Can I have some hints on having backyard chooks

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by newchookontheblock, Jun 9, 2005.

  1. I have a chook pen ready to go- all hints on backyard chooks gratefully accepted!
    Should I expect problems with snakes going after the chooks or eggs? (we are in Bundaberg)
    Are point of lay pullets the way to go?
    How long should they take to settle in and start laying?
    Is there really any risk to kids of diseases?? Or are we too overprotective!!?
    Thanks for any input.
    Karen
     
  2. nobis77

    nobis77 Junior Member

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    Hi Karen,
    You've come to the right place! I've been raising chickens for bout five years (three batches of about thirty each) on a backyard scale, and compared to the big boys and girls on this board I consider myself a complete novice!
    Right off the bat, I can tell you that raising a smallish crop of cluckers in your backyard is nothing to get anxious over: civilizations will rise and fall but the chicken remains! Unless you're going to try and run a really tight ship with your girls (like an agribusiness would) Your flock will mostly take care of itself and after a little growth and learning will begin to settle in to help take care of you and yours.

    That being said... it sounds like you're planning on getting mature chooks from somebody locally, so more than anything else what kind of chickens you get and where you get them from will determine the problems you'll face. Smallish chickens with poor foraging skill (bred out of them while trying to get maximum laying potential per square foot for businesses) will be more nerve wracked and prone to diseases after being moved to a new and different home, especially if they've been raised in/for close confinement.

    I have about 40-50 buff orpingtons and black australorps right now. Big girls and good layers supposedly bred in Australia for life there. Most are in a henhouse and yard close to the house, but I also have a chicken tractor out in the garden with our oldest "retired" girls. I moved the latest out a week or so ago by cornering the poor things and carrying them out hanging by their ankles, I can't imagine too much more trauma for a poor old hen, but they began pecking and scratching immediately and laying the day afterwards.

    We've never lost any of these big girls or their eggs to snakes, but we have lost a couple to local dogs (these were the ones smart enough to fly over the fence to get at the greener grass over there).

    I don't know what point of lay hens are. Is that where they're not inclined to make their nests in nest boxes like ours and just plop down wherever the mood strikes them?

    We gather our eggs most every day and hand rinse/scrub them till they look clean. We have gotten into the habit of breaking eggs in a seperate cup to smell/examine them before adding them to a recipe, but otherwise we cook em up just like the real ones you buy in stores. I've been eating them for years now without any incident, and just look how I've turned out!
     
  3. SueinWA

    SueinWA Junior Member

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    Point of lay chickens are just chickens that have reached the age where they should be laying very soon. If you want to jump right in without having to bother with chicks, that's the way to go. Personally, I would go with a calmer breed, like the Buff Orps, and if the ones you're intending to buy have been handled, it's a big plus. Hens bred for excessive egg production can be nasty, fly-in-you-face birds, bad if you have kids.

    Get a book from the library on buying chickens, so you'll know what to look for. If I remember correctly, young chickens should have yellow skin, not white. Their combs should look full (for their breed) and red. Check VERY CAREFULLY for mites, red areas like they've been picking at themselves (or each other). They should be lively and have bright, clear eyes. My friend says that the hens with the larger combs (of its kind) make the best layers.

    Pay attention to your instincts! If something keeps nagging at you that something isn't right, it probably isn't. Don't be in such a hurry to get just any chickens that you end up repenting.

    Train them to come to you -- chickens can run/fly a LOT faster than you! If you're feeding commercial food, keep some scratch grains handy, along with a metal cup. Scoop up some grain, and rattle it as you call them, then sprinkle it around on the ground or bedding. They will eventually realize that the call & the rattle means their favorite treat, and they come a-running! This is handy if you need to get them into an enclosure for some reason.

    Get them used to being handled. I will make all the difference in the world if you have to treat an injury, etc.

    Chickens have an odd habit that can mean their death. If they see a predator coming, they will often fly out of reach. But if they're scared, or it's dark, they will just freeze in place. You can step over them, and they won't move -- it's really kind of odd to see. This makes them especially vulnerable to killers.

    Just be sure to keep them away from any small plants/seedlings, as they will destroy them. And they're almost as bad with potted plants, as they scoop the soil right out of the pots.

    Sue
     
  4. sab

    sab Junior Member

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    Years ago I lost my 3 chooks to dogs. I think they're a bigger danger than snakes. The poor snakes are having a hard time with cane toads. They wouldn't go after a full-grown chook to eat it - if one was bitten it would more likely be a chance encounter.

    My sister had some problems with goannas and her ducklings - lost the lot.
     
  5. Chook Nut

    Chook Nut Junior Member

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    Hi Karen,

    Good advice so far has been given.... i would add a few things to what has been said.

