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Old 07-31-2013, 02:43 PM
 
Location: A little corner of paradise
689 posts, read 1,264,397 times
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My family has recently moved to a rural area in Washington, and we're trying our hand at raising chickens for eggs. We have 4 chicks that are almost 3 weeks old. They are currently doing great in a large tub with a heat lamp. I've tried to be thorough in my research, and I get the basics of what the chickens need, but I'm concerned for their safety.

We're on a large property, bordered by national forest. We have been told there are wildcats, coyotes, raccoons, eagles, hawks, and the occasional bear. The only fencing on the property is for cows, so it won't contain/protect the chickens at all. I'm thinking a chicken coop, inside a large dog kennel, with a top, would work to keep predators out. Is it necessary to go with a coop that has an attached run, or would the chain link of the kennel be sufficient? Is the kennel necessary if there is an attached run? I'm not sure if the standard chicken wire used in coops and runs is strong enough to keep critters out. Is it generally safe to let chickens wander throughout the day, and put them away in the evening, or is it better to keep them somewhat contained? It may sound silly, but I feel bad keeping them any more restricted than necessary. I also don't want them to end up snacks for the local wildlife.

Can someone help me out with some real life tips on how to proceed?
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Old 08-01-2013, 12:19 AM
 
5,326 posts, read 5,218,743 times
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Accept some loses as unavoidable and let chickens run, coops with runs, regular feeding and cleaning, and... make sense (barely) on small town lots. #1 benefit of the chickens (as for me) is that they can provide a lot for themselves including food and protection. You will never save money on chickens locked in coops and fed commercial feed mixtures, it's money pit and very expensive hobby. Coops (starting from $500) + fencing + feed and you'd get yourself some mighty expensive meat enriched with everything commercial feeds have to offer. It doesn't make any economic sense, and health benefits (if any) are contingent upon quality of feed.

Provide some safety escapes for (smart) chickens to hide (like perched poles under canopy, or trees & bushes convenient for scrambling and hiding) chicken nature will take care of the rest. Again some losses are unavoidable, but it's way cheaper than cooping alternatives (critters need food too).
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Old 08-01-2013, 07:34 AM
 
Location: Eastern Long Island
1,280 posts, read 4,352,143 times
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I have been raising a backyard flock for 7.5 years, never lost one to a predator.
The dog run idea is good, but some predators dig so you may want to trench the perimeter and use cement, cinder blocks or wire fencing to prevent that.
Our only daytime predators these days are hawks and osprey so my chicken run has lots of small shrubs, trees and even some bamboo for shelter. It's a wise idea to build your coop on posts leaving two feet or so under it so your birds always have dry dirt to bathe in. This also provides a place for them to stay out of plain sight.
Chicken wire is good for keeping chickens in but it's not good for keeping predators out. Hardware cloth is a much better choice.
There are some things you can do in a low cost, natural way to deter predators.
If you have dogs you can bury their poop around your coop.
I even ordered tiger poop online from a sanctuary at a time we had a few foxes roaming our area, the foxes were completely turned off as soon as I buried it and although I saw them in the area I never saw them on my property again.
Your flock will learn to keep an eye out during the day but they are completely defenless at night. Chickens go into a catatonic state when they sleep so your coop(even if inside a run) needs to be closed and locked each night.
Good luck with it, raising chickens has honestly been one of the most fulfilling things we've ever done!
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Old 08-01-2013, 09:29 AM
 
Location: Under the Redwoods
3,748 posts, read 6,296,527 times
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I lived on 80 acres in the mountains and we had bears, mountain lions and raccoons etc.
We had a wooden coop made of plywood, and chicken wire as a fence.
We poked holes in the bottom of vegitable cans and strung them up in groups of three around the fence as an alarm system.
We had dogs also.

We allowed the chickens to roam and they would return to the coop at night.
As long as you lock up your coop once they are in, you should be fine from the night creatures. Because we had dogs, there was not much of a problem and we did not lock up every night.
The only encounter with wildlife and our chickens was when a skunk got into the coop and stole a bunch of eggs. We did have a mountain lion pass by the coop one night, but did not do anything.

It's best to have a coop with a small fenced area in case you need to contain them during the day, but allow them to roam. They will return to thier coop. Give them perches and nesting boxes.
I don't agree that 'kept' chickens end up costing rather than saving. I currently have a flock and they cannot roam because of where I live now. We feed them kitchen scraps as well as commercial feed and the eggs they provide are more valuable than the cost of the bags of food I buy for them. I used to spend $25 a month on eggs. I spend $30 every 60 days on chicken feed and $45 a year on bales of straw. We bought fencing which was $60, a net for the top was $20. And some screws to build the coop. We got the wood for free. Some of it being pallets. Some pretty amazing coops have been made out of wooden pallets.
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Old 08-01-2013, 01:52 PM
 
Location: We_tside PNW (Columbia Gorge) / CO / SA TX / Thailand
23,544 posts, read 41,147,375 times
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Best coop We liked was one about the size of a fruit bin (4'x3'x1.5') mounted on 2' tall legs. (giving chickens shelter from rain, as well as keeping house off the ground (mold and mud). (small ramp for chickens to come in and out. And a hinged door to close from outside the pen. We had as many as 18 chickens in the little house, and always had a light timer in winter for providing 16 hrs of 'daylight'. I don't recommend keeping layers once they molt. The lay less, eat more, and eat eggs AFTER they molt. + you have to feed them through molt. Better to cut them off the 'gravy train', and into the stew pot early.

