We already covered getting your chickens at the first couple of weeks of life. Lets talk about the rest of their lives, but we’ll do it behind their backs.
In this, part 2, we discuss getting your chickens out on pasture, along with feed and other things they need.
We also talk about different coops, and ways to house your chickens so they have a nice safe place to stay at night. I also give you my recommendation on coops to checkout, and to make for your chickens.
Also in my failure segment I talk a bit about how I messed up killing my rooster, and it didn’t go as smoothly as it should have.
If you want to watch instead
Hello and welcome to the 20th episode of the BudDIY Podcast. I’m your host, Buddy Lindsey. And today, we’re going to talk about part two of taking care of chickens, and going over the basics of that. But before that, if you haven’t visited the website, and signed up for our email newsletter, please feel free to do so at buddiy.net. Just go there and there’ll be a sign-up form on the front page.
So, with that, let’s jump into the first segment of what’s going on around here. Well, the good news is I got my SawStop set up and I’ve actually started working on the video, actually like editing the video for that so I can do a comprehensive video. Because I found a lot of videos setting up a SawStop, but they were all basically from a distance, and you just watch and see what’s going on.
Not really anything getting in there and trying to go through stuff. So, my hope is to make a video that gets in there a little more, showing what to do to set up the SawStop. And I’ll tell you, I took over a hundred videos anywhere from 20 seconds to 20 minutes. And anyway, when I dropped all the clips that I think are necessary for it, I’m at about an hour and 50 minutes before doing any editing.
So, it’s going to take me a while, but hey, it’s there and it’s getting started. With that, since I have the SawStop up and running, I actually started the next project in The Weekend Woodworker Course, and that is the Sonoma coffee table, and are actually modifying it to be for my girls. And that’s actually going really well. I’m super excited about that, and where that’s going to go.
And I will say it was really nice having the coffee table properly, and the SawStop, and being able to do some long rip cuts for the aprons of the table. I think everything is fairly dialed in at this point on the SawStop. I probably need to do a few more checks just to make for sure that everything is going good, but I think it’s going to do a really good job, and I’m super excited to get onto some more future projects.
Probably need to do some more tweaking and dialing in as time goes on, but I think I’m getting there. I also got a straight edge, a 50-inch straight edge, veritas straight edge to help me not only get flat on the table saw, but to also dial in my jointer as well. So, I’m hoping to actually get to that this week or maybe next week. We’ll see how things go. So, on that, let’s jump into our main topic, and that is taking care of chickens.
Last week, I covered actually getting the chickens, who, what, where, when, and how, and then I went into getting them in the brooder for the first time, and all the things you need to know pertaining to that. The one thing I did leave out on the brooder setup is once you get your chicks and you put them in the brooder for the first time, and also if you can, putting them out on pasture for the first time, which I’ll get into today, is dip their beaks in the water when you first get in there.
That gets a little water in their beak. They know where the water is, and they’ll start drinking after that, and start eating after that. That signifies that, “Hey, we need to do this.” I left that out last week, and I was super frustrated that I did. So, with that, let’s go into the last two pieces to taking care of chickens. And the first one is the actual transition from the brooder that we discussed last week, and onto pasture, or into a coop.
So, the question is when do you want to do that? Well, there’s a lot of factors to take into consideration. If you’re doing it in the summer, and it’s going to be warm, you can bring them out a little bit sooner, especially if you’re not getting a lot of rains, or cold snap.
The general idea is if they’re meat chickens, then you probably want to bring them out their corners cross at about three weeks of age so that way, they can spend the next five weeks on pasture, and eating up all the bugs, and the grass, and other stuff like that, and they get all the goodness.
And so, they are good wholesome chickens whenever you’re ready to process them. When it comes to laying hens, you’re looking at probably five weeks area, sometimes maybe four, sometimes there’ll be six. The thing you’re after there is, they’re more completely feathered out before you put them out on pasture so that they can survive whatever weather swings that are there.
However, if it is going to be a warmer weather time, then you could possibly move each of those up by a week. I know some people, whenever it’s going to be like 90 degrees in July for most of the day, they go ahead and put them out at two and a half weeks for the meat chickens, and four weeks for the laying hens because there’s not going to be dramatic enough of a weather swing to cause any harm to the chickens.
And that just gets them out there a little bit faster, and get some out there to be able to chew, and get good nutrients, and basically a little bit chicken life, which is the goal. We want the chicken to live the life that a chicken is supposed to live, and have a good respectable life for the entire, we’re trying to be nice to our animals. We don’t want to put them in a feedlot where they’re in 10 chickens in an 18-square-inch area for their entire life, and I’ll get into a little bit more of that later.
