April 11, 2013
The chickens are just about a year old and now, the egg production is in full swing! Each day, I get between 4 – 5 eggs. 5 you ask? Oops! I forgot to mention that I’ve added two new hens (about the same age as the ones I have) to the flock. And let me tell you, adding new chickens to an existing flock isn’t fun at all. The “getting to know each other” phase took about two weeks. Basically, I kept them apart in the same area separated only by chicken wire. After about two weeks, I let them all in the same coop area. For the next few days, they would fight, pecking each other’s combs until dominance was established. It was noisy and at times appeared violent, but I had a feeling it was the way of nature so I let it be. Sure enough, as the days went on, the noisy and violence became less frequent until about day four when all of a sudden they were all friends. It’s weird, but the day they became “friends”, it appeared as if they had known each other all their lives. Strange. Anyway, I’m happy to report that all five get along well now.
Anyway, like I mentioned above, once these backyard chickens established dominance, everything instantly became OK. Now they do everything together. When one takes off in a direction, the rest are quick to follow. When I give them treats, they aren’t afraid to fight over it. Here’s a 45 second video I shot last week of the chickens doing what they do best – graze.
And the most amazing thing about the whole raising backyard chicken experience has been the amount of eggs they produce. 4 ~ 5 eggs doesn’t sound like much, but in a week, that’s 28 ~ 35 eggs or put another way, 120 ~ 150 eggs per month! If you’ve thought about raising chickens, I would definitely say “go for it.” It’s worth your time and effort and you get paid in eggs!
Aug 18, 2012
Hey folks, I’m happy to report that two of my chickens have begun to lay eggs! For the last three days, the two Rock Bars have laid a total 5 brown eggs. I know it was the Rock Bars that laid the eggs because the Americuana is supposed to lay eggs with a blue / green hue. Since all five eggs appear to be brown in color, I’ll assume for now that the Rock Bars are responsible for the eggs. I’m sure the Americuana will start producing soon.
For anyone just getting into raising backyard chickens, it took me just under 5 months before the chickens started producing eggs (all three chickens were born March 21, 2012). Anyway, here are a couple of pictures of the first 5 eggs.
Aug 8, 2012
Well folks, it’s been 4 months since these chickens hatched. There’s been some work along the way, but nothing too hard. Weekly maintenance of the food & water dispenser, cleaning out the cage, and locking them up daily is about all I do on a regular basis. Overall, it’s been a fun learning experience. As you can see in the video below, they’ve certainly gotten much bigger and still spend the entire day looking for food. The only downside to letting them run around the backyard is that they often kick the hay mulch out of the raised bed gardens and pluck the leaves off of certain plants I’d rather keep whole.
April 26, 2012
Backyard Chickens – Raising Chickens in the City
Up until the past year or so, I would have never envisioned myself raising chickens. I had nothing against raising chickens, it just never crossed my mind. And why would it? It’s become so easy to just buy what the marketers have called food, that the thought of growing/raising our own food is a faint memory for the vast majority of us. So why, then, did I decide to raise chickens? Well, here’s my story, the long version:
Food benefits: I love animals, my wife – not so much. It’s not that she doesn’t like animals; she just doesn’t like the mess they create – and understandably so. For the most part, they poop/pee anywhere (with the exception of trained dogs and cats) and they certainly don’t clean up after themselves. And some animals smell bad. Anyway, getting back to my story… My wife is really big on eating healthy, so when I mentioned the idea of raising chickens for organic eggs, she was all for it. Cool, not only would this provide quality eggs for us to eat, but it was also chance to get her used to having animals around the house.
