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Chickens for a suburban home

 
                  
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I would very much like to try chickens.  Organic eggs would be nice.  Their poops would be a nice addition to my composter.

Is anyone raising chickens for eggs in a position to help me work through my ideas?  Perhaps someone experienced at providing shelter and care for egg layers on a suburban lot? 
 
Emerson White
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Location: Alaska
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The first thing you will need is a sturdy, well ventilated, predator proof coop. The next thing you will need is chickens. The third thing you will need is food, water, and bedding (yes I know that's more than one thing).

Pausing for a moment at the chicken stage, where do you live? Chickens may be descended from tropical birds but they aren't all built the same. In cold areas you want chickens with a round shape and lots of feathers but very little in the way of a wattle and comb, in a hot area you want leggier birds with bigger combs (it's like a radiator) and fewer feathers. The cold weather characteristics are more important.

Oh, forgot the other first thing you need to do, figure out if it is legal in your area.

After you come back with a location I'll generate more specific information (if someone doesn't beat me to it) on what you will need to build and buy and feed. If you are relatively skilled with a hammer and saw I might even draw out some plans for you, if you have more money than taste I'll just send you to omlet to buy one of their injection molded coops.
 
                  
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May we work on the coop first please? A properly designed and sighted coop is my greatest worry. I'm not skilled with a hammer and saw. This does not mean I am ineducable. Livestock is not legal in my area. Most kind of you to ask. There are those who may not be interested in challenging local government. My area is cold. Weeks of -10 to -20°F are not uncommon during our winters. My coop will need insulation, lighting, and possibly a supplemental heat source.  The chickens will need electricity if but for nothing else other than to keep their water de-iced. I have a contractor who has quoted me an acceptable price for running electric.  I would like the coop designed for 10 chickens. We have coyotes and we're infested with stray cats. We have a Great Horned owl, raccoons, and snakes. We're surrounded by conservation lands.

I've spent time researching chickens at websites and the library. I've learned enough to know I need help with my ideas.

 
Jami McBride
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I have kept chickens in the city for 8 years now what do you want to know?

Here is some general info -

Along with organic feed, I recommend you make your own mix, avoid GMO feed stuffs at all costs.  Your eggs are only as organic as the feed the chickens eat.

Have a plan for allowing them to forage through grasses or feeding them 'greens'.

Sectioning off areas of your yard will help with their management.  You can move them from one area when you want to collect compost or dump leaf litter, and allow them access to bugs and new material in different area.

Shade under trees or bushes in the summer, some dry ground in the winter, a nice size run.  Housing can be minimal if you do not have bad winters.

Hang feeders or use bricks as I do to elevate your feeders off the ground.




 
                  
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I do have bad winters. What I would be most appreciative of is help with a working design that would keep chickens comfy and safe while being attractive. An eyesore would most assuredly create problems for me.

I would like a coop to be spacious enough to allow for an area within where feed and water could be hung at the height of their backs. Ammonia build up during the winter months concerns me as does excessive heat throughout the summer months. I would like proper ventilation incorporated into the design. Natural  lighting is important to me. I would like access to eggs from the outside. Perhaps through access panels although I do not know if this is practical. I would like the flooring to be a material that would be easily shoveled during winter when they will be inside the coop.  An environmentally friendly insulation will need to be chosen. I would like the overall dimensions of my chicken coop to be accommodating to a usage change. I might need to convert my coop to a potting shed by substituting a wall length potting bench for nest boxes and perches.

I have drawings however my file extensions are .docx and .jpeg.
 
Emerson White
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Location: Alaska
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Well in general you want 3 square feet per bird, minimum and 4 in an area where they will spend large amounts of time indoors. You want an opening of at least 1 square foot up high and down low for every 20 feet of coop area, and you want to have these openings guarded in some way from a direct gust of wind (especially the lower one. I think that a coop 6 feet wide and 8 feet long would be fairly easy to build using stock lumber, giving you 48 square feet or enough space for 12 chickens in the winter and 16 in the summer. Now, do you have accessibility issues? If you want it to be convertible to a potting shed you will need a full size door and not to have it too high off the ground. Good natural light that someone new to carpentry can reliably make is a tough one.

