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Adding Chickens to the farm... I've got questions!

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  • Adding Chickens to the farm... I've got questions!

    Ever since we bought our farm in 2002, I've wanted a few chickens. A full time job for 15 years kept me from adding them, as I felt rearing small chicks required more time and attention than I thought I could give them. Since I'm gainfully unemployed and it seems I will remain that way, I have the time needed.

    Before I get into the more mundane hundreds of questions I have, we have three cats (indoor/outdoor house cats) and two dogs (a mutt, likely a golden retriever/redbone coonhound/something else and a black and tan coonhound). How exactly do you add chickens to your farm family and introduce them to your current pets, so they know they are pets?

    I'm not worried about the golden retriever mix - she is very well behaved, very intelligent and she'll know from from the get-go the chicks are family. But the others... I have my doubts! LOL

    I won't bring chicks home unless I'm fairly confident I can make this work. So what has worked for you?
    ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~

  • #2
    you will be surprise how long a well cared for chicken can live... we had one that was fifteen when it crossed the bridge...photo of E who stayed with the horses for 15 years sharing watermelon with the Foxie horse

    None of our dogs ever bothered the chickens (one was a golden also). Chickens are pretty smart, ours free ranged but upon seeing or hearing one of the hawks the chickens would run to stand under one of the horses
    Last edited by clanter; Feb. 14, 2019, 10:54 PM.

    Comment


    • #3
      If you want the chickens really safe, remember they are the world's most sought after snack, you have to keep them in a secure place, a coop at night and during the day, in a properly fenced chicken yard, or portable chicken tractor, that is a mobile chicken yard.

      Then you can have your chickens safe and happy, no worries about their safety, get some, they are fun to have and really take little care.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Bluey View Post
        If you want the chickens really safe, remember they are the world's most sought after snack,
        here I believe it is the outside cat that is favorite with the small dog being second

        Comment


        • #5
          No one messes with the chickens on my farm. Not the dog, not the three cats, and I've seen them move one of my horses off of his feed so that they could enjoy it. When one hen went broody, the cats wouldn't even enter the barn. She managed to keep at least a six foot radius around her during that time where no one entered her bubble.

          With that said I only let them free range the property when I'm doing chores outside. They are tucked away in their very secure coop at all other times. I've lost one to a fox. She was at a disadvantage, however, with one eye and had wandered off. They are very smart and don't roam off. They stick around the barn or house where they know they can take cover. People who visit are always amazed that they know and stay within our property boundaries.

          I was terrified of predators the first six months I got them because they are so vulnerable but with proper setup and precautions I don't worry about them nearly as much. You will enjoy them!

          Comment


          • #6
            I raised the chicks inside until they were off heat and the dog was well used to them as friends. She's also not at all the sort to ever attack anything, though. Other people have dogs that think chicks are tasty squeeky toys! A very solid LEAVE IT is useful.

            If you free range, you've got to be okay with losses--it's not an "if" but a "when." A chicken yard will really help protect your birds. It will also keep the poop contained!

            Plan for a larger coop and run than you think you'll need. Chicken math is a real thing and you'll undoubtedly end up with extras. Are you comfortable butchering extra boys? If that's not something you can see yourself doing, sex links or auto sexing birds are the way to go--much more reliable than chicks that are sexed at hatch.

            Incubating is A BLAST and you can get some fancy, cool breeds that way with shipped eggs. Roosters that are purebred and rarer are easier to sell or give away than hatchery stock.

            The most PITA thing about chickens IMO (I hatched last spring, so still fairly new to this) is keeping the water liquid in winter. There are heated waterers, but every one I've tried kind of sucks. And access for the extension cord can be tricky. Consider how you'll get electric to the coop when you think about where to put it.

            Otherwise, they're easy. The babies are fun and fluffy. It's great having fresh eggs, and the first few feel like a miracle. They're easy to feed and also take care of left overs no one wants. Cleaning can be as complex as you want--I scoop the shelf under the roosting bars daily and do a full bedding change once a month, other people do deep litter and change it out a few times a year.

