Friday, January 31, 2014

Contemplating Clucks

     Looking back a few years, it was this time of year that our thoughts turned serious about bringing chickens home. We were sure we wanted to add them to our family and looked forward to their egg gifts. But first things first, we had to make a secure place to house them in. We decided to construct our little coop and run from reclaimed wood that we happened to have. We could have also used new wood from the lumber yard or home improvement store but for us it was nice that we were able to reuse some old wood. But one could also use an old garden shed or a new one, an existing out building that could easily be converted into a coop, or maybe one of those wooden shed kits that are sold at the home improvement store. What ever your choice ends up being make sure you really think about your decision. Where is the location of this coop going to be, will that location allow for a nice size run for your clucks and most importantly is it big enough. Now, due to space and how much you can afford in your finances to dedicate to this coop and run for your clucks has a lot to do with the size of coop you are willing and/or able to choose. For us I absolutely adore the little coop and run that we constructed. But if I had it to do over again, I think I would go a bit bigger. Our coop has a 4 x 8 foot print and our run is 8 x 12. I would do an 8 X 8 coop and 16 x 20 run if I had it to do over again. One reason is quite simply this, chickens are addicting. So are their eggs. But another important reason is that you need to have enough space so that each spring you can add a few more clucks to your flock. Why? There are several reasons. Sometimes clucks die. Just like that. No apparent reason. Or there are predators that you can loose your clucks to. But if you had none of that to worry about you would want to add a few more clucks each year for egg production purposes. When you bring your new little peeps home they won't be laying for a good 4 to 6 months depending on the breed. Once they start laying they will lay well for 2 to 3 years and then the amount of eggs they lay will decline. So if you add a few clucks each year, your egg numbers will continue to remain strong. I love knowing that the eggs we eat are coming from our very own, very spoiled clucks.                                                                                                                        


Friday, January 24, 2014

Square Foot Real Estate

Square footage. That's some touchy real estate. I think if we all had a choice we would have as much as we could possibly get our hands on. But for most of us that just isn't the case. If you have the space and the funds and are contemplating chickens or a new coop and run build it bigger then you think you will need. You will use the space. I wish we would have built our sweet coop double the size it is. Cause guess what? We want more clucks. We have been able to add a few each year and will be able to add a few more this year but then that's it. We'll be done with adding clucks to the space we have for them. You see it all hinges on the square footage. A bigger space for the clucks is always better. Our hens have a nice size run and spend most of their time there. Using the coop to lay eggs and sleep. We also give them time out of the run out in the back yard. Allowing us to have a few more clucks then if we kept them cooped up all the time. If the clucks will be spending all of their time inside the coop, then in my opinion it would be best to have a minimum of 4 to 5 sq ft per bird. But have a look at what 4 sq ft really looks like and you will see it's not much space at all - so more space is better. If you have an enclosed run space along with your coop then a minimum of 8 to 10 sq ft outside per each bird. But again that just isn't that much space and if you can go bigger then by all means do so. Taking into consideration your own unique location and situation for your clucks and how many you think you would like to have, key word being think, because once you have clucks you will inevitably want more. Rethink what size coop and run you can build or accommodate because this will determine the number of clucks you will be able to have.                                                                                

Friday, January 17, 2014

Counting Eggs

Counting eggs. Looking at internet sites that have lists of chicken breeds, somewhere in the description of the chicken you may find a listing of how many eggs that particular chicken is projected to lay either per year or by the week. For some one like me, I have to do the math. It's just how I'm wired. So for instance you might come across the Australorp who is projected to lay 260 eggs in one year. Now by chicken standards that's a bunch, since most chickens lay about 3 eggs per week. Divide that 260 eggs by 52 weeks and you end up with 5 eggs per week. So, if you were to know the amount of projected eggs each of your hens was expected to lay, you could find out how many eggs you could be expecting each day from your flock. Keeping in mind these numbers are based using the first 2 most productive egg laying years of the chicken. After 2 years the amount of eggs the chicken lays in a year goes down. Using the hens we have in our flock as an example, we'll do the math to find out how many eggs we can look for each day from our hens.
1 Buff Orpington - 3 eggs per week      3 x 1 = 3 eggs
1 Black Australorp - 5 eggs per week   5 x 1 = 5 eggs
1 Easter Egger - 4 eggs per week          4 x 1 = 4 eggs
3 Light Brahma - 3 eggs each per week  3 x 3 = 9 eggs
3 Cochin - 2 eggs each per week           2 x 3 = 6 eggs
4 Welsummer - 4 eggs each per week      4 x 4 = 16 eggs
 Our total number of eggs per week is 43 eggs.
Divide 43 eggs by 7 days and this will give you the amount of eggs you could expect to see from your hens each day. 43/7 = 6.14. Round this number down to 6. (Chickens are not going to lay a part of an egg. It's all or nothing.) 
Keep in mind also that there are factors that will lower the amount of eggs your hens may give you. Heat, cold, shorter days, diet, water, parasites, broody-ness and molting are some triggers that will make the hens lay less or not at all. Most of which, can be managed.
So, this is counting eggs. Or egg math. How ever you want to look at it. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Breeds of Chickens We Have

