next few years of maybe getting some birds, but I have a pair of halks that live in the back part of my yard, and are flying overhead daily, so looks like that may be an issue with me.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
1,394 Posts
From chick to laying hen is all dependant on the breeds. Heavier breeds take a bit more time to mature, but on average you shuld start to have eggs from about 9 or 10 months of age. The hens I have right now will be a year old at the end of this month and they have been laying since December. Sporadic at first now its an all out production of eggs daily.........

Top Flite aviary netting is pretty darn cheap and it is very durable. For a top of pen enclosure you can get by on the lighter weight 2" mesh opening. A piece 100 feet by 20 feet costs about $50. It should easily last 10 or more years. I have had lim,bs from large oak trees fall on it, piled a foot deep in leaves that became wet until I got them off the net and it never hurt it one bit. Some really tough stuff. Thosethat live up north may want to get th heavier stuff as if it gets coated with ice and snow (usually on the smaller mesh sizes of less than 1" ) its prone to severe stretch and possible breaking but its still easy to repair or fix or keep ice and snow knocked off it.


Keeping chicks in a cardboard box with a light is a perfectly fine way of brooding them. Its very common to do it that way. Since your in Ohio, there are quite a few hatcheries in that state that sells good quality chicks. Mt Healthy is one dealer that has some great stock.

Source for poultry waterers, and netting and other items:
http://www.poultrysupplies.com/

Mt. Healthy Hatchery in Ohio website:
http://www.mthealthy.com

It really does not matter what state the hatchery is in as shipping is relatively cheap and anyplace in the lower 48 can ship to any place in the lower 48 in one or two days shipping. Just shop for price or quanity in numbers that you can handle.


NOrmally in brooding u chicks you keep them in a heated enclosure (brooder pen or box with light etc etc). They need to be out of drafts. Make ure the box is large enough so that the chicks can get in under the heat source or get away form it if they get to hot. The small kiddies plastic swimming pools work fine until chicks get to be about a month old then it needs to be covered or they will jump out.

Each week raise the heat source up a bit higher, which decreases heat available to chicks. The object is to reduce the temperature about 5 deg a week, until it gets substantially warm enough outside for them without supplemental heat, or they are fully feathered out. Wings feather out first but usually by 6 weeks most are fully feathered except perhaps the head and neck which still have baby chick type feathers, but at this point they should be fine as long a its not really cold outside.

Straw or wood shavings make a better bedding material as a young chick needs to be ble to get its legs firmly under it so it does not become spraddle legged, and newspapers are fine, but only after a week of age or so, as they can't get as good a grip on newspapers with their feet. Even dry sand works great.
 

·
Registered User
Joined
·
674 Posts
Discussion Starter #15
Thanx again Chipmaker for another great post. You have given me alot of much needed help. The Mt. Healthy Hatchery is only about 20min west from where I work and I will give them a call. Their website was very informative also.

With a little luck I may be able to start on this project in a week or so.

I saw that Mt. Healthy Hatchery offers
Debeaking 10¢ per chick
Wing Clipping 10¢ per chick
Decombing 10 ¢ per chick
Mareks Vaccination 10¢ per chick

Do you recomend having this stuff done?

They have a minimun of a 15 chick order and I think that is a good number for me to start with.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
1,364 Posts
Thanks for the expierienced information Chipmaker! :thumbsup:

I printed it out for future reference. My grandparents had chickens back in the 60's but their no longer around to ask questions about them. They also had a few pigs, rabbits, cows, and two horses. I hope someday to be on the other side of the city limits sign and fresh eggs would be nice.

Mark
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
1,394 Posts
Thats great, only 20 min from a great hatchey........


I saw that Mt. Healthy Hatchery offers
Debeaking 10¢ per chick

## Debeaking is not usually necessary unless your confining a bunch of birds in a small area, and I mean a bunch in a small area much like layer and broiler houses dok, as this cuts back on the chickens canabilistic traits. Usually not needed in a back yard flock.