One popular method of keeping chickens warm during the winter is called the deep litter method, you buy straw or wood shavings (not sawdust mind you) to lay down on the floor as they defecate and you build up a compost heap of sorts inside of the chicken coop. You will probably need to source something to protect the floor like Vinyl or linoleum.

So overall vision for you, I think of a simple shed roof (with vents covered in hardware cloth) over a 6X8 structure, 7-8 feet tall at the end with an entrance, 2/12 pitch so 1'4" shorter at the far end, and up on concrete blocks to reduce rodent access. Have a people sized door that opens out on the entrance side, hinging off the outside corner (some kind of adjustable height threshold inside of that door, maybe a rabbet that you can fit various sized boards into. Next to that in the wall have a chicken sized opening (that shuts securely, not with wire but with a solid tight fitting board) about a foot above coop floor level, a ramp leading up to this from the outside and then down from the entrance to the floor on the inside.

I figure I'd see about this before I go generating anything like nest box spacing or adjustable food and water racks. If you e-mail me those pictures (I'm opcnup on gmail.com) I can convert them for you and put them up, eventually I'll Draw you some of my own too.

Edited to add: Regarding feed, GMO's (which are not the devil incarnate, Monsanto may be...) aren't nearly as important to avoid from a health and safety standpoint as things like moldy feed (which we know will cause cancer) or mite infested feed (which is nutrient deficient and we know to be not good for your birds).
 
Jami McBride
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Emerson White wrote:
Edited to add: Regarding feed, GMO's (which are not the devil incarnate, Monsanto may be...) aren't nearly as important to avoid from a health and safety standpoint as things like moldy feed (which we know will cause cancer) or mite infested feed (which is nutrient deficient and we know to be not good for your birds).


Wow, comparing GMO's to moldy feed, hardly an apples to apples comparison.  I was assuming that no one would consider buying or offering moldy/mite feed - crazy me.

The GMO issue is obviously one of personal conviction - google it for yourself and make your own informed decision.  The reason I mention it is that consuming GMO feed makes changes at the DNA level - if your eating the eggs/meat I consider this a no-brainier, but not everyone holds to my standards.

I raise chickens for better health, theirs first, mine second 

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My hen house is 10' x 6' - with a 2' drop on the roof from high to low side.  Why - because this worked with the sizes the wood came in <G>  Sounds similar to what Mr. White is describing.  I have the perch at the high end side, with a removable lower bar they use to access the perch - this is nice for people movement and cleaning under the roosting area.  Also on this side I can remove the top 6'x3' piece of plywood, held in place with two screws.  I have chicken wire covering this space.  In the summer I take off the plywood and allow a breeze to blow through their house long ways.

The roost side of the house is covered in plywood on three sides, but the other 2/3rds of the house is open chicken wire, stapled to 2x4 frame.  In the winter I cover (wrap) the house around with doubled 3mil clear plastic sheeting.  This allows a lot of light, or at least whatever light we get in the winter to penetrate, but then I live in the PNW.  If I lived where it snowed I might use more of my removable plywood sections and a couple of recycled windows for light, covering the entire structure. 

Designing an overhanging roof or covered porch area with your hen house will give you shade and cooler temps inside the house in the summer and dryer conditions around the house in the winter.  If you can place the house near/under some established tress you may be able to achieve similar results with less expense.  Another idea is to stretch a tarp 1' above your hen house roof in the summer.  This will shade their house, but still allow air to move around it. 

My nest boxes are inside, and not boxes at all.  I use those plastic stackable vegetable bins, with the tip out in the front and air vents.  Fill them half way with hay.  One screw placed in the middle into a 2'x4' and they stay put until I take them out for cleaning once a year.  They look nice too, and I can move them or add more as needed.  We keep the house clean enough that having to go inside is not an issue, no smell.

