• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

I'm new to EVERYTHING!!! Where do I start?

 
Shelly Graham
Posts: 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We are soon to leave the monotony of 40 hours a week and joining the 80 hours a week of "Oh my God, what were we thinking!" Ha! It is our dream to run an unwed mother's home. I could take pages telling you of the miracles that have happened since Jan but I will cut to the chase. We will be moving into a home large enough to house 20+ (heaven help us!!) and want to live off the land. We have 2 acres that have been kept mowed down and another 3 that are going off into the woods. I want to raise chickens (paddock method!!) First- how many to start with and eventually get to where we can feed that large a crowd eggs and have some meat in the freezer? We are in the north western part of Alabama, hot humid summers, mild but sometimes ice storms- occasional snow in the winter. There is an area of the acreage that used to be a very large swimming pool that has been filled in with rock, dirt and various other (?!?) who knows. It is mostly enclosed and butts up to the walk out basement. Cover with a foot of tree chips and use it next year for a garden? Or haul a layer out and put in top soil- take into account we don't own big equipment but there are tree services in the area still cleaning up after the tornadoes of April 27, 2011 and need a place to dump..... There is nothing growing on it now so not a place for chickens...

 
Stephen Jp
Posts: 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I would recommend you start with shelter for your intended flock!!! I would also suggest that you start them off in an enclosure to a) be safe till they are adults and able to fend or flee b) so that they know where home is c) so that they get into the habit of laying their eggs where you can find them
 
Josef Theisen
Posts: 236
Location: SE Wisconsin, USA zone 5b
7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Read, read, read!! Watch videos, find mentors, ect. There is tons of info out there and the more you can learn from other peoples mistakes the less of your own you'll have to make. When you feel like you have a reasonable understanding of the birds needs and can meet them, then just do it. You will never be 100% confident until you get some hands on experience and the only way there is by keeping your own flock. Our strategy was to try to keep things cheap and mobile, so we could change our minds later. 6 months in I still feel this was a good way to go. My understanding has grown, and I feel I would have really screwed up a permanent coop if I had started there.

Best of luck! There is profound joy, and near constant entertainment with having chickens in your life.
 
Jay Green
Posts: 587
8
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I agree with the above post! Get your ducks in row before getting chickens... LOL. Research is the most important step so you aren't left asking the basic, simple questions after you already have birds on the land. Research breed characteristics, animal husbandry methods, costs, feeds available in your area...and then build your structures after serious research into those that perform well in your climate. Then choose breeds that do the same and will still meet your goals for your flock.

Once you have gotten to the point of getting chickens, it would be wise to look for good breeders in your area that have some standing in the breeding community(not just someone hatching chicks to sell every spring) and start out with good, sustainable bloodlines/breeds. It's so much easier investing time in money into good birds than it is into bad ones. The hatcheries are so easy to source and they have such a wide array of choices that it's the obvious choice, but I advise starting strong for a better experience.

One very important thing you need to also consider....do you have the fortitude to kill an animal? Inevitably there will come a time when a bird needs killing, either out of mercy or to make room for replenishing the flock and that is the huge dilemma that all newbies seem to stumble upon. They didn't do research into it to see if their local vet will handle poultry(some do not) or if they have an outlet for unwanted roosters or retired hens, if they are not wanting to kill the birds for meat.

A good place to start for all sorts of information is Backyardchickens.com.
 
Shelly Graham
Posts: 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you for your responses! I am reading and re-reading info. Love this website to get info on all methods and the pros and cons. The paddock method will work well for our space and lifestyle- may start with 10 and add more as I see how we do. I did try to watch the video on how to kill and clean a bird. I know I can do it- it just belabored the cutting of the throat and I stopped the video- get r done and move on! I'm not a suirmy most of the time and I will probably be the one stuck with the chore as pregnant young ladies will not be required to do that in my house. My husband is a tender heart- and I thank God for that. I would have been a good prairie girl. backyardchickens here I come.... Thank you all!
 
Renate Howard
pollinator
Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
You might want to look at "chicken tractor" and use the hens you start with to till a garden area for you. You'd be inputting hay and chicken feed but in return get an area cleared of plants and lots of organic matter worked into the soil. It's easier to have the birds do the work than you trying to collect manure, mix it with the straw, etc. You can always get the hens for the paddocks later (it may take awhile to build one that is dog-proof - for roaming neighborhood dogs).

If you get a few good ones you can get one of those $35 brooders from TSC and hatch all the eggs you want for the larger flock. With only 3 hens laying so far this spring we've hatched out 20 chicks plus had plenty of fresh eggs to eat and feed the dogs and pigs.

