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digitS'
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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.

Steve
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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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Re: what kind of chickens?

Everyone is doing well! Chickens are at least half again as big as they were 10 days ago.

It's hard to get good pictures of them, but here they are:
chickens Mar.jpg
Chickens Mar2.jpg
Chickens Mar3.jpg
The dogs are doing better. Still spend most of their outdoor time watching the chickens, but they are calmer, hardly any barking or jumping at the fence, seem more relaxed. Earlier on Shibu would be literally quivering with excitement/tension. Now he is just watching with his tail wagging. They can be distracted from the chickens more easily and will come in when we call them. So good progress is being made and I believe that eventually they will be able to be in the yard unsupervised and leave the chickens alone (chickens still being inside the fence -- I'm not thinking these are ever going to be free range chickens).

We hear lots of different estimates of when eggs might start coming, but my best guess is July-ish. That will be very exciting!

I was thinking back. When I first started hanging out here at THG in 2009, I was working 50 hrs a week, living on a little inner city lot in a snowy city, and always talking about how much I envied the people with more time, more land, longer growing season. Then I semi-retired and worked 20-30 hrs a week. Then, a few years later, I retired and a few months later moved down here to our half acre in the country (outer suburbia any way, but with a horse ranch in our back yard) in a place with no snow and a definitely longer growing season! It took until I was nearly 70 to do it, but you can make dreams come true! It's pretty cool that the people like applestar that have been around here that long have watched and advised through all these changes. Thanks, THG!
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Re: what kind of chickens?

The chickens are getting the hang of things! Every night we catch them and put them in the nesting box and close the door. Keeps them warmer, all these cold nights we've been having. There's lots of straw in there and they make themselves into a cuddled up pile of chicks. But I've been having to catch them and put them in the box. Sometimes catching them all has been quite a chore. Probably pretty funny to watch, if you aren't the one that has to do it. Tonight I only had to catch two of them. The other four just walked themselves right up the ramp when they saw what was going on! :)

If they will put themselves to bed, that will make things a lot easier. Once the weather warms, I guess we can just leave the nest box door open and let them come and go. I do think they are better off sleeping in there. Keeps them up off the damp ground.
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Re: what kind of chickens?

I am not sure where the chicks are sleeping or if you are using the right term.

Perhaps, the "nest box" is just the enclosed area of the coop.

You do not want them to develop the habit of sleeping where you are hoping for them to be laying eggs. There is quite a bit of time now, in "chicken years," to break them of bad habits but roosting in the nest box is very bad behavior.The ones that do this are not interested in laying eggs in there and the ones that continue to lay eggs in a box where others are sleeping will have their eggs in chicken poop.

The nest should be a very special place for them. If eggs show up where they sleep - eating the eggs may be the result. Not finding an appropriate place to nest may result in hormonal changes to limit egglaying. All of this is not something you will want to be dealing with later this year.

Steve
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Yes, I agree with Steve. You end up with egg eaters and dirty eggs if they are put in the nesting box or do you mean Chicken coop with access to the nesting box?

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Re: what kind of chickens?

hmmm.... I never heard all this and I don't quite know what to do about it. Here's a picture of the coop:
chicken coop.jpg
So the left side is divided into two levels, top and bottom. The bottom part is contiguous with the right hand side and is all open with just hardware cloth. The right hand side is one level with just the hardware cloth. The right side has the tall door, a white roosting bar and a ramp up to the box. (Not relevant for this discussion, but just for completeness, the end of the right side has a door that is always open, that opens into a wire enclosed run the same size as the coop. That way they have a total of about 50 square ft to walk around in.)

The top level left is all enclosed wood. It has the horizontal rectangular door into it that you can see. There's a sliding wooden door at the top of the ramp, that I close once they are all in for the night. At the back is a slide up piece you can open for ventilation (exposing screen) or close for warmth. The back also has a fold down door, for easy reaching into the nesting boxes. Inside there are three nesting boxes across the back wall. The rest of the enclosed space is a flat floor. Most of it is a removable, pull out tray for easy cleaning (the horizontal white line you can see beneath the door). Just over the tray are two more roosting bars like the outside one.

