I'm in the process of putting together my first coop this winter. I think it will be finished around March and I'm going to be using one of the coop plans listed on this website for a guide. The coop should house around 8-10 hens which is what I figured would be best for our property based on egg needs.
After doing a bit of reading I settled on Barred Plymouth Rock** hens because they were described to be friendly, good layers. Just what I need! I just can't decide on a few other items and the more I read about each topic, the more complex the answer so I thought I would just ask.
1.) Roosters. Should I wait on getting a rooster until I am more experienced with chickens? I do have a lot of natural predators (coyotes, foxes, hunting dogs) around and have been hoping to let the girls free range on about 2 acres. My neighbors have roosters and don't mind the sound of one but I'm concerned about the tales of meanness and frankly, I can't find any information online about exactly how much a rooster would increase the size of my flock each year with chicks!
I don't think I could bring myself to cull a chicken. I know that is part of the process in flock management but I'm mostly vegetarian and can't really see myself killing a hen. I bring that up because if my flock became too large, I really can't say how I would go about shrinking it. Which brings me to...
2.) Aging Hens. As my hens age, I would not necessarily mind a decrease in eggs while I was waiting for younger hens to lay (assuming I did not have a rooster and ordered new chicks to refresh the flock) but again I wouldn't want to cull the hens so is there some natural way to handle this situation? My coop is ideal for only 8-10 chickens after all.
I imagine this is how many of us end up with giant coop arrangements. In my head I can see losing hens anyhow as a result of foxes and coyotes since I will be allowing them to free range so maybe I wouldn't be the one doing the culling but I tend to really attach to animals and insects (love my bees) so I would really make an effort to protect them from predators in spite of needing to shrink the size of the flock.
3. Guineas and Chickens. I am considering having guinea hens free ranging on my property as well for pest management. This isn't set in stone but I have a grasshopper problem in a big way and need help with population control. My concerns are about how a chicken flock and guinea flock would interact and especially how guineas would handle a rooster. I wouldn't coop them together most likely but they would free range together.
Of course I have a million other questions but as I plan for ordering in the spring these are the most important to me so far because they will determine what kind of flock I keep. Thank you in advance for taking the time to read and respond!
** Edited because I named the breed incorrectly in the original post.
Edited by jhinshaw - 11/16/15 at 7:54am