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Cadillac Ranch – Not Your Average Backyard Chicken Coop

Backyard Chicken Coop - Cadillac Ranch

 

Cadillac Ranch is an excellent backyard chicken coop. It is state of the art with consideration of the best practices in poultry science, study of the best backyard coop designs, years of experience, and input from several experts in the field.

Cadillac Ranch Coop is designed to be low maintenance, predator resistant, odor free, attractive, and portable. The coop interior is designed to house six to eight normal sized chicken comfortably, keep the chickens healthy, and enhance healthy egg production.

Proven & centuries old livestock barn drafting is utilized to thermodynamically draw & exhaust air – keeping the chickens cool in the hot Texas summers.

Cadillac Ranch is approximately 3′ x 8′ with a 7′ tall clerestory peak. It is designed to fit through most fence gates and is lightweight enough to be moved around the yard.  Optional wheels & handles can be added to make it a portable chicken tractor for moving around and fertilizing the lawn.

The coop interior is 6′ x 3′ with three roosting rods, screened windows, and a screened clerestory roof window. The floor of the coop is framed for deep litter composting and minimal maintenance. All inside surfaces are painted & wipeable to avoid mite and insect problems.

Four spacious nesting boxes (two each side) are provided with hinged roofs for easy collection of fresh eggs.

A chicken pen area of 3′ x 8′ is incorporated below the coop and is fenced with predator resistant welded wire, sides and bottom.  The pen floor is set up for deep mulch composting as well.

The pen area is shaded & below the coop to provide the chickens protection from the hot Texas sun and rain. An operable trap door and ladder allows the chickens to move from the coop to the pen area.

The pen area for the base coop model can accommodate up to six normal sized chickens, if they are penned 100% of the time. If free-ranging is utilized, up to 8 chickens can be kept. Optional attachable pens can also be added on any side of the base pen.

Coop walls are constructed of T1-11 exterior siding, primed and painted both sides with long life exterior  paint.  The coop floor is plywood, primed & painted. All surfaces of the coop and pen are painted or stained.

The roof is constructed of polycarbonate corrugated panels that are lightweight, impact resistant, UV resistant and deter heat transmission. The roof is long life, aesthetically pleasing, and made of environmentally friendly recycled material.

Additional options are available for this coop, including solar power & lighting, automatic doors, predator deterrents/alarm systems, forced air ventilation, heat, automatic water systems, chicken video cam, and much more.

If you are interested in owning your own Cadillac Ranch, contact Mark Glover at 214-550-5017 or Mark@iMarkRealty.com

 

About the Design/Builder:

Mark Glover has years of experience with backyard chickens. He has written articles on getting started with backyard chickens, raised backyard chickens, and helped others to get started with backyard chickens. He has appeared in magazines, newspapers and on television discussing the proper care for backyard chickens. Mark and his wife Penny run Rheudasil Farms in Flower Mound, TX, which is their three acre mini-farm.

Mark is also the Founder of iMark Realty Advisors, a commercial real estate advisor and broker. For over 25 years, Mark has designed, built & developed many commercial buildings. His projects have included multi-story office buildings, retail centers, manufacturing facilities & community buildings. Mark can be reached at 214-550-5017 or Mark@iMarkRealty.com.

14 Things To Consider in Picking Backyard Chickens

Selecting chickens for your backyard flock is fun. It can also be overwhelming. With over 400 choices in breeds and sizes, it gets confusing fast. Hopefully, this information helps you make a better selection of backyard chickens for your flock.

Fancy Ornamental Chickens

Selecting a chicken is an important decision and worth some thought. If you have healthy chickens, they are going to be with you for a long time. The average chicken lives for seven to eight years, and can live twelve plus years. The Worlds Record  for the oldest chicken is Matilda, who passed in 2006 at the age of sixteen.

Chickens, for many of us, become part of the family. Most of us want chickens that look good and enhance our backyard beauty. Who wants ugly family members? But chicken beauty is only feather deep and there are other things to consider.

A chicken that has a nasty temperament is not good for families with small children, or owners that are visited by small children. One that is loud or fly’s over your fence is not good either if you live on a small urban lot. Once this starts, a pretty chicken may become a bad experience for you and your family.

Environment is important in determining a suitable backyard chicken breed. Do you have a small lot or large lot? Is noise a consideration? Are you likely to have predators? Are you going to keep your chickens pinned all the time, or can you let them free-range around the yard?

My Backyard Chickens

Clarifying why you want chickens is equally important. Do you want eggs, and if so, how many? Do you plan to eat your chickens, or keep them as pets? Do you want your chickens to provide insect extermination and forage in your yard? Or do you mainly want them for pets and entertainment?  Prioritize your goals into requirements and preferences.