So when I was saying nest box, I really meant the whole enclosed space. But once I put them in there, how do I know they aren't sleeping in the nesting boxes? The nesting boxes have the most straw and are warm and fluffy and cosy. In fact, I do know from peeking at them that some of these cold nights they have been sleeping all six of them piled into one nest box, huddling up to keep warm. I thought that was a good idea. We have had a couple nights down to 24 degrees. There is no power out there, so no heat or light. But if I decided they shouldn't sleep in the nest boxes, I have no idea how to keep them from it, given that they need to be in the enclosed space.
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Re: what kind of chickens?

So, I peeked at them before I let them out this morning. It being a much warmer night (58 degrees already at 8 AM), they were all lined up along the roosting bars, which I gather is where they should be. So I just trust them to do the right thing?
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Haha you need a chicken-cam :>
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Re: what kind of chickens?

rainbowgardener wrote:... So I just trust them to do the right thing?
The appropriate term for chicken thinking is "bird-brained."

It's good that you have so much area under a roof. They will make use of that for shade and shelter from the rain. Chickens are tropical and subtropical birds. Because they have been long domesticated, breeds have developed that are suitable for temperate climates. I estimated that feed consumed increased 50% during the winter months so there is that cost to having them in the cold but temperatures around 24°f are not a problem for adult birds.

It's interesting how chickens in Southeast Asia sleep on the ground, in wood piles, nooks and crannies of buildings, etc. I don't know how we came to expect them to roost overnight, although it sure helps with clean up ... Anyway, they can very happily claim a nestbox and you must be vigilant in discouraging this.

Important to the hens is their appreciation for a nest and fussing with one comes naturally. Sounds contradictory? Sure. Sleeping in one is 180° from having a nest of eggs. Two hens may be in serious competition with one planning on laying eggs and the other having decided to sleep there. Pecking order wins. Eggs left must be thought of as just something in-the-way but broken, they are food ... uh, oh!

After I retired, I found it little trouble to close the boxes during the evening and open them again early in the morning. They may be a little off-schedule at first but hens normally lay eggs during the morning hours.

Another thing you can do is put a heavy curtain over the box so that the interior is dark. This isn't the 100% solution of closing it completely off during the night but a hen is willing to push in there to lay an egg but they seem to want some light to get themselves comfortable to spend a night. I'm not sure that a completely dark nest is what they want but it did deter bad behavior in my coop.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

I'm sorry. You are being VERY helpful digitS, but I'm still having a little trouble understanding. I'm a complete newbie at chickens!

" I found it little trouble to close the boxes during the evening and open them again early in the morning." I am doing that with the enclosure (nest boxes plus tray/roosting bars). Close them in it at night and open it up in the morning. But that enclosure has no division between the nest boxes and the tray/roosting bars area. The nest boxes are against the back wall. They have two sides that only go about half way up and are open in front to the tray area. What was the point of closing the nest boxes for the night and opening for the day, if they aren't supposed to be in there? You were closing it to keep them in or out?

"Another thing you can do is put a heavy curtain over the box so that the interior is dark. This isn't the 100% solution of closing it completely off during the night but a hen is willing to push in there to lay an egg but they seem to want some light to get themselves comfortable to spend a night. I'm not sure that a completely dark nest is what they want but it did deter bad behavior in my coop."

So you are suggesting that I should put at least a curtain between the nest boxes and the other part of the enclosure? The nest boxes should stay dark and the rest of the enclosure should have some light? Currently when I put them in the enclosure and close the door, it is dark in there. But if I open the vent slide and leave a little crack in the sliding door (which I will soon be doing for ventilation anyway) there would be a bit of light in there, not a lot. But the vent slide opens into the nest box area. If the nest boxes are curtained off and they don't sleep in them, will they find them to lay eggs?

Do you think it is important that they should be in the enclosure at all? I wanted them up off the cold damp ground and with protection and keeping some of their body heat in when it was so cold. Once it has really warmed up, does it matter? Can I just leave the sliding door at the top of the ramp open (as I do in the daytime) and let them come and go as they please? They do go up in the enclosed area on their own sometimes in the daytime to nap.

Is it a problem that there are six hens and three nesting boxes? I have seen estimates from 3 eggs a week per hen to one a day. If it were one a day, it seems like I would need six nest boxes. Do they need their own nest box or can they use which ever one is vacant?

