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Chicken Questions
February 15, 2010
12:04 pm
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BuckeyeGirl
N.E. Ohio
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katangro said:

Happy Butterfly  Hi! My name is Kathy.  My husband built a beautiful chicken coop for me to raise chickens. No chickens inhabit the coop at this time. Three Peking ducks have taken over the coop until Spring when the chickens arrive. I don't want a bunch of chickens, just a dozen or so. My question to all of you who have chickens and such is, how to let them free range.  We have Eagles, hawks and sometimes Turkey Vultures hanging around. There are racoons and coyotes around at night time and even an owl or two.  The run for the chickens is 12'x20' with chicken wire over the top. If I let the critters out of the run will they stay around the yard? Will they be smart enough to know not to go on the highway(300' away)? Will they come back to the run if they are in danger of hawk attack etc. I never raised chickens or ducks before as you can tell.

Kathy 


This is a lot of questions, but I think we can take them one by one.

It's good that your run is covered.  That will protect them from above while they're in the run.  One thing, a chicken wire run is good for keeping chickens in, not predators out, though from above it will protect them from eagles and hawks just fine.

Turkey vultures do not kill their prey unless it's something already so close to dead that they can't move.  Vultures don't have talons like true raptors.  I've read that black vultures can possibly do so, but not turkey vultures.  Chickens are much more agile on the ground than an unwieldy vulture though, so they can escape them if they're healthy.

If chickens have cover, they usually keep an eye out for threats from above and run for it.  I'm not sure they recognize wire above though, mine run for shrubs, a slanted piece of plywood or a picknick table to hide under when a hawk is in the area, but they do take cover.  That's not to say you won't lose any, but I have 11 hens and they free range all the time.

If they're locked up tight at night, (the most dangerous time to be a chicken), coyotes, fox, raccoons, can't really get them.  During the day, neighborhood dogs are a much MUCH bigger danger. 

I'll get to more questions in a little bit, I need to go knead bread!  lol

Located in N.E. Ohio

February 15, 2010
3:04 pm
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BuckeyeGirl
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OK, I'm back.  I want to say first, anyone else who has opinions or insights, Hop in here anytime!  Some of this is location related and you're not very far from me Kathy!  I had an aunt that lived in Girard so I kinda feel like we're neighbors! 

As far as letting them out to free range, mine do all the time and mine avoid the road, though they go kinda close sometimes, but I live on a very quiet road.  As soon as a few cars go by, (like around quitting time?) they all putter down away from the road. 

I don't think they'll often run right back to the coop if there's danger, they usually get back in the coop at dusk without fail all on their own, but in imminent danger, they usually just run for whatever cover is nearest.  We have lots of trees and shrubs in our yard so they use that mostly if a hawk comes overhead.  If something scares them during the day, they get over it pretty quick, but now and then, after a scare they all gather in the coop for a few hours at least.

I'd leave them locked in the run if you're away from home for any length of time, and always closed up tight in the coop at night.  Otherwise, free ranging if you're around home.

Located in N.E. Ohio

February 16, 2010
6:25 am
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CATRAY44
By a lake in S. Michigan
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ChickenI have an extra dog house I set out for them, and a couple of pallets that I lean against trees for them to run under.  We do have hawks that try for them.  (A rooster thing is also great for hen protection) They also run under my deck, often. 

THey will go back in their coop at dusk.  I would leave them in the run for a week or there about, so they know that is home, before letting them out to range. 

February 16, 2010
8:06 am
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lavenderblue
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Could you who are in the know also mention some good breeds for katangro to get that are more capable of free ranging.  Smarter than meat breeds, which I've heard can't get out of their own way, let alone a chicken hawk's.  Not that she asked, but I would like to know, as I live vicariously through people with actual land and all.

Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long.  Ogden Nash

February 16, 2010
11:52 am
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BuckeyeGirl
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Very good thought Blue!  There is a chart in the “Farming and Animal Links” thread called “Henderson's Chicken Breed Chart”  that has a wealth of information about most breeds.  

Henderson’s Handy-Dandy Chicken Chart

Personally, I like the old style breeds, the tried and true barnyard breeds that have proven themselves over many years that they can survive both cold weather like we're having now, hot weather that the OP will be facing in the part of PA she lives in, and have the instincts to watch for predators. 

