As another Lame Cherry exclusive in matter anti matter.
First the questions:
I would like to get chickens, but I am a beginner. I only want eggs, so the tastiness of the meat is not important as I would think of them as pets and I would not kill my cats or even my pond fish for food. All I know about chickens is what I read on your blog. I see many of my neighbors have free-range Guinea hens. They are cute but I have heard they are not very useful other than as speed bumps. What do you know about the Easter egg chickens? My husband sells hay to woman who gave us a dozen of the Easter eggs and they are very pleasing. How does one even start with chickens? What sort of shelter do I need? Do you take them to the vet? Do I want a rooster, too? What type of chicken do you recommend? Thanks! - Peggy
In the past, I have ordered chickens from Murray McMurray in Iowa. Their chickens are vigorous, meaning they survive. If you want just a few chickens, I would find a farm supply or feed type store, or even a local hatchery so the chicks do not need to be shipped as that is hard on them.
Baby chickens need a safe and warm area, free of drafts. That means a light of some kind to keep them around 90 degrees, and enough space so they can not get too hot or too cold, which they pile up and suffocate.
If a chick is peeping loudly, there is something wrong, and it is usually temperature.
Heat lamps are what usually is used for heat with a thermostat, but I used just a light bulb this year as it was warm in our porch.
What is in vogue now is a brooder, like a metal sheep tank......expensive though. I use a plywood box, but you must be aware to not burn things down.
They will need a waterer, and I put in sugar with an antibiotic the first days. I always put the beak of my chicks in the water so they drink, and do it twice when I get them home.
Wood shavings work well for the bedding.
Use commercial medicated chick grower for your chickens, not for other other birds.
Change the water twice a day and you should be able with just a few chicks to not have to bother with the bedding for a week.
They do like to roost eventually, so a few supported dowels will complete that function, but it is not necessary.
I love guineas.......love to eat them and look at them. They are very hard to keep inside though to protect them as they are wild birds in Africa.
For breeds, your Americana or Green Egg chickens are a very good choice. They are different colors, are not that wild in most cases, will be pets with enough attention and are hardy chickens.
I like heavier chickens in the brown egg group, as their weight helps keep them from flying into trees, which owls and hawks really like eating them out of, and when they fly down there is always something looking to eat them like dogs or coyotes.
Brahmas are nice chickens in whites, Hampshires in reds and while they are flighty, the Hamburg is black and white spotted chicken with a rose comb, that lays a medium small egg.
We had two Gold Stars given to us, and that is a production egg breed. They are nice and quiet too.
You do not need a rooster, but having one keeps the hens from sitting at your feet looking to be bred.
As for vets, the answer is they are unnecessary. Just give the young chicks antibiotics in their water, keep things clean and they mind themselves very well. It is the predators eating them that is the problem. You should not have mite problems, as they come from turkeys.
As your neighbor has guineas, it sounds as if you do not have predators there or the guineas would not be lawn ornaments.
Shelter depends on your location as to how much in cost. A half dozen hens with a rooster would not require any more than an 8 by 10 foot shelter. It just needs to be secure at night for predators, and a place for them to lay their eggs.
Chickens once they have their feathers, can roam about your lawn. The few we had in the chick wagon, decided flying out was a good deal. They are laying chickens so they ate bugs all day, and we just herded them in at dark. Light on at night, kept the bugs flying in for extra protein.
If I was in the deep south or the west coast, where it is warm, a chick wagon would suffice. If it is snowy or rainy, they need shelter. It does not have to be anything expensive, just dry and something you are not crawling around in as it is too low in being a problem.
Just remember chickens are like babies. They need warmth and being checked on until they are grown, and then to be watched so something does not run off with them.
I really like chickens. They have personalities. You will know their chicken sounds in when they are happy or when they see a hawk. I like watching them and they are pets.
I hope this helps and there should be some wonk tutorials online for raising chickens too.