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rainbowgardener
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what kind of chickens?

OK so Jamie and I just bought a chicken coop kit, on sale from tractor supply. It's about like this and comes in two huge flat boxes:
chicken coop.png
chicken coop.png (153.92 KiB) Viewed 1408 times
It's 80" long, 43' wide, 52" high and has nesting boxes in the enclosed space.

Once it is built and the weather warms we want to get four hens to put in it. (We will also built them a covered, enclosed run and a movable chicken tractor. We have two dogs, so I doubt the chickens will ever run free.). The hens are strictly for egg laying.

So all you people that have chickens, I'd love some suggestion for what kind/breed of chicken to get. They should be on the smaller side, since it's not a huge space, good egg layers (with emphasis on consistency for as much of the year as possible, rather than maximum in one day), not too aggressive with each other or with us.... What do you suggest?
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Re: what kind of chickens?

I will never keep banty's again. Too mean to people, too mean to their peers.

FWIW Cold and low light levels was what interupted my girls in NH. A drop-light where it can warm roost and maybe keep water unfrozen will perk them up.

They also attract carnivores, A coon is more than smart enough to get his nose under the edge of a chicken tractor or roost.

Lastly learn butchery technique. Even if your girls only become pet food.
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Allyn
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Re: what kind of chickens?

The Tractor Supply ad says it will hold 6 to 8 chickens, so 4 might be okay. Just don't get a big breed -- no Jersey Giants for you. Paint it inside and out. The wood is thin and will warp if you don't paint both sides of the boards. Get some ground-contact-rated wood (like 1x3s or similar) and attach it to the bottom to make a shoe for the coop to sit on so the coop wood doesn't directly touch the ground. The latches are not predator-proof. A raccoon has hands that can unlatch simple latches as well as our hands, so replace all the latches on the coop with something more secure. Latches that require two actions to unlatch (like a spring loaded clip that has to be pulled back and then lifted) will go a long way to thwart a raccoon. The slide-bolt latches that come on the premade coops are too easy for a raccoon to open. That slide-out drawer doesn't even have a latch. Put something on it so it can't be slid out. Likewise with the sliding door at the top of the ramp -- put a latch on it. If the nest-box floor isn't secured, nail it in so it can't be popped out when pushed up from underneath. Think about setting some hardware cloth under the sod underneath the coop and attach it to the sides of the coop to discourage burrowing predators.

Okay, now for breeds. All you're interested in is eggs, so I might suggest sex links. They are generally small chickens and prolific layers, but they shoot their wad in the first couple of years. All chickens lay about the same number of eggs over their egg-laying life. Some breeds will lay for four or five years, but lay two or three eggs a week. Sex links will lay an egg just about every day but by year three, they're pretty much done.Then you have to decide what to do with chickens that are done laying. Do you keep feeding them like pets or will you be able to turn them into chicken soup and put some new laying stock in the coop? It's something to think about.

Just about any breed that Tractor Supply carries in its spring chicken-fest will probably be okay. Birds that should, according to the breed standard, get to a decent size and be considered dual-purpose probably won't get that big if you get them from Tractor Supply or through a hatchery. Chickens that are sold through hatcheries and outlets like Tractor Supply are bred to look like the breed, but be better layers than that breed might normally be. Laying birds -- chickens bred with an emphasis on laying -- are smaller than proper dual purpose chickens so you can probably look at breeds like Plymouth Rocks and Orpingtons (though if you get Orpingtons, I'd suggest getting all four as Orpingtons since they can be easily bullied by other breeds). Sussex and Wyandottes are generally good layers and also be calm birds. Leghorns are very good layers -- laying machines, in fact -- but I wouldn't put four of them in that little space. Calm is not a term I think of when talking about Leghorns. Rhode Island Reds are good layers, but like a little more room to roam. There's also a chicken breed out there called a Production Red that is supposed to lay like a RIR and look like a RIR but be smaller. I don't have personal experience with them.

There's a chart out there in the Net-sphere called Henderson's Chicken Chart that might be helpful. You'll want to look for productivity, whether the breed is good in confinement and being heat tolerant might be a good thing in Georgia. Sex links and Production Reds probably aren't on Henderson's Chicken Chart. You'll have to research them separately.

Please please please don't use that ancient torture method -- also known as the brooder lamp -- to raise your chicks. There is a much better (read: easier on you and easier, healthier and less stressful on the chicks) way to raise baby chicks than the conventional method of using a brooder lamp. Please get with me on how to use a heating pad for a much better way to do it.

