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To Coop or Not To Coop, That is the question

To Coop or Not To Coop, That is the question. Whether it is nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outraged neighbors, or to take arms and hammer and build me a chicken coop and get some chickens.

I want chickens.

I have been plotting this for some time. For three years I have researched it and researched it some more. And I think that this spring I am going to do it. I'm a get me some chickens for my backyard.

The zoning in my town allows me to keep up to 6 hens in my backyard. I love eggs and we use quite a few of them in my house. The idea of fresh farm eggs everyday is irresistible to me. I also think the kids can learn some valuable lessons from the raising and caring of chickens. So I am now resolved to do it.

Currently I am trying to finalize my design so I can build a chicken coop or a chicken tractor. I think I have settled on Rhode Island Reds as the breed. But I am open to suggestions from the experienced.

Does anybody out there have any experience with chickens? Coops? Or anything chicken related? I would love to hear from you.

What do you think? Am I crazy or inspired?

*subhead*Getting chickens.*subhead*

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24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Do it. The eggs are better, they are fun to watch run around and the kids will love it. Get six.

Svetlana said...

Yes, do it. If you have a fenced yard, my answer is 'coop'.
One question though, what does your rodent population look like right now with out chickens? Because you will have them after for sure. Ducks can kill a rat, chickens cannot. I am getting ducks because we have an open storm drain near us where they already lurk. The local cats keep their numbers down, but I worry about "feeding" them once the chickens move in. Anyway, I'm in the Laurel Highlands, ducks lay eggs, kill rats, keep warm, and are quieter than chickens. Their eggs are larger and have more protein.
RIR are great hens and lay well. They are easy to get and are prolific layers. My mother had 3 dozen. We loved them. Hold them a lot so that they get used to being held and you won't have a hard time getting them in the coop when you need to.

ProudHillbilly said...

You will need a warm coop for nights and winter months. But if I were your neighbor I would love to sit on my porch and listen to your chickens scratching in my yard. I love the sound of contented chickens - it's one of my fondest memories of childhood summers at Grandma's.

Better Than Eden said...

Do it. If you have a coop set up well they are incredibly easy to care for. I really like our Buff Orpingtons. THey are way mellower and friendlier than the Reds we've had. The Reds were cranky. If you can let them out to graze safely during the day, I would say get a coop. If you don't get too cold in the winter, the tractors are great. We have both since we also raised turkeys. The tractor is nice since it protects them from the hawks but there is something awesome about letting them out free in the yard. Clip their flight feathers so they can't fly far.

Sand Mama said...

Do 'Chicken TV' when they are peeps. Keep them in an aquarium in your home (busiest area) so they can watch you. They bond to the kids and you more easily, I think.

Daria Sockey said...

Get the MurrayMcMurray catalog and enjoy reading about all the varieties of egg laying chickens. Get different types to add more color to your little flock. And for the kids, get at least one Aruacana, since these lay blue or green eggs. RE: ducks: one thing to keep in mind in a small backyard is that duck poop is bigger than that of the chicken.
I did witness a chicken kill a mouse once, by the way. Adopt a cat to take care of rodent issues.
I'm for the coop. Love the sight of the hens strolling around the yard.

Ellyn said...

I talked my parents into getting me chickens when I was in 4th grade. It was very educational - even seeing our dachshund get loose and bite one of the chicks in half - and fun. We kept them for about a year and then sent them to a nearby farmer my parents knew.

We live in an unincorporated area and I've tried to talk my husband into chickens, but he's not on board. But other people in the neighborhood have some nice Rhode Island Reds that give me such joy. We even have chickens crossing the road. And rooster two blocks over brings such a happy, wholesome sound to the neighborhood.

Do get the Murray McMurray catalog - it's wonderful for poultry fantasy. I've considered looking for someone to go in with me on a six-pack of peacock eggs. No luck so far.

Diana said...

GET THEM! Chickens are easy, useful, tasty, and fun. Great for kids of all ages.
I loved having mine. Buy female chicks and raise them. I'd pass on a rooster though, unless you want your neighbors to kill you...

elm said...

