Episode 29 Show Notes
Happy Veteran’s Day!
This week is Veteran’s Day, so we offer a heartfelt thank you for every man and woman who has served out country in the military. e appreciate the sacrifices that you and your families have made.
Chicken Processing Day is Coming
This coming weekend, we are determined to finally process our own chickens. There have been several plans to do so in the past, all of which resulted in us just selling the birds instead of processing them. But this week, it is going to happen! You can expect to hear the results on next week’s show.
A Fowl Practical Joke
Jim from Virginia posted a wacky news article on our Facebook page about an ex-boyfriend who sent his ex-girlfriend a box of baby chicks in the mail with a note that said “There are plenty of chicks out there.” Wow… that is one classy guy.
So just when you are feeling bad for this girl because of her clearly crazy ex, she tells the postman that she doesn’t want them so she will just throw them in the trash. Okay, now I see why these two crazy people were together.
Fortunately, the postman kept the baby chicks and took them to an animal shelter where they were adopted out.
People.. please don’t use animals as a practical joke!
Common Mistakes Made by Chicken Keepers
Today we are talking about mistakes that a lot of first time chicken keepers seem to make. If you have chickens already, you may notice a few of these you would do differently. If you don’t have chickens yet, maybe you can learn from the mistakes of the rest of us!
Failing to Check the Zoning Laws
You would be amazed how many people come to take our backyard chicken class who don’t know yet whether they are allowed to have chickens where they live. Find out if you can have chickens, and how many you are allowed to have before you get all set up.
If you aren’t sure, call your local zoning office or search your local government’s regulations on municode.com
Also, if you find out you can’t have chickens, don’t try to get them anyway and figure you can hide them from your neighbors. We regularly see Facebook and Craigslist posts in our own community from people who thought they could be sneaky and now they have to dispose of their flock. Not much fun after you have invested so much time, money and affection.
Building a Coop That is Too Small
This can happen in two different ways. First, if you decide not to build your own, remember that the chicken capacity claimed by coop manufacturers can be a little misleading. We aren’t saying they are lying, but you need to remember that when they say “Houses ten chickens,” they mean bantam chickens, not full size standard chickens.
When evaluating a coop, remember that for full size chickens, the coop should have 4 square feet of space per bird and the run area should have 10 square feet of space per bird. If you don’t want to do the math, a good rule of thumb is to take the manufacturer’s stated chicken capacity and cut it in half.
The next way that you might end up with a coop that is too small is you aren’t realistic about how many chickens you want to down the road. You might start out with ten, but if you eventually want twenty, you might want to build a bigger coop from the start.
Now if you plan to use chicken tractors, they are often limited in their capacity anyway, so you may decide to add more tractors as your flock grows. That is how we ended up with nine chicken tractors!
Not Taking the Time to Pick the Right Breed
It is one of those oddities of life. When we want to buy a stapler on Amazon, we spend three days doing research to find the best stapler for us. When we decide to buy any sort of animal, however, we just buy the first cute one we see without thinking too much about whether it is the right breed for what we want to accomplish.
The most often asked question we get when people come to our little farm to buy baby chicks is “Is this a good chicken?” Well, that depends. Are you looking for a meat bird? A layer? A dual purpose bird? A show bird? The chicken will be good at one of those categories, but not likely good at all of them.
You should know what you want out of your chickens, and then identify breeds that meet those criteria. A good place to start researching is the Henderson Chicken Chart.
Not Taking the Time to Choose a Source
In the same way people “choose” a breed (buy the first one the see for sale), people often aren’t very selective about where they buy their birds. Finding the first person on Craigslist is a great way to end up with diseased birds, chickens that aren’t what they are reported to be, and a slew of other problems you don’t need.
We recommend trying to get your chickens locally if you can. That way you can go to the seller’s home or farm and get an idea of how they keep their chickens. If someone wants to sell you chickens out of the trunk of their car at Winn Dixie, you might want to pass.
When you are there, ask to see the parent stock. That will be the best way to see what your baby chicks will grow up to look like. If they don’t want to show you the parents, ask why. Use your intuition to decide if there is a good reason why or they are full of chicken excrement.
If you have any odd feelings, look somewhere else. Like the idiot ex-boyfriend said in our news article, there are plenty of chicks out there.
Not Being Prepared Before Bringing Chickens Home
This takes on two dimensions: you should be prepared intellectually and physically.
By intellectually, we mean that you should have at least the basics of chicken care down before you bring your baby chicks home. You can read articles online, attend a local chicken keeping class, or listen regularly to a podcast with two dorky but loveable hosts.
As for physically, get your brooder set up and working before you go out shopping for chicks. This way they can go straight into their new home instead of sitting in a cardboard box while you race around the farm store grabbing supplies ten minutes before they close.
Introducing New Flock Members Too Quickly
If you have an existing flock and then decide to get new chickens, don’t just bring home the new birds and throw them in the coop with the existing flock.
Remember that chickens are susceptible to a number of diseases that can be past easily from bird to bird. Bringing in a diseased chicken could potentially wipe out your entire flock. So, if you insist on bringing in new birds, quarantine the new birds for at least thirty days. During this time, the stress of moving to a new location may lower their immune systems just enough to let any hidden symptoms they may have suddenly show up. Stay on the lookout for signs of illness throughout this period.
If you are extremely paranoid like Suzy and I are, you may also use that thirty days to go get the birds tested by a vet.
When they have passed the quarantine period to your satisfaction, now you can begin the process of bringing the two flocks together. You still don’t want to just mix them up. Each flock has an established pecking-order, and every bird knows his or her place in that pecking order. When you mix the two, it will cause chaos as they all try to reconfigure their pecking order.
Start by placing the flocks so that they can see each other but can’t actually touch each other for seven to ten days. This may require you to build a temporary coop or run close to your permanent one.
Once that is done, start arranging play dates, where you let them out of their respective runs at the same time and see what happens. They should all have enough room to get away from an aggressive hen or two who want to be bullies. A little picking should be expected, but if it starts to get too aggressive, step in and break it up.
When it looks like they can handle being together out in the the open, see how they do in a run together. There may be more bullying because there is less room for them to get away from each other. If you notice one hen being overly aggressive to others, remove her from the flock for two days and then reintroduce her. This may shake out her attitude problem. If not, try again for another two days.