Buff Orpington. Lays 3 light brown eggs per week.
This is our one Orpington that we have. She is always friendly and very curious. First to come over and investigate what we are doing or come up and say hello. She seems to get along well with the other hens and does fine whether or not she is confined to the coop and run or out in the yard foraging. Her eggs are a medium size, fat oval, light brown egg.
Black Australorp. Lays 4/5 brown eggs per week.
We have only one Black Australorp as well. She stays to the hens. She isn't interested in being handled and stays back or away from us when we are in the coop and run. She doesn't seem afraid or flighty but isn't interested in mingling with us humans. She seems to get along well with the group but every now and then she will get after one of the other hens and peck at them or run at them. It is always short lived and never amounts to anything. She does well confined to the coop and run as well as out in the yard. This one lays a medium size brown egg.
Top brown hen is a Welsummer. Lays 4 dark brown or speckled brown eggs a week. Bottom white and black hen is a Light Brahma. Lays about 3 light brown eggs per week.
The Welsummers are a more active hen. They seem to be leaner and lighter in their build. We have one that is a year and half and she is very curious and friendly. We have 3 that are about 8 months old and they too are very active. They would rather be left alone by advances from us humans but will not hesitate to come and gather around us when we are being still. They do well in the coop and run but when let out to forage in the yard one can see this is where they enjoy being most. They can fly for 10 feet or so, about 3 feet off of the ground. Our year and half old hen lays large very dark brown eggs. The 3 young hens lay smaller speckled brown eggs. Their eggs are darker then your typical brown egg covered with darker speckles.      
The Light Brahma hens are a sweet bunch of hens. We have 3 of them. They are very calm and quiet and eager to be near us. One of them went broodie on us this last summer. Even for her broodie-ness she was never mean and never pecked at us when it came time to collect the eggs from under her. These hens have done well confined to the coop and run but also do great when let out into the yard. They like to run and stretch their legs. Being a heavier chicken that is about all they can do. These hens have laid large and medium size light brown eggs.
Blue Cochin. Lays 2/3 brown eggs per week.
We have 3 Cochin hens in our little flock. These are very sweet and gentle birds. They seem to be very comfortable being confined to the coop and run. When we let out the chickens into the yard the Cochin are the last to come out. They are actually a smaller framed bird. With lots of extra downy feathers and their feathered legs and feet they seem larger then they really are. They lay small brown eggs.
Easter Egger. Lays about 4 mint green/light blue eggs per week.
The only EE hen that we have in our flock. She is friendly and a fun bird to have. She is so curious. She contemplates everything she looks at. Quite the little thinker. She is one you will find up on the fence or up on top of the run. She is all girl and very expressive with her fluffy cheek feathers. She likes to play and will try to get the other hens to play with her. She is fine in the coop and run but would rather be out in the yard foraging. She lays a medium light minty green egg. Sometimes her eggs look pale blue.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Happy Chickens Lay More Eggs

Chickens and egg laying. Seems to be a basic concept. Chickens lay eggs. But happy chickens lay more eggs. This is a crazy notion but we think it's true here. Having a before and after peek into the lives our chickens you can draw your own conclusion.  
Before: We acquired a rooster in a batch of pullets that we purchased in Spring. By the end of summer this roo was big enough to start acting the part of a Rooster. Around September. Here is when we noticed a slight drop in egg production from the lady clucks. Then came the onset of the cooler temps of fall and shorter daylight hours. Loss of more eggs. The end of November brought deep negative temps and snow prompting us to put a cover over the run making it dark inside the run. Next to no eggs being laid. 1 to 2 a week from 13 hens.

