New to Chickens

burd66(6)January 25, 2009

Hello All! I am new to chickens and the farm life forum. I am interested in getting 3 or 4 hens as pets. As a beginner, I need help with choosing breeds and housing. I want a docile breed that is friendly and easy to handle. Any suggestions? Also, I live on a farm with lots of potential predators. Any suggestions on coops or housing? I want to build or buy something that is very inexpensive and will house 3 or 4 hens. I would appreciate any advice.



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Do you have any small buildings on the property? An old outhouse would be perfect or a small shed. The roof, sides and door will have to be racoon proof. It doesn't need to lock to keep people out, but fasten securely to keep racoons from opening it and rats from getting in. Insulated is good for the winter too, although with the addition of a heat lamp, not absolutely necessary.

You will probably want electricity nearby in the winter to keep the water thawed and usable in zone 6. Any small sturcture will do for just 3-4 chickens. Insulated is good. Are they going to free range? Do you have a fenced yard or pen for them to stay in during the day.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 4:50PM
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Personaly I love the Rhode Island Red's. And as for a coop Runningtrails is right. Good luck with your chickens.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 7:08PM
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as a friend told me "when you get chickens you will know everything on your property because they all want to eat your chickens and/or their food." It is true. there are a lot of threads on here dedicated to secure coops. Good luck and keep us up on the progress. I have 2 heavy breeds a cochin and a wyondette. cold hardy VERY friendly and I love em. They both give me eggs every day.

Here is a link that might be useful: a set of instructions for building a coop

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 8:03PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

I've got a chicken info site here with lots of chicken stuff that might help:

And the #1 rule that bears repeating, to avoid heartaches: Make your coop & run STRONG. Absolutely predator-proof, don't 'make do'. We've all read tons of sad stories on this forum from people who knew their coop wasn't quite up to snuff and their flocks were massacred. Learn from our mistakes! :(

As for gentle breeds, you can't go wrong with Silkies and Cochins. Both are very sweet, docile breeds. I've also found that the larger, 'heavy' fluffy breeds are generally quite docile and calm--Orpingtons, New Hampshires, Jersey Giants, Wyandottes. I'm also fond of Americaunas. Belgian d'uccles are dainty and friendly. I'd avoid the higher-strung breeds such as Leghorns, and Rhode Island Reds can be quite aggressive and may bully other birds. I LOVE my Polish hens, but the breed has a reputation for being skittish (which I attribute to them not being able to see very well until whatever it is is right ON them, due to their large crests). Avoid Game Fowl, as they are bred for cock fighting, where aggression is prized. is a GREAT resource with tons of pictures that can help you decide on breeds.

Any chickens you get, since you want them for pets and eggs, you should spend LOTS of time with, especially at first when they have just arrived and are off-balance in an unfamiliar place. Handle and pet them lots, pick them up for a bit and carry them around, or sit with them on your lap and pet them--reward them lots with little food tidbits so that they learn to associate you with good things such as food, nice pets and praise. Chickens are VERY food-motivated--the way to a chicken's heart is through it's stomach! :) Make yourself the Beneficent Food Goddess to them, the little buggers'll love ya!

As for building materials, check places like Craigslist for people wanting to get rid of old fencing, wire, lumber and such. You just might be able to get it for free, especially if you offer to take it down for them.

Do you plan on getting adult birds or chicks? Any roosters?

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   January 26, 2009 at 7:16PM
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I have red sex links - all. They are half Rhode Island Red and half White Rock - the best of the egg layers and the best of the meat birds, dual purpose. We do get large and abundant dark brown eggs every day from most of the gals. The eggs get a bit smaller in the winter without supplementary lighting, but they are still there. They are freindly and curios but wary and skittish about being held and petted but that's because we bought them all as adult ready-to-lay birds and didn't raise them ourselves.

They are a mid size, not as big as the very large breeds but a good size for eating. I have read that mites are more of a problem with the very large breeds because they have a harder time reaching to preen their vent areas. Smaller chickens are less troubled by them. I don't know if that's true but we have had no problems in that area with a slightly smaller bird.

Mine did pick on younger birds in the flock at first but all seem to get along really well now. Not many squabbles among them without a good reason and those are rare. They don't seem to be nervious or flighty, some are really friends, some not, lots of different personalities in there.