Also don't put heat in the coop and if you are going to put a light inside the coop to stimulate egg-laying in winter, don't use a fluorescent light.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

Learning how to sex chicks is something you can reasonably expect to need to know how to do. I didn't, and every "deal" of chicks is a straight run. Meaning some will be boys. So I wish I had learned.
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Re: what kind of chickens?

My uncle had Rhode Island Reds. They are not as good a layer as leghorns but he sold the eggs and got more money for the brown eggs. He clipped the chicken beaks otherwise they will fight with each other and over nesting boxes. Rats and mongoose here will steal the eggs. He had a large coop and yard for the chickens but they regularly got out so you have to make sure the fence doesn't have any breaks in it. Most of the breaks in his fence was from wild pigs. He did have to power wash the coop every once in a while. Chickens can fly up into trees so they can fly over a low fence if it doesn't have a top or the chicken wings are not clipped.

He hung the feeder and vitamin water up otherwise birds are not sanitary they eat and poop on everything. There was one feeder that was a tray that could be filled from the outside and the birds could stick their heads through the bars to get to the food. Only leave enough food for them to eat during the day in the feeder. He also supplemented their diet with some grass he cut up for them and added the greens to the feed.

He would buy chicks but asTom said, there would be a few roosters in the bunch even though they were supposed to be all girls.
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Re: what kind of chickens?

One recommendation we heard was, as beginners, not to start with chicks, but to buy ourselves some hens that are already laying size.

Right now there's no electricity out to where the chicken coop is. We won't get the hens until it is warm enough for them to not need heat. By next winter we should have our solar panels and can maybe power some light and heat off of that (or even get a dedicated solar panel for the chicken house!). Hopefully by then we will know more about what we are doing.

Never seen a raccoon around here and I keep my compost pile open, so I think I would know. My main concern is dogs. We have two, our neighbors on each side each have one, and the horse ranch right behind our back fence has several. Our back yard is completely fenced, but even if the neighboring dogs can't get to them, they could probably give them heart attacks by barking all the time, if the coop/ run is too close to fence. Because of the dogs, I'm not thinking these chickens will roam free very much... maybe they could be out a little if the dogs are in the house.
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Re: what kind of chickens?

rainbowgardener wrote:One recommendation we heard was, as beginners, not to start with chicks, but to buy ourselves some hens that are already laying size.

Right now there's no electricity out to where the chicken coop is. We won't get the hens until it is warm enough for them to not need heat. By next winter we should have our solar panels and can maybe power some light and heat off of that (or even get a dedicated solar panel for the chicken house!). Hopefully by then we will know more about what we are doing.

Never seen a raccoon around here and I keep my compost pile open, so I think I would know. My main concern is dogs. We have two, our neighbors on each side each have one, and the horse ranch right behind our back fence has several. Our back yard is completely fenced, but even if the neighboring dogs can't get to them, they could probably give them heart attacks by barking all the time, if the coop/ run is too close to fence. Because of the dogs, I'm not thinking these chickens will roam free very much... maybe they could be out a little if the dogs are in the house.
I disagree that you should start with started pullets. You can, and doing that makes sure you only have pullets, but raising chickens from chicks is a very rewarding process and you'll have less bother trying to acclimate them to your coop. Chicks that were raised in the coop are imprinted with that place as 'home.' Convincing pullets that this place is safe and is your new home can take a little patience, but can be done so either way you want to do it will work out. People think that raising chicks should be left to the experienced because they are doing it the hard way with the brooder lamp and brooding them inside the house (what an awful process). Some of the worst advice beginners get is from Tractor Supply employees.

Vent-sexing chickens is a very specialized profession and if done improperly, it can really hurt (or kill) the chicks. Some breeds can be wing-sexed within the first 24 hours of hatching, but it isn't as reliable a method as vent-sexing. You're better off leaving sexing chicks to professionals.

