My husband and I have both goats and chickens. To make a very long story into a short one, recently I started looking after the animals and realized we had to make a few changes. We have one large chicken yard and also have chickens in one of the goat pens (without goats). I could really use the space for our goats and want to merge the two flocks together into the chicken yard. I've read a lot on the internet about merging and also read the advice here (including recent threads). I'm worried that I won't be able to merge them without a great deal of stress. I would rather not build another chicken house, but I'm starting to lean that way. Additionally, my chickens aren't laying well. (Just FYI - my husband listened to his mother about how to take care of chickens. She's a great person and she loves chickens, but I think some of her advice wasn't the best. The other mistakes were ours and ours alone).
The chicken yard is approximately 24 feet wide and 45 feet long. It's completely fenced in, including the top with concrete buried around it to prevent digging by animals (we live on about 50 acres, but most of that is wooded area). Inside the chicken yard is our coop. It's an old storage building (approximately 10 x 15) and up on concrete blocks so they can run underneath it easily. It has a lot of roosting space, 12 nest boxes and one corner is caged off for injured birds or chicks. We have 20 Buff Orpington Hens (about 2 years old). We used to have a rooster, (RIR) but he was so aggressive towards myself and our children that I gave him away this past week-end. He was also aggressive towards the hens and several of them have large patches on their backs where feathers are missing. We are getting 4 eggs a day from this flock. They have always laid well in the past, but this winter it decreased dramatically.
The goat yard is also large and fenced in, but not completely. It's not uncommon to find some of the hens out of the yard, but they fly back in at night. There is a large area for roosting and three nest areas. We have 10 RIR/Buff hens (possibly one is a rooster). They are about 20 - 24 weeks old. We get 2 eggs a day from this flock. This flock used to have more chickens in it - there were 13 roosters (hatched by incubator from the aggressive RIR). My husband was out of town on business (we had a friend over helping with the animals) which is when I realized how many roosters were in this pen. (Originally, my husband wanted to butcher them but didn't have time. He was planning on butchering once he returned, but I was worried - for many reasons - and got rid of them). They killed two hens last week before I called some neighbors to come take the roosters away this past week-end. The hens had spent most of their days roosting on different things to keep away from the roosters prior to their removal. They are now happily clucking around the yard.
The hens in both pens are enormous and fat. I checked and saw that we were feeding more treats than food and I adjusted it. They also were fed by scattering the feed on the ground. I've replaced the feeders (which we own, but his mother suggested they would be happier scratching around for their food so he quit using them several months ago). They now get layer pellets daily and a small amount of treats every other day. In the chicken yard, I just put in a compost pile which they adore! They spend a lot of their time clucking and scratching in it.
We live in Alabama so our nights are still in the 40's but the daytime temps are in the 60's and the weather is gorgeous.
One other problem I'm looking at, our neighbor (my mother and step-father) has a chocolate lab who isn't quite 2 years old. He rushes at the fences, startling both chickens and goats. Our dog, a border collie, has now picked up the habit so the chickens are rushed at several times a day. They are not in any danger as the dogs can't get to them, but they squawk and scatter anyway. (In fact, our border collie has herded chickens back into their pens without harming them in the past). I'm working on training him not to do it, and I'm going to try to train my mother's dog. Would it be helpful to surround the fence with tarp or something so the chickens can't see them?
The chicken house can fit all of them together, but should I try to merge them right now? (If I don't do it within a few weeks, I need another place for them as our goats are going to kid soon and I'd like to separate them out more).
Thanks for any suggestions.