Wing Clipping 10¢ per chick
## Not needed in a home flock either. Clipping wings on some breeds can really make em look strange. Let the birds have their wings. If at some point after they are grown and any flying presents a problem, you can easily clip their flight feathers on one or both wings to curb their flying. Usually unless pushed and cornered, chickens stay on the ground unless trying to get into a roost. Clipping wings (feather type clip) only needs to be done once a season or 2 times at most. MOst backyard hens get to fat to fly anyhow, at least very high or far.


Decombing 10 ¢ per chick
##Decombing is only necessary if the chickens will be exposed to crowding or in extremely cold weather where their combs may freze. Not a problem if they have sufficient shelter. SOme birds have huge floppy combs that hang in their eyes etc, so thats another reason to decomb. Unless freezing is an issue, let em have their combs, its really not much of any problem.

Mareks Vaccination 10¢ per chick
Depends, If Mareks Disease is a problem in your locale, then it may be worth it, however I know of no backyard flock owners in my life that have ever had this done either. Most if not all commercial poultry houses are required to vacinate, but if its not a big problem in yur area I would not worry about it either.

Do you recomend having this stuff done?

They have a minimun of a 15 chick order and I think that is a good number for me to start with.

Thats a good min order quanity. Earlier their minimum was 25. Lots of hatcheries reduce min quanity as the season goes on, as temps are warmer so it does not require as many chicks in a box to keep em warm duriing shipping, but in your case 20 mim away is nice.

This is my opinion and lots of backyard bird keepers outlook as well. Its best to start feeding starter crumbles with medication for coccidossis already in it, for at least 1 or 2 months. Chicks during this time are subject to catching coccidossis, and you can buyt medicated starter crumbles with this antibiotic in it that will prevent or reduce their chance of getting coccidossis. Adult birds build up a natural immunity and can usually have a high resistance to it. Then again some folks don't like the idea of antibiotics in their birds etc, but aftyer the one or two months and until they reach laying size / age, or butcher age, that anti biotic is long gone out of their system, as not a long lasting residual medication.

Feed young birds starter crumbles up to the time they start to lay. YOu can if available feed a starter / grower ration (crumbles) up to the point they are half grown in size & fully feathered. Then swap em over to a layer pellet, which is fine for roosters as well. Layer pellets should be from 16 to 18 percent in protein and be a complete feed ration for layers.

Yea I know chickens like grain etc, especially corn and millet, but save those things for a treat. Just throw a handfull out to them every now and then and use it to entice them back in the pen etc, or as a treat, but not as a sole food ration. They will live off grains just fine, however you won't get everything oput of a chicken fed grains like you will with a commercial made pellet type feed. Chhickens do so much better with pelletized feed. They get a complete balanced diet with pellets. They canb;'t pick out what they like or dislike, so therefore they get all nutrients. They are no different than children are. Give a child their choice and they will eat nothing but peanut butter and chocolate and other sweets. Same with a chicken.........they prefer corn and millet, but it does not give them proper nutrition.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
3,786 Posts
Wow, Chip you are the CHICKEN KING. :D

:worthy:


Thanks for all of the excellent info and insight.

:chicken: :chicken: :chicken: :chicken: :chicken:
 

·
Registered User
Joined
·
674 Posts
Discussion Starter #19
Yes, Chipmaker gets my nomination for poultry expert of the tractor forum. His expertise is given me a lot of confidence to get this going.
Thanx again Chipmaker!:friends:

When I get the chicks I will let you know how it goes. I feel better dealing with a hatchery in person rather than just ordering over the phone.

I am planing on going there and getting everything I need to get started.

BTW: MT. Healthy hatchery is located in an area that is suburban. I would never guessed a poultry opertation would be located there. Also, they are the only hatchery listed in the cincinnati yellow pages.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
3,693 Posts
Originally posted by Ed_GT5000
BTW: MT. Healthy hatchery is located in an area that is suburban. I would never guessed a poultry opertation would be located there. Also, they are the only hatchery listed in the cincinnati yellow pages.
Probably been there sence before it was suburban.
 
1 - 20 of 37 Posts
Top