Your book says to use 13 pounds on the gauge for my altitude. I have been canning at 15 pounds on the gauge. I also have a weight and it makes the same amount of noise at 13 as at 15 pounds. Which is correct to use, 13 or 15 on the gauge? I did have my gauge tested before using it.
If the instructions for your altitude say 13 pounds, this is correct. But if you can at two pounds more pressure, that’s just fine, too. — Jackie
So far we have our house, garden, berry bushes, and small orchard. I was excited about getting chickens this Spring. I started researching. I am overwhelmed. Everyone thinks their way is the best. Special bedding, separate shoes to wear to prevent disease, the list goes on. Please help me with the following:
1) Our winters are as cold as yours, just not for as long. Last summer we had 3 weeks of over 100 degrees (real temp). Which breed could handle these fluctuations the best? The lists of cold weather chickens are just names to me, sorry, I have no idea what to get.
2) One never sees the insides of coops. There has to be form or function to the insides.
3) How far away from the house should the coop be?
4) What do you use for bedding? And how do you replenish it?
5) What is the best flooring material? Wood or cement?
6) How do you clean out the coop? We do not have any machinery yet. Do you just scoop with a shovel? Is there an easier way? (I’m getting older.)
7) I have seen the idea of a movable coop. What would the downside be of making one of those?
8) How important is it to spend time with the chickens to tame them?
J from Missouri
The very good news is that it is very easy to successfully raise chickens! For a whole lot of help on the cheap, pick up the BHM’s handbook, Chickens: A Beginners handbook. It answers a lot of your questions, plus a whole lot more that I can’t cover on the blog. But to answer some of your concerns: the inside of the coop is basically a room with roosts on one end (usually away from the door, as they do take up quite a bit of roof). Roosts are simply rounded poles nailed up, ladder fashion, about 18 inches apart, with the “ladder” being tilted toward the wall. This lets all the birds roost, yet not poop on each other. On one side of the coop, there should be nest boxes. I made mine from scrap lumber. They are 12×12 inches. The front is open so the hens can go in to lay. Mine is a bank of nests, five in all. You should have one box for about every 5-7 hens so everyone has a box when they want to lay. Too few boxes and the hens try to crowd in with another hen and then some eggs often break, leading to egg eating. There should be a pole or board along the front so the hens can fly up and walk along it to choose a box. The nests should be just below eye level, so you can easily bend to look in the boxes and remove eggs. A coop should have at least one window for sunlight.
It doesn’t matter where the coop is. They don’t smell and chickens aren’t noisy unless you choose to have a rooster. I use wood shavings for bedding and just add more all summer. I clean the coop each spring and fall and add all fresh bedding, letting it build up in the meantime.
Either wood or cement will work; mine has a dirt floor, which also works. (See, I told you chickens were easy.) I clean the coop with a scoop shovel. The shavings and dry chicken manure is very light and easy to handle.
Movable coops, or chicken tractors, are really meant to be a temporary — usually summer — arrangement. Usually the coops are not warm enough for winter and are often not large enough.
You can spend as much time with the chickens as you want. We’ve had pet chickens we could pick up and enjoyed petting. But most of ours now are not that tame and that’s okay, too. They still are easy to work around, even though we can’t pick them up easily.
Oh, J, your winters are far from as cold as ours! Here in northern Minnesota, we have weather far below zero for weeks on end, usually reaching -35 or -40, and we also get some hot weather in the summer. The good news for you is that you can raise any breed(s) of chickens that appeal to you! Do take into consideration just what you want chickens for (meat, eggs, pets, or a combination). Pick up a couple chicken hatchery catalogs and take a look. Of course, all sound perfect, but it’ll give you something to look at and lots of information.
Chickens are like most other homestead animals and livestock/poultry; give them a warm, ventilated building with good food, water, and reasonable care and they’ll do just fine. No need for special shoes or disinfecting! And remember that I’m here to answer any of your questions as you go along! — Jackie