A few questions about egglaying, cockerels, and flock integration...

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by FreedomFarm13, Oct 7, 2016.

  1. FreedomFarm13

    FreedomFarm13 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 20, 2015
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    Hey, everyone! This is my first time getting pullets to live til POL, and it's also my first time having a younger cockerel, or having chickens and chicks of different ages, so I have a few (actually several) questions for some of you pros.
    First of all, my oldest girls are going to be 28 weeks old on Sunday, and have yet to lay me any eggs. There are 3 SLWs and 2 Blue Ams. They were all hatched at the same time, and have been together since they were a couple days old. I just recently moved back in with my mother (my landlord got a little upset when "a couple chickens" turned into 20 chickens...) on September 23rd, so I thought that may have set the girls back a little in their laying, but I expected them to start by now regardless. Is their any rhyme or reason to how long their laying can be delayed? I also added more chickens to the flock, including a wheaten Am cockerel that's the same age as them, although he is housed separately and they're only together during the day when free ranging. I'm wondering if maybe adding the chicks (all between 4 and 11 weeks- and there's about 15 of them) also delayed them, and maybe I won't get any eggs til Spring? I've read that Wyandottes are good winter layers and have heard mixed reviews about the Ameraucanas abilities to lay well during the winter, but I figured since I live in Arkansas, there wouldn't be too many issues there since our winters aren't very harsh at all. I'm just not sure if that applies to pullets who are going to be laying for the first time. I'm afraid I may have totally messed them up for this year...[​IMG]
    Anyway, my second concern is this: at what age do cockerels become sexually mature? In other words, when can I begin to expect fertile eggs if I put him in with the girls? And, along those same lines, is it ok to breed the pullets shortly after they start laying? Or should I wait until they've been laying a few months, just to be sure they've sorted out any of the kinks in their reproductive systems? Don't want to be getting shelless fertile eggs.
    Annnnnnd, last but not least, I'm having some concerns about the babies I recently added to my flock. I read somewhere that you shouldn't put roos/cockerels together until they're roughly the same size, so I have two little cockerels in with the girls at the moment. One is my blue Ameraucana boy, who is 10 weeks old, and the other is a 4 week old SLW boy. The oldest babies are my two 11 week old blue wheaten pullets, then there's two BLRW girls who are 7 weeks, a 5 week old wheaten Ameraucana girl, and the remainder are 4 weeks: two Speckled Sussex, two GLWs, a Salmon Faverolle, a BCM, a Welsummer, and a Partridge Rock. Some have been in there a few weeks already, but the 4 week olds and the 5 week old were just added yesterday, and since my two larger SLW girls are big bullies, I'm a little worried about them. The bigger babies were bullied quite a bit when I first added them, but they seem to have at least been accepted during roost time at night, although they still get chased quite a bit during the day if they come out with the bigger kids. My new cockerel, Hugo (the wheaten) has joined Lexi and Astrid (the bullies) in beating the crap out of the babies every time they get close to him. They chase them all over the yard, but once everyone is put up for the night, they seem to simmer down and get along fine. Now I'm worried that the new babies are going to get bullied, too, and that they will be fearful of going out to free range every morning, like my bigger babies are now. My two BLRW babies have become so attached to me from me coming to their rescue that they follow me around the yard, basically under me, waiting for me to bend over so they can hop up on my back and go for a ride! I love that they've gotten attached to me, don't get me wrong, but I hate that they live in fear of the big meanies. They had their period of separation, and then were added to the flock at night, but they abuse has not let up. Thankfully, the babies can outrun them when they're outside, but if they do manage to get ahold of them, they grab their little necks or backs and shake them HARD. It's kind of upsetting. Is there a way to curb this behavior? I'm kind of at my wits' end with this, and feel I've tried everything I could to get them comfortable with one another. Next, I'm trying keeping the two bigger boys (Hugo and a young Polish cockerel named Paris) in for a couple days without free ranging, to see if them not instigating anything will help. The boys tend to be the first to start the chasing, but the girls do it, too. I don't know. I'm out of ideas here.
    Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. I know I've written a Tolstoy-worthy post here, but if you can help on any or all of my questions/concerns, I will be eternally grateful. Thanks so much if you made it this far, everyone!! I look forward to receiving your treasured wisdom!!
     
  2. FreedomFarm13

    FreedomFarm13 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 20, 2015
    Arkansas
    Wanted to add a couple pics that were on my phone from today...

    My BLRW girls, Piper and Phoebe, doing what they love: bugging mama while she's trying to take pics of the other kids:
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    Athos, my blue Am cockerel:
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    My BW girls, Clover and Charlotte:
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    My new wheaten cockerel, Hugo:
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    And the babies who graduated to the coop today:
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    Enjoy the pics!!!
     
  3. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    I hope I can do justice to all your concerns.

    First, roosters are generally unconcerned about young cockerels until they come into their hormones around five or six months. They are the same as female chicks up until then. Roosters generally do not inflict harm on chicks of either sex.

    Cockerels can fertilize eggs as soon as they begin mating hens. However, the quality of the sperm cannot be depended upon until a cockerel reaches full maturity around eleven or twelve months. In other words, it's risky to trust them to fertilize eggs you intend to incubate until they reach around a year of age.

    As far as your pullets laying their first eggs, you've come to some pretty accurate conclusions in that a lot of factors have conspired against getting any eggs until spring. Any change or stressor will set them back, but the biggest problem is the shortening days. If you are real anxious for eggs, you will probably need to add supplemental light, preferably by setting a small wattage light on a timer to come on around three hours before sunrise.

    The issue with the small chicks being bullied is easily resolved by creating a panic room for them to seek refuge in. This is any safe enclosure with numerous small chick-size openings where the large chickens aren't able to get into. It helps tremendously to situate their food and water inside the panic room so they always have plenty to eat and aren't kept starved by bullies chasing them away from food.

    Check out my article linked below this post on outdoor brooding. I have photos of my panic room setup so you can see how it works.
     
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  4. FreedomFarm13

    FreedomFarm13 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 20, 2015
    Arkansas

    Wow, thank you so much for the quick and concise response!!! I really appreciate it. I was pretty sure about most of these things, but being a newbie I didn't want to just assume I was right. Never hurts to get a second opinion, right? But the baby panic room idea, I had not thought of. I will definitely be trying that, and hopefully my sweet babies can get some peace. Thanks so much again for the awesome advice!
     

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