So, with that, the best way to transition them, depending on where everything is placed is to see if we can’t just open a door, and funnel them into whatever it is, and let them do the work of getting there. Otherwise, you need to put them in some container, and carry them to whatever it is they’re going to. It doesn’t really matter which one. With the least stress, if you can pull it off, is just open the door and herd them to wherever they need to go.
So, in that, we need to discuss also a little bit about their watering and feed. Generally, when they get out on pasture, they’re going to drink a lot of water. What you’re going to want to do is you’re going to want to get a three-gallon or a five-gallon container depending on how many chickens you have. If you have 30 chickens, you’re probably going to get one to get two to three-gallon containers or a three-gallon and a five-gallon or something like that.
Or the more you get, the more water that you need, and you’re probably going to refresh that every day, or every other day to make sure that they have fresh water in there, and they don’t get a lot of gunk buildup. I live on a dirt road and unfortunately, there’s nothing stopping a lot of the dirt. And so, it just flies, and so I have to keep the water clean fairly often to get all the gunk out of it.
Plus, they like to scratch. Chickens like to scratch, which is great. It’s great for the soil, great for them, it’s just what they do. But sometimes they can scratch right next to the water, and kick all that crap into the water, and then it’s super annoying to clean up. So, you just want to make sure that you have plenty of water, especially if you’re doing a free range or paddock shift system.
If you’re in a chicken tractor, where they’re going to spend the rest of their time in the chicken tractor moving across pasture, one of the best things that you can do there is to actually get a five-gallon bucket with little water nipples on the bottom. And it takes a little bit to train the chickens to it, but once they figure it out, it’s a great way for them to drink, and it makes your life a lot easier.
I have not successfully trained them for very long to drink from the water nipple thing, so I have to just carry a giant bucket of water in there every day and transition that. It’s annoying, but it is what it is. So, on the feed side of things, you have a couple of options. If you’re doing meat chickens, generally, you can keep doing the laying or the grower feed, especially if you’re doing the crumbles, and you’re doing more natural stuff.
You can continue just with the layer feed for the entire eight weeks of their life. That’s what they’re designed. They’re going to continue to grow. They’re getting good high-protein content, and it’s just going to be really good for them. Then the same thing with the laying hands. If you want, you can do the entire first six months of their life until they get out and start laying, or you can do them with the grower.
Or probably around six to eight weeks, you can transition them to, they have grower, and then they have starter feed, and then they have another type called layer. So, each have different amounts of protein and other content in there in their food. But in the beginning, they’ll only have the grower feed, which is about 20% to 22% protein. And then they’ll switch to a starter, which it depends on who you go with.
It’s anywhere from 15% to 18% protein. And then when you get to the final layer feed that you’re going to give them once they start laying, it’s going to be a 15%, 16% protein in the feed itself. However, if they’re out eating bugs and other stuff, they’re going to get more protein throughout the day. Then they will just do the food that you have. Plus, depending on what you throw them from food scraps.
Other things to consider on feed and how much to give them is, it can really, really vary. What you want to do is you just want to give them food, and then watch how they react. Generally, with my chickens, I give them a standard scoop that you would get at a tractor supply, and I give them two of those a day for my 15 chickens. And this seems to be doing it, it seems to do well there. They aren’t going hungry.
But it also pushes them to go out, and scratch, and find other stuff. It’s not too much that they’re getting lazy, and they aren’t going to run around, and do what chickens do. So, you want to find a good balance. You can also supplement some of their feed that you buy by giving them plenty of scraps, either scraps from your table, or stuff that you don’t use in your garden.
You just kind of throw it over to them if you’re not going to use it, and they’ll eat that right up. And so, that’s why it’s actually not necessarily a bad idea to grow a little bit bigger of a garden than you’ll use. And then you can just throw extras to the chickens as you have them, and it helps supplement, and prolong the feed that you have. Another thing that you can do is you can actually ferment your feed.
And this will not only add extra nutrients, and probiotics, and other things that are good for chickens, but it’ll make your chicken feed go longer. I’ll be honest, I did this for a little while, and I stunk at it. I just did not do a good job of fermenting the feed. And so, I stopped until I can… and I’m going to try again at some point.
But basically, the idea is you’ll take your feed, you put about half of it into a bucket, a five-gallon bucket, and then you’ll pour water in that bucket so it’s up above the feed line. I don’t remember the proportion. This is something you’re going to have to Google. And then you put a lid on it, and let it sit in there for a few hours, and it’ll ferment. If you put the right amount of water in there, it’ll stay liquidy, and it’ll stay water, and it won’t mold.
