[food] A new (clean) thread about urban chicken coops, etc.

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Sorry for starting another thread on this. The other two sort of... had some problems... er, let's try again and see if we can leave out the non-chicken stuff okay? This is a topic that could be real important to a lot of people.

I have some specific questions about chickens et al. and I hope somebody will be kind enough to answer them.

1. I have read that chickens do not lay in the Winter. Others say they lay all year. Still others say they don't lay if it's cold (how cold is cold to a chicken?). Still others say SOME kinds of chickens do and SOME kinds of chickens don't. Clearer info would be useful.

2. I have read that although chickens do not need to mate with roosters to lay eggs (the eggs are simply unfertilized), that they will NOT lay unless there are one or two roosters nearby (in the coop). Others disagree with this. Like the above, the disagreeing parties all raise chickens, so what am I to think.

3. I have read that if you keep a coop box (where the eggs are) reasonably warm (how warm is warm?) the chickens will sit on the eggs till they hatch. Others say you need an incubator. (This seems unlikely since electricity for incubators wasn't around till recently and chickens have been around for millennia. Unless there is some other kind of incubator.) I read a farm magazine once that sold all kinds of chickens and it listed 'tendencies' of certain breeds, like some would not sit on eggs till hatching, and some would, and some had more of a tendency to eat their eggs, and so on. Well call me confused.

4. Some chickens lay brown eggs, white eggs, cream eggs -- I think the Araconda (sp?) lays mildly green eggs. Do any egg experts have opinions on whether some of these keep longer than others, taste better than others, etc.?

Note thrown in for fun: I've been told you can mix up eggs, pour a real-thin layer in a flat container, freeze it till totally dry, then blend it till it's flakes, then you have stored eggs you can reconstitute.

5. I would like to build a chicken coop in my backyard. Since I'm a garden maniac right now, the space allotted for the chickens is considerably smaller (6'x12' I guess). Reading told me: Be sure to put either something 360' around the chickens (e.g., even the bottom of the coop has wire or wood), OR, be sure to anchor the wood deeply into the ground, or dogs will get under the fence and eat your chickens. I have some other questions about building:


Whoops! Indent off.

PJ in TX

-- PJ Gaenir (fire@firedocs.com), April 17, 1999.

I just got 15 chicks and they are thriving in a 4x8ft iguana cage until I can build the coop. Some kind persons on this forum gave me a great link http://ameraserve.com/chicken.html and I found these as well. http://www.msstate.edu/dept/poultry/extensn.htm http://www.the-coop.org/index.html http://www.cyborganic.net/People/feathersite/ http://members.tripod.com/~mcpf/ Enjoy! Let me know if you make the plunge and we can compare notes.

-- marsh (armstrng@sisqtel.net), April 18, 1999.

Just to link these good sites up

       I just got 15 chicks and they are thriving in a 4x8ft iguana cage until I can build the
       coop. Some kind persons on this forum gave me a great link
       http://ameraserve.com/chicken.html and I found these as well.
       http://www.msstate.edu/dept/ poultry/extensn.htm index.cfm?CFID=400486&CFTOKEN=14666
       http://www.the-coop.org/index.html http://www.cyborganic.net/People/feathersite/
       The Poultry Ring

Enjoy! Let me know if you make the plunge and we
       can compare notes.

-- Brian (imager@ampsc.com), April 18, 1999.

My wife grew up in rural Latvia during the 1930's. The kitchen was the largest room in the house, and the wood burning stove was arranged to keep a bench along one wall warm. So the kitchen was warm all winter. Her mother kept the chickens in the kitchen all winter in a cage. They laid less than in the summer, but they laid.

Free range chickens are generally healthier, as they find a lot of insects and weeds to eat, besides the feed they get. They can be hard on some vegetable crops though.

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), April 18, 1999.

Thanks Brian - don't know how to hook up links on the forum. I just figured folks could cut and paste.

Don't know about chickens by the woodstove. I have dogs and bird eatin cats. I live in a climate that gets as low as 26F (rarely.) Was going to insulate the coop with fiberglass and double walls. Will have to be big enough so they can hang out indoors, but small enough so they can generate and maintain heat with their collective bodies. My chicks (as it turned out) are barred plymouth rock. They aren't supposed to be too cold sensitive. I can always hook up a small infrared heat lamp on a battery at night for deep winter....I hope.