Who knew this was so tricky? Thanks so much for all the help!!! :)
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Just to make things a little more clear:
The solid enclosed part is the coop. The bottom part with the hardware cloth is the run. (Advertising calls the whole thing the 'coop', but it's really a combined coop and run.) Inside the coop, the little compartments along the side are the nest boxes. The chickens should be sleeping on the roost bars, not in the nest boxes, which it sounds like yours are on the roosts. Digit is correct. Don't let them roost (sleep) in the nest boxes. If they establish sleeping in the nest boxes as habit, the eggs will be laid in poop, and who wants to eat poopy eggs.

If you were to need to 'close off the nest boxes' you could block them by putting gallon milk jugs partially filled with water into each nest box compartment so the chickens couldn't get into the box. Once they get close to laying age, you can remove the jugs to unblock the boxes and put fake eggs -- one or two -- in the nest boxes to show the pullets that this is where she's supposed to put the butt nuggets that start popping out of her backside. Don't be concerned if you get the first 'surprise' egg next to the waterer. Each pullet's first egg is a surprise; she's walking along wondering what this pressure is in her backside and then ::plop!:: Oh! That's what it was. :) Then she knows when she feels that pressure to go to the boxes where she saw the egg because if a flockmate put an egg there, that must be where she's supposed to put hers, too. Once one of the pullets starts laying in the nest boxes, you can take the fake eggs out and do a home decor thing with them. :)

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Re: what kind of chickens?

Yes RainbowGardener, find a way to keep them OUT of the nestboxes at night.

A heavy curtain that they could push aside worked as a deterrent for my hens. They used the boxes only for laying. Every flock did not have a bad actor who would suddenly decide that a nestbox was where she wanted to sleep. Nests can be open and airy, easy for you to access. Then, a switch goes off in the little pea brain of the bad actor. Having one start sleeping in the nest should have an immediate fix. Make her stop.

Chickens have these ideas about rating nest sites. The #1 hen will choose the best one. Nobody will want the nest rated, somehow, least valuable real estate. They may wait their turn, as best they can. They may drive a hen lower in the pecking order out of the nest. I found it best to have boxes large enough for two at a time. It doesn't have to be spacious, they will still have a preferred corner but the nestbox should be as stress free as possible.

My most recent coop is fully insulated, top bottom and sides. I replace one-half of the north-facing door with a screen door during the summer. If this neighborhood had raccoons, I bet I could have gotten into trouble with doing that.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

Thanks so much for all the help, it is getting clearer. For the time being I will just keep an eye out. Since the weather warmed up, every time I have peeked at them while they are in the coop/enclosure, they have been on the roosting bars. The tray is under the roosting bars and that is where all the poop is. If I spot them getting into the nest boxes I will do something about it.

Until you both mentioned it, I had no idea they weren't supposed to sleep in the nest boxes! Thanks!
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Re: what kind of chickens?

The feral chickens here will fly up to the trees to sleep at night. They keep their eggs on the ground usually under the bushes.
When my uncle kept Rhode Island Reds the house was large but he said the birds would fight over the nesting boxes so there were a lot of them elevated off the floor. Hens do like to choose their nesting sites and they do get territorial. He did have a device on the back of the coop that let the egg roll out of the nest box outside to the back of the coop for collection, but the mongoose and rats did most of the collecting so that did not work out well. But the birds actually like a schedule. If they are fed and the eggs collected at the same time every day they get used to it. The birds like to lay their eggs in the same place, we had one pet chicken that always laid her egg on the sidewalk. The jungle fowl was much more protectective, she laid 15 eggs in a cardboard box and when someone tried to move her eggs out of the rain she kept pecking at his boots.
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sweetiepie
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Ideas for fake eggs can be golf balls. I keep them in my nests all the time. It helps with egg eaters (they peck at something hard and discourages them because it doesn't open,) and gets them use to have to sit on something such as another egg. Do not be surprised if as they get closer to laying about 20 weeks or so that they spend time in the nesting box during the day but do nothing.

I always make mine go in the coop and get locked up at night. I have to many predators that come out at night.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Well, these are protected all the time. They don't free range. If they aren't in the upper level enclosed box, they are either in the run that is part of the chicken coop or they are in the additional wire run that we added. Then the whole area is surrounded by a 10' by 15' outer perimeter fence, to keep our dogs away from the coop and run. So the only question is are they going to be on the ground in one of the runs or are they going to be off the ground in the wood enclosed coop box (that has the nesting boxes and the roosting bars).

The ground is covered with a plastic lattice to keep down weeds and mud and then has straw on top.