 
                  
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Perhaps the comparison wasn't the best however a valid point was made. One I did not consider. An appropriate feed storage bin should be incorporated into the design.

Emerson White, the attached .jpeg was 594.2 KB. My simple drawing was sent. Thank you for helping me. The ideas that accompany the drawings are in my head. The small cupola at the top is a vent. The boxes beneath the front windows are window boxes for plants. I have left over white gutter that could be used to create them to appease an appearance committee. The panel on the roof is a salvaged velux skylight I have set aside. The slats above the chicken door at the back of the coop are a greenhouse intake vent. The three lines at the back represent 8' perches. I do not know if I want to bump out the nest boxes for easier access however if they are designed to that end, I would be able to do this at a later date using the continuous row of nest boxes from the drawing. I don't know where to position heat lamps. Please teach me where I have gone wrong with my drawing. If a complete redesign of the structure or the interior space is necessary, sobeit.

I would like to create a materials list. This would enable me to begin gathering building materials. I have left over Tyvek and roofing shingles. I have seen sheet vinyl flooring thrown to the curbs when families update their kitchens.
 
Emerson White
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I was expecting to have to jump through hoops to make it a jpeg first, just uploading was quite easy.

On the GMO issue I actually have a high degree of knowledge, having earned a degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology but this conversation will need its own thread. I believe your statement regarding DNA is inaccurate, a broadly believed untruth about GMO's.

As for storage a standard rubber made tote will work just fine, especially if kept inside the coop.

I think that this is more space than you need but I'm not overly worried about too much space, I might drop down to 3 nest boxes, which will increase competition to get into the boxes and reduce the tendency to go broody. If you are angling towards an appearance committee it would seem you have far more oversight than I'd suspected, are you going to be able to get these birds outside at all? If not then this might not be enough space for 10. A shed roof is easier to put on, and maintain, but if you are keeping up appearances maybe it isn't viable.

do you have raccoons to worry about? Coons can get through hardware cloth and chicken wire, so something like weld wire may become necessary. The skylight is also a potential hazard, it takes a lot of experience to be able to do a skylight well.
img_001.jpg
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The ordinance banning chickens, not ducks, was a result of misguided H5N1 fears. I suspect they were more concerned with property values than which species was a likely reservoir for H5N1.

If all goes according to plan, my chickens will be provided with a yard that will be roughly 20 x 30. I have Morus rubra and several other indigenous fruiting trees within the area where the future run will be and have already begun adding indigenous grasses and forbs. I do have one family of raccoons passing through regularly at dusk when the chickens would be inside the coop. I am more concerned with stray cats. I may run an electric wire around the run.

The suggestion to use a deep litter method for winter was wonderful. I was first introduced to this method several weeks ago when I viewed a deep litter YouTube video. The suggestion to build three nest boxes instead of five for my purposes was most helpful. I was unfamiliar with the  term broody and have learned something very useful. I want eggs and do not believe I would want any chicken looking at me with the "back-off-or-I'll-kill-you" look. Three nest boxes it will be. Thank you for such insightful comments Emerson White.

We've all done things that in retrospect, were rather crazy. Some work. Some don't. While I may understand the reasoning behind why moldy feeds should never be offered to animals, there will be those stumbling upon previous comments who might not. The need to stretch our dollar in this horrible economy by avoiding waste is hitting home and there will be those tempted to gamble by using up moldy feeds, it's not a good idea. If we see mold on feed, it's reasonably safe to assume it's spoiled. Spoiled feed no longer provides complete nutritional value because of the rapid growth of bacteria and molds. Additionally, the risk of mycotoxin-contamination is increased. Please throw away what remains of any spoiled animal feed.
 
                        
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nH7U4BbJzUs

Is this the Deep Litter system you are referring to, Dirt Bag?