            If you follow the basic chicken pages on Facebook, it's terrifying--people post nothing but sick chickens and dog or predator attacks. It's really not like that in real life, so if you follow those pages, don't let it scare you off. You're way ahead of most of those guys anyway, knowing how to keep horses alive:

            Comment


            • #7
              Welcome to the Dark & Feathered Side
              I got my first pullets (no chicks for me!) 10yrs ago & have been through every conceivable Chicken Trauma since, but the eggs make it worth every shed tear & gray hair.
              And, surprising to me, there is a whole lot of personality in 5# of feathers!

              First off, as Bluey & Simkie said: Everything likes chicken, so a varmint-proof coop is essential.
              Chicken wire fencing eventually rusts (mine went in year 9) so hardware cloth, while pricier is a better investment.
              Fencing needs to go about a foot underground to keep out digging predators & bent outward for that same reason.
              I splurged and had electric run to the coop & it has saved me a lot of trouble.
              A light to see in pitchblack mornings/evenings, outlet for a heatlamp & heated waterbowl. I use a 1/2 gallon heated dog bowl from TSC, for my now-3 (had 7 at one time) it keeps water liquid even in Polar Vortex temps.

              I freeranged my hens - losing 3 in one day to a fox - in daylight - until an across-the-road neighbor complained they were scratching up her mulch.
              For that I blame the Oops! Rooster - got 2 chicks from a friend & 1 was a Him. Prior to him, my hens never left my property.
              So now they are in Chicken Gitmo < their fenced yard & have enough room to stay happy.
              P.S.
              I will never knowingly get another rooster. I know some folks have friendly males, a friend had one huge guy with spurs a good 5" who could be picked up & carried like a stuffed toy.
              My guy was the other kind - a mean sumbitch once he hit puberty.

              My coop is a re-purposed garden shed - former owners kept poultry - so tall enough for me to stand upright inside.
              I scoop poop daily using a scoop intended for a litterbox & bed on shavings that I change out completely each Spring, sprinkling Sevin dust on the new bedding.

              Chicken Wisdom states hens prefer roosting on something wide enough to get their toes wrapped around, so I provided some tree branches stripped of bark - rustic & decorative besides being the supposed preferred diameter.
              But all my hens (3 different sets now) seem to prefer the lath-width - so less than 1/2" - top edge of a partition at the front of their coop. Go Figure.

              Breeds can vary in personality. I had standoffish Black Stars, SoSo Delawares, a Wyandotte mutt who did not live long enough to know & a Houdan who went against standard by being my friendliest hen.
              Current group is a crossbreed - Barred Rock/Leghorn? - freebies from an Amish guy downsizing. They are good layers of Xlarge brown eggs & once they got familiar with me, pretty friendly.

              Mortality is something you have to get used to.
              Some live long, others keel over for no apparent reason & some get diseases that are hard to treat with not great outcomes. One with sour crop taught me how to make a chicken barf & I still lost her.
              As Prey, chickens do not act sick until they are nearly goners.

              All of that considered. I will have hens as long as I am able.
              They are low maintenance & amusing pets & as the saying goes: They make me breakfast
              *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
              Steppin' Out 1988-2004
              Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
              Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015

              Comment


              • #8
                I've read that it's important for chickens to roost with their feet flat, so they can settle their feathers over their toes--keeps them warm and prevents frost bite (those FB pages have several posts of chickens losing toes or entire feet to the cold, it's pretty terrible ) A 2x4 with the wide side up is recommended in many places. I built my coop so they can pop right out to be cleaned or replaced. Chickens will roost at the highest point, so make sure that's where you want them to be. (Related--nest boxes should be lower than your roosts, or you'll have birds sleeping in your nest boxes and fouling [hahaha!] them.)

                A narrow roost can also warp the keel (kinda like our sternum), especially in young, growing birds. I had some youngsters growing out in a large crate in the coop and a branch for roosting...and yep, one developed a skewed keel. Didn't notice until he was butchered. I'll do it differently next time and build a roosting platform from 2x4s instead.