    Go for a chook breed u like.... most chooks should be pretty good with kids if used to being handled when young.... shouldnt have any probs with disease of any kind if u keep the pens cleaned regularly. Mites from wild birds can be a problem so make sure they have a dust bath to clean themselves.

    Seaweed Meal should be available from produces stores which helps there overall health if mixed with their grain. I dont use plastic water or feed containers.... only terracotta, ceramic or metal as to avoid the sun breaking down plastics and toxins into their feed or water.(thats just my choice) Make sure they have shell grit to help aide egg production.

    Don't be put off by failures or deaths.... its part of the learning curve. There will always be things to learn if u are keen.... i love having chooks... their characters are great and kids love em.

    Good luck and let us know how u go!... Dave

    PS. A regular sized chook produces @10kgs of manure per year!
     
  6. Tamandco

    Tamandco Junior Member

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    I've been breeding Australorps for about 5 years now originally being attracted to the breed due to its versatility and docile nature. We've had a few nasty roosters in the past including a weltsummer (sp?) and a Rhode Island Red, but with little kids, its not worth the risk as a rooster attack could take an eye out of a toddler. My 3 year old got attacked by a RIR rooster when he wasn't much more than 18 months old. The bird flew at him and knocked him to the ground, then jumped up and down on him and wouldn't let up until I came after him with a flapping chaff bag. Albeit to say, we no longer have that particular individual.

    Back to the Australorps, so many of the utility, dual purpose breeds are in danger due to the extensive commercial hybridisation in the effort to get egg production or carcase size increased. There are still some really nice breed which although they're not the best layers, or biggest bird in the world, have lovely natures and good chook instincts that will do well in a back yard situation.

    We chose the Australorp because I love the look of them with their big black eyes and lovely greenish black plumage. I've never had any trouble with the roosters attacking and they don't fly very high so are easy to contain. We let them into our vegie areas in between seasons to clean up.

    Point of lay is the best way to buy chooks but it's also the most expensive. Day olds, if sexed are very economical but you need to brood them. We have several brooders but also use our chooks when they are broody. Sometimes we'll add a few more day old chicks if we want to introduce a new breed or some new blood and don't want to go through the expense. You might also be able to pick up some 2nd year layers which should be quite cheap as they are no longer of use for commercial purposes. And lastly, you can buy them at around 12 weeks of age or whenever the breeders are able to sex them, but they'll still have quite a few weeks to go before they start laying. These should cost somewhere inbetween point of lay and day old.

    Isa browns are currently the most popular commercial layer. I've had them in the past and they have funny little personalities but I couldn't keep them out of the garden because they can fly over the fences. Their size also doesn't really make a good meal and a bit tough because they're a very active bird.

    I love the orphingtons and they're HUGE and really soft. I'd get some but can't really keep another breed through lack of room and facilities. The heavy breeds like the Australorps and Orpingtons do need special care due to their size. We use good sized perches, at least 4" wide and a good 1" - 1 1/2" thick. We also keep their purches low to the grown as they can suffer joint damage if required to jump down from heights. Our purches are about 10" from the level of the sawdust bedding. I read somewhere that 18" is the max but I really think that's too high. I also keep a really thick layer of sawdust to also act as a shock absorber.

    We have all of our chooks vaccinated. I've lost too many in the past to Marek's disease and won't risk it any longer. My breeding stock are show quality and any one could be worth as much as $150 so it's not worth the risk for me.

    You can treat parasites, internal and external by using wormwood. If planted in their run surrounded by some chicken wire just allowing some of the foliage to poke through, the chooks will self medicate themselves. You can also does by adding wormwood to their drinking water. Garlic is also a good medication for general well being and colds. I did read somewhere however that if you put garlic in the water, you shouldn't use plastic watering containers.

    I've treated lice using deris dust. Apparently deris is accepted for organic farming and a lady suggested I try that instead of one of the commercially produced remedies. You will see the little lice scrurrying around the vent (where the egg emerges from) and under the wings.

    Another common problem is scaley leg mite which burrow under the scales of the legs. You will know if the chooks have it as their leg scales will look bulky and stand out a little from the leg. There might also be some dried skin like flakes sticking out from between the scales. There are many different remedies for treating this ranging from coating sump oil to just spraying with. I wouldn't use sump oil, but vegetable oil should do the same as it's only to suffocate or drown the mites. I haven't had any scaley leg mite here for a few years but when I did, I scrubbed their legs in the kitchen sink with warm water and a bit of detergent, then when dry, coated with vegie oil. It is important that whatever method you use, you also treat their perches and any timber and dark little corners of their hen house.

    This is where I fail in my alternative methods: Every 6 months, I ensure all of the chooks are out of their house for a few hours and I spray the perches and any pieces of timber in their house with plain old flyspray as I don't have time to scrub and I want to make sure the little blighters are DEAD!

    We also keep silkies for the kids as the Australorps are too big for them to hold, plus they make great little broodies for raising chicks.