-- marsh (armstrng@sisqtel.net), April 18, 1999.

PJ, In answer to question 1; chickens will lay all year round IF they have enough light. As the days grow shorter with the coming of winter, they will quit laying. To subvert nature, have a light shining in your hen house/chicken coup for a couple of hours, usually in the evening. There is a gland that must have a certain number of hours of light for the chicken to continue laying.

Question 2; Hens do not require a rooster to lay eggs. There does not need to be one close by. The eggs are simply infertile. Hens deprived of a rooster will "squat" many times when they are herded or when you walk up on them. They do seem more content with a rooster around, though.

Question 3; A "broody" hen will attempt to sit and hatch a batch of eggs when there get to be about a dozen in the nest. Most of the popular breeds today have had the "broodiness" bred out of them, as when a hen starts to sit, she also quits laying. Some breeds are natually more broody than others. Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks, which are popular as being a versatile chicken, (good for both eggs and meat) tend NOT to be broody. I am not sure about the Auraconas. The Auraconas seem to be smarter than most other breeds, and I suspect they may tend to be "broody". I have one Aurocona hen that is hell to keep in the pen. She quite often gets out (and back in) and I have had a devil of a time figuring out where she slips out. She is a good layer, but I have never allowed a nest of eggs to build up to see if she would sit. I don't have a rooster right now or I would try it. I have never had a hen that had a tendency to eat the eggs unless somehow one was broken accidently (Usually from not gathering soon enough and too many eggs in the nest, then one may get broken when another hen comes into the nest to lay.) Some people keep a few banties around strictly for their natural "broodiness". They are also great mothers. Slip a fertile large egg in her nest every day till she starts to sit, then at night while she is "roosting" on her nest, remove her eggs (unless you want some bantie chicks, too) and put up to eight larger eggs under her. She can't cover more than that effectively.

Question 4; Eggs taste the same regardless of the shell color. Eggs that are from "range" chickens seem to taste a lot better. Hens that have access to green grass lay an egg with a darker (prettier) yolk, but it doesn't taste strong or anything. The R.I.Reds and Barred Rocks both lay brown eggs. Leghorns and a Polish breed I have lay white eggs. The breeds laying brown eggs usually lay a larger egg. The Auracona lays the bluish green egg not quite as large as the R.I.Reds and B.R. An eggs keeping ability has to do with how soon it is gathered and put under refrigeration. They will keep for about a week with no refrigeration if they are NOT washed and are not cracked or broken, but the quality goes down. Never wash an egg you intend to incubate.

I would suggest you build your chicken house with it open on at least two sides, roof to floor. In the winter you can put some clear plastic over the openings to protect them from the wind. They like to roost about 3 or 4 feet off the floor. Heat can be a problem especially if there is no ventilation (large open windows). If they suffer too much from the heat, they will quit laying. Commercial raisers have large fans with a fine mist of water blowing through their houses, but I have never had fans for my flock. When it is really hot (I live in Texas, too), I let them out of their pen and they take to the shade of the shrubs and bushes. They dig a little hole and absorb the natural coolth of the ground, especially if it is damp.

My "hen house" is 12' X 12' and I keep up to 25 hens and a couple of roosters in it, but they have a chicken yard that is 25' X 35' including the hen house. It has a 6' wire fence around it. I laid a three foot wide strip of chicken wire on the ground all around the fence on the inside to keep them from digging out. Nearly all of it is in the shade of some tall pine trees.

Chickens like to scratch. It's innate. They will scratch their feed when there is no need to. And they love table scraps, especially bread. They like most vegetables, too.

As to multi-level chicken raising; that's what commercial growers do. The chickens are on "wire" and never set foot on dirt. They are tiered three high with food and water always available. The eggs they lay roll to the front for easy gathering. Their space is quite small, about 24" X 32".

Yours hens should start laying at about 6 months of age. White egg breeds start a little sooner than the brown egg varieties.

I hope this has helped you, I would personally advise you to get the Barred Rocks. They are a hearty chicken and seem to stand the heat a little better than the R.I. Reds. And for sheer pleasure just to have around, get a couple of bantie hens and a rooster. Let them roam free (they're half wild anyway) as they do a pretty good job of keeping away from predators. They roost high in trees or bushes at night, and can fly pretty well to escape dogs, etc., although they do get caught occasionally. They are most succeptible to predators when they are "sitting". I usually move mine, nest, eggs, and hen to a cage for her safety till the chicks are hatched and at least two or three weeks old.


