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Chickens at school

 
Gray Simpson
Posts: 67
Location: McDonough, GA
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At my high school we have a greenhouse, where we grow mostly ornamental plants. (I established an outdoor vegetable garden in a different part of the campus.)

Anyway, the grassy area around the greenhouse (about 1800 square feet) is now home to 4 roosters and 5 hens (last year all we had were two roosters). My first question is: how can you tell if a chicken is beginning to starve? We have a two week Christmas break, and I had finished shelling some pecans so I decided to take the shells to the chickens. They all pounced on the pile and ate every bit of nut meat... the next day they polished off a couple pounds of birdseed and an apple. The thing is, there's somebody who's supposed to be taking care of them and I just want to make sure that person is doing their job. They do have plenty of rainwater right now.

I don't know how much they weigh exactly... Two of the hens are fairly small, and I believe all the hens are juveniles since there's only been one small egg produced so far. I found some charts here, but there are so many variables! Anyone have a rule of thumb for how much to feed chickens (for example, should they have food constantly available)? http://www2.ca.uky.edu/afspoultry-files/pubs/How_much_will_my_chicken_eat.pdf

I'll post some pictures after the break, and maybe someone could give advice on whether it would make sense to try some sort of paddock system, or other improvements. I'm in the plant science class, not the animal science so I don't know much... I'll have to ask my teacher how they take care of the chickens. Heck, I don't even know what they do with all the manure! Ditto for the rabbits. The rabbits, by the way, weren't getting anywhere near their fill of dark leafy greens until I started bringing them stuff from my garden! People were trying to feed them iceberg lettuce, oranges, apples, etc.

Have a good new year.
chicken area.png
[Thumbnail for chicken area.png]
About 1800 square feet of grass for the chickens to roam.
 
Gray Simpson
Posts: 67
Location: McDonough, GA
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The two rabbits share the same space when it isn't so cold outside (although I'm just now reading that rabbits withstand cold better than our hot Georgia summers). Our teacher has good intentions, and she and I have a good relationship but I wish she would be less "sloppy" with managing the animals. And my other favorite teacher who sponsors our environmental club has been sloppy with regards to collecting paper for recycling. I just have to remind myself how much teachers in general have to deal with every day.
 
Jay Green
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Chickens always act hungry, no matter what. Especially when foods are tossed on the ground and are not their usual feed...but they pretty much hog their usual feed also. You can feed them their daily ration, watch them eat it all, their crops bulging...and then take a handful of what they just ate, throw it on the ground and they will all scramble to get it like it was the last food on Earth. Chickens are just like that.

Pick up your chickens. If you can feel their keel bones(the breast bone) sharply and they are mature birds(not juveniles)they might need more food or someone is not feeding consistently. They aren't really considered juveniles if they are old enough to lay~6 mo. is average sexual maturity age.

They do not have to have food constantly and will do better if they do not, IMO. If they have a paddock in which to range, they can get out and forage for extra things...even in the winter time.

I feed once a day in the morning and it's enough to last a good part of the day but that trough is empty by 4 pm.

There are standard and recommended amounts to give to chickens per day and that is from commercial poultry specifications so they can calculate their feed usages. Backyard flocks with outside access and different activity levels, different breeds, laying or not laying, molting or not molting, etc~these birds' needs change throughout the seasons and can even change week to week, depending on the variables in their lives.

For people who just have no experience with chickens whatsoever and don't know what they eat, should eat, can eat, it's probably wise to just put up a continuous feeder until more experience and knowledge is gained.
 
Gray Simpson
Posts: 67
Location: McDonough, GA
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Pick up your chickens.


Who am I, Usain Bolt? These chickens dodge students all day -- they trust no one! It takes three guys and a round fishing net. One of the roosters escaped the other week and ended up hiding out in the spiky bushes at the middle school, on Friday. No one could catch it and we eventually lost it. The following Monday the middle school principal called, and finally some students caught it.

Thanks for the answer Jay.
 
