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degarden

Would love to raise chickens but...

21 years ago

Hi, I live in Quebec, Canada, about 350 miles north of Montreal. We bought some woodland, cleared enough to build our home and started a garden 8 years ago. Grouse, hares, the occasional fox and weasel, etc. visit us once in a while. I would love to raise chickens from spring to late autumn (our winter temps can reach as low as -30 C) but they probably would have to be fenced in because of those wild critters. Am I dreaming or can it be done? Is it very complicated, expensive? Are there breeds that are friendlier than others? In other words, I don't know where to start. Would greatly appreciate any arguments, for or against.Lise

Comments (28)

  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Complicated? Not really, depends on your personality. I made it far more complicated than it needed to be. Expensive? Again depends on you! We are now in our third year. I have found that they are much more resourceful than I would ever have given them credit. Also tolerate a wide variety of living conditions. I think if you get started one year and like it enough to do it again the next year, you will probably find yourself testing their wintering abilities by keeping a few extra just to see how it works. In which case I suggest you start with some of the shorter combed varieties.

    We have concentrated on dual purpose full size varieties as well as the white leghorn for their white egg production rate. So far we have had White Leghorn, Rhode Island Red,
    Barred Rock, Buff Orphington, Red Sex Link, and Turken. We are trying a few other breeds this year but don't have enough experience to speak on their personalities.

    White Leghorn: GREAT egg production in numbers and size (white). Hens are friendly enough with humans however they tend to fly pretty well when they want to. Which if it means getting out of a cage or run count on them getting out at every chance offered. Medium size birds. Males seem to be aggressive. Not afraid to challenge the hand that feeds them. Note, Males are not required for egg laying, only if you want to have little ones. If you do chickens more than 2-3 years you will likely find yourself keeping an extra rooster around through the winter just to get little ones.
    So much to say and so little time.

    Any way for us the friendliest and most reliable layers, also considering attitude of roosters, have been Barred Rock. Others lay more or larger but the roo has an attitude. Some will sit on and hatch their own or anothers eggs while others have it bred out of them. Some stand cold better than others, some stand the heat better.
    Spend some time checking out various internet chat sites dealing with poultry. One I frequent is listed below.
    Have fun!

    Here is a link that might be useful: The Poultry Information Exchange

  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I agree with Steve. It's really very cheap to both feed and house chickens, unless you want to make it as exotic and expensive as you want (re: Martha Stewart's designer chicken coop). Our coop was made out of free pallets and it's completely enclosed with a run. The back coop house opens up to collect eggs and stuff the laying area with straw during winter. Our chickens eat lots of leftovers and we use their manure in the garden.
    As far as breed, definately research for the more hardier breeds. There's so much of a selection, you'll want them all...LOL. Plan first, then go for it! You'll wonder what took you so long...LOL.

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  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    For the predators, have you considered a livestock guardian dog in addition to these other great suggestions? We are surrounded by predators, and our Great Pyrenees keeps them at bay. We lose a chicken here and there, but not too often. I should add that we do lock the chickens up at night.

    There are definitely personality differences between the breeds! I got a mixed assortment from a hatchery this year, and have found the Buff Orphintons and Dark Brahmas the friendliest of the bunch (all exotic breeds).
    It was a good way to try out differing breeds.