Here are some things to consider when selecting your backyard chickens:

  1. Identify and prioritize your goals. What’s most important – eggs, meat, pets, yard ornaments, insect control, fertilizer, composting, etc.
  2. Define your constraints. How much time do you have to spend with chickens? How much room do you have for them? Can you free-range your chickens or will they need to be confined? Some breeds of chickens confine well, others do not. Some forage for new food sources well and some do not.
  3. Understand the adaptability of different breeds to your weather condition. Cold weather chickens do well in New York, but may not in Texas. Some breeds are suited to cold weather, some for hot. There are breeds that can weather both.
  4. Take stock of the environment you have for chickens. What kind of predators are a threat? Do you have natural foods for chickens? How close are the neighbors? Are the neighbors friendly? Some chickens breeds are quieter than others. Some chickens are evasive and flighty to evade predators. Others are docile or slow and less able to evade predators.
  5. What size of chicken is best for you? Do you want small Bantam breeds, standard size chickens, or large breed chickens? Smaller chickens lay smaller eggs. Giant chickens may not have a good feed to egg production ratio.
  6. What chicken temperament is ideal for you? If you have small children or family members that are skittish of animals, you may need more docile breeds of chickens. You also need to consider if you are going to raise them from chicks, or buy  teenage to adult chickens. Chickens raised from chicks bond better with their owners and are naturally more docile.
  7. Do you need chickens that can evade predators? If you have acreage and open range, you may need flighty and agile chickens. In a small backyard, flighty is not so good and your chickens could visit a neighbor’s yard. My chickens free range on acreage and have learned to evade both hawks and dogs, which is good. Some earlier and slower chickens I had met misfortune with dogs. You can clip a few wing feathers to ground a flighty chicken, but you can’t speed up a slow chicken.
  8. Are you equipped to learn and manage chicken health? Or will you depend strictly on a Veterinarian for keeping your chickens healthy? If you are unable to develop chicken health practices and go the Vet route, you may want to invest in more hearty breeds. Otherwise, you could quickly be spending more on your chicken health than the chickens are worth.
  9. Are you going to free-range your chickens in the day, or leave them pinned? Some chickens naturally forage for new food sources and adapt easily to their environment. Others, not so well.
  10. Do you want a variety of backyard chickens for your flock or a single breed? If you plan on a variety, your job is easier. There are many good breeds to choose in developing a portfolio of backyard chickens. If you are seeking a perfect single breed for you and your environment, the job is much more difficult. You need to spend more time and do much more research.
  11. How many chickens do you need? Chickens are social animals that run in flocks. For this reason, you really should get three or more. If a primary goal is eggs, you will want to look closer into the size and quantity of eggs that the breed lays. The total backyard chickens you can accommodate depends on your goals, environment and constraints.
  12. Do you want common, heritage, or rare & endangered breeds? There are reasons some breeds are endangered and they may require more time and investment on your part. Heritage and common breeds are often more hearty and require less time, expertise, and expense.
  13. Should you have a rooster, or just hens? Many cities do not allow roosters because of the noise they make with crowing. You may not be the most popular neighbor either if you keep a rooster on a small lot. Hens don’t require a rooster to lay eggs and are fairly quiet. Some breeds of hens are quieter than others.
  14. Are you considering chickens as a meat source? Many breeds can be dual purpose – eggs and meat. However, most people with backyard chickens keep them as pets and don’t eat them. I hear often, “if it has a name, we don’t eat it”.

You are now ready to narrow your field of choices. It is good to separate requirements from preferences. You may not find all you want in a chicken. You should, however, find several breeds with your essential requirements.

There are several guides and tools to assist you with selecting your backyard chickens. Henderson’s Handy-Dan Chicken Chart is an excellent guide. American Livestock Breeds Conservancy has Chicken Breed Comparison information for rare, endangered & heritage breeds.  There is even an App you can get on your iPhone for Pickin’ Chickens. I have this App and use it often. It is excellent.

Sissy, One of My Backyard Chickens

If you want several breeds of backyard chickens, every choice does not have to be perfect – you want diversity. I have chickens that don’t rate the highest with my goals, but I like them for their looks. My Bantam Silkie really makes me smile as she runs around the yard with the big chickens.

If selecting only one breed for your entire flock, you may spend some time finding the best overall breed. I am thinking of a second, single breed flock and have been evaluating the choices for a few months. Some chickens in my current flock were purchased so I could see first-hand how they fare on my property.

It is also helpful to attend chicken shows or tours where you can see a wide variety of chickens. Most participants in these events are glad to visit with you about their chickens. Joining a local Meetup Group or backyard chicken club is recommended too. These groups are a good source of information and a great way to learn and share about backyard chickens.

Happy hunting for your backyard chickens! They are great pets, earn their keep, put themselves to bed at dusk, and provide a hearty breakfast in the morning. Best of all, they are great entertainment.

Early Backyard Chickens Get the Worm, and Vice-Versa

Backyard Chickens love worms. If you throw a red worm in the yard, chickens are going to be on it quicker than you can blink. The first chicken there gets the worm.