Martha Stewart has been growing chickens for more than 30 years and of course she has the staff to realize her visions for how the chicks should be grown.

I noticed the other day she did a whole show on "Chicken Ladies" and in the process she did show her coops.  Click on the video (11 minutes) for some quick glimpses of her coops.

http://www.marthastewart.com/article/marthas-chicken-coops

She lives in the NE so her climate should be comparable to where you are.
 
                  
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Yes. That is the video I viewed. What a wonderful way to  break down the more useful nutrients to make them more usable to plants.

There was a series of videos titled the 'The Natural History of the Chicken' by Mark Lewis. I laughed at the silly lady with the soul mate chicken, my chin dropped to the floor viewing a reenactment of mouth to beak resuscitation, and I shed a tear when I thought Liza died. You might enjoy this series-
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkxO91TLKVg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84vXdEdSJI4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2C1E1_BN1Y
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NaO1hDMgJsw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJFU8mjMEK0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXXUPK-OvtQ

I've found an interesting suggestion from a specialty site-
Have a chicken prison that keeps the chicken next to the flock to reduce pecking order issues.  You may use it to break up a broody, isolate an injured chicken, introduce a new chicken to the flock, or who knows what else.  It needs its own food and water, weather and predator protection.
This might be a handy addition for introducing a new chicken or treating an injured chicken.
 
                        
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Sounds like you need to become a chicken psychiatrist in order to raise them!

What did you think of Martha Stewart's chicken coops?

They have sliding doors on either end of each coop.  (She shows 4 coops in the chicken yard)  And high ventilation windows in each coop.

A whole lot different than the coops featured in the Tyson growing yards in Food, Inc.  (!!!)
 
                  
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It's been years since I've watched Martha Stewart. She appears to have honed her marketing skills.

Her chicken coops were wonderfully designed. I particularly liked the placement of upper transom windows which allow for cross breezes in warmer months. Sliders may work for her coops however my coop is too small. A standard sized  door will work best for me. The pitch of her roofs stood out most in my mind. The realization struck that our average snowfall dictates a steeper pitch.  My gradient will need to be increased.  

I learned something interesting while viewing another Martha Stewart video in which she was promoting a mail order poultry supply business. Red infrared heat lamps help prevent cannibalism.
 
                        
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I was struck by the fleeting similarity between unloading her new chicks and the new chick scenes at the Tyson growers in Food, Inc.  There the similarity ends.  Martha's chicks grow strong and healthy.  The Tyson chicks cannot even stand on their own legs.
 
                  
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Food Inc is an exceptional introduction to our nation's food supply.

Our small 4H group once toured a poultry farm. Each member of our group was allowed to practice teaching chicks how to drink and eat. It was a pleasurable experience for the children as well as for the adult chaperones.

 
                        
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Here is a link to the Food, Inc.  documentary.  [Scroll down to the read button -- you do not have to download anything.]

http://www.documentary-log.com/you-are-watching-food-inc/

I had forgotten that you have to teach the little chicks to eat and drink.  My Mom used to raise chickens years ago and that was my job.  They sure are little fluff balls when they are babies.

Here's another interesting chicken link I just ran across:

Hen cam:

http://www.marthastewart.com/pet-video?video_id=1a4b22b188ab7210VgnVCM1000003d370a0aRCRD

woops.  That's just the promo.  Here is the Hencam.com site - she also has a goat cam.

http://www.hencam.com/

 
                        
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I was looking for some information on Prince Charles' chicken coop at Highgrove -- apparently he is quite the chicken farmer.

I didn't find the Highgrove chicken coop but I did find this page of online resources for chicken growers  (!)

Lots of information -- even if it does not include the Prince of Wales' chicken house.
 
            
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Hi Chicken Experts,
I have a quick question because I just brought home 3 pullets from a garage sale down the street. I have a coop but want to know if I REALLY need the starter feed with the antibiotics. The guy at the feed store says yes, but I wanted to see what forum memners think.