It’s common knowledge that chickens raised in major poultry farming operations are fed growth hormones and/or unnatural sources of protein (ground-up dead animals) for rapid growth and therefore, faster egg production. And although our Food and Drug Administration has deemed these eggs safe for human consumption, I’m not too thrilled about it. So, if I raised my own chickens and controlled their diet at least to the point of not feeding them growth hormones and unnatural sources of protein, I could harvest fresh, quality eggs. Speaking of quality, don’t let their appearance fool you: home raised chickens produce smaller, yet much more nutritious eggs. Studies have shown that the average egg bought from major grocery stores are generally much larger than backyard chicken eggs, yet contain up to 6x less nutrients per egg. To give you an idea, backyard chicken eggs have 4-6x more vitamin D, more vitamins A & E, more Beta Carotene and Omega-3’s AND have less cholesterol and saturated fats, plus you save a trip to the grocery store.
Gardening benefits: As mentioned earlier, animals poop. It just so happens that chicken poop is an excellent fertilizer and if you’ve read some of the other articles on ModernBushman.com, you know that we like vegetable gardening. So the chicken poop and the shaved pine or straw bedding used in the chicken coop is a perfect addition to my compost pile. What’s more, chickens that are allowed to pasture, or more commonly called “free range”, will eat up the bugs in your vegetable garden. They are not too picky when it comes to eating bugs. They’ll eat the ants, slugs, worms of every sort, and just about every other bug you may have crawling or flying around your backyard. Awesome, right? I think so.
So to recap: backyard chickens eat the nasty little bugs in your garden, produce excellent fertilizer, and give you high-quality eggs. Not a bad deal. The only thing you have to do is provide water, supplemental food and heat (only for about the first 8 weeks or if you live in a cold area), bedding material, and of course, the chicken coop.
Getting Started with Raising Backyard Chickens
DIY Backyard Chicken Coop
After a few weeks of researching backyard chicken care, I was ready to start. And although I really wanted to just run out and buy the chickens, I felt I needed to build the chicken house, or coop, first so that they would have a place to sleep.
So with my weekend coming up, I made a run to the Home Depot and picked up everything I needed for this project:
14 – kiln dried 2×4
1 roll – 4’ x 25ft poultry wire
1 box – 3 ½” deck screws
1 sheet – 4’ x 8’ x ⅜” plywood
7 – roof tiles
Then Adam and I went to work.
Chicken coop overview:As you can see in the diagram below, my chicken coop looks like an “L” when viewed from above. I designed it this way so that it’ll fit in one corner of my backyard behind a tree. The total footprint for the coop is 3’ x 7’ exterior dimension and is 3’ high in the front and angles upwards to 4’ high on the back. The elevated nesting area is an enclosed 3’ x 4’ box and contains 3 – 12” x 12” nesting boxes and a 27” roost. The floor of the nesting area is hinged and swings open for easy cleaning. A gate latch keeps the floor securely in place. There is an 12” x 14” opening on one side of the nesting area with a 10” wide ladder that extends to the ground. At the ground level, the coop has 16 square feet of exposed dirt that’s covered with wood chips. The roof over the enclosed nesting area is made from ⅜” plywood and is covered with roofing tile. The front portion of the roof sits directly over the nesting boxes and is hinged to make for easy retrieval of the eggs. The roof over the open area is covered with ⅜” clear plexiglass for maximum transmission of sunlight. Here are the original sketches.
Chicken coop construction:following the basic diagram above, Adam and I started by framing the coop floor. We then framed the entire coop, keeping as close as we could to the original dimensions of the coop. Now keep in mind we’re not construction guys, so we had to make minor adjustments here and there to make everything fit, but in the end, we were building just a simple box so it wasn’t too hard.
Once the framing was done, we spent the next hour or so cutting the roof and walls to size. Again, minor on-the-fly adjustments were made. Using some leftover fence stain, Adam and I stain to match the color of my backyard fence. Next came the hardest part of the whole project: getting the chicken coop into place.
As mentioned above, I designed the chicken coop to fit behind the tree. What we failed to see was how the heck we were going to get the chicken coop into place. As it turned out, we weren’t going to get the coop into place without near complete disassembly. This was a big bummer. Anyway, without further hesitation, we disassemble the chicken coop, moved it into place, and resembled it. Once in place, we added the roofing tiles and the poultry fencing to keep the predators out.
