6 hens and 1 rooster living together, breeding, hatching and raising chicks? Possible?

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by leanne2015, Jan 9, 2016.

  1. leanne2015

    leanne2015 Out Of The Brooder

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    Wanting to raise a few chickens for eggs and meat. my "plan" is what I thought people do until I started researching and found out people remove the broody hen?

    So if I have my rooster mating with all 6... wouldn't all 6 lay fertile eggs? meaning a clutch each hen? Then raise them together Or am I thinking about this in the wrong way???

    If my idea is correct can I leave the rooster with the hens while they are brooding, hatching and raising their chicks?

    if my idea is wrong do I need separate housing for all 6 hens and big enough for their chicks? Then put them all back together when chicks are older?
     
  2. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Monkey Business Premium Member

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    A hen will go broody after she has laid a clutch of eggs. The number of eggs will vary with bird, so not all will be broody at the same time. I'd strongly suggest putting eggs no older than 7 days old under a broody hen (10-15 hen should be broody for at least a week before putting the eggs under her (I.e. Does not leave the nest except to eat and poo).

    I personally leave then hen in the nest of her choosing to hatch and it's fine for the chicks to be hatched in the main coop. A small broody coop is a good idea to have to place the chicks and mum in on the day they have hatched. After a couple of weeks you,can let them out with the rest of the flock (I let mine out after 2-3 days).

    I would not embark on letting a number of hens hatching at the same time. One mother can kill another's chicks and it may be something to leave until you've gained more experience.

    Hope this helps

    Ct
     
  3. rebrascora

    rebrascora Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi

    What you haven't grasped is that not all hens will go broody and raise chicks.... quite the contrary in fact. Most egg laying breeds (hatchery stock particularly) have had the broodiness bred out of them. The breeds that are known for being good mothers are silkies and cochins and these birds are probably not ideal if you are looking for a dual purpose chicken that you will get a reasonably meaty cockerel from (assuming you are aiming to eat the excess cockerels and keep pullets for eggs)

    I would suggest that you get aim to get a hen or two known for broodiness to raise chicks and keep a larger dual purpose flock of birds for breeding and just use the broodies as surrogate mothers.... if they are inclined to fill that roll for you..... there are no guarantees that any individual bird will be broody or continue to be broody if she is already known to have previously reared chicks

    This is why many people use incubators, as then they can hatch eggs whenever they want, rather than waiting and hoping for a hen to go broody.

    That said, I have a mixed flock of about 40 birds. The first year I had two go broody, this last year I had 4. I let them incubate and raise their chicks within the main flock but I do have a separate nest area in the hen house where I put them with the eggs I want to hatch, when they go broody. It has a door on it that I keep shut most of the time and just let them out once a day to poop and dust bath and eat (although there is food and water in there with them. Shutting them in means that the other hens don't lay in their nest and they don't accidentally abandon the nest and go and sit in another nest box. There are holes drilled in the door to allow a small amount of light and ventilation, but otherwise it affords them peace and quiet from the flock. They stay in there for a couple of days after hatching and then they are allowed out with the flock. This situation works really well for me, but may not work so well if you have a run with limited space where hens get bored and pick on each other.

    Anyway, that's my take on broody rearing chicks within the flock.

    Regards

    Barbara
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2016
  4. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Chicken Obsessed

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    Hi Leanne. Welcome to BYC. It's a good goal to have a flock that naturally replaces it'self, so you aren't dependent on hatchery chicks. That being said, there are special considerations that you have to provide for in order to be successful. A rooster can successfully cover 6 girls, and you should expect most, if not all eggs to be fertile. However, a better ideal is for him to have at least 10 hens to cover. That will decrease the wear on the hen's feathers. And no matter how many girls you have, he may have a favorite which will result in her feathers being worn off her back by his constant attention.

    Moving on, as an other poster stated, you may NEVER have a hen go broody in your flock, or she may brood but not finish the job, or end up being a terrible mother. Some hens even end up killing their chicks, or not protecting the chicks from flock mates, resulting in the other flock members killing the chicks. More often, the aggressor is a hen, and not a rooster. And, you'll need to be sure you have a good rooster: one who is gentle with his hens, and not at all people aggressive.

    IMO, a big part of having a successful flock that reproduces it'self is having a roo without aggressive tendencies, and having a good set up. You'll need plenty of extra space in your coop and run. Minimum recommendation is 4 s.f. in the coop, and 10 s.f. in the run/bird. If you plan to breed your own birds, plan to add half again as much room, and have space set aside to keep the broody and her clutch of eggs in the coop, but penned away from her flock mates to reduce the stress on her while she does her thing. Depending on your flock dynamics, you may need to keep her and her chicks separate from the other hens for the first week after hatch.

    So, if this is your goal, be sure you have plenty of coop and run space, a secure space for any eventual broody hens and clutches of chicks, room for those chicks to grow up! And most importantly, a plan in place for what you will do with all of the cockrels you end up with. When they get to be around 3 months old, they will start raping the pullets, crowing incessantly, and fighting non stop. You can somewhat diminish this issue if you have a separate grow out pen to put the cockrels in until they reach processing size. Of course, this means even more space tied up, and more maintenance.
     
