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New to keeping chickens and lots of questions? Please help!!

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 23, 05 10:56 am    Post subject: New to keeping chickens and lots of questions? Please help!! Reply with quote

Hello there - I am new to the board and desperately need some help! I cant find anything in books/internet so was wondering if someone out there can help (and has a few minutes to spare to answer my many questions below? Here goes:

1) I (a bit naively I think now) have bought a fairly small Ark - the covered house part is only a couple of sq feet. My view was that I wanted to let the chickens out during the day to roam our 1.5acre garden / meadow so would only need a small home for them. However the ark I bought doesnt have a perch - I have put a large branch in about 2inches in diameter which is about 5 inches off the ground spanning the house. This leaves about 2 ft for my 3 8week old bantams to sit on. So far I have had them a week and they are just nesting on the floor?!!! I have read some ideas about about an open box 2inches high with a perch across the top in the middle which would span the width of the hous. The droppings then collect in the box and be emptied regulary saving on mess in the other part of the covered house. Does this sound sensible?

2) Do I need to put food and water in the Covered house at night? I have been as this would only right surely but everywhere I look all the feed and water containers are only in the run during the day? I use smaller dishes inside the covered house at night but they keep knocking them over and there certainly isnt enough room to put the big feeders

3) do you have to close the pop hole at night?

4) again the size of the run is causing problems - I want to put a dust bath in - what can I use for this? size etc, depth of sand/dust?

5) My 3 8wk old bantams have been out and about in the garden for the last few days whilst I have been out with them but I read that crows can prey on them when they are small - is this true?

6) I was given a bag of layer pellets but I should be giving them grower pellets if they are 8 weeks old shouldnt I?

7) Are chickens adventourous - we have a big garden backing on farm fields and then a very big thick hedge backing the front road which I dont think they would get through. Will they venture too far away from their home during the day and can they fly/jump hight than a metre (height of chicken wire on gate). Should I clip their wings and is this something I can do with a pair of kitchen scissors (oh dear I am sounding like a real novice)

Lastly what lengths will a fox go to to get into an arc ? Can they lift pop holes, turn catchs, break wood in their desperation?

Please help - I really want to do the best for my chickens and sorry for all the questions!

Many thanks

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 23, 05 11:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dunno about the chickens, though someone will. I think you've registered as lynseyt, so you might want to change your name on your profile?

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 23, 05 11:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi, I'll take a look at the list and post back some answers in a bit.

Blue Sky

Joined: 30 Jan 2005
Posts: 7654
Location: France
PostPosted: Thu Jun 23, 05 11:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

1. They will like roaming the garden, best thing for them. The hut does sound a bit small but will protect them all the same. Did you say that your perch is only 5 inches off the base of the hut? I have experimented with different levels and found that they like to be rather high up. Our are about 2 feet high on their perches and have a lower perch to help them up (a step as it were). I use 3inch diameter round posts for perches. You should be OK with the 2 inch ones while the chicks are small. Don't be too surprised if the dont perch for some time as young birds often don't.

2. I make sure they always have a fresh water supply especially inside as it can get awfully hot in there. You can get small hoppers for this purpose but we just use a very heavy bowl which seems to withstand the abuse. Food isn't so important inside as long as they are let out early and left to get themselves in at dusk.

3. Definately close them up at night - You don't want Mr fox getting them (or polecats here)

4. I would recomend a small sandpit just outside their hut. They will dig it out to their liking.

5. Not seen any crows here but I would definately be wary of any larger birds. Don't let them wnader too far if they are still small. You could maybe make a bit of a "moveable" pen until they get bigger. We have buzzards here so crows don't sound too bad

6. I dont think their is a great deal of difference. If you can get the chick pellets then all the better but we give our - Hens and chicks alike - whatever we can get. Once they do start laying (at about 6 months usually) you ought to give them grit once in a while for their crop. We use crushed oyster shells.

7. OH YES! they can fly. Considering they are "flightless birds" they can be very impressive indeed. The aren't much cop at landing tho' They just come down with a thud. A couple of our latest chicks cleared the fence when we first got 'em but they came back at feeding time. Once they get used to you they will stay. (The fence was well over a meter BTW).

The fox doesn't seem to exert too much effort in our experience. our huts a pretty crap really. Just unused outbuilding with bit of wood nailed on over the larger holes and we have not lost a chick yet (tho' some of our neighbours have lost the entire coop! Beware. They didn't lock 'em in on a night.

Hope this helps

Any more questions .... please ask



Joined: 16 Dec 2004
Posts: 22789
Location: Montgomeryshire
PostPosted: Thu Jun 23, 05 11:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello and welcome to the site.

About the perch - at 8 weeks old, your birds won't necessarily be perching yet, so don't worry about them nesting on the floor for now. That's normal. In fact, some hens never really get the hang of perching at all.
Two feet of perching space for 3 bantams is probably OK. It would be a bit tight for larger hens, but bantams should be alright. The droppings collecting box idea is fine if you want to do that, but in a little ark it probably isn't worth your while - it will take as long to clean the box as to clean out the whole ark! It is a very good idea in larger henhouses, though.

No, you don't need to feed or water the birds at night - hens sleep very soundly and, as you say, they will only knock it over, wasting food and making more work for you!

Yes, you should close the pophole at night.

For a dustbath, a cat litter tray is ideal. About an inch of sand or soil should be fine - they will throw it all over the place and poo in it anyway, so just keep refilling as necessary.

I think layer pellets have a bit more protein than grower pellets, but it really won't do them any harm at all to have the wrong ones.

Roaming chickens - mine have never strayed outside the garden, even though they could if they wanted to. Bantams fly quite well, so might be inclined to flap over the gate, but they won't necessarily. Just watch them closely for the first couple of weeks. If they have all they need at home they probably won't stray. You may need to clip their wings, but wait and see how they are first.

At 8 weeks, they should be safe from crows, but if you are worried then don't let them roam while you are not there.
They should be safe from foxes while they are in the ark, particularly at night when the pophole is closed.

Hope this helps a bit. And remember to enjoy your chickens as well as worry about them

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 23, 05 11:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Firstly, I think the biggest threat will be a fox during the day. They are about so I wouldn't simply leave the hens to it without keeping an eye on them. Hens can be very adventurous and the more time they have there further they seem to go, but again it would be more likely that a fox would come into your garden.

Growers pellets should be used but if you check with a feed supplier they will be able to give you the correct ages. Don't be tempted to buy too much as you will only need it for a few weeks.

As far as I know food and water doesn't need to be put in when the hens go to bed, but I do include water in a drinker, raised off the floor on some bricks. The hens must have access to clean water during the day.

The pop hole is generally closed at night but I have left mine open on the odd occasion but only because the ark is completely covered in wire and there is no way to get in the run. A fox can lift catches and break wood but a sturdy ark should be ok. To close mine I use a few twists of heavy duty wire on the catch so the fox cannot undo it.

The catch for the droppings sounds ok but ensure the birds will not hurt themselves. With only three birds and if you use wood shavings on the floor it is easy to remove the few droppings watch morning.

Finally, a 2 inch thick branch sounds too thick for bantams to me (this is thicker than my wrist), I would have thought 1.5 inch would be better. A 3 inch thick perch sounds much too big, are we all talking about the same size?

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