My problem is I can never get the proportions right. And so, while it would fill it up, and all this other stuff, it would get a layer of scum mold on the top. And I’m like, probably isn’t harmful to the rest of the feed, but I was never 100% sure, and I just never could get those proportions right. And sometimes, I’d put too much water in there, and it wouldn’t ferment right. I had a hard time with it. But once you get it dialed in, and I’ve seen several… usually, everyone goes to the learning curve.
Once you get it dialed in, you can save up to 20% on the feed that you feed, and your feed costs because it goes longer. Because there’s some piece that you would just lose out on that the water will help expand, and let the chickens actually get to. Again, I’m going to try it again someday, but it is an effective way to make your feed last longer, causing you to spend less money, and it gives them extra probiotics, which is good for their gut.
One of the other things that you might need to give your chickens is calcium and grit. First, on calcium, the easiest way to do calcium is to save your egg shells, and then crush them up into small little bitty pieces. Don’t go whole egg size, and then just mix it in with their food every couple of days, and give it back to the chickens, and they’ll eat it, and that gives them the calcium that they need so they have good strong shells, or you can go buy oyster shells, or something like that from the store, and give that to them as well. It does the exact same thing.
The other thing again is grit that you might want to give them. These are little limestone rocks that you get. What that’s going to do is they’re going to eat those. What they need is going to go in their crop, and that’s going to help grind up the food that they eat, and it helps them have good digestion. I don’t know how often you should give it to them or not. Supposedly, they should be able to find it on the ground.
But if you’re not letting them do free range or paddock shift, which I’ll explain in a minute, and other types of things where they get new ground all the time, then you need to give them grit, especially if they’re in a coop. But otherwise, they should technically be able to find it. But I like to give them a little extra just to be on the safe side. Usually, once a week, I’ll take a handful of grit that I bought at tractor supply, and pop it in, in the food and be done with it.
And I got a giant bag of grit, and I feel like I haven’t even touched it, and I haven’t really had any problems. From there, I mean that’s really all there is to transitioning from the brooder into the posture. What you’re going to do is you’re going to go out, and I’ll discuss coops here in a minute and you’re going to let your chickens out of their coop, whatever kind it is in the morning. You’ll double check their water, and let them go. Just let them have their day, and they’ll figure it out from there.
It’s just like all of us, food and water. And then at the middle of the day, latter part of the day, if you can do it, go out, check the coop, get the eggs if they’re laying hens, and so that way they don’t get into them, potentially break them and start eating them. We had a rooster that was doing that. And then at night, sometime after dark or right around dark, depending on when, you go out there and close them up in the coop so that you make sure no predators get in late at night.
Next morning, do it all again. At some point, you can either get the eggs in the afternoon, or get the eggs the next morning. Just depends on how you do things. Generally, I recommend getting eggs in the afternoon so that way they’re still clean, freshly out of the chicken. Sometimes they like to sleep in their nesting boxes even though that’s discouraged, and sometimes they’ll poop on the eggs, and then rub it on the eggs, and it gets annoying and frustrating.
So, if you can get them in the middle of the afternoon, you’re a lot better off if possible, or when you get home from work before dark, something like that. Otherwise, just get them first thing in the morning, and just deal with what you have. So, next, let’s go to actually, dealing with coops. And this is where do you put your chickens at night, or during the day, or whenever?
There’s a couple of different ways that people generally go about it is, one is they have a stationary coop that stays in the exact same place all the time. Sometimes they have a semi moveable coop where they’ll put them in a coop, and they may move it once or twice a year, and then you can go to the other side where you’re moving that coop once a week, every other week, or once a day depending on what you’re doing.
And that way, your chickens get fresh grass all the time. And then inside of that, there’s also a paddock shift method, or free range, or whatever. It really, really depends on what you’re doing. First, let’s start with the stationary coop and run. This is the quintessential, this is when people talk about chickens, and you see pictures of coops.
This is generally what you see, scenario where they go into at night, and they have a long fenced-in run that’s surrounded by a hardware cloth all the way around. And that’s where the chickens live for their entire life. If you have the space, then this is a way to go. And it’s a way, you can have chickens, you can have fresh eggs, and you can have everything, and they’re not going to get hit by predators per se because they’re going to be in a closed-in area.
You just want to make sure that your run is large enough for all of your chickens. They’re not going to get bored because if they get bored, they start getting aggressive towards each other. And so, you just need to make sure it’s big enough. I don’t know the right size. That’s something you might have to research. I don’t necessarily personally do a coop and run, so it’s not something I can speak to very well.
