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what chickens?

(22 Posts)
swallowedAfly Sat 15-Sep-12 10:30:23

ok so after eons of deliberation i have acquired a chicken house and run - the maker claims it can fit 9 small or 6 large birds - i think this is true of the house which has 4 perches and is larger than most models i saw but the run is only about 20 square foot.

so then i acquired a metal run that i think i can rig to fit to the door of the other run and gives an extra 1.2x2.2 metres which added to the other run is a decent amount of space when confined for 4 i would think?

i'm thinking to just start with two though so that if i want to add more i can add in equal numbers and i'm thinking it would be best to stagger their ages a bit anyway to ensure egg production keeps going rather than having 4 stop laying at once?

i have a largish garden and hope once i've got them used to their coup and me to be able to let them free range for at least part of every day.

question really (though any advice or tips would be welcome) is what chickens to get? i've done loads of research, then actually looked what i can get in my area and have thoroughly confused myself in the end. it seems there are a lot of hybrids around that are easy as in hardy and docile and lay a lot of eggs however i don't like the sound of them not laying as long over their lifetime as pure breeds and think i would be happy to compromise somewhat on number of eggs per year in order to have more years of laying itms. i can't see me 'processing' my chickens when they stop laying so they will be with me to the end hopefully therefore it seems to make sense to pick ones that will lay for a longer part of their lives?

also after having been looking at POL chickens i now find myself wondering if it wouldn't be better to get chicks (who are ready to go outside - how old is that by the way?) and get no eggs for a few months but get the bonus of them being really tame through being handled from an early age (plus kind of cute for ds to see them grow up and they won't be as scary if he's handled them since they were diddy maybe?)

god sorry! that's a babble and a half blush

oh and hello - i appear to have somehow joined the chicken keepers grin i am hoping eventually to build and populate an ark.

swallowedAfly Sat 15-Sep-12 15:31:46

ok another few hours spent obsessing and i've decided on blacktails at pol.

Pixel Sat 15-Sep-12 20:42:36

I wouldn't worry about them being too old at POL to get tame anyway. Mine were letting me stroke them within a few days and now they won't leave me alone, whenever I'm trying to clean the coop out or something they are just there. They don't want to miss anything in case there is food involved smile.

Just googled blacktails and they look lovely. Mine are Goldlines, also a rhode island red x light sussex but with white tails and necklaces, so almost the same! I was originally going to have two but the farmer said best to have three if I could in case something happens to one. I'd turned up with a cat basket thinking it would be big enough for two as I couldn't find a box, I couldn't believe it when he crammed three hens in but they were none the worse when we got home. Got to say £20 seems dear, mine were £7.50.

Pixel Sat 15-Sep-12 20:44:53

Oops ignore the last bit. The ones I googled were £20 which surprised me. I obviously have no idea about yours blush.

TunipTheVegemal Sat 15-Sep-12 21:39:26

Blacktails sound sensible to me.
My first lot were 2 Gingernut Rangers/Goldlines which were hybrids plus a Light Sussex purebreed. My Sussex was a bit of a pain in the neck as she kept going broody and she never got as tame as the hybrids, but she did lay longer than the others.
Hybrids lay for a shorter time and are generally more straightforward but they also often die earlier, because they're worn out by all the laying. In general animal rights terms it seems nicer to have purebreeds, because they're more capable of having a long and natural happy life, but being slightly cynical/practical it gives you an easier time as a novice chicken keeper to start with a hybrid, perhaps planning to move over to having purebreeds when you are more experienced.
In your position (big coop and large garden for free ranging) I might be inclined to start with 3 rather than 2 so that if anything happens to 1, the other won't be left on its own.
Re tameness, I think breed is more of a factor than age, as long as they're not too old. Hybrids at POL should be fine.

Pixel - I always seem to turn up to get new chickens with more cardboard boxes than necessary. The seller this time said it was better to have them crammed in the box a bit so they don't slide around in the car. Similarly, people often think biggest possible coop=kinder, but actually too few in a big coop don't stay warm. (This can be dealt with easily by putting an empty closed cardboard box in the coop to take up a lot of the spare space.)

swallowedAfly Sat 15-Sep-12 22:17:17

i like the blacktails because they click all the rational boxes and on the not so rational side they look like chickens should look to me grin must admit the black ones that i was looking at scare me a bit - too shiny and metallic - not sure what they remind me of but....

chickens around here are expensive pixel. all of the localish places (think 30 miles away plus) were wanting £20 per hybrid bird, seems to be the standard price round here.

this is probably a big no no but i have ordered from a further away farm that deliver to this area once a month. hope i don't live to regret that but have ordered all the food and bedding and feeders etc i'll need for at least several months and they will come together with the birds. a lot easier because i don't drive and feel bad dragging friends all over the country to look at chickens.

i got two so that if it goes ok i can add another two in spring/summer time. 4 would be my max with current set up and i was told by a farmer you need to add in equal numbers. adding a lone one would be a problem.