-- Gerald R. Cox (grcox@internetwork.net), April 18, 1999.

I stopped eating chicken when I learned that.......


No way am I going to eat a diseased chicken, EVER!!!

-- smitty (smitty@sandiego.com), April 18, 1999.

Marsh, most cats are afraid of large birds, as large birds are a natural predator. That may not apply to chickens. But I've had a lot of cats and other animals and my experience has been that most animals that are at least close to a cat in size can defend themselves better than we might think. I had a rabbit that basically kicked the butt of both my hunting cats once (bit them on the nose I think), after which they paid the proper respect, let it lead the way, and defended it from all the cats around when it was in the backyard. I once took two of my cats to the beach, and they took one look at some seagulls and just freaked out. I had forgotten about the hawk-predator thing, and didn't realize that was innate. Poor kitties left many inches of bloody welts on my body in their attempt to bury themselves under my jacket.

Gerald, you were really helpful, and thanks very much. The comments in this thread by everyone (except perhaps the diseased one [grin]) are what I was hoping to hear -- good advice and experience.

Chickens will lay all year round IF they have enough light.

Would a couple high candles qualify as light? 'Cause if power's a problem after Y2K more than that won't be possible for me.

Speaking of light affecting laying. Long ago I read a detailed method on how to use light to regulate your menstrual cycle. Er, mine Gerald, not yours. ;-) Apparently human bodies respond to the light of the moon and such too...

Hens deprived of a rooster will "squat" many times when they are herded

Er.... what does that mean?

A "broody" hen will attempt to sit and hatch a batch of eggs when there get to be about a dozen in the nest.

But if you left that many in the nest, wouldn't some of them break (possibly causing egg-eating behavior) or just not be viable for eating yourself if she did NOT sit on them?

The Auraconas seem to be smarter than most

Now there's a stretch. ;-)

Another question: If I could grow a bunch of green plants just for my chickens to eat (say, cabbage, beets, ferns, whatever....), what do you think they would like best?

I would suggest you build your chicken house with it open on at least two sides, roof to floor. In the winter you can put some clear plastic over the openings to protect them from the wind. They like to roost about 3 or 4 feet off the floor. Heat can be a problem especially if there is no ventilation (large open windows).

Oh. Here you are referring to the house where they go to sleep and lay eggs, right? This is separate (usually inside) the actual "coop" where they wander around during the day and eat, right?

I let them out of their pen and they take to the shade of the shrubs and bushes. They dig a little hole and absorb the natural coolth of the ground, especially if it is damp.

What if I grew some bushes INSIDE the coop, if it was on the ground? Oh... would they just eat any plant and kill it?

Question: I don't think you responded to my question about whether the coop needed a roof. Oh wait. Yeah you did, you said you only have a fence. Never mind....

My personal plan was to use wood to build a simple frame (a literal 6-sided square), with a few extra beams for a doorway, cover the whole thing with chicken wire, cut out the wire in the doorway and nail it to the doorframe wood pieces, get a piece of plywood and some hinges for a door, and 'step over' say a 12" doorstep to get in. Make a few places, top/bottom/sides where the plywood attaches to the wood of the doorframe so that persistent animals can't squeeze through it. Get 3/4" electrical tubing if necessary to put in the corners just to help the frame strength; put some roosting places around; build a few little cubbyholes and 'second level'. I thought I had to put a roof on it and I was thinking of corrugated aluminum, seems like it might be cheapest and sturdiest out here; that to protect them from rain, hail, hawks, etc.; would that be bad? Should I leave it open?

My "hen house" is 12' X 12' and I keep up to 25 hens and a couple of roosters in it, but they have a chicken yard that is 25' X 35' including the hen house. It has a 6' wire fence around it.

A fence?? You mean they're not completely enclosed? Can none of them fly? Oh. I see.

Is that the space that many chickens would need? I was planning to get extra chickens so that as Y2K neared perhaps I could sell some to people who needed them (or have some for friends who wanted some near the last moment). The down side is that I could be left with about 4x what I actually want if the media does well with the positive spin on Y2K that nobody in my town (despite MY earnest efforts) ever feels like raising chickens as a fallback plan. How many chickens can be in how much space (two issues here: roosting-house and play-area) for decent chicken health and happiness?