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Welcome to the forum. You’ve come to a good place to get opinions and information on chickens. You’ll probably get a lot of different opinions and comments simply because so many different things work. It’s not that there are a lot of wrong ways to do it, it’s more that there are so many different right ways to do it that you can get confused. Too many options.

    Broody hens have been hatching and raising chicks with the flock since there have been chickens, even before they were domesticated. For thousands of years a standard model on small farms is that the hen hatches and raises chicks with the flock. Thousands of years ago the ancient Egyptians were incubating eggs in incubators and raising them in brooders, using piped in heat from fires. People like to think incubating eggs is new but it’s been going on for thousands of years. I don’t know when people started isolating broody hens when they were hatching or raising chicks. I wouldn’t be surprised if it had something to do with them being domesticated. The point is that to this day people do it all different ways and are usually quite successful. When you deal with living animals bad things can happen no matter what methods you use, but so can a lot of good things.

    Chickens are flock animals. They really like to be in a flock. One healthy active rooster will easily keep all six hens fertile. Most healthy active roosters can probably keep 20 or more hens fertile. I grew up on a small farm where we had a flock of one rooster and over 20 hens. Practically all eggs were fertile.

    But there is a flaw in your thinking. With domesticated hens, not all hens go broody. It varies by breed, flock, and individual, but many hens will never go broody. Before they were domesticated most hens would lay a clutch of eggs, then hatch and raise them maybe two or three times a year. Most hens these days just lay a lot of eggs and never go broody. It doesn’t matter if a rooster is in the flock or not, it doesn’t matter if the eggs are fertile or not. You cannot count on any hen going broody, when or even if. If you want to control hatching you need an incubator.

    People house and manage their chickens all sorts of ways. People manage their broody hens all sorts of ways. I find the more room you give them the easier any of this is. If room is tight you may need to take precautions.

    My basic laying/breeding flock is one rooster and 6 to 8 hens, currently six hens with two pullets that just started to lay. Since my main goal is meat I hatch a lot of my own chicks, either with an incubator or my preferred method, with a broody hen. During the season I may have over 40 chickens running around with most growing to butcher size. The reason I use an incubator is that I can’t raise enough chickens just using broody hens to keep me in meat. Mine go broody a fair amount but not often enough at the right times.

    My hens are not over-mated, barebacked, or terrorized by the rooster, although I practically always have less than the 10 to 1 ratio you often see on here. When I’m evaluating which pullets to keep I may have close to 20 hens and pullets with the one rooster but it’s normally 6 to 8. Some people on this forum say they have all these problems with one rooster and over 20 hens even when they free range (again room makes a difference). Many breeders keep one rooster with just one or two hens all breeding season and don’t have those kinds of problems. Part of this has to do with the personality of the individuals but a really big part is the maturity of the chickens. Many people confuse immature pullets and cockerels with mature hens and roosters. Most flocks of mature hens and roosters behave maturely but an immature flock of adolescents can get really wild as they go through puberty. This does not mean that every mature flock behaves as they should, some individuals never grow up and some chickens are by nature brutes, but there is normally a huge difference in mature and immature flocks.

    I let my hens hatch with the flock and raise the chicks with the flock. If a rooster sees the chicks when they are reasonably small he assumes they are is regardless of color or anything like that. A good rooster is likely to help the broody hen raise the chicks. Most are not that good but I’ve never seen a mature rooster threaten a young chick. The other hens are a little different. Most of my other hens ignore the chicks being raised with the flock unless that chick invades her private personal space. Then she might (or might not) peck the chick to tell it that it is bothering its betters. The chick runs back to Mama, who ignores all this. That chick needs to learn proper chicken etiquette. But occasionally a hen will follow the chick or threaten it. When this happens Mama politely and thoroughly whips butt. No one threatens her babies. Some people have had disasters with this but I’ve never had a problem. My chickens have a lot of room.

    Some people isolate a broody when she is incubating and hatching the eggs. There is nothing wrong with that, for some people it’s a good way to go. I’d venture a guess that most people with limited space go this route. Some of these people let the broody raise the chicks with the flock after they hatch, some don’t. There ae so many different ways you can do any of this. Each way has its benefits and potential issues. Some are better for some people than others but they all can and do work.
     
  6. twoquinns

    twoquinns Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Came across this thread while looking for information about keeping hens and roosters together. Twice recently I have had newly hatched chicks killed but I don't know if they were killed by roosters or the mothers or other hens. This morning was the most recent incident. The chick was still in the nest and the mom was still sitting on it but it was dead. Its head was bare of feathers and had a wound on it. The last time it happened to three chicks, two of which I found in the coop with a silver sebright rooster close by. The 3rd was still in the nest with the hen but had also been maimed. I was suspicious of the male having done it because he was sometimes aggressive towards youngsters. So I got rid of him. But of course I was never sure who had done it. Well, now I have two silver sebright roosters that were his offspring so I'm wondering if one of them could have done it. But I noticed one of the posts on this thread says usually it's other hens who are to blame. When it happened the first time, I was told it was likely the rooster. That's why I got rid of him. My coop is rather small at about 10x10, but there's a run the same size and everyone has free range of our large property during the day. And they all seem to get along fine. No other hens are broody right now, but two are raising young guinea fowl, one each. Those guinea keets are a couple of months old though. Any thoughts on how to not have this happen again would be appreciated.
     

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