Sunday, January 12, 2014

I haven't talked about the laying hens because... well there's not much to talk about.  They eat, cluck, scratch, squabble, lay, and then repeat it.  Laying hens are the gateway livestock for a lot of people -- they're easy to care for, give you fresh eggs nearly every day, and work for chicken feed.  Literally.
 This is my chicken coop setup, in the corner of one of the barns.  The inside area is 12x12.  I went all professional and purchased the metal nest box a year or two ago, and find that it's easy to keep clean and keeps the eggs cleaner.  The nest boxes are mounted lower than the roosts to make them less attractive for the hens to sleep in, although I do have to move a hen from time to time; I'll check them after dark and just pick the hen up and put it on the roost.  It'll squawk a few times, and then settle down.

the outside run is both fenced and roofed.  I've had some problems with hawks, and I've got a dog that is too interested in chickens right now, and it's not the growing season, so we keep them in a yard until it starts to green up later this spring.  
the door to the outside run is in the middle right of this photo
For the roosts I took a 2x6x8' board and cut it into 3 equal pieces lengthwise.  I cut a 2x8x10 into four pieces, lengthwise.  I ran a quarter-round router bit over one edge of each 10' length, and then screwed the lattice together.    The rounded corner is for the edge of the horizontal roost that the chickens stand on.  By rounding that edge over it's more comfortable for the chickens (no sharp corner) and less likely to produce foot injuries.

The spacing on the lattice is 12" horizontally between roosts.  That allows chickens to roost without being crapped on by the chickens above, and the riser design means less squabbling between ranks.  The chickens below can't reach the chickens above, and vis a vis.  So there's less feather picking.

The bottom 3' of each roost is left bare intentionally, to make it easy to get a shovel in there to clean it out.  I use sawdust that we get from a local sawmill.  The final thing is the recycled bit of metal shelving leaning up against the bottom roost.  That's the little chicken ladder.  The bigger chickens figure out the roost and get up there pretty quick, but the smaller ones use that shelf (and some of the lazier bigger chickens) to get up to the first roost, and then hop/flap their way up the roosts.

There's 40' of roost, and i have 85 chickens, so that's about 6" of roost space per chicken, and there's a little extra roost space (not pictured) in the corners of the pen, but 6" space per hen seems to be fine.

For feeders and waterers I use 6 gallon floor waterers and 6 gallon feeders.  85 laying hens eat about 25lbs of food a day; right now, in winter, I'm getting 30 eggs a day.  As we get closer to spring we'll progress until we're seeing 70 to 75 eggs daily.

The chickens are given wheat free-choice, along with a balanced chicken ration from a local feed mill, and a bowl of crushed oyster shell for calcium supply to ensure strong shells.   If I were just feeding chicken ration I wouldn't have to do that, but with wheat (which the chickens eat whole, and prefer) I need to provide some calcium for the egg shells.

I am incubating 150 eggs a month to provide chickens for sale next spring and summer; both laying hens and roosters for meat.  We make a market in both types of birds, serving a pretty loyal customer base.  Since we aren't buying chicks for $3/each, but instead hatching our own, the eggs we incubate can be said to have a worth of $36/dozen.


ellie k said...

When we had chickens we had the roost fastened to the wall on hinges, when we needed to clean out under it we just tied it up and left a nice open space to walk under.

October Rose said...

Looks like a nice set-up. How do you incubate the eggs?

October Rose said...

Looks like a nice set-up. How do you incubate your hatching eggs?