As to multi-level chicken raising; that's what commercial growers do. The chickens are on "wire" and never set foot on dirt. They are tiered three high with food and water always available. The eggs they lay roll to the front for easy gathering. Their space is quite small, about 24" X 32".

I have read about that. It sounds about as disgusting and inhumane as raising veal, another thing I won't eat just out of conscience. I want any animal of mine to have a happy life. Then I can kill them in good conscience (if a bit squeamish) -- everybody's gotta die sometime -- I couldn't do it otherwise.

I just thought that if I made this 6'x12' fully enclosed coop, I could build (with wood) a "second level" in half of it, with a little ramp leading up to it, and that second level could be built into little nesting houses and so forth, like a little chicken apartment complex (but designed so I could reach into each of them to clean them and get eggs). I thought that would give them more "play room" for running around on the ground during the day, since my space for them is limited.

Another question: Imagine a couple million brainless city kids like me deciding to adopt chickens thanks to Y2K. Cool, now we have chickens and even some eggs. Now we want to eat one. Uh oh. Can someone describe in gory but necessary detail (as was done in another thread about fishing) how to kill and skin/clean a chicken?

I would personally advise you to get the Barred Rocks.

Thanks. Seeing as how you're also in Texas (I'm near Fort Worth), you probably would know.

Get a couple of bantie hens and a rooster. Let them roam free

Er... I live in a town. Not like a city, but the same "blocks" like a city... slightly bigger yards than most cities, no fences or chain link in most cases... I fear if I let something loose I would never see it again (and of course if people are really hungry, that's a given -- I'd be afraid to let my cat or dogs out in that case). (Which reminds me, my chinese friend who grew up in China, Vietnam, France, and finally the USA [as a 'boat person'] tells me that black labs are the best food-dog around. I love black labs. I try not to think about that. She is an animal lover who is always threatening her wayward pets with a special dinner. It's funny, but not, but is... it's only cultural, I know....)

Here is a really gross question. Do chickens eat ticks? I never saw a tick before. I thought they looked like fleas but a little larger. We recently adopted two dogs from a farmer and discovered they each had about 150 ticks in every vulnerable area. It was so gross I cried. Now I figure they must be all over my backyard. Do they eat bugs like that, or are they vulnerable to bugs like that? I might have to clear their coop-area of grass if they are subject to them. Otherwise I'd leave it there and they could eat it (and the bugs too).

Smitty: Bad news. Cows and pigs are often diseased too. In fact many crops are diseased often, too. I think you should just quit eating altogether.

Thanks Gerald.

PJ in TX

-- PJ Gaenir (fire@firedocs.com), April 18, 1999.

Oh yeah. I forgot to ask. Since storing tons of chicken feed might be difficult, what plants could I grow -- or what of my own stored grain-type-foods -- to feed my chickens with? For example I'll have lots of stored corn. But it's dried for storage of course. Would it choke them? Should I let it sit in water for a couple hours then give it to them?

You won't believe this, but I have a book called "Raising Chickens in Your Backyard." And I've read it. And it has some great advice and how-to. But in addition to some things I just wonder on my own, and other "experts" who've told me things different than what the book says, in a way I feel as clueless as before I read the informative book. I appreciate your time.

PJ in TX

-- PJ Gaenir (fire@firedocs.com), April 18, 1999.