OMG Im a new mommy and this was not a planned adoption!

Jody

 
                  
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We had free range chickens when I was young. I recall little more than that they were always running around scratching the ground and eating. We collected eggs. Some of our chickens ended up in our bellies. While I'm certainly no chicken expert, I have been attempting to educate myself on all things chicken as I'll be purchasing several soon. I have decided to use certified organic feed that is antibiotic-free, hormone-free, and pesticide-free for several reasons. Antibiotics really shouldn't be tossed into feeds willy nilly. This widespread practice has resulted in resistant bacterial strains. Growth hormones are frequently included in commercial feeds. They can reduce the lifespan and quality of life for the chicken. Pesticides never have thrilled me. They have their place but I'm of the opinion they shouldn't be in our food. I am concerned about our grandchildren eating foods laced with pesticides. There is considerable research supporting my concerns.  I personally would opt for chick feed free of antibiotics. If it isn't broken why fix it? 

Congratulations on becoming a new chicken mom. I'm sure you'll make the best decision for you regarding which feed to offer.
 
                        
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Im no expert either, but as I remember most chick problems are because they do not have clean runs or clean water.  I remember we put some kind of drops in their drinking water if we had sick chicks.  Occasionally you will introduce a chick that is not socially acceptible and the others will attack it--they can be come canabalistic.  Its better to raise a group together and not introduce any strangers.
 
            
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Okay, Im trying no antibiotic starter feed. Thanks Wombat and DirtBall. By the way, I love the Hen Cam website!
 
Emerson White
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The medication in the medicated chicken feed is typically to deal with coccidiosis, (which is caused by Coccidia spp., an apicomplexan like Malaria spp. or Cryptosporidium spp., not a bacteria) which is ubiquitous in the environment and can sweep through a population of birds pretty fast. Now you don't need the medicated feed for your birds to survive, it is important to mention that these birds are descended from many many generation that probably were raised on medicated feed, so it isn't safe to assume that they have the natural ability to fight this disease. Just like antibiotics breed resistant organisms so too it breeds susceptible hosts.

Growth hormones don't fare the stomach so well, I think that might be a mistake ... however they won't be in the medicated chick starter that the feed store sells.

I doubt you came here expecting to hear any thing that would suggest that you need medicated feed, but you do need to know that with out it there is a higher risk of things going very badly very quickly, and if you are a frail soul (I am a heartless bastard) then perhaps for your sake you ought not to take the risk of unmedicated chick feed. Once they get to adult size it's less of an issue.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Raccoons are a much greater threat to adult chickens than cats are.  Normally cats won't bother chickens once they get past the half-grown stage, although they will take young chicks.  Raccoons, however, will take adult chickens, and will keep coming back for more until you either dispose of the 'coons, or make it impossible for them to get into the chicken coop.  Been there, done that.  So be sure to take them into account if you know that they have a trail through your yard.

You don't need heat in your chicken coop, even if your winter temperatures got much lower than the minus ten to minus twenty that you mentioned.  (I've kept chickens in the Interior of Alaska, where it gets down to minus seventy, and they didn't have, or need, heat in the coop.)  Just make sure you get breeds that are well-adapted to cold weather -- no large single combs, or small-bodied tight-feathered birds; feed them well; keep the drafts off; and supply PLENTY of ventilation.  The build-up of ammonia fumes will kill poultry quicker than just about anything else.  It's recommended to have high ventilation openings on all four walls, so you can just close the ones on the side that the snow or sleet is blowing in from....

Kathleen
 
                  
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Okay, Im trying no antibiotic starter feed.
Good for you. We're both small scale. You have 3 and I will only have 10. Additionally, you adopted 3 pullets not chicks. The little I've read states "Many preventative drugs are effective only in the first part of the parasite life cycle, and therefore must be used early if they are to be used at all", the antibiotics aren't as effective as when they were first introduced, and drugs used for prevention frequently interfere with development of immunity to coccidia. Here are two articles I located which I found helpful in making my decision-
http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/PDF/coccidiosis.pdf
http://www.thepoultrysite.com/articles/1499/coccidiosis-in-poultry

Thank you Kathleen for confirming my decision not to include a heater in my coop. I may or may not include heat lamps based on your input. I'm still working on ventilation. I had a general idea of chickens I wanted however I haven't spent much time on narrowing down my choices. May I ask you which breeds you believe are the best adapted to cold weather?