    A while ago I lost my entire flock valued at roughly $700 to a fox which is a big problem around our area. Some of my neighbours have lost chicks to hawks and eagles too! Needless to say, our coop is entirely fox proof now and we don't let them out, even into their run unless someone's home, and we defininitely don't let them free range unless we're out there with them, which fortunately for us is most weekends.

    Tam
     
  7. Tamandco

    Tamandco Junior Member

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  8. nobis77

    nobis77 Junior Member

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    Are your kids going to "help" with the chickens? I'd recommend trying to get some Black Australorp hen chicks. Their roosters are just about as mean as you'd expect, but the hens are beautiful in the sun and have a very gentle to friendly disposition. We had one or two that would flap and lumber over the fence just to be with us when we were outside. They'd occasionally hop up on a garden bench next to us and sit quietly till some wandering bug caught their eye. When they get to brooding they'll moan sadly but be utterly docile when I have to move them off to get their eggs. Our Buff Orp's are gentle too, but one or two will still peck at me when I go for their eggs. Get rid of the roosters mercilessly, unless you want to get into raising your own they're nothing but liabilities with small kids around.
     
  9. SueinWA

    SueinWA Junior Member

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    Does anyone know if black chooks suffer more from the heat than light-colored ones? I always provide shade -- I was just wondering.

    Also, is there a reliable way to sex new chicks if they're not sex-linked breeds?

    Sue
     
  10. Tamandco

    Tamandco Junior Member

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    I don't know about the black chooks being hotter than the white ones but funnily enough, my first pony was a cremello which is a pink skin, blue eyed dilute similar to what people understand an albino to be. He was very prone to sunburn however due to the white coat being reflective, he'd stand out in the sun, grazing while all the other horses would remain in the shade on the hottest days.

    There's no easy way to sex chickens unless you're a chicken sexer and even that's not 100%. We bought 2 day old Arukanas and a friend bought a couple of day old buff sussex which were supposed to be sexed and vaccinated, hence their price tag being $10 - $15 each instead of the $1 - $5 each you'd normally expect to pay for day old chicks and we've both ended up with a cockerell!!

    The breeder of my show birds uses the rate of feathering to sex her young australorp stock and she's pretty accurate. She says the feather development of the cockerells is patchier and not as even as the pullets. She can do this quite early on, not exactly sure what age but she'd certainly sorted through them all by 6-8 weeks of age the last time I was down, but then she can also differentiate between every individual in a run of 20 odd identical black australorp pullets at the same age!

    Have you decided if you're going to grow your chooks for the table also, or just keep them for eggs. If you want to eat them, you will eventually need a rooster! You'd find it a very expensive way to feed the family otherwise.

    Tam
     
  11. Richard on Maui

    Richard on Maui Junior Member

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    black chooks

    Well, yeah, it stands to reason doesn't it? The black chook standing around in the sun is going to absorb heat and the white chook is going to reflect it off mostly... I think I have noticed that in our flocks the black ones tend to stay in the shade more in the heat of the day than the lighter colours!
     
  12. nobis77

    nobis77 Junior Member

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    They have to be. And at first I really watched for it with our girls especially since theyre so big and should have trouble sheding all that body heat in summer. But in practice I can't see any difference between my two kinds who seem identical in most every respect but color. The black girls never seem to pant more or avoid sunny spots for their dust baths, but then, hey they're the same chickens who have trouble figuring out how to come in out of the rain.
     
  13. lillypilly

    lillypilly Junior Member

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    is this true?? sexing eggs pointly ones are males so eat them round one are female so keep them with the hen.......
     
  14. Tamandco

    Tamandco Junior Member

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    I heard that if you tie a feather to a length of silk and hold it over the eggs you can tell which sex the chick is. Clockwise for female, anticlockwise, male.
     
  15. lillypilly

    lillypilly Junior Member

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    where can i get some australorpes
     
  16. Tamandco

    Tamandco Junior Member

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    Hi Lillypilly,

    Australorps are REALLY hard to get. Good ones, anyway.

    Your best bet would be to go through the Australorp Club of Australia. They have a website, just a minute.......

    https://australorps.tripod.com

    .........just had to check the website.

    The secretary is Ross Summerell and he can be contacted by emailing [email protected] and asking for a list of members in your area.

    Ross Summerell
    P.O. Box 70
    Tamborine Qld. 4270
    Australia

    Phone/Fax: 07 5543 0207

    Make sure if you're being sold australorps that they are in fact australorps. I've seen some very perculiar looking mongrels being passed off as australorps.

    I took over 4 years to source my breeding stock and as I lost my breeding stock including the rooster plus an entire batch of 6 week old chicks to the fox back in January, I have just had to start over again from scratch once again. We didn't even have any eggs on hand to pop into the incubator as we'd run out over christmas.

    Let's know how you go.

    Tam
     

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