  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    When we got chickens we used the old smokehouse building that was already on the property. It already had a hole at the ground (small enough for a rabbit to get in). We took a hammer & broke off enough that chickens could get in & out. My husband & I are bread distributors so we bring home lots of old/stale bread & feed the chickens, dogs, & cats that. Started out just feeding it to the chickens but the other animals are scared they're getting a special treat so they gobble it up! Bread vendors usually pick up the stale or damaged bread from their stores & restaurants & take them to thrift stores, where it's sold at much cheaper prices. They sort what comes in (i.e. some is still good enough for humans, some goes in large stacks as hog feed). Check around & see. My husband use to sell large stacks - about 150 loaves of bread - for something like $10 as hog feed. He doesn't do it anymore because he turns it back into the company. Ask the guys that bring in the bread at the local grocery stores. Occasionally we buy chicken feed but that can get expensive when you have other animals that you buy feed for. I buy the cheap dog food & our chickens will come after the dogs have gone & eat that. When we first got our chickens we kept them in the chicken coop for a couple of weeks & then let them out. They now run loose but will go back into the coop close to dark if there's no where else - we have an old well shed that they will roost in if we forget & leave the door open. You will find that when they have chicks, for every 1 hen you will get 3 roosters! I'm not sure what kind we have but have been told they are a bantam/game mix. We bought them off a woman that had too many. Another good place to buy them is at local fairs or call the schools & talk to whoever's in charge of 4-H or the FFA clubs. Some people will clip one wing on each chicken to keep them from being able to fly. We don't because this leaves them with the disadvantage of trying to get away from predators. A large dog with a loud bark would be a good idea to have around to keep things away - skunks, possums, fox, coyotes, etc. An advantage to having loose chickens is all the bugs they eat.
    A disadvantage is that they will poop (can you tell I have kids!?) everywhere you don't want them too. Good luck!
    BTW, our chicken coop is enclosed - rereading this post, it didn't sound like it was, but it is. We used regular chicken wire & put some on top. We've got pieces of tin on half of it so they can be out of the sun & rain.

  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    My chicken coop don't look like much,but it's somewhat tight and dry.I stuffed the biggest cracks with newspaper,it works.I don't let mine out at all.I have a chicken wire fence about 7 feet tall and about 10 feet square for 20 chickens.With nothing over the top.I clip about an inch of feathers off from one wing.Keeps them off balance this way.We don't have any big hawks around here.There is no way they could drop straight down and straight up with a chicken.I've seen them take a mourning dove off the high wire before.Mine coop takes somewhat warm at below zero temps.Just make it tight so the wind can't blow through it.

  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Chickens are not hard to raise at all. When you get little balls of fuzz (peeping all night long), they will need to be kept warm until they get their feathers..about 2-3 months old and depending on your temps. and when you get them depends on how long they need a 60 watt light bulb to be left on...I prefer using an infra red lamp.

    This brings me to your winters...you may need to keep a light bulb on to help keep them warm. What happens is their combs and wattles get frost bite and the chickens don't feel so good for awhile. Look at chickens that have small, close to the head combs. A chicken puts out roughly 8 BTU's an hour each so depending on the size of their coop and how many you have and the temps outside will depend on how well they handle the cold. (In days gone by, the chickens were brought into the cabin and they lived right next to the wood burning stove. There was a hole cut out so they could come and go in at night and outside during the day.)

    There are some things you can do to help maintain temps in the coop...compost inside the coop will help keep them warm, putting them inside a greenhouse over the compost will help keep the greenhouse warm and them too!

    It takes about 6 months for them to start laying and they lay when the temps get warm and when there is about 14 hours of light a day (you can trick them in the winter by maintaining warmth and light).

    Feeding is a snap...all the left overs and let them free range on bugs...but they will mess up your vegetable garden! be prepared!
    There is any number of grains sold for chickens at your local feed stores. They need water and wella!

  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I agree with everyone, chickens are easy to raise. Check out the Murray McMurray catolog for the best desciptions and availablity. As for breed, start with the gentle giants, the buff orpingtons or barred rocks. We kept are chickens in a portable shed by the garden. We'd give them strawberryhulls and such and they didn't mind being fenced in at all. Good Luck!

  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Although winters here have not been severe the last 4-5 years, I had chickens earlier that survived a drafty coop when the temps went down to -25 degrees. Yes, some combs were frozen off. Parts would turn black and fall off, so small combed varieties might do better. But in making a coop tight, you may also be looking for trouble, because most livestock require good ventilation. They can produce their own heat, and seem to huddle together at night on a roost. Also, if you clean the coop in the spring, and keep adding bedding, it will build up by fall and may offer some heat while doing some natural composting, and certainly insulation from the cold ground.

    I think some feed other than straight table scraps may be needed for them to be able to generate enough heat in winter, so you might think of either a prepared feed (could be organic) or just cracked corn.