                This is a good book for an overview of all things chicken https://www.amazon.com/dp/1603424695/

                Comment


                • #9
                  Simkie, I read the same thing about using 2X4s.
                  But somebody needs to remind my hens.
                  My branch roosts are set at the same height as the favored partition.
                  So far no losses of toes to frostbite.
                  My pullets were 9wks when I got them, 2 were day-old chicks & latest hens still had baby combs so maybe at point-of-lay ~6mos?
                  As far as I have felt, keels are straight < I handle them to dust with Sevin & think I would have felt an offset keelbone.
                  *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                  Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                  Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                  Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Mom & Dad had zero problem with the dogs at their old ranch. The chickens were free range. Somewhere I have a pic of a chick walking across the Bouvier's feet. Hawks were a problem with the chicks and ducklings. It's going to depend on the dog.

                    At this ranch, we have coyotes and bobcats. Believe it or not, there was an old mobile home on the property that had been the caretaker's place. My Mom tuned into her "uptown chicken coop." Built a large run off of it. Chain link around it, chicken wire across the top, shade cloth over that, railroad ties around the perimeter, access to the interior of the mobile for warmth. My grandchildren loved going through the drawers and cupboards looking for eggs.

                    The poster that said to sink your fencing down into the ground was correct. We had a pack of roaming dogs dig under and massacre a lot of our chickens here. I cut hog wire into three foot sections and sunk it down a good foot or more.

                    There is a condition that chickens get that will cause them to lose a limb. They hop around ok. Mom knew how to look at the back of their legs to see the bump that will become a spur to sex them. That said, when we wanted to add different breeds we bought them old enough to see the difference. The rest were home grown.

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      Originally posted by clanter View Post
                      None of our dogs ever bothered the chickens (one was a golden also). Chickens are pretty smart, ours free ranged but upon seeing or hearing one of the hawks the chickens would run to stand under one of the horses
                      We do have hawks on our property (red tailed, northern goosehawk) and one type of falcon - the american kestrel. Also Turkey and Black Vultures (though I have no personal experience with them attacking live prey, there are those that say they will attack). We only know we have Kestrels because one day, while watching mourning doves on the ground near our bird feeders, one dove down, landed on the dove and then took off with the dove - without stopping! I was mortified for the poor dove... but so excited that we have kestrels - such lovely birds.

                      My thought was until they are grown, no free ranging far from the coop unless I'm out with them. Though I'm not sure I'd much of a deterrent for a full grown hawk intent on a nice fluffy chicken meal.

                      Originally posted by clanter View Post

                      here I believe it is the outside cat that is favorite with the small dog being second
                      Originally posted by Fleurdelis View Post
                      No one messes with the chickens on my farm. Not the dog, not the three cats, and I've seen them move one of my horses off of his feed so that they could enjoy it. When one hen went broody, the cats wouldn't even enter the barn. She managed to keep at least a six foot radius around her during that time where no one entered her bubble.

                      With that said I only let them free range the property when I'm doing chores outside. They are tucked away in their very secure coop at all other times. I've lost one to a fox. She was at a disadvantage, however, with one eye and had wandered off. They are very smart and don't roam off. They stick around the barn or house where they know they can take cover. People who visit are always amazed that they know and stay within our property boundaries.

                      I was terrified of predators the first six months I got them because they are so vulnerable but with proper setup and precautions I don't worry about them nearly as much. You will enjoy them!
                      Thanks for waylaying those fears. I'm sure I'll still worry, especially once they are large enough to be in a coop by themselves at night. We also have fox and bobcat - though I see a lot less of the fox now that we have dogs.

                      Originally posted by Simkie View Post
                      I raised the chicks inside until they were off heat and the dog was well used to them as friends. She's also not at all the sort to ever attack anything, though. Other people have dogs that think chicks are tasty squeeky toys! A very solid LEAVE IT is useful.
                      That was my plan - rear them inside (possibly using a 100 gallon water trough (I have a spare), so the dogs and cats can get used to their new feathered friends, see us handle them, etc. It's the black and tan coonhound I'm worried about... she DOES kill things if she can catch them. It just took about two to three weeks for her to learn not to "tree" our cats when she was a wee pup. I'm hopeful that similar training for the chickens will work. And she does know "LEAVE IT" (well at least when I say it. LOL Not so much when my husband says it).