I love the coop in Williams Sonoma catalog. They are built by a Michiganer. If I had a coop that beautiful, how could the neighbors ever complain? My daughter in Concord, CA has several chickens. One is ostracized by the other hens and has free run of the yard. All the hens have names and are of several varieties. My daughter uses the eggs as barter with the neighbors. That keeps everyone happy. Note to the wise: if you ever drop your gum in the chicken yard, don't try to recover it.

Anonymous said...

Reds are the way to go for eggs! Forget the rooster. You don't need him but he does increase productivity. Roosters can be a bit aggressive. They'll spread their wings and run at you and I've not known a hen not to try to get a peck in here and there. Also, the coop tends to smell a little, so be mindful of your neighbors in your placement of the coop...and yourself, of course! Also, when you build the coop, you're going to want to have two doorways. They're sneeky buggers and they'll make their way out with alacrity. If one gets through the first door, it won't be the end of your morning. Also, I've never had any luck with using the flap at the back of a coop to get at the eggs. They figure it out and stop laying in the baskets. They do like the baskets though, so don't dispense with those. They like to lay their eggs towards the corner where they know they can keep them surrounded and warm.

Forget all that "no coop" nonsense. You can let them wander and eat at will during the day, but at the end of the day, you're going to want them in the coop to keep them safe from predators and weather.

amanda said...

Home laid eggs are the best! You'll be able to feed your kitchen scraps to the chickens. The larger ones, like RIR, will kill mice that get into their coop. You want a coop to lock them up at night. I think tractors aren't neccessary in most places; chickens confined can tear up a lawn fast! Get hatchlings, let the kids handle them a lot, teach them tricks by using meal worms or earthworms as rewards.

KCKim said...

DO IT!! I've had chickens in my backyard for 7 years. They provide eggs. They provide great entertainment (birds are really fun and funny to watch), the neighborhood kids love them, they help me dispose of kitchen "waste" and give me lovely fertilizer for my veg garden in return.

We started with a chicken tractor, but moved up to a coop. When my vegetable garden is growing, the chickens are penned into a fenced area around the coop. When the veg garden has been put to bed for the winter, the chickens are let out to roam the backyard.

Loads of great advice online. But be sure to buy Gale Damerow's book on Raising Chickens (Storey publications) -- it's the go-to reference.

Christina said...

One of my neighbors had chickens and it was nice to get a few eggs every now and then. Although that was his second set, a year before a fox got into the coop through a small hole in the shed it was attached to, killed all of them and was dragging them out one by one. So, make sure the coop is very secure, he had a series of bungees and later even an electric wire around the coop to keep them safe.

briarhopper said...

We just got our chicks in the spring, and they started laying late August. There's some hard work involved, but I've heard that never hurt anybody. :)
It is still a thrill to open the lid to the nest box and pick up a fresh egg from one of my hens--hens that I know have been roaming around our yard all day, taking dust baths and sunning themselves when they want, enjoying fresh water and plenty of food. And the eggs are so beautiful and yummy! I know which hen laid which egg by it's color. Stella (a Barred Rock) lays large, lighter brown eggs, Dory (a silver laced Wyandotte) lays slightly smaller, slightly darker brown eggs, Bonnie Blue (an Easter egged) lays gorgeous light blue eggs.
I love to watch them come running when they hear the back door open, knowing I probably have a treat for them (and I usually do.) It's fun to look up from washing dishes and see them through the kitchen window as they scratch around in the leaves.
So by now you've probably guessed that my advice is to order those chicks! :)

Unknown said...

All I know is that my brother and his family in Minneapolis are totally into organic gardening, composting, you name it. They got their chickens over a year ago, fed them organic chicken feed and now they have a major rat infestation! He was stopping at the hardware store everyday on his way home from work, looking for bigger, better rat traps! The last I heard, he had killed/captured 15 rats--and healthy rats they are, having been fed gourmet chicken feed. Hmmm--you might want to think twice.

Patrick Archbold said...

I had no idea that so many people have or have had chickens. This is great encouragement!

Mary Catherine EB said...

If you're building a coop make sure that the ceiling is high enough for you to stand up under. It will save you a TON of back-aches.

Midday said...

We use this, combined with a run, for 4 hens:
http://catawbacoops.com/

Anonymous said...

