Expanding and wanting to keep two breeds... questions galore!

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Storybook Farm, Sep 29, 2015.

  1. Storybook Farm

    Storybook Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We bought a 40-acre abandoned farm 4 years ago, and have been bringing it back to life slowly. We believe in putting our toes into the water to see how it feels before going in all the way. To that end, we bought 5 chickens of mixed breeds (RIR rooster, Ameraucana, Buff Orpington, and 2 Star hens) and a small coop in March of this year, and then expanded our flock to 7 guineas and 9 mixed-breed "mutt" chickens, of which three were roosters. The Buff Orpington went broody (much to our delight) and hatched and raised 4 peeps (so, they are RIR/Orp crosses).

    We decided we wanted more eggs, so I bought some more "mutts" from another backyard breeder, and now have 12 hens, 7 guineas, and one RIR rooster.

    On our property, we inherited two ancient chicken coops. Picture here is 4 years ago; we now use the smaller one for sheep and have fencing. The larger one has been used for storage and trash.
    [​IMG]

    We are building a newer storage/hay/horse barn now, and we'll be getting everything we care about out of this 1800 square foot coop by snowfall, God willing. The basic measurements of this building are 100 ft. X 18 ft. What I'm thinking of doing is expanding our chicken keeping to larger production in the good months, and then culling back in the winters, because this coop has no electric. (It does have a great spring box for water right next to it.)

    The building has a row of center posts that go down the center of it. It has five doors. It has tons of big windows, so GREAT ventilation. And, we COULD run electric to it if that ever would make sense. We could very easily subdivide the interior space into "breed specific" coops... but then how would we free range them? Maybe... if with two breeds, for instance, we could free range on alternate days?

    My central question arises from (probably confusion about) mixing breeds. I'd like to raise White Rocks and Black Austrolorpes, and I'd love for them to go broody, raise their own chicks, etc. OR go ahead and get an incubator so that we could perpetuate our flocks from here. Wouldn't I need, then, separate flocks to keep the breeds pure blooded? Like, White Rock roos & hens and Black Aus roos and hens... separated? Just not seeing how this would work, quite. Ideas?

    BTW: I don't think that we want to get into either egg or meat (or chick) production for the public. Rather, we have six adult kids who have families and friends, and we probably could have a hundred birds and get takers for all their meat and eggs ongoing.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2015
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    You will have to maintain two separate flocks, a couple of roosters with their hens, so you have a good genetic mix. You can keep the flocks next to each other if you wish.
     
  3. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Yes, you would have to keep them separate 24/7 to maintain 'pure' breeds.
    Alternating free range days would be the way to go.....
    ......and I'd plan on large mesh covered runs off each separate 'breed' coop for the ones who can't range that day,
    and in case you have predator event/issues and need to keep them confined for a time.
     
  4. TalkALittle

    TalkALittle Chillin' With My Peeps

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    If they are breeding just for themselves, it likely won't be a year round affair. Could they not just separate the birds they wish to breed for a period of time and gather eggs for incubation? Discard or use the eggs for the first two weeks they are separate to eliminate any leftover mutt sperm but then gather them either for incubation or mark them and place them under any hen who might be broody.
     
  5. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Monkey Business Premium Member

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    I was thinking the same lines as i was reading the posts. You could simply build two good sized coop / runs for the roosters, and let the specific girls you want to breed from (and another 5 or 6 hens) spend a couple of weeks with your rooster of choice - that would mean one month to be sure of the correct genes being passed on, or just 2 weeks if you cull your mutt roosters. This need not be a year round system - just something to use when you wish to breed.

    All the best
    CT
     
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Some basic info that might help you. It takes about 25 hours, give or take, for an egg to go through a hen’s internal egg making factory. That egg can only be fertilized during the first few minutes of that journey. This means if the mating takes place on a Sunday, Sunday’s egg is not fertile. Monday’s egg might or might not be, depending on timing. Tuesday’s egg should be fertile.

