1) Do your dogs get chicken poo on their paws? My dogs (and my kid) are allowed to come in and out freely through a dog door. Since I'd like the chickens to roam around at least part of the day, I'm wondering how much will stick to dog paws. My Bernese Mountain Dogs are fine with free-ranging chickens, but I'm still going to limit the ranging to times when I am present and watching. I'm just wondering if I'll need to lock the dogs outside during those hours, and wash their feet before they go back inside (ditto with the kid).
2) Wing clipping: is it necessary? I really don't want to. I'm fine if half of them fly away never to return. I'll just keep the ones who want to live in my yard. But do you think more than half will fly away?
3) Has anyone tried the Egg-loo chicken house? It looks cute, convenient, and easily move-able for a suburban-sized yard. But it's almost 500 bucks. I'd love to make my own chicken tractor, but I'm not very handy and I need it to look good to impress my neighbors.
Thanks so much!
The dogs only track in chicken poop occasionally, but I track it in all the time. Unfortunately. Your kids will, too.
Ordinarily, chicken poops are easy to see because part of it is usually white. If you have a chicken yard with straw on the ground, and only let them run the yard an hour a day or so, you could look around with a can and a trowel and scoop up the poops for your compost, or flip it under the bushes.
Get a dual-purpose type of chicken that is heavier than the lighter, flighty breeds, and they will stay in your yard, then you won't have to cut a wing tip. By the way, if you do cut wingtips, you only cut ONE wingtip on each bird, and you only cut the feathers, not the wing itself. It's to throw them off balance when they fly.
My Buff Orpingtons can be confined with a loose piece of 2x4" mesh welded wire fencing only two feet high. I can move it around like a chicken tractor, but it won't protect them from the top like a tractor would.
Here is a site with photos of over 100 chicken coops: http://www.angelfire.com/falcon/thecitychicken/tractors.html
How many chickens do you want?
Are chickens legal in your area?
If you're sneaking them in, what will you do with them when someone complains and you have to get rid of them?
What kind of predators do you have there? Raccoons? Opossums? Stray dogs?
I made the mistake of making a sturdy chicken tractor that could keep out predators (raccoons, opossums). By the time it was finished, it was almost too heavy to move, even with wheels. Now they have their own 4x4' coop (off the ground), and I will be fencing in a 15x15' area. I will also be building them a lightweight tractor soon to keep them confined to certain other areas, as well. All in one doesn't work.
If you have raccoons, use hardware cloth or rabbit mesh for their coop. Raccoons and dogs can tear through regular chicken wire -- it's designed to keep chickens in, not to keep predators out.
Your area has hot days and warm nights, so make sure their coop is well ventilated. Chickens produce a lot of body heat, and if they get too hot in summer, they will die.
They're fun to watch. Train them with a little chicken scratch in a tuna can, to come when you call.
And the photos of chicken tractors are awesome. More and better stuff than I got in the chicken hobby magazines.
I was thinking 4 laying hens, too; enough eggs for my family of 3 and any leftovers to share with the neighbors. I also want to share the composted poo with the neighborhood.
As for legality, our area is actually still zoned agricultural because nobody bothered to change the zoning laws when the houses went up. About half of our neighbors don't speak English; as for the others, I've spoken to them about it and they just want to make sure I don't get a rooster to wake them up in the morning. Other than that, they're looking forward to the fresh eggs.
We are also trying to organize a neighborhood disaster response plan for when the next big earthquake comes. Having fresh eggs will be my contribution (assuming the chickens live through it).
As for predators, we do have 'possums. So some serious security is needed at night. But I'm sure our dogs will appoint themselves flock guardians should anything else come our way.
You make an excellent point about the heat. That Egg-loo house looks like a miniature oven. I could come home to roasted chicken one day.
Thanks again! I'm learning so much here!
Oops. I meant to put this under Critter Care. Sorry, Paul.
It took me all of 10 seconds to move it.
Chicken poop on dogs paws: I dunno - does your dog get seagull poop on his paws? Robin poop?
If you are letting your chickens out for just a few hours once in a while, you probably won't have much trouble.
For your first ever chickens, get buff orpingtons. They are an excellent beginner chicken, and quite good for the folks that believe in dual purpose breeds in the long haul. And they are not flighty.
