Advice for Newbies...

Discussion in 'New Member Introductions' started by lindseynlu1986, Feb 28, 2016.

  1. lindseynlu1986

    lindseynlu1986 New Egg

    Feb 28, 2016
    Hi! I am new to BYC and to raising chickens in general, but I am excited. I have already learned so much from reading all of your posts, so I am hoping for some advice on the current flock that I have. My hope is to have birds for eggs and for meat. I would like to work my way up to hatching my own chicks, as well. I have two RIRs that are almost 4 weeks and still in the brooder.
    My neighbor moved and couldn’t take her chickens with her so she gave them to us. There are 3 yellow hens, which I am assuming are all the same breed and age but I don’t know what that is. They seem quite large to me and they haven’t laid eggs in the few weeks that I have had them, not sure if that is because it’s been too cold or because they are too old. The neighbor said that only one of the 4 hens she gave me lay and it doesn’t seem to be any of these girls. Honestly, I am considering slaughtering these ones since they don’t lay.



    So my questions: What breed are they and what is that breed good for (meat/eggs/both)? How old do you think they are? Would they be good to eat or too old/too tough?
    The other chickens I got from the neighbor are this black hen and rooster. These two hang out together all the time and the rooster wants nothing to do with the other yellow hens. This hen lays one egg every other day or so, off-white average size egg. I am thinking of incubating a few of her eggs to see what happens. Her eggs do appear to be fertilized. I am to keep her as long as she is providing eggs.
    What breed to you think these two are and how old do you think?




    All of the chickens are very skittish and obviously not used to people at all. I am not sure how old the rooster is and I am doubtful that I would ever catch him to slaughter him, he’s quite fast.
    What advice would you give me regarding this flock? Should I cull the yellow, non-laying hens? I am planning on making my run much bigger in the near future as I have the 2 RIRs that will need to go in the coop soon and I feel the current run is too small for all of them. Should I keep the new (younger) chickens separate from the rest of the flock, even if I do get rid of the yellow ones, I am concerned the older rooster would pick on or kill them.
    Anyway, thanks in advance!
  2. The Duck Ladie

    The Duck Ladie Duck Addict

    Feb 23, 2016
    1 person likes this.
  3. QueenMisha

    QueenMisha Queen of the Coop

    Welcome to BYC! Glad you joined us.

    Your yellow hens are Buff Orpingtons. They're a nice breed, the hatchery stock make good layers and broodies. They are OK meat birds, in the sense that they're edible and have meat. Breeder stock Orpingtons make much better meat birds; hatchery stock hens like these have been bred down in size so they will be better egg producers, since most of the buyers from hatcheries want egg layers, not meat fowl.

    Guessing the age of a hen is no science, and unless you raised them the best you can do is guess. Cockerels and cocks are much easier, they make pinpointing the age rather simple based on the Spurs. However, there are a few clues that tell me these are probably older hens. The faces look rather wrinkled and saggy - young hens and pullets will have fewer wrinkles and overall a younger looking face. I can't see their legs super well in these photos, but I would recommend checking them. Older hens will often have slightly thicker and uglier scales on their shanks, usually the row going straight down the front center of the legs and connecting with the middle toe. The fact that they aren't laying is another clue; while there are a lot of causes for a hen to cease laying, older hens will see quite the drop in production compared to younger ones. They usually see their first drop at 3-4 years and their second at 7-8. A lot of the drop has to do with weather, turning the hens into seasonal layers; although a 5 or 6 year old hen might still produce decently in warm weather, they will probably cease laying at all when it gets cold enough.

    Your other two look younger; I would guess both the pullet and cockerel are gamefowl crosses. Based on spurs the cockerel is less than a year of age, and since they look similar I would venture they may well be siblings and the pullet is probably the same age. Gamefowl in my opinion are the best birds to have, and if you got one that lays good you're lucky, since not all gamefowl hens are good layers.

    Oh - a note regarding laying. A LOT of factors affect laying. Stress, diet, molting, weather. Some examples: A hen who has just been moved to a new environment or flock will be under stress, and so may not lay for some time. Extreme weather and predators nearby are other common causes of stress. Diet can also affect a hen's laying. Feeding too many treats, scratch, or scraps (more than 10% of the total diet) will cause them to eat less of their main commercial ration and so can cause nutrtional imbalance. Feeding a home mixed feed that has not been very, very carefully mixed can also cause an imbalance. A hen who is molting or broody will not lay either, and finally a hen will not lay/will only infrequently lay if it is very cold or there is little sunshine. And of course when free ranging you always have to consider the fact that they may well be laying, just not where you can find the eggs.

    Whether to slaughter or retire them is your personal call. I myself decide whether to slaughter or retire based on one question; are they pets/am I attached to them? If not, I slaughter. If they are pets and I am attached to them, they get to retire and hang out for however long they live, even if they don't lay much anymore. I say give them a bit longer to get well settled and maybe put a light in the coop to see if you can kickstart their production; if they still aren't laying, and you aren't attached to them, you can slaughter. Since they are most likely older hens, they won't be any good for things like roasting or frying; they will, however, make a great soup. I'd recommend using the legs, necks, and organs to create a stock; then use the breast and leg meat for the bulk of the soup. You should cook them at least 6-8 hours at a simmer or hotter to ensure tenderness, and in my experience the longer they cook, the tastier they get.

    As for adding the new RIRs; first, wait until they are a minimum of 8 weeks old. The ideal method of introduction is to give them visual access but not physical access for 1-2 weeks prior to combining the flocks. So if you can set up a cage or separated area within your coop or run and keep them there for at least one week but preferably two, that would be ideal. When that time period is over you should wait until night fall, and then remove the barriers/cages, and place the young birds on the roost besides the older ones. It's actually quite uncommon for cockerels and cocks to attack female chicks and newcomers; they are usually just happy to have more ladies. The hens are most often the ones who will go after or pick on younger, newer birds. Keep in mind that some bullying is quite normal; you should only intervene if actual injury occurs. You might also offer a separate feeder and waterer for the young ones, so they have an opportunity to eat and drink.
    1 person likes this.
  4. BantamFan4Life

    BantamFan4Life LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO. Premium Member

    Jun 15, 2012
    Welcome to BYC! I'm glad you joined us! :)
  5. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Flockless Premium Member

    Jan 30, 2015
    Africa - near the equator
    Hi and welcome to BYC! The Learning Centre is a great place to start off as it has loads of info on anything chicken. Joining your state thread (just type your state in the search box) will also put you in contact with other BYC members in your area.

    All the best
  6. drumstick diva

    drumstick diva Still crazy after all these years. Premium Member

    Aug 26, 2009
    Out to pasture
    Queen Misha has given you great advice. [​IMG]
  7. N F C

    N F C phooey! Premium Member Project Manager

    Dec 12, 2013

    @QueenMisha has given you some great information...not much to add to that but hello and it's nice to have you here!

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