Can one have a single, controlled, self propigating flock?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by whitejerabias, Dec 18, 2011.

  1. whitejerabias

    whitejerabias Out Of The Brooder

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    I want to raise chicken for both meat and eggs. We eat about 3 doz eggs/week and about 20 whole birds/year plus some bits n pieces. You guys have me thinking I want twelve hens for eggs. Clearly if I want 20 for meat I will need a few more birds. At least. [​IMG] DH's father raised chickens and says I will need two different flocks; that meat birds are messier and smellier. And different breeds.

    Is there a way to have one flock of birds all together to meet my needs? Can I do that without getting into an ever expanding cycle of chicks? Can I do that and maintain a kid-safe flock? Can I do that and only have to slaughter birds once a year? We eat a lot of eggs, but adding in all the kill birds would I be getting in over my head with eggs?
     
  2. LilyD

    LilyD Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Absolutely you can go with any Dual Purpose breed and there are a lot out there. The birds can provide you with eggs for your table. We also eat about 3 dozen a week and sell the rest. I have 15 hens producing right now and since it's the middle of winter up here I am not hatching out chicks so all the eggs get collected and eaten or sold to others who eat them. During the spring I hatch out chicks to replenish my hens as needed. Out of each hatch I keep the girls that are outstanding and show promise as good breeders (mainly the traits I breed for which are quick growth rate, egg laying and large body meat to bone ratio) these get added back to my hen houses. The rest of the girls get sold and maybe a boy or two but that is really rare unless people are starting out their own flock. The boys that don't sell get added to the bachelor pad and raised as my meaties for the year. Last year I ended up with around 40 meat birds from my meaties. Some went into my freezer at about 16 weeks others were grown out a bit longer. I also process my older layers as they stop laying and they get cooked in the crock pot until they fall of the bone and then are canned for things like tacos, burritos and chicken stews, soups and casseroles. It is definitely a very doable project and because it is sustainable and you can make your own replacements it works out really nicely. So far my flock pays for itself in the sale of chicks, eggs and meat birds as they become available.

    Good luck
     
  3. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    Remember that the egglaying decreases after a few years so whilst you might be swimming in eggs their pullet year, the following year will be the molt, and maybe taking a break from laying, etc.

    So adding some pullets each year is good, and the eggs can always be scrambled and fed back to the layers to give them additional protein.

    I have not done the self-sustaining flock myself. I agree with LilyD in that a dual purpose chicken is the way to go if you don't want to mess with meat birds.

    Kid safe roosters are a challenge to find, however. You might be inclined to keep a bachelor pad for the boys, with an adult managing that pen. If you are keeping many boys, that is good anyhow, as they sometimes gang up on one hen and consecutively mate with her if they are not gentlemen. The poor thing tries to get away but may become injured with this treatment.

    I have had so many unruly roosters at one time that the hens stayed on the roost for prolonged periods of time to stay away from them. Or ran to hide in the nest boxes. So managing your roo to hen ratio is important from my experience unless you have really nice roosters OR keep a bachelor pen. You can rotate one roo in at a time for flock protection with the hens if needed.

    This is just my experience and there are many more who have far more experience than me.
     
  4. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    A dozen hens or just over would do trick. I also recommend a dual purpose breed. A breed I am toying with is the American dominique. They are good natured and most free range well. Egg production varies a bit accrding to source of birds and they grow reasonably well. If you let your best hens brood clutches so about 50 chicks are hatched a season, you should be able to get your meat birds and be able to replace laying hens as needed. The dominique hens like other comparable heritage / heirloom breeds should give multiple years of egg production. Always make certain you have a rooster or two as backup increase first is lost or proves unworthy. You will be in excellent position to excersize selection for good production quality in your flock under your prevailing conditions.

    A method for controlling unruely roosters is where they are not allowed access to hens until second year as cocks.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2011
  5. whitejerabias

    whitejerabias Out Of The Brooder

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    If you are raising a dual purpose bird, what age do you slaughter them? Also, will I have to choose just one breed? If I have a mixed flock and the breeds get all muddled up, will that affect the taste/quality of the meat? I suppose I could only let certain hens' eggs hatch.

    ETA: So I have my regular coop with about 35ish birds together and then I separate them into a different run as they get all manly? And that should keep things chill and safe? Also, are chickens fertile all year round if there is a roo in the coop? If I forget to collect the eggs, or miss a few and I going to end up with a baby?
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2011
  6. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    You can eat them at any age, but they get tougher as they age, and are best cooked in a crock pot or similar long, slow cooking. Around 16 to 20 weeks is probably the tenderest, but they are not full size then and (depending on breed) you may have just figured out for sure which are cocks and which pullets.

