I'll answer a few of the questions. First, you'll need to plan a minimum of 2 square feet of space per chicken, assuming that you are using a movable coop (ala Joel Salatin or Andy Lee). A good reference book on the coops is Andy Lee's Chicken Tractor book.
Coops on wheels, hmmmm.... the largest movable pen I have is 12 feet by 12 feet, and it takes a lot of strength to move it even with the wheels. You may want to consider something smaller like 4 feet by 12 feet. Easier for the kids to help move.
Allan.Sterbinsky wrote:Just some thougts for your consideration. What happens if the kids grow tired of caring for the animals. Who will take care of them? Also, do you have hawks around the school? I've seen some in even large cities. Hawks are hard to defend against.
You probably want a larger breed instead of bantams as bantams can be more energetic. However you will need to tailor everything to your situation, some chickens are better for colder weather etc.
justhavinfun wrote:A couple of thoughts, I think the paddock system is the best way to go whenever possible. If for no other reason because it allows the land a chance to rest. Portable coops on lots of land make this system pretty easy and painless. But since you are working on a school yard space is limited so it might be easier in your situation to put a stationary coop in the center of the paddock system and design it so the chickens can still be rotated through the paddocks. If you did it this way I would use the deep litter method to help reduce to effort required to maintain the chickens. You would be making a few trade offs but a stationary coop designed for easy cleaning is not a lot of effort and if done properly the deep litter only needs cleaning out a few times a year and with the paddocks right there you could easily rake out the litter, put it in a pile and let the chickens spread it for you the next time they are in that paddock. With deep litter if it stinks something is wrong.
On hawks and raptors in general: I see many people who equate trees with protection from raptors. This simply isn't the case. Hawks use trees to their own benefit. What is needed to protect chickens from hawks and other avian predators are dense low growing bushes and hedges that the chickens can get under and hide in. Fruit trees like Sepp grows will work also, as will weeping anything. Basically the chickens need lots of dense vegetation to hide in and amongst, dense enough that the raptors cannot see into easily and will not try to dive into after the chickens.
Chickens are a lot of fun and very educational. Also I think they are a lot easier to care for than some of the more regular pets.
Kathleen Sanderson wrote:
Can you get the night janitor on board? He (or she) should be able to shut the door on the coop after the chickens go to roost.
Holidays and weekends -- classroom pets generally go home with a student over the weekend and on holidays. That wouldn't work very well with chickens, but maybe a mature, responsible child who lives near the school could be put in charge of collecting eggs and checking feeders and waterers on those days. There are bulk feeders (for commercial chicken feed) and large waterers that should hold enough to keep your small flock for several days at a time, although the waterer will need to be put up off the ground. Set it up on top of a couple of cement blocks, and the water will stay cleaner. Do the same with the feeder, or hang it from the ceiling, to keep the hens from scratching all of their feed out.
The hens really should be locked up overnight. Otherwise you are likely to lose them to predators.
Calcium -- if you are feeding surplus milk from the cafeteria (plus cottage cheese, yogurt, cheese, etc.), and supplementing with commercial layer pellets, they won't need any oyster shell. But if you do give them oyster shell, it will need to be crushed somehow.
All chickens need to have grit in a pan in their pen to eat. A bird has no teeth, that's why they have a gizzard. The bird eats the grit, stores the grit in the gizzard to act as teeth to grind it's food. The grit can be ground up eggs shells, or oyster shells; but IT MUST BE FINELY GROUND, and must be available to the birds at all times.