With the couple post lately about people who want to start owning chickens I’d figured I’d make a post up showing what setup I went with. And the pros and cons I’ve found with chickens. I am just a beginner (2 years) but Got all my info by taking ideas from several different set ups. I’ll include some pics at the end.
Each breed is different. Some are good in cold or heat, some are docile others not. Tractor supply online has all the info. Some do better in small coops vs roaming etc. we have 10 layers 3- Welsummer, 4- Rhode Island reds, and 3- black Australorps. My wife got them from tractor supply and handled them so much that they let you pick them up with no trouble. Which is nice for getting them in sometimes (or just shake a food jar). We did the typical heat lamp, metal tub deal until they are feathered out enough to be outside. The chicks will tell you all you need to know about heat. They either move away from it or stay under it when they are hot/cold. Our set up is a barn stall 12x12 with a door cut through to a covered run. (We do let them free range if we are outside. I used 1/4” hardware cloth all over the barn stall even the ceiling to prevent predators. And buried in the ground of the run to prevent digging. I have pvc gravity feeders (with caps to keep mice out) which I usually need to fill 2 times a week. Their food is easy to make sure your feeding them the right stuff. Each bag has charts of the age and what type of feed to use and when. I use a bucket with nipples for water. (During the winter I use a plug in bird bath heater to prevent freezing). The use the deep litter method for the bedding material. It self compost and I have yet to have to ever change it out and there is no smell. Just turn it weekly and add some pine shaving or straw. My roost is 2x4s that I have set over a plywood board with seamless flooring attached to it. It catch all the poop at night and every week i scrap it right off into a wheel barrel and off into the woods it goes. I bought the metal nesting boxes for the ease of just hosing them off or scrubbing down if they get dirty. So far we haven’t had issues with predators and I live in the middle of the woods near the water gap. But perhaps we are just lucky at this point. With 10 hens we get 7-10 eggs a day at the peak. In the winter it slows down a lot but still get eggs ever day. I know our welsummer birds don’t lay in the winter. (Blue eggs). The reds lay awesome year round. We don’t use any heater for the barn/coop. Heat lamps and straw don’t mix. Our birds did fine even when the temps hit -10 2 winters ago. They huddle together and stay warm. You need vents to keep the air moving. More so in a smaller coop. But keep the direct wind off of where they roost. In the summer watch them to know if they are overheating. The pros are fresh eggs, cool to watch them (I’ve seen them kill frog, chase snakes and i even have found dead mice in the stall with them. But there are cons. They are dirty. They crap a lot. Like a ton! And it can smell of you don’t keep up with it. EspeciAlly as chicks in a small brooder as they grow. They also make tons of dust kicking around then bedding. I have to leafblow my entire barn out even few weeks. The dust is unreal. They do attract mice as there is food always around. So always keep an eye on that.
I also tried meat birds last year in a small coop I built. Same thing except they use “meatbird” food and reach 6lbs in about 6 weeks. They literally grow right before your eyes. They are lazy and don’t move. And crap twice as much as regular birds. They do smell. I order from tractor supply as it’s the only place that will ship them in quantities of 10. Most min order is 25. I butcher myself learned it all on YouTube.
So super long post but it’s everything I wanted to know when we first got chickens