Some Worms love backyard chickens too. These are the internal parasitic worms that feed in your backyard chickens. Some worms can be fatal and none are really good to for chickens.

Chickens can get worms from other chickens or pets. They can also get worms naturally from the soil and insects. Keeping your yard and chickens clean does not mean your chickens will not get worms.

Here are the most common worms found in backyard chickens:

Hair Worms - Found in the crop, oesophagus, proventriculus and intestine.

Round Worms - Found in the birds digestive system.

Gizzard Worms – Found in the gizzard, mainly in geese.

Tape Worms- Fairly uncommon, found in the intestine.

Gape Worms- Found in the trachea and lungs..

If you ask enough chicken breeders and experts, you will find varied answers on whether a backyard chicken needs to be wormed, how to worm them, and what products to use. There are no absolute answers, but there may be a best answer for you based on your circumstances and preferences.

My Chickens Are Healthy Since Being Wormed

Worming backyard chickens is really a personal choice. In my case, I lost a five year old hen rather suddenly and had a young hen start sneezing and gurgling from reparatory issues the same day. After some research, I felt reparatory worms, or gapeworms, were a real possibility. Worming was an easy enough way to eliminate this fatal possibility. I treated for worms and some other possibilities and my sick hen got better.

If you can afford to take your backyard chickens to the Vet or have their stool tested by a Lab, you will know for certain that worms are present. For many of us, our budget to spend on chickens is limited. Implementing a preventative program is a good option to avoid the crises of losing a chicken or having high vet/lab bills.  Vet bills can quickly reach hundreds of dollars for a sick chicken.

Some chicken breeders and owners use DIATOMACEOUS EARTH (DE) as a wormer, feeding it to chickens. Feeding DE to chickens concerns me, based on what I have read about it. The sharp crystals can be damaging to a chicken and scrub out helpful bacteria and enzymes, along with killing worms.

If you opt to worm your chickens and to do it yourself, there are several worm medications on the market. Wazine seems to be the most common I see in feed stores.

I have researched several wormers. The main issue I have is getting a wormer that kills most worms a chicken can contract. Many wormers do not kill all worms including gapeworms. Gapeworms are a worm that really concerns me, since it can be fatal.

Ivermectin was my personal choice for a wormer. It is a proven wormer in cattle and swine, is highly recommended by several experts, and kills most worm parasites, including gapeworms.

To add to the confusion of this decision is “how to worm a chicken”. Do you put it in their feed, in their water, inject them with a shot, squirt down their beak, or put it on their skin? I was not comfortable with putting a wormer in feed or water. How are you assured of correct dosage with feed or water? Some chickens eat and drink more than others.

Injecting or trying to get a wormer in a chicken’s beak allows exact dosing, but is not easy to do. If you have a lot of chickens, this can be a chore.

To really confuse the matter, many wormers and animal medications are not dosed for chickens. They are sold for cattle and swine. If you call the manufacturer, as I have, they will not even discuss the dosage for a chicken.

Companies that sell worming products are required to test the safety and dosage for any animal they prescribe the medication for. To arrive at proper dosing amounts, they most do extensive testing. Improper dosing can result in lawsuits or regulatory actions.

Manufacturers, by volume, sell a lot of medication for cattle and swine. They don’t sell much for smaller chickens. The cost and time to certify medications for chickens is not as cost effective for the volume they would sell.

Ivermectin, and products like it, kill worms in a wide variety of pets and animals. The same products are often used in dogs, cats, cattle, swine, & chickens. If you read the label for a dog wormer, many contain Ivermectin.  Finding the correct dosage and way to administer a wormer to a chicken is a real issue .

With the injectable form of Ivermectin, you can put a few drops on the chicken’s skin and it will quickly absorb into the chickens bloodstream. I found this method to be fast, easy, and accurate. The brand name Ivermectin I use is Noromectin. I can use the product for my dogs and could use it for a cat, if I had one.

The recommended dosage to me was to use six drops on the skin of regular size chickens and four on bantam breeds.  The drops must go on the skin, not on the feathers. I easily found bald spots under the wings of my chickens. It is easier to do this with one person holding the chicken and exposing the skin, with the second person  administering the drops. A que-tip can be used to administer the drops.

My personal policy is now to worm my backyard chickens every spring and fall. I also worm and quarantine any new chicken I bring into my backyard chicken flock. My quarantine period is thirty days for new chickens. Last, you should not eat chicken eggs for seven days after worming a chicken.

Worming backyard chickens is a personal decision and one of many best management practices a chicken owner needs to decide upon.  I hope my research and experience helps you make a better decision on the practice you will adopt.

Bob’s Bluebonnets and Backyard Chickens ; A Few of My Favorite Things

Spring has sprung in Texas. The Texas Bluebonnet is much more than a wildflower. It represents new beginnings, proud heritage, and natural beauty for Texans. We begin to see Bluebonnets in March along roadsides as they explode in color. In a good year, they are like carpets of blue velvet marking our journey. This year rain fall was good, unlike the drought of last year. We collected some wonderful photographs of our backyard chickens in the Bluebonnets.

Bluebonnets became our State Flower in 1901, after a spirited debate in the legislature. Some politicians wanted the Cotton Boll to represent the State Flower. Others strongly lobbied for the Hardy Cactus. It seems there were idiotic politics in those days too. The Bluebonnet and common sense prevailed.

In the 1970′s my father-in-law, Bob Rheudasil, planted Bluebonnets on the property we live on. Every spring we have a beautiful crop. We nurture and protect our wildflower fields for family and friends to enjoy.

Bob Rheudasil

I will always think of Bob in Bluebonnet season. Bluebonnets were important to him and a great source of personal pride. He was a “man of the dirt” and grew native prairie grasses, spectacular gardens, and magnificent trees throughout his life. Bluebonnets were his favorite and remained with him until his death in September of 2011. They even named a nearby school Bluebonnet Elementary for his prized wildflowers. Bob helped them start Bluebonnets there for the children to enjoy.

Backyard Chickens don’t bother the Bluebonnets much. The legume roots start to spread in August and September. Backyard chickens scratch for worms and bugs that are feeding on the root system. The chickens create a few small bald patches where worms and grubs are thick. This creates a small standing or sitting area to pose guests for photos. I feel the chickens do Bluebonnets more good than harm.

I enjoy watching our backyard chickens in the Bluebonnets. It’s natural beauty within natural beauty. Chickens create wonderful pictures in the Bluebonnets. Some seem to actually pose for you. Most will not and it takes real patience to get any photo at all.

Goldie is our Boss Chicken. She is a five year old hen and is on semi-

permanent loan to us. A friend had to get rid of her small flock because the ordinances did not allow her to keep them on her smaller lot. We agreed to keep Goldie while we are trying change the ordinance to allow chickens on smaller lots. If so, Goldie may go home to her original backyard and family. Goldie is a natural in Bluebonnets. I swear sometimes that she actually poses for my camera.

Money Penny is named after my wife and the receptionist in the James Bond movies. She is quite independent and vocal, like another Penny around our place. Money Penny is a Black-Copper Maran that we bought as a pullet (teenager). Money Penny is aloof around people, but she is sweet once you catch and calm her down. She lays dark copper to chocolate colored eggs, often with spots.

Rosie Roho is our Rhode Island Red that has a spirited, but standoffish personality. Rosie earned her way to second in the pecking order of our small flock. She sleeps on the high roosting rod with Goldie and positions all the lower chickens in the coop. If one moves around, Rosie reaches down and pecks them back in place. Rosie grew up with Money Penny, so she does not bother her much. Rosie lays a large brown egg for us daily.

Little Sissy is a newer addition to the backyard chicken flock. She is a White Silkie. I got her for ornamental purposes and to be a lap chicken for kids to hold. Sissy is still a teenager and has not started laying eggs. Sissy will only get to 2-1/2 pounds, where most the chickens are six to seven pounds. Tori Spelling has a Silkie like Sissy. She carries around her Silkie like a chihuahua.

Sissy is quite a site running around the yard with the big chickens. It does my heart good to watch her, especially in a child’s lap.

Bobby Gene is our teenage Brahma hen and she started laying at an early age. She will grow to almost ten pounds. My wife named her for my Father-in-Law Bobbye Gene Rheudasil. Bobby Gene is our sweetest and most gentle backyard chicken. Her personality is much like the real Bobby Gene. She is clearly my wife’s favorite and one of mine too.  My wife often corrects me from calling Bobby Gene ‘him’ instead of ‘her’. Bobby Gene is very vocal and runs up to me when I go outside. I can’t help having a discussion with him, I mean her, on a daily basis.

Patty Francis is our Americauna hen, named for Penny’s mom. She is our youngest pullet, but growing fast. She will lay blue-green eggs, but has not started yet. Patty Francis is the wild one of the bunch, very flighty, and very illusive. I’m not sure if we will ever tame her. To me, she is much like another Patty Francis that once lived on this place.

Some of our chickens got to meet Bob Rheudasil last summer during his nightly porch sitting. We were honored to keep Bob the last few months of his life. Despite the record heat wave and drought, Bob insisted we sit on the front porch every morning and evening. Our backyard chickens became front yard chickens. I moved my portable chicken tractor around front for Bob’s entertainment, and ours.

Bob would not admit he was attached to the chickens, but I would look over and see a smile on his face as he watched them peck and scratch around the yard. He would poke at them with his cane if they got too close, or point his cane at them and tell us if they were in to something they shouldn’t be.