Some go for purebred hens. I like the hybrid vigor of mixed breed hens. Some say if you mix them you'll wind up with ones that don't lay as well - eat those and you can control how well your flock lays. IMHO most lines now are bred for good laying ability so mixing them shouldn't make you lose much. We did wind up with two mean little roosters, tho, by mixing silkies and cochins. UGH! If you want large birds that won't try to fly out of the paddocks, I'd look at brahmas and orpingtons.
 
nathan luedtke
Posts: 165
37
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I highly recommend the new ebook "iPermie" as an excellent intro for beginners. It's 2 bucks. You can download a huge chunk of it for free from the iPermie.net website as well, so you can get started with it before deciding to buy.
 
Jay Green
Posts: 587
8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Shelly Graham wrote:Thank you for your responses! I am reading and re-reading info. Love this website to get info on all methods and the pros and cons. The paddock method will work well for our space and lifestyle- may start with 10 and add more as I see how we do. I did try to watch the video on how to kill and clean a bird. I know I can do it- it just belabored the cutting of the throat and I stopped the video- get r done and move on! I'm not a suirmy most of the time and I will probably be the one stuck with the chore as pregnant young ladies will not be required to do that in my house. My husband is a tender heart- and I thank God for that. I would have been a good prairie girl. backyardchickens here I come.... Thank you all!


I agree about that video. It was very frustrating seeing the bird having to go through all that handling and anticipation~along with the resulting elevated adrenaline coursing through the meat, no doubt~prior to the kill. I think this type of "humane" killing is more to benefit the human's feelings about the process than the bird's.

Animals do not respond to handling by humans the way that humans respond to it and are not becalmed by being restrained and tapped on, petted and tapped on, restrained even longer and tapped upon further... getting it done calmly and quickly is much more humane to the animal, IMO. I've killed hundreds of chickens without holding one in my lap and tapping on its neck...I consider each of my kills to be humane as they are done quickly, calmly and insure a quick death. No restraining for long periods and tapping required.
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1331
Location: northern California
42
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I often find that people get too many animals than they can really take care of or feed easily, and regret it later.....sort of like starting a big garden in the spring and then finding it hard to keep up with the weeds etc. in the heat of the summer. Feed is usually the most expensive single item in raising any kind of animal so I would do a lot of research into finding or raising free or cheap feed sources for the chickens. If you don't do this, those eggs won't usually be cheaper than you can buy.
**Start with recycling all your kitchen scraps, garden rejects, weeds, etc. through the chickens. My guess is that in an average situation each person can generate 10-20% of a hen's diet this way.
**If you can free-range your hens, they should thus obtain another 1/4 to 1/3 of their needs. Perhaps more in a very abundant environment.
**Look for food and feed being thrown away in your area, especially if you are in or near a town. Dumpster diving. For years the staple of our poultry's diet in Georgia was huge bags of popcorn from the movie theater dumpster!! We added a little cottonseed or soybean meal as a protein supplement, and that, plus all the scraps and lots of weeds, was their whole diet.
**Check out black soldier flies. These critters are amazing and will thrive in your climate much of the year. They will turn lots of vile stuff otherwise unusable directly into poultry feed. Dead animals, humanure and pet manure, coffee grounds, even poisonous mushrooms...
**Other things being equal, I've found that the biggest difference between a happy hen and an unhappy one is plenty of fresh green stuff.
 
John Polk
master steward
Pie
Posts: 8018
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
269
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Even after you have read all you can, it still takes some time (in all seasons) of actually living with the birds to gain the skills, and confidence needed. If you start with a huge flock, you can feel overwhelmed when problems do arise.

I'd say, start with maybe 6-8 hens. This time of year, TSC or any local Feed/Seed store probably has chicks for sale. They are probably not the best birds in the world, but will get you past the learning curve. They should be laying towards the end of summer. By next spring, you'll have a clearer picture of what it takes to care for them (and how ready your unwed mothers are to chip in and help).

As Jay mentioned, find a local, reputable breeder for building your permanent flock. I am actually familiar with a good breeder in your region (I was looking @ properties just across the TN border from you). He is smack dab in the middle of 'Bama - (Clanton, AL). He sells primarily to local broiler producers (but also has a 'table egg' variety). He has personally bred these birds himself, and they are all raised on his property, so they are bred for your hot/humid summers.

Link: S & G Poultry

Good luck to you, and your 'interns'.
 
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic