Hello I'm new here but I'm in way over my head with chickens

Discussion in 'New Member Introductions' started by RaisinAFlock, Dec 2, 2014.

  1. RaisinAFlock

    RaisinAFlock Chirping

    Dec 2, 2014
    I started a flock back in July-August (I actually worked my cousins farm for a week 14 chickens, 2 goats, 6 ducks, 2 geese, a farm dog, 2 small dogs, while she was on vacation and used the money she paid me to buy the materials to build my own chicken coop) we built a rather large chicken coop my husband designed himself and an attached 7 feet tall fenced 52ft chicken run/pen with 3 seperate access gates. The nesting boxes are acessed from outside the chicken run and the pen/run which is nice with a big bossy rooster lol. The original intention was a good egg laying flock until my husband became interested in raising meat breeds. It started with 3 hens, 3 pullets, and a big beautiful rooster, but I've friended a chicken breeder of a very rare and highly sought after chicken breed and kept adding more and more birds to my flock. Then two roosters showed up in the woods right next to my chicken run and coop go figure! They joined the flock but now they are currently in cages because I have decided I just cannot keep them due to the breed. The chicken breeder had the very last color of her birds available as a breeding trio of pullet hens and young cockerel so I jumped on the chance with the future plans on breeding because she's busy with other farm animals and asked me if I would work on it for her or take over. So I started with 7 birds, 6 hens, 1 rooster. I am now sitting at, 27 chickens, 7 roosters, 5 in the flock with no problems, 2 rescued roosters soon to be rehomed, 20 hens, 10 of which are pullets under 6-7 months old. The original intention was a flock of No more than 30 birds maximum, as that is what the larger coop is intended to hold. and to naturally breed birds to sustain new members to the flock to supply the family with eggs and meat. Now there's talk of building another same size chicken coop in 2015 in a 1/2 acre fenced field of pasture, to be used for separating the meat birds from the egg layers. However I'm not sure if I can handle 60 birds on my own lol. I am having a hard time now with 27. My husband works full time so I'm doing the majority of the work myself. I am looking forward to my first baby chicks next spring. But I am definitely starting to feel a little overwhelmed with the workload. We are below freezing in a cold snap and the snow ice and cold is a becomming a battle, on the plus side when the ground is frozen there is no soft stinky squishy mud in my chicken run to step in lol. We are feeding non GMO certified organic feed and growing a garden and a field of grains to supplement feed and reduce costs. I also add raw apple cider vinegar to the drinking water. I am currently getting 3+ dozen eggs a week and not all of my hens are laying. I can't wait until spring, to start everything from seed and get the garden going and see some newly hatched chicks!
  2. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician

    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    [​IMG] Wow, you are a prime example of how chicken math strikes. Don't get in over your head to the point that it is no longer fun. Define your goals and works towards them gradually. Good luck with your flocks.
  3. RaisinAFlock

    RaisinAFlock Chirping

    Dec 2, 2014
    Hi there - we are keeping production records as small family farmers would with the goal of getting a USDA farm. I would not consider myself an average chicken keeper with a small backyard flock for eggs only. We are raising meat birds also to be able to sell eggs and meat raised organically free of GMO's. We want to be farmers. That's what we signed up for. To us its a business and not a hobby, but we are blessed to be feeding ourselves nutrious food in the process. We feel proud about the eggs and meat that we are selling and how humanely our birds are being treated and raised. To help get people away from factory farmed and gmo meat and eggs if that's what they choose to do. It goes beyond that though. No animal living, including a chicken deserves to be treated with disrespect. Respect animals, food, water, and it all goes back in to the health and productivity of the land.
  4. Kelsie2290

    Kelsie2290 Free Ranging

    Feb 18, 2011
    Hello :frow and Welcome To BYC! Good luck with your flock and future projects!
  5. N F C

    N F C whaz sup?

    Dec 12, 2013
    Welcome to BYC!