No heat in the coop...period. Chickens need a dry, draft-free, well-ventilated coop. A fully-feathered chicken can handle sub-freezing temperatures as long as the coop is dry, has no drafts and is well ventilated. People think it needs heat because they've had or they've heard stories of chickens getting frostbite on their combs. The problem isn't temperature; the problem is moisture. Deep-litter that is improperly maintained, leaking waterers in the coop that soak the bedding, and inadequate ventilation contribute to excessive moisture in the coop. (and you might think that since I live in zone 8b, what do I know about freezing temperatures and chickens, but I lived up north with chickens for 35 years in New Jersey and Massachusetts, so I know about freezing temperatures.) Heating the coop is actually detrimental to the chickens. They can't acclimate to the outside temperatures if the coop is artifically heated. Chickens fluff out their feathers to create a dead-air space against their skin to keep warm, so what feels cold to us isn't cold to a chicken. You live in Georgia, so the weather isn't nearly harsh enough to even think about putting heat in a coop. (If you lived in Alaska, that would be a different conversation.) I never put heat in the coop even in New England winters and I never had frostbitten combs.

Every time I've had a conversation with someone who lost their entire flock to a predator, I hear the same lament, "We've lived here for {X number of years} and never had a problem." Predators that may not show interest in an open compost bin will eventually find a chicken coop. Maybe not this year or next year.... It's your situation and you do what you think is best, but I'm just trying to save you some heartache down the road.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

You are likely taking the risk that hens moved when already laying will stop laying and go into a molt. That would mean about 6 weeks of zero eggs. Pre-laying pullets may be a safer bet altho' they are a rambunctious lot at that age.

Chicks aren't really that difficult. I used to forego the heat lamp, also. I'd check with the feed store on the date of their latest shipment from the hatchery. Then, I would set up something like a stool ... with the cushion of very soft and fluffy material but ... upside down. In other words, the chicks will try to get under something for warmth and to sleep. The "stool" was so short that they would have to crawl under it. The soft cushion on the underside would be low enough so as to provide something of a blanket. The stool could be raised as the chicks grew to allow them more room. Late enough in the year and they will soon not bother with crawling under it overnight.

I have had birds with frostbitten combs but, more importantly, I have seen the lethargy that below zero temperatures can bring on. Winter lighting is more important than heat - they do have down coats ;). However, chickens are subtropical and tropical birds. Their reproductive process, laying eggs, shuts down during long hours of darkness. They need to stay dry, out of drafts and have plenty of feed during cold weather. They also need fresh, unfrozen water.

The heavier breeds are better for cold winters but they are less productive and don't convert feed to eggs quite as efficiently. Nothing is too absolute among the chicken breeds available for backyard flocks. My experience has been that the quality of birds depend on the hatcheries. I have had good quality and poor quality of two of my favorite choices, Plymouth Rock and Australorps.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

I have tried several breeds. My favorite for my zone is Rhode Island Red because they are dual purpose and I hatch my own chicks so I have meat and egg layers. I do not heat my chicken coops even when 40 below. They do fine. I do have their lights set up on timers so they get 14 hours of light during the winter. I also supplement Vitamin D when we have little light.

I did not like Leghorns because they are not a cold weather bird and ate twice as much as the RIR's and gave half as many eggs. They did produce more eggs during the summer. The leghorns were very flighty also. I did not like Orpingtons, Australorps, Wyndonettes, Barred Rocks and Freedom Rangers because they go broody almost all the time. So no eggs during that time which can be months. Easter eggers are kind of fun but they do get picked on by other breeds. They ones I had laid about 5 eggs a week. My mom had sex links and they seemed to be fine. I was a kid so don't remember really well.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

Maybe some rhode island reds? And there is this one breed with a big bunch of feathers on their heads that look like afro's
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Re: what kind of chickens?

sweetiepie wrote:... I did not like Orpingtons, Australorps, Wyndonettes, Barred Rocks and Freedom Rangers because they go broody almost all the time. So no eggs during that time which can be months. ...
Broodiness is easy enough to break within a couple of days. There's no advantage to leaving the hen broody unless you want to hatch eggs.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

How do you "break" the broodiness? Sounds like something a lot of people need to know, since I have read a lot about it as a problem.
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Re: what kind of chickens?

It is quickly changed behavior ..

. with just a little bother for the chicken keeper ..

. but, I'll let Allyn go first on her technique.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

The ranch behind us just changed management. The woman who now manages it keeps some chickens (I've talked to her about it, but haven't seen them yet). She was talking to me about her hens are laying already, but one has gone broody. I wished I could tell her something about that....

She said she has Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons (which she recommended) and some "sex linked" and that the sex linked were the best layers. I have seen the term "sex linked" in stuff I have read, but don't really understand it.

