Monday, January 3, 2011

The Winter Months

In the winter raising chickens becomes less of a hobby and more of a job. Depending on where you live it could be better or worse. Where I live we have winters from 20 degrees to 40 degrees. Sometimes their water freezes and I have to break it and fill it up with fresh water. I feed them the same thing year round, but they will eat almost anything. Whenever we eat tomatoes or strawberries we will give them the top part that we don't eat and it is a treat to them. We also feed them stale bread and the love it! This is the first winter that I have had chickens, and I had to read a lot on the internet on what to do. I learned that the worst thing for them is the wind. I put up two tarps on two sides of the coop and some wood on one side. 
This picture below was taken on christmas morning. 
(Don't know why I was wearing shorts, but I was only outside for a minute :)

I let them out to run around and peck at the ground sometimes and they love being out in the snow. They usually stay under the deck area because of the mud and to stay dry. I have never had a problem with putting them back in their coop because they are usually ready to sleep around 5 or 6 at night. They will all head back to their coop and roost for the night and all I have to do is shut the gate behind them.

I have cats and a dog, but when they are all outside together, they seem to get along. The roosters crow and the hen follows along with the group. Every now and then they all will hear something or see something and get spooked and run away as fast as they can.  

After the sun goes down it gets a lot colder. I read that you can use a heat lamp to keep them warm. I used a 100 ft long extension cord and a red bulb heat lamp. I turn it on when it gets colder than 20 degrees. It looks really cool in the dark because the whole coop has a red glow.

In this picture the hen is upstairs and I had just installed the lamp and was testing it during the day.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

How I Started Raising Chickens.

One day my mom was bringing me to a friends house. After she dropped me off, she saw some people on the side of the road selling chicks and bought 6 of them. I don't really know why she bought them, and I'm not sure she knew why either, but I am glad she got them. At the time, we had a litter of kittens too, so we had fun watching them play with each other.

We didn't have a home for them so we just turned a crate upside down in our garage to keep them in and keep other animals out. 

We read on the internet that they need a light when they are young, so we put a lamp inside their cage and that kept them warm. It was Spring 2009. I had a friend over and we decided to make a cage for them. We got some wood and built it. Then we stapled the chicken wire around it and put a tarp over the top for a roof.
When they were weeks old, 3 of them died one day at a time, and we weren't sure what was wrong. We just kept on doing what we were doing and raised three healthy little chickens! We moved them out into the yard next to the garage so they could peck at the grass for the first time. They loved it! A few months went by and I knew that their tarp covered cage wasn't a "proper living" place for them. So I thought of what I could do to build them a home. We had an old playhouse that we didn't use anymore and I took some measurements for wood and chicken wire. After a few weeks I had reconstructed a playhouse into a chicken coop!

I sawed the slide and the wooden ladder off the front and covered two walls with plywood and the other two sides with chicken wire. I hadn't moved them into their new home yet because I had just built it. I planned on putting them in their new coop the next day, but the next morning when I went to feed them, they were all killed. I was sad, but that is part of the whole experience. A year went by and my mom came home with 6 chirping chicks and I was ready to start over again.
I brought the old cage, that my friend and I built, into the garage and put that same lamp in the cage and fed them, watered them and played with them for months.
It was the beginning of summer and time for them to go outside! I moved their cage into the grass and they lived their for two weeks and one of them went missing. Later that day, one of my cats was laying out in the field eating something with feathers. It didn't affect me like it did the first time, but I just kept on raising them. When they got old enough to tell their gender, We realized that we had bought 4 roosters, and only had one hen. We gave away three roosters, and kept one of them to keep the hen company.

I moved them into their new home which I had built the previous year. I worked on it some more by sawing some planks upstairs, using the old ladder as a place to roost and a way for them to get to the top and back down, and to secure it from any future attacks. I had them for the longest time, but just recently some stray dogs broke through the wire and killed the rooster, but he protected the rest of the family because they were all upstairs in the top part of their new coop.

Before the dog attack, we bought two chickens from a guy on craigslist. We had no clue what they were or what gender they were. I thought that they were Bantam hens. My mom thought there was a Bantam rooster and a hen. We still to this day do not know what they are! Bantams are supposed to be small, but they are both younger than my first hen and bigger!