have had chickens all of my life. Keep it simple, especially in number. I have 7 SexLink hens and average 4 to 5 eggs a day. Plenty for our needs. We have a portable hen HOUSE that is on skids. Its 4x8 with feeder, laying nests and roost in it. Keep in mind that a CLEAN hen house is unhealthy. It is a proven fact that hens need to scratch in their own litter in order to obtain Vit B. That doesn't mean that you have to let it build up to the roost! We take the tractor and just skid the house over about every six months. Then I quickly grab all the chicken pucky I can for my garden. The hens free range during the day. I keep them out of the garden when I first plant it, But after things are up and growing (6 inches) the chickens are allowed to scratch in the garden. If you only have a half dozen, they won't hurt anything but will eat bugs and grubs and cut worms. They go back to house at night and I close their door. Otherwise, the coons with get them at night. The books say a hen needs 14 hours of light. But for GOD'S SAKES DON'T PUT CANDLES IN A HEN HOUSE UNLESS YOU WANT FRIED CHICKEN!! My experience that for winter laying, the Barred Rock is best. That happens to be my favorite. I just couldn't find any laying pullets this year aftrer the coons cleaned me out one night of my 4 old hens. Now I shut the door everynite. Regarding dehydrating eggs. Stir them up WELL and spread on a foil covered dehydrator tray. Make a rolled lip around the foil so they don't run out. Put in dehydrator and dry. Put into blender and it will turn into egg flakes. One tbsp equals on egg. HOWEVER....AFTER YOU PUT YOUR EGGS INTO A JAR THEY MUST BE REFRIGERATED. You won't believe the amount of fat in an egg until you do this procedure. Commercial dried eggs have had the fat removed. If you don't keep cool the fat will get rancid on you. You don't need a rooster and I feel the hens are a hell of a lot happier when there is no rooster jumping their bones all the time. Those of you who are going to raise livestock need to subscribe to Countryside Journal. They have a web site. YOu will learn more with that magazine than any place I can think of. Taz

-- Taz (Tassie@aol.com), April 18, 1999.

I've read that chickens are the second best natural tick control. Guinea hens are the best. I'm sure our tick problem got better when we started to raise chickens. I've raised a variety of breeds. Our kids and friends are fascinated by the Auracanas' colored eggs, I like Barred Rocks for their disposition and appearance. Buff Orpingtons are the prettiest, I think. Our hens come in the mail as day old chicks every couple of years when the foxes, racoons, dogs, etc. have thinned the ranks.

I'm getting some more roosters this year so we can raise our own chicks. We got an Auracana rooster as a free bonus chick one year...meanest thing you've ever met. You could only collect eggs with a weapon in hand. Our boys would wollup him mid-air with a lacrosse stick, he'd shake it off and come back for more. Those spurs leave an awful mess when they run up your legs! I later found out that Auracana roosters tend to be nastier than most. I'll order a barred rock and some other breed known for its gentle disposition this year. I'm told that having more than one rooster is a good idea. They take out their aggressions on each other instead of you.

Our hens live in an uninsulated plywood house in the mid-atlantic climate. We put a clear plastic panel over the 4'x4' chicken wire opening if it gets too cold, but they need lots of ventilation, so we always have several open inches around the top of the walls.

They get 16 hours of light (supplemented by a 60 watt bulb) in the winter and they lay well all through the cold weather. Our neighbor likes low tech and doesn't use lights..doesn't get as many eggs either. In a prolonged power outage I might use a battery operated lantern with rechargeable batteries or just settle for fewer eggs. We always have way more than we need in the warmer months. Good barter items!

I surround the chicken house with a portable electric polywire fence powered by a solar charger. Their hollow feathers allow them to pass through the fence to eat ticks and green stuff and to rush back inside when a dog happens by. That green stuff will include your garden when it's young and tender, so either fence the garden space with chicken wire or get smaller mesh electric fence. This system works great during all but the lowest light time of the year. I have no problems with predators as long as the charger is working. You need a secure house and/or yard for back-up.

"Raising Poultry the Modern Way" and "Chicken Tractor" are my favorite books on the subject. We built a "tractor" last year to raise our chicks. The parts of the garden where it was moved look better this spring than ever! The "tractor" would be the perfect house in a small yard setting.

Thanks for this useful thread!! Kate

-- Kate Bailey (JBailey265@aol.com), April 18, 1999.


Lots of good info so far, just want to add a few more tidbits:

Please cover your fenced area if at all possible, Owls and Hawks will get them as well as cats climbing in for chicks.

Do not keep a mean rooster, I read somewhere that the only way to soften up a mean rooster was 45 minutes in a Pressure Cooker - I agree! Most roosters are not overly aggressive, the only time I have ever killed a chicken by wringing his neck was when one attacked my 2- yr. old son, my instinct kicked in and the job was done as soon as my son was out of sight. By the way, I found it to be tougher than previously thought. I prefer to wrap an old towel snugly around wings/body and lay them on a block with their head/neck between two nails sticking up in a v-shape. Gently pull back the body, stretching the neck just a bit so you can give a good clean chop with an axe. I personally feel this is kinder than other methods. Also, I don't pluck them, just work/peel the skin off - meat won't keep as long (no protection) in the freezer but works great for us.