Worked on building (assembling) the chicken coop yesterday afternoon, but didn't finish. I will post a picture after we get the roof on it! This chicken thing is really going to happen!! :) :)
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Here's the chicken coop still under construction:
chicken coop.jpg
There is a little door that opens from the coop right in front of where Jamie is standing. We will build a fenced in run going off from that to the side, so they have more room to roam around in.
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Broodiness is when a hen decides it is time to hatch chicks. It's a hormone thing. Her belly gets warm and plush and she gets the irresistible urge to 'nest' on eggs. It doesn't have to be her eggs; any eggs will do. If you want to hatch some eggs, having a hen go broody is a wonderful thing. If you aren't planning on hatching eggs, it's a bother and you need to 'snap her out of it.' The easiest way I've found to do that is to put her in a cage -- like a wire dog crate with 1/4-inch hardware cloth for the floor. Put food and water in there for her and hang the cage so it is off the ground. You want air to circulate under her to cool her belly and 'switch off' the hormones that are giving her the broody urges. If she can't satisfy that warm snuggy belly feeling, the broodiness passes, usually in a day or two.

Sex Links are a cross between two heritage chicken breeds (which two depends on which sex links you're talking about -- Red or Black) and the resulting chickens can be sexed by color at hatching -- so the sex is linked to the color, hence the devilishly clever name 'Sex Links.' (IDK if that's where it came from, but it works for me :) ) Sex Links aren't a 'breed' per se. You can't breed two Sex Links and get more Sex Links. The color sexing only works in the first tier of the cross-breeding between the heritage breeds. They are prolific layers, but they 'burn up' quickly, usually laying whatever they have to give in a couple of years.

If all you want are eggs, look at Sex Links. They are comparatively small birds, so four in your new coop (which is coming along nicely, btw) should work well. There are Red Sex Links and Black Sex Links. Of the two, I'd probaby go with the Red (the ones I'm familar with are a cross between a Rhode Island Red rooster and a Delaware hen) since I think they are smaller than Blacks and better suited to smaller coops.
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Thanks so much for very helpful answers!! :D

Another question (I'm sure I will have lots as this goes along). We set the coop on top of some plastic lattice we had around, just to keep down mud and weeds. I guess we put straw on top of that, for the hens to walk around on? Then how are you supposed to clean it all out? It has the small square door in front and a somewhat taller, narrower door on the side. Neither one seems real handy for raking out the bedding. The back half has the nesting area over it, where the ramp goes up. In front of the nesting boxes are a couple roosting bars. They have a tray under them, that pulls out for cleaning. The nesting boxes are against the back wall. The top of that wall folds down so you can get to the nesting boxes, so you can get eggs and clean the boxes.

But I'm not sure what we are supposed to be doing about keeping the bottom level, where they will be walking around, clean...
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Trying to get as much as we can figured out BEFORE we get the chickens.

Is it all right to just have the water bottle in the run we are going to build? Do they need to have water during the night? It seems like having water in the coop would be likely to make everything damper, and therefore moldier and messier.

They get into the nesting area (boxes and roosting bars with tray under them) up the ramp. The door that the ramp goes to can be closed. Should we close them in there at night?
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Re: what kind of chickens?

I doubt if I can figure out the construction from afar. Doesn't the tray extend all the way across and serve as a floor? Would wood shavings work better than straw? And, would most everything just drop onto the ground under the coop if the tray is pulled out?

Water outdoors would probably work for you. I doubt if the idea of "deep litter" will have any appeal in that coop. I never thought it was a good idea altho I have been in a commercial building that used it but it had concrete floors and short sidewalls.

I just want to add that the broody hen's cage doesn't need to be hung up outdoors. I put an empty cage down and sat the cage with the hen on top of it - leaving it in the coop. When I began to be around more often, I closed the nestboxes at night and opened them in the morning. The hen will set in a nest even without the eggs. Further, there may be one that will want to roost overnight in the nestbox - a very bad idea. Closing the boxes allows you to free the hen during the night. She will be very cranky about everything but it seems to help get her back to normal chicken behavior and out of that hormone-induced broodiness.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

Yes, I didn't mean to imply that the broody-box should be outside. As long as it is elevated so there is air circulation underneath, that's what is important.

And yes, do close off the nest boxes until they are laying. You don't want them to get in the habit of roosting in the nest boxes at night. They poop alot at night and the nest boxes will get quite poopy and get all over the eggs. Very bad. You might even try to elevate the roosting bars a little bit so they are higher off the floor. That'll encourage them to roost on the bars and not in the boxes.

