Saturday, April 12, 2014

Our Great Chicken Adventure Begins

Sometime last year the Idea came to me if I got a few chickens we wouldn't have to buy eggs any more.  That started “Our Chicken Adventure”. 
 
As my research began I found that raising chickens can be a fun family activity.  Many people come to think of their chickens as pets, as well as food providers. To keep your chickens and eggs safe, you must invest in a coop to protect the hens from predators and protect yourself and the animals from harmful bacteria.

Questions I came up with along the way and the answers I came up with.

1. Is it legal to raise chickens where Iive? A great source I found is
http://www.backyardchickens.com/atype/3/  Some cities have stricter laws about roosters than chickens. If you want a rooster in order to grow chickens for meat, you may have more trouble. Although chickens will still squawk, they will not crow like roosters.

2. How much time will this adventure take? You will need to clean and harvest eggs most days of the year.

3. Where should I place the coop? Set aside an area in your back yard for the chicken coop. If you are raising the birds from chicks, you will have a little bit of time to build it while they grow. If you are buying older hens, you will need the coop immediately.

4. Should I buy or build a chicken coop?   Search online for people who make chicken coops in your area, and you may be able to pick up a newly made model to avoid shipping. You can also get plan to build a coop online.
Look for a coop or design with lots of light, so your chickens will be happy.
Choose a coop with a run, so that chickens can roam, but be protected during the day.
After lots of research I decided to build my coop. The coop I decided was the best for our yard is the Wichita-cabin coop.   Check out this link http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/743810/wichita-cabin-coop-design-computer-models-and-material-list
In future blog postings I will show the process I took in building our coop.
It is always important to reinforce your chicken coop. Predators and even your dogs, can slip through cracks or underneath coops. Invest some money in extra chicken wire, nails and wooden or stone borders.

5. Chicks or chickens?  Buying hens. They are often available in the fall, after people have raised too many chicks for their needs. However, it is hard to distinguish hens that are near the end of their egg-laying years (over 2 years old) from those who are young with many egg-laying years ahead of them.
Opt for buying chicks rather than hatching eggs the first year you raise chickens. Hatching eggs are available through purchase by mail order and in stores. While they may be cheaper than chicks, they may not have the sex determined and some eggs do not hatch.
Buy day-old chicks at the local feed store or online. You can usually buy them between February and April. Look for “pullets” because they are female.
I decided on getting Hens. The will be introduced latter.

6. How many Hens and what breed? A full grown chicken will between 2 months and 2 years old will lay approximately 5 eggs per week. In order to get a dozen per week, buy 3 to 4 chickens.
Make sure your coop size is large enough to accommodate them. There should be 3 to 4 square feet (0.9 to 1.2 square meters) of space per chicken inside the coop and 10 square feet (3 square meters) of space per chicken outside the coop.
Purchase several types of egg-laying chickens. A mixed group will provide varied sizes and colors.
The following are some breeds to consider:
Ameraucana chickens, sometimes called “Easter Eggers” are prized for their colored eggs. Other popular breeds are Rhode Island reds, Cochin chickens and Barred Rocks. Breeds called Australorps, Orpingtons and Faverolles are considered “winter layers” so it may be worth buying them in cold-weather areas. Not a worry in my area. Breeds that are considered “fancy” will lay fewer eggs. They are developed genetically for their looks rather than their egg-laying abilities.
I decided to get three hens An  Ameraucana chicken, Babcock White Leghorn chicken and a Rhode Island Red chicken.

7. What do I feed the chickens? Feed your chickens varied food to make deeper yolks. They can eat store-bought chicken crumbles, food scraps, insects from the lawn, night crawlers, grass and corn. Cracked corn is essential in the winter to keep their body temperature up.
Free-range eggs have lower cholesterol and saturated fats than store bought eggs. They also have higher omega-3 fatty acids.

8. Can the chickens run free? Avoid letting your chickens roam free without supervision. If you allow them to have freedom they may become prey. Let them out to run around when you are doing yard work or playing in the yard. Keep them in the run until nightfall, and then close up the coop.

9. How do I train the hens where to lay? Place a fake egg in the nesting boxes of young hens. Make sure it is not a real egg, or they can get into the habit of eating eggs. They need to be shown where to lay their eggs.
In later years, having chickens of varying ages helps teach new hens how to behave. Most sources suggest replacing 1/4 to 1/3 of the flock each year.

10. How often do I gather eggs and how do I care for the eggs?  Gather eggs each day to free up the nesting boxes. Wipe the eggs with a soft cloth, which removes mess, but not the anti-bacterial bloom on the egg. Mother hens produce this coating to protect their eggs from disease. Store eggs at approximately 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7.2 degrees Celsius). They should be stored in the refrigerator rather than at room temperature. Warmer temperatures can promote bacterial growth.


I am sure there will be many more questions along the way and more things to learn.

Let the adventure begin! 

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