Month: September 2018

My Chicken Coop Start

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Choosing a chicken coop can depend on many things and how much money you have to spend. Some people want to go new and some want to repurpose things. Some people are handy and some are not.

 

Making a homemade chicken coop, or have someone build it for you can be expensive and daunting.

 

I am a huge fan of reusing or repurposing things. Needing a chicken coop, this building was just what I needed. Look for people selling or giving away old granaries, sheds, play houses, old lumber, pallets, etc.

 

 

Repurposing or Reusing– Use your imagination

A little elbow grease and know how, a chicken coop doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive. If you want a homemade chicken coop, old lumber or pallets are a great way to go.

 

Reusing granaries, shed, play houses or anything similar doesn’t require any building skills, though you may have to do some renovations to benefit the chickens and yourself.

My chicken coop is an old granary building. My husband had purchased a couple of small buildings at an auction and this one was adapted to store oats for our meat goats.

 

When we quit using oats to flush our goats and supplement their feed, the building was just standing there with no use.

 

I started to think that maybe having a few chickens for fresh eggs would be a great use for the old empty building.

 

If you do decide to go new, I’m not judging.  Finding chicken coop plans online is easy and if you can afford to go fancy, go nuts!  There are so many cute little coops for all numbers and sizes of chickens.  The choices are limitless.  Chickens just need a basic one room building.  The main purpose is to keep them dry, safe, warm, and healthy.

 

 

 

Inside the Coop – Making it cozy

I had lined the inside of the 8×12 building with OSB for grain storage, so I was happy the walls were double sheeted, though not insulated, it would do. Insulation for the extreme cold weather and even in warm weather would be beneficial, but beggars can’t be choosers at this point.

 

It already had high vent windows with doors for checking grain levels. I covered the inside of those windows with hardware cloth to keep out cats, owls, hawks and birds in general. They were perfect for ventilation and air circulation. These vent windows are a must in a coop to keep your flock healthy, especially in winter.

 

I cut another door into the one end of the building for cleaning purposes. I didn’t want to throw the old bedding out into the chicken run. Instead I throw it out of the house to the outside, and if need be, it can be hauled away or left to compost. This side door also serves as an exit and entrance for my chickens to free range outside of their fenced chicken run.

 

Since I don’t have any windows in my coop, I cut the main door and the side cleaning door in half. I can keep the top halves open for extra air circulation. The side door being cut in half allows me to open the bottom half only to let the chickens free range out and keeps birds from flying in the coop.

 

The main door has a small chicken opening with door cut out of the bottom half. This way they can still be in and out of the coop in the winter but keep the heat in as much as possible. The door allows me to close the opening if I need to enclose the chickens into the coop for any reason.

 

The floor of the coop is standard plywood. I lay straw on the floor of the coop to give them something to scratch in and to keep the floor warm for them. Even in the summer it makes cleaning much easier if you put straw or shavings on the floor. I prefer straw as shavings are harder to clean out with a fork and they can absorb a lot of water.

 

 

 

Windows for the Coop – Do they need windows?

Windows are another great addition to making a coop cozy. It helps to bring natural light into the coop for the chickens and can add air circulation if they open.

 

Having windows can help heat up the coop in winter as well. When the weather is very warm, just open the window and let the breeze flow through.

 

I do not have any windows in my current coop. I want to put windows in, but am trying to convince my hubby to build a new insulated coop. I have old recycled windows set aside, that I found at a garage sale, I will hinge them to open to the outside. I will have hardware cloth fastened on the inside of the coop, as well, for safety.

 

Chickens don’t care if there are curtains on their windows. You can place curtains on your windows just for esthetics; they will only get dusty and dirty. Chickens create a lot of dust and it clings to the coop in the rafters and along windows.

 

 

 

Nesting Boxes and Roosts – Chicken Comfort

Chickens like a nice roomy nesting box that is private and comfortable for their size. For a standard chicken, a nest size at 10.5” length x 12” width x 12” tall (if enclosed) is a good start. Larger birds need bigger nests and vise versa for the smaller chickens.

 

For a nest, you can re-use milk crates, pails, or plastic flower pots that are large enough for nests. You can build out of wood or purchase pre-built nesting boxes as well. This keeps the chickens from laying eggs on the floor of the coop.

 

Raise your nests off the floor 12”-18”. You may need to build a little ladder put on a slight angle for your chickens to use to get into the nest if the nests are mounted too high off the floor.

 

You don’t want your chickens laying eggs on the floor. If an egg gets broken, it will be a frenzy in the coop. Chickens love to eat eggs. Keeping eggs from being broken and eaten is important to keep your chickens from starting to get a taste of eggs. Nesting boxes keeps the eggs cleaner as well.