One thing that I prefer is a mixed flock, in colors that don't stand out in the area they will be ranging in.  I accidental wound up with two white hens that I wouldn't normally have picked, but they came with the batch I got.  The good thing is they're both Americaunas which are a very Wiley breed IMO, though often not super willing to be cozy with me.  They're not wild… not quite wild, but closer to it than the super domesticated breeds.  For free ranging, that's a good thing.  They're nervous and watchful and wary about danger.

Barred feathers, brown or red feathers, mixed colors, all serve to confuse predators when they are trying to focus on a single bird to catch… ( In My Opinion!!! All this is always so! LOL others welcome to speak up!)

My coop has Ameraucanas and the crossbred Golden Comets in it, but this spring I'm getting some Buckeyes.  They are a heritage breed that were bred especially to survive in barnyard situations.  That chart gives a lot of info to anyone getting ready to order chicks. I plan on getting a few barred feathers too, I just like their looks!  and it adds to the confusion factor I mentioned.  Cool

My first flock was New Hampshire Reds and Rhode Island Reds, loved em and they freeranged very very well.  I later added Plymouth Rocks and some mutt hens which was (and is) fine with me. 

I totally agree that having a rooster is a good thing, they watch carefully over their harem, give alarms if a predator is near and keep order in the flock… but if you have small children, are just starting out, have neighbors who will object to them crowing, or if you are a timid person, consider that carefully.  I like roosters, I respect them, and the few times I've gotten an overly aggressive one, I am not afraid to introduce them to my crock pot.  If you can't face the possible need for that, and don't have a way to handle things, think twice. ( more opinion and I'm sorry if that offends anyone, but I've been around livestock long enough to know that the meat counter in the grocery store isn't the place those packages of meat ultimately come from.  I'm very fond of my chickens, but facts are facts.)

Located in N.E. Ohio

February 17, 2010
6:22 am
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CATRAY44
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Absolutely!

February 17, 2010
7:14 am
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ssuther27
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Chickens tend to stay fairly close to their coop.  We are 386 feet off the road and have never had a chicken wander that far.  Unless one strayed a little too far they will always come back to the coop at night.  The thing you need to know iif you let them range free is they will scratch in your garden or anywhere you have a bed of mulch laid.  They make a bit of a mess and you need to protect the garden.  We have had a couple of chickens killed by hawks over the years and for the reasons listed above we keep them in a run covered by wire.  We're thinking about trying a chicken tractor this year.  We had a raccoon find its way into the coop last year and killed one of our chickens.  He managed to find a weak spot in the chicken wire surrounding the run.  We reinforced the wire and this spring plan on remodeling the chicken area.  When we first got chickens we weren't sure we would like having them – being originally from the city- but soon found they are fun to keep and contrary to popular belief, they do have personality.  We have been out in the country for about 17 years and have had chickens for about 7 years.  We are here to stay.

February 17, 2010
7:35 am
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Suzanne McMinn
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Chickens DO have a lot of personality! I love having them.  I actually can't imagine my life without chickens now!

Clover made me do it.

February 17, 2010
9:40 am
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lavenderblue
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Thanks for the link to the Henderson's chart. It is so much fun to look at, but my heart is broken. One of my cherished dreams was a henyard full of chubby little Barnevelders but I see they are not cold weather birds, does anyone know anything about them from practical point of veiw?

Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long.  Ogden Nash

February 17, 2010
10:41 am
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BuckeyeGirl
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Oh Blue, that just means you need to take extra consideration of things in really cold weather.  It may even be that they just don't lay well in cold weather, if you're willing to deal with that certainly you can get any breed you like!  I don't know that breed well so more research is in order, but it's probably not as dire as that!  They were developed in the Netherlands after all, and it's hardly the tropics there!

If you have a good coop with good ventilation, yes, I said ventilation!  A coop that is poorly ventilated causes dampness and condensation which will cause the chickens to feel the cold much more.  It also creates a situation that increases things like mold, infection and general ill health. 

I don't remember exactly where you are located, but almost any breed can manage if we take a few things into consideration. 

Chickens rarely if ever need any heat, they need good ventilation, no drafts, protection from predators, good food and a constant source of clean water.  Actually, by supplying heat, we do a disservice because if the electric goes out, or the weather changes suddenly, they aren't acclimated to it.  Even the Mediterranean breeds are wearing little down jackets, it's mostly their big floppy combs that are in danger.

Located in N.E. Ohio

February 17, 2010
11:50 am
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katangro
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ButterflyG'day to all, thanks for all the advise and comments. I  think we have decided on Orpingtons hope I spelled that right. I mean when someone is offered “free” chickens you don't say “no thanks.”  I live by a preacher, whose Sunday school teacher offered to give me the chickens.  Guess she has more than she wants. 

