Any advice on our flock expansion?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by sezjasper, Jan 4, 2013.

  1. sezjasper

    sezjasper Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Well the holidays are over and I'm thinking SPRING -- we are planning a shed conversion to a nice large coop and expanding our flock of 4 to 8 or 10 chickens! I'd like some advice on what would be the best chickens to introduce to our flock, or what we should steer clear of. Right now we have a RIR, a BR, a BO and a Golden Comet. Our girls are our treasured pets that reward us with a steady supply of eggs...when they stop laying, they will still have their "forever home" with us. We don't sell eggs, just give away when we have an excess. Pretty much what we're looking for is chickens for the sheer fun of it, and the eggs are a happy bonus!

    My younger daughter wants a Silkie because she thinks they're so cute...I'd love to have a Polish because they make me laugh. My older daughter wants "the kind that look like they're wearing bloomers" and beyond that, I haven't a clue what she's talking about. I'm also interested in Delawares because they are just so beautiful...but then again, they are all so beautiful, who can decide? So I'm asking for help!

    I've heard a few things that concern me...not sure if fact or fiction. I've heard you shouldn't mix smaller chickens like Silkies with larger hens like we have now. I've also heard that the "odd looking" breeds like the Polish get picked on because they look different, so you shouldn't have just one.

    I'd also like to know if any breed in particular has the reputation for being especially friendly, or the opposite...especially standoffish! We've been lucky that the chickens we have now are so friendly and have enjoyed them so much more because of it.

    Let's all hope for a quick end to winter and a warm and beautiful spring!! Any advice will be greatly appreciated!
     
  2. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    If you get silkies get at least two at a time- and I'd be prepared to house them separately if necessary since you have a RIR and Golden Comet- those girls might like to bully a silkie- but it does depend on the individual hen's personality. Silkies are prone to wry neck if they get pecked on the head.

    Silkies don't fly and will need a very low roost (maybe 8 inches off the floor) or shavings to sleep in as they like to sleep in a pile on the floor. They don't really like ramps either but can be trained especially with food inside the coop.

    I haven't had Polish- can't help you there.

    If you get bantams have a second feeder and plenty of roost space so they can get away from the large fowl on the roost. Additionally, I'd wait to integrate the chicks with the older ones at 4 months of age if you are getting bantams. This is the ideal age to integrate with large fowl too but you can get by with younger if the older hens aren't too aggressive.

    When you put the new ones in, make sure no blood is being drawn- also that the younger ones don't refuse to stand up to the older ones. If you notice these things, they are too young and need to go back to the baby pen/coop.

    To avoid disease, I highly recommend buying chicks and NOT started pullets from a stranger. Respiratory disease can render a chicken an asymtomatic carrier. A month long quarantine is recommended but the chicken can still pass quarantine and then infect your current chickens with something like mycoplasma.

    I would buy chicks from a hatchery, feed store, or reputable breeder (or get an incubator and hatch out chicks but be cautious as mycoplasma (MG) can pass thru the egg to the chick, so those hatching eggs need to be from a good place, too.

    Cochins and d'Uccles look like they are wearing bloomers - keep in mind that the "broody banty" chicken won't give you nearly as many eggs as the egglayers you have currently. So you might look at Henderson's Chicken Chart (google it if interested) to compare- also Meyer Hatchery and McMurray have a lot of information on their webpages (also MyPetChicken). When they go broody they stop laying.

    BYC has a breeds section too that might give you ideas.

    My favorites for egglayers are Black Australorp, Golden Sex Links (like a Golden Comet), Buff Orps, and California Whites (Leghorn cross). I haven't tried Barred Rocks and RIRs myself. Easter eggers are nice but timid and they aren't the best layers from my experience except in their pullet year. My Golden Sex Links I used to have started to not let my EEs eat! I had to get rid of them.

    The little sweet bantam cochins and d'Uccles (and silkies) make excellent pets for kids from my experience. However, the large fowl especially with RIR blood in them can be a little pecky. So you might consider that as you make your coop. The more coops you have, the more feeders and waterers you have!!!

    I have two sheds currently, one for bantams and one for large fowl. It is a lot of extra work for the second coop. You can have a mixed flock, but I'd get a bunch of chicks all at once and make it so that the old girls are overwhelmed with the new recruits- so much so that they hopefully just get tired of chasing the babies around (don't put them in until near to the same size as the older ones except of course bantams).

    An automatic coop door opener makes life so much easier.
     
