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 Sustainable living - Chicken tips please

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PostSubject: Sustainable living - Chicken tips please   Sun Apr 20, 2008 12:48 pm

Although I live in a rural area I have to go back two generations to find country-born people. My grandmother tried keeping chickens during war-time rationing in Wales. They got sick, so she put them in a bag and took them to the vet in the bus. Chickens were D.O.A. due to insufficient oxygen in the bag.

I have been given to understand that our household is about to include chickens. As none of us has any experience with hens, and I know there are chicken experts on this site, have you any tips
How many chickens?
What kind of hen house?
Fox - prevention measures ?
etc etc.

Thanks.
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PostSubject: Re: Sustainable living - Chicken tips please   Sun Apr 20, 2008 5:05 pm

I would love to have a few chickens - my grandparents reared chicks by the fireside and all of the grandchildren plucked turkeys in our younger days.

I have an absolute aversion to winged things as an adult but like to think I could get over it if I also tried to rear chicks by the fireside - get to love them as babies... I don't see it happening anytime soon, though I'm consoled by the notion that it's a possibility.

However, I can tell you that chickens are great munchers of a lot of what you can't put in your bio-bin. You should have somewhere to lock them in at night when foxy loxy is likely to be most active and you probably need a proper run for them (with a high fence) unless you want to regularly drive over them as you reverse out the gate in a hurry.

There are also avian flu rules that you should look into before you commit. Myrtle Allen at Ballymaloe and the Slow Food Movement should have lots of advice for you. Myrtle may even still run half day courses on the subject.
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PostSubject: Re: Sustainable living - Chicken tips please   Sun Apr 20, 2008 6:39 pm

health link Avian flu advice

Thanks for that Kate: this is interesting reading for all chicken keepers.
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PostSubject: Re: Sustainable living - Chicken tips please   Mon Apr 21, 2008 2:15 pm

When you say 'chicken expert' are you referring to me? I'm afraid I might not be much use when it comes to hen-houses, we kept ours in in an old shed. Put some peat moss or turf mould under them, or maybe wood chippings. Combined with the hen-manure it will make good fertiliser when cleaning-out time comes. A perch is neccessary, just something off the ground for make them feel secure.


Make sure the egg-nests are off the ground too. Now, a couple of boxes on a bench will do, but here's a more professional edifice:

Note in particular the rim to prevent straw and eggs from ending up on the ground. Both these images are from http://www.poultryhelp.com/home.html.

Ventilation is neccessary, you WILL have broken eggs and that smell just builds up over time. pale

Fox prevention measures: a dacent hen-house should keep them out. Lock them in at night. By day they should be grand, though it helps if there's a dog (even the sound or the smell of a dog) around. Make sure the dog's not a hen-killer. There's only one way to find out though.

A chicken-run isn't essential, we don't have one at the moment and they stay out of trouble in the field. They might take a shine to your flower beds though. If you feel the need for a run it can be on any old bit of waste-ground, though they like grass. But they also like somewhere to scratch around in. A little heap of sand would be a good addition; it helps with the eggs I think.

Food: Hens eat plenty of waste-food, especially bread and potatoe skins. They don't eat carrots. Chicken-feed is easy enough to get at hardware shops, and a bag of oats is a a good idea.

We have six hens, which means from thirty-five to forty eggs a week. We have to give away a few. They won't always give that much, it dies down in winter. Hens aren't the most long-lived creatures, they'll give eggs for a couple of years.
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PostSubject: Re: Sustainable living - Chicken tips please   Tue Apr 22, 2008 8:08 pm

Thanks very much 905, you are the chicken king king
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PostSubject: Re: Sustainable living - Chicken tips please   Wed Apr 23, 2008 2:46 pm

I just came across a brochure for training courses sun by NOTS (National Organic Training Skillnet), one of which is organic egg production. €50 for a one day course (lunch included). Apparently the course covers 'point-of-lay to end-of-lay', and looks at housing, feed, what the best breeds to use are, what to do with the hens when they stop laying and disease control.