    x2 on sourland's post...keep it fun!
  6. Michael OShay

    Michael OShay Crowing

    May 14, 2014
    Welcome to BYC! Glad you decided to join our flock. X3 on Sourland's post. No endeavor is worthwhile if it makes you miserable doing it, including raising chickens. If you are serious about raising chickens as a business rather than a hobby, you need to focus specifically on your goals as a business. You can reduce your work load by specializing in either eggs, meat birds, or rare breeds instead of attempting to do all three. If you want to make money selling eggs, you need to do as the commercial laying houses do (you can still go organic), and get breeds or hybrids that are high yield egg laying machines. If you want white eggs, get high yield strains of White Leghorns. If you want brown eggs, get Black Sex Links or Red Sex Links. There is a reason why these birds are the layers used by commercial laying houses; they will easily outlay all other kinds of hens. If you want to raise meat commercially, then Cornish cross is the way to go. They are the chickens used by commercial meat growers as they have an incredible feed to meat ratio and are ready for butchering at 8 weeks. If you want to raise rare breeds, you will need to invest some capital in a good reputable breeder's stock and limit the number of breeds that you raise to a reasonable number that you can comfortably handle. I've been raising chickens for 50 years, and have dabbled in the commercial aspects of chicken raising myself, so when I give you this advice, I am speaking from experience. Keep your business at a level where you are running the business, and the business is not running you. Please feel free to ask any questions you may have. We are here to help in any way we can. Good luck in planning and implementing your business.
  7. Percheron chick

    Percheron chick Crowing

    Apr 12, 2013
    Boulder, Colorado
    For right now you have enough room for everyone. You've got the winter to work out the kinks and define your goals. You have many projects you are trying to do all at the same time but nothing extraordinary. From what I read, you need 3 separate pens as you have 3 distinct projects happening. First is the rare breed trio. That can be a very small coop and pen where you can control breedings. Layers and meaties should be kept separate. You will usually do a large 30-50 meat bird batches at a time. 12-16 weeks and you are done. Ready for the next batch. They will need 1/2 the room your layers do. Layers on the other hand are around for 5-6 months before you get the first return on your investment. I like having multiple ages in my layers so I am not starting an entire new batch of pullets. This will also help keep me in eggs year round. You might even want 2 layer pens, one for the main production girls and one for pullets. That pen can also double for other projects like turkeys.... Also have you looked into the laws regarding selling processed birds? That can be a nightmare to do it legally.

    As far as work, most of the time and money commitments are upfront. Building the coops and runs and buying supplies. Build systems into your plans that facilitate your work. Larger feeders that you only fill once a week, automatic waterers, coops designed with cleanliness in mind, runs you can get a bobcat into, Figure out the mud and snow issue this winter. Do you have gutters on the coop, where does the water drain, runoff? Covering part of the run is a simple way to give them some out time in a dry part of the run. You are coming up against the same problems everyone else has when they first start out. Most of us didn't go into our first winter with 30 birds but once you work things out, 100 birds won't be much more work than 30.

    Instead of selling the 2 free roosters, process them. They will be stew roosters but it will tell you how you fell about the whole thing before you dive in. I would also look at the 7 roosters. You "need" 3-4. The 1 in the trio and 2-3 with the layers. The extra are nothing more than nonproductive middle management that cuts into your profits. Each extra rooster is going to eat close to 100# of feed a year. I'd rather give that feed to 3 more hens that might make another 70 dozen eggs to sell.
  8. RaisinAFlock

    RaisinAFlock Chirping

    Dec 2, 2014
    I'm working with heritage breeds for both eggs and meat - ones that are considered dual purpose heritage breeds good for both meat and eggs as well as some others for the egg laying, and a few known for broodiness. I did a lot of research before we decided on which breeds to get that were available locally from breeders and NOT feed stores, or mail order hatchery's. We were also not willing to wait 6-9 months to get baby chicks to start out with. So we purchased known broody hens (mothers) and hens in lay and pullets and cockerels from a few local breeders. We have the ability to separate one breed from the other. Or to separate the egg layers from the meat birds. However all of the birds are happy free ranging together with my supervision. I let them range pasture and also a organic garden free choice. It helps cut down on feed costs. Over the winter I'm storing excess produce and foodstuffs to help supplement winter feed. I use things like ACV, DE, Zeolite, Yogurt, Herbs, to keep them with healthy immune systems and prevent and treat illness. The two roosters have NO meat on them worth processing. Another two roosters will eventually be processed. I can sell any meat that I do not process myself if it is done in a USDA facility which I will factor into the cost of the product. I have been legally selling organic eggs for $6.00 a dozen scince August. I have a market here for both eggs and meat so much so that I cannot keep up currently with demand for my eggs.(It being winter) but even in winter I am producing enough eggs to sell that completely pays for the feed that is consumed in a month and output with eggs in a month. That means that I am at least currently (in winter with snow on the ground) breaking even.
  9. RaisinAFlock

    RaisinAFlock Chirping

    Dec 2, 2014
    Because the eggs I'm selling are paying for the feed that both the meat birds and the egg layers are eating, either once I have processed meat to sell, or my chickens produce more eggs or chicks or meat to sell which they will, I will then be making profit. I plan to learn as I go along.
  10. Mountain Peeps

    Mountain Peeps Change is inevitable, like the seasons

    Apr 23, 2014
    My Coop
    Welcome to BYC! Please make yourself at home and we are here to help.

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