    Since new spring chicks won't start laying until late summer/early fall, I'm not sure about your idea of having them only half the year, unless you want them mainly for the stew pot, or unless you buy someone's 1-2 year old chickens in the spring, so that you can get egg production through most of the warmer season.
    Hope that helps.
    Ann

  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thank you so much for your help. Not one negative reply. I've got the Mcmurray hatchery address so I will be able to familiarize myself, at least, with the different breeds. Got some serious thinking to do on those long winter evenings as this would be a spring project. Take care. Lise

  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I live on a bog which means all the wild animals come through here. The worst predator is the raccoon. They not only climb but they can tear a board off the side of the hen house if they can get they paws into it. They eat the head and neck. I take the roost out of the hen house in the winter so the hens have to sit on their feet to avoid freezing them off. I have a few with frozen combs, so don't get the fancy comb birds. A hundred watt bulb inside a cage at floor level helps warm the air slightly (They will gather around the heat) and never water them with cold water. Two or three trips a day to refull the waterers with warm water is a small price. And you get a chance to check them over. Go for it. You will never know how it will turn out if you don't give it a try and the best lessons learned are the mistakes you make on your own. Good luck.

  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Go for it! We hatched out eggs in feb. & kept chicks in the cellar with brooder, put them out in the coop, fenced in a yard when they were bigger, and now that they are grown they have complete free range. We definately lock them in the coop each night (they return to it on their own...easy to train them to do). We also have a dog near their coop and another that comes and goes about the farm as she pleases. We live up in the hilltown mountains of Alb. Cty. New york state --where it is -30 below more than not in the winter. We just have to water them a few times in the winter compared to the summer. Black rubber bowls work great--you can flip the ice water right out of them. Once in a while we put a brooder light on but my husband doesn't let me do this too often. Good luck!--also breeds like wyandottes are more winter hardy-slower to mature but hardier all around--also a few other kinds.

  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi. I live in northern New York state, six miles from the southern border of Quebec (about an hour south of Montreal). I have been keeping chickens for two years now, and like you, at first, I didn't know where to begin! Here's what I do, though there are endless methods, I think. First of all, instead of making a coop, as I have no building skills, I bought a kind of large, raised hutch from a neighbor down the road. It's a little over five feet tall (it's on stilts) and about eight feet long with two wooden "rooms" in the back and a large wire area in front. There are hinged doors on both sides of the back nesting areas which can be opened to gather eggs, and these areas are filled with lots of pine shavings for them to nest in. Their feeders and water are in the outer, open area. I always keep the wire top covered with a few layers of tarp to protect from weather, but in the warmer months, the rest of the outer wire area is open for ventilation. And I also cover the grate floor with a tarp and then a thick layer of pine shavings over that. The most important thing to keep things clean and not stinky is to keep the droppings DRY. The thick litter helps with that. I rake up the excess droppings every week and completely change the litter about once a month, adding the used material to the compost pile. (A big bag of pine shavings costs $3 at Agway and usually provides two changes.)

    I feed them layer pellets (also very cheap at the Agway....seven dollars for a huge bag, and with five chickens, lasts me a couple months or more?). I prefer pellets because if they spill out of the feeders, they can still pick them up off the floor and none is wasted. By the way, I bought one hanging plastic feeder for a few dollars at Agway, and I have another metal one that hooks to the side of their coop and holds more that I got cheap at an auction. I also give them scratch grains once in awhile as a treat. And if I scatter it over the pine bedding, they can be tricked into fluffing up the litter and keeping the droppings dry as they dig for their scratch. And every so often, I'll add some grit to their feed for good measure, especially in the summer when I'm feeding them lots of tidbits from the garden, to help them digest.

    There is a larger hinged door in the front of the coop which I usually lock up at night (it's true about chickens always returning to roost--they do it on their own at sunset). During the day, I have a big plank of wood out of the front door so they can come out. The whole coop structure is enclosed by, I'd say, an 8 x 16 ft. run made with 4 ft. chicken wire and 5 ft. metal stakes. We fashioned a hinged gate for the run large enough to allow me to get the wheelbarrow in and out when I clean. It's completely open at the top, but they don't try to fly away for some reason, even though I haven't clipped their wings. I don't worry too much about critters getting at them, as I have three dogs that alert us to any intruders. We live in front of a dairy farm with lots of barn cats roaming around (and we have cats, too). I was worried about them attacking the chickens, but they don't bother them. I think the chickens could hold their own in a fight anyway!