Another thing that I’ve seen people do is they do a coup and run combined with free range. So, they’ll have a coop with either the same size run or on a smaller run, but they’ll actually let them out of the coop during the day, and they’ll just free range around the yard depending on where you are all day, and then they’ll go back into the coop at night. It really just depends.
Some of the key features that you want in a coop, and for the most part, this translates over to mobile coops as well, is you want enough space for each chicken to live their life. I think I read you want four-cubic feet or four-square feet per chicken if you have, what I recommend is the Rhode Island Red.
This is enough space for them in a sense, permanently to live in, and they’re not going to get too aggressive towards the other chickens, and they’re not going to start pecking at people, and other chickens as well because they’re stressed out because there’s such a small space. And then from there, we need to deal with nesting boxes as well.
And generally, the recommendation on that is about every five or six chickens have a nesting box so that there’s plenty for them to get to depending on the amount you have. And there’s not going to be overcrowding. You also don’t want too many nesting boxes because they aren’t going to transition through the nesting boxes quick enough.
And you might have a hen that gets broody, which basically means they want to try to hatch some eggs, and they can get super aggressive when they’re like that, and you just have to break, you’ll have to pull them out of that coop for a while, put them in a cage, like a dog cage for a few days to break them of their broodiness, and then you can put them back in.
Basically, when they’re no longer aggressive towards people, they’re broken or being broody, and they’re good to go back into the general population. So, those are some key principles around doing a stationary coop, especially with laying hens. So, let’s say you want to actually let your chickens out on pasture and do things on pasture. There’re actually multiple ways to do this.
One is you can free range, you can just open up the coop and let them run depending on your availability of when you can do this. This is relative safety for the chickens, things like that. This is a great option. If you have the space, and you’re not necessarily concerned about where or how far away they’ll go, then you can do this.
The downside is if you’re close to your house, the chickens are going to know where you live, and they’re going to hang out at your house, and poop all over your stuff because they’re like, “Hey, this is where the human that gives us food is at. We’re going to stay up by this area.” However, if you’re out in a field and they don’t necessarily know where you go, they just see you leave off and they don’t see where you live.
They’re going to stay within 100 yards or so, usually less of their coop, wherever that is, and that’s how they’re going to live their life, and they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want. So, let’s say you don’t have enough land area to be able to free range your chickens. There’s another couple of options that you can do. One of them is you can do a chicken tractor.
This is especially good for meat chickens, which you can do it with your laying hands as well. And that is you will build in a closed area that has lots of air flow and everything. My favorite chicken tractor is John Suscovich’s tractor. It’s an easy chicken tractor to build and use. Basically, it has a door that you can walk into, you do everything out, and you can just pull it once a day to the new area that you want to be.
It’s built so that you can have about 30 meat chickens in there, and probably 10-ish laying hens as long as you can do some nesting boxes in there. And you just go out there every day, add food, and double check the water, and then you pick up a rope, and pull the thing to the next little spot of grass. And that way, the chickens have fresh grass, and fresh bugs every single day, and you’re working your land in that little spot all the time.
And the chickens love it. They have a good time in there. Another thing that you can do is you can do what’s called like a paddock shift system, and that’s where you have different areas that you have roped off that you want to do, or fenced off that you want the chickens to actually do stuff in. And whatever interval you do is you will move the coop into that other area for them to graze and deal with in different timeframes depending on what you want.
It’s called paddock shift. Each area is a paddock and this is great, especially if you have designated areas that you want the animals to be in. It’s a mix between the chicken tractor, and a free range. Another option in that is what I do and that is a mobile coop called the ChickShaw by Justin Rhodes, and I have an electric net, and I just move them around my yard all year long.
Every couple of weeks, in the morning before I go out, I’ll pick up the electric netting, and I’ll move it over to another area. I’ll move the chicken coop, the ChickShaw into that area, and then I’ll let them out, and let them go for two weeks in that area, and then do it again, and I’ll just keep moving. I don’t have a designated area to do the paddock shift system because I’m trying to figure out the best place to go, the best area.
This year, I’m trying over by some trees during the summer so that for at least half of the day, hopefully during the hottest part of the day, they’ll have shade throughout the rest of the afternoon. I’m going to see how that goes. Last year, I didn’t actually think to do that, and so I didn’t do that. They were in the sun all the time, but they did have shade from their ChickShaw that they would get under, and hang out under.
And really, when it comes to mobile chicken coops, there are all kinds of things that you can do, and all kinds of designs, and it’s actually a lot of fun to research, and find that best design that you can find. I just really liked the ChickShaw because it gets the chickens up off of the ground year-round. They poop through great in the bottom. They have bars that they can sit on inside of the thing so their feet aren’t always on the hardware cloth because they like to grab on to sticks and wood.