Sitting on the front porch and watching chickens with Bob was a great joy us. It was like we were back on the ranch with Bob. Instead of managing prized Black Angus cattle, we managed this small flock of chickens. The chickens provided fresh organic eggs for breakfast all summer. The taste of fresh eggs enriched our lives at the breakfast table. Our last months with Bob were some of the best times of our life.

Bob is gone now, but Bob’s Bluebonnets are in full bloom. I enjoy Bob’s Bluebonnets every day they are here. I know we only have Bluebonnets for a short while before they drop their leaves and are gone. I will always think of Bob in the Bluebonnets, when he could stand proud among them. Bluebonnets are just one of many things Bob left for us, and they return to us every spring.

We have a few Pink Bluebonnets scattered among Bob’s Bluebonnets. I have yet to get a picture of a backyard chicken next to a Pink Bluebonnet, but will with patience.

Allow me to share the ‘Legend of the Pink Bluebonnet’, as it was relayed to me.

A few years ago, a grandmother took her two young grandchildren for a walk on a river near San Antonio. Her granddaughter and grandsons marveled at the Bluebonnets and asked many questions about them.

The granddaughter spotted a Pink Bluebonnet and both children ran to it. The children kneeled and admired its beautiful pink color among a sea of blue. The grandmother walked over to kneel with them. The children asked why this one Bluebonnet was pink and all the others were blue. Their Grandmother shared a story of when she was a little girl running in the Bluebonnets.

“When I was a little girl, I found a Pink Bluebonnet like this. I was walking with my grandmother also. I asked her the same question you are asking me now.  My grandmother told me that her and her brother once played in these fields as children. There were no Pink Bluebonnets then, but every year they had a few White Bluebonnets scattered among the blue flowers.

In those days, Texas was part of Mexico. The settlers were not treated well by Mexico, but worked hard on their land. Her family wanted to be free from Mexico and its cruel ruler, a man named Santa Anna. Many others wanted freedom and to own the land they worked so hard on.

One day, some men decided to stand up to Santa Anna to gain independence from Mexico. They gathered in a small mission just down the road and pledged to defend it for all our freedom. This mission was called The Alamo.

It was a terrible time and Santa Anna came with thousands of Mexican soldiers to crush these few brave men. After many days of fighting, the brave men were all killed by Santa Anna and their blood ran thick into the soil at the Alamo. These men stopped Santa Anna long enough for others to organize and defeat him. We pledged to never forget these brave men.

The next Spring, we walked free in this field with our grandmother for the first time. The Bluebonnets exploded in color like never before. It was a happy time for us. We came upon a Pink Bluebonnet, then another, and another. There were many scattered among the blue ones. We could not find any of white ones, like the year before.

We ran and told our grandmother that the White Bluebonnets were now Pink! She told us they would be pink from now on, in remembrance of the men that died at the Alamo. The blood these men spilled ran into the dirt, to the creeks, and into all the White Bluebonnets, turning them pink. She told us what I now tell you, ‘When you see a Pink Bluebonnet, remember the brave men that died for us at the Alamo’.

I will leave it to you if you want to believe the ‘Legend of the Pink Bluebonnet’. For me, I will always think of new beginnings,our proud Texas heritage, and natural beauty when walking near Bluebonnets. Most of all, I will think of Bob and how he made this world better for so many of us.

Chicken & Chicken Tractor Exhibit at Lowe’s

Chicken Tractor at LowesWe had a wonderful event at Lowe’s in Flower Mound, Texas and were able to take my chicken tractor for a parking lot exhibition. This was a “Spring Fling Resource Conservation Show” sponsored by Lowe’s. Several informative exhibits were there including Rain Water Harvesting, Drought Tolerant Landscapes, a Composting Clinic, and others. Chickens fit in with this event like a pea in a pod.

The event organizers told us we were the life of the party. Hundreds of people came by to see the chickens and visit with us. Most hung around for a while to watch the chickens and learn.

A chicken tractor is a portable chicken coop that can be moved around the yard for chickens to eat bugs and grass. The chickens fertilize the lawn as the tractor moves around. You normally move a chicken tractor once a week or so.

My chicken tractor is named “The Chicken Ranch”. The original Chicken Ranch was in Lagrange, Texas, but stabled a different type of hen.

chicken tractor

The Chicken Ranch

They made a movie about the original Chicken Ranch, “The Best Little Wh#@e House in Texas” . ZZ Top even had a song about the famed Chicken Ranch called “Lagrange”.  Who says chicken tractors can’t be fun!

I designed and constructed my chicken tractor to look like an old rural red barn. I’ve admired old barns since childhood. Since I can’t afford to build a full size barn like this, the chicken tractor version is a good compromise.

I can go out to Chicken Ranch any time and admire the hens. My wife doesn’t mind at all and it is a good addition to our backyard mini-farm.

