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newbie - perfect backyard chickens? Options
novillero
#1 Posted : Monday, December 01, 2008 4:54:04 AM
Rank: Guest

Posts: 134,494

Hi, I live in the suburbs of NJ.  I was looking to get into a few layers in the backyard.  I have woods behind me, and one neighbor to each side.  My lot is about 65 feet wide by 120 feet deep - but as noted it is extremely deep if you consider the woods behind me. 

Given the proximity of 2 of my neighbors, I am looking for a decent layer with a docile temperament, and a bit on the quieter side.  This size of the bird or eggs is not a concern at this moment as I am just a beginner and plan to have only about 4 birds (for now, but maybe another bird or two more in the future).

I looked up the ordinances in town, and there is nothing against having livestock or poultry, which I thought strange for a small town in my neck of the woods. Regardless I want to keep this on the down-low and avoid any problems.  Hence looking for a quieter, more docile breed.

My next question is about a proper home and a run.  I have a St. Bernard, and not a huge backyard.  So I'll have to fence the chickens in, and they will not have the run of the yard, just a small portion.  How much room should I allow, small but not too confining. 

The area (corner f the yard) where I was planning to keep to keep the run is shady, but not deep shade.  Does that affect the health of the chickens or their ability to lay.\

Also, I have been perusing internet plans for the right coop, can anyone point me to a decent coop structure for this size "flock" - maybe permitting a bird or two more.  And with the weather conditions of New Jersey in mind?  I'm confused about keeping them warm in the winter.

Any help appreciated, links welcome.

Frosty
#2 Posted : Monday, December 01, 2008 4:54:04 AM
Rank: Guest

Posts: 134,494

Hi, and welcome to Mother Earth!  I am not familiar with your climate, I am in North Dakota so what I do will probably be overkill for you. 

For more docile breeds, some of my favorites are Buff Orpington, Speckled Sussex, Australorp, and Black Giant, all of which are brown egg layers.  As long as you have just hens and no roosters, any hen will be pretty quiet except for a bit of cackling after they lay an egg. 

There are plans for a nice looking hen house and run on eBay Chicken Coop Plans Playhouse Coop Hen House - eBay (item 280281922246 end time Dec-02-08 06:14:23 PST) I got the plans but haven't built it yet.  I got them for my ducks, it is a 4' x 8' house/run and you can move it around if you like.  It is supposed to be big enough for 4 - 5 large breed hens, I have about 50 hens so this would be too small for me to use for chickens. Whatever you decide on, you will probably need it covered with either netting or a roof to keep your hens in and predators out. 

I don't know if they need actual sunlight for health, but they need light to lay (I think 14-16 hours per day) so you may need to supplement the lighting in the winter.  If you do, make sure that your birds can't get to the lightbulb.  You don't want them to fly into it or something and break the glass. 

I have my henhouse insulated, but not heated.  We used the foam board insulation, but it has to be covered or the hens will eat it.  And no, them eating it does not make them lay eggs in a styrofoam carton   Anyone that knows me can tell you that I am very much against heat lamps except for when the chicks are little.  The risk of fire isn't worth it to me.  The only problems that I have had from cold are the larger comb breeds like Leghorns will freeze the ends of their combs off.  That is mostly a problem when we get weather around -20F.  If it is a concern, you can stick with breeds with pea combs.  I do have a heater for the water fountain, I use a commercial type that is a metal pan upside down with a heat mat attached.  I have found it to work nicely, though with extended temps below -10F the water will start icing up a bit.  There is another one that is new on the market that I am thinking of getting, it's plastic so it won't rust.  The other is galvanized, and exposure to damp litter will start it rusting (and the hens do get litter around the water damp).  You can find it elsewhere on line, but here is the new one on eBay   NEW Heated Plastic Poultry Fountain Waterer - eBay (item 220315258014 end time Dec-19-08 13:03:20 PST)  Some folks make a heater using a pan with a lightbulb under it.  That makes me a bit nervous, so I stick to heaters that are made for that purpose.

And before I keep yakking on (I love poultry, and tend to run on about them), there is a wonderful on line group that you can check out   http://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/index.php  The place is a gold mine of information for both newbies and folks that have experience.  Lots of people there just starting out, and even after you gain experience there will be things that crop up that you have never seen before. 

Best of luck, and be very careful - poultry can be addictive!  

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