                      Originally posted by 2DogsFarm View Post
                      Welcome to the Dark & Feathered Side
                      I got my first pullets (no chicks for me!) 10yrs ago & have been through every conceivable Chicken Trauma since, but the eggs make it worth every shed tear & gray hair.
                      And, surprising to me, there is a whole lot of personality in 5# of feathers!

                      First off, as Bluey & Simkie said: Everything likes chicken, so a varmint-proof coop is essential.
                      Chicken wire fencing eventually rusts (mine went in year 9) so hardware cloth, while pricier is a better investment.
                      Fencing needs to go about a foot underground to keep out digging predators & bent outward for that same reason.
                      I splurged and had electric run to the coop & it has saved me a lot of trouble.
                      A light to see in pitchblack mornings/evenings, outlet for a heatlamp & heated waterbowl. I use a 1/2 gallon heated dog bowl from TSC, for my now-3 (had 7 at one time) it keeps water liquid even in Polar Vortex temps.
                      "Everything likes chicken". LOL Isn't that the truth. My plan for my coop is in the works (not built yet as I research/gather info to make a decision - but what ya'll have said so far is encouraging). I'm going to put my coop plan in a different post, so if anyone wants to quote, you don't have to go through all the stuff already here and delete it.

                      But this is all encouraging. Thank you for the great info! Maybe I've been worrying in vain! And yes, I suppose of the animal front, I do have a good bit of experience caring for all types of critters for many. many years... I've just never cared for anything with feathers.
                      ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Originally posted by Simkie View Post
                        This is a good book for an overview of all things chicken https://www.amazon.com/dp/1603424695/
                        Thanks for the book suggestion. I bought one a few years ago (don't remember the title). I need to rummage around and see if I can find it. I think I picked it up at TSC.
                        ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          My dogs were VERY interested in the new chicks, even though they left the full-size chickens alone, so definitely don't let the dogs have access to them when they're little. Both of my dogs will chase and kill what they can (stupid rabbits keep coming in the fenced yard). They both got a little too close to a chicken once, and the chicken turned on them with pecking and/or wing flapping, and that was enough of a reprimand for the dogs. I wouldn't leave them together unsupervised until you are very sure the dogs will always leave them alone, even if you're not there to tell them no. I still only leave mine together for short periods, and will put the chickens back in their run if I want to leave the dogs out for longer.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I bought eight day-old chicks a little over a month ago, and also have multiple house cats and a dog. My dog LOVES the chicks and is interested in them, but just wants to sniff their butts and lick them. He isn't a problem at all. he is also very small and naturally submissive.

                            The cats were hanging around a lot when the chicks were little, so I was careful to never leave them uncovered. I have snow fence on top of a 100g Rubbermaid container where they are growing up. I have a heat lamp hanging from a broom handle I kind of thread through it, though at night I tied it securely with baling twine when they were small. My cat jumped on there once, nearly frightened herself to death, and hasn't tried it again.

                            Chicks grow fast...at a month old they are big enough I don't think the cats will mess with them. Mine have been very hearty -- I ordered them from My Pet Chicken. just be careful to look at the weather before you order, obviously if you ship during the polar vortex you will probably get a box of dead chicks. Mine were sent out Monday afternoon and at the post office by 10 am the next day, all healthy.

                            I find the chicks require very little actual work. clean the water a few times a day, check them for pasty butt when they are really small, keep an auto feeder going. after a few weeks provide grit. I replace their shavings every other day which takes 3 minutes with a cat litter scoop. No biggie. I will miss them when they go outside because I love the chirping all day!

                            I hope I can free range mine, but we have a fox and a hawk on property, so it may not work out.

                            I have one rooster, he is a Lavender Orpington and probably the sweetest chick we have. I hope he stays that way. He is very cuddly. He is also the smallest by a good bit.

                            My Pet Chicken lets you sort by family-friendly, among other traits. We have 4 Easter Eggers, a Buff Orp, a Barred Rock, and a RIR as well (I had RIRs as a kid and wanted another, but they aren't necessarily the friendliest). My goal was a mix of friendly chicken pets and blue eggs. ha!