For that shallow pull-out tray, I would suggest using sand for bedding. Get some all-purpose sand (also called coarse aggregate or construction sand -- NOT playsand) and some Sweet PDZ granules (not PDZ powder) and mix it together. It's easy to clean like scoopable cat litter. For a coop that size, you actually could use a cat-litter scoop. Scoop the poop and then once in a while freshen the sand/PDZ mix.

Chickens can't see in dim light, so once they go in in the evening and get on the roost, they stay put until morning. You don't need food or water in the coop at night. Food can attract vermin and water will lead to moisture problems.

I would probably put sand under the coop as well in the little run underneath. That saves you from having to wholescale clean it -- a poop scoop on a long mop handle can reach any poop accumulation. I would suggest putting the big run off that little door on the front instead of the bigger (but still quite small) door on the side. If you have to get in there for any reason, you have a half a chance of reaching through the bigger of the two doors.

I would close that ramp door at night because the little run isn't predator-proof. However, if you don't put a latch on that door it's as predator-proof as the rest anyway,so it's up to you.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

Allyn wrote:
sweetiepie wrote:... I did not like Orpingtons, Australorps, Wyndonettes, Barred Rocks and Freedom Rangers because they go broody almost all the time. So no eggs during that time which can be months. ...
Broodiness is easy enough to break within a couple of days. There's no advantage to leaving the hen broody unless you want to hatch eggs.
Um... I do not let them set on their eggs, they are continuously removed but some breeds will be broody, especially in cold weather on a cement floor with no bedding, they refuse to eat and just want an excuse to be lazy. I just don't have time to deal with that and I don't like doing that to them in cold weather.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

My theory is fairly simple but may not be completely accurate.

I think some high production hens just "don't have time" to be broody. They are pushed to continually lay eggs, one cycle follows too closely after another and they never catch a break.

Hens that have low production are inclined to brood. The laying cycle shuts down and the broodiness takes over. Therefore, something like my Buff Orpington hens were very nest oriented. They were good stay-at-home chickens for free ranging and never caused much trouble but really were not what I should have had in a tiny, backyard flock as laying hens. I had Light Brahmas for sentimental reasons. You know, something can be said for personalities in such close relationships one might have with 3 to 6 hens in a backyard.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

sweetiepie wrote: Um... I do not let them set on their eggs, they are continuously removed but some breeds will be broody, especially in cold weather on a cement floor with no bedding, they refuse to eat and just want an excuse to be lazy. I just don't have time to deal with that and I don't like doing that to them in cold weather.
They don't have to have eggs to sit on to go broody. It's a hormone thing. It's not a decision to be lazy. If you don't have time to properly deal with broody chickens, then get a breed that isn't inclined to do that. And really, you keep your chickens on a concrete floor with no bedding in cold weather? Really?

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We have chickens!!

So we now have chickens!
chickens.jpg
chickens 2.jpg
They are three 4 week old Buff Orpingtons and three 3 week old Americaunas. About the time we were deciding we were ready to actually get chickens, a friend of a friend had these she wanted to find homes for. They are all hens. (At our local tractor supply store they only had day old hatchlings that had not been sexed, so we would have gotten half roosters.) They are tame, used to being picked up and held

I'm just hoping they are surviving out there. It is going down to 30 degrees tonight and the chicks until now have been in a garage. Now they are all closed in to the nesting box area of the coop with a bunch of straw in the boxes. Hopefully they are all huddled up, keeping each other warm. They tended to stay in a chick pile anyway.

If they make it through tonight, we are having a warm up and they should be fine. They seemed to be doing fine through the day, learned quickly to use the feeder and waterer, walked around. Our coop and run is plenty of room for six of them at this size. We will have to see later how they do. We had been aiming for four of them, but this woman had six and she only wanted to sell them together.

Our dogs went crazy over the chicks. The border collie mix adapted after a few hours and quit being so obsessed with them. The Shiba Inu mix (a hunting dog) has not (yet?). We quickly decided that we needed more fortification. The dogs, especially the hunter, were so desperate to get at them, they were biting and clawing at the coop and seemed likely to be able to damage it. So we went out and got 4 ft tall wire rabbit fencing and metal stakes and put an outer fence around the whole area of the coop and run, connecting to the shed on one side and the back fence. Once the chickens are a little bigger so they can't get through the fencing holes and the dogs are more used to them, maybe that can be a larger play space for the chickens in the day time (but no top protection, so they would still have to go back in at night).