Chicken Tractor

Chicken Tractor on Trailer

This chicken tractor is perfect to load on a utility trailer and take to an event. People are drawn to it and it is a wonderful way to display the chickens. The chickens can go out in the pen area, or stay in the coop for the privacy of laying an egg. The low roofs hinge up on both sides to easily retrieve the eggs, inspect the chickens, or clean out the coop.

All my adult hens performed at this event and laid eggs for the spectators. Many kids and adults got to see this for the first time in their life. I let spectators pick up a warm fresh egg and this was special for them.

Several people liked my chicken tractor and said they were in process of planning one. It helps to see what others have done with chicken tractor designs, up close and personal. It is hard to evaluate a chicken tractor on the internet and there are many misleading advertisements for designs and kits.

I designed my own chicken tractor. I had a mental picture of a barn, made sketches, worked through some basic dimensions, and went to work. The end product did not look exactly like my sketch because I improved on the design as it took shape. I was a commercial design-builder for many years, so this was fairly easy for me.

If you don’t have the skills or interests in design, or know anyone that will help you in designed a coop, you can purchase chicken tractor designs off the internet. I have even seen some free plans.

Be sure to consider the needs of your new tenants before designing your coop. You design from the inside-out considering things like how much room your chickens need, nesting boxes, roosting rods, ventilation needs, and how to keep predators out. Doors are important too and I wanted mine to be simple and trouble free. Some go with doors that automatically open at dawn and close a little after dusk.

I did include solar lights in the coop area. Hens need about 14 hours of light to lay eggs in the winter. I believe the coop light also is a deterrent against predators, and my hens seem to like it.

Personally, I recommend buying the materials locally and building your own chicken tractor verses buying a kit. There are kits with very inferior materials. You also avoid an extra markup on materials and paying to ship these heavy materials. You can buy most all you need at your local Lowe’s.

Not everyone is handy with tools. You can hopefully find a friend that is. If not, you can find a handyman to help through Lowe’s. If you have a local chicken club or Chicken Meetup Group, you may get some fellow members there to help you. Building a unique coop is like creating art. It can be great fun and very satisfying.

Most gratifying for me with my chicken tractor is seeing small children feeding, petting, and holding chickens.Petting Chicken Many children have never seen a chicken beyond cartoons, video games and TV. There is something magical between children and chickens. This alone makes all the work and expense associated with building a chicken tractor worthwhile.

We also talked with adults at the Lowe’s event that want chickens, are getting chickens, and already have chickens. There is value in sharing. Personally, I learn a lot from other chicken owners. There are many more backyard chickens than most people realize. This type event allows chicken owners to connect.

I encourage chicken advocates to seek out chicken events and chicken groups locally.  Chicken owners are interesting and genuine folks. You can learn a lot from each other.chicken Tractor

We have started a couple of chicken groups locally and were able to get lots of email addresses of chicken enthusiasts at this Lowe’s event. We started a chicken Meetup Group named Backyard Chickens Collaborative – North DFW to help people learn and share information on chickens in the North Texas Region. We also started a Facebook advocacy group at Chicks 4 Flower Mound. to help revise the chicken ordinance in Flower Mound so our neighbors on smaller residential lots can keep a few hens also.

If you have a chance to exhibit at one of these events, take your chicken tractor and chickens. Show your community the benefits of having backyard chickens, what great pets they are, and how much fun they can be. It makes for a great day for you, and will make a memorable impression on precious young children.

Tour of Bageniece Farms; Backyard Chickens

We toured Bageniece Farms in Poetry, Texas on February 26, 2012. Poetry is near Quinlan and Lake Tawakoni. This farm breeds backyard chickens for sale.

Backyard chickens breeder

Dan Probst

Dan Probst is the owner and graciously guided our tour of the backyard chickens he breeds and raises. This farm also is known as Polish Farms.

Dan raises chickens, turkeys, geese, and ducks in the old world way by free-ranging the chickens and raising ducks naturally on his pond. He says his ducks are pond ready when they are sold and will stay on their new pond home, unlike many ducks that are not raised in this manner. I’m not sure, but there had to be several hundred birds at this farm.

Dan has a wide variety of chickens including a Polish that won Best of Breed at the State Fair. Breeds include Silkies, Transylvanian Naked Necks (Turkens), Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons, Jersey Giants, Cochins, Bared Rocks, Brahma, Ameraucana, Marans, and many more. There is other livestock, beautiful ponds, and well kept landscapes. Video of Bageniece Tour

This is a good place to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon to look at a wide variety of chickens. Dan will sell chicks or pullets (juvenile hens).  We purchased Silkie, Brahma, and Ameraucana breed pullets from Dan to add to our small flock of backyard chickens.

This is also a great trip to get some free advice on raising backyard chickens. Dan teaches a Chickens 101 Class for the Dallas Backyard Poultry Meetup Group. He has a wealth of knowledge and years of experience to share. We hope to get him out for a Chickens 101 Class at the Backyard Chickens Collaborative – DFW North.