And the poop just goes to the ground, offers fertilization, and they’re only in there during the night, or whenever they’re laying eggs. It’s a great little system. So, really, with all of that, that is the overview between last episode in this episode, how to get started getting chickens and working with chickens. In all honesty, it should provide you enough information to go get started and to order your first chicks, and go down that path.
There’re definitely some areas to fill in that you’ll want to Google, especially when it comes to what size, and how big of a coop that you want to get, or what design that you want. That’s really a personal choice. If I was to tell you what I recommend that you do, I would recommend if you’re doing meat birds to get the John Suscovich style chicken tractor, build that one. Don’t worry about anything else.
There’s a lot of other options, and then I would also recommend if you’re going to do a paddock shift, or do moveable coop, I would recommend looking up Justin Rhodes, and getting his ChickShaw plans, and building that. Those are the two that I recommend on there. From there, if you want to do a coop and run, I would go check out April Wilkerson.
She did a coop a few years ago, I think three years ago for a neighbor, and I would recommend that one because it’s more of a traditional style coop and run. It’s really big, big run, or she does have her, the one she built for her house that’s a little bit smaller of a coop and run, but she also uses that for free range.
So, those are really the recommendations. Those are five different types of coops that I recommend dealing with your chickens. And I wouldn’t necessarily worry about all the other options that you have, unless you just really want to go research. Ana White has a good set of plans on her website for chicken coops, but they’re all over the place. Visit BackYard Chickens, and go to their images section, and look for coops if you want to do that.
But those are my recommendations to get started. The John Suscovich style chicken tractor, Justin Rhodes’s ChickShaw, and April Wilkerson has two separate types of coop and runs. Those are my recommendations. So, on that, I hope you will consider getting some chickens, and investing some time, and some money into it, and having a good time because it’s great for you, it’s great for your family.
It’s also really great for kids because they have a lot of fun with chickens. I know my girls love them. So, on that note, let’s finish up the episode with my failure of the week, and that’s going to be revolving around chickens, and that’ll be, I had to get rid of a chicken, I had to get rid of my rooster, specifically.
I didn’t necessarily want a rooster whenever I first got chickens. However, there’s a 90% success rate from the hatcheries that they guarantee a 97% success rate for sexing the chicks so that you only get female chicks. Well, I just happened to get a rooster in that, it happens. And so, I was like, “We’ll keep the rooster.” Roosters can be good for protection and other stuff. Well, sometimes I get a little too aggressive, and they start doing things that you don’t want to do.
And in our case, the rooster is getting a little too aggressive. I didn’t want that. And also, was breaking eggs, and eating the eggs, and definitely don’t want that. Because there were days I would go out there, and there’s only four eggs when there should be 11 to 14 eggs. But I ain’t spending that much money, and that much time to only get four eggs a day when our family can eat eight to nine eggs a day. And that’s just not going to work out.
So, because of those two reasons, I went ahead and got rid of the rooster. I probably should’ve done it sooner, but I didn’t want to put down a rooster. I didn’t want to get rid of the rooster. I like the rooster. The rooster was fun. The rooster was interesting. But because I waited so long, the rooster was just getting more and more aggressive, and I couldn’t handle it.
And I think that was some of the reason that he was breaking the eggs as well. So, my mistake is I waited too late. My other mistake is I missed the carotid artery on the chicken. And so, unfortunately, it took the chicken a little bit longer to pass out than I think is what it should. Because normally, if you hit the carotid artery properly, they should basically go to sleep, and not realize anything has happened.
Because what you do is you put them upside down in a cone, there’s compression from the cone, so it gets them in a womb-like situation so they get really comfortable, and they get really groggy, and sleepy, and then you cut the carotid artery, and the blood comes out so that they never know anything happened. And I feel really bad with that. That didn’t come out right with the rooster. But I got the rooster taken care of, and that’s just life sometimes.
Hopefully, I don’t have to do that with any of the other chickens. So, yeah, that was my mistake of the week. So, on that note, please feel free to visit the website at buddiy.net, you can go through the archive of episodes there. You can subscribe to us on all major podcasting platforms, or if you’d like to be on YouTube, we’re on YouTube.
Just search for B-U-D-D-I-Y, and I’ll be there, and you can hit subscribe on there as well to be notified when new episodes are released. I thank you for your time. I thank you for your attention, and please, definitely try to check out getting some chickens. They’re a lot of fun. So, on that note, have a great day.