Problems associated with building the chicken coop: we didn’t encounter too many problems with the construction of the chicken coop, but there were a few. (1) First of all, be prepared to be flexible in your plans. As we did on several occasions, be ready to make minor adjustments to make things fit. This can get frustrating, but keep in mind it’s a fun project and you should be able to get over these minor hurdles without pulling your hair out. (2) buy extra building materials. It’ much easier to return unused materials rather than coming to a screeching halt and having to make a Home Depot run because you were short one 2 x 4. (3) if you plan on placing the chicken coop in a tight spot, be sure you’re going to be able to move it into position once completely built. If you have doubts it’s going fit, assemble the chicken at its final location. (4) level the ground prior to placing the chicken coop. This step seems very elementary, but in the excitement of finishing the coop, we forgot to level the ground until after we reassembled the coop over its final destination. Result: I was doing all sort of yoga moves to level the coop.
Getting the Backyard Chickens
I recently stopped by a local feed supply store called The Feed Barn, located on 2300 Newport Blvd in Costa Mesa to pick up a bail of hay for my vegetable garden. During that visit, I noticed they started selling chicks. I spoke with the store owner who was very friendly and helpful, giving me tons of chicken knowledge. I made a mental note to come back to the Feed Barn when I was ready.
On April 11, 2012 a few days after completing the chicken coop, I went back to the Feed Barn and after some more talking with the ladies at the Feed Barn, I picked up a chick feeder, 25lbs of chick feed, water bottle, a bag of pine shavings, and three chicks (two Plymouth Barred Rocks and one Ameraucana – all three weeks old). Due to the fact that we happened to be in a cold, rainy period, they recommended I keep the chicks under a heating lamp for the next couple of weeks, at least until their normal feather came in.
Backyard Chicken Care
My original plan was to put the chickens in their coop immediately, however, due to the sudden spring rain, I decided to keep them in the garage during the nights until the weather improved. For this, I used a large plastic bin with a layer of pine shavings as the bedding. I placed stone paver inside the bin and the water bottle on top of the paver to help stabilize the water bottle. The feeder was filled with food and also placed inside. Since the garage was already fairly warm, I used a 75 watt clear bulb to heat the bin throughout the night.
During daylight hours (when it’s not raining), I let the chickens out in my backyard to run around and forage for food. I have seen them pluck ants off my peach tree, kick around the grass and peck things at random. One day while tending to my garden, I dug up an earthworm and tossed one at them.
All three immediately began fighting for the worm. Often, they sit at the edge of the gazania bed and pick off slugs and other bugs. I’ve even seen one snap at an unidentified flying bug, snatching it out of mid air. While the chickens are feeding on natural foods, I clean out their plastic bin and replenish the feeder. The water bottle is cleaned out, refilled, and placed in the open area of their chicken coop in hopes that they will get used to going in there. When night falls, I corral them back into the plastic bin where they will spend their night in the garage under the heat lamp as needed.
That pretty much covers the initial housing setup and how I care for the chickens. I’ve had them for approximately 2 weeks (they are now five weeks old) and so far it’s been an easy task, requiring only about 5 minutes a day.
Although it’s only been two weeks, they have grown noticeably larger. The once bare spot on their backs are now filled in with feathers and they are starting to fly. To prevent them from flying over the fence, I clipped the feathers off of their right wings. Oh and just incase you were wondering, they aren’t loud at all. In fact, so far they are only as loud as the other birds that are out and about. If you’re curious about the noise level, check out this video of my 4 week old chickens.
OK, I hope this article helps someone out there who’s planning on raising backyard chickens. Take it from me, they are a lot of fun and eventually will provide fresh, healthful chicken eggs. As always, I will update this article as things develop or change. Until then, feel free to contact me via the contact form below.
Check out our Backyard Chicken Coop photo album for more pictures. More pictures will be added as progress is made.
Good Luck and most importantly, have fun!~ John, Modern Bushman>