    Last winter, I actually moved the whole coop into the garage, because I was afraid they'd get too cold. But that proved to be far too laborious, plus, I had to park outside and scrape snow off my car all winter! This year, we just covered the whole coop in a double layer of thick, plastic sheeting, and then added weather stripping around the doors. Stays amazingly cozy in there! When it's somewhat nice out, I open the front door and let them come out for some fresh air and sun. They have an electric water de-icing pan under their large metal waterer (both purchased at Agway, of course). And I keep a 40 watt bulb on in the outer portion of the coop, for a little added warmth and to entice them to lay throughout the winter. But when it's cold, they tend to all huddle in the back, more protected area where it is pretty dark. I'm thinking of adding another light back there.

    Let's see. What else? Oh, the chickens themseves. Well, I wanted to order my chickens from a hatchery, like Murray McMurray. But you have to order a minimum of 25 (WAY too many for my needs!), and I was not confident in my ability to raise chicks, anyway. So I got three pullets from a county fair two summers ago, two Americaunas (blue-laying!) and one Buff Orpington (brown-laying). I'm not sure why, but one of the Americaunas died about a month later. She was very thin and sickly overall. So for the first year, I just had two chickens (didn't even need a run for them then). This past summer, I got three more hens--one from the fair and two from a local man who raises chickens. The one from the fair was a Black Australorp (brown-laying), and the other two were more Americaunas (love those blue eggs!). Next year, I'd love to get some Marrons that lay the very dark brown eggs, but I doubt I'll be able to find just a hen or two, which is all I would want. Anyway, they are all doing very well, even in this cold climate, and after some initial squabbling, are getting along fine. But most people around here that have chickens have Barred Rocks or Rhode Island/New Hampshire Reds. They are extremely cold-hardy.

    That's all I can think of right now to share with you. Feel free to e-mail me if you want to ask any specific questions (JoyBugaloo@aol.com). I would also recommend reading the following books that helped me: Chickens in Your Backyard and Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens, both available at www.amazon.com. Good luck up there in Quebec. I hope you try it! It's really not hard, and is a lot a fun! --Gina near Plattsburgh, NY

  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    My parents have bantam chickens and guinea fowl in NE Texas. They tried to let them free range, but had go back to penning up unless watched. The coyotes came up right into the garden in broad daylight, and the owl and hawk patrolled regularly (their pen is totally enclosed). Also, my mother lost numerous strawberries and newly sprouted vegetables to them. She will let them out in the afternoon, while she works in the garden. They instinctively go back to the chicken house for the night. Another predator to watch is the chicken snake. My father killed one 6' long, and had to cut off it's head to retrieve the wooden dummy eggs they put in the nests to entice the hens to lay. But they are great for the grasshoppers, potato beetles, and tomato hornworms. The grandkids (ok, I admit I do too) love to catch grasshoppers and crickets to feed the birds in the pen.

  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Degarden - I agree with everyone also - chickens are relatively easy and they really are entertaining to be around! We have a fenced in area attached to our coops that is approximately 50' x 40'. Every once in a while we have had one of the hens fly out - but very rarely (I don't have it covered). I used to go out there and chase them around to get them back in their yard - must have looked like an idiot! - but anyway - they always went back in on their own before nightfall - usually at feeding time!! I say go for it and have fun!!

  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Feeding grasshoppers to the chickens ~ LOTS of fun! I like doing that, too, Lynn. ;) But the most satisfying are tomato hornworms ~ the chickens think they're little green twinkies. LOL!

  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I have been raising chickens for about 4 yers now, we have lots of preditors around here....coyotes, fox, skunk, weasel, owls, ....and so on. We havent lost one chicken to a preditors since we put a radio in our coop!! We play the radio 24 hours a day, the gals dont seem to mind it at all. It seems most pesky types hear the voices and wont come near the coop for anything!!
    As far as weather....chickens are very tollerant of the cold. I put a brooder lamp in during the winter, but mainly for light purposes (they lay better with more light). We have bantams and standards and they all do just fine. I actually think they hate the summers more then the winters!

  • 21 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    that radio idea is a good one...

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    A very easy way to catch chickens is to make a chicken catcher out of a wire hanger.

    First unbend it into a straight line.
    Then take one end and make a handle so that it's easier to use... bend the wire back on itself into an oval loop and twist it on itself.

