Same here. After struggling with it, putting up pens, taking down pens, building a bigger pen, etc. I've decided to go back to my roots and stop all this pen nonsense. I'm keeping the spare pen for broodies, a holding cell for those soon to die, for storage of hay and some crops, etc. but I'm going back to my old way of breeding. Keep the best rooster, keep the best hens, let them do what they do naturally and let them sit on the flock's eggs when they go broody. That's worked well for me in the past to yield the best of the best of laying and meat, so I'm going back to my roots.
I have free rangers...the minute you put them in a pen, they pace the fences and stop laying until they get to go back to the flock. How in the world do you do pen breeding with birds that are that single minded without keeping them in pens constantly until they lose their desire to go free....and I'm not about to do that to a chicken. It's just not worth it to me to have to put my flock through all of that and for what? So I can keep track of this or that and create more work for myself?
Nope. The old ways are still the best ways and for me, the old ways consists of flock breeding, culling each spring for laying, culling again the fall for the cockerels and so that I only carry the best layers through the winter and repeat each year.
It's a HUGE weight off my shoulders to finally make that decision and I'll not get away from that again. That kind of breeding is fine for others, just not for me and my flocks.
I'm still too new at this to have roots to go back to so I may have to borrow yours, LOL!
In all seriousness, what you say makes a lot of sense. My problem resides in the battles that occur between my logical mind, my soft heart, and my creative imagination. I still have never culled a hen for population control, though I know I should. I still have too many roosters because of both time limitations, my learning curve in determining which are the best ones to keep, and honestly just having some truly wonderful, affectionate boys that have become like pets to me while also caring well for their girls. So here I am, now with at least 80 chickens thanks to these last two batches of chicks, and feeling more than a little overwhelmed at times. And this is why I love coming to this post and reading the sage advice from those with more experience. It may take a while to penetrate my thick skull, but ultimately the wisdom all of you supply does get through and finally, one day, I simply do what needs to be done. Not today...but one day.