So we are just starting this voyage of discovery with chickens and are very excited! It will be so amazing when we get our first egg! :) I'm thinking it should be maybe three months from now..
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Re: what kind of chickens?

I'm just leaving to go out, but quick update to say yes, all the chicks survived just fine. They are eating and drinking and walking around (and driving the dogs crazy) and soaking up sunshine. I swear they look a little bigger than they were yesterday!
dogs watching chicks.jpg
dogs watching chicks2.jpg
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Image
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Yay for having chickens! :)

They do grow at an amazing rate at this age.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

applestar wrote:Image
They three Buff Orpingtons and three Americaunas, four weeks old and three weeks old respectively.
I hope the dogs get used to their presence eventually. So far they are obsessed with the chickens and don't want to do ANYTHING except sit in front of the cage . Some of the time biting the wire , trying to dig under, barking, etc. Working on trying to break them of all those behaviors, so they will just sit and watch them, but I have no idea how to reduce the fascination. I had to take the hunting dog for a walk off of the property just to get him to go potty!
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Re: what kind of chickens?

I don't have a dog you know, so my ideas might not be practical, but according to all the dog training shows I've watched, they need to be given something else to think about -- maybe simply going for long walks... or some kind of exercise until they are exhausted -- train to use means that will exhaust them more than you -- agility training, mock hunting (what are they called? Field trials?), get one of those tennis ball throwing devices... or golf... and train to fetch, frisbee, walk alongside while you bicycle, etc. One useful one if your dogs have the right temperament is to train them to be service and/or one of those patient cheering up dogs (I'm sure there is a proper term :oops: ) and get them certified -- then you could volunteer and take them to visits if you want to do that sort of thing. My brother can take his dogs on airplanes in the passenger cabin because his dogs are certified ...I should say is, since one of his dogs passed and he only has one dog now.

I wonder if the dogs keep doing this, the chickens might get stressed?

It's always a challenge to integrate new pets into the existing family dynamics -- good luck!! :bouncey:
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Re: what kind of chickens?

So I posted the positive encouragement above. On the negative or most likely less than what you would want to do or hear side --

- one idea I had was to get one of those motion sensing, water spraying gizmos and set it up so it won't spray the chickens but will hit the dogs if they show interest in the chickens and venture too close to their enclosure. Once they stop being so interested, you could probably still use it for deterring other pest animals.

And worse.... :(

- I was reminded about how I read about someone saying their family dog got in, attacked and killed their chicken at a different forum in a more of a farm and homesteading oriented thread, and the recommendation that was endorsed by other members was to tie the dead chicken to the dog's collar the moment it happens again and have the dog drag and smell the stinking cadaver around. Sounded horrible to me but apparently this is effective ...but the atmosphere there was working farm, working dog. Only reason I'm mentioning it is to say you don't want to let the situation deteriorate to this kind of level.
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Re: what kind of chickens?

They are YOUR chickens, Rainbow'.

They are NOT your dogs' chickens. Assert your ownership. Push yourself between the dogs and chickens. Push the dogs out of the way. Do that whenever you wish to but make it often enough to impress them with the facts of the matter.

They are not the dogs' playthings. The dogs do not need to protect you or the property from the chickens. They are YOURS, to do with whatever you choose to do. There is no reason to abuse the dogs to assert your ownership.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

I would never abuse our dogs in any way!

As soon as we saw what was happening with the dogs, we immediately went and spent an extra $100 to put fencing around the whole area of the coop and run, so the dogs have no access.

The chickens seem remarkably impervious to the whole thing. I don't know if they are aware the dogs can't get to them, or they are just that dumb, but the dogs can be barking six inches away and they carry on eating, drinking, napping or whatever with no apparent acknowledgement that it is even happening.

As noted, I have spent most of my time the past days training the dogs, working on stopping the barking and attempts to get at the birds. This mostly consists of firm no! bad dog! every time the unwanted behavior starts and lots of pets and praise and occasional treats when they are being quiet. I have spent hours sitting there holding onto collars keeping them sitting a few feet away and keeping them quiet. It is time consuming, but working and there is much less of that behavior, though not none. In the meantime, we no longer let the dogs out in the yard unless we are with them to keep supervising and keep working on the training. What I haven't been able to figure out how to train out is the fascination/ obsession. I am hoping over time they will get used to the chickens and get over it. We just got the chickens Fri afternoon.