She is in lust of my chicken coop. Says that she has to look at it each time she is driving by on the highway. I told her my husband made it from looking at a picture of one that costs mucho dollars. He is one of these guys who says” I can make that” and he does it. Wish I could send a picture with this post but haven't figured out how just yet.

February 17, 2010
12:09 pm
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rooster run
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katangro said:

ButterflyG'day to all, thanks for all the advise and comments. I  think we have decided on Orpingtons hope I spelled that right. I mean when someone is offered “free” chickens you don't say “no thanks.”  I live by a preacher, whose Sunday school teacher offered to give me the chickens.  Guess she has more than she wants. 

She is in lust of my chicken coop. Says that she has to look at it each time she is driving by on the highway. I told her my husband made it from looking at a picture of one that costs mucho dollars. He is one of these guys who says” I can make that” and he does it. Wish I could send a picture with this post but haven't figured out how just yet.


Hi there,

We have Buff Orpingtons.  They are very hardy here in WV. We let them free range all day and lock them up at night.  They are very quiet ladies with a great disposition.  Great layers too.  We do not have an enclosed run, just very secure at night with a screen door and a heavy wooden door.  My hubby even put shutters on the window.  He was hoping I would tire of the girls and he could use the coop for an equipment shed.  That was about 8 years ago.  I will never tire of the ladies.  I think you made a great breed choice.  Have fun.

February 17, 2010
1:23 pm
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lavenderblue
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BuckeyeGirl: Thanks for the extra info and the encouragement. I live in Western New York near Buffalo, Land of the Big Snow, though Suzanne seems to have taken most of it from us this year. Though I am a long way off from actually aquiring chickens, I have wanted some since I was in my teens, if not before that. I live in town, however. And the neighbors are unfriendly, to say the least, I don't think they'd agree to chickens. Can't believe they haven't complained about my rabbits.

But I went back and reread about my Barney's. The chart said they were good in damp weather. Buffalo is also known as the Land of the Bad Sinuses. Everywhere you turn there is a big lake, therefore big dampness. And I also wondered, like you, how they could not be good in cold weather, coming from the Netherlands, Hans Brinker and all. At any rate, I am much encouraged. Thank you.

Katangro: Also read about your Orpington's. They sound like a good all around breed. No, never look a gift chicken in the mouth, so to speak. And I'm sure we'd all envy you that chicken coop. (Although I'm not sure “in lust of” is the phrase I'd choose when speaking of a Sunday School teacherSurprised) Laugh  Do you have a teenager about? They are the handiest things to have when it comes to doing any thing on a website. One of those could load a picture of that coop up here for us in under five minutes, I'm sure.

P.S. How did you all get the area where you live on that avatar thing? I'm sure it had something to do with the bio thing that popped up when I wasn't sure I was supposed to be filling out yet. Can I get a re-do? I think I understand it a little better now. And if not, my teenagers are home with me today.

Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long.  Ogden Nash

February 17, 2010
1:52 pm
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BuckeyeGirl
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Blue, you can update your personal information anytime you want in your “Profile”.  There's a profile button up in the upper right hand corner of the page.  You'll see the 'location' blank as soon as you get into the right spot. 

It's nice to have some idea about where people are, but there's no need to go into real specifics either!  (hence my N.E. Ohio info)  sometimes I put my county, or region, or just state, depending on the blog or forum I'm participating in. 

I have no idea how close your neighbors are, but 6 or so hens make very little noise or mess, and really provide plenty of eggs for home use.  Does your city have laws, specific laws against chickens?  Many municipalities do not forbid them, but keeping neighbors happy is often as easy as a dozen eggs a week or so! 

New York City actually allows chickens!  It hasn't changed there since the days when even city dwellers kept a few hens in small courtyards and back lots to provide eggs for their families.  They do forbid roosters, and slaughtering birds in the city, but even then your neighbors have to complain or you have to be cought first!

Located in N.E. Ohio

February 17, 2010
2:37 pm
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lavenderblue
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Buckeye Girl: so that's what those little buttons are for, duh! Okay, changed what I wanted to.  And the neighbors, on the one side the crabby ones are right across the driveway, the SHARED driveway, on the other I could, if I tried, reach out from my bedroom window and shake hands with whoever is living in the upstairs apartment. Nope, no chickens.