    When they mate, the last thing the hen does is fluff up her feathers and shake. This gets the sperm in a special container inside the hen where it can stay viable from a week and a half to over three weeks. It varies. So if you want to control which rooster is the father you need to separate the hens and unwanted rooster for at least three weeks, maybe a bit more. So you need to devise a system where you can accomplish this.

    A broody hen will hatch and raise any eggs you put under her, ducks, turkeys, or other chicken breeds. There is no need to match the breeds of the hen doing the brooding with the breed of the eggs.

    I understand it is pure personal preference, but if your goals are meat and eggs, why maintain pure breeds? Why not just use your best roosters for breeding and eat the ones that are not quite as good for eating so they don’t breed and use the good ones to improve the meat qualities of your flock?

    Since half the chicks that hatch will be pullets, once you get your flock to the size and sexual mix you want, about half the chickens you will be eating will be female. This is harder but try to figure out which hens are laying the best and hatch their eggs, then eat the other hens or pullets as the time arrives.

    There are so many different ways you can go with this. Regardless I find it very beneficial to have a means to separate chickens. That means a separate coop and run. It just gives you so much flexibility when managing them, especially on the scale you are talking about.

    You cannot control when or even if a hen will go broody. If you want to control the hatching you’ll probably need an incubator. That depends on how many new chicks you want every year.

    Think about the size of your flock too. My basic laying/breeding flock is one rooster and seven or eight hens. But I often have over 40 chickens at one time as I try to raise enough to eat. Most of those are fairly young but as they hit the right age and I have freezer room the cockerels go on there. Sometimes freezer room is the limiting factor. I generally evaluate the pullets for egg laying before certain ones go in the freezer too. So plan your facilities bigger than you think you need. That helps in a lot of ways.

    Good luck!
     
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  7. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    For a variety of reasons I won't go into here (because they're fictitious [​IMG]) the sort of breeding plan you're looking at won't work for you. What you need to do is pack up that lovely building full of potential and ship it clear across the country to me [​IMG]

    Okay, seriously, I have coop envy.

    Now to a real answer....pretty much what they said above. You can range everyone together when you're not wanting to breed/set eggs, usually in the fall or winter. Come spring, pull the two breeds apart and set your eggs. Keep breeds separate as long as you want to set eggs. Then in the fall or whenever, combine everyone again. You may have some rooster issues putting everyone back together, but with all that space they should be able to stay out of each other's way enough to co-exist.

    And if you did get an unexpected broody after everyone was running together, well, mixed breed chicks aren't the worst thing in the world.

    As far as electricity to the coop, that would be only for human convenience. In your climate, the birds don't need supplemental heat. Granted, something to keep water thawed is nice, since it's so far from the house, unless you have frost-free faucets at the coop.
     
  8. Storybook Farm

    Storybook Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sugar Grove, WV
    My Coop
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2015
  9. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    Yep.

    How long you'd want to keep the breeds separate would depend on how many hatches you wanted. Once you've got them separate, you might want to keep them that way for a few months if you want a few batches of pure bred chicks. Or, if you just get one good hatch and that's good enough, then put everyone back together.

    If it's just birds for your family, usually one or two hatches will do it. Course, this depends on how big your incubator is, or how blessed you've been with broody hens. Also, you say you don't intend to sell chicks, but once folks find out you're breeding, sometimes they beg and clamor so much you'll set eggs just to get them off your back [​IMG].

    I think a Rock/Aussie cross would make a great bird, for a layer or for the table. You could do a purebred hatch in the spring, and a mixed breed hatch the rest of the year. And, if your birds are all running together, you'll get some purebreds and some mixed breeds, not all mixed.
     
  10. TalkALittle

    TalkALittle Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Would it be a good idea to leg band the birds that were used for each breeding as well as the pure offspring? The reason I ask is twofold. Firstly, keeping track of who is who prevents you from accidentally breeding back to the same line over and over. Secondly, I imagine that over time you could end up with a hybrid (from the uncontrolled matings that happen when the flock free ranges together) that looks very much like a purebred but, being a hybrid, throws mixed genes into the pool and you'd want a way to make sure you didn't accidentally use that bird in your breeding.

    Having never thought much about breeding programs, I don't know how likely or important that might be though.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2015

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