I am sure that those of you out there who have raised meat chickens know how much they poop and therefore know how much they STINK! It's really unavoidable I think. They eat and poop, eat and poop. They don't like to do anything except lay around and eat, and then poop, get some water, and then poop some more.
I am in no way an expert at this, just learning as I go which is how I learn best.
Here's a few quick tips for those of you who are thinking about raising meat chickens:
-Their coop can be fairly low to the ground, 3 feet or so. They have no need for it to be any higher. They literally walk a little and lay around all day. You could free range if you want to, but it really isn't safe for them because they grow so quickly and are too heavy to make a break for safety if being pursued by a hungery animal.
I am using a wooden moveable "coop" for them, but it is actually too heavy to move around and to cumbersome with all the birds in there. We have plans to build one out of PVC pipe that will be easier to move around. By using a moveable coop it's like free ranging them with safety barriers.
-They need food 24/7 or at least 3 meals a day. We give ours access to food at all times. They are currently going through almost 5-6 gallons of food per day. I find it easier just to keep their feeder full. They eat all day long and it's hard to tell if they're getting enough by limiting it to meals at certain times of the day. The stronger and larger ones will muscle the smaller ones out of the way, so just keep that feeder full and everyone will be happy.
-They MUST have clean, fresh water at all times- NO EXCEPTIONS!
With a flock of 64 we fill a 5 gallon bucket easily 3 times a day.
-They need shade. This is another MUST. Being low to the ground and having access to the cool ground helps to give them relief from the heat. Our chickens love to dig holes in the dirt and lay in them when it's hot.
-When they are babies they will need a RED heat lamp on them at all times. After 2 weeks we put the lamp on only at night till they are at least 4 weeks old. The sun keeps them warm during the day. After they are a few weeks old there is no need for the lamp as they have their feathers and each other to keep them plenty warm enough.
-They really should have there coop or shelter area cleaned out every few days to keep the smell down and to keep it clean for them and you. This is especially important if the coop is stationary. If you are moving them around the yard you won't have to worry about this step. We currently clean out the coop every 2 days. We put down straw for bedding. It makes the clean up easier for us and they really like it too.
-Housing your chickens in a coop you can move them around in is ideal. That way they have access to fresh grass and a clean "floor" every few days. This is way easier on you.
-They must have a secure home whether it's stationary or not. We have had foxes prowling about these last few nights salivating, just waiting for us to slip up and leave those birds vulnerable to an attack.
We are very thankful that we have only lost one chicken so far. It was with in the first 24 hours of having it. It could have easily been the stress from being shipped or it had something wrong with it from birth. We have had a very good success rate thus far!!
Since this was our first year doing this we have learned a lot. We have decided on what we like and what we will change next time. i.e. Build a movable coop! :) Also, we will keep them much further from the house. Other than that things are going very well.