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Culling tips?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
I don't like to eat my pets, so I'll sell them cheap to someone else.

I've never really culled before except spare roosters, but now my hens are coming up on two years old. Should I cull them and get more chicks or cull later?

When do you guys cull? How do you choose, how nitpickiny are you?
post #2 of 9

It depends on one's situation. I keep my hens till they stop laying which is way longer than 2 years. I have a 6 year old hen that laid 5 or 6 eggs a week since December. She just quit 2 weeks ago and now is molting. Since she was so productive this year, I don't see any reason not to get her through molt for another good year I expect out of her.

If you  don't want to go weeks or months without eggs, then cull. But, after the winter solstice they'll start laying again and do so till molt.

Starting with chicks it will be 6 months before good laying anyway. Why not just keep the hens you have and know - especially if they're your pets.

Mine aren't pets but IMHO, it doesn't make sense to pass on birds to someone else to eat when they have more productive years ahead.

 

When I have a hen that is unproductive, I'll cull but I don't consider the annual molt to be an unproductive bird.


Edited by ChickenCanoe - 10/12/15 at 1:15pm

NPIP 43-813

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.

Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”                  Mark Twain

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NPIP 43-813

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.

Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”                  Mark Twain

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post #3 of 9

I hatch chicks every spring so cull cockerels to eat, cull second cock bird, sell the poorer quality pullets and sell most of the year old hens in fall. The hens that I keep over two years I wait until fall then cull. They still lay well enough at that age but know that after next molt that comes late fall they wont  make mustard production wise so save on feed rather than keep them through molt and long winter for what? Four eggs a week? She'd have to be an outstanding hen to keep longer.

 

I enjoy the birds but don't consider them pets. I have too many to name and enjoy breeding toward standard so cycle through a lot of birds getting down to breeders and keep about a dozen layers that get cycled out for pullets unless of breeding quality.


Edited by Egghead_Jr - 10/12/15 at 1:21pm

Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.

 

-Charles Dudley Warner

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Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.

 

-Charles Dudley Warner

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post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 
@ChickenCanoe

Ah, well I heard the egg productivity dropped a lot after even one molt. I heard some culled after 1 year.

All of mine have names, but feeding them until a ripe old age is money I just don't have.

I guess they can stick around for now, I just don't want to waste too much feed on them, especially in winter.

How do you tell they are molting? My girls never seem to drop any big feathers, but from all the birds (a lot of birds), there's always down everywhere all the time. It looks like a bird was plucked and the feathers left to roll around in the wind. But from the chickens, geese, ducks, guineas, turkeys and peafowl, there's always feathers.

One of my hens looked really ragged and old, the other, her sister the same breed age and all looks shiny and new. Why's that?

@egghead

I had roosters coming out my ears. Some very pretty. I got rid of all but 4 and need to get rid of another. I've got some timy cochin that keeps to the silkies, a silky roo, a RIR roo and a Cochin Barred Rock roo. I got rid of his dad already and he needs to go. I already got rid of like 4. I hope Oreo didn't get eaten, he was pretty. sad.png

How do you know which bird layed what? Mine all lay when I'm at school and such, and most use the same darn box.

I hatch a few of mine, but buy more. I love chicks, the cute fuzzies!
post #5 of 9
Quote:
 
Ah, well I heard the egg productivity dropped a lot after even one molt. I heard some culled after 1 year.
All of mine have names, but feeding them until a ripe old age is money I just don't have.

...
How do you tell they are molting?
One of my hens looked really ragged and old, the other, her sister the same breed age and all looks shiny and new. Why's that?

...

I had roosters coming out my ears. ...

How do you know which bird layed what? Mine all lay when I'm at school and such, and most use the same darn box.

I hatch a few of mine, but buy more. ...

I feel you. I don't have the money to operate a hen retirement home either. Depending on the breed, they may take longer winter breaks every year but the right breeds will lay like gangbusters from Feb/Mar into September.

 

We used to have a large leghorn flock for egg sales and we'd rotate them every couple years.

Except for a large flock of Freedom Rangers I bought for meat a few years ago. I don't buy any. I hatch almost all year but especially Feb. to June. I have 60 eggs in the incubator now and I'll do a setting for November and perhaps even one for Christmas.

It usually looks like I have roosters coming out of my ears too. Some I can tell are culls by the time they're 2 months old. Then of all the really nice ones, I have to wait about 9 months to pick my breeders.

 

As for telling who laid what and if they're molting. I only have one Ameraucana hen so when I get a green egg I know it's her. She and all but 2 of the mature hens look like they spent a few seconds in a plucker right now.

I also rotate hens through the breeder pens so even though the rest are the same breed I can tell some of their eggs apart. Before laying resumes again I'll have trap nests set up in the breeder pens. If you use those, you have to be around to release the hens regularly through the day.

I think it helps to rake up the feathers in pens occasionally. When they're molting, it looks like someone had a pillow fight. Your ragged one is molting and her sister is either finished or not started yet. 

 

So much of ones management and rotating flocks depends on their facilities and their goals.

A friend of mine had 6 hens a couple years ago that were her pets. They were about 4 but stopped laying for the winter. Beginning in January, she pondered parting with them and starting over. She pondered more in February. By March she was convinced they were finished. I told her to wait a couple more weeks. She gave them away the second week of March. They started laying the next week and all were laying by the end of the month and laid all through summer.

 

My point is if you don't want to feed birds through the winter, then decide in the fall. She fed them all winter and gave them away for someone else to benefit with all the eggs they laid the rest of the year.

