Batch culling vs perpetual harvest

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Brandnewbie, Jan 23, 2012.

  1. Brandnewbie

    Brandnewbie New Egg

    Jan 23, 2012
    After almost 20 years of very successful keeping and raising koi, and a few years of semi-successful beekeeping, I'm about to start chickening. My goal is to harvest 4 eggs day, building to being able to send 8-10 birds per month to culinary school.

    My plan so far is to build my coop and pen area at the edge of a forest,+/- 700 acres. Pen will be predator proof (I have them all) open to yard/extensive vegetable and flower gardens (freeform, not formal gardens), and I plan to allow free roaming during the day. Dog and constant human presence in yard tend to discourage avian predators, although they do scout the koi heavily. Coop to be 8'x5', debating final design. Pen to be appox 20'x20', but expandable.

    I was thinking about starting with 3 PBR, 3 Orpington and 2 Amercauna as a laying flock. My idea was to, about 1,2,3 months from start, segregate one breed with a cockerel for breeding. Haven't done the math yet, but I'll take enough eggs to incubate to both replace my layers and to raise for meat, then try it with the other breeds. If timed right, I'm thinking I should be able to harvest birds regularly so that I am able to have fresh meat every week instead of doing large batches for freezing.

    I'd really appreciate the community's thoughts on the amount of work I'm not foreseeing for myself with this grand plan.

    Thanks All
  2. Kassaundra

    Kassaundra Sonic screwdrivers are cool!

    Sep 1, 2010

    First [​IMG] from Oklahoma and [​IMG]

    A question do you intend to let your chickens in your growing garden? If so they will eat and dig it up.

    As to your question about keeping a perpetual harvesting flock I don't have any answers. But this is the plan I am working towards also.
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Your basic plan is easily doable with those numbers. You may find you even need fewer hens.

    Why do you want to segregate your rooster with only certain hens at a time? If your interest is only eggs and meat, the rooster can easily keep 8 hens fertile at the same time. That makes it easier to gain enough eggs to make hatching and brooding worth doing for me. If you are only having them for eggs and meat, it does not matter if they are mutts or purebred.

    You can set up for constant incubating and hatching if you wish, but I only do a couple of incubations a year. I also hatch, raise, and eat fewer than you do too. Different goals for different people.

    I mostly free range so mine get a whole lot of their food by foraging. My feed costs are not as bad as people that buy most of the feed. I also prefer older meat, so I don't process a big batch at a time but keep them fresh on the claw. Another possible difference. I also eat pullets, not restricting myself to just the roosters.

    You'll find with 8 hens, you will get a lot more than 4 eggs per day during the season. When they molt, they will pretty much shut down laying. How I get around that, using your 8 hens as a base, would be to keep four pullets every year. Pullets often lay throughout their first winter, totally skipping the molt. So if you set up a rotation of four new pullets every year and processing your four oldest birds each year, you always have some laying through the winter and you keep your laying/breeding flock young and productive. You do have 12 laying hens part of the time. It will take a couple of years to get the rotation set up right, but try to have three groups of four part of the year, four pullets, four from the previous season, and four a year older. Then, when the older hens start to molt, process the oldest four so you get the benefit of them laying but you don't have to feed them during a molt.

    I'd personally go with a bigger coop. Actually, I did. Mine is 8' x 12'. Your 5x8 would be big enough for your basic flock, especially if they have access to that run every day, but you have no flexibility built in. You are going to have a lot of young chickens around and possibly more adults at least part of the time. If you build it for the minimum, you are restricting yourself in what you can do.

    For example, I have my brooder in the coop. If you are going to be brooding regularly, you will want them outside your house. Trust me on that one. If you make your coop big enough so that you can put a brooder in there or even build it in, you will be a lot happier. Besides, they grow up side by side with the older chickens so integration is easier and the chicks already know that the coop is home.

    Or if you have predator problem and need to leave them locked up, you have more flexibility to do that. Or if you need to retrain them to lay in the coop, not somewhere else, you can leave them locked up if you have more than the minimum space.