TunipTheVegemal Sat 15-Sep-12 22:22:52

Well the argument against getting them delivered would be that you're meant to check them out first and make sure they're healthy and being kept in decent conditions, but frankly it's hard to do that when it's all new anyway, so I would take the risk like you are doing. The odds are it will be fine.
When are they coming?

Pixel Sun 16-Sep-12 01:55:57

Turnip, I've got a nesting box that is supposed to be for two, but I've taken out the partition and they all squash in like kids on a bunkbed. I could have had another nest box but I thought they would be warmer in the small space in the winter anyway and they seem quite happy.

Swallowed, I like the ones that look like 'proper' chickens too smile. My girls were very plain and brown when I got them and they've gradually become really pretty as the white patterns developed around their necks etc. I picked them as easy 'beginner's' birds and am pleasantly surprised at how lovely they are! I spend a lot of time admiring them blush.

swallowedAfly Sun 16-Sep-12 08:21:11

yeah i want to admire them - and the shiny black ones just weren't doing it for me - nor the white ones. hens are golden brown! it's the law grin

i think, will double check, but think it's october 6th tunip. that gives me plenty of time to put up the coop when it arrives and have a think about whether there are areas i could simply (cheaply i mean and without any great skill) close off. i know that the hedge along one side towards the back of my garden has got holes in despite my attempts to secure it for the dogs so i'm going to have a frenzy with chicken wire along that strip but need to borrow some hedge trimmers to get near the fence posts the neighbours hedge has grown over and through. if i can get that properly secured that's one side of my free range area covered. the other side and the back are well fenced in so it would just be a case of finding a way to restrict how far down the garden towards the house they come.

how able are they for escaping? and how likely to try? i suppose really i'm not going to know till they get here and i start letting them out but i really don't want to give the neighbours anything to moan about - i'm surrounded by bored octogenarians who'll moan about anything.

the other thing i have to think about is i have a cat that thinks it's a wild tiger and two dogs - one is a lab with a very good hunting instinct (has caught rabbits and spontaneously finds and destroys rodent nests when out in the fields) though she is gentle and beautifully behaved with domestic animals - not sure which she would think a chicken is. the other is a very young lhasa apso who would probably leg it but i'm thinking never have the dogs out there when the chickens are out? maybe take one out on a lead at a time to get used to them and learn they're 'ours'?

also the run is just wood frame with galvanised caging - the base is just a bit of timber - do i need to put something around the outside like wood or paving slabs that will stop digging under it by foxes? the house is raised off the ground and will obviously be shut up at night anyway. a fox would have to dig into the garden, dig under the coop then climb and get into the house - is that likely? how canny are these buggers?

sorry - loads of q's.

swallowedAfly Sun 16-Sep-12 08:25:06

the run and house are going in the back corner of my garden nestled with fence behind and tall hedge to one side and under a horse chestnut tree. thinking the shelter will be good for them and the ground there stays pretty dry and is the flatest bit of land i possess. thought it might be a good area for bugs too. does that sound ok or do you think it will be too shady - one farmer i spoke to said they need lots of light to produce well.

swallowedAfly Sun 16-Sep-12 09:41:37

okay now i'm getting excited grin i keep thinking how perfect the end of my garden is for them (unless i've completely misjudged it) and how actually given the location it will be relatively easy to bodge a bit of a run extension together with chicken wire and using the coup and existing fence posts etc as things to nail into. i also have an old table top that i can use as a makeshift gate at the end.

i was building it up to be so technical and beyond me whilst i was deliberating now i'm thinking it's actually quite simple isn't it? they're chickens - they're hybrid biggish birds so they shouldn't 'fly' but if they turn out to fly a bit or jump higher than expected i can just cut their wings right? which doesn't look too complicated.

we're gonna have chickens and eggs grin

god i've already taken to wearing headscarves and practical dog walking boots and sleeping in dodgy silky kaftan affairs. where will all this lead.

TunipTheVegemal Sun 16-Sep-12 14:48:46

Foxes are clever, determined, strong and can climb. I would put the run on slabs if at all possible. You need to make sure the door and nest box shut securely.
Fencing chickens into an area is commonsense, just like you say. I have some chickenwire fixed onto a hedge with cableties and pegged down at the bottom, which works fine. There aren't any posts, it's just cabletied to the stronger branches of the hedge itself.
They seem to vary a lot in how determined they are to escape - my old lot really couldn't be bothered, if you put up a 50cm piece of wire netting they wouldn't bother to hop over it even though they could. However if something (small child, another chicken) is chasing them they suddenly discover amazing flying abilities, even with clipped wings. Clipping wings is easy - I don't even need anyone to hold the bird for me, I just tuck it firmly under one arm - but it doesn't totally prevent them taking off.
They need shade and sun really - under a tree sounds good (they are junglefowl after all) as long as there's an open bit too so they can sunbathe. Ideally they like lots of different sorts of vegetation.

Pixel Sun 16-Sep-12 22:29:54

Sorry Tunip, just realised I called you Turnip. blush
(should have gone to Specsavers!).

