Kevin Hi, Last august I was a state away at an auction and saw where chicks were sold, 20 for $10. Ok that works and my wife had been asking for chickens so with a quick call to her we got 20 chicks. Rhoad island reds. Mind you we had nothing set up at home for them. It was hot there so in they're box they'd give out a quiet peep here and there. Cute! That didn't last as on the ride home, two hours, the air conditioning breathed life back into them and they gave an ear ringing choris of peeping that the radio couldn't drown out. Well its funny now...
Once home I set up a kennel in the barn where they stayed during the day. At night they were brought in and kept in a warm plastic tub. Unfortunately two were lost due to not enough heat in the first two nights. Down to 18. Iseta bout to building a proper henhouse (read over-building
the henhouse). It took me 2 months in my spare time( I don't know how the Amish build them so fast) and $1200. Yep,went overboard but it came out nice, worthy of bragging rights. Its 10'x6' with a 10' x8' covered kennel attached to the side. Chicken wire goes 3' up the side, a foot into the ground and 2' out to keep racoons and fox from digging in. Add to that are farm fencing rails with wire and gates that give me the option of leaving them in the kennel, just around the house, access to the garden in the winter months, or the run of the back yard area thats fenced in (3/4 acre).
That way they get to mess on my deck and dig in my wifes potted flowers.
Anoying but they are fun.
Back to the chickens themselves. We ended up with 8 hens and 10 roosters... filled with spit and vinegar. When they were a few months old, and they grew big fast, the roosters would chase me and peck, hard! Leaving bruises. Thats stopped now, we have an understanding, don't peck and you won't become dinner.
We did try cooking two of the roosters which though many kind folks on this forum helped with recipes, they were tough from running around. An old boot would have tasted better and been more tender. Down to 8 roosters. We figured 2 would would be a good number to keep as in mass the hens were suffering badly. One got beat up so bad that it suffered a 2" gash in its side. I took it aside and cared for its wound which has healed very well. 6 roosters have got to go.
One more later disappeared presumed AWOL. Samrt bird considering. Another was relocated by means of a drive by chickening (read my earlier post). I'm down to 4 extra now which are separated during the day which leaves the rest of the flock to peacefully forage in the backyard. They go in at night to protect them from racoons, fox, coyotte, and neighbors dogs. We have hawks but they havn't been a problem as I guess because these birds are heavy and knee high tall. We did forget the 4 extra birds in the garden area one night and a coyotte jumped the fence and nicked up one of the roosters before we drove him off. None the worse for wear though.
Yes, New Jersey has coyotes! Go figure, I thought that was a western thing myself.
Egg production turned out to be more than we need. We got our first 2 eggs on new years day and its up to 7-8 eggs a day, every day now. No one visits our home and goes home without eggs.
The brown eggs taste great too!
I work nights and tend to them when I get home in the morning. It takes about 10 minutes to feed, water, and clean the hen house. Five more minutes in the evening. The collected manure gets spread over the garden. Not alot at all. Very easy to keep up with. I feed them a mix of equil portions of scratch grain, cracked corn, and layer crumbs. A small amount of crushed oyster shell gets added to make the egg shells harder and give the hens calcium. As said by another the hens scratch up the backyard some and mow the grass down to the nub but the warm weather brought the grass back nicely. I'm sure they're droppings helped a little too. With summer comming on soon I'm curious if the insect population will be in check because the birds seem to peck up anything that moves.
Thats a good thing for sure!
We were new too chickens last year and the learning curve has been fun. Aside from the problems caused by having too many roosters, its been something that I'd do again in a heartbeat. As I had read,I'm going to get in touch with the local 4H club to see if they want the remaining surplus birds. That was a good idea thanks.
Enjoy your new flock, Mike.
Ps- My blind Jack Russell loves to spar with the roosters which show her great patience and get along great with her and our cat!