So is it okay if they just sleep in the lower level on the lattice and straw covered ground? Or do I need to make sure they go upstairs to go to bed?
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Re: what kind of chickens?

So here's a little bit more about my chicken set up. Some of this was discussed in someone else's chicken thread, but I thought it belonged here.

This is looking at it from the east side

Image

Dog where he spends a lot of his time. But you can just see the chickens going about their business behind the fences (picket fence, wire rabbit fence, the wire enclosure of their run). The pavers are because the OTHER dog kept trying to tunnel under! But since the pickets and pavers were added everyone seems much calmer. Dogs lie there and watch, but aren't barking, etc. And for awhile today some of the chickens were napping in their run right in front of the dogs. If you could see the expression on the dog's face, it is very sad, hopeless, resigned...

This is the south side

Image

Haven't gotten those pickets painted yet, but I will. The red is the enclosed coop and run. The white edged rectangle is a door going into the nesting box/ roosting bar area, that is wood enclosed, with pull out tray under the roosting bars. Where the blue tarp is that is a wire run about the same size as the coop/run, at right angles to it, with an open door between them.

You can sort of see in this picture that there is now a leafed out tree canopy over the whole area. So there is shade from hot summer sun, but in winter when the trees have lost their leaves, there is lots of sun from south and east.

Everyone seems to be thriving. We are giving them regular chicken feed, granite grit, oyster shells, and twice daily servings of chickweed and other greens, with occasional table scraps. They look about like adult chickens and sound adult (buck-buck-buck instead of cheep cheep). They are now 11 and 10 weeks old. So they have something like ten to twelve more weeks to go, before they start laying. It is hard to be patient, but they are very entertaining in the meantime.
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digitS'
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Will the chickens be able to fly up ..

. and ..

. over the fence?

Steve
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sweetiepie
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Re: what kind of chickens?

digitS' wrote:Will the chickens be able to fly up ..

. and ..

. over the fence?

Steve

I would think so. Mine most certainly could. I have a six foot fence and they occasionally will. Especially leghorns but the Rhode Island Reds aren't as much of a pain. How high is your fence? 4ft?

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rainbowgardener
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Re: what kind of chickens?

The fence is only to keep the dogs away from the coop and run. The chickens are never out in that area. They are in the coop/run or the added wire run.

At some point when the dogs are in the house, we will try letting them out, into the area outside the coop and run, but inside the fence, while we supervise. At the horse ranch behind us, they let their chickens wander around the front yard and don't seem to have a problem with them wandering off/flying away. If the chickens show too much tendency to fly, we could clip their wings a bit. (This is just clipping the feather ends. I am told it doesn't hurt them any more than clipping our fingernails does, but it does keep them from being able to fly much. )
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rainbowgardener
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Re: what kind of chickens?

So as noted in the chicken roaming thread, we have been letting them out into the area inside the picket fence sometimes, when the dogs are in the house and when we are keeping an eye on them. They don't fly very much and have never gone over the fence (yet?), but they do fly up to sit on top of the wire run, at which point they are close to the fence and pretty clearly could get over it.

(I'm using this thread as basically my chicken blog)

When we started this and they were little, we were basically just giving them chicken feed, the kind made for young chickens. We have gradually been adding more stuff. We started giving them chickweed which they loved. Gradually we have added more and more greens: carrot tops, parsley, leaves of wild violet, plantain, dandelion. They like all of that. Pretty cool, I can just walk around pulling lawn weeds and feed them to the chickens! :) The greens are now a significant part of their diet. They get double handfuls at least twice a day. It took us a few weeks but we finally started giving them grit (granite chips). The first time we put it down, they went crazy for it. It was like they knew they needed this stuff, though it clearly couldn't have been particularly tasty. We have started giving them very tiny amounts of oyster shell. When they are closer to egg laying, they can have a little more.

Lately we have also been giving them some kitchen scraps, like potato and carrot peelings. They pretty much eat anything like that as long it is thin enough and tender.

I feel like a real homesteader here on my 1/2 acre! There are peaches on the peach tree, apples on the apple tree, and some time this summer we will start having fresh eggs! Life is good.
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applestar
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Re: what kind of chickens?

I love it. :D

I was reminded of reading how you can increase the nutrient value of the compostable greens like that.

Greens --> directly to compost pile
Vs.
Greens --> "livestock" (chickens in this case) --> "output" :P goes to compost pile

Yay! :()
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rainbowgardener
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Re: what kind of chickens?

