Gifted 60 chickens which do I keep?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by mthomestead, Sep 27, 2016.

  1. mthomestead

    mthomestead New Egg

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    Sep 27, 2016
    Plains, MT
    I was wonderfully gifted 60 chickens about 7-10 are roosters only keeping 1-2 for fertility rest I am butchering. Hens were laying 9-14 eggs a day (from flock not each) suddenly stopped all together as if overnight.
    I know a dog made it into the pen and spooked them I fixed that problem but they were still laying for a day or two after but there is a big ruckus at night over who sleeps where and how lots of perch space but about 12 hens on the ground huddled up won't use it. I know I have to many but which do I keep? I want about 14-18. Not sure how many my facility will hold.
    I have a 7X9X8 coop with 12 laying boxes and 18 feet of perch. The range pen is a 20 ft by 10 ft space with 24 ft of perches fully enclosed with flight room if they so choose. Most of my hens are 1-2 years old none older than four I am told and some the black ones they are all mixed bred are I believe 1 yr or less they have bald bright red bottoms from mid back all the way down past their vent and between legs.
    Other hens are fluffy and beautiful but have thicker shanks and I assume are older. I want them to raise chicks for new layers and butch each year but how do I select who to eat and who to keep?


    Thank you for any input you can give me I really need the ladies to start laying again! [​IMG]
     
  2. QueenMisha

    QueenMisha Queen of the Coop

    Welcome to BYC! It's great to have you.

    That's quite the gift! I wish people gave *me* 60 chickens...

    Your area sounds like it would be plenty adequate for up to 20 birds. My recommendation would be to keep 20, 18 hens and 2 cocks. That will give you a flock rooster, a backup, and plenty of hens for each to prevent overmating.

    As for who to keep... that depends on your goals! If you want to breed dual-purpose birds, keep the best laying hens and the meatiest cockbirds. Younger hens will have more productive years left. Make sure whatever cockbirds you keep are good-tempered and respectful of the hens. You may prefer the personality and coloration of some birds over others. If you post some photos we can identify the breeds for you.
     
  3. mthomestead

    mthomestead New Egg

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    Sep 27, 2016
    Plains, MT
    Thank you for your advise and your kind welcome! 20 was about what I was looking at keeping so that makes me happy! The rest will fill the freezer. I have all my roosters and the hens that are just not doing so well separated in a smaller pen otherwise known as the kill pen so we don't disturb the whole flock when we butcher but I am looking at about 50 hens only one of my three EE is laying beautiful little blue eggs.
    My confirmed egg eater is in the kill pen too and I get about one egg out of the EE every other day. But the rest of the hens have completely quit! So I am not sure who to keep as far as my best layers!
    Some are growing feathers so I know they are not going to lay right now but the rest of the big fluffy beautiful ladies? What the heck! One tiny little golden and grey mostly bald bird was laying up to 4 eggs a day and she has quit too.
    I am feeding plenty of protein an 18% layers crumble mixed with wheat and wheat and corn scratch I give them free range on the feed keep the water bucket full but nothing. I have barred rocks, RR, RW, EE, Australops about 1/3 of the birds are these and are very small so I am assuming they are this years birds but not laying also very low on the pecking order. Most of my flock are Rhode island whites and australops with a few RR and a few birds big like a RR but black with brown/ gold hoods just gorgeous fluffy birds.
    The other thing I am having problems with is how old a bird is. I understand that the shanks are thicker on older birds but are there any other signs I could use to thin out the ones who will end up laying less due to age?
    Do you think that thinning down the flock will get the girls to lay again? I am getting some dust to dust them just in case it is parasites too.
     
  4. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

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    Posting pics will be helpful. Older hens, if of the same breed usually have thicker scales on their shanks. Their combs and wattles are often bigger. Personally, in a coop of that size, I'd cut down to 15 birds and one roo. If you are mixing grains in with your 18% layer, you may be cutting the protein too much. As the flock is looking a bit scruffy, I'd lay off the scratch. You might want to consider switching them over to fermented feed. Do a topic search for more info re: that. Very simple and easy to do using a bucket, water and your current feed. Gives increased bioavailability of the nutrients in the feed, healthy probiotics in chicken's guts. Welcome, and enjoy your new flock. If you post your general location in your profile, it will help folks to give appropriate advice. Will you be free ranging them? That might allow you to increase flock size a bit. But, personally, I'd stick with 15. I find that less than 20 is just about right for my coop of 10 x 12 and run of 500 s.f. Free ranging for me is dependent on my work schedule and hawk pressure on any given day.
     
  5. QueenMisha

    QueenMisha Queen of the Coop


    Have you considered selling the hens instead of eating them? Roosters I get, so hard to sell those and they're tasty little buggers, but you could easily get $20 each for the younger hens and $10 for older ones. Heck you could split it at $15 a bird regardless of age. I work at a chicken shop and you have no idea how often we get requests for mature laying hens - there's lots of demand for them. Even older ones sell well. Just label them as running from 1-4 years of age and you'll have plenty of folks wanting them. Though you should make that egg eater dinner ASAP... I brought one hen into my flock with the habit and I've since had to kill three hens who picked it up from her.

    Yup, it's molting season, I'm sure everyone is losing feathers and very few birds are laying. You'll have to wait until they have finished molt to know who is laying. You've got some good breeds there, all of the ones listed are pretty decent layers.