 
Kathleen Sanderson
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My suggestions would be Wyandottes; Chanteclers; Buckeyes; Ameraucanas/Easter Eggers (although in my experience they don't lay well in the winter, while the other breeds I'm mentioning will lay some, even without supplemental lighting); Rose Comb Rhode Island Red; Dominique.  Take a look at the Henderson Breed Chart http://www.ithaca.edu/staff/jhenderson/chooks/chooks.html -- the breed characteristics listed there are fairly accurate. 

Kathleen
 
                  
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You suggested two that I had in mind. The chart looks fantastic.  I'll look for the others you suggested.

I found a reputable local source for the Easter Eggers. I never found a source for Rhode Island Reds. Where would I purchase any of the breeds you suggested?

How do you feel about using probiotics in feed?
 
                        
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http://www.marthastewart.com/pet-video?video_id=466e5081196f4110VgnVCM1000003d370a0aRCRD

here's another video of Martha Stewart's chickens.  These breeds are grown in the NE so the climate should be similar or colder than what you have, Dirt Ball.

She is especially interested in heirloom breeds.  And of course she selects for colored eggs -- since her line of paint colors are adapted from her chicken egg colors  (!).

Here's more on chicken breeds:

http://professorchickenhasevenmorebreeds.webs.com/marans.htm
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Dirt Ball wrote:
You suggested two that I had in mind. The chart looks fantastic.  I'll look for the others you suggested.

I found a reputable local source for the Easter Eggers. I never found a source for Rhode Island Reds. Where would I purchase any of the breeds you suggested?

How do you feel about using probiotics in feed?


If by probiotics you mean feeding something like yogurt or kefir with live cultures, then I think it's a great idea.  I make kefir from my goat milk and sometimes have extra kefir grains, which I feed to the chickens.  They don't get that often enough for me to tell if it makes much difference, but I don't see how it could not be good for them. 

I think that Sand Hill Preservation Center has the Rose Comb Rhode Island in white, but not the reds.  You could check to see what else they have.  You could also check out the BackYardChickens forum, as a lot of the people on there are breeders of various sizes.  I know there are people who breed Buckeyes and ship chicks, and depending on what color you wanted you can also find some Wyandotte breeders (I have some hatchery Golden-laced Wyandottes, and would like to find breeder quality, but haven't so far -- I know there are people breeding Silver-laced, Buff, and White, though, and also Blue-laced Red). 

Kathleen
 
                  
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You hit that on the head. Her videos are focused on marketing a product du jour. Too much so. I watched a few thinking I was getting unbiased information that would be useful and started realizing I was being bombarded with sales pitches. She's doing a great job marketing but it's hard to tell if the breeds she promotes are best for me or best for promoting her line of paints and other products. How quaint. I could buy my layers from her supplier then paint my kitchen in her Easter egg colors then artfully place a basket of color coordinated eggs on her color coordinated dish towels in a country basket available from her online store in the middle of our kitchen table. The basket of eggs will multi task as a decorative center piece and I can stand by it for a photo op session wearing one of her designer aprons- ROTFLMFRO.  I'll check out the video to see if I can pick up something useful to me. The other video you suggested showing the transom windows was note worthy. She never mentioned the transoms but she did hold up flash cards reinforcing the products she was pushing. Thanks for your chicken information website. The Buff Orpingtons were the other breed I was thinking about.

