garden girl
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Location: Humboldt County, CA

chickens...should I get some??

My husband and I have been discussing getting some. He wants the eggs, I would love to see our slugs eaten up, but I am concerned that they will disturb all of the vegetables we will be growing. most of our yard will be for vegetables this year, so can they just roam around without causing too much damage? Does anyone have chickens in their vegetable gardens?

Newt
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Location: Maryland zone 7

Chickens will eat everything from your grass to your flowers to your veggies to the bugs. They aren't particular.

Newt

garden girl
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Location: Humboldt County, CA

not sounding as good, I guess I already knew that, though, because everyone would have them!Maybe a caged area would'nt be so bad

Newt
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There is alot to consider if you plan on getting chickens. Here's some thoughts.

Do your homework before you purchase so you know exactly what and how many. Have housing built in advance and a book on care and what to do in an emergency.

If it's just the two of you, starting with 6 would probably be ok or you may have so many eggs you won't know what to do with them.

Consider if you will start with chicks or older birds. If you start with chicks and it's cold you will need a heat lamp for them to go to to warm up. They don't need to be in the heat all the time, but will need access to it when they get cold.

You'll need a coup for them at night as shelter and for a place for them to lay so you can find the eggs. You don't want raccoons, foxes or stray dogs dining on your chicks at night.

If you travel you can leave them for a day, but then someone should check on them for food and water.

Where you live and the heat or cold climate will also help you to decide which breed of chicken to get. The heavier breeds don't do well in very hot summers. Some of the lighter breeds like Americanas like to hang around in the trees. Even the type of comb on the roos can be a problem if you live in a very cold climate as they can get frostbite.

You'll need to decide whether you want the small bantams or the standards. Millie in Virginia says:
Many breeds come in both sizes, but there is more ornamental type variety in the Banties. My personal favorites in the calm variety are Cochins & Brahmans (feather footed), Tophats - Golden & Buff Polish, Crevecour; Buff Orpingtons and Black Australops. The last two are dual purpose standard sized breeds. When they stop or drastically reduce laying around 2-3 years of age, you can slaughter for meat. Leghorns are very good layers of white eggs, but very neurotic. Ameriaucanas lay pretty blue and khaki colored eggs and are neither docile nor aggressive. Rhode Island and New Hampshire Reds are also good layers, but we've found them to be more aggressive. This is all observation on our homestead, where the chickens free range. If you have kids or just don't want roosters, you don't need them to get eggs.
I've heard that Buff Orphintons are generally the quietest and nicest.


Newt

garden girl
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Location: Humboldt County, CA

Thanks, I'll go do my reading right now...there is a cute setup at our local zoo for the chickens....we have to have something for our rabbit also so maybe we will just add on from the chicken house for her,,,hmmmm...got me thinking :wink: ...and we have a six year old...these garden forums are so much fun

Newt
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You are so very welcome! I think that chicken board had a catagory for rabbits as well. Maybe you could get some ideas on how to build what you want.

Newt

opabinia51
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chicken are great for the garden, they scratch up the soil, add fertilizer and eat up insects. Win-win. Just becareful that you either have a fence that will keep them in or a proper cage that is on wheels so that you can move them around as needed.

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Roger
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Location: North Georgia

For what it's worth, I have several Buff Lace Polish hens, and they are superb as far as being calm and good natured. They do an excellent job on scratching and bug control. They can't see very well because of their crests, so they definitly need a coop area for protection, but when I am home or out in the yard working, I let them roam around free. They do a great job on scratching and bug control, and they are a nice size, not too big, not too small. They are quite calm birds. Plus they are easy to catch and herd back to the coop, as they can't see very well. You can sneak right up on them ! On the downside, so can predators... They lay a nice medium size white egg.

opabinia51
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Excellant! Thanks so much Roger.

At one of the local farm markets they have a couple of what I think are Rhode Island Reds but, all I know is that they are red chickens that wander around the selling area that have a very nice temperment. I often pet them while looking at the produce.

Lovely companions to have around and as soft as a cat.