Chicken tractors: I really don't like these. Of course, I really don't like the idea of too many chickens on too small of a property either. But ... you make the best of it in the big city.
I endorse all of Susan's advice. I like her idea of the portable paddock more than the idea of the chicken tractor. It's cheaper and opens things up for the "paddock shift" system which is [glow=red,2,300]far[/glow] superior.
Predators should be your number one concern.
It's too bad that you are going to skip the rooster - the buff orpington roosters are amazing gentlemen. If they spot a tasty bug, they call the hens over rather than eating it themselves.
Are your dogs outside at night?
+1 on the Buff Orps, that's what I have. Nice beginner chickens.
I find the chicken tractors most useful for cleaning up a garden area. If you make a lightweight one (1x2s or 2x2s and 1" chicken wire), make them the same size as any raised vegetable garden beds you have. Call your girls with a little scratch in a tuna can and sprinkle it on the bed. Then you can set the tractor right on top. A container that hooks onto the side of the tractor to hold water is a plus, as they perch on freestanding containers and poop into the water.
Another way to confine them to a certain area is that orange plastic fencing that you see around construction areas. Pound in a few posts and wrap the orange fencing around it.
Just be SURE to keep the chickens ('chooks' in Australia) OUT of a new garden, or they will scratch it into oblivion. It's hard to imagine how destructive chicken feet can be until you see their 'handiwork'.
When you give eggs to the neighbors, make sure they are FRESH. Consider writing the date of 'harvest' with a pencil on the egg.
Teach your dogs that the chickens are 'family'. My dog is a shepherd type, and she could sit and look at the chicks in their wire dog crate in the bathroom. Her look said they were starting to look 'meaty'. Outdoors, I put her on a leash and we sat and looked at the chickens and chatted. After a few days, she got bored with them (as opposed to racing around the cage on the grass, trying to herd them). Don't just put them together and hope the dogs don't kill them.
My hens are mostly larger than my cats, and seem to intimidate them. But I'm sure that isn't always true.
A common trick is that you have your chickens in a confined area (reduces the amount of poop on the porch). Once in a while when you need some bug control, turn your chickens loose in your garden a few hours before dusk. The chickens will scour the garden for bugs first and then return to their area to roost for the night. Then close the confined area again.
The chickens like bugs far more than they like what you are growing in your garden.
But they certainly love termites!
As for the dogs: my bitch (I love calling her that) has spent a couple weeks on a farm already, with a large flock of free range chickens as well as sheep. My (male) dog pretty much follows the bitch's lead, but I'll need to keep an eye on him. He's quite the herder.
As for predators: we live in such a warm climate that I can keep the french doors in my bedroom open to the back yard, pretty much 9 months out of the year. My dog sleeps in this doorway, keeping watch over the yard all night. I think I'll position the cage where he can see it from the door. Finally, he'll have a job--he's been wanting one his whole life.
As for the rest of the logistics, I can section my yard into 3 areas, based on how much I want to co-mingle (or clean up) that day.
I read about a documentary just released on DVD called Mad City Chickens. Supposed to be pretty funny. I'll have to put it on my Netflix list!
Leah Sattler wrote:
that is my experience too. although they have eaten my maters and it is annoying, it is the scratching to eat the bugs that is most frustrating. I have also put one down next to a pile of squash bugs and they aren't interested apparently they don't like them. stupid chickens. my chickens right now have this whole acreage to run on and they come hang out in the yard and garage. they seem to actually like tended lawn areas more so than the pasture
Where did you get your chicken from? Did you get it as a chick at a hatchery? So the chick never had a mom to teach it which bugs make for good eating?
If you do things in such a way where the chick has no mom, then you have to be the mom. You have to teach the chick what is food.
So, when you bring treats out, you say "chick chick chick" and put out yummy food. Then bring the squash bugs out and say "chick chick chick" ....