I don't actually think the dogs are trying to kill the chickens, although until they calm down, I'm not trying any experiments. There was one time when I was working on catching the chickens to put them in the nest box for the night (hopefully they will eventually start doing that on their own, but they haven't been with us long enough to have habits like that yet). I guess I hadn't fastened the make shift "gate" in the wire outer fencing back well enough and the hunting dog managed to push through. The next thing I knew, he was right next to me with his nose in the coop, where I had the door open. If he had lunged immediately, I probably would not have been able to stop it. But he didn't make any move, just crouched there looking, not even barking.

I don't know about the give them something else to think about. The border collie ordinarily loves to play fetch with tennis balls. Since the chickens are here, if I am persistent about getting her attention on the ball, and then throw it, she will run after it. But as soon as the ball stops moving, she ignores it and runs right back to the chicken area. We do walk them every day and have been doing more of that, since as noted the hunting dog won't even stop watching the chickens long enough to do his potty duties, unless I take him somewhere off the property.

It's a work in progress! But the chickens are doing well. They are (in themselves, separate from the dog issue) not as much work as we imagined. We have straw covering the ground in the run and coop and covering the floor (part of which is a pull out tray) of the roosting area, and a thick layer of straw in the nest boxes for them to cuddle into at night. I thought we might have to rake out all that straw every day. But it stays cleaner than I thought. Today, for the first time, I pulled out the tray and dumped it, cleaned the roosting bar/ perches that are over it, dumped the top half of the straw in the nesting boxes and replaced fresh straw on all of that. I still have not raked out any of the straw on the ground, but I did put a fresh layer over the top.

People warned me about the smell, but so far there is no discernible odor in the chicken coop. They have a feeder and a waterer that only have to be refilled every few days.

I discovered them stretching their necks through the bars of the run to eat chickweed that was growing outside it. So I have been picking some and putting it in their cage. They love it! That is where the weed gets it name. It does have a lot of nutritional and medicinal value, with a bunch of vitamins and minerals, so it should be healthy for them.
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Re: what kind of chickens?

"... or they are just that dumb ..."

They aren't very smart about some things - the chickens aren't, that is ;). I had a death with one pullet not all that long after l first began allowing the last flock out for a little ranging in the backyard. That was the morning that they went behind the greenhouse and discovered the rhubarb. I found the leaf damage later and the remaining pullets never touched it again. Maybe they learned a lesson by observing or they all had a stomach ache!

It was a lesson for me altho I was already aware that they will eat most everything that is thrown into their pen. Boredom plays a part in that, I am sure. Know what is available to them and this was about the best source of information on toxic plants that I found after the advent of the internet. It is what the Canadian government provides: Poisonous Plants

My chicken coop has sat empty the last 2 years. It is about 48 square feet. I felt that 4 laying hens would find it a comfortable home. The last flock went down to 3 after that rhubarb incident. Even with 4, it would be a bit more room than some think laying hens require but one half of the coop was a "porch." The pen was a temporary thing that I would set up around the yard. Through the winter, the hens had only the enclosed part of the coop (insulated) and their porch.

"The next thing I knew, he was right next to me with his nose in the coop, where I had the door open. If he had lunged immediately, I probably would not have been able to stop it. But he didn't make any move, just crouched there looking, not even barking."

Likely, he was honoring your ownership of the chickens. It relates to their genetic disposition as pack animals. You decide what they can do with "the prey." Unless, they are especially bold and immature. Dogs have lived with livestock for generations, millennia. They can learn. The ancestors of the Border Collie mix are no strangers to livestock, of course. I have had a Border Collie and another stock dog, as well. (Chickens at the same time with both.) They can be very, very focused on things - including living things. They aren't dumb! However, there is a fine line between herding and killing.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

Don't tie a chicken to your dog. It isn't effective and a woman (I don't remember what state she is in) was just taken to court and given hefty fines for animal cruelty because a neighbor saw a chicken duct-taped around the dog's neck and the neighbor called animal control.

I have trained pitbulls to not bother my chickens. Pitbulls have a very strong prey drive and it takes a lot of patience and persistence, but it can be done. I know it can be done effectively because I can watch the dogs on the security monitor when they think they're outside unsupervised.