    For the catching end, make a crook to slip over the chickens's foot. Bend the wire back, about 5 inches from the end to make a long, narrow U-shape. But the very end of the wire that is bent back, turn it out slightly so that the opening is a little wider than the U.

    As long as you can get within 5 feet of the chicken, you can get right behind it, reach out and catch one of its feet and quickly, but gently pull back to catch the foot inside. Just walk toward it now, pick it up and remove the wire from its foot.

    Sure saves time running after chickens. :)

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi degarden,

    I keep my chickens all year round... it's not too cold in Quebec. It helps to get an electric waterbowl and you have to collect the eggs early, before they freeze.

    You can get hens from the Coop in the spring but you won't have much choice for the breeds. Here is an address for a breeder in Granby, he sells the rarer breeds, you have to reserve early:
    http://www.geocities.com/erisso01/11a.html

    I live in an area where there are lots of coyotes and foxes. As far as I know, I only lost poultry to the neighbor's dogs, the dogs are the worst preditors.

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Was browsing here and there and rechecked the question I had posted at the time and saw that more answers had poured in. Once again, thank you for everyone's input. Financially, times are very hard at the moment but one can dream and plan ahead. Keep the door of opportunity opened and ready... Degarden

  • 20 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I would give you one more idea as your first try at chickens. if you like to eat them buy a lot of 25 or so of the cornish cross during the chick days in spring at your local co-op or farm supply. In 7 weeks they are done and ready to be moved into the freezer. They are gentle birds but not bred to have long lives so don't try to keep them. you will be done during favorable weather and will have learned a lot about birds in general without the longer term committment of laying hens. I like to keep them in a bottomless pen with a top as grass fed is better flavor. they will eat about 20 % pasture if it is available. table scraps like meat pasta vegetables etc.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I live in maine and it can gety really cold up here my chickens survive just fine during the winter.We keep them in the hen house with a heat lamp.And put food and water in there and there just fine.i make sure that there isn't alot of draft of wind but just a little that way they don't over heat.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Has anyone seen the "Eglu"? It is a recent design from England, and is just now available in the US. I have just a few chickens, and it seems perfect for our girls.

    We have ordered two. My husband is an architect, and could design and have a coop built for us, but he is quite sure this is a very well thought out design for just a few chickens.

    http://www.omlet.us/homepage/homepage.php

    Here is a link that might be useful: Omlet USA

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I have 2 rhode Island reds and 3 red star sexlinks. Sweet girls. I have a chicken tractor my hubby made me. Here is some pics of chicken tractors. www.thecitychicken.com. It is easy and with a chicken tractor, when the floor is dirty and the grass is ate, we move them. We have them get into their coop, shut the door and move the tractor. We don't move them when they are in the run so they don't get hurt feet. Protects them and allows them to be free range eating fresh grass, taking dirt baths (which they love) and They eat the weeds, seeds, grass and fertilize the lawn. Poop in the coop goes in my compost. My chicken tractor is bigger than alot of those on the website. It is really fun and healthier since they are free range. We put ours on organic chicken food pellets. It is double the price, but i am assured there is no pesticides in their feed which will make me more comfortable about eating their eggs. My property has no pesticides or chemicals.
    Cheryl

    Here is a link that might be useful: The city chicken

  • 17 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    check www.the-coop.org there are other sights for poultry also on the web .

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    you should research. some breeds do better in the cold then others. in general you want a small comb. since large combs tend to freeze in winter.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    The chanticleers are an old Canadian breed suited to New England and eastern Canada. Wyandottes with their rose comb do well.

    The frostbite does heal eventually but roosters will often loose half their comb or wattles if they are a straight combed breed.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I HAVE 10 YOUNG CHICKENS . 5 RI REDS/COMETS 5 SILKIES . I HAVE A COOP ON ORDER IT IS 4FT WIDE X 8FT LONG CHICKEN RUN.ALSO BUILT IN HEN HOUSE THAT IS 12SQ FT . I HAVE A BIG YARD CHAIN LINKED IN THAT THEY CAN ROAM AROUND IN . DO YOU THINK THE COOP IS TO SMALL IT HAS 3 NEST BOXES IN IT ALSO

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