This Coop was attached to the end of a 12'x12' chicken wire cage (with wire top). Ran a tighter weave 1' up on sides and buried around perimeter.

Coop has inclined hinged lid (roof) for ez cleaning, also small 'door ports' (5"x12") to collect eggs from nests (from outside of pen). Only need to enter chick pen 1x/ week for water / feeder refill (can be done from outside as well with funnel system).

Depends where you are in WA, but we have 285 days of MUD.

A possum got inside the coop once... that was ugly. I think the kids left the door open. We have the critters mentioned above. I ran an electric fence around it when the neighbor dogs were getting curious. That worked well for several yrs at a time. (till I had to 'train' another neighbor dog).
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Old 08-01-2013, 11:15 PM
 
Location: SLC, UT
1,571 posts, read 2,341,175 times
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This is a great website to get some information from. There are coop ideas and plans on there (in case you want to build your own), as well as a forum where people have likely talked a lot about this very subject.

Raising BackYard Chickens, Build a Chicken Coop, Pictures of Breeds

I don't yet own chickens, but I really want to! When I'm finally able to afford my own place, I'll get some.
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Old 08-02-2013, 07:40 AM
 
Location: out standing in my field
1,030 posts, read 1,530,361 times
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Let them free range or look into a chicken tractor type coop that you can move around on your property. One of the best reasons to keep poultry is insect control and you won't get that benefit from confined birds. Smart free ranging birds will protect themselves from daytime predation from above. i have an abundance of hawks hereabouts and rarely worry about it. When a hawk is present the chickens know it and move into the trees where they aren't targets.
Worst predation will occur at night. Raccoons, skunks, bobcats. It's imperative IMO to have a secure night time lockup. My coop has quarter inch hardware cloth on all vents and openings and I have one side almost completely open as it gets very hot here. Chicken wire is not secure. A raccoon will reach through chicken wire and pull whatever part of a sleeping chicken it can get its grubby paws on through the wire and just begin munching.
There will always be some loss to illness if not predation no matter what you do. I think it's important to keep a few more birds in your flock than you think you need. If you feel like a half dozen chickens will provide enough eggs for your family, keep 10 to be sure. One thing chickens do well is die. That's why they cost 3 bucks at the feed store.
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Old 08-02-2013, 01:29 PM
 
Location: A little corner of paradise
689 posts, read 1,264,397 times
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Thanks so much for all the responses. It sounds like I would do well to follow my instinct to let them do their "chicken thing," rather than the instinct to protect them. We found a raised coop, with easy cleaning features and nesting boxes. It comes with a detachable 12 foot run, and has handles to be able to move it around.

We're on a little more than an acre in Monroe, and have definitely learned that houses out here have mudrooms for a reason. I like the idea of being able to contain them somewhat if we're not going to be around, but I'll definitely let them roam when I'm home - which is most of the time.

My husband made the comment about these being the most expensive eggs EVER. I told him, it's not about the cost of the eggs, but the whole experience of getting to go collect them ourselves, and the grandkids getting to learn about more than cats and dogs. If we weren't renting, I'd get a goat, too.
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Old 08-02-2013, 04:59 PM
 
Location: SLC, UT
1,571 posts, read 2,341,175 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MamaRed View Post
Thanks so much for all the responses. It sounds like I would do well to follow my instinct to let them do their "chicken thing," rather than the instinct to protect them. We found a raised coop, with easy cleaning features and nesting boxes. It comes with a detachable 12 foot run, and has handles to be able to move it around.

We're on a little more than an acre in Monroe, and have definitely learned that houses out here have mudrooms for a reason. I like the idea of being able to contain them somewhat if we're not going to be around, but I'll definitely let them roam when I'm home - which is most of the time.

My husband made the comment about these being the most expensive eggs EVER. I told him, it's not about the cost of the eggs, but the whole experience of getting to go collect them ourselves, and the grandkids getting to learn about more than cats and dogs. If we weren't renting, I'd get a goat, too.
If I had more land, I'd get chickens and some Kinder goats. They are so cute and still give lots of milk.

Congrats on getting some chickens! I can't wait until I can finally get some.
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Old 08-02-2013, 09:07 PM
 
Location: A little corner of paradise
689 posts, read 1,264,397 times
Reputation: 1226
Quote:
Originally Posted by MisfitBanana View Post
If I had more land, I'd get chickens and some Kinder goats. They are so cute and still give lots of milk.

Congrats on getting some chickens! I can't wait until I can finally get some.
We're really lucky. We live in an extra house on a working cattle ranch. Our house is at the end of a 1/3 mile driveway, on about an acre (not including the rest of the ranch), and the landlords are really cool with whatever we do. We just don't want to put the money into goat housing since we don't own. I'm excited to get a couple when we can!
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