We started with 4 suburban chickens and a year later moved to the country. We now have 40 laying hens and raise 50 broilers and 3 pigs for the freezer. Make sure you have a place to compost the manure. We used a corner of our garden area to build 3 compost bins. Once composted down, it makes awesome fertilizer. Also, our hens almost completely eliminated our Japanese beetle problem. Check out hobby farm and urban farm magazines (disclaimer- I freelance for them sometimes).

Anonymous said...

Jealous, jealous, jealous. My city doesn't (yet?) allow backyard poultry. I don't understand the objection. They'd be quieter than the neighborhood dogs; the cats living in the sewers can take care of the rodents.

@BetterThanEden: I've been researching this for a few years, in anticipation of zoning changes and I WANT ORPINGTONS! You're lucky!

- Rural Wannabe

Kathy Kalina said...

Oh, buddy, do I have a cautionary tale for you! (http://www.lendingstrengthbearingwitness.com - check out the chicken story in favorite posts)

Regardless of the inherent difficulties, the fresh eggs are fabulous!

Kathy

Irenaeus of New York said...

I have had chickens for over two years now. One bit of advice on the coop and grazing area. Make sure they are completely secure from predators. If a racoon can get into a "secured" garbage can, they can get into a "secured" coop. So take special care in the design. I lost a few beautiful Leghorn hens last year when the Macguyver of racoons literaly moved a piece of heavy concrete (I didnt think any animal could move) to get into the outdoor grazing area. I am still not sure how he did it (but i made changes). Right now I have a single Rhode Island Red and a Barred Rock. Its plenty of eggs for me and my family since we dont eat them every day. However, mine are still laying despite the cold weather. I converted a Rubbermaid 7x7x7 roughneck shed into a coop. Its pretty easy to put together and convert, and once your done raising chickens (should that day come)... you have a shed.

The tractor coops are nice because you can move over to new ground for feeding. They can turn plush greenery into mud within a few months. Forget the free range stuff if you have neighbors close by. I have a 7 foot fence and my girls cleared that easily with a bounce and a flap. Having to bend down and chase a chicken in your neighbors yard looks bad no matter how "under control" you aim to look:) If you hatch chickens like i did in an incubator, you will likely end up with half being roosters. I was no good at "sexing" (determining the sex) no matter how many website and video tutorials i looked at. For me, it took about three to four months to see which ones were becoming roosters. If you have roosters, you will have angry neighbors unless you have a large property. So figure out if a local farm will take them off your hands.

Myers16670 said...

We've been raising Black Australorps for about three years now, and just picked up some Black Copper Maran's last year from a neighboring farm. As Irenaeus recommends, get a chicken tractor if you want more grass than mud in your yard. Also, make sure you are comfortable harvesting the birds before you ever go into raising them. Even if you are only in it for the eggs and want nothing to do with meat you will inevitably have to harvest a sick or injured bird. Take the wife and older kids with you to a nearby farm offering instruction on harvesting chickens (many offer this, or are happy to do so if you ask), and make sure EVERYONE is okay with this before you get the first egg or chick. We let ours free range, and the neighbors actually love the chickens as much as we do (got quite upset when we didn't let them run through their yard!). Good luck, have fun, and don't be surprised if they very quickly become more "pet" than "livestock".

halina said...

My 85 year old dad wanted chickens in our backyard in Plymouth Meeting, PA. We started with 6 females - one Red (very nasty bird), two Wyandottes (prissy ladies) and 4 Easter Eggers (the best!). He converted 1/2 the old shed into a coop with boxes attached on the outside with openings inside for egg laying and easy retrieving. He also cut out a small door opening with a ladder for the chickens to enter. We started with a small wired enclosure which got bigger and bigger so that they could roam and eat bugs in the vegetable garden. If you get your birds just hatched, they must keep warm (we kept ours in an old plastic laundry basket under lights in the kitchen). When it is warm enough to let them go outside, keep them inside the coop for three days and they will learn and remember where their home is. Each evening they will make their way back to the coop on their own. They are very interesting to watch as each one has its own personality. The only time mine were a problem was when I had to shovel snow from the back door to the shed. And, of course, I had a particular pair of shoes I wore when I gave them food and water.
I have been reading your blog for a couple of months and you always give me a lift. Thanks!

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