Not sure if it's exactly what you're looking for, but it might be worth a look at their website.

Edit: I just looked at their website, and there's nothing there. There is a phone number, though. 0719640688
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PostSubject: Re: Sustainable living - Chicken tips please   Wed Apr 23, 2008 3:26 pm

I got to "point of lay to end of lay" and got distracted Embarassed

Will look at the very useful post when recovered.
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PostSubject: Re: Sustainable living - Chicken tips please   Mon Sep 29, 2008 3:41 pm

Well the chicken house has arrived. Thankfully, there is no mortgage on it, although a few bob owed to the credit union.

It is a fine thing, designed to include all the features suggested by 905.

Any advice on what kind of chickens to buy?
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PostSubject: Re: Sustainable living - Chicken tips please   Mon Sep 29, 2008 3:57 pm

I think I head something on the radio once about buying old battery hens. Very cheap. Apparently with TLC they recover very quickly. They are called recharged batteries. About 5 eggs a week per hen and chicken soup every so often.
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PostSubject: Re: Sustainable living - Chicken tips please   Mon Sep 29, 2008 3:58 pm

I love the sounds hens make. I could listen to them all day.

Cactus, you could put a webcam in the chicken house so we can all watch them. Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Sustainable living - Chicken tips please   Mon Sep 29, 2008 4:21 pm

EvotingMachine0197 wrote:
I love the sounds hens make. I could listen to them all day.

Cactus, you could put a webcam in the chicken house so we can all watch them. Smile

Inspired EVM. Although if fox arrives when I'm down the pub, could be stressful viewing for you all. What a Face
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PostSubject: Re: Sustainable living - Chicken tips please   Mon Sep 29, 2008 6:22 pm

Kept 4 hens and a rooster until last year. I was getting 3-4 eggs per day all year round. I feed them twice a day - early morning and early evening on feed bought from the local farmers co-op. If the birds have a good roaming area, don't overfeed them - otherwise adjust for roaming area. Water is vitally important. I made sure they had access to water 24 hours a day and never let their water get older than 2 days in duration. During summer months I changed the water every day. It's important to keep their coop (coup?)very clean. I used wood shavings on the floor (again available at the local farmers co-op) with seperate roosts bedded with clean straw. A clean environment helps stave off ticks and insects plus they seem to lay better. The coop, of course, has to be safe from mr foxy. Watch out for flooring as mr. foxy will happily dig under the clay to get at his meal. Chickens are usually very safe during the day and can roam about for their grub which gives the eggs their distinctive flavour.

A good roster, imo, is vitally important to egg production but you want a gentleman. If a seller unloads a bad tempered brute on you, take it back.

Oh, and if you have a vegitable patch, you'll need to fence it off as the chickens love nothing better than to scratch through it for worms and will do untold damage in 15-30 minutes of rooting about. gl
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PostSubject: Re: Sustainable living - Chicken tips please   Mon Sep 29, 2008 6:29 pm

Thanks rocky - all great advice. My chickens will all be left wingers and will of course live in a co-op. Wink *ouch*.

Your advice about not living with bad tempered old roosters I have also taken to heart.
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PostSubject: Re: Sustainable living - Chicken tips please   Mon Sep 29, 2008 7:33 pm

I don't get the rooster bit. Really I don't. Sad
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PostSubject: Re: Sustainable living - Chicken tips please   Tue Sep 30, 2008 5:13 pm

EvotingMachine0197 wrote:
I don't get the rooster bit. Really I don't. Sad
What don't you get? (Not meant to sound catty, sorry)

I've been trying to talk himself into getting chickens for the new casa, so have been doing a lot of reading on the subject. What type of hen house did you get? And where? I've been having trouble finding Irish suppliers.
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PostSubject: Re: Sustainable living - Chicken tips please   Tue Sep 30, 2008 5:58 pm

TheBear wrote:
EvotingMachine0197 wrote:
I don't get the rooster bit. Really I don't. Sad
What don't you get? (Not meant to sound catty, sorry)

I've been trying to talk himself into getting chickens for the new casa, so have been doing a lot of reading on the subject. What type of hen house did you get? And where? I've been having trouble finding Irish suppliers.