    Also, most building material comes in 4' and 8' dimensions. If you plan your build around those dimensions, you can usually build it with a lot less waste and cutting for basically the same cost as a smaller one. At least 8' x 6' in your case and I'd really go even bigger, say 8' x 8'. You will really appreciate the extra room.

    Kassaundra is right. They will destroy a garden if it is not fenced. They will eat things as they sprout, will eat a lot of mature plants and the produce, and will scratch anywhere there is cleared ground or especially where there is mulch.
  4. Brandnewbie

    Brandnewbie New Egg

    Jan 23, 2012
    I was thinking I need to segregate a rooster and hens of the same breed so I could prevent mixing of breeds, since I was planning on having 2 or 3 breeds. I don't want a PBR cock breeding with an Orp hen, or do I?

    Plus, I was thinking having fertilized eggs layed in a different place would make identification and seperation for basket or incubator easier.

    I like your idea about building bigger to start, but I was thinking about building additional coops as my flock grows. I know its twice the work to build 2 small instead of 1 big, but I have enough land to support many coops and fenced yards.

    Your thoughts?
  5. they'reHISchickens

    they'reHISchickens Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 31, 2008
    Is there a reason you want different breeds and want to keep them separate? Amercaunas are noticeably smaller than the others. We have EEs and frankly, other than their blue eggs, they have nothing to recommend them over other breeds. ( But hey, we LIKE the blue eggs:)) Orps are nice meaty birds and we recently had an orp/EE cross roo that was a really nice size for meat even though young.
    Although we do separate for breeding, we are trying to figure out how NOT to do it because 1. it's extra work 2. it's extra room 3. it takes 3 weeks to get pure eggs even before you collect for hatching and 4. those weeks are in the dead of winter because you really want Spring chicks so they lay during the fall moult.
    SO far the solution: We have decided to keep pure orps and Amercaunas but will purchase chicks from a local breeder when we want them rather than go through the separation process. We will breed only for marans and if we get mixes, they will process nicely or give olive eggs:)
  6. they'reHISchickens

    they'reHISchickens Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 31, 2008
    According to Murphy's Law of Chickens, your plans will be waylaid by everyone going broody at the most inopportune time when you don't have the breeds separate. With so few hens, you don't have much cushion for mistakes.
    X2 on the larger coop.
  7. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    Welcome to BYC.

    Start with only one breed for the first year. See how this goes. You'll gain experience, enjoyment, frustration and all that goes with flock keeping. Trying to fuss with different breeds, until you master all the in's and out's of just how this is going to work on your property and with your schedule and with your buildings is enough to deal with. Next year, try a new breed. You may find that some breeds better "fit" you and some breeds you'd rather not mess with anyhow. That's be my $.02.

    If you get a chance, I'd be delighted if you read through my BYC page, link in blue below. There might be some things you see that interest you.
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2012
  8. Smiles-N-Sunshine

    Smiles-N-Sunshine Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 19, 2008
    Palominas, Arizona
    Hmmmmm. I have 20 chickens in a 4' x 8' x 4' coop with attached nest boxes. They free range all day, and only use it for roosting at night, and egg-laying during the day.
  9. Oregon Blues

    Oregon Blues Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 14, 2011
    Central Oregon
    Around here we batch kill. It's as much work to set up the equipment and then put it away as it is to do the actual processing.

    I'd rather raise the birds and then get it all over with. One set-up, one clean-up. Go to the freezer when I want dinner instead of setting up all the equipment every time.
  10. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    If you want to harvest ten birds a month, with the youngest age of harvest around four-five months on a dual purpose bird, you're looking at having forty to fifty birds in various stages of growth. That's a lot to house, you'll need a lot more coop space. That doesn't even cover raising replacement layers or breeding roos.

    Mixing breeds is fine, it's commonly accepted in backyard flocks. Esp if you're just gonna eat them, why not? One roo in with eight hens will have all your eggs fertile and you could fill your incubator in a few days. Plus, many of us love seeing what colors or traits we get from our mixed flocks.

    Your garden's gonna be toast. Sorry.

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