Tammy
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Location: Faulkner MB Canada

hello,
i have chickens and i have had them for serval years. I love my birds. The breed is ISA Browns and Red Sal Sex links. A gentle natured bird, friendly, usually finished laying nice brown eggs by noon.
I have them in a coop and there is a fair size pen around them so thay can safely go outside. One year we had bad grasshoppers and there were none around the coop. So i let them out. they did well for the hoppers but not so well in the garden. Yes they searched out the eggs but they also exposed the roots of my perenialls, covered some of my plants, quite a few acutally, and ate several things. I like to to walk around my yard in bare feet. Not so that year.
Something else you have to consider is bio security. Please check into this. Whether we like it or not bird flu will come. If you are going to start a back yard flock look into what to do to protect your birds now rather that later. Your local agriculture office would have information for you.
If you have dogs you have to be carefull. The dogs need to be trained to not kill or attack, or chase the chickens. Once a dog kills a chichen it gets the taste of the kill or chicken blood and they can become dangerous as well as wipe out your herd. There is something about the kill of a chichen that's not the same if they kill rodents, birds, or other small animals.
if a dog kills a chicken there is ususally no choice but to put down the dog. Something to seriously consider.
Also how much do you want to be tied to your home. if you go on vacation you need to find someone trust worthy to look after them and collect eggs daily.

A farm where we go strawberry picking use geese to pick out the weeds. once the fruit starts to set they move the geese to other fields. The geese are put in a temporary fence and then moved.

I know what i have said seems really negative but even with these obsticals chickens are cool. If you have extra eggs you can sell farmgate, check with the local ag office.

Good luck and enjoy!

Tammy

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hendi_alex
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Re: chickens...should I get some??

Chickens are great! I love our chickens, but IMO chickens and a garden do not mix. They were allowed to forage about an hour each day this fall, but once they found the garden, most anything green got stripped. So for me, having chickens is great, but isolate them from the gardening areas. Also, IMO, chickens should have far more than the minimum space that many on line sources would suggest. I think that a half dozen chickens should have at least 1000-2000 square feet to forage. They can get by in a pen and a small run, but their quality of life will be severely limited by such and arrangement.
Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.
Alex

teefisch
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Re: chickens...should I get some??

Chickens are a good addition to any homestead, big or small, but they will nibble on your garden plants, especially seedlings, if you allow them to roam around.

If you have more mature plantings (i.e. large tomato plants, fruit trees, etc.), the chickens tend to bother the plants less than they would if they were younger and more succulent. However, the chickens may enjoy the shady areas beneath the plants and dig sizable holes to lounge in, thus damaging the plant's root systems.

Also, your chickens are unlikely to survive for very long if you don't lock them up in a secure coop at night: raccoons, possums, possibly your neighbor's dog and all kinds of other animals think that chickens are pretty tasty and will prey on your hens if they aren't tucked away at night.

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Tee

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rainbowgardener
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Re: chickens...should I get some??

I know this is a very old post, but just in case someone now finds it because they have the same question "should I get chickens?" I thought I would respond.

My answer is YES! We got chickens for the first time early Mar. this year, having no experience with them until then. We have a suburban half-acre lot. We bought a chicken coop and a wire run extension, which are each about 8 x 3.5' We built a "paddock" outer enclosure around those, that is 10 x 15' We let them out in it a couple times a day, but it has no roof and is less secure, so we don't leave them there all the time. We have six hens, two different varieties, which were 3 and 4 weeks old when we got them. I thought that was a good way to do it. We didn't have to nurse them through the fragile newborn stage, when reportedly a lot of them die, but we did get to see them grow up. And cheaper than buying full grown ones. They have not started laying yet, but we are expecting maybe by the end of this month. Eventually when we and the chickens are more confident, we may let them out in the rest of the yard, but we have two dogs that we don't really trust around them yet, so we are being cautious.

There is some work each day - checking food and water, emptying the tray under their roost bars, giving them greens and supplemental foods - but it is not very time consuming. Once every week or two (depending on how much it rains), I rake all the straw out of their coop/run and lay down fresh. It feels like not a lot of work and the chickens are entertaining (to us and the dogs -- we call it doggie TV !). We will be so excited when eggs start coming!

So far we have had no problems - no illness, no fighting or injuring themselves or each other, no odor, no predators. The chicken feed is not expensive. So there seems to be little down side.
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