I got some sage advice from Dan for a friend with a sick chick – separate it while treating it where the other chicks don’t all get sick. Also Dan advised me to always quarantine new additions to your flock for at least three weeks. Chickens need time to adjust biologically to a new environment and if one gets sick, you don’t want to infect your entire flock.

Another nifty trick I picked up from Dan was using a butterfly net, or tight weaved fishing net to catch a fleeing chicken. I have my net now and have had to use it a couple of times. You need to be careful and gentle where you don’t injure the bird. It is best to lower the net in front of the chicken and let the chicken run into it as they are fleeing.

Dan’s website is Polish Farms. His contact information is on his website. Call ahead for an appointment.

Please note to leave your dogs at home. Dan has three very large Great Pyrenees Dogs to protect his birds and livestock. We had our labs with us on our way back from East Texas. Dan’s dogs are very gentle and friendly, but their instinct is to protect their territory from coyotes and predators. It could have not gone so well for our labs if Dan had not been on top of his dogs as we drove up. We quickly shuffled our dogs from the back of the truck to the cab of the truck.

Also, it is good to wear a hat on this tour. See the chickens in the top photo for clarification.

Backyard Chickens Show – New Braunfels, TX

We attended this chicken show in New Braunfels on Saturday, May 10th. This is the 5th Annual Fancy Feathers 4-H Club Show.  The New Braunfels 4H Club is comprised of about 20 members and has grown this event from around 80 chickens in the show to over 500 chickens in the five years that they have held it.

This is an APA/ABA sanctioned show and qualified judges awarded ribbons, trophies and buckles.  It was much more than just a Chicken Show though.

The 4H students from New Braunfels were all there working the event in their white lab coats and the answering questions of the spectators. They 4H members were all helpful and polite. What a wonderful learning experience for them.

Many beginning and seasoned chicken advocates come to the event to learn about chickens and see the wide variety of breeds. It is one thing to see a chicken in a photo, but quite different to see a variety of chickens up close and personal. This is a great opportunity to view and learn about chickens if you are trying to decide on the breeds you want. Video – Backyard Chickens Show

We had an opportunity to interview the President and Founder of the club briefly. Clearly the members are getting a lot out of being involved with 4H and having such a successful event.

One of the more interesting parts of the show is a Cluck Off. This is a contest where attendees (people not chickens) do their impression of a chicken or rooster. Some even dress up and pretend to lay an egg. It is lots of fun for everyone. 

The Club President told us about another one of their fund raisers called Pass the Rooster. They take a rooster to local businesses. Of course the rooster crows and disrupts the business. The group offers to take the rooster away, for a donation to the club. Very creative and it is all in fun.

These kids are learning a lot more than just about chickens.  They are learning about how to set goals, work together, organize successful events and achieve success. This is a great show to attend and a great example of how 4H clubs can create great learning experiences and future leaders.

 

Why Chickens Are Crossing Into Backyard America

Backyard Chickens

Backyard Chickens in Flower Mound, TX

There is a fast growing trend across America with people keeping backyard chickens. No one knows exactly how many backyard chickens there really are. Thousands if not millions of chickens are quietly tucked away in backyards across America, many in violation of local ordinances that have evolved to exclude them. For many other Americans, ‘why’ people would want backyard chickens is as great of a mystery as ‘why’ the chicken crossed the road. Here are some of the reasons why people want backyard chickens:

Sustainability & Back to Nature

Most of us are just one generation from a time when people had chickens and gardens in the city as well as in the country. Previous generations lived much more sustainable life styles and did not depend on fast food, packaged factory made food, or microwave ovens. The kitchen, breakfast table and dining table were social gathering places for families, where life was shared and sorted. Today, our grandmothers, and certainly great-grandmothers, could not identify much of what we eat as food or how we prepare and consume it.

The Victory Gardens of WWI and WWII were the result of a duty felt by Americans to be self sufficient, patriotic, and not waste valuable resources. The Federal Government printed posters to encourage Americans to plant Victory Gardens in World War I and II. One such poster stated, “Uncle Sam Expects you to Keep Hens and Raise Chickens”.

Keep Backyard Chickens

Victory Garden Poster to Keep Backyard Chickens

Today, people are re-connecting with a need for self-sufficiency, a desire for local healthy food, and a value system of living in a sustainable manner.  Food security, resource conservation, buying local, and knowing where food comes from are all increasingly important. USDA statistics clearly indicate this movement as it pertains to food. Local Farmers Markets have increased from 1,755 in 1994 to 7,175 in 2011.

Healthy & Local Food

Fast and packaged foods are proving problematic to our heath and the health of our families. Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, salmonella, and obesity are just of few of the health concerns. Studies revealing ever increasing problems with food supply emerge monthly. Many believe we are literally poisoning ourselves.

