Some neighbors and I are looking at getting a backyard flock together, and I wanted to ask for some input. Do you have thoughts, suggestions, regrets, or things you wish you had known about backyard hens? We'd love to hear thoughts! Also, we're considering getting our hens through the Issaquah Grange, as they offer some of the rare breeds we're interested in. Does anyone have direct experience with them as a source for layers? Thanks in advance for your thoughts!
Chickens will attract rodents, so making your coop rodent proof is something we wish we had done a little better. Use hardware cloth rather than chicken wire to make the run, and bury the wire down into the ground at least 9 inches so that they don't burrow under. I don't have any experience with Issaquah Grange, but love the idea of heritage breeds. Good Luck!!
I have had up to 12 chickens at a time for a number of years and my biggest issue was rats. You need to build a rat proof coup using 1/2" hardware cloth (not chicken wire) to keep them out. The hardware cloth should also extend at least 10 inches into the ground. In order to keep the chickens quiet in the morning I had to have food on hand when the sun came up. That meant leaving it out all night long. Over time, the neighborhood rats decided it was the community gathering place and it was difficult to keep them at bay. I would set 5 rat traps under the suspended feeder when it got dark and would listen until all the unbaited traps went off. My record for a night was 20 rats. If I ever build another chicken coup it will be guaranteed rat proof. Good luck.
We had a number of different breeds and all seemed to do well. Well there was this one weird chicken who got sick during the winter and my kids made me take him to the vet. I don't think he had ever had anyone bring in a chicken before. It got better after spending 2 weeks in our bathroom.
Take a look at the NW Edible Blog. She has some good stuff on maintaining chickens in an urban environment as well as the need to determine ahead of time what you are going to do with them when they stop laying after 2 years. Urban chicken wranglers seem to have a hard time differentiating chicken as pets from chickens as live stock (food).
If You are looking for egg production,good old breeds are Rhode Island Reds,leghorns,and Barred Rocks!
Depending on local regulations,12 is a good number.You can sell the extra eggs and pay for the feed---that way You get the extra,YUMMY eggs for free---there is NO comparing them to store bought!!!
Fresh eggs have down to 1/3 of the cholesterol of the other eggs!!!
As for the less common breeds,Barnevelders are a nice breed,and pretty---not to mention more docile!
It is a hit or miss,if You are just wanting to have some variety!!!
Enjoyed working with You with the Skills Fair last year,and I am looking forward to it this year!!!
I only feed my chickens in the morning to minimize the rat food issue, then they free range, mostly in my compost pile, in the afternoons. The first person up lets them out in the morning, we've had no noise problems and we vary the time. They head straight for the compost on the far side of the yard. I feed them a bit of chicken food and whey and kitchen scraps when I get to it in the morning, and let them into the goat pens to clean up after them many afternoons.
If they are together with the goats full time, they start laying eggs in goats' hay feeders, perch and poop in bad places, and ride the goats and poop on them. There's one goat pen they can get into, that's where their night coop is, its helped with racoons. Racoons could go after small Nigerian Dwarf goats too, especially kids, but my larger LaMancha cross does suffer no fools when it comes to raccoons. I've witnessed them stomping and huffing and ushering those raccoons out! Letting them free range and alternate in goat pens at least part time keeps the goat bedding fluffed with the poop settling down below the surface, reduces fly larvae, provides great natural bugs for chicken food, and reduces my maintenance work.
I taught my old chickens when they were young to eat slugs, and now they show the younger/new ones. I leave boards over damp divets to trap slugs, flip them over and call the chickens to come feast. They watched me and learned and started flipping the boards too often to accummulate slugs LOL, so I have to weight the boards with a rock now.
I also tractor my chickens to mow the lawn, and just hose it down if I need the lawn socially. I have to beg other people for dandelions now and grow some in front where the chickens don't go, as they devoured every last one. They get very high up (15'+) in my blooming plum and cherry trees, getting bugs etc. Remember, they are a domesticated forest bird, and I think we should honor natural life when possible.
At lot of urban chickens, especially in coops, have died from being overweight per necropsy results. I think the exercise mine get, and more natural food keeps them healthier. I have a month shy of 7yo that still laid 1/wk or more last summer. And the old ones definitely teach the younger ones all the best secrets, how to hide from hawks etc. I recommend Jessi Bloom's book, "Free Range Chicken Gardens" and our local Portage Bay Grange.