What's the rooster for ?
Hen's lay eggs by default don't they ?
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PostSubject: Re: Sustainable living - Chicken tips please   Tue Sep 30, 2008 6:47 pm

EvotingMachine0197 wrote:
TheBear wrote:
EvotingMachine0197 wrote:
I don't get the rooster bit. Really I don't. Sad
What don't you get? (Not meant to sound catty, sorry)

I've been trying to talk himself into getting chickens for the new casa, so have been doing a lot of reading on the subject. What type of hen house did you get? And where? I've been having trouble finding Irish suppliers.

What's the rooster for ?
Hen's lay eggs by default don't they ?

I don't know where to start on this. Wink
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PostSubject: Re: Sustainable living - Chicken tips please   Tue Sep 30, 2008 6:48 pm

TheBear wrote:
EvotingMachine0197 wrote:
I don't get the rooster bit. Really I don't. Sad
What don't you get? (Not meant to sound catty, sorry)

I've been trying to talk himself into getting chickens for the new casa, so have been doing a lot of reading on the subject. What type of hen house did you get? And where? I've been having trouble finding Irish suppliers.
'
Can't get it at the moment - I'll pm it to you TheBear.
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PostSubject: Re: Sustainable living - Chicken tips please   Tue Sep 30, 2008 7:04 pm

cactus flower wrote:
EvotingMachine0197 wrote:
TheBear wrote:
EvotingMachine0197 wrote:
I don't get the rooster bit. Really I don't. Sad
What don't you get? (Not meant to sound catty, sorry)

I've been trying to talk himself into getting chickens for the new casa, so have been doing a lot of reading on the subject. What type of hen house did you get? And where? I've been having trouble finding Irish suppliers.

What's the rooster for ?
Hen's lay eggs by default don't they ?

I don't know where to start on this. Wink

You only need a rooster if you want chickens. Right ?
So if you only want eggs - rooster need not apply.
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PostSubject: Re: Sustainable living - Chicken tips please   Tue Sep 30, 2008 7:08 pm

EvotingMachine0197 wrote:
TheBear wrote:
EvotingMachine0197 wrote:
I don't get the rooster bit. Really I don't. Sad
What don't you get? (Not meant to sound catty, sorry)

I've been trying to talk himself into getting chickens for the new casa, so have been doing a lot of reading on the subject. What type of hen house did you get? And where? I've been having trouble finding Irish suppliers.

What's the rooster for ?
Hen's lay eggs by default don't they ?
Yeah, they do. There are two schools of thought on this: one believes that the presence of a rooster will boost egg production in the females, the other doesn't. Most sources I've read on this say that the presence of a rooster has little, if any, impact, and that the main difference is that your neighbours will be less pleased with you if you get a rooster (re. noise). Also, if you want to hatch any of the eggs to expand your flock, you'll need a rooster (obviously enough).

In relation to what type of hens you should get, this website has lots of information, including a breed selector. You tell it what factors are important (laying rate, appearance, hardiness, whether you're going to eat the hens afterwards), and it'll recommend breeds based on that. The website is American, so not all of the breeds will be readily available here, but many of them are. The site also has an e-book on care of chickens, including a section on what factors you should think about when deciding whether to keep them or not. You're past this stage, cactus flower, but it may still make interesting reading.
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PostSubject: Re: Sustainable living - Chicken tips please   Thu Oct 02, 2008 2:17 pm

On the rooster controversy. Yee don't need a rooster per say but I'm willing to bet money that the ladies lay better over the long term with yon fella about.

