Monday, November 11, 2013

Chicken Checklist

The chicken coop is officially finished!  Here is the grand tour...

Doors swing open on both sides.
Here you can see where they get into the nest boxes.

Here you can see our easy access for egg collection.

A close up of the nesting boxes.  You need one for every 2-3 hens.
We will fill them with straw.

The roost bars where the girls will sleep at night.
You need to allow 1' per bird.
Easy access for cleaning under the roost bars (where most of the waste will end up)
We have these trays on the way.  We'll fill them with sand and sift as needed.

Ventilation on either side  under the roof overhang.
A little fresh air is good for anyone and feathered ladies are no exception!
David designed it so it can be hooked up to my car and pulled so we can move them to fresh pasture regularly.
The hen house BARELY fit through that gate opening.  We had to take the gate off the hinges and it still scraped a little on either side.  The important part is that it fit!  David got the fencing set up (mainly to keep four legged predators out since chickens can fly up to 6 feet).

For "pastured poultry"  you are supposed to provide 2 square feet per bird in the shelter and 5-6 square feet per bird in the outdoor enclosure.  For 14 hens our coop is 42 square feet (allowing 3 square feet per bird) and the outdoor enclosure is 625 square feet (allowing almost 45 square feet per bird).  Our girls will be nice and cozy and we even have room to grow a little if we need or want to in the future.

In addition to the coop and the under-roost trays, there were a few other items that people may not realize you need for laying hens:

- 40 watt bulbs and a clamp fixture.  Hens need 16 hours of light in order to continue laying eggs.  We will use this light as a "daylight" extender during these short days of winter.
- A 250 watt red heat lamp and a clamp fixture.  This will be used to keep the coop above freezing in the cold of winter.  The hens will lay better, and their water and eggs won't freeze. Frost bite on combs and feet is also a concern once things get too far below freezing.The clamp fixture for a heat lamp must accommodate the proper wattage and must have a ceramic socket. The red heat lamp is best because it will be dim enough to give the hens the 8 hours of night that they need but light enough to act as a night light.  If a predator were to come, that little bit of light will help them escape the best they can. It would also help us peek in on them if we need to without disturbing them too badly.
-2 feeder troughs and 2 one gallon poultry waterers. You need to allow 6 inches of feeding space per bird.  They all eat at the same time and if there isn't enough room for them all to eat at once, the lowest on the totem pole will starve to death.  Fresh, cool water needs to be available at all times.  On average, a hen will drink a pint of water a day (there are 8 pints in a gallon).
- An indoor, outdoor thermometer.  This is so we can know the temperature inside the coop at a glance.  I picked out a big, pretty one with rainbow colored numbers.  It will be like a little bit of artwork for them.  Haha.
 - 100 foot outdoor extension cord with 3 sockets.  To plug in the lights.
- Feed.  We found a farm who will deliver a whole grain Non-GMO layer feed to our area. It is made by Hiland Naturals.

Chickens also need grit for their gizzard (how they digest food) and extra calcium.  The feed we are using has all that they need but if you need supplementation, you can purchase ground oyster shells.  This helps the egg shells stay nice and strong.

I think that is it as far as a comprehensive list of the supplies you need to get started with chicken keeping.  It seems like a lot, and is a small investment, but once you get it all it will last for years to come.

Here is the view from our side porch:

Can't wait to see the chickens pecking around out there, and better still, Ayden's enjoyment at observing and interacting with them!

Do you keep chickens?  Any advice you could offer us newbies?


Flashback!  Here's what we were up to one year ago today: "Opposite Day"

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  1. beautiful housing, but I don't see any vents or windows? they do need fresh air within their housing, not a draft, but fresh air. Especially important in the summer. A tip for keeping your perch trays clean, instead of using sand like a litter box, we use newspaper and have a separate composter for their dirty shavings, straw, poop and newspaper. Every morning when we let them out I just roll up the newspaper and compost it. It helps with odor and fly control. I hope you enjoy your "girls" as much as we are enjoying ours.

    1. I added a pic. Thank you agian for pointing that out!

  2. Thank you! There are vents on either side under the overhang of the roof. I didn't even think to take pictures of that... Also, the doors will only be closed at night. We actually think that our pans won't be deep enough for sand so we are exploring other options. Thank you for the tips! I hope we enjoy them too!! :)