After: Removal of part of the cover over the run making it much lighter. Addition of a well secured heat lamp for those cold, cold days and nights. Removal of the Rooster to his own space away from the lady clucks. Different brand of layer feed and an increase in the scratch that the clucks are getting. A week later after the lady clucks adjusted to the changes we are now receiving 3 to 5 eggs a day.                                                          We think our hens are much happier after the changes we made and they are showing us their happy-
ness in the quantity of eggs that they are laying.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Making Changes

Last weekend we had some pretty good weather. That is weather that wasn't freezing you to death and biting at every patch of uncovered skin. So we took advantage of these warmer temps (mid 30's just above the freezing mark) and cleaned the coop and run and made some changes and additions to the clucks coop and run. We got in and cleaned the coop. Removing all of the poopy litter and added fresh new litter and doubled the amount we usually add. We then removed some of the covering that was over the run to keep it dry. The covering made the whole run area dark. We all know how much chickens love and need the light. A night and day change for the run to say the least and the clucks seemed so much happier. We added a heat lamp for the night time. The temps up until this week were dipping into the negatives and on warmer nights barely into the teens. We also, after more observation of how the rooster was treating the lady clucks decided it was best for the ladies to remove him from their coop and run and put him in his own space. We changed up the feed and added more scratch to their diet. A week passed by and we still had little to no egg gifts from the clucks but at the beginning of this week -Sunday to be exact we received 3 eggs. Now we were careful in our excitement that maybe the clucks were starting to lay again because on Monday we only received 1 egg. But Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we were gifted with 5 eggs a day from the ladies. Today we collected a total of 9 eggs!!! Happy clucks lay lots of eggs. Lots of eggs make happy humans.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

To Heat or Not To Heat

Heating the coop. We have not heated our coop in past winters but this winter we installed a heat lamp. My thought on heating the coop is based on stories my Dad has told me about the coop that he had when he was a boy. He lived smack in the middle of South Dakota and the winters there were not kind. In the midst of blizzards and deep negative temperatures he and my grandparents had chickens for their eggs and meat. Never did they heat the coop. As my Dad tells it, chickens are like little mini heaters. They put off a bit of heat all on their own. Now this doesn't mean that a chicken isn't going to freeze if she was left out in the brutal cold of the dead of winter. What this does mean is that if you are smart about your chicken keeping in the middle of winter the chickens natural body heat will enable them to keep warm.  If you had only a few birds you might want to add a heat lamp to help them with staying warm. A few chickens will put off a little heat but not enough in the bitter cold temps to keep them warm. The more birds, the more heat they create. We have a group of 13 clucks and by their numbers should really be able to stay warm enough on their own without the need of a heat lamp. However they will be using all the energy they have to stay warm, taking away from energy used for laying eggs. In those brutal South Dakota winters my Dad would close up all the chickens in their coop and they would stay warm. He had quite a few chickens, so there was no need for a way to keep them warm. The clucks did it on their own. So for winters sake and staying warm without the use of a heat lamp the old saying "the more the merrier" applies. Or perhaps it should be "the more the warmer." The more chickens there are in a coop the more heat they create. This is all providing you have a draft free coop with deep litter to help insulate the floor from the cold.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


      Tossing around ideas for around here. Lots of them. Not necessarily because it's the new year. But because we as a family have had some good down time these past few weeks for Christmas and New Years. We all had some good time off from work/school and in general being busy. So we were able to talk about our ideas for what we wanted to see done around here.
-Ideas like a walking path from the patio to the clucks coop and then over to the fire pit area.
          -Raising the roof of the clucks run. Our son is nearly as tall as I am now and even he has problems with squatting down to get in the run area to put down the food. Time to raise the roof so the run is more kind to our backs. I think the clucks will like the taller space too. We will be finding some large tree branches to put inside for them to get up on to roost. We will all be much happier.
        -Adding more clucks to our little flock. Husband and Son are both wanting to add some little banty hens to the flock. I would like to add another Easter Egger and a Wyandott or maybe some Faverolle. Not sure but wanting good egg layers. So we'll see what's out there this year in the way of choices from our local farm supply. 
      -We want to plant a garden this year. Since we took last year off. This year something smaller and started from seeds. 
           -I would like to see the porch cover done that Husband has been wanting for several years too. Not sure if we'll manage that but we'll keep it on our list.                -Moving the strawberry patch to a different location.                                       - Planting more trees.       Then there is all the up keep. Trimming up the berry vines, staying up with the
  weeds when the time comes and preparing the garden area to be planted.
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