I found the Backyard Chickens forums. Another well-versed chicken person highly recommended it. It's a fantastic forum but I don't want to register to ask any questions. Same problem over there as with Martha Stewart. It's too hard to tell who's sincerely trying to help and who's trying to promote something they're selling somewhere else at their forums. They had a very useful article on ventilation that I've printed for myself. I'll look for your Sandhill Preservation Society. I can't help you with breeder quality anything. I wouldn't know breeder quality if it slapped me in the face and squawked breeder three times. I do hope you find what you're looking for though since it's frustrating knowing what you want and not being able to find it.

I did mean live cultures. I make my own yogurt. Yum yum. Thanks for confirming my thoughts on probiotics being a great idea. I'll look for more information on them after I have the coop design buttoned down unless you know of some good info sites I should begin reading now.
 
                  
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Kathleen- I found pictures of Golden-laced Wyandottes. Beautiful chickens.

I feel bad about this. ROTFLMFRO means rolling on the floor laughing my fat rear off. I didn't mean the F as the bad f word.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Here's a link to the Sand Hill Preservation Center, if that helps:  http://www.sandhillpreservation.com/

They have a lot of good information on their site, but only sell straight-run, so if you want just pullets (or mostly pullets) you might be better off looking for your chicks elsewhere.  Feathersite http://www.feathersite.com/Poultry/BRKPoultryPage.html ; has a list of hatcheries, most of which have websites.  Scroll down the page that opens at the link -- you'll also find their chicken breeds pages, which have some information and a ton of pictures. 

Kathleen
 
                        
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Here a thread from the Great White North forum that might be of interest for raising chickens in cold climates:

http://www.permies.com/permaculture-forums/2956_0/great-white-north/cold-climate-chickens

Here's an article that explains the difference between pre-biotics and pro-biotics.

I notice that Iams is now putting pre-biotics in their dog food.
 
                  
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Thank you for the link to the Feathersite site Kathleen.

Thank you for the mention of a prebiotics v. probiotics article wombat. Would you please add the link to the article you located discussing prebiotics v. probiotics.
 
                        
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http://nutrition.about.com/od/therapeuticnutrition1/p/pro_prebiotics.htm

Sorry about that.  Here is the link.

Prebiotics and probiotics can restore the balance of bacteria in your digestive tract. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can be found in various foods. When you eat probiotics, you will add these healthy bacteria to your intestinal tract. Common strains include Lactobacillis and Bifidobacterium families of bacteria.
Prebiotics are non-digestible foods that make their way through our digestive system and help good bacteria grow and flourish. Prebiotics keep beneficial bacteria healthy.
 
Emerson White
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Oddly enough the chicken probiotics are more well regulated than the people probiotics. Most people probiotics contain no living organism, and of those that contain an organism most contain the wrong organism. Of course if you are making yours at home I doubt you will be the victim of mislabeling, having no label and all.
 
                        
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Actually, after a bout of eating salmonella tomatoes a few years ago, I started using probiotic acidophilus supplements.  According to the label it contains over 100 million active lactobacillis acidophilus.

I don't know if I can believe the label.

At home I make yogurt using Greek yogurt as a starter.  I hadn't thought of feeding it to my animals though.

Pre biotics sounds like something chickens would get naturally if they were scratching around a chicken yard.
 
paul wheaton
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A cute video about raising chickens in what looks like it might be the burbs.



 
                  
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That was a particularly nice video. I recently learned golf balls were used to encourage chickens to lay eggs in nest boxes. Evidently they work as well as vintage wooden eggs that were hand painted. When I first saw the golf ball lump in the snake, I felt horrible and determined fake eggs were no longer an option for me. Then I saw the golf ball pooped out by the snake. I would use the golf balls now that I've seen they can be passed with no harm to the snake. 
 
Emerson White
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I remember we once had a goose that was confused about when to lay and went broody in october (in Alaska). I don;t quite remember why but somehow she got some golfballs (she set up shop right next to the garage) She kicked out half her eggs and started incubating the golfballs instead. A goose egg makes a fine omelet.
 
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