And what I have read is that the greens are very important in getting very rich nutritious deep colored eggs.

Image

farm fresh vs store bought eggs. We have seen this because we used to have an egg lady we bought from.

Image

Also I was just reading that as the weather gets hotter, they should be getting less scratch grains (chicken feed) and more fruits, veggies, and greens.
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digitS'
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Chicken-keeping, it's fun and can be economical and add to a better diet.

Chickens seem to know the value of grit to help them digest their food. They must crave calcium as egg production commences and those eggshells are required. Modern breeds are egg-laying champions! A 300/year egg producing hen didn't happen until about 100 years ago. Wild chickens in South and Southeast Asia produce nowhere close to that number of eggs annually - maybe, 10% of that.

Those eggs are mostly protein, beyond the ever necessary water and inside that calcium shell. The hen is no "machine." She requires a healthy diet, herself.

We recently were talking about people who don't eat vegetables, or eat very few of them. A hen can have a vegetarian diet but a good deal of attention should be given to protein because, she needs it.

One idea behind satisfying hunger with meat and not vegetables is that things like lettuce have so few calories. If a hen is no machine, she also isn't a ruminant. She has nowhere near the digestive capacity of a cow. She will like lettuce but, just like us, she would starve on a 100% lettuce diet. Some veggies are high in calories. Cooking them would make them more digestible. We might still fall short on what our super egg-producer needs in the way of protein.

I think that a hen requires just about the same diet as a human. I'm sure that it's not quite correct but, at least, she isn't a carnivore and have the requirements of a cat, for example. She will still, happily, catch all sorts of bugs, worms, frogs, lizards, etc. etc! I fed "meat builder" feed to my backyard hens. Then, they had all the green food they wanted. Table scraps were welcome in the coop but I had to be careful not to load them up on things like potatoes and pasta. Eggs! I wanted eggs! Not unproductive, fat hens ...

Steve
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applestar
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Didn't somebody mention letting the chickens pick through the compost pile before? Bugs! Hakuna Matata! :()
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imafan26
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Grubs are good for chickens. They like worms too. Chickens are one of the few things I know of that eat slugs and snails.
I know the white part of the egg and the yellow part changes color as the egg ages. The membrane separates from the shell and the air pocket grows as the water in the egg evaporates. That is why it is easier to peel a boiled egg when it is older.

The albumin in the egg whites changes in desity too. I forget which way it goes. I think it goes from runny to more viscous and cloudier as it ages. The egg whites are almost all protein and account for about 17 calories of the whole egg.

The yellow part of the egg does vary with chicken breeds. The Rhode Island Red hens have more orange egg yolks and a speck on the yolk that the white leghorns do not. The yolk contains the bulk of the calories since it has most of the fat and cholesterol.

Egg Whites
Egg whites are a low-calorie, fat-free food. They contain the bulk of the egg’s protein. The egg white contains about 4 grams of protein, 55 mg of sodium and only 17 calories. A single egg white also offers 1.3 micrograms of folate, 6.6 mcg of selenium, 2.3 mg of calcium, 3.6 mg of magnesium, and 4.9 mg of phosphorus and 53.8 mg of potassium.
Egg Yolks
It is true, egg yolks carry the cholesterol, the fat and saturated fat of the egg. However, what is often overlooked are the many nutrients that come with that, such as the fat-soluble vitamins, essential fatty acids and other nutrients. One egg yolk has around 55 calories, 4.5 grams of total fat and 1.6 grams of saturated fat, 210 mg of cholesterol, 8 mg of sodium, and 2.7 grams of protein.

https://www.ahealthiermichigan.org/2011 ... o-you-use/

I knew eggs were a complete food, but did not realize how many vitamins they contained.

I know that laying hens are fed calcium to help make their shells stronger. It is also why chicken manure is alkaline.
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Allyn
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Re: what kind of chickens?

The 'extras' should comprise no more than 10 percent of thier daily diet or they won't be eating enough of the balanced chick feed and won't get enough nutrition. That 10% doesn't include greens like lettuce or cabbage. Greens are mostly water and have very little in the way of calories and so they can have as much greens as they'll eat.