You can't rely on devices to do the training for you. You can use them as a tool, but YOU have to do the training. The device is not a substitute for you. My chickens free-range on the property all day, so when I'd bring a new dog home (I adopted a little blue pit from the Humane Society one year ago) I kept her on a leash at all times when outside. If she showed interest in the chickens, I'd correct her. My no-no noise is to make a game-show buzzer sound. She was taught early on that that sound means I disagree with what she is doing. When she hears that noise, she knows she has to stop whatever behavior she's doing; but more importantly, she looks to me to find out what she is supposed to do instead. The dog has to be taught, not only what NOT to do, but also what is the right thing to do. Most people forget that part. It is frustrating for the dog to always be told no, no, no but never given direction as to what is right.

Chickens just going about the business of being chickens will trigger the dog's prey drive, even dogs that work with animals like hunting or herding dogs. Those working dogs have a prey drive and that drive has to be redirected in order for the dog to perform its job retrieving or herding. Without training, the dog would just run around killing things because that's what its instincts tell it to do. Humans train the dog to not kill, but instead bring the animal to me (or find the animal for me) in the case of a hunting dog, or move the herd over there in the case of a herding dog.

So, if she focuses on the chickens, I make the no-no noise to break her focus; and then we move away from the chickens. Once we move away and she is not paying attention to the chickens, she gets a treat as a reward. Early on, when she first arrived, her focus would be very intense -- almost scary intense -- when she looked at the chickens and I had to be ready to break that focus or she'd lunge forward and whip herself around when her neck stopped at the end of the leash but her backside was still in full acceleration. It would take a treat waved in front or her nose to break that focus. She didn't get the treat at that moment, but the smell of the treat broke that laser focus and snapped her out of it so that she would come with me when I moved away. Then she got the treat. As time went on and the lesson was repeated again and again, the intensity of her focus lessened and just the no-no noise was enough to snap her out of it.

It takes a LOT of repetitions and a lot of patience, but she eventually learned that she shouldn't bother the chickens, that the right thing for her to do is to stay away from the chickens. Don't get me wrong, she still looks at the chickens; but it is a 'look'. It isn't an intense, stalking, ready-to-pounce, predator-about-to-kill glaring stare.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

rainbowgardener wrote:....People warned me about the smell, but so far there is no discernible odor in the chicken coop. They have a feeder and a waterer that only have to be refilled every few days...
As I said, there shouldn't be a smell...or flies. People that have odors and flies aren't doing it right and really shouldn't be giving advice or they think that the big commercial poultry farms are the same thing as the backyard coop. Those commercial farms are awful places and bear no resemblance to your operation.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

I hope you all know I didn't think tying dead chicken to a dog is in any way acceptable... and the water shooter was a last resort if it's impossible to be right there all the time (I feel like I should say so just in case). I like the idea of using a security monitor 8)

I'm really glad folks who understands the situation and know what are the right things to do are speaking up to help. Training your pets always takes effort... sometimes more than you want to expend, but ultimately they get more attention from you and it strengthens your bond, and the pleasure you feel when they get it right -- they feel that, too. Good luck rainbowgardener!
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Re: what kind of chickens?

applestar wrote:I hope you all know I didn't think tying dead chicken to a dog is in any way acceptable... and the water shooter was a last resort if it's impossible to be right there all the time (I feel like I should say so just in case). I like the idea of using a security monitor 8)....
Oh no no no, hun. I knew you were saying that tongue-in-cheek; but there are more than a few people I've talked to that actually recommend that method. I just wanted to say, "OMG don't do that" since RBG is getting advice from different quarters and I wanted to nip that in the bud in case someone offered that as an allegedly valid method.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

As I said, never would I abuse my dogs in anyway and to me that clearly counts as abuse!

Chickens are doing fine. Dogs are less barky, calmer, but still obsessed. I still have to take Shibu off the property to get him to potty!
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Yep, sounds like you are working with them to get this sorted out. I bet Shibu -- is that his name? This is the new dog, right? -- loves the extra attention and time spent with you.

Looking forward to the first egg report which I realize won't be until later... actually, I'm envious and and grateful you are sharing your chicken experience. :()
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Re: what kind of chickens?

No Shibu is the older, male dog. He is a Shiba Inu mix (Shibu is just Shiba Inu shoved together :) )

The new one is a female border collie mix, Ari (the name she came with).

Here's her:
Ari.jpg
and him:
Shibu.jpg
and the two of them:
ari and Shibu (3).jpg
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