Initially, I had thought to set up my breeders in smaller pens. Then i contemplated doing a large group at once, for now. But now, seeing the feather damage the rooster is causing on his girls, I'm thinking about something someone else mentioned. She has a rooster pen, and puts the girls and guys together one day a couple days a week, and the rooster goes back to the 'bachelor' pen when he's done. That would involve a bit more work, but at the same time, with no roosters loose, all the girls could free range all day without worry of cross breeding to unwanted roosters... And it would mean fewer birds in a single pen.
But. There's always a 'but'... I would have to institute trap nesting, and hope that the girls would actually lay IN the nests, not somewhere else on the property. And hope the rooster is doing his job when he's put to it. And, and, and... there's so many factors about all the systems I've contemplated. It just seems that nothing I think of works well for breeding AND free ranging simultaneously, 100% of the time. I think the best alternative is to breed ONE breed as free range, and keep the rest penned up. Or, rotate who's free by breed/color/whatever. Today the extras, tomorrow the mille fleur cochins, the next day the silver grey dorkings, etc.
Or do I just have a few breeding pens, and rotate the breeds/colors of who's home and only collect eggs for those varieties for sale/hatching? That actually sounds the best, then the rest can be free birds except for the month or two I want to hatch from them. I would just need to determine how long they needed to be segregated prior to incubating to assure 'who the baby daddy be'. That would also assure knowing what varieties of eggs are hatching at any time.
As to the cochins, another option occurred to me too. Someone mentioned the other day, artificial insemination. That would allow all the girls to range together (or penned) and just the roosters kept penned... again back to my original ideas.
I just need to start with one, then try another, and eventually find what works best for ME... Because until I have the actual experiences, the rest is just supposition.
So for now, I think it'll be breeding pens for each breed/color with chicks free ranging. And once the cockerels start becoming a nuisance they go into a bachelor pen to let the girls have some peace. The same for any variety I don't want hatching eggs from at the moment. Hens go free the roos go to the pen. And I can just hope the girls will use the nests available instead of hiding them somewhere.
I go back and forth the more I try to think.