Lots of fun too! We are relaly pleased with the egg laying. We got very large eggs through the summer and fall, about 18-19 every day from 20 birds. We get 16-18 smaller eggs thought the winter from the 20 birds. I have begun to turn their light on about 6 am in the mornings for the past couple of weeks and the eggs are getting larger.

I don't know if they will go broody in the spring. I am hoping a few will and we will then have peeps - all red sex links, since our rooster is that breed too.

I have read that RIRs have been bred to not go broody in order to keep them laying eggs, so we will see how that goes this spring. If I can get just a couple of good booders and mothers I will be happy. Those gals will have very long and useful lives just being the mothers of the group. I may end up buying a couple of another breed just to hatch and mother the eggs, if none of mine will. Time will tell...

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 8:57AM
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WOW! Thanks for the all of the help. It is icy here today, so I can spend the day checking out all the websites. I have a freind that is going to give me some youngsters- a month or two old. I think he has silkies, houdans and some banties to choose from. No roosters, just hens for now. :) Thanks again for all of your help.


    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 9:05AM
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Also having red sex-links hens, white rock hens, Black Australorp (hen and Rooster), Orpington (hens and Roster) all raised from chicks. Spending 4-5 hours per day feeding and preparing treats (recording how much given) and cleaning cages-and collecting statistics--birds weights-egg weights-who is laying who is not-how much food each group and/or cage had left after eating, water consumption. They all are very tame and don't mind being held.

I have about 35 Seramas that are trained to do tricks. Some will roll over (sideways) and play dead (flapping their wings and all), others will tumble (forward roll), and all will fly to my hand and/or their cages with hand signals-many Roos will crow on command-one hen will fake flapping her wings and standing like she is crowing (it's a hoot). There are about 20 different tricks that some and/or all will do. Again this takes lots of time with them to get results.

I have Ringneck Pheasants and Jumbo Bobwhite Quails all very tame-they let me pick them up and will perch on my head and shoulders/hands. They love to taste test all the feeds while they are being mixed. They will eat out of my hand fearlessly. These two species are famous for flightiness and natural fear of man.

I have some rescued Ringneck Pheasants that were very skittish when they came here about one month ago. They are calming down and 2 of the 7 will eat out of my hand now. They all are hard to weigh, have to weigh them in a cage- they won't stand on the scales like the ones that have been hatched from eggs here.

I know of a young girl that has a large mix breed Roo that she has trained on a leash (wears a harness). It love to ride in the car and will stand in the seat next to her. She has trained it to go poo on command, so it won't make a mess in the house or car.

She has bought those outfits that are sold to put on the ceramic geese you see everywhere and puts them on him. Talk about lol, you have never laughed so hard 'till you see a rooster in a hunting outfit including a gun under his wing.

They will be as tame and as entertaining as you want-it just takes time.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 10:46AM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

seramas, you're killin' me! *L*

Is there any chance you could videotape the birds doing tricks and upload it to YouTube? I'd LOVE to see them!

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 8:46PM
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Me too!

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 9:12PM
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Perhaps check out my site, too:
(See the page on 'chicken tractors.')

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   January 31, 2009 at 9:03PM
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Have not bought a video camera yet. Tried to get a short one on the digital camera but can't get it to up load onto the computer. It plays on the camera but won't open when uploaded. Plan on putting several on my website as soon as I can get my computer guy to set it up for me. Probably some time after April 20th. He just got married and was away for 3 months on his honeymoon--now playing catch-up on everything.

You will enjoy seeing them. Trying to get Charles to do more than inspect the camera lens, he so loves to snoop into any can, bag or bucket that you bring into the pen, sometimes with comical results.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2009 at 11:45PM
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seramas how in thw WORLD did you teach your chickens to perform tricks? Give instructions for the easiest trick to teach them pleeeeze

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 10:14PM
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We had RIR's seems like forever, replacements got to be expensive particularly since we hadn't the inclination to incubate eggs. Last year we bought Buff Orph's & they hatched the next generation. Just something to keep in mind, not all breeds have maintained the mothering ability.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 8:40PM
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