I've had chickens for over a year now and am finally deciding where I want to eventually go with this project. The chickens are far more productive and entertaining than we could have hoped. I currently have 9 hens (mixed breeds purchased to see which variety we liked) and 2 roosters.
We like having roosters around. They do serve a purpose and we are on acreage and enjoy the noise - so far. We have found the downside though. Initially, our roosters scrapped a little bit for dominancy, but then they called a truce and formed a pact. At the expense of our hens. The gang breeding must stop, the girls are looking pretty ragged. Fortunately for me the Auracuna (SP?) rooster has become human aggressive - forcing the decision. In addition, he has magnificent hackles and will be a welcome addition to the fly tying bench. Finally, I have a new dumpling recipe I've been looking forward to trying. Hopefully the Black Copper Maran will go back to his gentle ways with the girls. He seems to be the most vigilant of the two, at one time was very gentle with the hens, in addition I am interested in raising pure bred BCM's. I think I am culling the right one.
Here is why I am having trouble making decisions for the future: We are getting bombarded with requests for eggs. I did some math and figure if we can sell 13 dozen eggs per week (yeah, I know that is a lot, but we have the customers if we want them), the revenue from the eggs + meat chickens (which are entirely separate from this discussion - raised in another part of the farm in tractors), will cover the costs for our own needs. My family will use 2 meaties per week, 28 eggs per week and 2 hogs per year. I think this is maybe too ambitious, but would like to try. Figure it will take a couple of years to get there, but gotta start somewhere.
If my math for the above was correct, we will need about 50 - 55 laying hens (+/- 5 based on productivity and continued stable cost of feed). I could build 1 "super coop", but wonder if this will limit my options later. I would like to maintain a few breeds (with the ability to reproduce) - so I am once again faced with a gang of roosters. I see problems with the Super Coop.
Would building three coops with 20 ea. capacity be a better option? I was planning on a compound, with the separate coops having central feed and equipment storage, power and water. In addition, if and when I downsized, the other coops could house turkeys or some other option.
I currently free range and would very much like to continue the practice. Is it possible to allow 3 groups to free range simultaneously? I envision mayhem, sleep overs and roosters generally ignoring my plans for order. Even if they all respected my housing directives (which after having children, I sincerely doubt), I doubt the pure bred eggs could be trusted. I guess I could rotate days on the range, but really think they are happier with total access. Perhaps I need to put the "Farmer Pants" on and quit thinking about things like chicken happiness, settling for safe, healthy, content and humanely raised.
Coop/breed thoughts: Would like one group of "funky color" gals - you know ameracaunas; EE's, a general mix of the middle shades of eggs. One group of Black Copper Marans for the super dark eggs as well as possibly raising hens for sale if I can get the right breeding stock. (I've seen several places selling 16-20 week old hens for $25 ea.). Lastly I think I'll want one coop of Anconas. They look like they are good producers of large white eggs. I know leghorns will provide more productivity, but Anconas seem to be kind of rare and selling rare breeds might be a good supplement to egg revenue.
This has been a ridiculously long post. Thanks for your patience those of you who made it to the end. Has anyone done anything similar? Care to share your secrets? Think I'm nuts?