 

If all I cared about was maximum egg production for feed input, I would probably cull all after 18 months of production having another set of pullets at POL.

But, if that were my sole purpose, I wouldn't waste any feed by having poor laying breeds like silkies, cochins, houdans or sebrights.  If I wanted to stick with heritage breeds, they'd be leghorns, Rhode Islands, minorcas, penedesencas, hamburgs, Delawares, australorps, etc..

If I didn't care about heritage breeds, I'd have hybrids like ISA Browns, Cinnamon Queens, Golden Comets, Red Stars or better yet a Hy-Line Sonia or W-36. The latter lay 380 eggs from 18 to 80 weeks.

 

If one just wants to make sure they don't have any time without eggs, the simple thing is to get some chicks about every 6 months and cull older birds when they slow down.

 

I do it for the eggs and meat but I'm also working on saving and perfecting an extremely rare breed. If I were to cull 2 year old hens, I wouldn't have any idea who the best breeders were. Same goes for roosters. I have to keep them at least 4 years before I know what I really have. And for proper line breeding I need about 5 generations or more.

 

The breed of chicken makes a difference but in general, beginning their second autumn they'll molt and each autumn thereafter. Some will start laying after they recover from molt. Most will wait till after the winter solstice when days start getting longer. You can change that timetable by waiting till after molt and start increasing light. Some say 14 hours but I find that incrementally increasing light, by the time I get just over 12 hours they'll start up again. It's not as much the length of the day but that it is increasing.


Edited by ChickenCanoe - 10/13/15 at 3:18am

NPIP 43-813

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.

Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”                  Mark Twain

Reply

NPIP 43-813

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.

Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”                  Mark Twain

Reply
post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 
@chickencanoe

I've got "One of everything". (Definitely not, but I like variety). I like a colorful egg basket and have EEs, a Maran, (White and brown) Leghorns (They're stuck up and not too friendly, but good layers). My RIRs are so much friendlier. Even the Deleware, my favorite bantam, and some of the others are friendlier than those dang Leghorns.

I've got a Sebright hen, game bird hens, Barred Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, Red and Black Sexlinks, Silver Laced Wyandottes, Silkies, various Cochiny things, and more.

On the "Eventually buy these" list, Yokahama, Cubalaya, Phoenix, Penedesencas, Olive Eggers, more Sebrights, those rare all black chickens, and more. Lots more.

Basically, no way I can tell who layed what except for the tiny eggs, (That narrows it down to 3 suspects), dark brown eggs (The Maran), and one keeps laying double yolkers. I don't know which one she is, but she's an EE.

I've heard of trap nests, but I am wondering if that's something I can do. They seem to only lay in a few boxes and wherever I tell them not to.

A lot of time, I'm at school, church, or running errands. I'm in charge of the chickens and birdos, so trap nests may not work. I make sure they have food and water, make sure they're not sick and such, collect eggs, but adult chickens are pretty low maintenance.

They get up, leave the roosts and go forage or eat pellets. They've got 2 acres to forage in, can eat tomatoes escaping the garden (The garden went nutty, we gave up), wild grapes, little mice and moles, lizards, bugs, etc, take dust baths or sunbathe, go into the woods (I tell them to stay in the fence, but do they listen? No. We have big dogs and find dead critters in the yard quite a bit. The Coyotes stay away, no problem with owls or hawks, buzzards, vultures, or any of that. They help themselves the the only 3 nest boxes they seem to like, lay eggs, etc, and when the dun goes down, then they put themselves to bed. They aren't penned and they do what they want.

Mine layed through the winter last year (maybe being so far south and all the sunlight they get), egg productivity dropped, but I still had eggs.

I don't seperate chickens except for chicks in the chick pen and everything else is out. All the adult biddies mingle and interbreed, so me trying to breed a pure line is useless. I get mutts of every combination. I do like eggs, but I just love pet chickens. Wow, they're amazing. I've only kept birds for just over two years now and its great. I've learned a lot, but never really culled or other stuff. I think I'd cry if I ate my little birdies. I will eat other chicken and meat, but not my pets.
post #7 of 9

The higher production birds like hatchery RIR and such lay a lot of eggs up front and less eggs after each molt. Two and a half years out of hatchery layers is good. They usually really drop off after the second full molt. Breeder dual purpose birds can lay better longer but don't give you 7 eggs a week the first year either. They can still provide 5 eggs a week in third year though.

Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.

 

-Charles Dudley Warner

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Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.

 

-Charles Dudley Warner

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post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 
@egghead

How can you tell the difference of production amd normal RIRs?

How often do birds do a partial molt, as opposed to a full molt?

And I'm not sure if you know, but I'm in East Texas. Rarely snows, sometimes freezes in winter. Very mild compared to like Michigan or Montana or some state that gets a lot of snow. I'm assuming the amount of light changes the hormones and causes molting, etc, so with me being so far south, when do you think the rest of my birds will start?

The ragged Brown Leghorn , she was already ragged from squishing herself into the very back of the box when she went broody, to protect the eggs and chicks. Her tail was all gonw and the roosters (most of them are gone now), also were rough with the hens. So maybe the missing feathers prompted an early molt?
post #9 of 9

A hatchery RIR, New Hampshire, etc. is a production red. Partial molts, constant molting, are as birds grow out. Full molts start the fall of first year as hen and repeat each year in fall. A pullet is not a hen until one year old, so first full molt is that following fall. 

Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.

 

-Charles Dudley Warner

Reply

Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.

 

-Charles Dudley Warner

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