I did think about raising some in the little hidden space under my kitchen window, particularly when both of the neighboring houses stood empty. But things have changed since then and besides when I asked the city fathers about putting a square foot garden in my front lawn for lettuce, they couldn't comprehend it, when I mentioned how some towns were allowing chickens, their eyes glazed over and they began speaking in tongues. Nope. No chickens.No

Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long.  Ogden Nash

February 20, 2010
1:24 pm
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chickensohmyagain
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Hi, we have 4 Buff Orpington hens and a rooster.  The roo is actually very gentle.  They are in a run with 2 bantam roosters and about 8 bantam hens, and the banty roos chase the huge Buff Boy around. You will love the eggs, big and brown.  The girls all celebrate when any one of them lays an egg.  Chickens can certainly make some weird unearthly noises.

This is our first year with chickens and it has gone well. The chicken coops are side by side, 3, attached to each other, each with an 8 by 24 (I think) run in front, and netted over the top because of the hawks.  They have good high roosts with walk-up ramps since they are large heavy birds.

The fronts were completely open, until it snowed all the way to the back of the houses and made quite a mess!!  So, now, the fronts are tarped, and the tarps will come down in the spring.  Each section has a yellow 60 watt bulb, mostly for heat. They probably don't need it, but you never know.  A large flock of chickens would keep each other warm, but 10 to 15 in each section (seems to me) would not generate enough body heat to be comfortable.  Each section has two nest boxes, and the girls wait their turn to lay eggs, and everybody wants the box on the left. 

Good luck with yours. 

February 21, 2010
8:34 am
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CATRAY44
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I love my Orpingtons!  The little bantams I have, Cochins and Seramas, snuggle right up to those big, fluffy girls!  I do not heat, just put straw bales around the outside of the coop and run and a few things for wind breaks in the N and W sides of the run.  My tiny “not hardy” Seramas are thriving.  Why not add in your dream breed as well as Orps?Hole

February 22, 2010
12:00 am
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Birdi
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I am in Maine and Orpingtons have doen very well in the cold climate.  Don't be afraid of the different breeds though…chickens are tougher than you think.  I have 6 cochin bantys that do great even though they are so little.  I don't heat my coop but i have a light bulb covered under a waterer for the nights its below 10 degrees.  Until then, even the water doesnt freeze.  There are 48 birds in there right now though and they probably generate some heat.  Even when it was only 12 Buffs, we had no problem with the cold.  Yes, I have a chicken addiction.  Its time to pack up some of the boys to go to freezer camp soon. Just waiting for it to get a little warmer.  Have fun with your chickens…life will never be the same.  I'll never miss TV as long as I have them…there is always laughter, drama, and sorrow abundance.

"simple pleasures make my heart smile"

February 22, 2010
9:06 am
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Joyce
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We have buffs as well,  and have found them quiet and good layers.  We have hawks sometimes but the two roosters and the guineas keep a sharp eye out and yell an alarm (sometimes we don't see what they are alarmed about).  Flighty birds like White  Leghorns can be a pain if you free range,  getting them out of the  trees at night and into the chicken house is one chore most of us can do without at the end of a busy day.  Thought I would mention that we have a light bulb in the chicken house that we leave on for a few hours in the evenings at this time of year.  It  is not intended for heat, chickens need 13 hours of light for their pitituary gland to keep them producing eggs so when the days are short a lighted chicken house helps. They will produce some eggs without the light but do better with,  chickens are fun and not hard to care for.  I also have a chicken query has anyone found a breed that are superior mums?  we have had trouble over the years with chickens that will sit just long enough to spoil a clutch of eggs and then abandon them .  I know banty's do well but I am reluctant to use them. 

February 22, 2010
10:44 am
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BuckeyeGirl
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Getting some hens that will go broody is important to me too.  Right now, I have one that seems like she might be good, she's an Ameracuana, but my best mums have been New Hampshire Reds.  They don't have a great reputation for it, only moderate expectations but I seem to have had a good batch most of the time.

One breed that people swear by for brooding eggs is the Silkie… thing is, I just can't bring myself to get any of those – – -things.  They CAN'T be real chickens!  (stop cussing at me you silkie lovers, I don't like little teacup dogs either (Dookie may be fluffy, but Shitzus are actually pretty tough dogs, and they don't fit in a teacup either!)) 

I want a good sturdy barnyard, dual purpose sized chicken that doesn't look like Jean Harlow's feather boa.  That Henderson's chart I posted in the first post of this thread mentions how much a given breed tends to go broody, so there's a place to start… but I think its an individual sort of thing too.  Chickens never seem to read those charts!  They just go their own way.

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