Hey, maybe that's a business? Raise to POL and sell them to people who are afraid of starting with day-olds. The last going price I saw was $10 each.
for example at least 1/2 of my chickens are banties that are at least several generations from hatchery chicks (mystery adults when I got the originals) I have always had plenty o stink bugs on my place and they don't eat em and seem rather miffed that I wasted their time when I chicky chicky them and they find out they are just stink bugs. they are also not terribly interested in potato beetles.
maybe mine are just spoiled. I went back to the old house to catch the remaining chickens. I thought...heck after two weeks without feed and fending for themselves completely they will be starving and will rush around a bowl of layer pellets and I can grab them one by one and stick them in a box. nope. they leisurely swallowed a few pellets then meandered back off to the woods. havn't wanted to stay till dusk to get them off the roost because the lights aren't working right on the trailer and I already got one ticket
Now I KNOW you're smarter than a few chickens!
I think there are certain bugs that don't taste good -- I've never been able to get chickens to eat potato beetles or their larvae, either. When you think about what the potato beetles are eating -- plants in the solanum family, mostly -- it's not surprising that they'd taste bad. I've wondered if they might even be poisonous, since the plants they eat are poisonous.
Decide where you want your 'catching station'. Put some bait like cracked corn down there for a few days and nowhere else.
Put up a wall. Leave some corn in the same place (this will be the center of the 'catching station' when you leave.
Put up the second wall. Leave some corn.
Put up the third wall. Leave some corn.
For chickens, you would need some netting for the roof. Leave some corn.
Make the last wall movable, or leave an opening in it. Leave some corn.
Put corn inside. When pigs are inside, find a way to close the gate.
But I found an interesting site called The City Chicken at
They have the Chicken Laws of various U.S. cities (and they want more, if you know yours), the Henhouse of the Month, and a collection of 140 photographs of chicken tractors! And they've got some interesting articles, too.
Maybe you'll 'be bitten by the chicken bug'!
chickens are so easy I think everyone should have a few!
And, as with nearly every topic here, I am riddled to the gills with obnoxious opinions on this topic.
First, I am against the chicken tractors. Chickens, IMOO, need to have more room than that. I especially don't like that they leave the tractor in the same place until all of the green is gone. Ug - the chicken is so desperate for greens it will eat even the most toxic stuff.
Second, I am against chicken coops that sit in one spot. It is just a disease incubator.
I am in favor of tiny, portable coops. Move it once a week or so. And I'm a big fan of "paddock shift" which can be done on a city lot. You could set up four paddocks on your lot - or use some fencing that you move around. Let your chickens into one paddock for about ten days and then move to the next paddock. Let the old paddock rest at least 30 days.
My obnoxious opinions go on and on and on ... but you get the general idea ....
yard size can be a problem too. many of the yards in tulsa aren't much bigger than a large room. in that case I think it would be best to dry lot the birds and let them out each day a few hours before dark. otherwise even just two or three would destroy the yard pretty quick! there are some benefits to having a coop and chickie yard in a fixed location. you can more easily collect the poop daily to compost it. with the limited compost material available in the city I would think that would be a real plus.
I use straw in the bottom of the coop (4x4', at least 4" or 5" deep, and every late afternoon I scatter a good handful of scratch over the straw. Looking for the tasty little nuggets, they kick and fluff the straw, helping to keep it dry. Much of the manure sticks to the straw.
If you just throw down some kind of mulch and don't give the chickens a reason to work it over, they won't. It just mats down and stinks. And you can't leave it there forever, either.
Chickens are relatively low-care, but they're not no-care.
I will be building a chicken tractor soon, I hope, but it is mainly to confine them in the areas out side their pen to prevent crop damage (esp young plants). I intend to move it two or three times a day, depending on the site vegetation.
Most chicken tractors are deliberately left in one spot long enough to kill everything -- that's the reason they're using chicken tractors in many cases. And they usually use a higher density of chickens than I do.
But I had to learn the hard way that chicken tractors and coops are two entirely different things -- a coop can be fairly predator-proof, and chicken tractors aren't, unless you make them so heavy that you can't move them easily. My armored chicken tractor must have weighed over 200 lbs -- big mistake.
My new tractor will be 1x2s or 2x2s with chicken wire and a small hatch on the top with some shade provided.
My plan is to build a tractor that can be stored inside the run and used to cover a space in the run that grows new seedlings for them, then move the tractor storage to a new "paddock" in the run and plant more seeds, etc. When they are out of the run, the tractor won't need to cover their crops.....
Meanwhile, I have plenty of weeds and toss them in a couple of times a day when they don't get out. I know what they like from observing them free ranging in the yard. Now I have too much planted to let them do this.