Pixel Sun 16-Sep-12 23:12:34

Mine are at the bottom of the garden too, in a space between the shed and where the steps go down to the back gate. It's accidently turned out to be perfect as it works out that they have walls on three sides (back wall, side of steps and hard standing for shed) and we've dug down and buried the wire along the front part. It should be the chicken equivalent of fort knox.

If your neighbours are anything like mine (who expressed reservations about noise and smells when I said I was getting chooks) they will be easily placated with gifts of eggs which will set them off reminiscing about their childhoods and how their <insert elderly relative> had them etc etc. Cultivate an interested expression grin.

swallowedAfly Mon 17-Sep-12 10:57:50

they are obsessive moaners and worriers here so i'm not forewarning them. if they moan when they're here then at least they'll have to come up with real things to moan about rather than imaged ones. i dare say vermin worries some people but a) i have a killer lab and a killer cat who love catching vermin and b) i'll do all i can to minimise the risk and c) we already have vermin round and about or my cat wouldn't be leaving a new one on the doorstep for the puppy to try and eat every morning.

the chooks will be about 30 metres from anyone's house so i can't see they really have anything to moan about.

i don't have paving slabs and can't source any cheap/old/broken ones like i'd hoped. sounds ridiculous but i do have old carpet and was wondering if even putting that on the ground around the edge would prevent digging down there - so a fox would have to dig a lot further to get in and in the daytime i'd hope i'd have noticed/heard the disturbance before they could start digging bloody tunnels system. at night they'll be shut securely in the house anyway.

must be awful to lose chickens.

i'm wondering cheekily whether to enlist the help of a guy i used to see years ago who has taken to bibbing his horn and determinedly waving at me when he sees me in building this thing. he is a carpenter come bit of everything. it would mean putting a note in his mum's door to pass on to him when she sees him. i generally put all flatpack stuff together solo and do a reasonable job of it but i'm thinking this needs to be really well done to be secure.

wonder if i have the gall.

swallowedAfly Mon 17-Sep-12 10:59:24

what do people do with their poop btw?

i've been trying to research - seems if you compost it for 6months it can go on the garden/allotment but one thing i read pointed out that if you have 2 chickens you'll have no more to go than a person who has a cat litter tray so you can bag it and put it in the bin perfectly reasonably.

thought?

TunipTheVegemal Mon 17-Sep-12 16:15:57

Mine goes either in the compost bin, or directly on the plants that can take it.

jaynebxl Mon 17-Sep-12 19:06:22

I put the poo in the green bin. We have six birds and they seem to produce loads!

swallowedAfly Wed 19-Sep-12 09:50:43

change of plan!

lady is sold out of blacktails. rang her and had a good old chat and have settled on taking 3 ex battery hens. i'll get my 'red' hen, i'll get the feel good factor and she reckons they're real characters.

they're 18months so not 'old' by any stretch of the imagination and i just feel it is the right thing to do really.

they take them from the factory farms and keep them for at least a month to six weeks and help them adjust, check they're healthy and happy etc before they pass them on. and bonus is they're only a fiver each smile

oh and after listening to you and talking to her i've decided to get three.

they're coming on october 4th.

jaynebxl Sun 23-Sep-12 07:48:33

Personally I'd be wary of ex battery. They seem to come with emotional baggage from being cooped up in a really small space with nothing to do but peck each others bottoms!

swallowedAfly Sun 23-Sep-12 08:16:34

have you kept them before then? i've been told they're not victim like at all and are very curious, friendly hens. the farm they're coming from keeps them for at least a month where they adjust to hen houses and some free ranging and they want to be satisfied that they're all happy and healthy before rehoming them.

they can't make any profit from it - they sell them on for £5 each, the feed, time and care that must go into them in that month or so they're there (longer if needed and obviously much longer if there is little demand for them) must exceed £5. so it's not a money spinner and i am inclined to trust the lady i talked to about them who reckons they are fantastic characters very aware they've been rescued now and keen to see just how much they can get away with now. she reckons in a mixed flock they're the ones who'll try and get in your kitchen first - fearless and curious.

the idea that they'd be traumatised mentally disturbed victims is what put me off initially but i have really had those concerns quashed by talking to her and reading more about keeping them.

they do have some extra concerns (particularly if you're getting them straight from battery conditions) for example they may need 'putting' to bed at first as they're not used to the whole responding to day and night thing having been kept in bright light conditions 24/7 and they may lay their eggs wherever they happen to be as not used to nesting boxes or being able to nest at all. but apparently it all comes.

we shall see.

TunipTheVegemal Sun 23-Sep-12 11:35:03

I decided not to start with ex-batts myself because firstly you won't get as many eggs and secondly because I didn't want to make life any harder for myself than was necessary until I knew more about it. There is a greater chance of you having to deal with health problems earlier on than there would be if you got some young POL hens. But I know people who have begun with ex-batts and it's been fine. The person who got me interested in chicken keeping started off with a couple, then she branched out into purebreeds, then got a bunch more ex-batts.

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