Factory Farms raise thousands to tens of thousands of chickens in a single barn, where living space for chickens are not much larger than the size of a hat box.

Factory Farm Chickens

These chickens never see the light of day and often live in filthy/cramped conditions. Antibiotics, pesticides, saline, chlorine, and many other unnatural substances are found in our super-market chicken. Fast food chicken is much, much worse.

In February of 2012, NutritionalFacts.org stated that one bucket of fast food chicken may exceed the EPA recommended allowance of arsenic in a glass of drinking water by 2000%.  Two million pounds of arsenic compounds are fed to chickens in the US per year by Factory Farms to kill internal parasites and give chicken meat a pinkish tinge. And it’s not only the chickens. Eggs too contain this poison.

According to Consumer Reports in 2010, two-thirds of whole broilers bought at stores nationwide harbored salmonella and/or campylobacter, the leading bacterial causes of food-borne disease.

Backyard chickens, on the other hand, forage on chemical free vegetation and insects.

Chicken Tractor

Goldie & Ebony near their Chicken Tractor

Many backyard chicken owners augment their feed weed with Certified Organic Feed. Backyard chickens have less stress and are naturally healthier than Factory Farm chickens. They are also less susceptible to bird diseases, like Avian Flu. In 2006, the Center for Disease Control said, “When it comes to bird flu, diverse small-scale poultry farming is the solution, not the problem.”

Backyard chicken owners are able to eliminate or reduce Herbicides, Pesticides, and Fertilizers. Chickens provide natural pest control by eating fleas, ticks, grasshoppers, spiders, slugs, mosquito larvae, and almost every other insect. Chickens even eat small mice and snakes.

With all this foraging on natural foods, backyard chickens become organic chickens and produce fresh

Organic Scrambled Eggs

Fresh Organic Scrambled Eggs

organic eggs that are healthier and taste better. Backyard chicken enthusiasts swear by the better taste of their fresh eggs and chickens. Egg yolks are firmer, more yellow, and have a much richer flavor. Backyard chickens owners claim it is hard to eat breakfast out anymore, after spoiling themselves with fresh organic eggs.

Eggs are HealthyPastured chickens (those raised naturally on grass and insects) have 1/3rd less Cholesterol and 1/4th less Saturated Fat than chickens raised in Factory Farms. Pastured chickens also have seven times the amount of Beta Carotene, two-thirds more Vitamins A, three times the Vitamin E, and two times the Omega 3s.More Vitamins in Backyard eggs

Gardening

Gardening has surpassed all other hobbies to be the number one hobby in America and there are clear trends in how Americans do their gardening. The growth of backyard chickens is largely due to the growth of gardening. In fact, it is difficult to find a backyard chicken owner that does not garden also. There is a mutually beneficial relationship between chickens and gardens.

Gardeners are motivated by beauty, fresh food and healthy lifestyles. Chickens by nature peck and scratch, which is good for lawns and gardens. They eat harmful insects and fertilize as they go, adding nitrogen back into the soil. Gardeners collect chicken droppings like they were gold nuggets from chicken pens and coops to add to compost for their gardens. Many say there is no better fertilizer than this compost mixture.

Chickens and gardening are a part of people’s innate bond with living things, beauty, and nature called biophilia. Growing numbers of new gardeners are emerging and creating their healthy backyard oasis. All can be just and balanced the way God intended, within one’s small backyard farm. Chickens fit like peas in this pod.

Entertainment & Children

The real bonus to having a small flock of backyard chickens is the countless hours of wholesome backyard entertainment. Chickens have unique personalities and are good with children when raised as pets. They greet you when you come out to visit them and often follow you around the yard. Chickens can be trained, held, walked on a leash, and become very gentle with attention.

Rob Paul, the Father of four small children in Flower Mound, TX explained what chickens have done for his family, “Chickens have become a key distraction and quickly became our favorite pets. They have taught our children patience, responsibility and where food comes from. Our children have learned simple pleasures that don’t emit from an iPod, iPad, iMac or iPhone”.

Many think of chickens as livestock, not pets. Families back on the farm usually did not make pets of chickens when their destiny was the stew pot. Chickens can be livestock or pets. It’s up the owner. Most pets are kept as layers and not destined to be table birds.

Chickens make excellent pets. People love their chickens just like they love other pets. Chickens also develop affection for people. Chickens, unlike most pets, actually work for a living. Chickens help with the lawn & garden, do the pest control, provide great entertainment, put themselves to bed at dusk, and provide a great healthy breakfast in the morning. No wonder so many backyards are being converted to mini-farms with backyard chickens.

Still, some will never understand ‘why’ others want backyard chickens. Backyard chickens aren’t for everyone, any more than gardening or having dogs and cats are. However, it’s everyone’s right to garden, keep dogs, or cats responsibly. Just as it should be everyone’s right to responsibly keep a few backyard hens.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer.Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media.


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