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  3. sezjasper

    sezjasper Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you so much! I'm saving this information to my "spring chicken file" so that when the time comes I'll have all the info at my fingertips. Keeping the youngsters separate from the older hens is not going to be a problem since the coop and run that I'm using now will be vacant in the spring. The coop and the shed that I'm going to convert are on opposite sides of my (very small) yard, so if necessary, I could even run fencing down the middle to divide the yard and provide free range space for both flocks but I would hope that would be a temporary fix. Ultimately I'd like for all of my chickens to be housed together, though, because the shed is so much roomier, especially for those days when the weather is really bad.

    With your current setup--one coop for bantams and one for large fowl--do you let all the chickens free range together, or do they have separate areas for that as well? Assuming they free range together, do your chickens know where they are supposed to go to roost at night?

    The Cochins and d'Uccles that you mentioned...are those bantam chickens? Here's a really dumb question...are all bantam chickens "always" bantams or are there bantam strains and large fowl strains of the same breed?

    I have so much to learn...but my sweet girls have been so patient with the learning curve and have thrived--probably in spite of me! Having chickens is the best thing I've ever done for my family and for myself!
     
  4. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    Right now I am letting the bantams free range inside the large fenced areas together but I do occasionally close the door between the areas to keep the bantams separate. I don't let them go outside the garden area as they would scratch up my bark nuggets and poo on the porch.

    Yes, they go to their separate coops at night.

    Cochins come in large fowl and bantam. D'Uccles are only bantam chickens. There are some bantam-only breeds and many that are bantam with a large fowl counterpart.

    Enjoy your chickens! There are other feather-footed breeds too, other than cochins and d'Uccles!
     
  5. AlicesSilkies

    AlicesSilkies Chillin' With My Peeps

    I seriously reccomend getting some polish, they are so much fun!

    They are all so individual, i have three,they are so tame and curious, they lay the cutiest eggs, and they are a great chicken for kids to have cuddles with.

    Howvever, if i would say one down side is, they can be quite loud when they sing the egg song, and in the rain their fluffypuff on their heads flattens and sometimes my other chickens end up pecking them, so they look like they are balding, but it grows back quickly.

    Good luck and have fun choosing!

    [​IMG]
     
  6. cubalaya

    cubalaya Overrun With Chickens

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    i would go with similar sized chickens, maybe black australorps and delawares. best layer , biggest eggs.
     
  7. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Overrun With Chickens

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    I'd add some EEs (Ameraucanas in the MMM catalog). Your kids will love the green eggs.

    Also, Meyer Red Sex Links are super sweet birds. They're my favorite hens in my flock right now.

    Other than that--so much depends on the individual hen. My recommendation is to have all the family members go through the chick catalog and mark the ones they like, and then order the ones with the largest number of votes. The best way to find out what you like best is to have some of each!
     
  8. sezjasper

    sezjasper Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 6, 2012
    Eldersburg, Maryland
    I'd like to thank all of you for the very helpful advice! I am laughing right now, after re-reading all the replies, because this looks like a case of chicken math waiting to happen! All I can say is, I'm glad our shed is very large! [​IMG]
     
  9. gryeyes

    gryeyes Covered in Pet Hair & Feathers

    We're NOT enablers. No, no we aren't. Not in the least.
     
  10. Hummingbird Hollow

    Hummingbird Hollow Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have had 2 Barred Plymouth Rock, 2 White Plymouth Rock, 2 Black Jersey Giants, 2 Welsummer, 2 Easter Eggers and 35 Freedom Rangers (meat chickens) of which I kept 2. My Rocks are by far the friendliest and they are steady suppliers of nice pinkish brown eggs. The Welsummers lay the very beautiful dark brown eggs, ranging from medium brown with chocolate chip like spots to very dark brown but their personality is a bit more standoffish. The Easter Eggers are beautiful and lay pretty bluish/green eggs. The Black Jersey Giants were slow to lay and not great layers but they were nice to look at (lost one to a bobcat and the other to sour crop). The Freedom Rangers are not great layers, being bred as a meat bird, but they do lay large, orangish/brown eggs.

    Personally, I love having a varried and beautiful collection of eggs to show off to my friends. It is just another pleasure in owing your own chickens.


    [​IMG]So...back row, left to right is WPR, EE, BPR, WPR, EE, Welsummer. Front row left to right is Welsummer, Freedom Ranger, EE, Welsummer, Freedom Ranger, and either WPR or BPR. Isn't it a pretty dozen?
     

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