Monday, August 20, 2012

Keeping Chickens...Again

We once had chickens.  Then we moved to Oregon, boxed them up, and sold them on Craigslist (to mostly reputable buyers, I think?).


Once we settled in here in Oregon, we started thinking about chickens again.  There's just nothing as good as fresh eggs from your own hens!  We did wait a while, since I was vastly pregnant most of last fall/winter/spring, and I didn't want baby chicks to be forgotten when baby came.

But we bought 6 new chicks at the end of April, and they are close to laying eggs!

We thought for a long time about having a chicken tractor, since we have so much gorgeous grass for chickens to live on.  That is still the long-term plan, but for now, we are making do with what we have: an old woodshed in the backyard.

My husband got pretty excited about this building project and closed in half of the woodshed for the chickens.  He wanted it to be easy to access and clean, so he built a full-size door on the left, and a nesting box with hinged roof/lid on the right.  The next phase of the plan is a door in the left-hand wall that will go out to a large fenced area for the chickens to roam.  We like the idea of totally free-range chickens, but there are so many predators in our very rural area, that it doesn't seem like a good idea here.


The chickens have a 2-story house, with this little ramp leading up to the top (they usually just fly up, but it's cute, isn't it?)  Side note: does anyone have good ideas for keeping chickens from kicking litter into their water?  


These are the new girls: 2 black sex link, 2 yellow sex link, and two Americauna.

The next step, once the outdoor area is built, is figuring out whether/how to clip their wings so we don't have to build a roof over the whole enclosure (the only threat from above here is turkey vultures, which apparently only eat dead things...hopefully we won't have that problem!)

Our chicken-keeping is very much a work in progress.  Ideally, I'd love the chickens to be out on grass in the sunshine all the time (not that there's much alive on the ground during the summer here), and be able to eat all the grass, bugs, and worms they want.  But I think our chickens are still happier and healthier than the average factory-farmed hen.  We are moving in the right direction.

What do you think is the most important factor in raising chickens for healthy eggs?  If you have chickens, what kind of housing do you have for them, and what do they eat?

Posted at Barn HopMonday Mania, and Simple Lives Thursday Pin It

9 comments:

  1. I've never clipped there wings, but mine free range all day when I'm home then they go in at night. The only problem I've had during the day was a fox came in the yard about 3 years ago, he got one hen before I got outside. At night there locked up tight because of coons.

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    1. So they've never tried to escape? I hope we don't have to clip their wings (doesn't sound like much fun!), so we'll see. We don't have a fenced yard, though (like you could start walking and just go for hundreds of miles with nothing to stop you), and there are bears, mountain lions, bobcats, lynx, mink, racoons, and the neighbors' dogs who sometimes escape... scary!

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  2. Hang your water by a chain so that it is at or just below the height of the back of your smallest chicken. Or place it on two cinder blocks. It isn't perfect but cuts the clutter way down.

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    1. Do the chickens try to sit on it when you hang it from a chain? I was worried they would try to roost on it, and they'd knock it around and spill all the water out. Maybe I will hunt down some cinder blocks, though! Thank you so much for the ideas!

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  3. I had my waterer up on a chain at first (one like you have) but it kept tilting and spilling water and was difficult to take down to clean (I clean our every week). Then the seal stopped working as well and I bought a cheap $15 dog auto waterer. I have it up under the nest boxes on paver stones. It sits about crop height NO Shavings!!! I thought they might try to stand on the edge but they dont. It is also under the nestboxes so there is only about 3 inches of clearance from the top of the waterer (and feeder) to the bottom of the nest boxes. (I also put a funnel on the top of my old one to deter jumping up on the handle.) We are also in the country (cascade foothills) (even saw a bear this evening running across the meadow). Check out our chickens on my blog www.mossytrees.blogspot.com. (i need to update the coop posts as I have made some changes since - busy summer).

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    1. Thank you so much for the ideas! The paver stones sound like they may be the solution. Or maybe if I hang it right below their "upstairs" area, they won't have room to sit on top and just won't try. That would sure beat the litter in the water! Sometimes I wonder if they ever get clean water, because I come back half an hour after cleaning it out, and there is already litter inside!

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  4. Does your dog leave them alone? Or do they live in the house entirely right now? I like the idea of chickens someday, but I think Bruno would probably try to eat them!

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    1. Right now, they live entirely in the chicken house. Samson is really good with the chickens, though. We introduce them when they are chicks, and he is ok around them as long as they are supervised. I wouldn't leave them together alone though. Bruno definitely seems like more of a chicken-eating breed. :) We used to dog-sit Jessica Urfer's dog (a black lab), and she would've eaten all the chickens in 5 minutes if she'd had the chance!

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  5. I have had chickens in the past (maybe 3yrs ago) and we did have a fenced yard for them. But after they were grown and used to roosting in there house, we let them out early in the morning and they came "home" every evening. All we had to do was close and secure the door to their coop. It was left open all day while they were out and they would come and go as they pleased to eat, drink, or lay eggs. A rooster comes in handy protecting the hens from dogs if the dog is not too big.

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I'd prefer a great discussion to this one-sided pontification any day. Help a girl out. Please leave a comment.

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