    Since its molting season and you have cockbirds I would switch everyone to an 20-22% grower feed. In molting season, the more protein, the better, and the high calcium levels in laying feed can be a drag on hen's bodies when they are already going through a lot of stress because of molting. They aren't laying, which means their bodies have to filter it out through the kidneys which is bad for them. The same goes for roosters - flocks with roosters should be fed a grower/flock raiser year round because the layer can hurt the roosters. You just supplement the hens with oyster shell for calcium. Also, how much wheat and scratch do you feed? That stuff is basically candy, very little nutritional value in its raw state, and it shouldn't exceed 10% of the diet at any time of the year (so let's say you use 5 bags of feed a month (for example), you should only use a half a bag or less of other items. And during molting season I wouldn't feed ANYTHING besides their main ration, as they need all the nutrition they can get.

    Age is really tough to tell with chickens. Either the birds have small pink combs and wattles indicating they have yet to lay or they have very ugly, thickly scaled feet indicating they are 6-8+ years. From 6 months-6 years they look the same and it's impossible to tell the difference between any bird. My recommendation would be to watch who starts laying again first after molt, who laid the latest into molt, and who lays the best through winter. These will be your youngest birds, or in any case, your best layers.

    Yep, less birds often means less stress. I would wait a month or two and get to know them better before culling (selling/eating) the bulk of the hens, but some birds can be removed quickly. Start out with roosters, and anyone who is obviously problematic. The clearly old birds.
     
  6. mthomestead

    mthomestead New Egg

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    Sep 27, 2016
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    [​IMG]

    This is Beauty (Top) I have no idea what she is! I have three just like her. [​IMG]
    This is Buff Not sure on what she is either or on possible age other than that she is not a spring chicken. Probably around 4 maybe?
     
  7. mthomestead

    mthomestead New Egg

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    Sep 27, 2016
    Plains, MT
    Molly (top brown) fluffy face
    [​IMG]

    Martha(bottom) one of three calico hens any idea what any of these guys are? I haven't a clue!
    [​IMG]
     
  8. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    That is a lot of birds, while I agree with Queen Misha on most points, the one I don't is time to make the decision. Truthfully I think that the change to a new set up is why they are not laying. Add that to going into fall, and that means molt... well, I really would not worry about it. They were laying so I think they will start laying again, but not until January, depending on how north you are, or if you add light.

    I would do gate cut, which just means, go in and cull a certain number of birds. Keep any of them that you like for whatever reason, but cull the rest. Yep you might keep an old one, and you might let a great bird go, but over crowding just causes so many problems. You sound like you will be hatching in the spring, so really can replace a non producing hen with them. I do agree that you could sell some birds dang easy.

    To me, the most important thing is to get your numbers down to fit into your set up. Then worry about getting them good feed and water, and by spring you will have lots of eggs. I would even cull down below 20 head, however, at least get to 20 as soon as possible. Then you can really look at those birds, and make some reasoned decisions.

    Mrs. K
     
  9. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    I'm kind of along the lines of Mrs K. I think you just need to get rid of some birds, and don't stress so much over each individual. Pick the ones you like best, that were laying, or seem the youngest. Sell or butcher everyone else.

    I'd butcher egg eaters, and anyone else who simply doesn't fit in well. Other than that, I'd sell the hens. A friend and I just had a sale last weekend and sold probably 50 hens between us, and could easily have sold a few dozen more if we'd had them. Alot of them were point of lay pullets, but there was a good amount of mature hens there also. Some hatchery birds, a lot of barnyard mix. You could make a tidy sum from selling 26 or so hens. Around here, our prices are $20 for point of lay or first year layer, then basically drop by $5 each year.

    Course, you probable would want to be careful about folks coming out with bare butt birds. Could earn you a visit from the ASPCA, etc.
     
  10. mthomestead

    mthomestead New Egg

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    Sep 27, 2016
    Plains, MT
    Good news update the ladies are starting to lay again! At least some of them, I took all the roosters out since I do not want any winter broods and the ladies calmed down a lot. Started a kill pen with the roosters I do not want and the hens that are just not growing feathers back like they should. I will eat all those and keep about 16 for this winter.
    Way more than 20 young birds but some are just not gaining weight and growing feathers getting picked on by larger pullets so they are getting eaten. My tiny over bred mix hen is getting pin feathers back now that there is not a rooster to breed her. I dusted all the girls and the coop, put dust in there ever growing dust bath pit to keep any mites off of them. Got nutra-electrolytes for their water bucket to help out the hens that need a little more care to recuperate.
    Where I got these hens from they were cutting their flock down from 300 birds to 40 so some of them have been picked on by birds no longer in this flock and seem to be recovering very well feathers coming back soft and glossy. I have high hopes for their recovery and just love them to pieces.
    Keeping only two roosters who are not mean one is a creamy leg horn cross and the other is a young Rhode island white who is very sweet but I have not seen him breed a hen yet. The flock master rooster is a little rude to the hens he pecks at them for the best spots but he is very protective of them as well he never spurs them and he is a just gorgeous half Spanish cross with feathered feet and green, white and brown speckles all over him. I dearly like him but not sure if he is a good rooster to keep because he can get bossy over food, water and prime roosting spots.
    I am butchering this weekend to cut down the flock. I think I will keep and even mix if 2-3 and 1 year old hens I like some of the older ones because they keep the youngsters calm.
    I am building a second coop and run about 20 yards from this one that way I have a coop of meat birds and a coop of layers. The rhode island whites are great hefty meat birds it seems so they will probably be what I keep for meat breeding. All the wonderful advise ans support on BYC has made this start up so much easier! Thank you all for your continual advice!
     
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