 

Chickens need a nice place to sleep at night. They like to roost on branches or wood lumber roosts. You want at least one foot of space per chicken. I like to have removable roosts to be able to clean the coop without banging any part of my body on a roost.

 

I made holders out of scrap wood that the roost boards fit in so that they can come off the sides of each wall by lifting them out of the holders. It also makes cleaning the roosts much easier when they are removable.

 

I have seen coops with actual tree branches for roosts. Just make sure they are large enough in diameter to handle the weight of several chickens per branch that may roost on them. You want them big enough in diameter so they have space to roost properly without falling off.

I use a 2×2 lumber that I cut to fit across the 7’ width of the building. I have my roosts on an angle, meaning not a flat surface at the top. Many will say the roosts should have a flat top surface for the chickens to roost. I do not find my chickens care.

 

Roosts should start 12” off the ground and be spaced 15” apart and another 12” staggered width so they are rising like stairs. This keeps the chickens from pooping on each other.

 

The chickens in the highest pecking order of the flock will be roosting on the highest roost.

 

 

 

Chickens will be Happy! – They poop on everything

No matter if you spend hundreds of dollars on a prime cute little coop that looks just like your house, or if you have a coop pieced together with pallets, or out of an old shed, your chickens will be happy. If they have enough space and all the essentials they need to stay healthy and lay eggs, you have done your job.

 

Chickens don’t like to be wet or cold. They need shelter to keep them safe, happy and healthy. They will not judge you on what their home looks like as long as it does what it is supposed to.

 

Paint or no paint is up to you. Your coop will last longer if you do paint inside and out. It won’t matter to the chickens…they poop on everything!

 

Please feel free to tell me your Chicken Coop set up inside and out!  I would love to hear about it and maybe it will give others more ideas for their start of Going Chicken!

Going Chicken.

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Roosters

When deciding to raise chickens, there are a few things to consider before you just go out and get chickens.

 

You need to decide type of chicken, breed of chicken, how big of a coop, whether you need fencing or free ranging, nesting boxes, and feed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TYPE OF CHICKEN – Your reason for raising chickens

 

Do you want chickens that lay eggs? If so, do you want small, med, or large eggs?

 

Eggs come in different colors due to the breed of the hen. Colors include white, cream, brown, dark brown, blue, pink, green, and speckled.

 

 

 

Did you want to raise chickens for meat? You will need a dual-purpose chicken or a meat chicken.

 

The dual-purpose chicken lays eggs and can also be used for meat, though some dual-purpose birds become tough after 6 months of age if not butchered before then.

This is my dad, Joe, cleaning chickens for the freezer

A meat chicken grows large with 6 to 8 weeks of age. Most people butcher meat chickens at 8 to 12 weeks of age. Going meat chicken means you only raise chickens for a short time each year.

 

 

Now that you decided what type of chicken you want, are you raising them for just eggs and/or meat, just for show or do you want to sell hatching eggs or live chicks for sale?

 

How much space do I need for chickens?

 

Before you get your chickens, you have to decide how much space they will have to either be cooped up, in a run, free-range or in a chicken tractor where you can move them around.

 

Choosing how much area your chickens will occupy will determine your flock size. A smaller breed means more chickens in a smaller space.

 

Small breeds each bird needs at least 2 square feet inside a coop and 5 sq ft outside.

 

Standard sized chickens each bird needs 2 to 3 sq ft inside the coop and at least 10 sq ft outside.

 

Large breeds each require 3 to 4 sq ft per bird inside the coop and at least 15 sq ft outside the coop.

 

Giving your chickens lots of space is better for their health, less stress, less disease, and fighting.

 

BREEDS OF CHICKEN – choosing the right breed

 

There are hundreds of breeds of chickens. From small sized chickens, usually called Bantam, the standard sized chicken and then up to large heavier breeds.

 

Bantam chickens weigh 1 to 2 pounds. Bantam breeds can be miniature sized chickens of any standard breed. Some bantam breeds do not get a larger counterpart, one example is the Silkie breed.

 

Bantam chicken eggs are smaller than from a standard or large chicken. Smaller chicken means more chickens per square foot, less to feed and less manure.

 

Standard chickens weigh in at 4 to 7 pounds. Eggs vary from medium to large eggs.

 

Large breeds of chickens weigh in at 10 to 12 pounds. More laying birds means more eggs. One hen will lay up to one egg every 25 hours.

 

Some breeds can lay up to 300 or more eggs per year. Chickens start laying at approximately 6 months of age. Their best laying is in the first year.