    There is little if any difference between DP breeds as far as taste. Orpingtons are supposed to have the most dark meat, if that is your preference. I have read that Marans are particularly tasty. Personally, I've tasted several dual purpose breeds and cannot tell the difference.

    Plenty of folks let them cross breed and have a yard full of "mutts," or "designer chickens" [​IMG] About half of mine are mutts. Nothing wrong with this. If anything, it should be a good thing to have the genetic diversity, or "hybrid vigor."

    One approach is to process the roos as they reach the 16 to 20 week stage, since a flock that's approximately half male, half female will be a real problem once they reach mating age. The girls will be way over-mated and suffer injuries, and the roos will fight and injure or even kill each other. It's often recommended here to keep about one roo to 10 hens, which I have found keeps the peace and generally keeps the girls in good shape. (Now mind you, I'm a relative noobie, just a few years.)

    A breeder may keep the sexes separate and put one roo with only one or two hens when he wants fertile eggs, though. A hen will lay fertile eggs starting about 2 or 3 days after introducing a roo, and if you then take him away, she will lay fertile eggs for around 2 to 4 weeks. If there is always a roo in the flock, most or all of the eggs will be fertile -- though again this depends somewhat on breed. For example, some very fluffy butted breeds need feathers trimmed to mate successfully. If you stay with the old classics, though, they should manage just fine, like Rhode Island Red and Barred Rocks. My Australorps have done fine.

    A fertile egg will not begin to develop unless it is incubated. This means it has to be kept somewhere around 95 to 100 degrees F, either under a broody hen or in an incubator. In much of the world, eggs for eating are not even refrigerated, just kept at room temp, and they do not develop. I eat fertile eggs every day and have never cracked one and found a half developed chick.

    You might want to read in the meat birds section, especially on dual purpose breeds, A lot of that section is about cornixh X, which you can only buy as chicks. There are a bunch of threads there about breeding your own meat bird, though -- what breeds were used, etc. Actually, I would really recommend you do a fair amount of browsing around on here; an awful lot of wise and experienced people have contributed to this site.
     
  7. LilyD

    LilyD Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:I totally agree with flockwatcher. I process my roos right around 5 or 6 months which is between 20 and 24 weeks. I do my older hens between 2 and three years depending on when they stop laying and those go in the pressure cooker or crock pot to tenderize and then are canned to use for burritos, tacos, chicken pot pie and stews. The article that was posted on cooking with heritage birds states that you can process roasters anytime between 3 months and a year. If you wait longer to process the birds will have a stronger taste which I happen to love but some people don't like because they have had longer to get old. The main thing with cooking birds that are older is to let them rest before cooking them and even massaging the muscle tissue and moving the legs and wings to loosen up the muscles. Salt water brining is also another good idea. Take the bird out a few days before cooking with it and put it in a large bag with a small amount of kosher salt and seasonings you want on the bird and some water and let it sit until you are ready to cook. The Kosher salt will break up the connecting fibers in the muscle tissue so the meat is more tender. I have tried both ways and they both work well and I really like the taste of DP versus cornish which is much paler tasting if that makes any sense.

    You don't have to choose one breed unless you want to. I have one flock that is a mixed breed flock and one that is pure Light Brahmas. The main thing is you want to use DP birds rather than layers and as you breed them keep the larger faster growing chicks to add back in. I alternate one year I will add in pullets the next year I might change out my roo but it really depends on what you are looking for. As a family we are looking for a bird that will be fairly large by 6 months dressing out around 7 or 8 pounds for a roaster but also still has a fairly good amount of dark and light meat in case I decide to process in pieces. So when I choose chicks to add I want the faster growing larger chicks that have no genetic problems to add in. My mixed birds are running around the same size as my Brahmas and the taste is just the same.

    If you separate the boys when they start to become a problem and put them just with other boys they tend to mellow out. The girls are what drive them to be crazy and act all rooish. Without hens in the pen with them they actually become quite civil. Then you can let them grow out and process them a few at a time or all at once depending on what you like and what time you have.

    Chickens are fertile usually if there is a roo around as long as the roo is breeding. The only thing is unless you live in a place like Texas or Arizona where it gets super hot the hen will have to incubate to hatch the egg in the coop. If she isn't broody she won't have any interest in doing this so you will be able to choose if you want them to hatch out eggs or not. I like to have them hatch rather than me because them mom will protect the babies from the other chickens and they can be integrated into the coop faster which is nice.
     
  8. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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  9. ericz

    ericz Out Of The Brooder

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    this would be a good book: "the self-propagating dual-purpose flock"
     
  10. RattlesnakeRidgeWV

    RattlesnakeRidgeWV Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Coodos to LilyD and Flockwatcher. That has been the best replys to an OP that I have seen in a while. Great info and right to the point.
     

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