Jay Green
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Have you ever heard the expression "chickens always come home to roost"? That's not just an expression...it's fact. Chickens roost every night. Somewhere. Hopefully they are roosting in the coop you have provided. Chickens cannot see well in the darkness and are very easily plucked right off their roost and can be examined, held, treated, etc. at your pleasure.

I'm a little amazed that your school has taken on this project without researching it more before doing so. That would and should be the first step to any school project...research, planning and [b]then [/b]implementation. If they don't know any more about chickens than this...the basics of feeding, watering and handling....how in the world did they presume to care for them adequately? There are YouTube videos, books, internet forums, and even people in the community that may be able to provide some tutelage on these animals.

I've been keeping chickens for 36 years and never had to chase one yet. Just gotta be smarter than the chicken....and that shouldn't be tough~they are known for being very simple minded.

Could be your chickens trust no one because they've been dodging students all day and have been chased by men with fishing nets.
 
Gray Simpson
Posts: 67
Location: McDonough, GA
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I'll have to go back tomorrow and see if the chickens have water since the nights are starting to dip below freezing. I did some Googling and found two main solutions for providing water in winter: (1) swap out containers so one can thaw inside; (2) use electric heat. Since our winters are fairly mild*, I expect it might be possible to bury a large water container in the ground and use some kind of passive solar technique to keep the top from freezing. A couple articles suggest using a galvanized feed pan and floating a piece of wood in it with 1 inch holes -- this is supposed to insulate the water (paint it black maybe?) and prevent the chickens from splashing water on themselves or getting the water dirty.

*(zone 8a; average annual minimum of 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit; soil temperature data is harder to find but I'm pretty sure the soil never freezes at a depth of 2 or more inches)

Chickens roost every night. Somewhere. Hopefully they are roosting in the coop you have provided.


I haven't had the chance to observe them at night. They do not have a true coop, but there are some sheltered areas. There are also two 2 foot high cages; one is empty and one houses a rooster that otherwise fights with the others. I'll post pictures tomorrow if I can remember.
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1355
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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Alot of students are playing xbox. you are learning about sustainable agri. tops off to you.

The once a day visit to change out the water and add feed seems like the best option.
The auto refill feeder is a really good idea too.
 
Julia Winter
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Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
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Gray, good for you taking an interest in these animals. One thing you should know--four roosters and five hens is going to be big trouble. Somebody better get thinking about alternative fates for all but one of those roosters. Soup is definitely an option (or coq au vin!)--but something needs to be done.

When there are too many roosters, they really ride the hens hard. It's not pretty. I'm guessing your birds are young and that's why you haven't seen the full level of conflict yet.

One rooster is a useful thing, if the crowing isn't an issue. The rooster looks out for his harem, both in foraging and in predator response. My 65 pound doggy primeval (?Alaskan Husky?) was turned back by a Barred Rock Rooster that was at least 5 times smaller than her by weight. He sure looked huge that day she broke into the coop, though! I heard the squawking but by the time I got there, the hens were all flattened in the corner behind the rooster, who looked four feet tall. He had blood on his comb, so I know there was a brief scuffle, but my dog was backed into the far corner with a look like "get this crazy thing away from me!!"

Is it possible to get additional fencing material to divide your 1800 sq ft into three 600 sq ft paddocks? Then y'all could move your flock and let the greens grow back. If you can move their shelter this may eliminate the need to shovel up chicken poop.
 
Jay Green
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Agree. Too many roosters. Deep litter in the coop will eliminate scooping poop all the time.
 
Gray Simpson
Posts: 67
Location: McDonough, GA
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Pictures are here (just the last three). You can see the whole flock in the first picture, with the exception of the silky rooster. The silky is aggressive and the other chickens generally stay away from it. Sometimes the students put him in solitary confinement in one of the two large enclosures. In the third picture you can see the plywood box that they all gather in when it is cold.

https://picasaweb.google.com/gray1753/DropBox?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCMTw_7v2uZmG0wE&feat=directlink
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1355
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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The chickens look pretty happy. I have climate envy, all I see is bare trees outside my window.
Keep up the good work.
 
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