Oyster shell shouldn't be given until they're laying age. The extra calcium is hard on their kidneys when their bodies aren't making egg shells to dispose of it. A good commercial chicken feed has enough calcium for non-laying birds -- usually less than 2% -- so they don't need more until they start laying. And once they start laying, you don't have to switch to 'layer feed' which usually has less protein in it -- usually only 15% or 16%. The higher protein in the chick feed is good for them through adulthood, and if you supplement them with oyster shell, they'll be happier.

Hard boiled eggs are a wonderful treat for chickens. Hard boil the eggs, peel them and then chunk them up into little bits and feed them to the chickens. They'll go nuts for it.
rainbowgardener wrote:..Also I was just reading that as the weather gets hotter, they should be getting less scratch grains (chicken feed) and more fruits, veggies, and greens.
Scratch is different than chicken feed. Don't confuse the two, because scratch is not a nutritionally balanced feed; it's just a treat. Scratch is basically junk food and should be part of the "less than 10% of extras" that they are allowed to have. It is usually made up of a lot of corn that they don't need (nor do you want them to have) in hot months. They should have a good quaility chicken feed available free-choice all the time, but if you're feeding them scratch (which isn't necessary, but the chickens like it) in addition to their feed, reduce or eliminate the scratch in the hot part of the year. Replacing scratch with other treats -- like fruits and vegetables -- saves them from following you around waiting for you to give them 'the good stuff'. On a hot day, they'll love a slice of chilled watermelon, for example.

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Re: what kind of chickens?

Thanks for clarification. I just didn't know the terminology of chicken feed and scratch. What we have been feeding them is a balanced chicken feed that is designed for their age group.

Yes, I have been reading about heat stress in chickens (since we are having some days in the 90's already!). Their whole area is under tree canopy and shady except early morning, so they should be pretty OK. But we were at the grocery today and I bought some watermelon for them (neither of us is particularly fond of it, so this is just watermelon for the chickens). :)

Maybe I need to think more about protein. I have given them the occasional earthworm I bump into, which they love! Otherwise the only protein is what is in the chicken feed. Maybe I should supplement with some mealworms?
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Allyn
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Lots of folks really like giving them mealworms. I don't. I'm not opposed to it, it's just that we have so many eggs, it's easy for me to hard boil a flat of eggs each week for them as an occasional treat.

Don't get too wrapped up in what seems like a rigid feeding regime. According to the feed schedules, the chickens should get chick starter from hatch to 8 weeks, then a grower feed from 8 weeks to 12 weeks unless you feed a combined chick starter/grower then you can feed them that from hatch to 12 weeks. Then from 12 weeks to point of lay (usually about 24 weeks), feed them blahblahblahblah.....

It all seems so complicated, but it's not really that difficult. Find a good quality feed that is at least 20 percent protein and feed them that (along with free choice oyster shell when they get close to laying). It's pretty easy to find 20+ percent feed: meatbird feeds, chick starter feeds, and gamebird feeds all have higher protein.

Quoted from the Heritage chicken feed guidelines published by the Livestock Conservancy, "Heritage breeds of chicken (especially heavy or dual purpose breeds) require a more nutritionally complete feed ration than their commercial counterparts, in order to fully achieve their potential size and productivity. Many of the common rations found in feed stores are formulated for commercial hybrid birds which are selected to grow well with less protein in their diets. Often producers can find appropriate levels of protein for Heritage chicks in game bird or turkey starter and grower diets."

So don't be afraid to look at gamebird or showbird feeds for the extra protein. Not only will the birds be healthier for it, but you can avoid behavior problems such as feather eating and egg eating, which can be a symptom of not enough protein in the diet. It's better to find a higher-protein feed and save the mealworms for an occasional treat than to feed a deficient feed and try to bolster it with extras.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: what kind of chickens?

Thanks for all the help, Allyn. I will definitely pay more attention to the protein content of our chicken feed.

Feeding eggs to your chickens seems so cannibalistic. Everyone keeps telling me don't give them eggshells for their calcium, it will train them to eat eggs....
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Re: what kind of chickens?

So that's why you peel them first, I suppose -- seems like a lot of work to me but hey LOL -- I was pondering about that exact idea -- cannibalistic... but the egg is only one half of a potential chicken and unfertilized no chance of being a living organism at all ...I wonder if the ovum even passes a DNA test? The rest is basically waste product so kind of like eating snot or biting nails, though THAT would actually pass the DNA match. :lol:

...recycling human waste is EXACTLY what they say will be needed when we go out into space... Image
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