-- Kristi (securx@Succeed.Net), April 18, 1999.

Very informative thread. Thanks to everyone who contributed. Here's something that may interest you: I once amazed a Turkish farmer by showing him how to hypnotize a chicken. You place it on its side on the ground, and straighten its neck out. Then you hold a stick perpendicular to the ground at the end of its beak, and slowly drag it straight away from the chicken. It'll stay there, motionless, for quite some time, until distracted by some other disruption.

-- Norm Harrold (nharrold@tymewyse.com), April 18, 1999.

Winter time - Even if you want light in the henhouse, I'd VERY strongly recommend keeping lit candles away from the henhouse. Threat of fire is bad enough without chickens + plus dry wood + lit flames combining.

Else, you have more "hot, holy friars" earlier than you really want.

-- Robert A Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (Cook.R@csaatl.com), April 18, 1999.


Glad I can be of help. My parents were in the chicken hatchery business when I was growing up. My permanent job during high school was cleaning out chicken houses and getting it ready for the next bunch. We had five rather large houses (150' X 60') and we raised both laying hens and broilers (eating chickens). By the time I left home and went to college, I swore I'd never have anything to do with another chicken except to eat. I mellowed as years passed and I actually enjoy them now, and have had a few for the last 20 years.

I, too, live in the city limits, in an area with some pretty tough zoning laws. Fortunately, these zoning ordinances are not enforced very much. Our house sits on a square one acre lot in a rather nice part of town at the edge of the city limits. We were actually out of the city limits when we moved here, but were annexed a few years later. I have raised rabbits as well as chickens, but prefer the chickens because of their eggs. I try not to keep more than one or two roosters because of the crowing. One of my neighbors mentioned the crowing, but she said she enjoyed it as it reminded her of when she grew up on the farm. Besides, my two African Grey parrots who also live outside in their own pen make a hell of a lot more noise than a couple of roosters! Now on to your further questions.

A hen that is receptive to breeding will "squat" when a rooster approaches her. If there is no rooster, she'll squat when you try to herd them (like into their house, or from somewhere you would not like for them to be, such as a freshly planted flower bed or garden). She will stop, sit, and slightly hold her wings out (as though she were over heated) and stay that way for at least a few seconds. Makes them much easier to catch when they do this.

I guess nomenclature has caused some misunderstandings or clarity. I don't use the word "coup" because when I was young and working for my parents, a coup was a wooden shipping container, sort of a portable cage that held about 25 broilers. I use the word "pen" as the chicken yard that they are free to roam about in, and "house" for the roofed structure where they roost, lay, eat (commercial feed), and drink. I leave the door to the house open during the day and they are free to roam in their yard. At night, we close the door to protect them from nocturnal predators. The nocturnal kind are mostly what gives us problems; possums and dogs mainly, but in some places coons, owls (not likely to go into a chicken house), and weasels cause problems. Dogs are not a problem as long as the chickens are in their pen. But I like to let them roam the whole back yard occasionally and I have to keep a sharp lookout for some neighbors' dog.

I have a 6' wire fence around the pen. I have a few Polish chickens that could fly over, but a trimming of ONE wing on each of them solved that problem. You could put wire over the top of the whole pen, but where I have mine it would quickly become loaded with pine straw. Also the occasionaly falling small limb could cause some grief. It would be rather uncomfortable walking around in the pen all hunched over, too. I don't keep the banties in a pen; they roam where ever they want, roost in the trees and hide their nests. They are much like a wild animal except they seldom leave the back yard which is bordered with a 3' chain link fence. I guess they sense that they are safe there; no dogs, and trees and shrubs to get under when they spot a hawk.

The movable chicken house sounds like a good idea. I'd probably just move it from place to place in my garden a couple of times a year. That way it would be handy for feeding them weeds, over-ripe veggies, etc that I usually cull. That would only work if you didn't have a permanent pen for them to roam about in.

I've never heard of chickens being infested with ticks since they consider them a tasty treat. When we moved here, the place was infested with crickets. Our first batch of chickens cleaned them out in short order. We haven't had a cricket problem since. I can't remember the last time I even HEARD a cricket around here.

