Adding new hens to my flock

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Tim and Libby, Jan 31, 2015.

  1. Tim and Libby

    Tim and Libby New Egg

    3
    0
    7
    Jan 31, 2015
    First, let me say, this is my first post. I came across this site a little bit ago and hope all you experts can help this rather new chicken farmer.

    First, a little as to how I got here. My wife is a Pre-K teacher and she has gotten chicks every Spring for a learning experience for about 10 years. At first people would put in a request for a specific breed and that is what she would order. Then a couple years ago, she did not find a home for them until they were about 2-3 weeks old and ready to leave her classroom. We decided then, to keep the following years birds for our own so her teachers aid's husband and I did a little research and decided on Buff Orpington s. We each took 7 hens at the end of the lesson. They were hatched 4/1/14.

    I built a coop and run on the side of my shed to house our new arrivals. The Coop part is about 3 foot wide, comes out 6 feet from the shed and is about 8 feet tall. There is a screened in outside run that is about 9 feet long by 6 feet and 8 feet tall. They frequently get to run the yard (when I am outside) and there have been no problems that I am aware of.

    My 7 hens give me an average of 5 eggs per day and between giving eggs to neighbors, teachers and family, we always have a waiting list for fresh eggs. Plus the neighbors love bringing vegetable scraps over and watching the girls gobble them up.

    At first, my plan was to keep them until Winter and then put them in the freezer. Funny how fresh eggs and growing attachment to chickens that follow you around the yard can change your mind.

    Now my wife is getting ready to order chicks for this years class and we do not know what to do.
    We would like to keep them again but have tons of questions.
    1) Is our coop big enough for 10, 12, 15 hens?
    2) If we got Buff Orpington s again would it help them be accepted by the existing hens?
    3) Should be get another breed that would compliment the existing birds?
    4) Anything else I should be aware of?

    Any help you give would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you in advance.

    Tim
     
  2. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    31,452
    3,532
    538
    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    [​IMG]

    In my opinion, your coop is not even large enough for the birds you have. A general rule of thumb is 4 square feet per bird in a coop, and 10 square feet per bird in the run, as a minimum. Your current birds are well below that, and I'm thankful you've not had any problems so far. But you've got no space to add littles.

    I highly suggest you read this post on how much space a bird needs. Ridgerunner is a great educator here and makes wonderful posts

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

    So, you'll need to address the space issue before you bring in new birds. Some folks expand what they've got, some build separate coops and runs and keep two (or more) separate flocks. That's a personal management decision.

    Any new birds need to be roughly the same size as the adults before they're housed together. Breed really doesn't matter, but age and size do. 4 months seems to be the average minimum age when folks do okay putting littles in with mature hens.

    I'd advise to spend some time in the learning center and just reading articles and posts on integration of new chicks to an existing flock.

    Welcome to the chicken side! It's amazing how an animal you never thought could interest you can capture your heart, isn't it? [​IMG]
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. TalkALittle

    TalkALittle Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,572
    536
    179
    Dec 15, 2014
    Massachusetts
    I agree that you will have a space issue if you try to add more birds. You will need a place to grow the birds out until they reach an age/size for you to safely integrate them with your current ladies. You will need to resolve that problem first.

    Once you have the appropriate sized space, consider getting a different breed so you can tell them apart and keep track of the older girls. It will be far easier to put a few in your freezer if you know they are the older, less-productive ones. Some people get birds that lay a different colored egg so they can tell when the older ones' production slows down by keeping track of how many eggs they are getting of that particular color. Or you can get the same breed but just band the legs of each group a different color so you know who is who. If you're getting a different breed, I would get a breed that is similar in nature to the Orpingtons to make flock integration easier. I have hatchery Buff Orpingtons and they cohabitate quite well with my hatchery Barred Rocks. My BRs lay a slightly smaller and lighter colored egg than my BOs too.

    Here's a thought though. As long as you were going to have to process some birds anyway, one other thing you could do is hatch out meat birds like Cornish Xs instead. They grow at an astronomical rate compared to dual purpose or laying breeds, reaching processing age before you really have a chance to get attached to them the way you do with layers. You'd have to keep whatever chicks you do get in a separate grow out pen anyway. This way your wife gets to hatch for the class, you get birds in your freezer, you don't have to bother with flock integration, nor do you have to part with your lady friends that you've grown attached to.
     
  4. Tim and Libby

    Tim and Libby New Egg

    3
    0
    7
    Jan 31, 2015
    donrae, Thank you for the advice and the link.

    I wish I had this information when I was building the coop/run. I could have easily brought it out farther from the shed an extra couple feet. Looks like I may have to add onto the other side of the coop and and wind it around the back of the shed.

    Have you ever seed a coop with runs on both sides? How about a "bump out" or some other way of getting extra space on the existing coop?

    After reading this post and related link, my wife said we need to put a duplicate set up on the other side of the shed. Im not so sure but at least we are thinking.


    talkalittle, Thank you for the advice as well. I never thought about just raising meat birds. I will look into the Cornish Xs like you suggest. We have an oversized 2 car garage that only has 1 car (my truck is too big to get inside with the door closed) so we could use that for temporary housing until time to butcher.

    If we go that route, is there a problem if we let both flocks out in the yard at the same time? Will the bigger, older Orpintons go after the Cornish? They seem so docile and friendly. They let anyone pick them up and if I am trying to get them into the run before they want to go (if we are leaving the house for example) I have scooped up 3 at a time before with little fuss from any of them. The most aggression I have seen is if I dig a juicy crawler from the garden and toss it to them they go crazy and will chase the one who actually gets it.

    Thank you again, both of you.

    Tim
     
  5. TalkALittle

    TalkALittle Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,572
    536
    179
    Dec 15, 2014
    Massachusetts
    Well, if you're thinking of raising them in your garage, then don't do the Cornish X. They cram a whole lot of growing into a short time frame so there is all the poop that goes along with that--HUGE amounts of poop. You'll want to raise them somewhere with great ventilation. There are a couple of other good meat bird breeds that take a bit longer to mature, but are a little easier in the poop department. Take a look on the Meat Birds forum for advice on which breed might serve your purpose better.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by