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Originally posted by Mango20 View Post
                              My dogs were VERY interested in the new chicks, even though they left the full-size chickens alone, so definitely don't let the dogs have access to them when they're little. Both of my dogs will chase and kill what they can (stupid rabbits keep coming in the fenced yard). They both got a little too close to a chicken once, and the chicken turned on them with pecking and/or wing flapping, and that was enough of a reprimand for the dogs. I wouldn't leave them together unsupervised until you are very sure the dogs will always leave them alone, even if you're not there to tell them no. I still only leave mine together for short periods, and will put the chickens back in their run if I want to leave the dogs out for longer.
                              Good advice. No - I wouldn't leave the chicks easily accessible to the dogs/cats at any time. My plan was to fashion a lid from heavy wire mesh for the 100 gallon water trough and the trough will sit in my bath tub, so it won't be able to be tipped over.The bathroom door will be closed when I'm not in the immediate vicinity (or sleeping), so they will be safe. At least, that was my plan - unless anyone thinks that won't work?

                              I have no idea how fast chickens grow - like time between chick and pullet and full grown chicken. My thought was that once they are large enough (to not be able to fit right through chicken wire or welded wire or whatever we use), to put them in the coop during the day and bring them back in the house at night so they can get some exercise and move around. And at the point where the trough is just too small (I was thinking maybe 3 or 4 chicks total), move them to the coop permanently.

                              What about snakes? We have a lot of different kinds of snakes here - hog, rat, milk, corn, black, etc. Any of those a worry when the chickens are still not full grown?
                              ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                We have Barred Rocks and a few D'Uccles.

                                This is our third rooster and he's the first to be totally respectful of people, zero trouble. The good thing about a rooster is that they are very protective of their hens. They sound the alarm and the girls will run for cover while he stays and keeps an eye on the overhead intruder. The downside is you need enough hens to keep him...from wearing them out.

                                We have a two coops, both made of hardware cloth and it is buried around the perimeter, too. Do not use anything weaker than that, no 'chicken wire' etc- use the good stuff the first time. I wish I had before we had a break in and I lost some very sweet birds. And YES- if a snake can get in, they will, and eat eggs and baby chicks both. BTDT.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  They need to stay warm until they are fully feathered. Here that means a heat lamp inside until they are 4-6 weeks old. I gradually have moved mine further away from the chicks but they still have it. make sure they have a place they can get away from it too, and they will decide how much heat they want. I definitely couldn't put mine out yet at all, they are not fully feathered. I think 8-10 weeks is when mine will go out?

                                  They do run around the tub all day and get plenty of movement. I also make sure we get them out a few times a day and love on them so they are used to us and friendly.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I actually started with adult birds than moved on to chicks. Adults are pretty easy and will tell off the cats and easier to train the dogs with. I have red jungle fowl so they rear their own chicks, and do well as free range birds (fast and better self preservation instincts) - they are too despook the horses and eat bugs so size of eggs or meat are not an issue.

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Originally posted by fordtraktor View Post
                                      Chicks grow fast...at a month old they are big enough I don't think the cats will mess with them. Mine have been very hearty -- I ordered them from My Pet Chicken. just be careful to look at the weather before you order, obviously if you ship during the polar vortex you will probably get a box of dead chicks. Mine were sent out Monday afternoon and at the post office by 10 am the next day, all healthy.
                                      My Co-op and local TSCs both have chicks a few times a year. I do not recall what breeds that either has. So my plan was to research the breeds that they have once they have them available Figure out which would be best (friendlist/hardiest), then just purchase from TSC or the Co-Op.

                                      If anyone has good or bad experiences from buying chicks from TSC, let me know. Probably no one here is familiar with the Rutherford County Co-Op, since that store is a local thing.
                                      ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~

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                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by 4LeafCloverFarm View Post

                                        My Co-op and local TSCs both have chicks a few times a year. I do not recall what breeds that either has. So my plan was to research the breeds that they have once they have them available Figure out which would be best (friendlist/hardiest), then just purchase from TSC or the Co-Op.

                                        If anyone has good or bad experiences from buying chicks from TSC, let me know. Probably no one here is familiar with the Rutherford County Co-Op, since that store is a local thing.
                                        You can just call and ask them. My feed store/co-op is taking chick orders now. Then you will have more time to research. I ordered mine because TSC and the feed store didn't carry some of the fancier breeds I wanted. There are so many cool chicken varieties out there!

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