We had an Auracona rooster till a couple of months ago. Got him with the only Auracona hen I have. They were both young when we got them, but when he started crowing, he didn't know when to quit. He seemed to crow constantly, not just once in a while like our other roosters always did. He would crow about 20 times consecutively, hush up for about 5 minutes and start all over again. To counter a possible complaint from the neighbors, I gave him away. He had started to be pretty aggressive, also. In another month he probably would have flogged me one time too many!

The only disease or pestilence problem we have had was with mites (one time). You can prevent this by having a place for the chickens to take a dust bath. Put a cup of diatomaceous earth in their dust bed and you won't have any problems with mites, lice, etc.

Candles would maybe work if you could be absolutely certain they wouldn't start a fire. You'd have to use several to put out enough light. I use a 40 watt light bulb. This past winter, I didn't use any light at all and had about 70% production all winter long! That means if you have 10 hens, you get 7 eggs a day. I am at nearly 100% now; one of the Polish hens lays every other day, but don't need all that many eggs. When TSHTF though, eggs will be a valuable barter item.

Hope that clarifys things and answers your questions.


-- Gerald R. Cox (grcox@internetwork.net), April 18, 1999.

PJ, I forgot a couple of things; first, when I intend to let the hen "sit" her eggs and hatch some, I do it in the spring usually. That way the eggs are naturally refrigerated by the ambient temperature and if for some reason she doesn't/won't sit, they can be gathered and safely eaten since they are less than a couple of weeks old.

Eggs aren't all that delicate. You may loose one occasionally from a hen being a little rough getting in or out of the nest, but it's rare. Just have enough nesting material (I use pine straw) for a cushion.

You said you had stored some whole corn. If you have a metal burr grinder you can set it for extra, extra coarse and make "corn chops" similar to what they sell at the feed store. They can eat the whole corn, but it would be best to coarsly grind it. They will eat unground whole wheat berries, and for extra nutrition, you can sprout them. I have planted some wheat along the inside of the fence, then kept it covered with a piece of 3' wide chicken wire attached to the fence and sloped down to the ground to protect the "crop" till ready for the hens to harvest it (at about 3"). They'll eat it all in a day or two, depending on how much you plant and how many hens you have. They love it.


-- Gerald R. Cox (grcox@internetwork.net), April 18, 1999.


I've been doing it for a long time. This note is to tell you that my experiences were mostly described by Gerald. We have had Araconda chickens. We have even had one of the rare ones that lay pinkish eggs. Very sturdy but not great layers. Security is a matter of your location. Our primary raptors are Peregrine Falcons. They are either uninterested in or afraid of chickens. Our problems are raccoons, foxes, coyotes and bobcats. In our case, I recommend machine gun nests and razor wire. Cold weather does effect them. Below -20F they quit laying. From my years of experience I would recommend listening to Gerald.

-- Z1X4Y7 (Z1X4Y7@aol.com), April 18, 1999.

PJ, Some observations from keeping chickens myself in Wales.

1.Chickens don't usually start laying until they are 22 weeks old.At this age they are called "Point of Lay".So you must decide whether to buy chicks at a lower price & grow them on or pay more for Point of Lay birds.

2.If you allow chickens to range free,you need to clip their wings and also shepherd them back into the hen house each night at dusk.Otherwise you could find that some have decided to roost in the hedge for the night.We never had one chicken survive the night outside.The foxes got 'em.

3.NEVER buy chickens in the dark or by the light of a torch.Our first chickens were bought like that.The following morning we found they were a very sorry sight.

4.CHICKEN DOMINATRIX Sometimes you can get one chicken who continually pecks or terrorizes the others.There is no cure for this behaviour except summary execution.

4.GRIT/SCRATCHING IN DIRT Chickens need calcareous grit for calcium to form the egg shells.

5.MITES Chickens can also get invested with little red mites.You need to scrub out the henhouse with a disinfectant every so often as these mites can hide in the wood.

6.HEN HOUSE.The design of the hen house should take into account the fact that it needs to be cleaned fairly easily.After experimenting we used an ordinary 6ftx4 ft wooden garden shed & fitted a couple of perches inside.We made openings on three sides with doors.Each opening led into a separate chicken run.By controlling which run the chickens used,it meant that at any one time the other two runs were being rested. A bonus in choosing a conventional shed is that you can use it for something else or some other animal at a later stage.

-- Chris (griffen@globalnet.co.uk), April 18, 1999.

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