SWPaDon wrote:A little tip for cooking old hens. Use a slow cooker, set the temperature at about 150 degrees for 12 hours. If the water boils, the meat will be tough.
Never tried that, thanks for the tip. We would grind the cooked meat and make chicken nuggets or patties. Similar to fish cakes or crab cakes.
Lots of good advice already on this thread, here is what we did.
About cold weather, choose a breed suitable for your area and they won't need or want heat unless it gets abnormally cold. They do need to be out of the wind, and you may have problems with their feet freezing when they roost. I built my coop from the back of a cube van. 14' long, 8' high, 8' wide, hardwood floor and a roll up door on the back. I only closed the door in cold weather. I put a raised platform in the nose, a sheet of 4x8 plywood, with a small hole in the side for the chicken access. On the side facing the door I put sliding gates I built from an old wrought iron railing. The birds can't get out, but it provides good airflow in hot weather and easy access to gather eggs. Sort of looked like a jail cell, three solid walls and one wall with bars. Hence, I called my chickens Jailbirds. I put straw bedding on top of the platform and no perches. In cold weather they just lined up in one corner and seemed very comfortable plus their feet stayed warm. In hot weather they would sometimes roost outside in the enclosed run. On the hottest days I put a plastic pool in the run and filled it with fresh water each morning. During the hottest part of the day they would get in there and cool off. The run was 10' x 25' and half was covered, I had an old table and other stuff in there that they sat on. Inside I put an Igloo type dog house for a nest box, but they never used it. They just went behind it and made their own nest in the straw. The round top of the igloo kept them from roosting there. I kept extra bales of straw under the platform which kept it warm in winter. I let the birds free range in the pasture during the day, locked them into the run at night. The straw bedding stayed surprisingly clean and odor free. The birds didn't seem to crap all over everything like they do when on a perch. BTW, we usually kept 12 birds. For the OP, I suggest you start with no more than four to six hens. Four hens that are kept comfortable and well fed will supply most families with plenty of eggs.