If you're going to go into the project in an organic manner a good stocksperson will always advise to maintain or increase your flock size internally. Husbandship of the flock is key to a healthy family. Remembering that chickens have a fairly short life span, you may want to replace them from your own healthy and well cared for birds. I had a agreement with a free-range farmer up to the road to buy my excess fledglings.

This facility may not be available to you. The alternative is to have a good source for bird replacement.

Neighbors, as pointed out, mighn't like the boyo's singing. I loved it personally as did my neighbors (3) who thought it brought a bit more vibrancy back to our all too quiet rural communities. A gentlemen helps in this regard also. He's not as prone to telling the world that he's there and come out and fight if you think you can. Really, different rooster's have different personalities and habits; as do the hens.

Enjoy your birds and all them lovely free range eggs. I'm quite envious that I can't keep birds anymore.

[Remember one of my granny's favourite stories. My mother worked in a local factory and always wanted a chicken supper of a Friday which she never got. [Eggs vs meat] Lo and behold one Friday she came in and the granny had killed a chicken for supper which my mother ate. My mother asked why my granny had decided to kill a chicken this particular Friday. Granny's reply: "I didn't kill, it died".

What a waste of meal on the account of taking the hand out of my mother.
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PostSubject: Re: Sustainable living - Chicken tips please   Thu Oct 02, 2008 3:59 pm

rockyracoon wrote:
Neighbors, as pointed out, mighn't like the boyo's singing. I loved it personally as did my neighbors (3) who thought it brought a bit more vibrancy back to our all too quiet rural communities. A gentlemen helps in this regard also. He's not as prone to telling the world that he's there and come out and fight if you think you can. Really, different rooster's have different personalities and habits; as do the hens.
Ah! herein lies the difference in our circumstances. I would be keeping them in a suburban back garden, rather than a rural community. More cranky neighbours, closer proximity (probably), and a general unfamiliarity with chucks.
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PostSubject: Re: Sustainable living - Chicken tips please   Thu Oct 02, 2008 4:29 pm

TheBear wrote:
rockyracoon wrote:
Neighbors, as pointed out, mighn't like the boyo's singing. I loved it personally as did my neighbors (3) who thought it brought a bit more vibrancy back to our all too quiet rural communities. A gentlemen helps in this regard also. He's not as prone to telling the world that he's there and come out and fight if you think you can. Really, different rooster's have different personalities and habits; as do the hens.
Ah! herein lies the difference in our circumstances. I would be keeping them in a suburban back garden, rather than a rural community. More cranky neighbours, closer proximity (probably), and a general unfamiliarity with chucks.

Fair enough bear. As you pointed out, the fella isn't essential. (Beginning to sound like a familiar refrain for the male sex Smile .) Still you can keep the hins (cork-spake) and gather the booty. Lucky you.

Word of warning. Keep them off cemented and paved areas unless you have a power washer. They ain't exactly house trained, if you get my meaning.
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PostSubject: Re: Sustainable living - Chicken tips please   Thu Oct 02, 2008 4:55 pm

TheBear wrote:
rockyracoon wrote:
Neighbors, as pointed out, mighn't like the boyo's singing. I loved it personally as did my neighbors (3) who thought it brought a bit more vibrancy back to our all too quiet rural communities. A gentlemen helps in this regard also. He's not as prone to telling the world that he's there and come out and fight if you think you can. Really, different rooster's have different personalities and habits; as do the hens.
Ah! herein lies the difference in our circumstances. I would be keeping them in a suburban back garden, rather than a rural community. More cranky neighbours, closer proximity (probably), and a general unfamiliarity with chucks.

I live in a village: nearest neighbour is about 25 metres as the crow flies. Neighbour is cranky. What d'ye think?
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PostSubject: Re: Sustainable living - Chicken tips please   Thu Oct 02, 2008 4:58 pm

My neighbour has a dog who barks so I don't think they could complain if I brought in some farm animals. Are you allowed to keep farm animals in an urban environment? Do you need a licence or a certain zoning of land or anything like that?
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