Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Questions & Answers about Chickens from Sharon

Sharon and I have been emailing each other the past few days and I asked her permission to share our conversation - she said yes :)

Hi, Anita in Canada! Sharon in Nevada here, again. I saw that beautiful picture on your blog and now I have a ton of questions... How did you get started with your laying hens? Did you start with chicks or full-grown hens? And then I've heard that we need at least one rooster if we want eggs... is that true? We used to have chickens when I was a child, but I have forgotten the answers to all of these questions, so I hope you don't mind me pestering you about them.

I love your enthusiasm Sharon! Oh what an adventure you have awaiting you with chickens! So much fun!

We got “18 weekers” the first time we got chickens – that means they are almost ready to lay. They cost more of course but if you calculate the feed required and babysitting of chicks you might find as we did that it was worth it to have some success right off the bat. They were laying eggs regularly after the first week or two. We got ours at the local feed store/coop and honestly unless you can order easily from a hatchery it’s the best way to go. Later on we did buy from people on kijiji/craigs list but we haven’t always bought healthy birds that way and you can risk your whole flock if they bring disease with them. Better safe than sorry until you get the hang of it.

You do NOT need a rooster to make eggs – only to make baby chicks. I didn’t know that either J If you think about the birds and the bees it makes sense. The kids and I watched Magic School bus in hopes of finding out the answer and we DIDN’T – hee hee - so someone had to explain it to me.  Roosters are handy for protection as well but they are unnecessary FOR EGG PRODUCTION and the crow all day long some days not just in the morning. I rather like the sound but the kids have been known to groan and roll over and go back to sleep with visions of shooting the rooster right out the bedroom window J
I think she means this one!
The photo you have on your blog page of the big bowl full of eggs looks like a little piece of heaven to me!

Even though we live on an acre here in Nevada, we are not allowed to have chickens because we are inside the "city" limits. The good news is, we are moving to the "country" soon, where we CAN have chickens, and are kind of excited about setting up a coop. Any hints you can give me? Do you turn them out to scratch? Or is your hen yard big enough that they don't care? If you do turn them out, how do you convince them to come back into the coop? Do they come when called? Or is there a food motivator? (My horse has a food motivator!) Where we'll be going there are coyotes and raccoons, both of which love chickens, but in the wrong sort of way, so I really do want them locked inside their coop at night where it will be safe and they can at least make it to Day Two.
Any hints you can give me would be greatly appreciated. We go through a lot of eggs at our house, and recently the grocery store topped $2 a DOZEN for large eggs. UNREAL! I know there are reciprocal costs involved in growing your own, but still, I am looking forward to it.
Thank you! I hope all is going well in the frozen north. We are finally getting a little bit of snow here (but it is LATE).
~ Sharon in Nevada

Our chickens are locked up tight in their coop for the night and let out later in the morning.  We wait till 10am or later in the winter so they lay their eggs in the nesting boxes or else they will lay them all over the farm!  We let ours free range during the day and they look after themselves really well.  They get into the kitty food sometimes – actually they race to the back door to see if there is any left and then fight over it J  Night time is easy – once they know where home is they will go back there every night at dusk.  When you first get them lock them in for a few days so they get the idea that THIS-IS-HOME.  Trying to get them to come in earlier than dusk is a bit of a challenge and shaking a feed bucket works after they learn that the sound means food.  They will learn quickly so having a pail of kitchen scraps and leaving them in the same place – preferable near the coop –will train them quite well.  Problem of course if you free range is they will follow you everywhere – to the mailbox, in the garden, for a walk down the road – unless you can distract them first and then sneak away.

We have coyotes and racoons here too. We have a donkey and some sheep as well and we think just the smell of the donkey has kept the coyotes away from the barn.  We have lost a few to foxes though and several to racoons too.  The key is making their indoor coop predator proof.  You can find lots of info online about how to do that.  We have a big-old-bank-barn so we made an old cow pen into a coop.  It works great and most of the walls and the floor are made of concrete – once they are in there – they are safe.

I can’t honestly say you are going to save money raising chickens – it will depend on the feed situation.  I am still working on a LT solution of growing some of the feed myself but it looks like it will be many years before I get the hang of that! One step at a time!

Eggs for $2.00 is a good deal J  I sell mine for $4.75 a dozen and that just covers the costs.  Of course once you eat a farm fresh free range egg you will never want the grocery store version again!  YUM!

Hi, again!  Thank you so much for writing me back right away.  Yes, it's true:  For the first time in probably six or seven years, I find that I am VERY excited about the future and looking forward to things to come, and I have you to thank for helping me realize that.  :D big grinThat actually makes me feel better about the current "space" that I'm in.

The $2 a dozen price is for store-bought eggs, large size (not XL), and that are most definitely not free range, and I totally understand that part about once you have a "home grown" you won't want to go back.  The same can be said for tomatoes. :)
 happy  I know that there is an expense to feeding them (the chickens, not the tomatoes), but I am also looking forward to my own fresh eggs.

 (I can't wait for fresh tomatoes!!)

Good news about the rooster.  I was not looking forward to the cock-a-doodle-doo's at the crack of dawn and beyond.  I DO remember the annoying crowing that (you're right) seemed to go on at all hours and not just at sun-up.  But then, we had a screwy rooster, and as I recall, he ended up in a pot of dumplings.  Not sure if the excessive crowing had anything to do with that, though, or not, but the end result was the same. Yum!  I LOVE dumplings!

Here is a link to a website I used to study-study-study, back in the day.  I guess I need to study some more.  My son, who's been asking to raise chickens since he was 7 years old (he's just turned 15) wants to help build the coop and chicken run, and there are several fun designs in this website.  You can go from beyond simple enclosures, to chicken tractors (a concept that struck me as hilarious), to creating your own chicken princess castle, to an entire western frontier of buildings.  In addition to the plans, most of the coop designs have many, many pictures of step-by-step construction, so you can actually see progressive photographs of how they were built.  I just pulled up the website after eons of not looking, and see that they've expanded to include chicken breeds and many more interesting bits of information.  Feel free to share with whomever.  Oh, and yes, you can use my question in your blog.  :-))  I didn't realize I HAD so many questions until I started writing them down.

The backyard chickens website is definitely the place to check out for more information on raising small flocks of chickens.  There are some very creative people sharing their ideas for chickens tractors and coops that will make you laugh!

Thank you again, Anita, for taking time to write to me.  You are always so refreshing to read, and you make me feel uplifted when you write.  You sound like a very happy person.  I will keep you posted as we progress.  It's still one day at a time, but the target timeframe is early this summer.
Oh, wow!  and oh-em-gee!  all at the same time!!
Thanks more than you know,
~ Sharon  :-))
You are MORE-THAN-WELCOME!  Hope that helps!  Congratulations on the upcoming move – I know how the excitement can be.  I am still amazed I live here! 


Bless you as you make your own adventure in country living!

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  1. Anita, it's great to see how you were used to be an encouragement to Sharon!

    Note to Sharon: In my area supermarkets, a dozen ORGANIC, free-run eggs cost $5.99 the last time I looked! That price is what spurred me on to finally get my own laying hens last spring. Read all you can, then take the plunge. You won't regret it!

  2. That's my sister! ;). As for chasing the chickens in before they are ready to go on their own don't bother. We had many a giggle over chasing them around trees - in a dress no less! Love the farm...and my sister !! Xoxoxoxo


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