 

As a hen ages their egg production does slow down gradually. Chickens can live up to 8 to 10 years or more.

 

They will take a break from laying to molt in late summer to early fall starting at about 18 months of age. Molting takes a lot out of the chicken and all of their energy goes into producing new feathers.

 

You only need roosters if you are wanting to raise chicks from your hens.  Your hens will lay eggs if they have a rooster or not in with them.

 

COOPS AND CHICKEN RUNS – what you need

 

In your coop you want it big enough for the size of flock you plan on having. Remember the bigger the chicken the more square footage it needs.

 

If you live where temperatures can get way below zero, you will want to consider an insulated coop. This helps to shelter the chickens against the freezing cold better.

 

You can build your own coop or reuse an old granary, shed, playhouse, or shelter for a chicken coop. A coop with windows makes for a coop with natural light. You want to have air flow in all seasons.

 

Having some ventilation helps to cool the coop off in hot weather and in cold weather you want to make sure the condensation from the chickens breathing can be expelled out of the coop. Sickness in cold winter months can be caused by not enough moisture escaping the inside of the coop.

 

In your coop you want to make sure you have roosts for your chickens to sit and sleep on. I recommend making them removable for easier cleaning of the coop.

Also in your coop, you will want nesting boxes or something similar for chickens to lay eggs in. One nest per 4 to 6 hens is average.

This is a 6 nest egg roll away nesting box. I personally make these in different sizes, different # of nests, and inside and outside the coop models, and regular nesting boxes where the eggs stay where laid.

As for the chicken run, again make sure it is large enough for the number of chickens in your flock. A good fence made of sturdy strong wire helps to keep predators out.

 

 

CHICKEN Feed – What do chickens eat?

 

Chickens eat a lot of different things. They love to scratch and peck the dirt for insects, worms, seeds, grass, grains, frogs, and many other things.

 

You can buy bagged feed already mixed or you can mix your own by purchasing grains from your feed store or other sources.

 

Some people buy screenings from grain elevators as these screenings are cheaper than bagged feed.

 

You can also buy from a grain farmer. When buying from a private source, make sure you do your math! Some will advertise per pound but do not include feed bags or bagging fees in the per pound price.

 

Chickens also love table scraps. You do have to be careful how much salt and sugar may be in table scraps. Just like in humans, too much is not good. They love vegetable and fruit scraps, peels, etc.

 

Raw potato, citrus fruit and peels, and onions are a few foods not to feed chickens.

 

Why not get into Chickens?

 

Once you have decided the type and breed of chicken, you are well on your way to “Going Chicken”! It does take some thinking, time and work to get started.

 

Chickens are easy to raise and can be very rewarding in many ways!

 

Make sure you always create your coop and chicken run larger than you really need.

 

First off it’s healthier for your chickens to have lots of space and secondly, chickens are addicting!

 

You never know when you will want to add to your flock!

 

I would love to hear what made you decide to start “Going Chicken”!

 

About The Egg Lady, Brenda

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Welcome to Going Chicken website. I created this website to help chicken owners to find information on chickens and everything pertaining to chickens… The good, bad and ugly.

YOUR STORY

I am an Alberta, Canada farm girl, born and bred. I grew up on a small dairy and grain farm. My parents milked 30 to 40 cows, raised meat and laying chickens.

As a child my chores were to pick up eggs, feed and water the chickens, along with many other chores. The chickens would peck my hands or fly out of the nests…not my favorite chore.

As an adult, I married a farmer and now have chickens myself. I find now I enjoy the chore of chickens. picking up eggs, feeding, watering, cleaning the coop. I just enjoy watching the quirky birds.

Chickens are very entertaining creatures. They remind me of a prehistoric creature, scratching and pecking at everything. They are very curious and at times not shy. Watching chickens fight over a worm or blade of grass can keep you engaged for a long time.

I find chickens are peaceful to watch and just be around. Minutes can turn into hours just observing them do their chicken thing!

 

I deliver eggs to friends and family in nearby towns, that’s how I got named the egg lady.

 

WHY Chickens?

Whether you have raised chickens for years, just getting into them, or want to start raising chickens, this website is full of information of my experiences.

I have raised meat birds and egg layers and the dual-purpose chicken, a layer/ meat chicken. I have the dual-purpose bird for laying eggs.

 

THE GOAL OF MY SITE

Raising chickens isn’t always cheap or easy though it is very rewarding. Through my experiences, I want to give you ideas and or products to help better your flock.

If you ever need a hand or have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to help you out.

All the best,

Brenda

The Egg Lady

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