I agree that city chickens need to work into the limited space available and I want mixed use in my yard -- which means they have varied days and varied jobs.
Anyone have suggestions for lightweight moveable fencing? The stuff I have (some kind of plastic stuff staked with bamboo poles) is so light weight they are finding their way out of it. Sometimes I want a larger area defined, other times I do want them to concentrate on a small area (thus the tractor). They are only about half size (11 weeks), so they can still slip through spaces that won't be a problem in awhile.
The chicken tractors I'm using now are the fourth or fifth design I've tried, and probably the best I've come up with so far. They have no frame at all; they are built out of rabbit wire, 1/2" X 1" or 1" X 2" (the smaller mesh is sturdier, but a little heavier). I spread a tarp over all five tractors and weight it down with metal T-posts to keep it from blowing off. The weight has also prevented loose dogs from getting into the tractors, and so far this summer seems to be detering raccoons, although I've had a little trouble with skunks digging under the edge far enough to steal eggs that I forgot to pick up before I went to bed. Other than that, the only real problem has been snow load in the winter (the chickens do fine, although they don't get moved as often -- I use a thick layer of bedding and move when the bedding needs replaced). Oh, and loose goats jumping on them! I've been trying different door arrangements; three of them have a door at each end of the top, and this is the best arrangement for access to a row of cages like I'm using. One has a single larger door at one end, and the other one has a door in the middle of the top -- this one has to be positioned on the end of the row for access. It's the easiest one for catching chickens, though, as I can crouch inside the cage and reach both ends.
Yes, I know what the intent is for "the chicken tractor" and I am uncomfortable with that intent. It does eradicate all plant life from a patch of land - which some people see as an easy alternative to doing it themselves. I'm all for using chickens to make other chores easier - but only when it is also good for the chickens. It is my opinion that this is not good for the chickes. First, they are simply too confined. Second, they end up spending too much time walking in their own poop. Third, they eat all the good greens and then when that is done, they move on to the icky greens and later eat the stuff that is really quite bad for them. If they are in something that is moved every couple of hours - such that the chickens eat no more than 30% of the growth - then that is about 10 times better, but still makes me uncomfortable.
Free range: I don't do this anymore. Even with a great pyr around to protect them. I just don't like the poop on the porch or everywhere else I don't want it to be. Plus everything benefits from a controlled graze.
Light fencing: what do you have now? I would go with a six foot woven wire. Kinda stiff. You might even put in some bits here and there that are semi permanent and just add a bit of temporary fence as needed. If a chicken can get over this, clip one wing about once a month. Pennie, if you like, I could come over and help you figure something out along these lines.
Are they eating more than 30%? I suspect that the answer is "yes" in which case, I wish to express the opinion that I would not do it that way. My concerns are that by that point enough of the greenery is coated in chicken poop that the chickens are (in my obnoxious opinion) eating too much chicken poop. Further, I suspect that some growies are more toxic than other growies - so the chickens are probably eating some greens that they would rather not. Further, I think chickens need to have access to toxic plants because to them, that is their medicinals. Plus, confining chickens that much simply bothers me. Chickens are forest animals, not cage animals.
So - I know that my opinion is radically different from 99% of the people that raise chickens. And I accept that 99% of the people that raise chickens are completely comfortable with the way they raise their chickens and think it may even be "optimal."
I am not going to stop you or condemn you. But .... if you ask for my opinion or my endorsement of what you are doing, I will say "what you are doing is far better than average, and, at the same time, I would do it a different way."
I do want to have some (semi) permanent fencing around, for instance, my apple tree. Also of note, though, is that we have a significant population of aggressive raccoons lurking about, even in daylight hours. So I would not be inclined to put them in an accessible enclosure unless I'm out working in the yard.
Maybe you -- or anyone else? -- has some ideas for a fast growing shade tree that is deciduous and doesn't get taller than, say 15 - 20 feet that I could plant at the southwest corner of the coop to keep it cool. It would be great if it was relatively easy to care for here in the Northwest. I would love a tree with fruit, but again am concerned about attracting raccoons and having them sit on the run roof as they eat and freaking out the chickens. But maybe the chickens would think it was a good laugh?
I think any tree that produces fruit can be messy. If you got chickens running/pooping around, mulberries would be the least of your mess makers!